Author's Note: The following fanfiction spun out of this thread to some extent. I don't really have the inclination to make this into an ongoing series but any comments and critique are much appreciated.

The blistering noonday sun hung lazily over the Desert Resort in lower Unova as Trip made his way to Relic Castle. Despite the nearly unbearable heat and the periodic sandstorms, he soldiered on towards the ruins because he wanted to take some photographs before resuming his Pokemon League challenge in Nimbasa City. Trip walked alone because he preferred the solitude so he could plan strategies for his next battle.

"Elesa uses electric types, which means Servine should have very little trouble but—" He said to no one in particular. His father told him that a trainer could walk for days without any human contact so it was always a good idea to "talk to yourself" before the solitude takes its toll. Unfortunately for the novice trainer, a sinister presence lurked in the dunes nearby.

The wind began to howl again, and drove more sand into Trip's face and forced him to shield his eyes with his arms. Then a shadow suddenly appeared before him and gave him precious few seconds to recognize that its shape matched that of a...

"Kroooooook!" The beast snarled as it slashed at Trip who barely rolled out the way and looked up to find a Krookodile lumbering towards him.

"Uh oh," Trip murmured; he didn't need his Pokedex to tell him this Pokemon was extremely rare in the wild, and it was just his luck that it had to find him. Since he had no intention of becoming this Krookodile's lunch, he pulled out a Pokeball the tossed it into the air. "Go Servine!"

Trip's Servine appeared before him in a beam of crimson light and pompously sized up the towering Intimidation Pokemon. "Servine!"

"Use Leaf Tornado! Quickly!"

"Ser vi vine!" The Grass Snake quickly summoned a verdant whirlwind as the advancing Krookodile. Though it momentarily staggered the beast, the Krookodile's claws turned a dark violet color before it slashed its claws to disperse the Leaf Tornado then slashed again to send Servine flying back next to Trip where it lay stunned.

Though he realized that the Krookodile was clearly too powerful to drive back, Trip reached for another Pokeball only to hear someone shout in the distance. "Firebrawl! Knock it down with Double Kick!"

That's when a Pokemon unfamiliar to him fall from the sky behind the Krookodile. It was a tall and bird-like with red feathers with accentuations of yellow and gray and beige feathers that almost looked like a mane. Instead of wings it had razor-sharp claws and a pair of powerful legs that hammered into the back of the Krookodile, first the left, and then with the right with ruthless precision. the Krookodile spun away from Trip to glare at its attacker and then swung its tail. The mystery Pokemon jumped to avoid it, "Now Blaze Kick!"

"Blaz-i-ken!" The mystery Pokemon surrounded its foot with an envelope of flame and swung it around to strike the Krookodile in the chest. Undeterred by the burning pain, it lunged at the mystery Pokemon who simply jumped out of its path. Trip pulled out his Pokedex, "Blaziken the Blaze Pokemon and native to the Hoenn region. Blaziken has incredibly strong legs - it can easily clear a 30-story building in one leap. It learns martial arts that use punches and kicks. Every several years, its old feathers burn off, and new, supple feathers grow back in their place."

The Blaziken's equally mysterious trainer arrived on the scene clad in a khaki cape and hood. "Let's wrap this up, Firebrawl. Mom and dad are still expecting us for lunch." He said, "Knock it out with Sky Uppercut."

Firebrawl nodded and charged at the Krookodile with incredible speed belted it from underneath its snout. The Krookodile went flying back and the sandy terrain with spirals in its eyes. Firebrawl proudly cracked his knuckles and pinned his dazed opponent with one foot while Trip reached for his camera and took a few snapshots of the Blaziken with it. This did not go unnoticed by the Blaziken who twisted around and gave Trip a menacing glare as it opened its beak and embers flickered from it. Trip suddenly froze, realizing that it was about to fire a Flamethrower before its trainer stepped between them.

"Stand down," he harshly ordered the Blaziken, "He's just a noob that probably got lost in the desert."

"Noob?" Trip rejoined in protest, "And who do you think you are?"

The trainer turned around and pulled back his hood to reveal a boy roughly his age with wild copper-brown hair held in place by the black bandana wrapped around his head similar to a pirate. "Blaze Redstone of Lavaridge Town." He simply answered, "You are lucky I was in the neighborhood when I heard your shouting."

Trip raised an eyebrow. "So you're from Hoenn, huh?" He said, "And I thought Kanto was in the boonies."

Blaze bristled and bit down on his lip. "And this is how Unovans thank strangers for saving them from becoming, Krookodile chow?" He remarked caustically before gesturing Trip to follow him. "I'll take you back to my camp where your Pokemon can get some rest."

Trip picked up his Servine and nodded before he followed Blaze and Firebrawl through the sun-baked desert. After a long and uncomfortable trek, Blaze finally broke the silence without turning back. "So why did you say you thought Kanto was in the 'boonies'? You met someone from there?"

"Yes, his name was Ash Ketchum. Why do you want to know?"

"Curiosity." Blaze replied, "And I know who Ketchum is. I entered the Ever Grande Championship at the same time he did and watched him battle a few times. He pulled off a couple impressive wins."

Trip frowned. "I'm surprised he made it far without knowing the basics. He barely puts any effort into raising his Pokemon and never used any strategy when I battled him."

"And this coming from a trainer who tried to take on a fully evolved Krookodile with a Servine instead of running." Blaze quipped again, "I guess you Unovans simply lack common sense."

Trip lost some of his cool this time and grimaced back at Blaze. "And you Hoennese know better, huh?"

"My point is that you met Ketchum how many times?"

"Three times."

"Three times, and you never seen him action. If you take that attitude with you to the Unova League, you will be in for a rude awakening as his rival in Sinnoh was."

"What happened?"

"I'll let you figure that on your own."

"So what are you doing in Unova?" asked Trip.

"My parents are anthropologists who are doing research on ancient Unovan civilization," Blaze explained, "They asked me if I wanted to join them on their expedition and I said 'yes.' Anything else you want to know?"

Trip said nothing as they reached the oasis where Blaze's parent set up camp. They entered one of the tests where a barely middle-aged woman with the same hair color and tanned complexion as Blaze was setting the table. She looked to Trip and greeted with a friendly smile. "I see you brought a friend, Benjy."

"Benjy?" Trip sniggered but one cross glare from Blaze and Firebrawl breathing down his neck prompted him to stifle it.

"Just someone I came across in the desert." Blaze explained, turning to his mother. "I brought him back here so his Pokemon can get some rest and something to eat."

"Well, I hope you're hungry because I just finished the Cinnabar Volcano Burgers."

After lunch and giving his Pokemon a needed rest, Trip wandered the ruins to take photographs of the weathered columns. His lens then focused on what appeared to be a Darmanitan statue when he saw a pair of feet hanging from its brow. Trip pulled his sight away from the viewfinder to stare Blaze in the eye. "Don't you have anything better to do?"

"Probably," Blaze replied, hopping from the statue and circled around him. "But I want to see what you're made of. You said you beat Ketchum twice, right?"

Trip slipped the camera into his pocket and nodded. "I did, and are you challenging me?"

"Of course!" Blaze boisterously shouted like some hammy supervillain and threw one arm into the air. "You catch on quickly, for a Unovan."

A faintly amused smirk crawled up Trip's cheek. "Then you leave me with no choice then. Three on three?"

"Naturally."

"Will you be using your Blaziken?"

Blaze shook his head and wagged his finger. "That would be unfair. I trained Firebrawl from when he was a Torchic and he's my heaviest hitter. Don't worry though, the rest of my Pokemon are more than capable of mopping the floor with you."

And so the opponents took opposite sides of what used to be a royal courtyard each with a Pokeball in hand. Trip was the first to throw his, "Go Traquil!"

"C'mon out, Jawbreaker!" Blaze shouted as he threw an Ultra Ball high up into the air where it opened to reveal a Gabite. The shark-like Pokemon spread out its arms and exposed its teeth at Tranquil.

Trip wasted no time in giving orders. "Go ahead and use Work Up, then Aerial Ace!"

"Quillll…" Tranquil warbled as it climbed high above Jawbreaker who simply stood motionlessly in front of a broken pillar. It began to glow a reddish hue as it dove towards the Gabite who continued to stand still until Blaze barked out his orders.

"Dig..." He shouted but gestured Jawbreaker to hold back until-- "NOW!"

Jawbreaker leaped into the air and dove into the ground in time to Tranquil's attack. The wild pigeon Pokemon kept flying until it crashed into the pillar then Jawbreaker burst from the ground. "Time for Iron Head!"

"Gah! BITE!" Jawbreaker's head took a metallic sheen as he slammed it and Tranquil further into the pillar. When the dust cleared, Tranquil dropped to the ground, unable to battle.

Trip's jaw nearly dropped when he recalled Tranquil. One hit, just like how Traquil knocked out Ketchum's Tepig and Oshawott. Trip now clearly realized that he that he was dealing with a trainer more different than Ash. "He used the layout of the arena to his advantage and had his Pokemon move out of the way at the most precise moment. This goes beyond basic."

Though he could call off the battle at any moment, Trip felt an obligation to continue so he reached for another Pokeball. "Go! Lampent!"

"Laaaaaaaaaaaam," the lantern-like Pokemon mournfully bellowed as Blaze called Jawbreaker back to his Ultra Ball.

"Awesome job, Jawbreaker. You're getting leftovers when this is finished." He said before clipping it his belt and unclipped another Pokeball. "You're next, Gary!"

A round dark violet Pokemon with stumpy arms and legs with spikes running down its backside appeared before Lampent. Its red eyes focused on its opponent and its giant grin grew even wider. "Gengar!" It playfully yelled.

"Use Shadow Ball!" Trip shouted at his Pokemon.

"Stick to the shadows and prepare to strike!" Blaze countered as he pointed to the shade. Gary nodded and ducked the Shadow Ball by diving into it. The Gengar periodically jumped from the shadows to taunt Lampent by sticking out his long, dripping tongue. "Gar!"

The ghastly flame inside the Lampent burned intensely as it fired more Shadow Balls but Gary was simply much faster and retreated back into the shadows. Then it appeared from Trips shadow behind Lampent. "Now!" Blaze shouted, "Hit it with Confuse Ray!"

Lampent barely had time to turn around to face Gary when the Gengar hit it with a ray of dazzling light. "Laaaaaampent." It yelped.

"Use Flamethrower!" Trip ordered with a growing sense of desperation in his voice.

Lampent complied but because it was overwhelmed by its confusion, every single one of its flamethrowers missed the target. This time Gary appeared directly in front of Lampent when it finally recovered.

"Give it a nice slobbery Lick, Gary!"

Gary gleefully rolled out his tongue and licked Lampent, leaving behind a trail of saliva. Lampent shuddered and suddenly felt completely numb. "Now that we paralyzed it," Blaze said, "Finish off Lampent with Hex!"

"Gengar!" Gary replied as his eyes darkened he extended his arms and an otherworldly eye appeared above him. It glared down on Lampent as if to cast judgment before it fired rings of blue, magenta, and deep violent. The attack sent Lampent flying back where it crashed at Trip's feet with its eyes now seeing stars.

"Lampent, return." Trip grimly said as he recalled Lampent and tucked its Pokeball on his belt. He then pulled out his Servine's Pokeball. "You're up, Servine!"

His newly restored Servine appeared as Blaze withdrew his Gengar and switched Pokeballs. "Just to spice things up a bit. C'mon out, Slash!"

Much to Trip's shock, a Dewott emerged from the Pokeball when it popped open and reached for its shells upon materializing. It locked glances with Servine, whose eyes narrowed when the Dewott showed off its shell-wielding skills. Trip began to worry despite having the clear type advantage. Blaze had completely dominated the battle so far and to call out a water type against a grass type struck him as foolish. Unless his enemy had a strategy to compensate, so Trip pointed at Slash and shouted. "Use Cut!"

"Block it with your shells and counter with Razor Shell"

"Dewaaaaah!" Slash roared as it grabbed its shells with lightning-quick reflexes and blocked Servine's attack. The two opponents were more evenly matched this time; with every swipe from Slash's Razor Shell technique, Servine offset each attempt with Cut. Upon seeing an opportunity to win, Trip seized upon it.

"Pull back and use Leaf Tornado!"

"Serrrrrrrrrr-VINE!" cried the grass snake, when it unleashed it leafy whirlwind at the otter that stood its ground. Likewise, Blaze appeared unperturbed by the unfolding events, almost too cool for Trip's comfort.

"Dodge and hit it with Air Slash!"

"Wooooooott." Slash lithely sidestepped the Leaf Tornado and charged at Servine with its shells glowing a bright cyan. Servine barely had time to react, much less evade when Slash sliced its scaly belly and caused it to howl in pain.

"Viiine!"

"I don't believe it!" Trip exclaimed as Servine flinched and Slash spun his shells. "How did your Dewott learn that technique?"

"Oh, I happened to get my mitts on a Pokemon Egg shortly after we arrived in Unova." Blaze answered with a self-satisfied smirk, "I'm just lucky it inherited Air Slash. Does your Servine still have an fight left in it, or are you going to call it quits?"

Servine craned its head up and narrowed its eyes to glare back at Slash before it shakily rose back to its feet. "Are you sure you can do this, Servine?" Trip asked.

"Servine, VINE!" It nodded with fiery vigor.

"Then use Vine Whip and show that Dewott what you have!"

Two slender vines appeared from behind Servine's neck and lashed out at Slash who weaved its way to the twisting tendrils. Upon seeing this Blaze squeezed his fist, "All right, Tackle him Slash! Hurry!"

"Deeeeewott!" Slash ducked under one vine then rushed forward to knock Servine back but found himself thrown back by the other vine. But that scarcely discouraged who got back onto its feet and rushed at Servine once more.

"That's it Slash! Don't let those vines get close!"

"Wott!" Slash took his shells and pushed back Servine's Vine Whip with Razor Shell to knock Servine to the ground hard. For a moment Servine lay motionless but he shakily got back up again to find the edge of Slash's shell blade pressed against his snout.

"That's enough Slash. I got what I wanted." Blaze said.

Slash spun his shell once more before placing it back on his thigh. "Dewott."
Trip blinked and gave Blaze and gave him incredulous stare as Slash returned to its Pokeball. "I don't understand," he finally spoke, "You had us on the ropes and you just-- give up?"

Blaze simply winked and wryly grinned. "I told you that I wanted to see what you're made of. That didn't mean I wanted to beat you."

"I don't get it." Trip blinked again, "I thought the point of battling was to defeat your opponents."

"And that's such a noobish way of looking at things," Blaze retorted as he crossed his arms and cast a glance off to the sides. "A champion once told me that the bonds between Pokemon and trainer are the most important part of battling. If your Pokemon don't trust and respect you, then you already lost."

Trip remained silent for moment as he looked to Servine who turned away in humiliation, and then closed his eyes when he recalled his Pokemon. "So this was all a test?" He asked with growing ire in his words, "Did I pass?"

"You were okay." Blaze replied, "A complete noob but everyone is a noob when they start out, believe me. But this is not over. You are going to keep on training and getting better until we meet again."

"You really think so, huh?" Trip said with his anger giving way to intrigue.
Blaze turned away and slow trudged back to camp. "It's a small world. We're bound to run into each other at the Unova League if not before then. See you later."

"Wait," Trip called out, "I never even told you my name."

Blaze stopped to look back once before heading off, "Maybe next time."

Trip lingered around the ruins for a couple minute to take a few more photographs before heading back to the desert to resume his journey. His encounter with Blaze Redstone gave him much to think about on the way to Nimbasa City. The trainer from Hoenn gave him a humbling experience that he would not forget any time soon. Plus, if the trainers out there are that powerful he had to wonder if he underestimated Ash Ketchum. "Only time will tell."