Evan walked down a narrow forest path; the muddy track was bordered by thick undergrowth, which was flourishing with the end of the recent drought. The trees, since they grew more slowly, had not yet returned to their vibrant state. The air had a slight chill to it, and a few clouds gathered above the forest. Evan knew that if the winds picked up, he’d likely be looking at an afternoon storm, so he increased his pace somewhat.
He walked quietly past the derelict trunks standing with bare branches amidst a sea of green brush. The sun shone in thin beams that penetrated the leafy canopy, illuminating spots on the path in brilliant gold. There were other tracks on the path, but none of the footprints looked newer than the most recent storm, which had been the day before.
A dry limb snapped in his hand as he pushed it out of the way; the loud crack startled several tan and brown Pidgey, which flew from surrounding trees. Evan nervously pushed his blonde hair away from his blue eyes, wiping the sweat from his hands on his damp blue shirt, and then pulled a sphere from his belt. After a press of a button, it enlarged to fill his small hand; it was equal parts red and white, with a thick black line bisecting the shape.
“I’m getting tired of jumping at nothing. Eevee, come on out and keep me company, would you?” He pointed the sphere at a dry spot on the trail.
At his command, a brown, quadrupedal Pokémon with a thick white neck ruff, white tail tip, and large, soulful black eyes appeared in a flash of scarlet light. It nuzzled Evan’s knee, and he bent down slightly to scratch it behind the ears before they continued.
Realizing he still held the dead branch in his hand, he began to use it in scouting the path; it was just the right size for his slight frame. His mom had always told the neighbors that he was unusually levelheaded for a curious boy his age, and she trusted his Pokemon companions to bring him home safely every night. He would do his best to make sure she was right.
Although, he mused, he was probably getting close to searching out trouble at this point. Several children from a nearby town had gone missing; they had last been seen disappearing into the forest carrying day packs. Evan figured they probably hadn’t planned on being gone for the several days that they hadn’t been found.
Taking it upon himself as a Junior Rocketeer from the Violet City Trainer School, he had packed a change of clothes, some food for the road, and extra Pokémon medicine before setting off on their heels to find the missing kids – or, at the very least, what had happened to them.
As he walked along, he mused about what Davis would say. Davis was a young man that had run across Evan while chasing a legendary Pokémon; he had pulled some strings to get him enrolled at a local Trainer school, waiving the tuition his parents couldn’t have paid on their own.
Davis probably wouldn’t be too happy if he found out that Evan had stuck his neck out for people who had gotten themselves in trouble, when there was nothing in it for him. Evan disagreed with him on this point, arguing that people who had gotten themselves in over their heads probably needed help to get out again. They hadn’t come to an agreeable middle ground, but they no longer argued about it, respecting each other's views.
A patch of color to the side of the path caught his attention; it was a flash of dark blue denim amidst the sea of green off to his left. Using the walking stick to push branches out of the way, he crept closer, finally realizing it was a young boy. He lay frightfully still next to a small berry plant; Evan feared the worst until he realized the boy’s chest still moved slightly.
“This doesn’t look good, we’re going to have to act fast.” Rolling the boy over, he discovered a partially eaten berry in the child’s hand, which looked like a small ear of corn. The juice from it had stained his pale skin on both the boy’s hand and lips, and looked to have dribbled onto his green shirt.
Here was a chance to use one of his Lotad’s special abilities. “Ferrier, come on out! I need your help, buddy.”
Pulling another sphere from his belt, he dropped it on the ground, and in a flash of white light, a rotund blue Pokémon with a green lily pad perched atop its head appeared at his feet.
“It looks like this kid ate a berry that humans aren’t supposed to. Ferrier, could you use your Natural Gift ability on what’s left of the berry to counteract the effects?”
The Lotad waddled forward and ate the remainder of the berry. Chewing thoughtfully, its lily pad began to glow with a soft green light; in moments, a translucent blue liquid began to accumulate in the dish of its pad.
Evan slid an arm behind the boy’s shoulders, lifting him up far enough that Lotad could tip the pad forward and pour some of the liquid into his mouth.
After several repetitions of this, stripping the remaining berries from the bush, faint color began to return to the boy’s face; his breathing strengthened and evened out, though he didn’t wake up immediately. “Well done, Ferrier; if we get him back to town quickly, I think we’ll be able to save him.”
As he looked down again at the boy, he heard a faint noise; it almost seemed to be a shout, but it was muffled, somehow. It seemed to be coming from farther into the forest, away from the beaten path, and something about it caused the hair on Evan’s neck to raise.
“Eevee, stay here and make sure nothing bothers him. We’ll be back as soon as we see what made that noise.” The small Pokémon nodded its assent, standing as tall as its tiny frame would allow, and he turned to find what exactly was calling out in such a fashion.
He pushed his way through the undergrowth, which seemed to get thicker as he moved along. He recalled the Lotad to its Pokéball, as its legs wouldn’t allow it to keep up with him. Within a few minutes, he came upon a dilapidated log cabin in a small clearing.
The elements had not been kind to the small building; in places, the wooden shingles on the roof had fallen away or rotted entirely through, and the logs that comprised the walls had many large holes gnawed at weak joints to allow small creatures - likely Rattata, he thought - to enter.
The front door was entirely missing; the space it occupied looked like a gaping mouth, and it was too dark inside to see anything. On the side of the house, the entrance to what looked like a cellar was covered with clean, new wood. Evan quietly walked closer, startling when the muffled noises came from beneath it.
As he approached, he was able to make out voices. One sounded like it was periodically yelling for help, the other seemed to be trying to calm it down. A shiny padlock hung from a hasp securing the door; whoever was in there had been locked in on purpose, Evan thought.
"Hey, in there, can you hear me? Are you okay?" Evan asked of the plywood panels.
A muffled voice, surprise clearly evident in its tone, called back out. "You're not those water goons, are you? We already told you we don't know anything, now let us out!"
Evan frowned in puzzlement. He wondered briefly if they could be talking about Team Rocket, but he'd never met any of its members that he would classify goons, and most of the members had little to do with water. "My name is Evan, I'm a Pokemon trainer. How did you get in there, would you like some help?"
A loud voice from behind him provided the answer. "They got in there because they were snooping around, up to no good! Wanna join them?”
He turned to face the speaker; before him was a giant of a man, easily two feet over Evan’s meager four foot height. He wore a blue jumpsuit, stretched to its limit around his girth, and emblazoned with a large A. Greasy black hair protruded from under a blue, sweat-stained bandanna. His watery eyes squinted past his bulbous nose at Evan.
“Team Aqua is moving in to this turf; we’re going to own this whole continent soon enough. Then, we can submerge the land in water to show everyone the power of Water Pokemon!” He ended his monologue with a menacing laugh. “What could a pipsqueak like you possibly do to us?”
Evan had heard – albeit briefly – of Team Aqua from others in the Rockets; they were apparently a deranged band that wanted to destroy all the surface land in the world. He’d had no idea that they had reached this far into his country, and he surmised Davis would be interested to know in case there were more. Evan made a mental note to mention it next time he reported in.
Evan took a defiant step forward. “I don’t think so,” he declared, more bravely than he felt. “This land is under the protection of Team Rocket. As a Junior Rocketeer, it’s my duty to stop you.” With a flourish spoiled only slightly by his nervousness, he drew forth Legend’s Pokeball from his belt. “Go, Legend! Help me chase off this goon!”
In a brilliant flash of crimson energy, his Arcanine formed protectively before him. Standing as tall as Evan at the shoulder, his orange and black stripes peeked from behind thick tufts of cream-colored fur on his ankles and mane. His tail whipped back and forth in the wind, looking for all the world like a flame perched on his rump. He growled menacingly at the Aqua team member.
The rotund man laughed again, but this time in scorn. “Oh, yeah? So this is the finest of the famous Team Rocket, a punk kid. Well, we’ll see just how tough your fire puppy feels after a blast of ice-cold water! Go, Lapras!”
With that, he threw forward a Pokeball; where it landed on the ground, a flash of red energy emerged and formed itself into a large blue Pokemon. It had a pale, off-white underbelly, and a thick, dark shell on its back that had many jagged protrusions.
Its intelligent eyes had a sorrowful cant to them; however, when the trainer called out a Hydro Pump attack, it obligingly opened its mouth to unleash a devastating torrent.
Luckily, the Arcanine’s agility allowed it to dodge the brutal assault. In trying to correct its aim, the Lapras blasted a rotted corner away from the decrepit house behind Evan.
“Legend, before it tags you, get in there and use Thunder Fang!” Evan cried.
His Arcanine surged forward in response. Static electricity gathered from the ruff of fur at his neck; when he lunged forward and sunk his fangs into the Lapras’ soft body, the electricity discharged with a stink of ozone and a pained cry from the other Pokemon.
Sporadic crackles of electricity flashed over the cerulean body; the opponent’s Pokemon twitched occasionally. Though it hadn’t fainted, it was obviously paralyzed, and may as well have been out of the fight.
The other trainer recognized it too. “Worthless Pokemon. Return!” Holding out the Pokeball towards it, a beam of scarlet flashed between it and the Pokemon as he recalled it.
“So you’re not as weak as I thought. I’ve got something else for you to chew on. Go, Swampert!” the odious man cried.
The Pokeball that the man threw this time was blue, rather than red, on the top half; black lines cris-crossed the sides. The Pokemon that it released was a similar coloration as the Lapras, but it was vaguely humanoid, with dark blue fins at various places on its body.
Evan smiled; electricity was good against Water-type Pokemon. “Alright, Legend, time for a repeat performance! Thunder Fang again!”
The Arcanine bounded forward, again; however, when it sunk its fangs into the opposing Pokemon, the electricity drained away as it hit. The Swampert looked unaffected, and the Arcanine merely got a mouthful of mud.
“That’s what I thought. Swampert, use Mud Slap!” the enemy called out.
The Swampert opened its mouth and fired a blast of water at the ground between them; the resulting muddy blast flung the Arcanine backwards a dozen feet, where it crashed on its side. It was up in a flash, but Evan saw it was favoring one of its legs.
Before Evan could give another command to Legend, he heard a voice behind him. “I have seen enough!” it cried in a deep, ethereal tone.
Evan turned to see who was on the scene; rather than a figure, he saw a floating orb near the hole in the rotten building. The center of the orb was a deep violet, very nearly black, and a fine mist of purple surrounded it. Two large, brilliant eyes stared at the battling combatants.
The Team Aqua member spoke first. “A talking Gastly! Now, I’ve seen everything. Get out of here, you. This is of no concern of yours. Swampert, use Water Gun on it!”
The Pokemon obligingly launched a stream of water at the floating Pokemon; rather than blasting it away, it passed harmlessly through him.
“Then I see you have made the wrong choice. Child, I will give you what you need to win this battle.”
The specter disappeared in a puff of mist; Evan looked around, but saw nothing different about his surroundings. Then he realized that the sunlight was getting brighter, and the few clouds that had been scudding across the sky were all but fleeing before the harsh rays of the sun.
“Somehow, he must have changed the weather. That’s a lot of power. Okay, Legend! Let’s see how well it responds to a Solarbeam attack!” he called.
Arcanine shook some of the mud from his coat and stood tall; opening his mouth, motes of coruscating light gathered quickly from the bright sunlight. Within seconds, it had reached critical mass; the Arcanine directed his maw at the blue Pokemon before him.
What fired forth was essentially a beam of sunlight. As thick around as a man, it smashed into the Swampert, sending it flying backward nearly a hundred paces. The Team Aqua member screamed at the display of power and went tearing off into the woods, not even caring about the fate of his Pokemon; Legend simply closed his mouth and came to stand beside Evan.
“Well done, child. You recognized my gift and used it to full advantage.” The spectral Pokemon had rematerialized, and floated in the slight shade under one of the house’s eaves. “As a reward for demonstrating that skill, I will allow you to challenge me directly.” A grin spread across what Evan assumed was the creature’s face.
Evan considered for a moment. “Thank you for your offer, but I really need to save these kids; it’s what I came out here for in the first place.” He strode toward the locked cellar door; he hadn’t heard anything from the kids in a while, and was becoming worried.
He was brought up short when the Pokemon materialized directly in front of him. “I will have you know, humans refuse me at their own peril.” Deep violet irises bored into Evan from inches away; his nerve quailed and he looked away.
“I’m sorry, Gastly, but I need to help those kids. My training takes a backseat to helping people.” Evan stepped around Gastly’s side and walked again toward the cellar door.
“I gave you two chances,” the Pokemon said. “Only one more will I allow you. Face me, or meet your doom.”The clouds that had fled when the Pokemon had changed the weather came rushing back; thunder rumbled in the distance, and Evan felt the air pressure build to a level he’d only felt once before, which had been the worst storm in their area in a century.
“I don’t care! I need to get these kids back home!” Evan shouted, running to the wooden portal. “Legend, get that door open!”
The Arcanine hurled its massive shoulder at the entrance; rather than crashing through, it was flung backwards as the doors swung upward at the moment of impact. A gale sprang up in the clearing, blowing dirt and leaves into Evan’s face.
Four children climbed out of the cellar, holding on to each other and the nearby bushes to support them in the powerful winds. Their mussed hair and somewhat ragged clothing indicated they had likely been lost for a couple days, which would fit with what Evan had heard.
Arcanine steadily made his way back towards the open entrance, allowing the children to climb onto his back and cling desperately to his fur. The Gastly was nowhere to be found as Evan jogged alongside Legend; they fled the clearing with the billowing winds as quickly as they could.
Once they had gotten a hundred yards or so away, the winds quieted to the normal level; the rain clouds remained, but the air pressure returned to regular levels. They walked along in silence for a while until Evan offered the children some trail mix from his pocket, when he realized all but one of the children were asleep.
“You don’t look like you’ve eaten in a couple days. Some granola should last you until we get back to town.” He extended the bag to the child who looked at him with a smirk; with a start, Evan realized the child had violet eyes that looked oddly familiar.
“Not only have you demonstrated great battle ability,” the child said, “You have also proved you care for others both in large and small actions. Truly, you are a skilled trainer.”
The child dissipated into a familiar purple mist. “I have been waiting long for such a person to find me; I had almost given up hope. You see, hundreds of years ago, I was a human like yourself.”
Evan raised an eyebrow; it was the first he’d heard of such a thing, but he wasn’t about to interrupt such an obviously powerful Pokemon.
“My name was Robert, back then; I had a fascination with Ghost Pokemon. I built the house you met me at as a home for them. They became my constant companions, but I grew old.”
“One winter night, long ago,” he continued, “I was in my chair by the fireplace. And I… died, I suppose. All I knew is that I felt myself leaving my physical body; as I rose up towards the roof, I passed through the attic; I occupied the same space as a Gastly who was hatching from an egg. Something happened, and we became fused together.”
“Ever since then, I have stayed in the house, knowing that I was destined to greatness someday. I hope that I have found it in you.” The Gastly turned to regard him.
Evan walked in silence for a short while; several minutes crept past, during which they returned to Eevee and the still-sleeping boy. Carefully lifting him onto the Arcanine’s back, he turned to regard the ghost.
“Then why did you summon up the winds, and try to stop me?” he asked at last.
“I wanted to make sure that no matter the peril, you would remain dedicated to your cause. And you showed most assuredly that you were.” The Gastly smiled at Evan. "It is a rare train among the humans I remember, or have known.
Evan pondered in silence again, but before he could form another question, the Gastly spoke again.
“I have been alone in that house for several centuries. I have missed much that has occurred in the world. I would like to go out and see it again; one must get out occasionally, of course. What I offer to you is my aid, and counsel.”
Evan stuck his hand in his pocket; he brushed against a spare, empty Pokeball. “I’ll accept your offer!” he shouted suddenly, hurling the sphere at the spirit.
A familiar flash of red light encapsulated the Pokemon and it was drawn into the ball; a spectral laugh echoed faintly in the forest. The ball fell to the ground and rocked once, twice…
Comments welcome; however, please PM or VM them to me, or put them in the stories chat thread. I realize it's a little on the short end of the target window, but I couldn't extend the story anymore without significantly altering it; hopefully the quality makes up for it.