In Her Image: a Pokémon RP

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The pouring rain was relentless in its assault, as if Mother Nature had decided to give Johto one more thorough shower before the summer. Wandering around the city aimlessly, Matt cut through main streets, with their neon signs, elaborate shop facades and 24h convenience stores, dodgy back-alleys with seedy bars where the women upfront tried to offer the young man a "really, really good time at the Lusty Jynx Massage Parlor". Matt ignored all of it. All he could think of were the events that led to his desertion.

The Violet City native turned another corner onto a plaza of some sort, pacing around the centerpiece, a statue of Celebi for a while, before suddenly being snapped out of his depressing trance by a voice that seemed to pierce the deafening sounds of the pouring rain.

"So, uh... Why the long face there, man?"

Matt instinctively turned around to face the source of the question, who would be outside in this weather? At this hour?

What Matt saw was a scene beyond words. It was a man. A young man, probably in his mid 20s, LAID comfortably on one of the plaza's many benches. He was wearing a red hoodie with black shorts that reached past his knees. His hair was black, shoulder length and a bit scruffy, to be honest. His eyes were a bit lazy and his face sported a five o'clock shade.

But hands down the most peculiar thing about this man was the fact that, while resting on that bench, in that heavy deluge, he wasn't getting wet! Matt could only speculate at this point, but he was reasonably certain this had something to do with the Typhlosion standing next to the laid back fellow, the intense heat generating from its back instantly vaporizing the pouring water in its vicinity.

Matt didn't need a PokéDex to tell him that this particular Typhlosion was tremendously powerful. By association, its Trainer must've been too...

Lee started thinking about tonight's attack, something about it just didn't seem to add up, entrenched in thought he just about heard the others talking 'I am lee, also hear for the tournament, I rely more on strategy then power when it comes to a fight.' he said obviously rushing it and using it more as a segway to his point 'Is anyone else wandering what the point of their attack was, I mean a organisation able to plan and execute an attack like that should be well aware of silver. So why would they attack the stadium if they were doomed to loose the fight. It had to have been a distraction or an attempt to demoralise people'

Tom and Rupert were standing side by side, looking over the aftermath of Silver's introduction. That's when Tom excitedly spoke up.

"Its better than the calvary! That red hair, that Feraligatr! Do you know who that is? That's Silver, One of Johto's three legendary trainers!"

Rupert could only stare at the bespectacled boy. Legendary trainers? But then... does that mean... it's over?

STTTTEEEEEEEEEEELLLLLLLIIIIIXXXXXX!!!

*BRABABABABROOOMMM*

That seemed to be the gist of it as Eres pulled out his Steelix and promptly fled. The guy with the seemingly indomitable Garchomp fled. It was over.

Pin?

Pineco spoke up as his trainer fell over backwards and splayed himself out on the concrete. It was really over and Rupert thought he had never felt relief like this before. He just let it wash over him as it knocked him off his feet. Rupert wasn't used to dramatic hijinks like these and indeed actively avoided them. The calm he now felt was palpable. A few nervous laughs escaped his dust caked lips.

"Heh... ha ha. It's over. It's really over. For a minute there I was ready to fight to the end... ha ha... Tom, Pineco, it's over. By the trio, we made it."

After a few seconds to compose himself Rupert sat up again. This wasn't like him. He was being silly, and right in front of Tom too. Rupert put a hand on Pineco reassuringly.

"H-hey, Tom? T-thanks. I-I mean really. If you hadn't come running when y-you did... I-I don't even want t-to think about what would have happened. S-so thanks. Thanks a lot."

Rupert had trouble getting the words out, but he meant every one and more. He directed a bashful gaze downwards as he wondered if he was ever going to be able to repay Tom for all he had done for him over these past few days. Rupert's other hand came down to rest on Cubone's dented pokéball. It had taken both the Ground-type and Tom to rouse Rupert out of his fright when the attack happened. He honestly didn't know what he was going to do about Cubone and what he had learned about their relationship in this fight just now, but that was a problem for another time.
Right now Rupert was just happy that they had all made it.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

*DING, CHATOT, DING, CHATOT, DING, CHATOT*

Rupert was glad to be out of the rain as the group reconvened at the Sleeping Sunkern. It was good to see that everyone had made it out of the stadium okay, although the sight of Daria made him wince. The trainer was still wearing her own dried blood, but although alarming enough on its own that wasn't what disturbed Rupert. It wasn't even the thought that there was someone out there capable of physically hurting Daria of all people. No, it was the startling realization that blood suited her that freaked Rupert out. Somehow the trainer wore caked blood the way other women might wear various head ornaments. Rupert did his very best to avoid her eyes.
Having discarded his greatcoat that was heavy with rainwater he listened to Looker's debriefing of the night's events.

The Kanto trainer couldn't help but feel that Looker was somewhat disappointed with the results. No one of any great importance had been apprehended, and it seemed doubtful if they were any nearer catching the masterminds behind the group.

"Now, rest, as tomorrow shall bring us new challenges, no doubt. Tonight... Tonight was dangerous. Maybe too dangerous for you, even?"

Ouch. That stung. Rupert felt familiar guilt rise up within him, replacing his previous joy over just having made it through the ordeal. Was there something more he could have done? Or even worse, was he simply woefully out of his league? Silver seemed to be believe the latter.

"He is right, you know. That was too much for you kids to handle. If I were you, I wouldn't bother showing up at all tomorrow. Goodnight."

That really stung. Hearing it from a trainer of Silver's caliber just made it even worse. Rupert couldn't even bear looking at him as the red-haired man and Looker stepped out, leaving the group alone.

Well, the group plus 2. There were two new arrivals, the girl who had jumped onto Eres' Garchomp and a quiet young man with blonde hair. The latter was cradling a hat that seemed oddly familiar. At Remy's prompting the girl introduced herself. And what an introduction it was.

"My name is Kayla Denit! I am the one who will enjoy life to its fullest! I don't want to catch them all. I don't want to be the best there ever was. I don't want to be a pokemon master. I just want to enjoy life with my partners and friends. I enjoy crab cakes and rice balls. I like to snack on Rage Candy Bars, though I also like Lava Cookies. I enjoy biking and hiking and sleeping until noon. My favourite pokemon is Growlithe though I think Pichu is the cutest pokemon EVER. My favourite town is Olivine City. I love the view of the sea from there. Not to mention the boat is the best! Please take care of me."

It seemed that Kayla was as direct in her address as she was in pokémon battles. As the rest of the group introduced themselves to her, Rupert felt that he had to do the same when her eyes eventually fell on him.

"Oh, I-I'm Rupert. I... I..." he trailed off as he wracked his brain for what to say. Kayla's deluge of personal information had thrown him off, more so than usual. Did he have to reciprocate? Wasn't it enough to just say 'hi, how are you'? What did he have to say about himself?

"I... I don't like nail cuticles."

God damn it, Rupert.

"So... that just happened. Where the hell did Matt disappear to? And who would you two be?"

"My name is Kayla Denit! I am the one who will enjoy life to its fullest! I don't want to catch them all. I don't want to be the best there ever was. I don't want to be a pokemon master. I just want to enjoy life with my partners and friends," nodding her head, arms now folded across her chest, "I enjoy crab cakes and rice balls. I like to snack on Rage Candy Bars, though I also like Lava Cookies. I enjoy biking and hiking and sleeping until noon. My favourite pokemon is Growlithe though I think Pichu is the cutest pokemon EVER. My favourite town is Olivine City. I love the view of the sea from there. Not to mention the boat is the best!"

"Please take care of me."

Aeden sighed, and muttered something about just wanting to get it over with, before he addressed the group full on. "You can call me Aeden. My likes and dislikes don't really matter, so I'm not going to bother listing them off. I'm only here to return this hat." He held up the sogging headwear like a badge of identification. He let his arm drop and looked out the door. "He was right, you know? Silver, I mean. You guys were brave and all, but this was... is over your heads." He avoided looking in any of the trainers eyes. "Not that you'll listen anyways. But if you continue like this, you'll end up getting hurt." He paused for a moment before shaking his head. "Nevermind. It's none of my business what you all do."

Savannah stood by the edge of the arena, watching as the International Police came flooding in, apprehending the thugs scattered around the grounds, which included the one which she and Milotic had soundly thrashed.
Unfortunately, the thug who seemed to be the ringleader managed to evade capture, summoning a colossal Steelix with which he used to Dig to freedom, before either Silver or the rest of the force could catch him.

Sav collapsed to the ground exhausted, all she wanted to do was sleep. Milotic seemed to understand, coiling gently around it's trainer, offering itself as a pillow for the trainer's weary head as well as a source of warmth.

"You know, after I first got you, I didn't know what to do with you. You were always this tiny little fish, unassuming, benign. But I could tell that there was more to you. You had something that few pokemon ever have the chance to express, I could tell by looking in your eyes- your inner beauty."

"Now that you've evolved, you've finally been able to express that. So I think it only fair to properly reintroduce you to the team"

Sav dictated for Milotic to uncoil from around her, before reaching down and retrieving the other two occupied pokeballs from her belt. Each one in hand, she sent out them out in turn; Sprig and Sutekh appearing in a flash of light. The pair looked and their trainer quizzically, wondering why they had been summoned. Their eyes wandered and became fixated on the form of Milotic, finding her strange yet somehow familiar.

"Grove...?"

Savannah motioned for Milotic to come to her side, before giving her a friendly stroke on the top of her silky smooth head.

"Sprig, Sutekh, this is someone that you two have met before, she's just a little different. Since we never quite got around to it before... Now that we have the chance, I'd like us to all take this opportunity to officially welcome the newly-evolved Mizu to the team"

Milotic felt a sudden pang as something within gave resistance to the sudden change; however this was short lived. As her resistance crumbled, Mizu took her place amongst her fellow party members, happy to be part of the team

"Grovyle!" chirped Sprig, as he offered his hand high in the air-only to slowly lower it, instead giving Mizu a welcoming pat on the back. Sutekh gave a resounding "Pinch!" before devolving into what can only be described as joyous yapping, the kind iconic to small dogs. This was made slightly unnerving however by motions of it's large maw.

This joyous occasion was finally cut short when the International Police finished herding away the thugs, Looker himself gathering the group of trainers including Sav into transport back towards the Sleeping Sunkern.


After being escorted back to the Inn, Looker proceeded to fully debrief the group on the night's events, thanking them for all of their help (whilst questioning their safety), before finally bidding them adieu.

Silver took Looker's exit as a sign that he should follow. As he got to the doorway, he stopped in his tracks, turning to face the group that had gathered in the lobby.
"He is right, you know. That was too much for you kids to handle. If I were you, I wouldn't bother showing up at all tomorrow. Goodnight."
And with that line of advice, he was gone; leaving behind him a mood of general uncertainty and ingratitude.

The party sat in silence, both out of exhaustion from the chaotic series of events which had unfolded, until eventually Remy was the first one to break the uneasy silence.
"So... that just happened. Where the hell did Matt disappear to? And who would you two be?"

Savannah herself had been wondering where Matt had gotten off to, although she had far more pressing thoughts on her mind right now, as well as her own focus being on the two newcomers had had not yet introduced themselves.
Still, she hoped that Matt was okay.

Sav studied the two strangers, although she looked more closely at the girl. She was tall, about her age, with light brown hair and an atheltic physique, most noticeably in her thighs.

A cyclist maybe? That'd be great! Finally someone who I run laps with!

The girl seemed to notice that Sav was looking at her, but didn't seem to care. After all, she was covered almost head-to-toe in mud presumably from the stadium. She rose from her chair with extreme exuberance, hands on her hips, announcing seemingly to the world.
"My name is Kayla Denit! I am the one who will enjoy life to its fullest! I don't want to catch them all. I don't want to be the best there ever was. I don't want to be a pokemon master. I just want to enjoy life with my partners and friends"

She's sooo sweet! I like her, I'm sure we'll get on just fine...

Savannah's trail of thought took a backseat however, as Kayla's introductions were far from done. She rambled on for a noticeable length of time, mentioning details that you wouldn't normally tell strangers, although Sav guessed she was particularly trusting.
After her lengthy introduction neared it's end, Kayla took a step back and bowed, "Please take care of me."

Oh well, she may get a little bit carried away, but being talkative is always better than being the silent-type! Plus, I suppose that's good, as it just means more gossip!

Savannah, eager to introduce herself to the only other female in the room, began to rise from her chair quickly in spite of her aching body. However she was pitched to the post.

"...a pleasure to be making your acquaintance..."

Sav rolled her eyes at Caleb's eagerness to introduce himself to Kayla. Sheesh, can't the guy make it five minutes without making advances on anyone of the opposite gender?
She quickly manoeuvred herself over, offering a friendly hand to Kayla.

"Hi! My name's Savannah and I'm a Pokemon breeder by trade, although I planned to participate in the tournament to advertise my services. I can't tell you just how glad I am to have a girl in the group, and especially one that's acts like one... *cough*Daria*cough*. Anyways, I'd just like to welcome you to our little team, and hope that we can be friends!"

"I was in town mainly for the tournament, though given current events, that puts a monkey wrench in the works..."

Darius gave an inner chuckle and a cough from the inhalation of smoke from his pipe, causing a cloud to billow from his mouth a moment.

As if he even knows what a monkey wrench is. Guy probably hasn't left Lilycove on anything less than a Waillord or a chopper in his life, much less had to fix something of his or anyone else's own.

"Hi! My name's Savannah and I'm a Pokemon breeder by trade, although I planned to participate in the tournament to advertise my services. I can't tell you just how glad I am to have a girl in the group, and especially one that's acts like one... *cough*Daria*cough*. Anyways, I'd just like to welcome you to our little team, and hope that we can be friends!"

"Nevermind. It's none of my business what you all do."

As the smoke cleared from his face, his hand not holding the pipe attempting to wave it away, he smiled in amusement at Sav's introduction.

"Nevermind Sav, she's still a bit upset about continuing on in the - now cancelled - tournament,"He took another puff on his pipe, exhaling a duo of smoke rings that quickly disappeared into the air,"As for your little comment, don't worry about it. The grunts out there are just like any other PokeSyndicate trying to take over the world. Just a little bit different in gimmick. They've all got 'em,"He inhaled again, this time the smoke simply being expulsed in one cloud,"The Rockets had their little gambling corner, Team EarthSea in Hoenn apparently had some kind of affinity for the surface, and these guys simply mechanically zombify their Pokemon. More than a bit creepy, but nothing we can't handle,"He clicked his teeth against the pipe,"But you have to admit that Dragon-type was well trained, and the Steelix,"Darius' eyes rolled back into his head, pipe held in one hand while he gestured and air-drew with the other,"Superb I tell you. Did you see the way the sun hit the steely scales of that monster? Absolutely beautiful! Each segment perfectly smooth, and I admit I didn't see the spikes closely, but I'd bet they had four PERFECT edges leading up to a perfectly ratio'd point in relation to the tail....."

Remy watched in awe as Kayla made her introduction.

Wow! She sure has spunk. Quite the looker too...

The self-proclaimed ladies man decided to hold off on the proclamations of love at first sight for now. At least until she'd have a chance to clean up, anyway.

The kid with Matt's hat introduced himself as well. Aeden was his name, and he had no kind words for the group either.

"Nevermind Sav, she's still a bit upset about continuing on in the - now cancelled - tournament. As for your little comment, don't worry about it. The grunts out there are just like any other PokeSyndicate trying to take over the world. Just a little bit different in gimmick. They've all got 'em. The Rockets had their little gambling corner, Team EarthSea in Hoenn apparently had some kind of affinity for the surface, and these guys simply mechanically zombify their Pokemon. More than a bit creepy, but nothing we can't handle. But you have to admit that Dragon-type was well trained, and the Steelix, superb I tell you. Did you see the way the sun hit the steely scales of that monster? Absolutely beautiful! Each segment perfectly smooth, and I admit I didn't see the spikes closely, but I'd bet they had four PERFECT edges leading up to a perfectly ratio'd point in relation to the tail....."

The guy with the pipe was clearly very adamant when it came to Pokémon's pedigree, and while most of his guff flew right over Remy's head, he agreed with the Kanto native's views on what they had just faced. Grabbing his Premier and Lure Balls and pressing some Revives against them, he spoke up, introducing himself and offering his opinion for the people in the room to consider.

"Name's Remy Olivier, Sinnoh native, Veilstone. A day ago, I would've agreed with ya, kid. I thought these guys were complete screwballs for wanting to meddle in IP business, fighting well prepared terrorists and whatnot... But after today..."
His mind wandered back to his bout with Anton. How despicably evil the bastard was, even by Remy's standards.

"Seeing what those bastards were capable of... Stealing people's Pokémon, brainwashing 'em like that, KILLING them?" Remy switched his gaze to Darius.
"I disagree with you about them being like the Rockets or Team Galactic, Darius. These guys are dangerous. But... That's all the more reason to do whatever we can to help Looker and his men with this."

The red haired man turned around and started making his way down to the training room.

"Aeden, you say we're in over our heads. That we shouldn't stick our noses in this thing, lest we get hurt. But you came too, didn't you? You could've stayed in the sidelines but you didn't. Why's that?"

Remy's laidback demeanor then came rushing back as he smiled and made his way down the stairs.

"Anyway, Matt's probably going to be back soon for that hat. Call it a gut feeling. I'm gonna go check on my guys, see if I can improve on someone for tomorrow. If you need me, I'll be downstairs. Hope to see y'all tomorrow."
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Once downstairs, Remy grabbed Zangoose's Premier Ball. He looked at it for a good while, as he lost himself in thought.

In a murky basement, a badly beaten, red haired young man sat tied to a chair. Two burly looking thugs stood in front of him tending to their raw knuckles as a short, bald man in a tacky suit came forward. The man grabbed Remy by the hair and looked at the boy, puffing cigar smoke into his face.

"*cough* *cough* *wheeeze*"

"Ah Remy, Remy, Remy... I must say I'm really disappointed in you, son... Running off like that, disobeying your boss... Me, who gave you a home, food, money. *sigh* I'm afraid I can't let this slide, son. Before we throw you into the harbor, I just wanna know... Why? Why'd you do it?"

"*cough* Why? Hell boss, I dunno. Maybe I'm just not the kinda guy who's gonna kidnap a 6 year old girl to get her rich parents' ransom money. I joined you to do what I do best, but doing that kind of shit? I haven't sunk that low just yet! I'm afraid I have to hand you my letter of resignation... 'Daddy'."

"You son of a... GAH!"

ZANGOOSE!

"Za-Zangoose?!"

"Damn it! GET THAT DAMN CRITTER!!"

ZAN! ZANGOOSE! ZANG!
______________________________________________________________________________________________

ZAN!

*SMACK*

"OW! Huh? Oh! Sorry about that, Zangoose! Guess I zoned ou there for a while, huh?"

Zangoose...

Zangoose, who by now had let himself out, had smacked Remy out of his entranced state. His partner's explanation didn't work on the keen Normal-type. He knew Remy was wallowing in some not-so-glamorous chapter of his past. That was years ago. Time to focus on the present.

"Yeah, yeah, I know. Sorry buddy. Come on out guys!"

Sneasel came out in a dark flash, immediately running off to his shenanigans. Tentacool came out and slowly moved to a quiet corner of the room to follow the action from afar. Primeape was eager to smash something before Remy motioned for the rambunctious Fighting-type to stay put, much to his dismay.

"Come here, you. Time to teach you a little something to give you an edge in a scrap... Uhhh... Here we go!"

The Veilstone native dug out a reddish brown disc. A TM, containing Brick Break, and gave it to Primeape to study.

"Let's try that on for size, eh?"

"He was right, you know? Silver, I mean. You guys were brave and all, but this was... is over your heads."

Lee felt Aeden couldn't have been more wrong and after waiting for remy to finish talking he said smugly 'Also last I checked we won, some of us had it tougher then others but what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. We have two choices either stick together and fight these thugs or let them pick us off one by one.' at that point he let his snover who straight away went around handing out berries to everyone in the room, he thought snover might cheer some people up and lighten up the situation 'And the sooner we take out these guys the less people will get their pokemon zombified'

"Darius,"He waved to Kayla and the new kid,"Breeder in town for a bit of fun and some stuff you can't get in Kanto. Got roped into this mess because...I really don't know now that I think about it,"He clicked his teeth against the stem of the pipe,"Anyways, good to meet ya. There's probably some food around here somewhere."

"Greetings Miss Denit." Caleb said with a friendly wave. "The name is Caleb Grey, a native of the Hoenn region, more specifically Lilycove City. It is also a pleasure to be making your acquaintance.

Kayla waved back, "Pleasure to meet you Darius and Caleb."

"Oh, I-I'm Rupert. I... I...I... I don't like nail cuticles."

"Who does though? I mean dirt gets all under them and then you have to clean them. Not to mention that when you have to scratch and they are too long they cut you."

"Hi! My name's Savannah and I'm a Pokemon breeder by trade, although I planned to participate in the tournament to advertise my services. I can't tell you just how glad I am to have a girl in the group, and especially one that's acts like one... *cough*Daria*cough*. Anyways, I'd just like to welcome you to our little team, and hope that we can be friends!"
Kayla took Savannah's hand in both her hands and stared into her eyes with a creepy look in her eyes. "I would love to be friends! I absolutely love having friends!"

You can call me Aeden. My likes and dislikes don't really matter, so I'm not going to bother listing them off. I'm only here to return this hat." He held up the sogging headwear like a badge of identification. He let his arm drop and looked out the door. "He was right, you know? Silver, I mean. You guys were brave and all, but this was... is over your heads." He avoided looking in any of the trainers eyes. "Not that you'll listen anyways. But if you continue like this, you'll end up getting hurt." He paused for a moment before shaking his head. "Nevermind. It's none of my business what you all do."

Kayla let go of Savannah's hand and turned to face Aeden.

"You're wrong. We may be in over our heads but I can't just stand by and watch other people take away people's pokemon and then brainwash them. I don't know about you but when I bonded with my first pokemon I vowed to stand by him for life and I know he thinks the same way. I can't let people break or corrupt the bonds we have with our pokemon. If King or any of my pokemon were to be taken away I would be devastated. I know there are many other trainers out there who believe the same," Kayla looked at Dariu.

"Your comment proved that fact Darius. Someone took time to train that Dragon, some took their time to get that Steelix like that. It wasn't those grunts. They didn't care. So someone they took them from loved them that much and they are now missing their pokemon. I meet the same group back in Honnen. They were doing to same thing but to kids. Kids who were crying. Kids who were angry and hurt. It was more than I could bare to watch. I'll be here in the morning because I want to help. I don't want to see those kids cry or those pokemon lifeless. No matter the cost."

As Kayla finished her speech a realization hit her, "Um. Does anyone know if this place have any spare rooms. I kinda forgot to get one a place to sleep when I got in town today."

Caleb listened as the others made their introductions to both Kayla and Aeden, along with their thoughts about the organization that they faced. Hearing the stories of other groups reminded him of Team Aqua and Team Magma back in Hoenn; and how, roughly ten years ago, they tried to use the legendary Pokémon Kyorge and Groudon to either raise the sea level or expand the land mass. He remembered seeing some members of Team Aqua snooping about Lilycove City when he was younger; chances are they had a base there, or maybe it felt familiar it having a port there, he wasn't sure, nor did he care at the time.

"He was right, you know? Silver, I mean. You guys were brave and all, but this was... is over your heads." Aeden said as he avoided making eye contact with the other trainers, possibly afraid of the response he would get. "Not that you'll listen anyways. But if you continue like this, you'll end up getting hurt."

"And how would you know Aeden? Where were you when the fighting began?" Caleb asked. His next words were targeted more towards the group as a whole, in response to what Lee said.

"Lee is right, we did win, albeit by the skin of our teeth. I say we prove Silver wrong, prove to him that we can help in vanquishing these venal and virulent vermin who would seek to indoctrinate the hearts, minds and souls of Pokémon the world over. I mean, how can we stand idly by whilst these villains make their moves and play their games. Who knows, maybe we will become heroes like the trainers of old along the way." Caleb then looked down to see that Snover was offering everyone berries, and when he received his, gave Snover a smile in response.

"Why thank you Snover. How very kind of you."

"Now, if everyone will excuse me, I shall probably join Remy in preparing for forthcoming events." As he said this, Auron tapped his Pokéball, and disappeared in a red beam of light. Caleb decided to leave the rest of his team be, as it had been a long day for them, and they needed a rest. He saw where Remy had headed down to and followed.

As he arrived at the doorway to the training room, he saw Remy just standing by himself, staring longingly into a Premier Ball. After a while, a Zangoose appeared, and smacked Remy, no doubt the boy was day dreaming. The Sinnoh native then let the rest of his team out and pulled out a brown colored disk, and gave it to his Primeape. Caleb recognized the disk in question as the TM for Brick Break, as Raphael had learned the exact same move.

"With such a powerhouse of a Pokémon like Primeape, Brick Break will certainly deal a hefty amount of damage." Caleb said as he entered the room proper.

"Anyway, Matt's probably going to be back soon for that hat. Call it a gut feeling. I'm gonna go check on my guys, see if I can improve on someone for tomorrow. If you need me, I'll be downstairs. Hope to see y'all tomorrow."

Tom waved as Remy went off to the training room. He was still giggling over what Rupert had said,and almost forgot to introduce himself to the two newcomers.

"I guess it's my turn then? I'm Tom, I came down here from Sinnoh, but I'm from around here originally. I've done the first couple of gyms here and another few over the pond. I might be the youngest here but I like to think I know what I'm doing." His trademark grin seemed to increase in intensity.
"If we're gonna do introductions, then I guess I've gotta get this over with huh?"

Tom took out the pokeballs of his team, and released his pokemon next to him. Kusari, naturally, had already been curled up on his shoulder.

"You guys already know Kusari, and Kalmia, and Trapic, but I.. Kinda had to keep my last one secret for a bit. Anyway, this is Aeolus, he's been my partner since I started off, I just felt like using him off of the bat would be... Unfair. But those goons didn't deserve a fun battle."

Tom paused a bit to take a breath.

"Anyway that's me I guess. Nice to meet you two!"

"Aeden, you say we're in over our heads. That we shouldn't stick our noses in this thing, lest we get hurt. But you came too, didn't you? You could've stayed in the sidelines but you didn't. Why's that?"

'Also last I checked we won, some of us had it tougher then others but what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. We have two choices either stick together and fight these thugs or let them pick us off one by one.'

"You're wrong. We may be in over our heads but I can't just stand by and watch other people take away people's pokemon and then brainwash them. I don't know about you but when I bonded with my first pokemon I vowed to stand by him for life and I know he thinks the same way. I can't let people break or corrupt the bonds we have with our pokemon. If King or any of my pokemon were to be taken away I would be devastated. I know there are many other trainers out there who believe the same,"

"And how would you know Aeden? Where were you when the fighting began?"

"Tch." If they wouldn't listen to Silver, he didn't know why he expected them to listen to him. "Like I said, it's none of my business what you do. But face it, no matter how well you were doing on those grunts, there were more, and those officers were far beyond what you could have handled. You got lucky that Silver showed up. There were even more enemies than you ran into. I found a whole group taken out by Silver's Gengar, all on it's own. You could barely handle what was thrown at you."

He would have shrugged off what they were saying, but something about it hit deep. Perhaps it was the underlying accusations of cowardice. So what? At least he was being smart about it! Or perhaps it was the memories the entire situation reminded him of. "Losing your Pokemon... you can't imagine what it's like." He glared angrily at Kayla, and though he knew it was misdirected, he couldn't help himself. "Better someone else than have it happen to you." He knew it didn't matter what he said anymore, and likely they wouldn't want him around at this point anyways. "Whatever. Good luck. You're going to need more than I can offer you." With that, Aeden stormed out of the hotel lobby, hunching his shoulders to the rain. He was halfway back to the daycare when Aeden remembered that he'd forgotten to return the hat to it's owner. That could be left for the morning, he guessed. He'd have to make sure he talked to the red-haired man about it. His words had been different than the others. Almost kind and understanding. "Aeden, you say we're in over our heads. That we shouldn't stick our noses in this thing, lest we get hurt. But you came too, didn't you? You could've stayed in the sidelines but you didn't. Why's that?" He'd questioned him, but didn't really expect and answer, did he? He'd left after asking it, after all. The trainer bit his lip and picked up the pace. Even by the time he'd returned to Lyra, soaked to the bone and sneezing, he still hadn't come up with a satisfactory answer.

"So, uh... Why the long face there, man?"

Matt turned his head slowly and mechanically, not quite making eye contact with the stranger. Had he been in any normal state of mind, he might have been surprised at finding someone else out in the rain, but as it was the lad couldn't muster the energy to express much of any emotion at the moment.

Still, the sight of the laid-back trainer, accompanied by a giant of a Typhlosion, was enough to raise a curious eyebrow.

"I..." The lad cut himself off mid sentence. Did he really want to talk to somebody that he had just met, on the streets of Goldenrod no less? "It's nothing," he muttered, turning away from the trainer and Fire-type, "sorry to bother you."

Aeden, as the blonde haired young man was named, introduced himself and instantly established himself as a bit of a pessimist.

"He was right, you know? Silver, I mean. You guys were brave and all, but this was... is over your heads. Not that you'll listen anyways. But if you continue like this, you'll end up getting hurt."

Rupert's mood, which was already only two shades brighter than the inside of a Golem's stomach, darkened further. What Aeden said was a bit cynical but it wasn't untrue. What happened this evening was only a prelude for what was to come. These pokémon gangsters, whoever they were, weren't going to surrender without a fight, and even if the 12 trainers came out on top in the end they would not do so without losses.

Ryan, Caleb, Kayla and Lee argued against Aeden's view immediately, pointing out how Eres & Co. had to be stopped one way or another and that it was their duty as pokémon trainers to prevent any more pokémon zombification.

Is it though? Rupert found himself thinking. Shouldn't I be thinking of my own pokémon first? I think I might have enough trouble with my own team. His left hand was resting on Cubone's dented pokéball. Can't even take care of my own. What am I supposed to do for the entirety of pokémon kind?

His head sank down in defeat, only to snap up again as his eyes unexpectedly met another's. Lee's Snover was standing by his feet, looking up at him and patiently waiting for Rupert to accept the berry he was holding out.

"OH! D-didn't see you t-there... Um, t-thank you."

Having delivered his berry Snover contentedly trudged onward, leaving Rupert to stare at the cool, white berry. Right. Snap out if it. Sitting here feeling awful is not going to accomplish anything. "Do right by the team", remember? That's what it comes down to. So do what's right.
Having said that Rupert just didn't know what to do. He was an awful trainer, it turned out that his lifelong partner hated him, and he was given the responsibility to save the world. Rupert didn't know where to go from here.

This was however not true for Remy or Caleb. They knew exactly where they were going. They were going downstairs to train. As the two exited the room Rupert was struck by clarity and all new waves of self-loathing. This was how proper trainers did it. They engaged with their team, rather than turn from it. This was what Rupert had failed to do throughout his career as trainer. Here he was, sitting by himself, wracking his little brain for what to do about the team, when what he should be doing was engaging with the team. Rupert felt shameful. He shouldn't even be thinking of his pokémon and himself as a team. They were separate entities precisely because Rupert was constantly doubting what he should do, rather than looking to his pokémon to see what needed to be done.

Well, he knew what needed to be done now. He had a problem that wasn't going to go away until he addressed it. He had to talk to Cubone.

Rupert rose and headed for the stairs. He turned and muttered a 'Good night' to whoever cared to listen, and was about to say "see you tomorrow" before deciding against it. Considering Looker's instructions Rupert was not sure if he was going to see them all tomorrow.

That's the ticket, Primeape! Let's try it once more!

PRRRHHIIIIMMEE... AAAAPE!!

*CRUSSHH*

Primeape's palm came crashing down, splitting the concrete blocks laid before him cleanly in half.

"Hah! YESS! That's awesome, Primeape!" Remy yelled enthusiastically, with Primeape joining him in jubilation, jumping up and down with a content look on his face.

Prime! Prrrhime! Ape!

"With such a powerhouse of a Pokémon like Primeape, Brick Break will certainly deal a hefty amount of damage."

Remy quickly turned around to see Caleb come down the stairs into the room. Primeape turned serious, being weary of the new human in the room. Zangoose who had been practicing his newly acquired Crush Claw, and Sneasel who'd stopped his fooling around also converged on their Trainer, keeping an eye on the gentleman.

"Easy fellas, Caleb is on our side." Remy said, appeasing the suspicious trio. Turning his focus onto the man in front of him, Remy continued, "Heh, thanks man. I'm not exactly a Fighting-type specialist so training him hasn't been easy, and his species' temperament doesn't help much. I'm more into Dark-types myself."

Remy motioned for his team to go upstairs to their room to get some much deserved rest before continuing to address Caleb.

"So... What's your stance in all this? I meant what I said about continuing to help Looker and the IP with whatever they need."
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

"I... It's nothing, sorry to bother you."

Matt turned to walk away from the peculiar man, he didn't want to bother him with his problems.

"Really? That was quite the situation you were just in, man. And by the look of you, it don't look like you're handling it too well, now are you?"

Matt stopped in his tracks. Was there ANYONE who didn't know of his new heights in the field of cowardice?

"C'mon now, you made a choice then and there. The question now is whether you're gonna wallow in it for the rest of your life, or get over it and make sure it doesn't happen to you or yours ever again."

The young man the sat up on his warm and cozy bench and called Matt over.

"Now come on out of the rain, dude. You'll catch a cold soon."

Caleb raised his hands in surrender as Remy's Primeape, Zangoose, and Sneasel all turned to face him, each readying an attack against him. "Easy fellas, Caleb is on our side." Remy said, which seemed to put his Pokémon at ease. "Heh, thanks man. I'm not exactly a Fighting-type specialist so training him hasn't been easy, and his species' temperament doesn't help much. I'm more into Dark-types myself." Remy soon motioned to his team to head upstairs. "So... What's your stance in all this? I meant what I said about continuing to help Looker and the IP with whatever they need."

"First off, it was my pleasure Remy, being a trainer of a part fighting myself, I have a general idea of what moves to teach them; as for me personally, I don't have a particular type preference, much prefer a more diverse range. And as to what I think, I believe we should help Looker and the International Police in bringing justice to these villains. What they did to those Pokémon, its both objectionably and morally wrong, no one should twist the hearts and minds of Pokémon for their own diabolical ends. The sooner we put a stop to their plans the better. I say we prove Silver wrong." Caleb said with a fiery determination in his voice.

There was something inside him that hurt. It was a cold lump in the deepest pit of his chest, an unknowable entity that ate at him. No infant mind should know it, for how could it possibly understand it? He was guided by instinct, reason having not yet taken its hold. To contemplate its nature was beyond his underdeveloped mind, and yet by some cruel whim of nature it was the birth right of his kind. It was loneliness made palpable and it hurt.

He didn't know how he had gotten here. This place was cold and dark, empty yet somehow full of snickering whispers just beyond the edge of hearing. He had faint memories of a body that should have been warm, should have been alive, but was cold and still. He remembered putting on a mask. Where had it come from? He couldn't remember. He only knew that it eased the hurting. It alleviated the chill of the loneliness. It could never dismiss it, however. It could only keep it at bay.

The Lonely Pokémon cried out. It hurt. His birthright hurt. It was not the pain of being alone. It was the pain of being alone in bad company. That's when He came. First appearing as a tiny figure He towered above him as He picked him up and for the first time he knew the warmth of another being. It was feeling sunlight for the first time. It soothed him in a way the mask never could. The mask spoke of endurance, a promise that the pain could be held at bay. This figure's presence offered hope that someday the pain would be gone altogether.

He chose the latter, and trusted in the guidance of the figure.

________________________________________________________________________________

Cubone opened his eyes as Rupert put down the empty bottle of Revive. They were back in their room at the Sleeping Sunkern. For a second the Kanto trainer looked like the huge figure Cubone dimly remembered, the figure who had saved him. Then he saw him for what he was: just Rupert. Insecure, responsibility shirking Rupert. The Ground-type looked away from him and surveyed the room. The lighting was dim, but he could see Pineco sleeping on top of a wooden closet. The window was wide open and every now and then faint cries from Hoothoot and Haunter could be heard from outside. The rain was still pouring.

"Hey, buddy. How you feeling?"

Rupert tried to sound consoling, like this was the aftermath of any other battle. Cubone wouldn't have bought the act even if Rupert wasn't a terrible actor. They both knew that this was different. Everything was different now. Cubone had been forced to take charge in the battle, as he had done so often before. But this time he had done so after Rupert for the first time, just a day earlier at that, had promised to take pokémon training seriously. Additionally, this was the first time Cubone's resentment towards Rupert had been brought out in the open. He had hidden it well these past years, the task made considerably easier by continuously wearing a mask.

"L-let me get a potion out. We'll get you right as rain again, just you see..."

"Cu".

Cubone just waved his hand in dismissal and sat up. He would be fine after a good night's sleep and said so.

"W-well, if you're sure... Just take it easy, alright?"

Cubone didn't respond and an awkward silence fell between them. Even sitting there together on the floor it felt like the two were separated by a wide gulf. Their relationship had never felt like this before. It had always relied on a very specific dynamic between the two. Rupert needed to know that Cubone was always there for him when he fell, and Cubone needed to know that despite his failures Rupert could improve. Nothing was certain now. Rupert had failed to improve and Cubone had revealed that he was tired of standing up for his trainer. They could never go back to the way things were.

Predictably, Rupert broke under the weight of the silence and started blathering.

"Cubone, I-I'm so sorry. I just froze. T-the shouting, the people running, the ground s-shaking... I just couldn't. I'm sorry. I know that I said I would... do better, but... It was too much. A-and... I didn't know. I didn't know that you... felt that way."

Rupert started choking up. He didn't know how to say this next part, but he knew that it needed to be said. Cubone had carried the team for years, an unreasonable burden to place on such small shoulders. No matter how much the two cared for one another they had been stuck in what Rupert now recognized as a near-abusive relationship. Cubone bailed Rupert out whenever he faltered, and got nothing in return but the slim hope that Rupert would some day improve. Of course some resentment would build up in the Ground-type.

"I'm sorry for disappointing you... so often. A-and I understand if... if things can't be the same anymore. B-but I..."

"Cubone."

Cubone's soft utterance was barely noticeable, but it stopped Rupert before he started crying. Did he just say what Rupert thought he said?

*Sniff* "W-wait, what did...? I think I heard you wrong."

"Cuh-bone."

Rupert hadn't heard him wrong. Cubone had just quietly apologized to him, and was still staring into the floor. The rain suddenly seemed a lot louder. After a moment of stunned silence Rupert managed to speak a breathless question.

"What...? What do you mean? What do you have to apologize for?"

Cubone kept up his attempt to drill holes into the floor with his stare, as he spoke in cries that his trainer could understand. He made it clear that he never wanted Rupert to know about his growing bitterness, because he never wanted to hurt him.

Faced with this bit of information Rupert simply broke down. To have one's own first pokémon hide its emotional pain so as not to inconvenience him; it was too much to bear. Rupert drew his hand over his face and needed a few minutes to collect himself. In that time Cubone just sat opposite him, completely still. The only things that could be heard were the few guttural sounds from Rupert that he was unable to suppress, the ever present rain, and the occasional cries from Hoothoot and Haunter outside. The Ghost-type was definitely teasing the easily spooked Hoothoot.

"It's okay, Cubone," Rupert finally said when he had recovered. "It's okay. It's all going to be okay. We're leaving. We're going back to Lavender Town. We... we can't deal with this while running errands for Mr Looker. We'll go home and we'll set things right. The others will understand..."

"CUH!"

At this Cubone finally looked up. He made it clear in no uncertain terms that this would not be the case. They were going with the others and they were going to stop Eres & Co., nay, they were going to crush them.

"Cu... Cubone, are you sure? W-we don't have to do this. I think we need to... fix this before..."

Cubone spoke up again, letting his trainer know that nothing was going to be 'fixed' by them running home. The only way to set things right was by getting stronger, both of them. They needed this journey. He hadn't given up on Rupert yet. Adversity was going to teach him, teach them both, how to rely on the other. It was the only way they were going to grow as a team.
Rupert looked nervous at the prospect, but he conceded. They were going to help Looker in his mission.

"A-alright, Cubone. You're right. Of course you're right. Nothing's going to change by falling into old routines. We'll do it. And um, thanks. Thanks for giving me a second chance."

The air in the room felt significantly lighter than it had done earlier. The two both knew that they had issues to work out, but Rupert felt unimaginable relief in knowing that Cubone didn't secretly hate him as he had feared. Rupert felt one edge of his mouth lift to form a tired little smile, and thought he saw a similar smirk in Cubone's eyes. He couldn't be sure though. Earlier today he wouldn't have doubted his judgement about these things, but this day had shown him that he didn't know Cubone as well as he thought. He had faith though. They could work this out, surely. He just needed to apply himself...

"HAAAUUUNTER!"

"HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT!"

"For goodness' sake, Haunter, stop teasing Hoothoot! Leave her alone, you hear me!?"

While the Kanto trainer stepped over to the window and started yelling into the soaking blackness, Cubone scuttled over to the bed. He needed his rest and they had an early morning. He curled himself up into the fetal position at the headboard. He didn't usually sleep like that, and briefly wondered why it reminded him of something he couldn't quite identify. He felt at bit bad about lying to Rupert. Cubone's apology from earlier hadn't been about hurt feelings, at least not entirely. Cubone had reached a conclusion. He was partially to blame for Rupert's state today. In constantly standing up for him, Cubone had made Rupert weak. How was anyone supposed to grow when someone was always bailing them out of trouble? People grow through adversity and Cubone had robbed Rupert of that opportunity. For that he was truly sorry. Well, no more. Cubone wasn't going to help Rupert anymore if he couldn't help himself. This needed to be done. Cubone missed the man he once thought Rupert to be and was tired of waiting for him to grow into that person. This was sure to work. After all, Cubone had taken on all of Rupert's problems and it had in turn only made him stronger. Right?

As he drifted off to sleep something started hurting inside his chest. It was a feeling he hadn't felt in a long time and yet it was instantly familiar. It wasn't so much that it had been gone altogether; rather, he had just been dulled to its presence. It was alright though. He could handle it. That was the promise of the mask. In facing hardships he would grow hard himself. He would endure.

"Char! Charmeleon!"

"Whoo... I got it, just, gimme a sec."

Spiegel's cries of encouragement--mixed with a heavy dose of fear--were doing a remarkably poor job of motivating Daria to move another inch from where she was located. This was a problem primarily because of the fact that she was hanging from about halfway up the Radio Tower. The boisterous trainer was beginning to peter out, her breaths coming slowly and heavily as she dangled by one hand. This was her third attempt to scale the remainder of the distance between her and the roof. Her third failure, as well. Even so, Pace's Charmeleon had the utmost confidence in her.

It was gravity he was lacking faith in at the moment.

The rain had grown stronger, battering the backs of trainer and Pokemon alike as they sought some sort of escape from their pickle. Spiegel did his best to keep his tail under his belly, to shield it from the water. They say that if a member of his species were ever to lose their flame, they would die as a result. To tell the truth, Spiegel was no authority on the matter. His tail had never gone out, and after hearing those stories he never intended it to.

Daria clenched her face in a curious grimace as she puzzled out her dilemma. Attempting to throw her body up for one last attempt, she cried "Eureka!" as she found purchase on a bit of weathered brick. Finding positions to set her feet once again, she started ascending the height. She tossed a cheeky grin at her companion as she got moving again. "See! Told ya I just needed a sec--SHIT"

Her speech took a turn for the vulgar as instead of a solid grip her hand slipped on the wet side of the tower. Already in motion, her body had no way to recover. Losing all traction, Daria was flung down, limbs scrambling for anything to touch as Spiegel's screams of terror briefly overrode the sound of the rain. Far below, she could see the ground. But it was coming closer, and quickly. No rope, no wings, and nothing to cushion the impact. This was... bad. Very very bad. But when things seemed unable to worsen... she heard a vaguely familiar voice, high above her.

"GO!"

"VENOMOOOOOOOOOO--"

She felt her momentum jarringly shift as something caught hold of her back and hefted her higher into the sky. For a brief moment she felt her vision darken, only to be jolted right back out of it as she and Spiegel were dropped onto the soaking roof of the Radio Tower. The Pokemon above her, she recognized as a Venomoth, which quickly left and went back to the side of its... was that seriously a trainer?

A young man stood before her, clad in baggy, black clothes that obscured all but his face. A shinobi. His fiery eyes were opened so wide they seemed to be circles, and only the tips of his black hair poked out from beneath his tight-fit hood. A wild grin like her own was slapped on his face, nigh-malicious and eager. He pointed an accusatory finger as she stood, and roared like a wild beast as his visible excitement grew.

"rrrrgh...YYYYYYEEEEEEES! IT HAS BEEN TOO LONG, DARIA PACE, BUT I WOULD RECOGNIZE YOUR FACE ANYWHERE! IT HAS BEEN MANY MONTHS, BUT AT LAST I HAVE FOUND YOU!"

Daria stared curiously at the strange boy for a moment. Her brain chose to kick in then, and reminded her of just who she was looking at. Her expression soured immediately.

"Oh hell..." she whispered. "Not this guy again."

She remembered clearly, now, that day in Viridian Forest where a youth clad in his tacky green catsuit had stood beside his Venonat and bravely challenged her. Bravely, but stupidly.

"You don't mean to say..." she said, hesistantly. "You've been following me this whole time?"

The boy began to sniffle, of all things, turning his head away from her and openly sobbing as steaming tears ran down his cheeks. His Venomoth mimicked the action. "YES! IT IS TRUE, ALL THIS TIME I HAVE BEEN FOLLOWING YOU LIKE YOUR SHADOW! Ever since that day... I have not been able to stop thinking about you. About the traumatizing, humiliating defeat you handed down to me..." He bowed his head, clenching his fists and holding them at his sides. "I had begun to think that maybe I was wrong! That I had gone wrong in my training, that a casual practitioner like you could rap my ears so thoroughly!"

"Who the hell are you calling casual?!"

Ignoring her, the boy struck a pose, thrusting a fist into the air as he seemed ready to throw his vows up to the heavens themselves. "BUT NOW I UNDERSTAND THE VALUABLE LESSON THAT YOU WERE ABLE TO TEACH ME! I HAVE RE-DOUBLED, NO, RE-QUADRUPLED MY TRAINING SINCE THAT DAY! I HAVE FOLLOWED IN YOUR FOOTSTEPS, CHALLENGING THE GREATEST TRAINERS AND STRIKING THEM DOWN, PUSHING BOTH MY PARTNER AND MY OWN BODY TO 1000% OF THEIR LIMITS, ALL IN THE HOPES THAT I MIGHT ONE DAY RAISE MY METTLE BEYOND THE HUMAN LIMIT! TO BECOME THE IDEAL FIGHTING SPIRIT!"

He pointed dramatically at Daria, and placed himself in a fighting stance. "AND NOW MY TRAINING IS COMPLETE! I SHALL TEST MY NEW STRENGTH AGAINST YOU, DARIA PACE, AND THIS TIME I WILL SHOW YOU THE MERIT OF MY IDEAL FIGHTING SPIRIT! READY, VENO-VENO?!'

"VEN VEN!" cried the bug-type, floating in front of his trainer. The opposing party had declared a challenge, one that by custom could not be turned down. Daria rolled her eyes and glanced at Spiegel, who returned the look along with a slight smirk.

image

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!"

"VENVENVENVENVEEEEEEN!"

"Oh, quit your whining." Daria gave her victim a shake by the ankle to shut him up, leaving him a whimpering but more or less quiet prisoner. She held him by his ankle, dangling the shinobi over the side of Radio Tower. To her left, Spiegel was idly doing the same with Veno-Veno, whose wings were currently restricted by its own horrifically botched String Shot. A quick re-appropriation of the string around his claw left the lizard playing a rather sadistic game of Yo-Yo with the terrified creature.

"Now then, my arm's getting pretty tired, creepy stalker guy. So why don'tcha just accept my terms before something happens we'll both regret?"

"Y-YOU HAVE MADE NO DEMANDS!" cried the young man, blubbering out the sentence more than really speaking it.

"Oh, right." Daria stroked her chin with her free hand, considering her options. Coming to a decision she snapped her fingers and said, "All right, we'll do it like this. Ya give me and Spiegel a free ride back to the hotel, and we're square. Deal?"

"D-DEAL!"

"Oh, and... one more thing."

The shinobi suddenly felt the world around him spin as his captor flung him up and caught him coming down by his arms, so he could look her in the eye. A red face full of indignation and rage pressed up against him as she screamed.

"STOP FOLLOWING ME!"


Daria clambered back in through the window with her Charmeleon in tow, finding her other Pokemon had already come up to sleep in their usual spots. Outside, she could hear the voice of the shinobi calling even after slamming the window shut on him.

"GOODBYE, DARIA PACE! I SWEAR, OUR NEXT CROSSING OF PATHS WILL BE PURELY COINCIDENTAL!"

Daria barely had the energy to toss off her clothes before slamming into the bed like a wrestler laying the smackdown. She didn't have the energy to deal with folks like him this late at night. She was asleep in a matter of seconds, quietly snoring and joining the symphony of her Pokemon. And up in his spot by the window, Spiegel drifted off with a smile on his face.

"Like I said, it's none of my business what you do. But face it, no matter how well you were doing on those grunts, there were more, and those officers were far beyond what you could have handled. You got lucky that Silver showed up. There were even more enemies than you ran into. I found a whole group taken out by Silver's Gengar, all on it's own. You could barely handle what was thrown at you."

"That may have been the case back at the stadium, but now that we know just what we're up against, we can work on trying to stop them. We can look for these thugs wherever they are, we've seen their faces, we know their plans. We can work together, to ensure that no more Pokemon become like those poor things at the arena - to be stripped of their entire personality; to be used, like a tool, to further someone's agenda; to have everything they know and love taken away from them. No one, neither Pokemon or person should ever have to endure anything like that. That's why I'm going train with my team to become stronger than those horrible people could ever be."

Sav struggled to stifle a yawn that escaped from her mouth, serving her as a reminder that she was awake at such ludicrous hour.

"First thing tomorrow that is! For now, I think I can speak for both the team and I when I say goodnight, we're off to count some Mareep"

And with a hearty wave and smile, Savannah turned and began to make her way out of the room, only vaguely hearing something that Kayla had said.

"Um. Does anyone know if this place have any spare rooms. I kinda forgot to get one a place to sleep when I got in town today...."

"0h sorry Kay, I got completely carried away back there! Of course you can share with me"

"Really? That was quite the situation you were just in, man. And by the look of you, it don't look like you're handling it too well, now are you?"

Matt stumbled as the stranger's words rang out, his feet slipping along the rain-soaked pavement. Barely managing to retain his balance, the lad looked back again, his expressionless visage still and immovable. His failure had garnered even more attention then he thought it had, apparently, if even this stranger knew what had happened.

"C'mon now, you made a choice then and there. The question now is whether you're gonna wallow in it for the rest of your life, or get over it and make sure it doesn't happen to you or yours ever again."

"Shut up..."

The boy's response was quiet, hardly anything more than a whisper. Even if it hadn't been raining, odds are the laid-back trainer wouldn't have picked up on it; with the relentless deluge, there was simply no way he could have possibly heard Matt's words.

"Now come on out of the rain, dude. You'll catch a-"

"SHUT UP!"

There was no way anyone could have missed that one, however, rain or no.

Panting, Matt stared at the stranger with wild, crazed eyes, his once empty expression thrown into complete and utter disarray. Sorrow, fear, relief, desperation, happiness, all were somehow present on the lad's face. It was as though he just couldn't figure out which emotion to show, and had settled on some bizarre mixture of all of them.

When he spoke, Matt's voice was thick, slow, and shaky. His words fell one by one, each and every syllable as heavy as a Snorlax. "Just, please... Shut up. I am so, so sick of everyone telling me what to do, of everyone else knowing exactly what I'm doing wrong at any given moment."

Unconsciously, the youth balled his hands up into fists, his fingernails pressing painfully into his palms, even with his gloves providing a couple layers of protection. "What makes you think that I need you to tell me what to do, huh? What makes you think that I need anyone, huh!? What gives you the right to... to... What gives you right to know how I should have acted!?"

There was a moment of silence before Matt continued, slower, but with just as much emotion. "It wasn't just some impulse decision, you know. I was fully aware of what I was doing; I knew what my actions would result in. And you know what? I would do it again.

"If you know what I did, then you probably know what the situation was, right? Just me and Jack, facing that- that monster. It could take out my team in one hit. One hit. Can you imagine that? Watching the Pokemon you've raised go down just like that, unable to even put up a fight? I... We couldn't win. There was just there no way.

"So I ran. Like a damn coward, with my tail between my legs. I ran, because if I had stayed, he would've taken them from me. He would've taken everyone I cared about."

Matt stared at the stranger with accusation and tears in his eyes. "You think you know what I should have done? You think you know what I did wrong? Fine. Tell me. Tell me that I should have stayed and fought an impossible battle. Tell me that I should have just stood by and let that monster tear apart the rest of my friends, one by one, without doing anything to help them. Tell me that I should have just let him take them. Tell me exactly what I should have done. Can you do that? Can you?"

"You think you know what I should have done? You think you know what I did wrong? Fine. Tell me. Tell me that I should have stayed and fought an impossible battle. Tell me that I should have just stood by and let that monster tear apart the rest of my friends, one by one, without doing anything to help them. Tell me that I should have just let him take them. Tell me exactly what I should have done. Can you do that? Can you?"

As Matt stood there, desperately demanding an answer, the young man on the bench looks on, saddened for a spell before speaking up.

"You did the right thing."

Matt could only find one word to respond with: "...What?"

"You did the right thing. Neither you, nor your Pokémon were up to take on a threat like that. Some might say that other kid was braver, was right in staying, but that's just like, their opinion, man."

"But I... I..."

The wild frevor that had possessed the boy seemed to lessen, and he raised a golved hand to his forehead. "I... I know, I know. But..."

The mystery Trainer let out a deep sigh, closing his eyes for a second before speaking up:

"Lemme tell you a story. It's about this kid. Young, only about 12 years old. He sets out on this big adventure one day with nothing but the Cyndaquil a kind Professor gives him and a backpack full of dreams.

Everything is going smoothly enough until he gets involved in some shady stuff. Turns out there's this group of criminals, serious people, hurting Pokémon for a quick buck. Now, this kid is no coward, he's faced tough opponents before, this can't be that bad, right?

Wrong. He tries defeating the first bad guy, but this guy ain't playing around. Quickly, the kid notices his team isn't up for this and has to make a choice, fight or flight. What do you think he did?"

It didn't take a genius, or even an emotionally stable listener, to guess who the kid in the story was supposed to be. Granted, Matt may not have been the most worldly of trainers, but he was still capable of picking up on obvious hints.

Wait... Criminal organization? Typhlosion? Is he...

But there would be time to finish that thought later. For now, there was a question he had to answer. "I..." the boy began, pausing for a moment to gather his thoughts. Honestly, he wasn't sure which answer to give; had it been any other time he would have picked 'fight', but considering the tone of the story...

"He... He ran?"

The man smiled.

"No, he stayed. See he was brave. He was gonna be the Champ afterall, and Champs don't run. He won, too! After the leader of that operation was down, he ran out of that well as fast as he could. He felt invincible. Like nothing could stop him now. He went to the Pokécentre to get his friends healed. That's when it happened."

As he reached the glorious conclusion, the young Trainer's expression soured.

"One of his Pokémon died. He'd taken a SelfDestruct from a Koffing in full force, but even then, the kid thought he'd just fainted when he recalled him.

Nope. He was gone. The kid broke down. All of his previous confidence had vanished after that one sentence. If he had only backed off... Trained some more. Accepted his defeat that time and hit them hard the next... But it was too late, the damage had been done."

The man looked at Matt, dead serious.

"You did right by your Pokémon back there by ensuring their safety. Now do yourself and them a favor. Get rid of all those negative feelings inside you, train yourself and your friends well, and next time? Give those bastards hell!"

The boy just stood there, staring at his companion with a look of shock scrawled across his visage. That was... That had not been the ending he had expected. Not by a long shot.

Pokemon died, of course they did. They were mortal creatures, after all, just as susceptible to the ravages of time and illness as any other living thing. Not to mention the actions of some of the more carnivorous species... But a Pokemon dying in a battle, between trainers no less? Again, it happened, but the cases were incredibly rare. Going through that kind of tramua, feeling that kind of loss...

How was this man still standing there, with all of that strength?

"I-"

Matt wasn't sure what exactly he should say. He wasn't sure what he could say to a story like that. Offer his condolences? Tell the guy that he was strong? Pointless; what good would either of those do?

'Now do yourself and them a favor.'

Unbidden, a series of familiar images flashed through the youth's mind. A Cyndaquil sniffing curiously around its new home. A Pidgey roosting on his shoulder, its normally keen eyes half-shut. A Gastly frolicking about in the sunlight for the first time.

'Get rid of those negative feelings inside you.'

The heavy weight of the guilt in his gut was still there, Matt was painfully aware of that. He doubted that he'd ever manage to fully remove it, no matter how long or hard he apologized. But lessening it, even if just a little bit? ...Maybe he could do that.

'Train yourself and your friends well, and next time? Give those bastards hell!'

"...I guess that's really the only solution here, isn't it?"

Matt's voice, while certainly not smooth, was at least level. The surge of emotions that had filled his words had decreased dramatically; instead of an amalagation of hate, sorrow, and despair, they carried just the slightest bit of optimisim. "Train as hard as we can? ...Yeah, I think we can do that.

"Listen, I..." Biting his lip, the boy trailed off one last time. "Thank you. You have no idea how much I needed to hear that."

The man's Typhlosion decreased the heat slightly and let out a yawn as the downpour started losing strength.

"Heh. Don't mention it, man. *yawn* Would you look at the time... You really should go. No doubt that red haired stick in the mud expects you to be lined up in front of your inn at dawn..."

Suddenly, the scruffy Trainer's disposition took a turn to the serious.

"I really hope you'd join those other Trainers in helping us, Matt Seras. I have a good feeling about you."

With that, the man stood up and started walking away, Typhlosion in tow.

"See you around Matt!"

"S-see ya."
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

"First off, it was my pleasure Remy, being a trainer of a part fighting myself, I have a general idea of what moves to teach them; as for me personally, I don't have a particular type preference, much prefer a more diverse range. And as to what I think, I believe we should help Looker and the International Police in bringing justice to these villains. What they did to those Pokémon, its both objectionably and morally wrong, no one should twist the hearts and minds of Pokémon for their own diabolical ends. The sooner we put a stop to their plans the better. I say we prove Silver wrong."

Remy could feel the sheer confidence in every word Caleb had uttered in that sentence. It was good to hear, to be honest. He himself wasn't so sure this was a good idea, him, with his ragtag band of Pokémon, going against a big criminal organization like that...

"I figured you'd say that. I guess we'll find out who else shares our opinion come morning. That said, I think it'd be best if we got some shut eye."

Remy shook Caleb's hand firmly as he wished him good night.

"Good to have you on the "team", Mr. Grey, sleep well."

With that he and Zangoose took their leave, ascending to Remy's room. Primeape was fast asleep on his hammock, snoring like a jackhammer. Sneasel had made himself comfortable on the pillow next to Remy's, while Tentacool slept in the bathtub.
Remy didn't waste time taking off more than his boots and jacket, while Zangoose laid down at the end of the bed.

"Night guys. Tomorrow's gonna be the start of something big."

Remy was right. Starting tomorrow, the lives of this group of Trainers who'd all met completely by accident, would never be the same...

The downpour seemed to be lessening as Matt made his way back to the inn. What had once been an absolute deluge was now nothing more than a light pattering, and, with the addition of some fully functioning street lights, the night (or early morning, technically) seemed to be a whole lot brighter.

The trainer walked through the almost slumbering Goldenrod, his arms swaying slightly by his sides. It would be a lie to say that he had a spring in his step, but he walked with purpose and a clear destination in mind. Quite the improvement over his previous state, if nothing else.

The Sleeping Sunkern's lobby was all but deserted when Matt finally stepped in out of the rain. There was only the old woman behind the desk to greet him, and it looked like even she had dozed off a while back. Moving quietly, the youth headed up the stairs to his room, carefully and quietly opening and closing the door. He didn't want to wake anyone up, after all.

There were a few flashes of light, and Matt's team were corporal once more. Though his hands were trembling with exhaustion, the boy still did his best to lay out a few bowls of food and impart a few words to his Pokemon before drunkenly struggling to his bed. Odds were he'd be getting hell from his companions tomorrow, but maybe, just maybe... He could handle it.

Darius and his pokemon stayed at the table long after the rest of the Sunkern's tenants left for bed. Despite their earlier exertions, Daffy and Knuckles apparently still had energy to talk, goof around with each other, and generally make themselves little nuisances as he sat there just thinking about nothing in particular.

The Kanto breeder waited as long as he could for Matt's return from the storm outside. His pipe was refilled at least half a dozen times, the smoke filling the hotel so much he was forced to open a window, which caused a small commotion from Whismur as the wet, cold wind blasted her, causing the Whisper Pokemon to over-balance and fall off the table she was perched upon. Refusing help up from Darius, she stamped over to Numel and leaned her back against his warm hump. Numel simply continued staring at the flames of the fire as they continually died down as the night wore on. Eventually the clouds began parting, and although it was still raining somewhat heavily, Darius could see the moon on its downward path. Deciding to call it quits for the night, hoping the best for their wayward friend, he gathered his pokemon together and ushered them up the stairs.

Although Whismur refused to move from her place in front of the fire, Numel abandoned her once he smelled the pokeblock Darius pulled from his pack. After pursing his lips and standing at the doorway dumbstruck, Darius shook his head and went to his room. Daffy, Knuckles, and after a moment of study, Numel, all fell asleep. Daffy went back into the closet, Knuckles beneath the bed, and the Camel-like pokemon in the middle of the room, eyes still as open as they ever were.

Peeling off his sweat-and-dirt-stained pink shirt, Darius threw his clothing to the ground, too tired to care where it landed before dropping to the bed, falling asleep before his head finished bouncing on the pillow.

"Skor..."

"Ow!"

Tom had gotten off to his usual chatty self with the rest of the group. This didn't sit too well with the rest of his team. Aeolus had gotten a glazed look over his eyes, Kalmia was curled up and snoring flames, and you could barely distinguish Trapic from the rock he had been revived from. Kusari decided to pinch Tom again, just to make sure.

"Oww... Ok ok. Well guys, the Team's getting kinda tired, so I think we'll turn in for the night. Night all!"

Tom Recalled his three zonked out teammates, and climbed the stairs to his room, where he released them all again. Kusari jumped off of his shoulder and curled up on the bedside table, Aeolus flopped down onto the floor, and Tom Made sure to first put the food out of reach, and then drifted off into his well-earned sleep.

"I figured you'd say that. I guess we'll find out who else shares our opinion come morning. That said, I think it'd be best if we got some shut eye." Remy said with confidence as he and Caleb shook hands firmly. "Good to have you on the "team", Mr. Grey, sleep well." He then added before heading up the stairs.

"And a goodnight to you as well Remy. Tomorrow is going to be the start of something amazing. I just know it." Caleb said with a confident smile. A few seconds later, he let out a yawn, signalling that he as well should be getting some sleep as well. Climbing up the stairs, he could see that apart from the innkeeper, who looked like she had just fallen asleep herself, and his own team that were sitting by the fire, the lobby was empty.

"Come on guys, best we be getting some sleep now. Need to be wide awake for whats going to happen tomorrow." Caleb said quietly, as Raphael, Raiden, and Sebastian followed him up to their room.

Upon arrival, he let out both Angelique and Auron, with the Flying type clambering up to the wicker chair she had been using as a nest the previous, and was already asleep. Raiden and Sebastian sauntered over to the foot of Caleb's bed, got themselves comfortable, with Sebastian nestled amongst Raiden's fur, and then went to sleep themselves. Raphael sat down in a meditating position, and was soon asleep. All that was left now was Auron, who looked confused.

Ra Ralts? Auron asked as he looked up at Caleb.

"Ah, I see, you don't know where to sleep do you?"

Ral Ral. Auron said as he nodded. Caleb meanwhile had taken off his coat, tie, and sword, hanging them up on the hooks behind the door. His shoes meanwhile, he put them on a spare chair with a towel underneath to dry off from the rain. He then began to think on an answer to the question.

"Hmm. How about you sleep with Raiden and Sebastian for this first night. I'm sure they wouldn't mind. Anyway, goodnight Auron, it is a pleasure to have you on the team, we'll have lots of fun together." Caleb said as he climbed into bed, and fell fast asleep. Auron meanwhile, walked over to Sebastian, and sat down next to him. The little psychic type thought he could hear a small squeak coming from the Eevee as he soon drifted off into slumber.

"Haunter... d-don't make me come out there."

Standing in the open windowsill with one hand holding onto the wall, the other reaching out into the rain and with Hoothoot once again plastered to the side of his head, Rupert wasn't very comfortable with the situation. Haunter was still outside, floating just outside of his trainer's reach. Letting the two out for some fresh air (and some private time away from them) was simple enough, but getting them back in proved somewhat more difficult. Upon reflection, leaving the easily spooked Hoothoot alone with Haunter had been a monumentally dumb decision. Haunter had of course sprung onto the opportunity to scare the daylight out of an impressionable Normal-type half his level.

"Seriously though, pea soup? You covered her in pea soup? W-where did you even find...?"

"Hau hau hau haunter!"

The pouring rain had washed most of it off, but somehow Haunter had drenched the poor Flying-type in the distinctly vomit-like substance. A thick trail of it was snaking down Rupert's head where Hoothoot held onto him. Somewhere in Goldenrod a kitchen was missing its soup. Sigh. Should have never let him see that horror film.

"H-h-h-h-h-hoo... h-hoo..."

"I-It's gonna be okay, girl. We'll wash that stuff right off - don't worry. Haunter, are you coming in or not?"

Even as he posed the question Rupert flailed with his one arm at the Ghost-type who in turn only floated a few inches further away, guffawing in joy all the while. Haunter was well aware that his trainer had a healthy fear of heights and found the whole situation hilarious. This was futile. The only thing Rupert was going to catch here was a cold. Though to be fair the rain was slowly diminishing. One could almost make out more than just a wet, blurry silhouette of the city now.

Speaking of, Rupert's eyes couldn't help but be drawn downward as he noticed a lone figure approaching the inn. Was that... was that Matt? Rupert was immensely relieved to see the Johto trainer alive and well. The last Rupert had seen of him was when he stormed out of the stadium just after Silver entered the scene. Guess the others were right when they said that he'd be back.
Still, there was a something off about him. There was a certain... gravity to his footfalls that Rupert hadn't seen before in the timid trainer. There was almost something downright majestic about the way the young trainer strode through the deluge determinedly. The Kanto trainer couldn't be sure (heck, they had barely spoken to each other before), but he thought that Matt might already have taken a decision regarding Looker's mission.

"HAUNT!"

"AAAAAHH!"

Rupert was smacked out of his thought process and onto his back as Haunter flew right up to his face and made a grimace so exaggerated no solid flesh could replicate it. From there he continued on into the room and faded into a dark corner with a snicker. No doubt he had felt a tad insulted at being ignored when he was up to his antics. Rupert merely lay perfectly quiet on the floor for another minute, commanding his frantically beating heart to be still and silently cursing Haunter. Finally, he got back up and, still with a wide eyed Hoothoot stuck to his head, proceeded on to the bathroom where he brushed his teeth, got rid of his drenched clothes and cleaned the last goop off of the Flying-type.
Big day tomorrow.

And with that, everyone was sound asleep. The city itself would still remain quiet for a couple more hours, before dawn woke the first denizens up into their daily chores. Not all Trainers were fast asleep, however.

In the dark hallway of the floor where Rupert's room was situated, a young man, carrying a heavy bag quietly slid a letter underneath Rupert's door. He stared into space for a moment, before wiping off the tears from his eyes. He then whispered:

"C'mon Mightyena. Let's go..."


___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

A few miles North from Mahogany Town, Eres trudged through the Lake of Rage's thick forest, before stopping at a clearing. He then pulled out a PokéGear and dialed a number on it.

*Beeep*
*Beeeeeep*

"...Yes?" a soft, almost drowsy female voice answered.

"It is me, Eres."

"...I heard of your failure... I am not amused."

"My apologies, Mistress. There were... Some unforeseen complications."

"Yes... Anton informed me of as much. Said a... 'group of children gave you a run for your money'?"

Anton? That no good two timing son of a... "That is not the case, those uppity kids would've gotten theirs if that prick, Silver hadn't come into the equation! Why didn't Stein foresee this? Where the hell was Dante? Isn't he supposed to take care of these bas--"

"ENOUGH!! I did not request your excuses, Eres. Do not defer your failures to other, more competent members of this organization."

"Ghhh... Y-yes Mistress, I'm sorry." Eres took a look at his surroundings before continuing.

"I had to retreat and came out somewhere near Mahogany Town. I'll find Anthony and continue our plan for Joht-"

"You. Will do no such thing."

"Eh?"

"I've given that assignment to Anton. He's proven himself quite capable and no longer answers to you. You and Anthony are to return to me by tomorrow. The International Police is scurrying around us quite diligently as of late. Some people need to disappear and I need you two to do it. Have I made myself clear?"

"...Yes... Mistress..."

"Now come on back dear. It is time we put our true plans in motion and finally realize my goal. Ahhahahahahhhaha!"

END OF CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II: East & West

Snnnnnnneeeeeeeeeaaaah!!

Sneasel yawned as he lazily lay perched on Remy's shoulder as he made his way downstairs, where Susanne and Granny Kerner were already busy putting breakfast on the tables. Noticing the Sinnoh native, Susanne smiled and invited him in.

"Mornin' Remy! Breakfast is almost ready. Heroes like you're gonna need a hearty meal for what you've got ahead of you!"

That was odd. Susanne was never this friendly. Maybe the heroics were working.

Could it be???

Remy rushed towards Susanne in a vicious hurricane of pure love.

"My chére! At last our hearts meet!! I am but a stray leaf in the TYPHOON OF LOVE!!! Please, do take me into your loving embrUGHOOOOGH!!!!!!"

Remy was wrong (as he usually tends to be), and the sizzling hot frying pan Susanne had used to block the would-be Don Juan's advances was all the proof he needed. Heartbroken and sobbing, he took his burns to Sneasel, who proceeded to fix them with his icy breath.

"Oh well, might as well check my mail." He said, no worse for wear and making his way to the PC in the lobby. He logged in and clicked on "Mail".

"Oooh, new mail! Silversong Daycare? Hmmm... Blabla, order, blah, requested Pokémon specs... Bahblah... OH! OHOHOH! Sneasel! We got it!"

Sneasel?

"The Sneasel egg I'd commissioned from that cute girl at the Daycare next to the city! It's there! Waiting for us! We're gonna get you a friend, buddy!"

Sneasel jumped up and down in joy at the prospect of a "little brother" joining the gang. That's when Looker and Silver entered the inn. Sneasel stopped right away and clambered up to his Trainer's shoulder. Silver intimidated the Dark-type for some reason. Looker looked at Remy and spoke up:

"Ah, Mr. Olivier. It seems you are the first to awaken. I assume your presence signals willingness to participate in our efforts then?"

"You'd be right, sir. We were getting kind of stagnant in this city anyway. And this seems important. We wanna help."

Remy looked at Silver. The veteran Trainer merely scoffed and looked elsewhere. Looker, on the other hand, smiled and nodded, motioning Remy to join them in the dining room.

"Very well. Come then, into the dining area. Once the others arrive, we shall partake in some breakfast and then discuss our findings. And the plan."

"Oh Tom" Ada whispered. "You're just so perfect!" "Wow, thanks Ada, You're pretty amazing too!" Tom was blushing heavily, and seemed to grow as red as a Charmeleon as she leaned in for a kiss. "But um.. Ada, are you... Always this heavy?"

GATOR!!

Tom's eyes snapped open to see Aeolus sitting on top of him, nearly eye-to-eye with his trainer.

"AAAAAH!"

Seeing that His trainer was awake, the Feraligatr plopped off of the bed and back onto the floor.

"Geez Aeolus, Don't do that! You scared me half to death!"

"Skor..."

"What, did all of you wake up before me?"

"Doom. Houndoom.

"DonDon!"

"Wow.. I was pretty tired out then I guess... Lets go get some food then?"

Jubilantly agreeing to their trainer's suggestion, Tom's team followed him downstairs to the dining hall, where only Remy was sitting. They did pass by Looker and Silver, but judging from the look on the redhead's face, Tom decided that maybe it would be a bad idea to ask for an autograph. He sat down at the same table as Remy with a cheerful "Hello!"

Maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea to get to know the others a little better... Who knows, maybe we could share some tips!

Eeeeeveeeeee!! Sebastian yawned as he removed his tail from in front of him, only to spot the new Pokémon, Ralts sitting/standing in front of him, its still soundly asleep with its visible eye still shut. He turned around to notice that the morning sun was slowly rising in the sky, and remembered that his trainer needed to be up an early to be at a meeting with the other humans who were staying here, along with two others that had been here the previous night. Using the still sleeping Raiden to gain some height, Sebastian climbed onto the bed, and sat next to his trainer, and let out a short bark.

Eeeveee! This caused all the others to awake. Raphael suddenly sprung up and brought his arms into a fighting pose, but lowered his guard once he saw what the cause was. Angelique's wings were all a flutter as she became spooked from the disturbance, and tossed an annoyed look at the Normal type when she saw what the problem was; she then flew over and perched herself at the bottom of Caleb's bed.

Rayyy... rai ray Raiden growled as he began to stir from slumber, before shaking himself awake with a few shocks. Sensing a commotion, Auron soon awoke, gently shaking itself awake. Finally, their sleeping trainer couldn't sleep any longer, as he suddenly rose up from out of bed, with a yawn.

"Morning everyone. I trust you all slept well?" Caleb asked, putting a hand over his face to cover up the yawn. All of his team nodded to say yes. He then looked at the clock that was up on the wall, noticing that the time was around 8:00AM.

"Well, I am very glad to hear that. We best get ready for the big day ahead. Let me just make myself more presentable, then we'll head downstairs." Caleb then proceeded to climb out of bed, grab some clothes, and got washed and dressed in the small bathroom attached to the room. A few minutes, he came out looking fresh and new, ready to tackle this big challenge before them. He gathered up his things and headed downstairs, his team following beside him.

"Best I give my family back home a call, no doubt their worried about me after yesterday's events. I should have time to contact them before the meeting with Looker and Silver." Caleb said as he arrived at the video phone, and tapped in the number before letting it ring.

Caleb breathed a sigh of relief, happy that his family were okay with the situation. He then straightened himself up, and lead his team into the dining room, and saw that breakfast was already being served. Off to one table at the side, he could see both Looker and Silver in talks with one another. The Hoenn native had no desire to speak with Silver for the moment, the words of last night still stung a little. He saw that both Remy and Tom was there also, and took a seat at their table, and poured himself a fresh cup of coffee.

"Morning you two. Get a good nights rest?"

Chk--hssssssssssssssssss

"Oh, GOD yes!"

For the first time in what had to be days, Daria felt the sensation of hot water on her skin. A shower was a luxury to a Pokemon trainer, and with the knob labeled "H" twisted as far as possible, the young woman intended to wring every ounce of enjoyment from it. Just feeling the water work its way down was enough to melt away the stress. She grabbed the complimentary soap from its little alcove and started scrubbing all the scrapes, bruises and gashes she'd managed to collect over the last few days. It wasn't exactly pleasant, but it was certainly a relief.

Kind of a wonder none of this has gotten infected, come to think of it...


Nearly a full half hour later, the sun already beginning to rise over the horizon, she stepped out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel, looking utterly serene. Only Jet was in the room, meditating in the corner. Spiegel, Slagger and Gemini were all present, but had moved into their Pokeballs in preparation for any traveling they'd be doing today. It was best, in their experience, to only keep one Pokemon out at a time outside of special occasions. It tended to get... hectic, otherwise. Her Hitmonlee gave Daria a quiet nod, acknowledging her presence before turning around, opting to spend the rest of his meditation facing the wall while she dressed.

The trainer tossed off her towel, going through her bag as she idly selected an outfit. She wound up in a pair of jeans that were older than her, hand-me-downs from her father and had lost their blue color as a result, settling somewhere around gray. On top, a navy blue t-shirt with the logo for the Indigo League emblazoned on the left side. She let her hair hang so long as it was still wet, and clasped her belt around her waist, Pokeballs ready to toss. Stepping out the door, she waved for Jet to follow her downstairs.

Daria sauntered in with a hearty grin, slamming herself down into a chair, grinning at everyone that had already made it.

"Mornin', everybody! Snow Boy, Tom, Sword Guy, Looker..." She paused as she got to Silver, eyes darting up and down his body as she took in his appearance with a puzzled expression. "Uh... I don't think I remember you. What was your name again?"

Clearly she'd been hit harder on the head than anyone had realized. Jet slouched against the wall, quietly shaking his head.

Darius woke to the pinpoint accuracy of the sun bright in his face. How it was always like that, he had no idea, but it often annoyed him to wake up like that. His clothes from the day before strewn about the room, he tripped over Numel, who was hidden and still sleeping from beneath the pink shirt. He continued sleeping, even though his trainer/breeder fell face-first into the floor.

A muffled, but still very coherent giggle came from under his bed,"Slaaaaaaaaa-aaaaaaaaaa-aaaa-aaaaaaaaaaaa-ssssshhh". The Sandslash did what he could to cover his face with his claws, but somehow continued to do nothing but poke himself in the eye, which elicited a chuckle from Darius, still spread across most of the room, a single leg branched over Numel(who somehow, was still asleep, despite the whole ordeal.)

"Psy?"

Knuckles scrambled out from beneath the bed while Darius stood. Throughout the already eventful morning, the two had failed to notice the sound of water running, and the steam escaping from the door to the bathroom, which Daffy had just walked out of, a towel many sizes too big wrapped around his still sopping body. Dropping the towel to the ground, he simply looked at the three of them, walked to the door out, and left the two, Darius sans clothing of any sort.

Now it was Darius' turn to scramble as he leaped across the room to the door, slamming it shut - as far as he knew - before anyone of the other guests happened by. With that matter settled, he walked into the shower, which was still running, and began to quickly bathe. The water was scalding, and no wonder, seeing as Daffy had failed to turn the cold water on at all. This of course elicited a pained screech once the water pelted certain parts<Continued sentences deemed too graphic for all audiences.>

After the incident that would now be known as the Shower Scream Heard 'Round the Sunkern, Darius dressed, paying special attention to the more tender parts of his body from the recent showering. He packed his dirtied clothes into the part of his pack he kept them in, and retrieved new ones. Today the world would see him in jeans and a white t-shirt, which was tucked into the pants and a second shirt put on over it, this one short-sleeved, gray, with the Boulder badge stitched on the back. He kept it unbuttoned and put his mismatched socks into his boots, one all the colors of known Eeveelutions, the other plain black. His normal amenities he put into his pockets, and packed everything up, he had a feeling they'd be leaving today. Finally, he clipped on his pokeball belt. With all that done, he set out the door after attempting to wake Numel up - which was to no avail - and left him standing in the middle of the room, still seemingly asleep.


Meanwhile downstairs, Daffy had already made himself, if not useful, certainly memorable by standing atop a table and dancing. Badly. Upon seeing Darius, a startled squawk followed by a short trip to the ground, towel still clutched in his hands. Wrapping it around himself and walking to Knuckles, he stared up at the larger Pokemon and threw the towel over his head.

"Psyduck!!"

"Sandslash!"

The two began a small chase around the dining area, which abruptly ended with Darius planting himself right in their way, causing Daffy to slide on the floor into him, and Knuckles to stop and stare up at him curiously.

"Now if you two can't play quietly, I'll have to send you both back into the pokeball." His words were cheery, but carried a somewhat haunting undertone, something that was somewhat lost in the effect what with all the patches of reddened skin that covered his body.

Both visibly and audibly gulped, Daffy's much more pronounced from his years of experience and talent with pantomime. Sticking his pipe between his teeth again, he lit it and sat down at the occupied table.

"Uh... I don't think I remember you. What was your name again?"

"Silver I think, Giovanni's - you know, the Rocket one? - son, if I remember the rumors. How ya doing? You tried drowning me yesterday. Unfortunately, you aren't the first."

Darius extended his hand to the officer, the other hand clamped around his pipe.

Rupert's morning was not a particularly pleasant one. It was marred by several disagreeable events. He had scrambled out of bed when he was woken up by what sounded like a banshee. Granted, this banshee had an unusually deep voice, but it still managed to evoke bad memories of the ghosts of Lavender Town. It was only when the screaming devolved into very graphic swears that Rupert's sleep addled brain concluded that there were no apparitions out to get him here. The team had evidently not been woken up by neither Darius' exclamations nor Rupert's stomping as their soft snores could be heard throughout the room. The sole exception was Pineco by virtue of already having been up for the better part of an hour, simply standing at attention at the foot of the bed.
Rupert rewarded him by nearly tripping over him.

"Woah! Oh, m-morning, Pineco. Did you hear... n-never mind. S-sorry about that. You're an early bird, huh?"

"Pin."

If Pineco was fazed by nearly being trodden on he didn't show it, and merely stood up at bit straighter. He was wide awake and alert, ready for orders from his trainer.

"Heh. Well, prepare to be the odd duck out then. Cubone likes his sleep and Haunter's sleep pattern is erratic at best. Huh. Hoothoot is still asleep too. I guess she's nocturnal by nature. I hope she doesn't have too much trouble altering her sleep schedule."

The second disagreeable event to strike young Rupert this morning was finding a complete stranger in the bathroom mirror. He looked awful. Rupert wasn't used to much excitement, but these last few days had really taken their toll on him. What really shocked him wasn't his haggard look though; it was the enormous blue bruise that adorned his abdomen. He hadn't noticed it last night what with the darkness and being so tired and... stuff with Cubone, but it was very prominent and...

"Ouch!"

... pretty sore. For a minute Rupert couldn't quite remember how he had gotten it. So much had happened in such a short span of time. That's when he recalled how he had caught Pineco.

"Oh, right. You used a Tackle on me. Well, I kinda got in the way to be fair... Man, you can really hit hard when you want to, Pineco."

"Cooooooh."

Pineco just stared at the result of his handiwork. The Bagworm Pokémon looked almost a little proud. Rupert tried to get through the morning rituals fast after this. He needed to see Looker soon. After dressing (gingerly due to the bruise) and returning Pineco to his pokéball he left the rest of the still sleeping team in the room. They deserved their rest, and Cubone in particular needed it. It was only when he opened the door that Rupert noticed the letter that he had stepped on.

Thoroughly confused as to who could have left it Rupert opened it and read through it. Then he closed the door and decided to let himself fall against it.

Damn it, Ryan. Whaddaya mean you're "weak"? You're stronger than me. You've turned tail and fled for Mightyena. I nearly did the same, but for no one but myself. How is it that I'm going on this mission and someone like you isn't? Has nothing to do with strength. Even now, I'm not going out of bravery. I'm going because I'm scared. I'm scared to think what a wretch I am if I don't. I need this.

I'm gonna miss you.

When Rupert stepped into the dining area he might as well have been walking around with a cartoon raincloud hanging over his head for how jolly he was. Not even Daffy's antics fazed him. He muttered some low 'good mornings' to whomever cared to listen, and awkwardly sat down among the others.


Slowly and quietly, Matt slid into the dining room. If all of the hustle and bustle was anything to go by, that was where everyone was meeting. Besides, he needed to get something in his gut; skipping dinner last night had not been the best decision.

The conversation spilling forth from the other trainers and officers masked the boy's already silent footsteps as he haltingly made his way towards one of the room's far corners, a fair distance away from the other, more occupied tables. Making a conscious effort to avoid eye-contact with anyone, but especially Silver, Matt began to poke at his cereal, chewing each bland mouthful into a thick paste before finally gulping it down.

Even so isolated from everybody else, the young still trainer still felt exposed, naked almost. A faint tinge of crimson began to flow into his cheeks as he instinctively reached towards his brow, only to stop his hand halfway through the motion. He really needed to get a new hat, and soon...

Any isolation Matt might've intended to find for himself was shattered into so many pieces when he accidentally locked eyes with Daria. Her eyes instantly lit up recognizing the kid, and in a flash of movement that nobody in the room caught, he was in the seat next to him with an arm around his shoulder. Her blissfully ignorant grin would have painful to Jet if he weren't so used to being around her.

"Hey, Matt! Haven't seen ya since the arena, everybody was worried sick! Where've ya been?"

Daria was oblivious, but even she couldn't miss the uncomfortable look on his face. Puzzled, she asked "And what's with the long face? We won! Or did ya miss that part?"

In a moment of consideration, it occurred to her that he might not be familiar with their newest guest. She pointed him out and mentioned, "Probably haven't met. Matt, this is... is... Looker's partner."

She'd forgotten his name again. Jet turned to Silver and gave a half-shrug. An apology of sorts.

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