Something to Prove

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    Prince of All Blazikens! Magikchicken's Avatar
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    Default Something to Prove

    See bottom of each post for 'disclaimers' and comments. These comments DO contain spoilers, though, and are not important unless you like nitpicking as much as I do. ^_^
    Each chapter will take up one post, and all my stories will be compiled in this thread. I will update the thread's title and the Requiring Grading status below whenever a post is completed or graded.
    Also, this story now has a couple of counterpart stories, taking place in the same world but with progressively darker themes. They're called Something to Prevent and Nothing to Lose.

    Index:
    Chapter 1:
    This Post
    Chapter 2: Here
    Chapter 3: Not yet

    Currently Requiring Grading: Nothing


    --Something to Prove: Chapter 1--
    --Intent to Capture: RIOLU--
    --Difficulty Rating: COMPLEX (30k to 40k characters)--
    --BEGIN--


    ---May 26, Year 1505 MTA; 18:30---


    Magikchicken, known in some circles as Sarren Brighter, was a young boy of about nine, currently wearing a bright yellow T-shirt that clashed cheerfully with a pair of dark green pants. A compact blue backpack, which looked stuffed to bursting with haphazardly-folded bundles of clothing and simple camping supplies, lay discarded to one side. The boy's short, flyaway brown hair fell almost to his ears in a hopelessly mussed mass. At the moment, like at almost any other moment, he was smiling widely with excitement.

    The difference between this moment and any other was the direction of his gaze. He was kneeling on the floor of his room, his dark blue eyes fixed on a square brown paper-wrapped package sitting in front of him.
    "Finally... It's here!" The boy could barely contain his excitement. "My first Pokémon!"
    Having waited the interminable duration of his dash from the mailbox outside his house to his room, Magik could bring himself to delay no longer. He tore the brown wrappings away, to reveal a single Poké Ball, shiny red and gleaming white. He snatched it up, inspecting it gleefully, and then took a wide stance, raising the Poké ball above his head with one hand.

    "Sneasel... I choose you!" He repeated the time-honored words, words that were famous among wannabe Trainers all across the Pokémon world. As he did so, he flung the Poké Ball at the blue-carpeted floor of his room.
    There was a flash of light. Magik was forced to cover his eyes with one hand. As soon as the boy could see again, his new Pokémon, a female Sneasel with a quirky cowlick near the back of her head, was standing in front of him. A weasel-like Pokémon with black fur, red markings on one ear, and a set of three featherlike red 'tails,' she stared up at Magik with her head cocked inquisitively, as if to say, "Well? What now?"

    "Welcome!" Magik told the Sneasel exuberantly. "I'm your new Trainer. Pleased to meet you!"
    The Pokémon stared at him for a few more seconds, then snorted and turned to inspect the rest of the room. She took in, with a look of bored disinterest, the tiny but well-populated bookcase to her right, the small silver computer on Magik's even smaller bedside table, and Magik's bed, which was in a state of disarray. Her eyes came to rest on the black beanbag chair next to the staircase that was the only other piece of furniture.
    Still ignoring Magik completely, the Sneasel walked over to the beanbag, hopped onto it, curled up, and fell asleep.

    "..."
    Magik raced down the stairs, trying not to cry. He didn't answer his mother when she called cheerfully from the kitchen, asking him how he liked his new Pokémon, as he threw open the front door and left the house. Just then, the teal blue, state-of-the-art Pokégear strapped to his right forearm vibrated.

    "H... Hello?"
    "Hey, Sarren!"
    "Hi, Dad."
    "I heard from your mother that your Pokémon arrived from the Trainers' Association! Congratulations!"
    "...Yeah. Thanks."
    There was a pause.

    "You don't sound too happy. Knowing you, I'd have expected you to be about to explode with excitement."
    "Mm hmm."
    "All right, tell me what's wrong."
    Magik was dangerously close to bursting into tears. "She doesn't like me."
    "Ah. Well, you can't expect it to be friendly right away. You have to give a Pokémon time to get used to you."
    The boy sniffled, unreassured. "She just looked at me like I wasn't worth her time, and then went to sleep."
    His father's voice became suddenly businesslike. "These things take time, Sarren. And if I hadn't known that you're patient and persistent enough to keep at it, then I would never have written to the Trainers' Association saying you're cut out for being a Trainer. Don't prove me wrong."

    It was exactly the right thing to say. Magik smiled, wiping the back of his hand across his eyes, which had become suspiciously damp.
    "Thanks, Dad. I'll do my best."
    "Go get 'em, Tiger," his father said, in the way he would always do just before he would grin and ruffle Magik's flyaway brown hair. The Pokégear's screen darkened as the call was ended.
    With renewed confidence, Magik went back indoors and headed up the steps to his room, determined to make friends with his Pokémon no matter what. As he arrived at the top of the stairs, he looked towards where the Sneasel had been sleeping on the bean bag chair... and his mouth dropped open.

    The Pokémon turned around from where she had just finished ripping a large tear in the bag's fabric, scattering small plastic 'beans' everywhere. She gave Magik a flippant look.
    "Hey! Get away from that!" The boy shouted, rushing forward to pull the rip in the rapidly deflating bag closed.

    His Sneasel chattered with amused glee, and as Magik whirled to give her a stern look, she dashed down the stairs. The young Trainer, his mouth still open to give the Pokémon a telling-off, stared at the stairwell for a moment before dashing to the center of the room and snatching up the Sneasel's Poké Ball.

    "Come back here!" He shouted, speeding down the stairs and out the door to where his Pokémon, heedless of his command, was fleeing, giggling, down Azalea Town's wide main road towards Route 33 and Union Cave.

    Magik gave chase, quickly gaining on the Sneasel. The Pokémon looked back, a bit surprised that he was keeping up, and sped up, still chattering with laughter at Magik's desperate calls to "Come back!!"
    Just then, as the two dashed past a pair of Apricorn trees, both of which seemed to have been picked bare by passing Trainers, a new contestant joined the impromptu race. A blue Pokémon with black feet and black markings on his face and chest loped by, going at a steady but extremely quick pace. The Pokédex built in to Magik's Pokégear informed him:
    "Riolu, the Emanation Pokémon. It can crest three mountains and cross two canyons in a single night. It can sense the emotions of others in the form of auras."

    Magik's Sneasel looked askance at the smaller Pokémon as he passed alongside her. Sneasel sped up to match the Riolu's speed, but the Emanation Pokémon didn't seem to care about competition: He simply continued, indifferently heading towards whatever goal he was aiming for. That goal was apparently in the mountains to the east, because the Riolu didn't so much as slow down as he entered the foothills where the ground began to rise into a series of hillocks and mountainous crags started appearing amongst dwindling patches of grass. Sneasel, starting to look a bit tired but unwilling to admit defeat, sped up even more and drew ahead of the wild Riolu as the dirt road turned rocky and the ground's slope became steadily more severe.

    Magik, far behind, on his last legs and unable to run any more, slowed to a walk, panting. His Pokémon, still racing the Riolu, disappeared over the crest of a foothill as he looked on helplessly. The sun was setting behind Magik, and dusk had already fallen. For a moment, he considered just giving up and returning home, but he remembered his conversation with his father.
    I will be patient and persistent enough to be a good Trainer. I won't go back until I have my Pokémon.

    Nearly an hour of walking later, night had fallen completely. Magik, who was walking along a rocky trail that headed more or less straight ahead, holding his Pokégear out in front of him with its Flashlight utility activated to light his path, stopped briefly. The beam of light had fallen on something a long ways ahead, something that was moving. As he drew closer, the indistinct shape coalesced into his Sneasel, who was stubbornly continuing forwards, dragging her feet with exhaustion. She ignored Magik as he came up alongside her on the steep, almost fourty-five degree, mountain path.

    Magik considered simply returning the Pokémon to her Poké ball and heading home, but something stopped him. Sneasel's eyes, glowing red with night-vision, were fixed on something straight ahead, something Magik couldn't see in the darkness. Training his flashlight beam upwards and increasing the tightness of the focus, he could faintly see a mountain peak, dauntingly far ahead. Sneasel still hadn't given up on beating that Riolu, even if it was a hopeless task. To make the Pokémon stop before she had given up... Well, Magik enjoyed supporting his school friends in any competition. He wouldn't do something like that to his friends... and a Trainer's best friends were supposed to be his Pokémon.

    Without a word, Magik continued to walk alongside his Sneasel. A few times, he caught the Pokémon sneaking a look at him, but he didn't respond or explain. At least half an hour later, the two reached the top of the mountain and stood on a small plateau, with the cold winds whipping Magik's bright clothing and messy hair this way and that and making Sneasel's tail rattle like a pane of glass. Looking down from the peak, shivering slightly in his T-shirt amidst the gusts of wind, Magik could see, with the use of his flashlight, a small grove of trees; mostly evergreen. A mountain creek, reflective and black in the darkness, produced a continuous quiet bubbling noise as it ran down amongst the trees, several of which seemed to be hung with ripe, juicy apricorns. The entire scene was entirely peaceful, broken only by the occasional cry from a Hoothoot roosting amongst the trees.

    Magik was on the brink of taking a stand and telling his rebellious Pokémon that it was time to go back home, when an almighty ruckus of cawing flew up from the other side of the grove. Magik's flashlight illuminated a storm of flapping wings, their color impossible to tell from the diffuse flashlight beam. Sneasel began to run again, and Magik, not pausing to question whether this was a good idea, followed.
    They reached the grove surprisingly quickly, and Magik realized that running downhill seemed laughably easy after the grueling trek up the mountain's other side. As the fledgling Trainer and his Pokémon drew closer to the source of the cawing noises, which had continued unabated, Magik's flashlight beam caught one of the flapping forms as it streaked by from behind them on its way to the scuffle, the light reflecting off of a crooked yellow beak and revealing red eyes that squinted against the sudden illumination. The rest of the bird was black, the dark feathers blending invisibly into the nighttime shadows.

    The Pokédex application in Magik's Pokégear flickered on. "Murkrow. The Darkness Bird Pokémon. It is believed to bear misfortune, and seeing it at night is thought to be an ill omen. It lures pursuers into mountain trails and attacks when the foe is disoriented."
    And Magik seemed to have stumbled into an entire flock of them. At night, and on a mountain trail.
    Uh oh, he thought, grinning nervously to himself, If I didn't have the worst luck of anyone in the entire world before this, I definitely do now.

    Sneasel, apparently uninterested in such considerations, only sped up. Magik blinked, and skidded to a halt. "Wait! You don't even know any Ice-type moves yet!"
    His Pokémon didn't stop, and without further hesitation Magik ran after Sneasel, bursting from amongst the trees into a clearing just a few seconds after his Pokémon did. In the center of the clearing was Riolu, who was dancing about in a wild effort to dodge a storm of incoming attacks while fighting off Murkrow after Murkrow that dived at him. Several of the bird Pokémon were scattered on the ground around Riolu, all retreating with an ungainly waddle since, temporarily paralyzed, they couldn't fly. As Magik watched, Riolu leapt high into the air, above a startled Murkrow that was trying to dive-bomb the spot where Riolu had been a moment before; The bird nearly ploughed into the ground, but brought itself up just in time. Before the bird could regain altitude, however, Riolu came back down, one hand striking with force disproportionate to his small size. The Murkrow's wings locked up, and it fell over, flapping spasmodically and cawing in pain and confusion.
    "Force Palm attack," Magik's Pokégear MoveDex informed him helpfully, "Has a high chance of paralyzing the target."

    Despite his apparent success in avoiding being mobbed so far, Riolu was quite evidently the worse for wear. There were scratches all over his body, several patches of his blue-and-black fur were missing, and for the most part the Murkrow were able to avoid his Force Palm attack: The strike, while formidable, required close proximity to the target, and Riolu was hard put to use it effectively against foes who kept out of reach in the treetops.
    Magik looked on as two Murkrow dived at once. Riolu spun and thrust both arms at one of the attackers: the Murkrow met the Force Palm attack head-on, like running into a brick wall, and dropped out of the air like a stone as its wings locked. The other, however, smashed the distracted Riolu hard across the back of his head with one wing, fluttering back up into the sky as the Emanation Pokémon staggered forward, nearly falling. "Wing Attack," the MoveDex chirped, less than helpfully.

    At that moment, Sneasel reached the scene of the battle. She jumped high into the air, swiping powerfully at the Murkrow that had just attacked. Knocking the surprised Flying-type Pokémon to the ground, she pinned the Murkrow by standing on its wings, and scratched the bird across the face. The Murkrow fainted from the pain.
    If the groups of Murkrow flooding into the clearing from all directions hadn't noticed Sneasel and Magik before, they certainly had now. As if to make things worse, Sneasel gestured rudely at the surrounding birds, daring them to try their luck. "Taunt Attack," the MoveDex began, prompting Magik to flick his Pokégear's Mute button impatiently.
    "Oh, shut up," he told it.

    As Magik looked down at his Pokégear, an idea suddenly took form in his head. Without a moment's hesitation, he turned the Flashlight application as bright as it would go, and focused it to a fairly narrow beam. Then, dashing to stand next to his Sneasel, he suddenly whipped the bright light into the faces of a cluster of oncoming Murkrow.
    Several of them simply fell out of the air, flapping frenziedly at the ground. A few others, partially blinded and unwilling to keep going, veered off course and returned to the trees, cawing shrilly. One ploughed into the ground at Magik's feet. Turning to cast his light at another group of attackers, Magik used his free hand to wipe sweat from his forehead. He hadn't been sure that would work, but as it turned out, a Dark-type Pokémon's night-vision was even more susceptible to light-blindness than a human's.

    Two Murkrow made it to Magik before he blinded the rest of the next cluster, but Sneasel leaped into the air and blocked them from reaching the Trainer. A two-versus-one battle began as Magik trained his beam of light on another small flock of Murkrow. At the very least, Riolu was being ignored as the entire clearing full of Murkrow focused on Sneasel and Magik, enraged by the former's Taunt. The bad news was that Riolu was staggering around, apparently unable to walk straight. Magik still wasn't sure why he wanted so badly to rescue the wild Pokémon, but the way Riolu had been heading singlemindedly for something prior to being waylaid by the murder of Murkrow made Magik feel that it was the right thing to do.

    Several minutes passed as Magik fended off the Murkrow with his impromptu weapon, while Sneasel did her best to keep away the attackers that got past the beam of light, although Magik nevertheless incurred a few nasty scratches and bruises. Somewhere along the way, Magik realized, the Pokémon had come to regard him as, at the very least, a useful ally, if not yet a friend. The heartening realization filled him with elated energy, and he renewed his efforts, sweeping the beam through the trees and driving the disgruntled bird Pokémon into retreat through the trees. The flashlight was losing its effectiveness as the Murkrow became accustomed to the light, but most had already fled.
    As a mob of the remaining Flying-type attackers descended from all directions, there was an ear-shattering screech. Several of the fliers dropped a foot in midair, cawing in protest, and Magik covered his ears as they rang as if with echoes of the painful sound. Sneasel, the source of the awful noise, moved with blinding speed, her very outline blurring as she raced forward and leapt into the air, taking down one of the surprised Murkrow with her Quick Attack. Magik ducked and rolled out of the way as two of the remaining five Murkrow dove at the spot where he'd just been. Meanwhile, the other three were mobbing Sneasel, who despite her speed seemed unable to keep up with the stabbing beaks and clouting wings. Magik trained his flashlight on the commotion, but the birds were already accustomed to the light and didn't do more than squint.

    Just then, a blur of bluish-black fury streaked through the scuffle, taking two of the Murkrow with it. Magik blinked and jumped slightly as his Pokégear, which he assumed had been muted, piped up with, "Reversal Attack. Deals more damage when the user is injured." One of the Murkrow must have accidentally flicked the volume back on when it swiped at Magik.

    The two Murkrow Riolu had tackled were unconscious before they knew what had hit them. Sneasel quickly leapt on the remaining conscious Murkrow and held it down, ignoring its plaintive caws of misery. Riolu limped over to the bird, and stared down at it angrily. "Riooo. Rio, Rio!"
    The unfortunate Murkrow cawed rebelliously. Sneasel responded by putting pressure warningly on the middle of one fragile wing bone, eliciting a sudden silence. Finally, looking defeated, the Darkness Bird Pokémon realized it had no way out of its predicament. It reached down with its beak and plucked a small object from amongst the feathers on its left wing. Riolu took the item, inspected it carefully... then staggered and collapsed, unconscious. Sneasel stepped off the Murkrow's wings, and the bird Pokémon took to the air with an ungainly flutter, heading for the safety of the dark trees.

    Magik, meanwhile, knelt next to Riolu. The Pokémon was still holding on tightly to the item he had taken from the Murkrow. The object seemed to be some sort of scarf or sash, dyed a deep, resonant blue with black tips that matched Riolu's coloring.
    The Pokémon's condition didn't seem to be critical, but Magik guessed that Riolu had already travelled a fair distance, chasing his flying quarry with the intent, apparently, to retrieve something of value. It was no wonder that the determined Pokémon had passed out from exhaustion after finally getting what he had come for. Sleep was probably the best remedy, though the Pokémon's scratches would need treating eventually.

    As Magik straightened, his stomach growled. A moment later, Sneasel's belly echoed the sentiment. Magik looked around briefly until he located a nearby Apricorn tree, its branches hung with ripe, juicy blue Apricorns. The Trainer picked one, and bit into it, savoring the fresh, cleansing flavor of the juice, but Sneasel didn't appear enticed. Instead, she headed over to another Apricorn tree and leapt into the branches, plucking a red fruit and biting into it with relish. Magik, a bit confused, suddenly remembered hearing that Pokémon not only had likes and dislikes, but that their natures seemed to have something to do with their preferences. Much like humans, Magik supposed. Taking one of the red Apricorns off the tree, he tried a bite and spit it out almost immediately. It was unbearably spicy. Sneasel chattered out a laugh at the look on Magik's face, and took another bite of her own Apricorn.

    A few minutes later, still a bit the worse for wear but less hungry than before, Magik and Sneasel set out, with the unconscious Riolu being carried piggy-back style by the young Trainer. They crossed the mountains as the sky began to brighten, and limped into Azalea town nursing sore feet as dawn broke, the sun's rays giving them a blinding welcome home.
    Magik got a slightly less radiant welcome from his mother, who, as she told him vocally, twisting the hem of her floral-printed dress, "was worried SICK! I thought you'd left on your journey without even remembering to bring your backpack, without even saying goodbye! I'll have you know I'm very disappointed in you, young man. Don't you ever scare me like that again! Now sit down and have something to eat!!"
    Riolu, in the meantime, had been placed in the care of the nurse at the Pokémon Center, where the injured Pokémon was expected to make a full recovery within a day. Magik, exhausted, spent most of that day sleeping. Sneasel, similarly tired, returned to her Poké ball for a well-deserved rest.

    ---May 27, Year 1505 MTA; 16:00---


    It was midafternoon when Magik finally got up and checked his PC for mail; just one, from Dad, who had heard the whole story from Mom and who, instead of being annoyed, simply wanted to hear the details. Magik sent off a short reply promising to tell his father everything over the Pokégear later. Then he went downstairs, picking up his blue, stuffed-full backpack as he went and letting Sneasel out of her Poké ball. The black-furred Pokémon, well rested and energetic once more, quickly got tired of Magik's slow, still-half-asleep pace, and abandoned him on the front steps of his house. She dashed excitably towards the Pokémon Center and in the door, leaving Magik to catch up, yawning and dragging his feet.
    Once he reached the Pokémon Center, Magik made his way through the sliding glass doors and through the brightly colored red-and-white lobby, arriving at the entrance to the infirmary where Riolu was being cared for. The nurse, who was wearing the classic apron, red-cross-bearing hat, and cheery smile of the ubiquitous Joy family, appeared from a room in the back, carrying a basket full of Potions. She smiled at Magik, and informed him, "Your Pokémon will be as good as new soon. He's recovered very quickly, and he's regained enough energy for us to use Potions to cure his wounds."

    "That's good, but... he's not my Pokémon."
    "Then you're a good Samaritan." The nurse gave him a kind smile, and Magik blushed with embarrassment. He nevertheless followed her into the main section of the infirmary, where Riolu was lying asleep in one of the smallest of the various Pokémon-sized beds, still quite scratched-up but looking better. He still clutched the blue-and-black sash tightly, apparently refusing to let go.

    "That's a Focus Sash," the nurse told Magik as she took a Potion bottle from her basket and sprayed it on Riolu. "It's a rare item, and I don't think I've seen it in that colour before."
    "Where'd he get it, then?"
    The Potion took effect, and the scratches covering Riolu's body began to fade away as if they'd never been there. "Who knows?" Said the nurse, shrugging. "Perhaps he has a Trainer already, or it may be that it's an item he got from another Pokémon."

    Magik frowned. "Well, I don't think he has a Trainer. Or if he does, I don't think much of the kind of person who'd send his Pokémon on that long a run chasing a thieving Murkrow."
    The nurse stared at Magik for a moment, an amused look on her face. "You know, Magik, sometimes you don't sound like a nine-year-old."
    "Wait a minute, you know my name?"
    "Most people around here recognize you, Magik." She said, laughing slightly. "Azalea is a small town, only a few hundred people, so nearly everyone knows each other. You just don't notice them much."
    "Oops."
    "You get watched in particular. Everyone's always said you'll turn out to be a fine Trainer."
    Magik's face turned bright red at the praise, but he looked troubled. "I'm sorry... I've never been good with names. I don't even know yours, except that your last name's a hundred percent sure to be Joy."
    "Celia. Celia Joy."
    "Well, thanks, Miss Celia."
    "Nurse Joy will do just fine. Run along now, Magik. Your Mom is waving at you from across the street."

    Sure enough, through the large window Magik's mother could be seen on the other side of Azalea's main road, near the Charcoal burner's house, waving for her son to come out of the Pokémon Center. "I'd better go see what she wants," the boy excused himself, leaving Sneasel to hang around in the infirmary with Nurse Joy and the sleeping Riolu.
    "Sarren!" His mother crossed the street as Magik left the Pokémon Center, hurrying a little. "Did you hear? The news arrived just a moment ago!"
    Magik blinked in confusion, then shrugged. "I just woke up and came straight here. There was nothing extra in my mail. What's going on?"
    "The Pokéthlon is touring! They're visiting each major town in all of Johto, and inviting Trainers from each town to compete!"

    The Pokéthlon. Everyone in Johto knew what the Pokéthlon was. It was famous, and what's more, it was open to anyone who had Pokémon. Visitors flocked to Goldenrod City each year during the days preceding the summer and winter solstices, to spectate the huge tournaments that were hosted on those days. The rest of the year saw a steady stream of visitors heading from Violet Town and Goldenrod City to the National Park, to watch and take part in the lower-key competitions that ran almost continuously.

    Every young Trainer, even if he wasn't very interested in the Pokéthlon for its own sake, saw the competition as a test. Pokémon that preferred not to battle sometimes excelled at such contests, and others that were powerhouses in combat were put to a grueling test of their lesser-used abilities. The Pokéthlon events were a place to test one's Pokémon outside of battle, where a Pokémon could either show its best attributes or struggle to improve on its weaker areas. Pokémon and Trainers alike enjoyed proving themselves in the Pokéthlon.
    Magik was no exception. If the Pokéthlon was coming here, every Trainer for miles around would flock to Azalea, hoping to meet the new talent as well as try their luck against more experienced Trainers. There was no better way to see how he measured up as a Trainer, and Magik grinned widely at the prospect of meeting other new Trainers... And more importantly, hearing them talk about the places they came from.
    "That's great!" He exclaimed enthusiastically.
    "I thought you'd like that," his mother said, belatedly trying to hide the fact that she was just as excited as he was.

    The news had come at very short notice: The Pokéthlon's tour was starting in Azalea, and had been kept a secret until very recently. Less than an hour later, Magik stood with Sneasel in front of the Pokémon Center and watched the procession roll into town. A series of tents were quickly raised all around the entrance to Ilex forest, while tall hurdles were set up along the main road through Azalea town. The team of Machoke placing the hurdles were barely out of the way when the Pokéthlon's mascots arrived.
    A group of Rapidash, their manes and tails streaming wide banners of fire, raced out of Ilex Forest and took the hurdles one after another at a dead run, finishing up near the Slowpoke Well, breathing heavily. Moments later, the first caravans rolled out from the Forest, giving off the unmistakable atmosphere of a travelling circus. Food stalls were quickly erected amongst the homes lining the main road, and peddlers began to shout the quality of their wares-- Apricorn Juice and Pokéblocks, Soothe Bells and Choice Scarves-- for all the world to hear. Within moments, the somewhat stunned villagers had flocked to the stalls, to see what the newest products from the big city included. Magik caught a brief glimpse of the 'latest and greatest Pokégear!' ... But it wasn't the model he had strapped to his arm. Magik supposed that, since his Pokégear was still a prototype, it wasn't in stores yet. There were definitely benefits to having a Dad who worked at Silph Co., Magik thought to himself with a smile.

    Shortly after the stalls arrived, the first Trainers began to trickle in. They were dressed in everything from hikers' wear and the associated giant backpacks, to t-shirts and shorts (Magik winced), to cool red-and-white getups that almost screamed, "I AM A POKÉMON TRAINER." Magik, almost bursting with excitement, watched them approach from the trees in all directions, joining the steady stream of non-trainer visitors who were coming from Ilex Forest and Route 33.
    A sudden movement at his left made Magik jump. Riolu, leaping off of the Pokémon Center's steps, landed next to Sneasel. The Pokémon had apparently awoken and left his place in the infirmary to come and see what all the commotion was about. Riolu stared around at the visitors and trainers, and at the Pokéthlon events just starting. Magik's Sneasel turned to regard Riolu briefly, then seemed to perk up.
    "Snease," she said challengingly.
    The Pokémon's meaning was clear. She wanted a rematch, under Pokéthlon rules, to prove that she was the fastest. Riolu blinked, then nodded with a shrug.
    "Rio."

    Magik looked on, a bit bemused... But the matter seemed to be settled. The two Pokémon turned expectantly to Magik, apparently waiting for the go-ahead. The young trainer blinked, then smiled, surprised and pleased that the two Pokémon would want his permission.
    "That's fine with me. Are you okay to be sticking around here, though, Riolu? Have you got anywhere to be? Won't your parents be worried about you?"
    Riolu seemed to deflate for a moment, looking sad, then shook his head 'no.' Seeing Magik's and Sneasel's confused looks, Riolu hesitated for a brief second. Then he closed his eyes and concentrated.

    An odd kind of waviness, like heat haze, seemed to fill the air around Riolu as he struggled to put his immature control of Aura to a new use. Suddenly, a series of pictures began to appear in Magik's and Sneasel's minds.
    Shakily at first, but then more steady as Riolu began to get the hang of his new talent, Magik and Sneasel saw a mental photo swim into view: Two smiling Lucario, apparently Riolu's parents, stood with their arms wrapped comfortably around each other's waists, framed by a backdrop of pristine maple forest, the disctinctively shaped leaves just beginning to turn yellow with the onset of autumn.
    Next, Riolu sent them a less pleasant image: They saw a Trainer with sunken black eyes, hair of a dirty red colour, and a sarcastic grin. The man was smoking a cigarette and was surrounded by large, menacing-looking Pokémon. Magik didn't recognize any of the Pokémon, but he didn't doubt that they were all fully evolved, and from the tough looks on their faces, ruthlessly powerful.
    Following this, a series of snapshots arrived in quick succession.
    A series of pictures of the Trainer capturing the male Lucario, and then ordering one of his Pokémon-- a massive blue-and-tan crocodilian monster with large red spikes running down its back-- to knock out Riolu's mother with a devastating blast of pressurized water. Throughout all this, Riolu, helpless, hid amongst the bushes.
    Another set of photos; These ones showed the Trainer carelessly throwing his cigarette aside, a flame appearing, and the fire quickly spreading in the dry underbrush.

    The snapshots, one after another, began to take on the feeling of a jerky video, showing Riolu trying to put out the flames, then-- failing that-- attempting to drag his mother away from the growing forest fire.

    Riolu having to abandon his unconscious parent to save his own life, and fleeing with only her sash as a keepsake.

    Nighttime-- Riolu asleep, exhausted and covered in soot by his near scrape with death.

    A familiar, beady-eyed Murkrow descending from the trees to investigate, seeing Riolu's mother's scarf, and absconding with it.

    Days and nights of constant travel, Riolu chasing the distant sensation of the Murkrow's aura: Through an unfamiliar forest whose trees were like nothing he'd seen before in his short life; past a long stretch of ruins, deserted and eerily silent; across an inhospitable plain where the native Pokémon gave him hostile looks; following the banks of a river that reflected the sun painfully into his eyes...

    The indistinct locations blended together in Riolu's mind, becoming a blur of exhausted, continuous motion, where to stop would mean to lose the Murkrow's trail and fail in his quest to regain the only thing that had any meaning any more.
    The slide-show ended abruptly, the blur clearing suddenly into an image of Magik and Sneasel standing back-to-back, wielding claws and flashlight against an all-obscuring chaos of flapping black Murkrow wings.

    Magik opened his eyes, and saw that Riolu had begun to cry partway through the mental narrative. The small Pokémon wiped briefly at his eyes, and then shook his head impatiently. He didn't give Magik or Sneasel time to say anything, instead heading over to one of the large dome-shaped circuslike tents where the Pokéthlon events were being held.


    As luck would have it, the chosen tent, a colorful affair that was embellished with spotlights and neon signs even in broad daylight, was where competitions on the Speed Course were in progress. Riolu and Sneasel walked through one of the small entryways that preceded the main tent and stopped at the front desk. The attendant, a young woman wearing thin-rimmed glasses that contrasted amusingly with her sporty black-and-red two-piece Pokéthlon uniform, smiled at the two Pokémon.
    "Oh, aren't you two cute!" She exclaimed. Riolu squirmed, and Sneasel chattered annoyedly at the still-smiling woman. "Okay, okay, I get it. You're not cute, Miss Sneasel."
    "Mph." Sneasel didn't like being called 'Miss Sneasel,' either.
    "Lighten up, Sneeze. She's only being friendly." Magik joked.
    Sneasel turned and stared at him, aghast. Magik raised his hands in defeat.
    "Okay, okay, I won't call you Sneeze. Just joking."
    Meanwhile the young woman, who was now grinning widely, had been filling out a form of some kind. "Here. I'll need a footprint from both Pokémon that will be entering, and the signature of the Trainer."
    "Err, Riolu isn't exactly my Pokémon."
    "Pokémon borrowed from other Trainers count."
    "Err... He's wild."
    "Oh." The young lady thought for a moment, adjusting her glasses and proceeding to stare pensively at the back of the form; apparently reading a list of rules. "It says here that wild Pokémon aren't allowed to enter."

    "Rio." Riolu hopped up on to the counter to stand next to the attendant and looked at the paper. The Pokémon read for a short while, then hesitantly pointed at something.
    "Oh, I see. Hmm, you're right, that could work... Don't know why I didn't see it myself..."
    "What is it?" Magik asked. To his annoyance, he couldn't quite see the paper, since the tall counter came up to just above his shoulder level. He so needed a growth spurt.
    "You've got a smart one here." The young lady told Magik, referring to Riolu. "He's pointing out that, according to a loophole in the rules, if he makes a particular bet with you, he can take part. His end of the bet is that if your Sneasel wins, he'll join your party. We just have to formally acknowledge the wager and decide what your end of the bargain is."
    Magik looked enthused. "That's great! Err... Well, my Dad is in Silph Co., so if Sneasel loses, I'll get Riolu something or other state-of-the-art to use in his travels."
    Sneasel snorted, as if the very idea of her losing were absurd. She had apparently chosen to forget that she had been left far behind last time she had raced Riolu... though to be fair, that had been a test of endurance more than speed.

    "All right, then! That should take care of the paperwork!" The enthusiastic attendant said as soon as both Pokémon and Magik had placed the required marks on the page. "Go on in, and have fun!"
    Magik walked into the tent, and barely managed to resist the urge to stop, gaping at the immense interior. The tent-dome was bigger than it had seemed from the outside, and almost a quarter of the space around the outer edge was taken up by bleachers filled with cheering crowds. By city standards, perhaps, the place may not have been very big, but it was bigger than any building Magik had ever been in.
    In the center of all the bleachers were three fields, each one home to a different course. The announcer, a man in a white t-shirt and long white jogging pants who wielded a loudspeaker with an almost dangerous level of enthusiasm, quickly called Magik and two other newcomers wandering in from different tent entrances. "Over here, Contestants, over here! I will now explain the special rules that are in place for the following events!"
    The man looked around at the audience, as if to be sure that they were listening. "By request, this match is slightly different. Each Trainer's Pokémon will compete against the other Pokémon of the same Trainer, along with those of other Trainers. All right, would the Contestants please step forward! One at a time, lads, one at a time!"
    As each Trainer, along with each of their participating Pokémon, was introduced to the roaring crowd, one of the other two boys began to shake uncontrollably with stage fright. Magik, completely unaffected-- in fact, ignoring the crowd-- looked closely at the field where the first course, the Hurdle Dash, would take place. The field was a reddish, oval-shaped race track interspersed with hurdles that the contestant Pokémon would need to jump while trying not to lose speed.

    Sneasel and Riolu took their places in adjacent lanes of the race track. At the referee's whistle, both took off. Sneasel was clearly the faster, if only by a small bit, and quickly drew ahead. She reached the first hurdle and vaulted over it with little difficulty, a feat matched by Riolu as, a moment later, he reached the equivalent hurdle in his own track. A few jumps later, the Pokémon had run full circle, and Sneasel was hailed as the winner of the first event. Riolu came in third, with another Trainer's elated Doduo beating him by a hairsbreadth.

    "And, for the next course... The RELAY RUN! Though in this case, given that the Pokémon are not teamed up as usual, it won't be a relay but a test of endurance!"
    Magik's palm found his forehead with an audible smack. Unsurprisingly, Sneasel did not win this event, running out of steam after a mere two laps of the second field's uneven, rubble-strewn circle. Riolu, on the other hand, kept going long after all the other contestant Pokémon had dropped out of the race. He continued, alone, to finish a total of six laps before retiring to wild applause from the audience.
    Sneasel, still regaining her breath, shot Riolu a reluctant but honest look of respect as he loped up to join her at the start of the third and final course.

    "This event is the Pennant Capture! Each Pokémon will enter the field and try to collect as many Pennants as possible, returning them to its own basket before time runs out!"
    The field had a floor of sand, and was a chaotic maze of crooked beach umbrellas and large rocks. It would require careful placement of feet to navigate at any speed. The Pennants, which could be seen jutting from the sand all over the field, were long red flags that looked light but unwieldy, indicating that a Pokémon would be unable to carry too many before returning to their basket.

    The referee's whistle sounded, and Sneasel took off, a bit ahead of the rest of the Pokémon. She moved forward extremely quickly, navigating the rock-strewn sand and beach umbrellas with aplomb, and snatched the closest six Pennants. She returned to toss them into her basket behind the starting line before heading out again. She was moving so quickly that she reached the next cluster of Pennants first, too: The other, less dextrous Pokémon were forced to slow down to pick their way among rubble. This allowed Sneasel to secure the advantage of having collected the nearest eleven Pennants to the starting line.
    Riolu, on the other hand, immediately headed for the farthest part of the arena, where there was absolutely no competition. He picked up several Pennants, and then, curiously, balanced them on his shoulders. He loped off, picking up more and adding them to the bundles, which somehow didn't fall. Magik, frowning and squinting, suddenly found he could make out a shimmer in the air around the Emanation Pokémon's bundles of Pennants-- the clever Riolu was using his limited control of Aura to balance the Pennants and carry far more than any other contestant. He returned at a quick pace to the baskets, dropping off a load of almost twenty Pennants at the same time as Sneasel dropped off her latest group of six, making the top scores, as the announcer shouted for the crow's benefit, "Heracross, fifteen! Riolu, nineteen! Sneasel, twenty-one!"

    Another minute remained, and Riolu loped off to the farthest part of the arena once more. Sneasel was dashing off again when she heard Magik shouting something.
    "Pace yourself, Sneasel! Speed isn't as important in this event after the first part! Don't tire yourself out!"
    Sneasel seemed to consider this, then, despite herself, she slowed down. Reaching the nearest Pennants, now a fair distance away from the baskets, she picked up as many as she could carry, and returned to drop the load of nine Pennants in the basket. Beginning to get the hang of conserving energy, Sneasel headed out for more, shooting a grin of thanks at Magik.

    The competition continued, and reached its last twenty seconds. Riolu began to return, carrying another large load of Pennants, as Sneasel dropped off another batch, her score now totaling thirty-six. The announcer shouted, "Fifteen seconds! And Riolu has dropped off-- count them-- TWENTY-ONE PENNANTS, for a total of fourty! And now, the count-down... Ten! ...Nine!"
    Few Pennants remained on the field, the last ones being those at the far end that Riolu hadn't had time to pick up. The rest of the Trainers' Pokémon were returning to put their last few Pennants in their baskets as the event ended. Sneasel, however, was running back out, heading for the remaining Pennants. There was no way she was going to just throw in the towel. Magik crossed his fingers anxiously, willing her on.
    "...Seven! ...Six! ...Five!" Sneasel, reaching the other end of the arena, snatched up pennants-- one, two, three, four--
    "...Four! ...Three!" The Pokémon grabbed a fifth Pennant and raced for the starting line.
    "...Two!" Sneasel put on a burst of speed, using the last of the energy she had saved from earlier.
    "...One!" Sneasel dived across the starting line, slamming the bundle of Pennants into the basket.
    Half a second later, there was a loud buzzer and the crowd went wild, preventing anyone from hearing what the announcer was shouting into his loudspeaker. It must have been something along the lines of, "We have our winner: Sneasel!" because the man was motioning wildly for Sneasel to ascend the three-stepped podium and stand in the first-place position. The dark-furred Pokémon, looking exhausted but elated, took her place to thunderous applause. Riolu was placed a cheerful second, and third place was taken by the Doduo that had beaten Riolu in the first event.

    As the applause died down enough for the spectators-- and Magik-- to hear the announcer, the man began speaking again. "Thank you for watching this round, and we look forward to seeing these promising young Pokéthletes grace our Pokéthlon Dome at the National Park of Johto! First prize, for a limited time, is this Razor Claw!" The applause rose again as the man presented Magik with his prize, which was wrapped in a plastic Poké-ball-shaped capsule to prevent Trainers from cutting themselves on it.
    As the clapping slowly died down, the announcer, taking a moment to read Magik's somewhat whimsical nickname off of a sheet of paper he was holding, suddenly turned, faced Magik from a good distance away, and asked, through his loudspeaker, "Well, Trainer Magik? That's Magik with a K, folks," he added for the benefit of the audience, "How do you feel about your Pokémon having won this event? Have you any advice for prospective Pokéthletes? What kind of training did you give your Pokémon?" The man held out a microphone that Magik was sure he hadn't had in his hand a moment before.

    Magik went over and took the microphone, then, noticing for the first time just how many people were watching him with rapt attention, turned a startling shade of red. "I... Well..." Giving himself a moment to calm down, Magik decided to answer the questions in the order they'd been asked.
    "I'm... absolutely, one hundred percent excited, that's how I feel! I've never been in a Pokéthlon before, so I didn't know what to expect, but Sneasel and Riolu did wonderfully. My Pokémon are great, absolutely fantastic, but of course I already knew that..." Feeling that he was starting to babble, Magik switched to the next question.
    "Well... as to advice... and training... The truth is, I didn't train them at all, except for a single night-long run into the mountains on Route 33 over that way," Magik gestured to the east-- his sense of direction was good, even in a tent-- "And until just now, Riolu wasn't exactly my Pokémon. You see," he hastened to explain, not wanting to get the nice front desk attendant in trouble, "The deal was that if he lost to Sneasel, he would join my team. So this win means a lot to me." Magik hesitated, something occurring to him.
    "Uhh... There's one more thing I wanted to do."
    The man took the microphone from Magik and said into it, "Go ahead, Magik."

    Magik, holding the Razor Claw in its round plastic packaging, went over to where Sneasel was still standing on the victors' dais. He didn't have the microphone any more, so the audience couldn't hear him, but Sneasel could. And that was all that mattered.
    "My Dad told me that this will help you evolve. Do you want it?"
    Sneasel considered for a moment, then nodded. Magik opened the container and carefully handed the item to his Pokémon.

    There was a burst of light, and Magik covered his eyes, backing away a few steps. The light showed through his eyelids for several seconds, then slowly faded away. When he opened his eyes, Sneasel had changed. She was now a Weavile, her claws longer and even more wicked-looking. A collarlike sheaf of red neck armor had grown, matching her featherlike tail and ears. Unlike many of her species, she didn't seem to have a hat-like protrusion of armor on her head, instead simply growing spikier black fur. She still had that quirky little cowlick in the fur near the back of her head.
    Weavile pointed one formidable-looking clawed hand at the audience, voicing a shrill sound like a victory cry.

    The crowd, which had remained silent during Magik's walk to the dais and during the evolution, went wild once more. The white-clad announcer clapped Magik on the back, giving him a thumbs-up in place of words, since the boy wouldn't have been able to hear him over the roar of the spectators. The next few minutes passed in a blur, as Magik and his Pokémon were ushered into a waiting room. From there, they were led back to the tent entrance, where the attendant who'd helped him was smiling and giving him a thumbs-up, too.

    "I got a friend of mine to take my post while I went to see you compete," she explained. "I couldn't miss seeing the decision of whether Riolu joined your team or not. You're Magik, right? Well, congratulations!"
    "Thanks," Magik said, "What was your name, again?"
    "Oh, sorry. I never introduced myself, did I? Jocelyn."
    "Well, thanks a lot, Jocelyn."

    At that point, Magik's mother rushed out of the Pokéthlon tent, saw him, and immediately swept him up in a tight hug. Several minutes of incessant fussing later, she finally slowed down. "Oh, Sarren! I never knew you were such a good public speaker! You never showed any sign of liking to talk in front of people... Your father will be so proud when I show him the video! Our little Pokéthlete!"
    "I didn't do anything, though." Magik's expression indicated that this really bothered him. "It was all Weavile and Riolu's win, but everyone keeps congratulating me. It doesn't make sense, and it's not fair."
    The two Pokémon in question, who had been hanging back and watching, looked at each other. Weavile grinned, as willing to accept praise as ever. Riolu shrugged-- he wasn't all that concerned with the recognition of an audience of people he didn't know.
    "Well, they say that a compliment paid the Trainer is a compliment paid the Pokémon, and vice versa," Magik's mother said tactfully.
    Magik smiled, his serious expression disappearing as if it had never been there. "Thanks, Mom. I never thought of it that way."
    "Now, I don't believe we've been introduced." His mother regarded the two Pokémon approvingly, then turned a mock-disappointed glare on Magik. "Two Pokémon already, and I haven't even met them. Are all Trainers this negligent of their poor, doting mothers?"
    "Sorry, Mom." Magik said, looking sheepish in acknowledgement of his mistake. "I haven't nicknamed them, and maybe I never will, but this is Weavile..." Weavile waved a clawed hand insouciantly at Magik's mom. "...and Riolu." The latter Pokémon bowed, unintentionally the cutest thing Magik had ever seen.
    His mother seemed to agree. "Awwwww..." She recovered quickly, though, adding, "Uhh, pleased to meet you both, of course."

    The two Pokémon, Magik, and his mother left the Pokéthlon tent, heading for a cotton candy stand. "Cotton candy, my treat. Pink or blue?" Asked Magik's mother, putting an arm around her son. "Anything for my little Pokéthletes."
    "Aww, Mom, that's so sappy!"


    Epilogue:
    ---May 27, Year 1505 MTA; 22:11---


    Riolu, eating his pink cotton candy with relish, smiled at Weavile.
    ~What's it like to be evolved?~ He asked.
    ~Same as always, she retorted airily, taking a bite of her own, blue mass of sugary goodness. ~I feel powerful. But that's nothing new.~
    Riolu hesitated for a moment, about to say something, but then appeared to change his mind, and remained silent. The two were walking behind Magik, who was good-naturedly enduring his mother's chatter.
    ~Seriously, though, I don't feel any different.~ Weavile said after a moment. ~I know I'm faster, and stronger, but I'm still who I was. I think.~
    ~You don't seem any different,~ Riolu assured her. ~I'm glad.~
    ~Me too.~
    ~I want you to have this. Riolu suddenly said, turning to Weavile and holding out the blue Focus Sash.
    ~Are you sure?~
    ~Yes.~
    Weavile took the Sash, noting that its color didn't look too bad against her black fur.
    ~Thank you.~
    ~Stay safe, and keep Magik safe, all right? You both are the closest thing I have to family now.~
    There really was nothing to say to that. So Weavile said nothing, but just smiled, and the two Pokémon went back to following their Trainer, a human they hadn't even known twenty-four hours ago, but who had somehow, so very quickly, become the most important thing they knew.
    The Pokémon world's mysteries never fail to astound.


    --Fin--




    Character Report:
    Required Characters: 30,000 to 40,000
    Used Characters (Story only, not intro/disclaimers/this report): 51,822
    Result: OVERKILL. But I just couldn't cut it short. :)

    Comments and Disclaimers:
    *I AM aware that all Pokémon are level 100 for purposes of URPG battles, but in my continuity they'll be whatever level I give them, and that level won't be explicitly stated. Just assume that URPG battles take place using a system similar to the "Level 100" Wifi/Wireless battles in the handheld games. I will say here that Magik's Sneasel starts this story at level 5, and finishes it at at least level 10, probably more like level 15. Logically, then, Riolu must be significantly higher level than 5, since it has lower base Speed than Sneasel but beats it in a 'race' at the beginning.
    *Yes, some changes occur to the world. Azalea Town (and all future-occurring towns/cities) is made bigger and more populous, simply to add realism and mirror the idea that the game version of the city is a condensed representation. Also, Sneasel and Riolu's first race, along with the battle with the Murkrows, take place 'off the Route,' since in my continuity Trainers can LEAVE Routes. Those trees are only impenetrable in the games, kids!
    *On a related note, Riolu's chase of the Murkrow takes place off-route, starting from the forest north of Ecruteak, heading south past the town and into the Ruins of Alph, then continuing through the area between routes 32 and 35 until he reaches Azalea Town.
    *Betting on the Pokéthlon is allowed even by minors without parental permission because kids can often be very competent Pokémon Trainers. There are less restrictions on age overall in this continuity than would be the case in real life. I think this is justified for storyline-flow purposes as well as because your characters in the games tend to be between the ages of eight and twelve... And no one seems to mind them riding Magnet Trains, visiting Safaris, and taking down entire criminal organizations on their own. xD
    *I bought a Focus Sash and a Razor Claw from the Poké Mart immediately after posting this story, so the 'items gained' are consistent with the URPG, though I did pay for them as opposed to receiving them as 'bonuses.' ^_^ As a result, my Sneasel will be a Weavile in future posts.
    *Yes, the event is actually called the Pokéathlon in the NA/European releases of the games. I far prefer the Japanese version of the name-- Pokéthlon, without the 'a' in the middle-- so in my continuity, it's called the Pokéthlon. Writer's prerogative.
    *Since I got a question about this, I'll explain how it is that Riolu's 'flashback' includes the Murkrow stealing the sash, despite the fact that Riolu was asleep at the time. There are two explanations. The hand wave: Aura leaves an imprint on the fabric of the world. This allowed Riolu, upon waking, to read the 'Aura trail' of the Murkrow and 'see' what happened. This also explains how Riolu was tracking Murkrow-- following its Aura trail. The other explanation is, 'artistic license.' I needed to communicate the information, and putting the above hand-wave IN the post at that moment would TOTALLY break the dramatic-dream-sequence atmosphere. So there you have it.
    *Near the end, the reference to 'Trainers being negligent of their poor, doting mothers' is a reference to the fact that, apparently, in G/S/C and HG/SS, Red's mother in Pallet Town hasn't seen him in the last three years. Poor mom... :(
    *The epilogue-ish thing at the end is from the Pokémon's point of view, so they speak intelligibly. Yay.
    Last edited by Magikchicken; 14th November 2010 at 01:13 AM.

  2. #2
    I Invented the Pidgeot SiberianTiger's Avatar
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    Default Re: Something to Prove: Chapter 1 Grade--Claimed

    Plot/Storyline: Alright, so as I understand this kid finally gets his starter he’s been waiting for and then almost immediately runs into this Riolu dashing into a forest. I thought for sure that would be the end but it isn’t, as it turns out Riolu is hunting a pack of Murkrow who recently stole a scarf belonging to his recently deceased mother. After helping Riolu fight the pack off, our young hero returns home. Eventually Next we learn the… Pokéthlon is in town and through that the Sneasel challenges Riolu to an event. If Sneasel wins, Riolu joins the party, if not Riolu is free to go with some promised gift.

    Soooo, have to say, after first being introduced to Riolu I thought for sure this was going to be one of those generic stories where trainer goes into forest, trainer sees Pokémon, trainer catches Pokémon.
    However, as it turned out, that was just the beginning and the story turned out to be anything but generic. I have to applaud you for this, I’m assuming this is probably your first story and I think it was great that stepped out of the box and came up with something new, not just plot-wise, but even in the way Riolu comes into possession of Magik. So, in that regard, well done; you did a nice job.

    That all said, I really do wish a few more things had been fleshed out, I thought the story moved along at breakneck speed, and while it certainly kept everything from becoming repetitive and boring, I think a few things suffered for it. I won’t go into nitpicky about it, rather I’ll explain more in depth in the “Details/description” part of the grade, but I really think that perhaps more back story in regards to several elements of the story would have helped you out tremendously.

    Grammar/Spelling: probably one of the strongest elements of the entire story was the use of vocabulary, from using words like “abscond”, (seriously, who outside those in criminal justice ever use that word? XD) to just simple sentences, you did a pretty good job in this area and overall probably the part least requiring critiquing. That said, I’m going to do it anyway.

    First thing, first; You. Use. Way. Too. Many. Periods. Seriously, it would probably be wise if you started investing sometime in the use of the semi colon; like so. For instance:

    It must have been something along the lines of, "We have our winner: Sneasel!" Because the referee motioned wildly for Sneasel to ascend the three-stepped podium and stand in the first-place position. The Pokémon, looking exhausted but elated, took her place to thunderous applause.
    After the statement by the referee, it becomes a fragment; usually, a sentence has to be able to stand on its own for it to grammatically correct. Now, I realize this is somewhat picky and indeed depending on the person you could probably argue it’s either not a fragment, or a very small one, that said, I just want you to be aware of the semi colon and through it, you can probably avoid this situation altogether. So, my revision of the quote would probably be something along the lines of:

    It must have been something along the lines of, "We have our winner: Sneasel!" Because the referee motioned wildly for Sneasel to ascend the three-stepped podium and stand in the first-place position; the Pokémon, looking exhausted but elated, took her place to thunderous applause.
    There, that completely eliminates the fragment and it stands on its own so much easier. That said, to be honest, even more use of the comma would probably help you out, my own personal preference is the semi colon, just because I see it so underutilized, either way, a little less periods and a few more complete sentences will help you out, both here and in the real world.

    And now, on to the offensive part of the story….

    First, a mental photo of two smiling Lucario, apparently Riolu's parents, against a backdrop of pristine forest. Next, a Trainer with sunken black eyes, hair of a dirty red colour, and a sarcastic grin. The man was smoking a cigarette and was surrounded by large, menacing-looking Pokémon. A series of snapshots of the Trainer capturing the male Lucario, and then having his Pokémon knock out Riolu's mother while the baby Pokémon hid amongst the bushes. Another picture, this one of the Trainer throwing his cigarette aside, the flames quickly spreading in the dry underbrush.
    The snapshots, one after another, began to take on the feeling of a jerky video, showing Riolu trying to put out the flames, then-- failing that-- attempting to drag his mother away from the growing forest fire. Riolu having to abandon his unconscious parent to save his own life, and fleeing with only her sash as a keepsake. Nighttime-- Riolu asleep. A Murkrow descending from the trees to investigate, seeing Riolu's mother's scarf, and absconding with it. Days and nights of constant travel, chasing the distant sensation of the Murkrow's aura.
    God, I hate this paragraph with a passion… For real, it makes me want to go aaaaaaaaaaaaaa
    First off, again, several sentence fragments, a few more commas, or perhaps a semi colon or two would really help this chunk of text out. Secondly, and again, I’ll get into this in the next part of the grade, the lack of description is completely disheartening. Your story had a lot of nice things going for it, but the lack of description really hurt, and that paragraph is the perfect embodiment of how your story performed in its description.

    Alright, so the solution, and for my sake, and yours, I’m going to also add what I would have changed description wise in this revision. My grade is already going to be long enough without me putting in another giant quote.
    The mental images came swiftly, first; in the backdrop of a pristine forest, two smiling Lucario, the young Riolu’s parents, Magik assumed. Next, a Trainer with sunken black eyes, hair of a dirty red colour, and a sarcastic grin, the man was busy smoking a cigarette, the burning stub hanging loosely from his mouth, behind him stood several intimidating figures. Pokemon, obviously, but Magik failed to recognize them as anything he’d ever seen before. But the mental assault wasn’t over, a series of photo like sequences flashed before Magik’s eyes, the trainer capturing Lucario’s father and knocking the mother out cold while Riolu watched in horror from the safety of a bush. Another photo, this time the fading figure of the trainer, his hands coming up to flick the burning stub from his mouth into the brush, setting everything ablaze. Magik watched as Riolu desperately tried to rescue his mother, trying to drag her safely beyond the reach of the inferno, but the weight was too much and eventually Riolu had little choice but to flee for this life, and with him, a scarf; the last memento of his mother. The scene switched suddenly and the flames disappeared, now it was night, the small fox like creature curled up asleep when out the trees swapped swooped a dark figure – Murkrow, taking advantage of the sleeping creature it quickly snatched the scarf and absconding with it, leaving Riolu with little option, but to chase it endlessly.
    Aaaaaaa

    Make sense? Flows a little bit easier, no fragments and the reader is able to perfectly imagine what it is I’m trying to convey, as a writer, it is your job to get the reader to see exactly what you see when you write a piece, without enough description, the reader is left to imagine what the scene looks like on their own. Sometimes, this can be a good thing, other times… not so much. Allow at times for the reader to draw his or her own conclusions, but for the most part, do your best to describe in detail exactly what it is that is going on.

    Edit: I realized that the aforementioned paragraph above isn't all that accurate, I really didn't change much, detail/description wise. For some reason I forgot to bring up the issue of the pokemon behind the trainer. That was something that really, really irritated me. The way you left it was mildy annoying and mine wasn't much better. I recommend in the future that you at least describe the Pokemon, if only briefly, to give the reader a sense of what exactly Riolu saw.

    Also, one other thing, you keep using the word “then” after a comma to describe another action in a series. The correct form is “and then”
    Again, nitpicky, but something you should be aware of.

    Description/Detail: By far what hurt your story the most, you had good grammar, you had an original plot going, but the detail and description just wasn’t there. Now, the importance of this is as follows, when writing something, usually the author has a very clear image in his head as to what is going on. However, someone reading that very same piece can draw a completely different picture. Because of this, you as the author of this story have the job of making absolute sure the reader comes as close to the vision you see in your head, as possible. Without description this isn’t possible. And as a result, it really hurt your story quite a bit. I’ll give a few examples and we’ll see if I can more thoroughly illustrate what I mean.

    Despite his apparent success in avoiding being mobbed so far, Riolu was quite evidently the worse for wear. There were scratches all over his body, and for the most part the Murkrow were able to avoid his Force Palm attack by remaining out of reach. As Magik watched, two Murkrow dived at once. One met a Force Palm attack head-on and dropped out of the air like a stone. The other smashed Riolu hard across the back of his head with one wing, fluttering back up into the sky as the Emanation Pokémon staggered forward, nearly falling. "Wing Attack," the MoveDex commented, less helpfully.
    My version:

    Despite his apparent success up this point in fending them off, it was quite evident that Riolu was worse for wear, bites and scratch marks were clearly visible throughout his body, and several patches of fur were missing. Worse still, his most powerful attack, force palm required him to be up close and within an arm’s length of reach, and with their ability to fly, the Murkrow were able to doge his attacks rather easily. If Riolu noticed this, he showed no sign, keeping up the battle as two Murkrow dived down for an attack. As magik watched, Riolu deftly jumped forward, his leap carrying him straight towards the darkly colored birds. With a deft flip he landed and catapulted himself off the first towards the second bird who was coming down like a missile. Somehow, Riolu despite all odds, Riolu was slightly faster and as Murkrow reached him, his fist cocked back and like a rocket his arm extended, the center of his palm smashing center mass into the skull of Murkrow. Magik could immediately see the bird’s muscles and wings lock up, and like a stone the bird limply fell to the ground.

    Nimbly Riolu landed on the ground, but by this time the first Murkrow had swung around and with a bone chilling screech dove towards Riolu, wings extended. Before the blue agile Pokemon could move, Murkrow’s bone hollow wings slammed into the back of Riolu’s head, nearly knocking the poor creature to his knees.

    “Wing Attack,” the MoveDex chirped, less than helpfully.
    Again, most of this is just personal preference, for instances how I described that battle scene could be, (and I’m sure it is) completely different then what you imagined in your mind while writing it up. That said, the important thing to take away from this, was how I described exactly what was going on. From the moment the Murkrow dove towards Riolu, right up to him knocking one out and falling prey to the other. Description, especially in battle scenes, is incredibly important.

    And then for the hell of it, once more:

    As a mob of the remaining Flying-type attackers descended from all directions, there was an ear-shattering screech. Several of the fliers dropped a foot in midair, and Magik covered his ears, wincing. Sneasel, the source of the noise, struck immediately with blinding speed, downing a Murkrow with her Quick Attack.
    Revision:

    As a mob of the remaining Flying-type attackers descended from all directions, there was an ear-shattering screech. Several of the fliers dropped a foot in midair, screaming in protest as even Magik was forced to cover his ears against the painful sound. Sneasel, the source of the noise, struck immediately with blinding speed, her sharp claws and toes digging into the ground as she rushed forward; sending grass and debris flying in all directions in her mad dash she was little more than a blur as she still at a dead scramble smacked into Murkrow, her quick attack downing it in a single hit.
    Again, only minor changes but they can make a world of difference. I’d just like to point out that this doesn’t apply only to battles, you described Magik somewhat but fleshing him and his surroundings out a little more would greatly improve the quality of this story. Remember, you are seeing it in your head, but the reader may not be getting the same picture you are, it’s important to explain EVERYTHING. What did the trees in the forest look like? What color where the houses, what was Nurse Joy wearing, etc. All these points add an element of realism to the story.

    Length: Reached the target length. ‘Nuff said.

    Battle: Alright I’m a little bit split on this part, on one hand, I loved the way you involved Magik in the fight with his flashlight. With Sneasel not really listening to him, I really didn’t see a way for him to take part in the battle at all, except to sit there stupidly on the sidelines watching. But, I must say, the flashlight bit was a touch of genius, I really enjoyed that quite a bit.

    That said, your battle seemed short, and here’s why: “Once again, a lack of description” It was that you didn’t have a good battle going, it was once again that there wasn’t much description as to what was going on. Ya, saying Riolu used Force Palm does tell me what’s going on, but it’s hardly exciting. I want to be able to picture what’s going exactly. I want to imagine little Riolu performing ninja back flips off one Murkrow so he can land a 360 kick on another in midair. NOW THAT’S EXCITING AMIRITE?
    I’m not sure what exactly to tell you, your lack of description really hurt you, overall and especially in the battle.

    Sorry, but as fun and inventive as it was/could have been, I simply didn’t enjoy it all that much.

    Result: Riolu……….. NOT CAPTURED!
    I’m sorry, but in the end, your lack of description just killed it for me. I really liked the plot, I liked the way the battle unfolded and the way Riolu joined the group. But I just couldn’t get the picture of what it was you were trying to convey, through your words. It simply left too much up to the reader to decide, in terms of how things unfolded, and I can’t get past that.

    My advice is not to get discouraged. I really think, after reading this that you have quite a bit of potential as a writer and I think with a little more practice you’ll be catching Pokemon complex and above in little time. Go back, read my critiques and edit your story accordingly. When you think you are ready, PM/IM me and I’ll be happy to give it another look. Again, don’t get discouraged, there were several things about the story I both liked personally and thought were really good from a writer’s standpoint. Just make a few edits and Riolu is yours. Good luck.
    Last edited by SiberianTiger; 21st April 2010 at 03:48 PM.

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  3. #3
    Prince of All Blazikens! Magikchicken's Avatar
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    Default Re: Something to Prove: Chapter 1 Grade--Claimed

    First of all, I'm 100% fine with your decision. I'm actually glad you marked it, as you put it, 'harshly,' because there's a lot of really useful constructive criticism there.

    Firstly, I agree with your comments regarding overuse of periods, sentence fragments, and descriptions. When I was younger, and new to writing, I was at the other end of the spectrum: Long, run-on sentences that made people confused as to what exactly the INFORMATION contained in them was, and my prose was decidedly purple. Since then, I've changed my style with that in mind, and your response to my story indicates that I've gone too far to the other extreme. I'll work to find the correct balance between 'open-endedness'-- allowing a reader to use their imagination-- and descriptiveness.

    Secondly, I also agree with your evaluation of the battle scene, although I personally find that your 'descriptions-added' version takes it a bit far to the other, somewhat purple, extreme. I'll work on adding more detail to the attacks.

    The one thing I find I disagree with a bit less is the particular paragraph you picked out, the one that refers to Riolu's "story." While you were perfectly correct that it lacked specific details, even more so than the rest of my writing, in this case I fully intended the 'snapshots' to be vague.
    This part of the story is supposed to be a "dream sequence," in that details are blurry. People don't remember things perfectly. Pokémon, with perhaps the exception of some Psychic-types like Metagross and Alakazam whose brains are like supercomputers, are the same: Memories, even recent ones, are blurred by time, as well as, in Riolu's case, by tiredness or fear at the time. Perhaps the entire paragraph might have been best served by adding a line-break after each sentence or set of sentences, but that would have resulted in a completely different problem:
    Quote Originally Posted by Magikchicken View Post
    Suddenly, a series of pictures began to appear in Magik's and Sneasel's minds.
    First, a mental photo of two smiling Lucario, apparently Riolu's parents, against a backdrop of pristine forest.
    Next, a Trainer with sunken black eyes, hair of a dirty red colour, and a sarcastic grin. The man was smoking a cigarette and was surrounded by large, menacing-looking Pokémon.
    A series of snapshots of the Trainer capturing the male Lucario, and then having his Pokémon knock out Riolu's mother while the baby Pokémon hid amongst the bushes. Another picture, this one of the Trainer throwing his cigarette aside, the flames quickly spreading in the dry underbrush.

    The snapshots, one after another, began to take on the feeling of a jerky video, showing Riolu trying to put out the flames, then-- failing that-- attempting to drag his mother away from the growing forest fire.
    Riolu having to abandon his unconscious parent to save his own life, and fleeing with only her sash as a keepsake.
    Nighttime-- Riolu asleep.
    A Murkrow descending from the trees to investigate, seeing Riolu's mother's scarf, and absconding with it.
    Days and nights of constant travel, chasing the distant sensation of the Murkrow's aura.
    The indistinct locations blended together in Riolu's mind, and the slide-show ended with an image of Magik and Sneasel standing back-to-back, wielding claws and flashlight against a flapping chaos of black Murkrow wings.
    ...Actually, now that I look at it, that's not too bad. I'll add more details, like you suggested, but I think that will be the format in the edited version. xD
    Well, that's just about it. Thanks, and I'll let you know when I've updated the post with improvements.
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  4. #4
    I Invented the Pidgeot SiberianTiger's Avatar
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    Default Re: Something to Prove: Chapter 1 Requires Re-Grading

    Sufficient enough for me.

    Riolu Captured!
    Remember what I said about using too many periods. And also about describing events, places and persons.

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    Prince of All Blazikens! Magikchicken's Avatar
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    Default Something to Prove: Chapter 2

    Yes, sir!
    I will make sure to keep all of that in mind for Chapter 2! ^_^

    And without further ado:


    --Something to Prove: Chapter 2--
    --Intent to Capture: STARYU and GASTLY--
    --Difficulty Rating: HARD x 2 (40k to 60k characters)--
    --BEGIN--


    ---June 1, Year 1505 MTA; 12:11---


    The sky was a clear, bright blue, with not a cloud in sight; today was the kind of day when the heavens seemed wide-open, as if one could simply step forward and lift off into the vast expanse of blue. The noonday sun, regally surveying the scene from directly above, bathed the world in a light that seemed to lend every blade of grass, every pool of water, a radiance of its own.
    While it was undeniably a beautiful day, this didn't make things any easier for Magikchicken, who was forced to squint until his eyes were almost entirely shut as he and his two travelling companions emerged from the darkness of a cave on the southern end of Route 32.
    It was almost a week since he had met and befriended the two Pokémon who now accompanied him. Weavile, a Pokémon who resembled a weasel, was a large specimen for her species at nearly four feet in height. A bit vain, she was very proud of her three red, feather-like tails and her sleek black fur, and her extensive grooming showed in the glossiness of that fur, despite the quirky little cowlick that stuck up in the fur on top of her head. At the moment, she was raising one of her wickedly clawed hands to shade her sensitive eyes against the sun's glare, but nonetheless managed to give an insolent giggle at her Trainer's similar predicament.
    Riolu, Magikchicken's other, smaller Pokémon, emerged from the tunnel side by side with Weavile, keeping his eyes closed rather than bothering to squint. Riolu was a humanoid Pokémon, but was smaller even than most toddlers at barely more than two feet tall. His size, however, was deceiving: Immense power was stored in the black- and blue-furred Pokémon's slender limbs.

    Magikchicken himself, or Magik for short, was a young boy of nine years, who toted a small but heavily loaded blue backpack, his persistent youthful energy unaffected by the weight. Magik's limitless exuberance was reflected in his body language, in the excited spark in his dark blue eyes, and in his choice of clothing: He currently wore a shirt of an eye-smarting shade of orange that, for a change, went surprisingly well with the pale brown pants he wore. Magik detested shorts, and was possibly one of the only youngsters in the entire Pokémon World who refused to wear them. He had found the extra warmth useful in Union Cave, from which he had just emerged, but now the heat of the sun was making the pants just a little uncomfortable.
    Ignoring this, Magik, his vision slightly recovered, looked around, taking in the mountain path on which he was standing. It was a narrow track that wound its way down from the heights of the mountains, finishing up at the base of Mount Union, next to the Pokémon Center that stood near Union Cave's more regular exit. Magik shifted his gaze, proceeding to squint out at the immensely wide river that wound its way past him from north to south, the rippling waters nearly blinding him again with the fragments of sunlight they reflected at the mountainside. To Magik's right and a bit below his current altitude, the Johto-Kanto Magnet Train's raised track crossed the river from west to east, its pleasant design somehow not seeming to clash with the pristine beauty of the nature around it.
    To Magik's left, however, was his goal. In the north, miles of branching wooden boardwalks ran parallel to the path that wound along the river's banks. The tiny figures of Trainers could be seen all along both routes, fishing, battling, or just having carefree picnics. Far in the distance, barely visible over the crowns of a copse of trees, were the rooftops of Violet Town, painted in somber, regal colours. The entire scene, lit by the radiant light of the noonday sun, was positively beautiful.

    "Come on, guys, let's get going!" Magik said exuberantly, enjoying the feeling of the sun on his face.
    Weavile grumbled something halfheartedly, presumably about it being too hot to be so energetic, but it was evident that despite her attempt to seem unimpressed, the vista was just as invigorating to the Pokémon as it was to Magik.
    "Rio, Rio." Riolu remarked, drawing a grin from Magik.
    "Yes, that's right. It is a long way, but you'll have to put up with us slowing you down, Riolu," the boy told his friend.
    Riolu smiled back, shaking his head to indicate he wasn't bothered. Riolu was very easygoing almost all of the time, though Magik had noticed he had a tendency to do rather rash things when driven to it. The young Pokémon had only recently nearly run himself into the ground, chasing a Murkrow almost all the way across Johto after it stole a blue scarf that was Riolu's only keepsake from his parents. Weavile now wore that same scarf-- Magik wasn't sure when Riolu had given the item to Weavile, but he was pleased that the two Pokémon got along so well despite Weavile's competitive and often difficult nature.

    Making their way past tumbled boulders and across rough patches of the rarely-used trail, Magik and his friends followed the path as it switched back and forth across the mountainside, finally arriving at the bottom near the Pokémon Center. The three stopped for a short while to sit at one of the wooden picnic tables that rested outside the red-roofed, white-walled building, and Magik shrugged off his backpack, plunking it down on the table. He dug around inside, and came up with a bundle of packed lunches wrapped in plastic.
    Opening one such bundle, the boy laid out a veritable feast-- six tuna-and-cheese sandwiches, a full thermos of cold Moomoo Milk, and a generous pile of dried Apricorns-- and the three travelers dug in with gusto. For a while, the only sounds were contented chewing and the rustling of wrappings. Then Magik leaned back with a contented sigh, followed shortly by his Pokémon.
    "I'm gonna' miss these packed lunches when we run out. Mom's food is the best," Magik said with a smile as he started to bundle up the plastic strewn across the table. His companions didn't seem inclined to disagree, and they extricated themselves from the picnic bench while their Trainer went over to throw the ball of plastic wrap in the recycling bin on one side of the Pokémon Center.

    There was a small copse of trees to one side of the road as the trio set off northward, and amongst them Magik could see various staples of forest life: Caterpies and Wurmples crawled along branches and through the leafy mast on the forest floor; Pidgeys fluttered amongst the treetops, occasionally startling a sleeping Hoothoot; once, Magik stopped to stare with amazement as a sudden gust of wind dislodged a whole cloud of Hoppip, which were promptly pulled from where they had been hidden amongst the trees' crowns, the breeze carrying the happily tittering grass-type Pokémon off towards the Ruins of Alph in the northwest.

    A vibration in his pocket reminded Magik of his Pokégear and its Pokédex function. Having muted the often-annoying device, he flicked the volume back up as he brought the Pokégear out of his pocket.
    "...gather in clusters to keep from being blown away by the wind."
    The young Trainer put the Pokégear away again, and then, with a spontaneous grin, broke into a run, yelling to his Pokémon to hurry up. His voice was nearly carried away by the roar of the wind, which was picking up, the playful breezes whipping his flyaway brown hair one way and then the other.
    His two friends caught up quickly, and fell into step on either side of him, both grinning almost as widely as Magik himself. They careened along the path until the forest petered out, revealing the river's expanse in all its glory. The river was so wide that if he hadn't known it was flowing, Magik might have thought it was a lake-- the far bank was barely visible even in the high visibility of such a beautiful day. As he was taking this in, the path split suddenly-- making a quick decision, Magik took a right, taking the three runners onto the network of floating wooden walkways that crowded along the river's west bank. Fishers to either side of the walkway, waiting for the bite that would catch them the big one, waved absently to the boy and his Pokémon as they passed.

    A few minutes went by before Magik, panting and out of breath but in high spirits, had to stop. The two Pokémon slowed down, too, though only Weavile was even breathing hard. Magik sat down right where he was, and stared out at the river. A nearby fisherman waved an easygoing hello; the boy nodded and waved back, but continued to watch the river, as his attention had been caught by a spot of turbulence a ways out into the water.
    What appeared to be a large whirlpool was forming some distance from the walkways. From this far away, it wasn't possible to make out any details, but Magik could see that the whirlpool was getting steadily larger. That, or it was coming closer...

    "Hey!" The fisherman from earlier got up suddenly, whipping his red fisher's cap off his head in irritation. "Hey, kid! Is that your Pokémon?" the man shouted to Magik. He was pointing at the whirlpool, which was even closer now... and Magik noticed a streak of bluish-white hidden amidst the whirling circle of water: A Pokémon.
    Magik held his hands up in a gesture of 'Not me.' The man looked around, and seemed to spot something. Magik followed his gaze and noticed a boy, quite a bit older than Magik himself-- maybe thirteen or fourteen-- standing on the boardwalk, looking at the whirlpool as well. The kid had short, almost military-cut red hair. He was wearing a thin, black leather jacket over a black t-shirt that had some kind of silver-and-red logo on it, and was wearing scuffed but durable-looking blue jeans. He didn't seem alarmed by the whirlpool, which had nearly arrived at the boardwalk, and seemed to simply be waiting for something.
    The fisherman strode up to the boy and started talking to him, but they were far enough away that Magik couldn't hear what they were saying. He got up, and started to come closer, but as he drew nearer the fisherman's voice rose to a shout.

    "I don't care if you know what you're doing! You're scaring away the fish, and that whirlpool is going to cause damage to the river's ecosystem!"
    "Fuck off," the boy said, making Magik's mouth fall open. No one in Azalea talked like that, because their Mom or Dad would promptly find out about the obscenity and wash their child's mouth out with soap.
    The fisherman didn't seem daunted. "Now you listen here, kid, I'm going to give you till the count of--" The man was cut off, though, by a sudden roar. The whirlpool, a monstrous inverted cone of whirling water and foam, had come to a stop mere feet from where the man and the boy were arguing. Within, Magik could see a number of disoriented-looking water-type Pokémon swirling around helplessly, but they didn't hold his attention: the roar had come from the giant, draconic blue-and-tan Pokémon that had been creating the whirlpool. A Gyarados.
    The man stumbled back in surprise as the giant beast rose from the whirlpool, then frowned with irritation. "Damned rookie trainers." He opened the small fisherman's case he held in one hand, and took out a Poké ball, tossing it into the water. The empty capsule returned to his hand, leaving behind a beautiful blue fish-like Pokémon whose fins looked a bit like butterfly wings.
    "Lumineon, the Neon Pokémon," remarked Magik's Pokégear suddenly, causing him to jump. "It can light up its tail fins, using them to attract prey. It is often called the Beautifly of the Sea."
    The fisherman, meanwhile, was contemplating his options. "Hey, Lumineon, clean up this trash for me, will you?" the man ordered grimly. "Use Water Pulse."
    "Luuuume!" The pretty fish Pokémon flapped its fins, then opened its mouth and shrieked. Here on the surface, the sound was startling and disorienting, like a bucket of cold water to the face, but underwater, it was several times stronger. A visible shockwave pounded towards the submerged Gyarados. It struck the dragonlike Pokémon, but, astoundingly, the Gyarados simply shrugged off the attack. Then, without warning, the monstrous Pokémon rose up violently through the water's surface, sending Lumineon flying into the air in a surge of giant droplets. A harsh white light appeared in the dangerous Pokémon's mouth, and quickly grew brighter until, with frightening intensity, a wide laser beam roared from the Gyarados's gaping maw, transfixing Lumineon in midair and holding it in place. The fisherman raised his Pokémon's Poké ball and tried to Return the fish to safety, but the Hyper Beam disrupted the ball's red ray. Retreat was not an option.

    The spectacle was horrifying in its brutality. Lumineon shrieked in pain, and through the transparent Hyper Beam, Magik and the horrified fisherman could see the fish Pokémon's fins begin to char at the edges. Lumineon lost consciousness, but the beam didn't cease. At this rate, the Neon Pokémon could be permanently injured, or even killed outright-- the attack was excessively powerful, and the battle was clearly over, but the boy simply stood there, watching his Gyarados continue the attack.
    "Do something!" Magik shouted, running over to the boy and grabbing his shoulders, shaking him. "It's over, call it off!!"
    The older kid looked at Magik as if he were the source of an exceptionally nasty cloud of Skuntank vapour, then nonchalantly pushed the younger boy down.
    Instantly, Riolu was between Magik and the bigger kid, growling in an almost bestial way. The apparent 'tough guy' took an involuntary step back, but then sneered, as if daring Riolu to try something.
    At the same time, though, Weavile sprang into action, a look of pure fury on her face. Leaping from the edge of the boardwalk, the enraged Pokémon flew straight at the Gyarados's head. She drew back one clawed hand, bunching it into a spiky fist, and the air around that hand shimmered as water vapour coalesced into a block of solid ice. Then she reached the Gyarados, and slammed her ice-bound fist into one side of its head.
    The ice shattered, and the draconic Pokémon's head snapped sideways abruptly, severing the Hyper Beam. A freezing wind blew from the point of impact across its face, causing the Gyarados to shiver and recoil, flinching back from the unfamiliar sensation. Lumineon, looking thoroughly charred and near-dead, dropped into the water and was promptly returned to its Poké ball by its frightened Trainer.

    Gyarados shook its body back and forth, apparently dazed, and Weavile grabbed onto its head rodeo-style, swiping furiously with her claws in an attempt to get at its eyes. The Gyarados, too disoriented to do the obvious and dive under the water, roared in pain.
    "Useless." The older kid muttered just loudly enough for Magik to overhear. "Needs more training." Taking out a yellow-and-black Poké ball that Magik recognized as the expensive 'Ultra ball' brand, the boy held it out, reducing the Gyarados to a mass of red light that disappeared into the ball. Weavile flailed in midair for a moment, then dropped into the water, chattering indignantly at the rude boy as she swam back towards the boardwalk. The boy in question ignored her, simply turning and beginning to walk away in the direction of the Pokémon Center to the south.

    "Hey!" The fisherman, red-faced and looking ready to burst with justifiable anger, strode forward and jerked the boy around by one shoulder. "Hey, kid! You can't just walk away from something like this! This will be reported to the Trainers' Association, I tell you! Give me your name, now, or it'll go worse for you."
    The boy, completely unconcerned, glared coldly up into the man's face. "What a sore loser. Get your hands off me." Neither Magik nor the fisher saw him release a Poké ball, but the man was knocked off his feet as a large, dark purple dragon with a red chest and white ivory spikes on its wings and legs appeared between him and the boy. Two oval shapes, like jet engines, on either side of its head identified it unequivocally as a Garchomp, a breed famous for being headstrong and difficult to train.
    "Father lent me this Pokémon for backup while I train my Gyarados. Get in my way and I'll bury you." The boy boasted. "Oh, and by the way, my name is Lokiel Terra. Don't wear it out, asshole."
    "This is madness!" shouted the fisherman, scrambling to his feet and beginning to rant, his face turning from red to purple, at the boy. "I don't think much of a father who would give such an irresponsible brat his strong Pokémon, much less let him loose on the world like--"

    Lokiel cut him off with an exaggerated yawn. "Boring, boring. You people are all the same. Garchomp, bury these idiots with Sand Tomb and we'll ditch them while they're digging themselves out."
    Garchomp turned its glare briefly on the boy, then snorted, making the kid's leather jacket flap as if in a breeze. Then it stepped towards the hapless fisherman and, ignoring its inexperienced Trainer completely, opened its maw wide, purplish flames starting to flicker at the back of its throat.

    "Watch out!!" Magik yelled, scrambling to his feet and tackling the man from the side, just barely getting them both out of the way as the Dragon Rage attack scorched a charred circle in the boardwalk where the man had been standing. The smug look had disappeared entirely from the kid Lokiel's face. "What're you doing, Gar? We don't wanna' kill anyone--"
    "GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRR!" Garchomp turned and roared at Lokiel, knocking him over with the sheer force of its breath.
    Riolu seized the opportunity to attack. Pushing off powerfully with his short but strong legs, he jumped several times his own height to bring himself to the level of the Garchomp's head. As the dragon-type Pokémon turned back towards its targets, it jerked its neck backwards involuntarily when it encountered Riolu right in front of its face. Riolu's feet glowed briefly, then burst into flame, and the small Pokémon, spinning in midair, delivered a Blaze Kick to the side of the Garchomp's face with all his might.
    The dragon blinked, then bared its teeth ferally, barely hurt and more than a little annoyed. Its claws glowed silver for a moment, then swept mercilessly across at the insolent little attacker. Riolu, flailing helplessly in midair, couldn't dodge the Metal Claw attack and was sent flying at high speed into the water on one side of the boardwalk. He landed with a splash near Weavile, who was lifting herself out of the water, looking bedraggled but angry.
    "Weave!" she sneered at the dragon. There was a large, jagged shard of ice held firmly in her claws, one of the fragments that had been scattered by her earlier Ice punch. Throwing it a short ways into the air, she smashed it with crushing force. It shattered, and the shards flew straight at the dragon's chest, riddling the Garchomp's red, leathery underbelly with freezing shards that promptly melted, unplugging the wounds and allowing the dragon's purplish blood to flow freely.

    Garchomp roared in rage and pain, and responded with a torrent of fire-- a Flamethrower attack-- that it blew from its mouth at Weavile. Magik's Pokémon was caught full-on by the blast, letting out an anguished screech of pain that made everyone but Garchomp cover their ears. Magik returned Weavile to her Poké ball before she could be hurt any worse.
    However, this left nothing standing between Garchomp and its original targets: Magik and the fisherman. Unreasoning rage gleaming in its small, cruel eyes, Garchomp advanced towards them, purple fires venting from the sides of its mouth. The injured dragon left a thin trail of purplish blood on the boardwalk behind it, but this didn't seem to slow it down; its every step made the entire section of floating walkways sway from side to side unsteadily.
    "Return it! Return the Pokémon!" shouted the fisherman, struggling to get up, with difficulty due to the way the floating platform was swaying with each of Garchomp's footsteps.
    Lokiel, staring as if dazed at the rampage of his father's disobedient Pokémon, finally seemed to come to his senses. Fumbling, he took out a purple ball with round pinkish markings, and shouted shakily, "Garchomp, Retur--"
    He was cut off unceremoniously by a swipe of Garchomp's long tail, the large fin at the end catching him in the side and pitching him into the water near where Riolu was floundering. Garchomp snorted disdainfully, and resumed its ground-shaking tread towards where Magik and the fisherman, unable to stand, held onto the boardwalk for dear life.

    "Garchomp... Please stop," Magik pleaded, trying desperately to reason with the enraged dragon. "You won, all right? You defeated both of my Pokémon, so--"
    He was forced to stop speaking and roll aside as Garchomp, whipping its tail forward, slammed an Iron Tail attack into the walkway where Magik had been sitting. The strike punched a considerable hole in the two-foot-thick logs of the boardwalk, and there was no doubt that it would have been lethal if the boy hadn't moved. Magik, finally managing to get unsteadily to his feet as he came out of his roll, staggered backwards, retreating from the angry dragon, which continued to stalk him.
    "Stop this, now!" Magik shouted, trying to sound authoritative. The words came out sounding more desperate than he'd hoped, though, and Garchomp ignored him. The dragon, purple flames still licking from the corners of its mouth, opened its maw, the draconic fires growing into another Dragon Rage attack that was aimed straight at Magik.

    Just then, a lead fishing weight slammed into the side of Garchomp's head, and the dragon whirled to see the source of the new attack. The fisherman was barely six feet from the dragon, but he had his trainer case open, and was, as calmly as he could, hefting another lead sinker, the largest type he had, almost five pounds. As he drew it back to hurl as well, Garchomp released the Dragon Rage attack directly at the throwing arm, and the man reflexively jerked back from the torrent of purple-and-black flames, rolling into the water with a muted splash. The Dragon Rage attack, however, struck the fisherman's trainer case, reducing it to melted plastic and several Poké balls, which, designed to resist destruction, sputtered electrically, their external shields struggling to cope with the purple flames.

    Garchomp, roaring in rage, turned on Magik only to see him also take to the safety of the water. The rampaging Pokémon, however, wasn't going to give up so easily. It made for the edge of the boardwalk, as if to give chase, but stopped short as a Force Palm attack, as if from nowhere, struck it in the armored lower belly. The attack had barely done more than halt the massive Pokémon's momentum, but there was Riolu, on the very edge of the wooden walkway, standing resolutely between Garchomp and its Trainer. The tiny Pokémon was clearly overmatched, but he was prepared to take a beating if it would help Magik get away.

    "GAAAAAR!" Garchomp, tired of this irritation, opened its mouth, producing another Flamethrower attack and intending to roast the impudent fighting-type alive. Suddenly, a torrent of water that foamed with bubbles burst from the water immediately behind Riolu, striking Garchomp straight in the mouth and instantly quenching the nascent Flamethrower attack.
    Garchomp thrashed its head, trying to clear the foamy bubbles from around its eyes and mouth, and Riolu's unexpected ally made an appearance.
    A brown-and-yellow, star-shaped Pokémon burst from beneath the water's surface, the noonday sun gleaming across a red gem at the center of its body. The Pokémon, beginning to spin with blinding speed as it hurtled towards the disoriented Garchomp, slammed straight into the dragon's already hole-ridden chest and bounced off with a loud snapping noise. Magik, holding onto a handy piece of driftwood that had been discarded by the now-abated whirlpool, looked more closely and saw that the star-shaped Pokémon had left one of its arms embedded in the dragon's underbelly.
    A vibration from his pocket reminded him that his Pokégear's Pokédex would have something to say about this. He lifted it out of the water, glad that both the apparatus and his backpack were waterproof, and the vibrations resolved into words.
    "...its gem-like core flashes like a heartbeat at night, and as long as the core is intact, Staryu can regenerate any lost limbs with ease."
    "Oh, so this is a Staryu..." Magik murmured to himself, and looked up, realizing he'd nearly missed what happened next.
    Staryu, floating confidently in midair in front of the enraged Garchomp, began to glow with a clear white light. The light concentrated itself at the broken edge of its missing arm, and then flowed into the exact shape of the lost piece. The radiance flashed once, then disappeared, leaving behind a completely undamaged arm.
    "Recover. A move used only by certain Pokémon that can regrow important body parts," said the MoveDex built into the Pokégear.

    "Gaaaaaaaaaaaaar, CHOMP!" The dragon seemed to have recovered from its disorientation, the remaining bubbles popping all at once as Garchomp's fangs blazed with sudden fire. It lunged at Staryu, but the levitating Pokémon spun aside at the last moment, sending Garchomp plowing past it, off the walkway, and into the water.
    This didn't seem to impede the dragon, though, and it rose suddenly out of the water to snap at Staryu, narrowly missing the water-type with its still-flaming fangs. Staryu responded by loosing a stream of water from the tip of one of its arms, striking Garchomp directly in the eyes and forcing it to back down slightly.
    The Staryu made a sound like a chime from a bell, apparently its form of communication. Garchomp roared in defiance, and loosed a sudden blast of fire that Staryu wasn't quite quick enough to dodge. Two of its arms charred, Staryu wobbled in midair, letting a few more bell-like chimes out, then steadied and released another Water Gun attack, which Garchomp, fighting defensively now, blocked with one of the two purple wing-flaps that extended from its arms.

    "Rioooo!" Riolu, who Magik had lost track of, suddenly re-entered the fray, fearlessly leaping to land on Garchomp's shoulder as it shielded itself from Staryu's attack. The little fighting-type, even though he was barely larger than Garchomp's head, didn't even flinch as Garchomp turned to roar at him, flames flickering in the back of the dragon's throat.
    Riolu responded by slamming his palm straight between Garchomp's eyes. For the first time, the Force Palm attack had an effect. The flames in Garchomp's throat died, and its limbs went limp. A bit cross-eyed, Garchomp nonetheless snapped one more time at Riolu, who, avoiding the attempted bite, leapt nimbly back to the boardwalk.
    Staryu, with Garchomp's shielding wings out of the way, prepared a new attack, five stars made of white light seeming to grow from its core at the base of each arm. The stars got larger and brighter, then Staryu launched them at the dazed Garchomp, where they peppered its head and shoulders. Each star of the Swift attack struck with the sound of a small explosion, disappearing in a shower of sparks that made the half-paralyzed Garchomp float this way and that as the beams hit one after another. The dragon-type Pokémon, nearly unconscious, was reduced to struggling in the water, apparently fighting to stay afloat.

    "Garchomp! Return!" A beam of red light from the walkway struck Garchomp, and the Pokémon disappeared into its purple-and-pink Poké ball. Lokiel, sopping wet, looking shaken and far less confident than he had been just a short while ago, turned and ran, heading south.
    "Hey!" Magik shouted after him, but the older boy didn't listen. Sighing, Magik supposed there wasn't anything to be done about it.
    A moment later, he was proven wrong as Staryu appeared from above, hovering into place between Lokiel and his chosen route of escape. Magik couldn't see the look on Lokiel's face, but he couldn't suppress a laugh of glee when Staryu spouted a weak but still mildly painful Water Gun in the older boy's face: Staryu must have been one of the Pokémon helplessly caught in Gyarados's whirlpool, and hadn't forgotten that Gyarados was the rude Trainer's Pokémon.

    "Hey, kid... You all right?" The fisherman from earlier said, dragging himself out of the water one-handed to sit on the edge of the fishing platform. He used the same hand to scoop up his abandoned Poké balls from the walkway, and Magik saw why a moment later. The man's other arm was blistered with painful-looking burns. He'd gotten out of the way of Garchomp's Dragon Rage attack in time to avoid losing his hand, but not to prevent severe burning from the sheer heat of the draconic flames.

    "Am I all right?? Yeah, but you're not!" shouted Magik as he backstroked swiftly from his floating piece of driftwood to the boardwalk. "That looks really bad!"
    Riolu looked on worriedly as Magik started to get a Potion out of his bag, but seeing what he was doing, the man waved him off. "Nah, kid, Potions only work on Pokémon. I... I just need to get to a hospital or a Pokémon Center, so... Kuhhh..." The injured fisherman swayed briefly, then his eyes rolled up and he slumped, unconscious, to the wooden floor of the floating walkway.
    Magik looked around, panicked. "Riolu! Can you get some sticks, to make a stretcher? We have to get him to a Pokémon Center!"
    Riolu nodded and dashed off, and Magik looked around for some kind of help. Fortunately, it wasn't as far off as he'd thought: The battles, with Lokiel's Gyarados and with his father's disobedient Garchomp, had attracted the attention of several groups of nearby Trainers. A small party of older kids wearing camouflage gear and camping knapsacks arrived moments after Riolu had left. They promptly took charge, checking the unconscious fisherman for a pulse, and then, when it was clear that he didn't need immediate first aid, they told the next newcomers, a group of concerned-looking fishermen, to go and get materials for two stretchers.
    Magik began to protest that he didn't need a stretcher, though he was feeling a bit dizzy at all the commotion, but one of the campers, a girl maybe fifteen or sixteen years old, came over to Magik and shone a pen-light in first one eye, then another.

    "Pupils dilate normally. He's not concussed, but my guess is he's in shock."
    "I'd be, too, if I were him! Did you see the size of that thing??"
    "Where are those guys with the stretchers-- hey, is that Pokémon bringing those sticks for us...? Paul, get to work making..."
    The voices blended into the growing cacophony, and Magik thought about what he'd heard for a moment. Was he in shock? Well, he felt a bit dazed, and everything was moving very fast... Maybe the girl was right. He couldn't remember what the treatment for shock was, but a stretcher was sounding pretty good right now...

    The next little while passed in a blur, and Magik's next clear sensation was of being lifted carefully into a bed amidst the pleasant lighting and clean smell of a Pokémon Center infirmary.
    "Hey... Uhh... I'm all right," he told the nurse, who looked just like the rest of her extended family, complete with pink hair, red-cross-bearing hat, and white apron.
    "Well, even so, it'd be best if you just stayed there for an hour or two," she told him distractedly, measuring out a medicine of some kind into a cup and mixing it with water from a nearby sink before handing it to Magik.
    "Wait! Weavile... she got burned, she needs--"
    "Yes, she's being treated now," the nurse told him. "Drink up."

    Magik did so, and almost immediately felt better. Nonetheless, he stayed in the infirmary bed until he couldn't bear to just lie there any longer.
    His legs felt weak, like overcooked noodles, but they got stronger as he crossed the room. Magik opened the door that lead to the Center's main entrance and found another nurse, practically identical to the first one except for the pink colour of the Poké-Center cross symbol on her hat, carefully lowering a bandaged but apparently chipper Weavile in one of the lobby chairs. Weavile waved a subdued claw at Magik, looking a bit ashamed to have been so badly beaten, but he smiled back and sat in one of the other chairs across from his Pokémon.
    "Don't worry about it, Weavile. You were a big help-- that Garchomp wouldn't have gone down without your Ice Shard attack."
    Weavile rolled her eyes dismissively, but couldn't hide her pleasure at her Trainer's praise.

    Just then, Riolu walked out of the Pokémon Center supplies room, carrying a bundle of bandages and a small pot of burn ointment, and went into the Infirmary, not noticing Weavile and Magik sitting there. The two looked at each other, then both grinned. Trust Riolu to volunteer to help, rather than just waiting for Weavile and Magik to feel better.
    Then, Magik did a double-take as a familiar-looking Staryu emerged from the same supplies room, floating horizontally and unsteadily balancing a pile of bandages on its outstretched arms.

    "Oh, you're up," the nurse from before said, emerging from the Infirmary. "Just to let you know, it's best if your Pokémon doesn't exert herself for now. If you intend to get going anytime soon, she had better travel in her Poké ball, at least until she regains enough strength to use a Potion to cure her wounds."
    "Weave..." Weavile muttered darkly, expressing her opinion of the nurse's order. Magik gave the Pokémon an apologetic shrug.
    "It's only for a while, okay? Anyway... Wait a minute, how is that man? The one who got burned?"
    The nurse's expression turned stormy, and Magik looked around nervously, almost expecting it to start raining from the Pokémon Center's ceiling. "He'll survive, and it looks like he won't lose the use of his hand... But his fingers will never be as quick as they were before. And if I ever come across the Trainer who set a Pokémon on him, that Trainer will have his license revoked before you can say, 'Blissey.'"

    Magik frowned, remembering the boy's reference to his father lending him Garchomp. He told the nurse the story, and if her face had been dark as a stormcloud earlier, Magik was now certain he could hear thunder emanating from her ears.
    "Lokiel Terra, is it? Well, I assure you, a Mr. Terra will shortly find himself on the wrong end of the Trainers' Association's justice."

    ---June 1, Year 1505 MTA; 15:04---


    Half an hour after he had been rushed into the Pokémon Center on a stretcher, Magik walked out the door, feeling a bit the worse for wear but ready to keep going. He was back at the Center at the base of Mount Union, and the sun was a bit further towards the western horizon than it had been the last time he'd set out from here. It was still barely past three in the afternoon, though, so Magik wasn't about to call it quits. He'd have stayed in the Pokémon Center to wait for the helpful fisherman who'd probably saved his life at least once during the scuffle, but the nurse had told him that his presence would 'impede the fisherman's recovery,' since they had to keep him sedated against the pain while they treated his burns. So Magik had set out, hoping that one day he'd be able to return, or at least learn the brave man's name.

    Riolu walked next to Magik, staying protectively close to his Trainer, who in Riolu's eyes had shown that he couldn't be left alone for a moment without coming to grief. The Emanation Pokémon kept sneaking glances up at Magik, as if worried that the boy was about to pass out and fall over, but Magik felt fine. He'd have liked to let Weavile out, but the nurse had been quite clear that the injured Pokémon needed to rest.
    What Magik wasn't sure of, however, was where Staryu had gone-- he'd seen the star-shaped Pokémon in the Pokémon Center, helping out, but Staryu had simply disappeared. Then again, the water-type Pokémon had probably just gone back to its river, where it belonged. Magik just wished he could have said goodbye and thanked the wild Pokémon for all its help.

    The forest was unchanged, the wildlife still going about its business and paying no heed to the two travelers as they passed by for the second time that day. They arrived at the fork in the road that separated the boardwalks below and the riverside path ahead, and Magik didn't need to think for long before taking the overland route. He'd had enough of floating walkways, for today at least. The path he'd chosen followed the edge of the river closely, with a six-foot drop into the river on his right side and a sea of grass, dotted with sparse trees, on his left.
    The tall grass was crawling with Pokémon of other sorts. Fluffy Mareep trundled among the Bellsprout that stood completely still, their leaves swaying gently in the persistent wind. As Magik passed by, watching with interest, a hapless Combee buzzed too close to one of the Bellsprout, and a vine lashed out to capture it, the flytrap Pokémon swallowing the tiny bee whole. A passing Ledyba altered its course to steer well clear, looking askance at the supposedly nonthreatening 'flowers.'
    Too busy looking at the Pokémon, Magik missed his footing on the slippery mud of the riverbank to his right. About to fall, the only thing that prevented him from plummeting off the edge was Riolu grabbing his arm and yanking him back onto the path. Only water waited for him underneath, so a fall wouldn't have hurt, but a drenching was another item on his list of things he'd experienced more than enough of for one day.
    Riolu sighed with exasperation. "Rio, Rio..." He muttered, as if wondering what Magik would do without him and Weavile.
    Magik grinned ruefully in response. "Probably not much, Riolu."
    "Rio, Riolu." Riolu nodded, agreeing... then fell flat on his face.
    Magik tried not to grin. "Looks like I'm not the only one who's easily distracted." Reaching a hand down to help his friend up-- Riolu was surprisingly heavy for his size-- Magik noticed what it was that the Pokémon had tripped on. "Uhh, Riolu... I think we may have just annoyed somebody."
    The purple-- I'm sick and tired of purple today, thought Magik mock-despairingly-- object that Riolu had tripped on stirred, then wriggled as a serpentine head with slit-pupiled yellow eyes rose from the grass nearby. A forked tongue flicked out at Riolu and Magik several times, tasting their scent, then the snake Pokémon let out a threatening HISSSSSS.
    Magik's Pokégear vibrated. "Ekans, the Snake Pokémon. It can unhinge its jaw to swallow prey whole. Its preferred food is the eggs of bird Pokémon."

    This one, however, didn't seem to be after food. Angry at being tripped over, it simply wanted to pick a fight. Riolu returned the hiss with a growl of his own, then a slight bark: The challenge was accepted!
    Ekans wasted no time in striking, but Riolu was ready. Dodging aside, he attempted a Force Palm attack-- only to realize that the snake's scales seemed to absorb and distribute the force, rendering the attack nearly useless.
    The Ekans immediately took advantage of Riolu's confusion, encircling the fighting-type with its tail and then suddenly pulling tight, wrapping itself around Riolu.
    "Wrap attack," Magik's MoveDex stated, then fell silent. Magik, waiting for some information that might help him decide what to do next, tapped the device impatiently. As if only now realizing that its exposition was wanted for a change, the Pokégear application resumed its commentary. "An attack that immobilizes the target Pokémon, restricting its movements. The best way to escape is to use overwhelming strength, or not be caught in the first place."
    "What?? That's no help!" Magik said impatiently, stuffing the machine back in his pocket. "Riolu, do your best!"
    Riolu, meanwhile, was struggling in the snake's tightening grip. Unable to get his hands free to use his strongest moves, he was at a loss for what to do; the ball was firmly in his Trainer's-- Magik's-- court.
    Magik went through a mental summary of the moves he'd seen Riolu use so far, as well as that one move he had taught the Pokémon using a state-of-the-art TM his father had sent him... But he didn't see how Quick Attack, Force Palm, Reversal, or even Blaze Kick were helpful--
    "Wait a minute... Riolu, use Blaze Kick to light your feet on fire!"
    "Rio!" The blue-and-black Pokémon's feet could be seen glowing briefly where they were sticking out from amongst Ekans's coils. A moment later, they burst into flame. The snake Pokémon hissed in pain, and uncoiled rapidly, retreating a short distance into the grass as Riolu's feet extinguished themselves.
    "Yeah! Good job, Riolu!"
    "Rio!" The Pokémon glanced back proudly, then suddenly disappeared. Ekans, as confused as Magik was, looked around wildly but failed to see Riolu appear behind it, punching it across the back of the head before disappearing again. Riolu danced circles around the Ekans, his movements so rapid that he could barely be seen between attacks.
    "That must be Quick Attack," Magik said to himself with a grin. It was a good show, though Ekans didn't seem to think so. The snake Pokémon had coiled up in a spiral, hiding its head amongst the coils to protect it from the lightning-quick strikes.
    "Defense curl," the MoveDex said, startling Magik.
    "That's a move? How useful," Magik rolled his eyes. "It'll just do nothing while Riolu beats it."
    "...A move useful for tiring an opponent out," the MoveDex finished, almost reprovingly.
    "What??" Magik said. Returning his attention to the battle, he saw that the device was completely correct. Riolu, still pounding away at the Ekans, had slowed down significantly, and was panting. Even a Pokémon as sturdy as Riolu couldn't keep up an attack like that for long, and Ekans's strategy was immediately clear.
    "Riolu! Slow down, wait for it to attack first!" Riolu backed away, breathing hard. No sooner had he let up in his constant attacks, though, than Ekans struck with lightning speed from amongst its own coils, sinking its teeth into Riolu's forearm. Riolu let out a barking cry of pain, then seized his foe by the base of its skull, squeezing to force the fangs to let go. The Ekans thrashed about, but Riolu didn't relax his grip. Holding the snake's head away from him, Riolu slammed it into the ground, then spun around, trailing the Ekans's flailing tail behind him, and smashed its head against the ground again. The snake went limp, unconscious; Riolu let go, and the fainted Ekans slumped to the ground.

    Riolu smiled, gave Magik a thumbs-up, and moved to leave the tall grass... and then, struck by a sudden burst of pain, fell to one knee halfway to his Trainer. Suddenly bleary-eyed, the Pokémon stared at its forearm, where the twin fang marks from his opponent's bite were swelling up, both leaking a whitish pus.
    "Riolu? Riolu!" Magik rushed over to his Pokémon, yanking out a Potion bottle. He sprayed it on the wound, which closed, but Riolu shook his head.
    "Rio, Rio." ~It's poisoned.~ Riolu's voice, transmitted by his unrefined control of Aura, vibrated like a Beedrill buzzing in Magik's head.
    "Poison??"
    "Rio. Riolu, Rio." ~Carry me.~
    Magik scooped up his Pokémon, and settled Riolu on his back. "Are you sure you wouldn't be better off in your Poké ball?"
    Riolu didn't answer. Instead, Magik felt a humming buzz come from the Pokémon's wounded arm, waves of Aura energy surrounding the poisoned limb. Riolu was preventing the poison from entering the rest of his system with his will alone.
    "All right," Magik said with a worried smile. "Let's get you to Violet Town." The Trainer, with his Pokémon on his back, set off as quickly as he dared if he was to avoid the risk of losing his footing again.

    The path north was peppered with rocks, and Magik nearly tripped over several. The stones in question grumbled quietly, and rose up, revealing rocky arms that they shook at the boy in annoyance. Magik, uneasy, shifted Riolu a bit higher on his back, and sped up, then nearly went sprawling as he missed his footing in a gravelly patch of trail. He slowed down again, and the Geodudes, still grumbling, returned to their rest. The sky started to turn orange overhead, and Magik saw the path curve further west, away from his destination. The trees to his right beckoned, offering a more direct route, and Magik stared into them, noting that there was very little underbrush amongst the widely spaced trees-- nothing to get in his way.
    Making his decision, Magik turned to the right, leaving the northwest-bound trail in favor of the forest. He quickly found a small forest path that led him amongst the wide, ancient-looking trees, and sighed with relief as he saw that the path was unobstructed by the bushes and saplings that began to be more prevalent as he travelled farther into the forest.

    Late evening was falling and clouds, lit purple by the setting sun, were beginning to roll in as Magik, nearly tripping on a network of exposed roots, stumbled into Violet City from amongst the trees of the forest, finding himself in the southern part of town near the Pokémon Center. The calls of the waking Zubats and Hoothoots heralded the darkening of the skies as Magik headed for the Center at a quick pace, relieved that his trek through the woods had landed him in the right part of town. Despite his haste, though, Magik couldn't help staring around at the city as he passed through it-- it was the first time he'd been in a town or city other than Azalea.
    The streets of Violet City were paved with dark gray stones, and the buildings were old-fashioned but cozy-looking. Even the Pokémon Center was painted a deeper shade of red than usual, to blend in with the quaint surroundings, but despite the somber colours Violet town had a kind of warmth to it. The people seemed friendly, and one kind young man wearing a simple black t-shirt and jeans even came over to Magik to ask if he needed help.
    "No, thanks, I'm almost at the Pokémon Center."
    "Well, welcome to Violet City, kid. Just a word of advice, though... stay away from the Sprout Tower. There's been something wierd going on there lately."
    Magik blinked, and looked where the man was pointing. A good distance off was a tower, partially hidden by a wide bluish-black one-story building and nearly invisible in the falling dusk. From what he could see, the tower was made of ancient-looking wood, and consisted of a series of floors separated by sloping awnings that sheltered large glass-less windows. There seemed to be a large crowd around the entrance, but Magik couldn't see what was going on.
    "Thanks for the warning," Magik thanked the man hastily, remembering why he was in a hurry. "I've got to get to the Pokémon Center."
    "All right, good luck." The man said. "What's with the crowd...? I think I'll go take a look." He walked off in the direction of Sprout Tower.

    Magik, jogging up to the Pokémon Center's entrance and passing through the sliding glass doors, was surprised to see that the building was packed with Trainers. Many of them were sitting in the red Poké Center chairs and on the benches scattered around the lobby, looking tired. Others clamored at the front desk, where a harried-looking nurse tried frantically to keep up with their shouted demands.
    "Hey, hey, hey!" A portly, energetic-looking man with messy brown hair that stuck up from either side of his head walked through the doorway behind Magik. He spun a full circle in mid-stride, then took a wide stance, hands on his hips.
    "Rude you be, Trainers!" he shouted in a thick accent, drawing a sudden silence from the various Trainers at the desk and in the lobby seats. "Unacceptable, this is! Ashamed, should you be not?"
    Many of the trainers seemed to recognize the man. A few of them looked at the ground shamefacedly. Others looked at each other instead, as if wondering who this fat old kook thought he was.
    "That's Earl Dervish, the teacher at the Pokémon Academy," Magik overheard one teenaged Trainer tell his friend. "He's strange, but he knows his stuff."
    As if to prove the boy's point, Earl suddenly twirled in place, then brought one foot down with a painfully loud clack. "A line! Immediately, a line!" The Trainers who seemed to recognize the teacher immediately obeyed, forming into a single-file, relatively orderly line. The remaining Trainers, a bit confused, quickly scrambled to secure their own places in line, unwilling to end up at the back. When everyone, except for the Trainers who had already been helped, was lined up, Earl nodded curtly, spun on his heel to face away from the counter, and strode out of the Pokémon Center.

    "What happened?" Magik ran up to the Trainer at the end of the line, a middle-aged man who was wearing a beige top hat and a brown suit and tie over a white collared shirt. The gentleman had a matching brown briefcase in one hand, apparently serving the purpose of his Trainer Case.
    "The Sprout Tower is what happened," the man grumbled in a refined but irritated voice. Seeing Magik's inquiring look, he sighed and elaborated. "There is a dangerous Pokémon of some sort in there. Someone found a secret passageway leading into a hidden basement beneath the tower. However, the first Trainer who attempted to explore it was only gone for a matter of minutes before he was dragged out of the hole by his near-dead Pokémon. The boy was in a coma. He still has not awoken, and all this occurred three days ago."
    Another person in the line spoke up, a tough-looking older girl with long red hair who wore a small red top, short shorts and black fingerless gloves. "Kid was just a newbie, bent on making a name for himself. The idiot didn't realize there's a reason pioneers in Pokémon are always the strongest-- there can be dangerous stuff in hidden places like that."
    "Now, now... there is no need to be harsh," said the well-dressed gentleman indignantly. "After all, we both made the same mistake, did we not? Overestimating ourselves, and underestimating the danger? We were all discouraged from training in the Tower after the occurrence, and we paid no heed until it was too late."
    "Hmph." The girl, at a loss for an answer to the pointed remark, grunted with irritation and turned back to face the front of the line.
    "So what was the cause of it?" Magik asked eagerly, interested in hearing about this mysterious danger.
    "I don't know. I never saw it."
    "What??" Magik asked, frowning. "But it beat your Pokémon, right? You never saw it?"
    "I never went down there." The man sighed. "You see, after the boy was taken to the hospital, a few stronger Trainers came to try their hand. Every single one who went into that hole ended up unconscious, and none of them has woken up yet. However... Just a few minutes ago, as dusk fell, every Pokémon in the entire Tower fainted. Most of us were simply training ourselves and our Pokémon on the first or second floor of the Tower, when... whatever it was... struck. The massive influx of Trainers appears to be overwhelming the staff here. Sorry to say, boy, your Riolu might have to wait for a time to be cared for."
    "But... He needs help as soon as he can get it!" Magik said, panic creeping into his voice. "He's poisoned, and I don't think he can hold it off much longer...!"
    "R...Rio." Riolu murmured quietly from Magik's back, feebly trying to tell him that he could take it, though he was evidently in pain.
    "Hmm?" The man seemed to ponder for a moment, then reached down to unzip a side pouch of his brown briefcase. He withdrew a medicine bottle, similar to a potion but coloured green and shaped differently. "Use this, boy. It should suppress the effects, at least for now, but your Pokémon needs to receive care before it wears off."
    Magik took the medicine, recognizing it as an Antidote. "Thank you, sir!" He said with relief, spraying the bottle's entire contents on Riolu's forearm. The swelling receded almost immediately, and Riolu seemed to relax, letting out a tiny sigh of relief from just behind Magik's neck. The need to concentrate gone for the moment, Riolu slipped into unconsciousness.

    Just then, a nurse, unmistakably yet another of the Joy family, emerged from the infirmary. "Non-Sprout-Tower patients, over here! Non-Sprout-Tower patients!"
    Magik, with a final nod of thanks to the helpful gentleman, headed over to the nurse, along with one other boy about his age who wore a white t-shirt with blue shorts and carried an unconscious Rattata. The nurse, looking stressed, told them both, "Find beds for your Pokémon, and we'll get around to treating them as soon as possible. We're in a state of emergency right now, with an unknown ailment of some sort affecting large numbers of Pokémon, so it might take a bit longer than usual. Sorry!" She didn't wait for a response, and instead hurried to take charge of several Sprout Tower Trainers' Poké balls containing their unconscious Pokémon. Another, younger nurse walked up to her, and began speaking in a hushed tone that Magik, standing nearby, couldn't help but overhear.
    "Nothing we do works. Not even a Revive will wake them up! What will we do if--"
    "Shh, not in front of the Trainers!" The older nurse admonished, looking around to make sure no one had been eavesdropping. Seeing Magik looking, she made a 'shoo' motion with her hand. "Go on with you, find your Pokémon a bed!"

    Magik entered the infirmary, which was filled with unconscious Pokémon. There were still free beds, but the sheer number of casualties from the Sprout Tower incident threatened to overflow the room's capacity. Magik, placing Riolu in one bed, released Weavile from her Poké ball. Having been asleep until just then, she blinked sleepily at him.
    "Go back to sleep, Weavile. We're at a Pokémon Center, and you need to rest."
    The burned and bandaged Pokémon shook her head stubbornly and struggled weakly to get up, but her eyes fluttered sleepily closed. She subsided, asleep, onto the bed next to Riolu. Magik thought about moving her to another bed, but realized that he should leave as much space as possible for the victims of the Sprout Tower mystery.
    He absently tucked the two Pokémon into the bed, his mind practically whirring. Riolu needed medical attention before the effects of the Antidote wore off, but if the massive number of unconscious Pokémon in the room were any indication, he wouldn't get it quickly enough. There was only one thing that Magik could think of to do: he left the Infirmary, and crossed the crowded Pokémon Center lobby to the glass sliding doors. No one paid him any mind amongst the chaos, and he slipped out of the building unnoticed, pressing a button to activate the Flashlight application on his Pokégear.

    The beam dimly illuminated the area outside the Pokémon Center, but the streets were deserted. It was raining now, the evening's bank of clouds having burgeoned into a full-fledged rainstorm; the rain reduced visibility even further, and Magik was quickly drenched as he walked out of the Pokémon Center. A few squat, waist-high street lights guided him onto the main north-south Violet City road, and he began to walk, following the road north until it turned to the left. On his right was a large, darkened building whose sign, in his flashlight beam, read, "Earl's Academy for Trainers."
    Remembering his earlier view of the wide building partially obscuring the bottom floor of the Tower, Magik headed straight ahead past Earl's academy. He passed a couple more of the short street lamps, which illuminated the beginning of a wide wooden bridge.
    Crossing it, he arrived on a large sand bar that rose up from the still waters of the Violet City lake, and saw, about a minute's walk ahead, another set of street lights marking another bridge. He sighed, starting to feel a bit tired-- he had been walking all day, after all-- but picked up speed, refusing to give up until he had what he needed. He wasn't sure what that was, but he was somehow certain that the key to waking up the unconscious Pokémon lay in the Tower where they had acquired the strange ailment.

    "Hey! You!" A voice from the darkness ahead hailed the boy as he stepped off this latest bridge. A young man, shaved bald and wearing a grey robe that marked him as one of the monks who lived in the Tower, hurried out of the blackness to accost Magik. "Kid, the Tower is off-limits at the moment, didn't you hear? Go back home, I'm sure we'll have this sorted out by tomorrow and you can visit then."
    "All right." Magik had no intention of simply giving up, but he turned back and walked all the way past the street lamps on the bridge, just to let the monk see him go. Then he switched off his flashlight and, bracing himself for the cold, dived off the side of the bridge and into the water.
    The water was chilly, but not yet freezing as it would be later that night, and anyhow Magik was already drenched. He swam back towards the Tower, avoiding the small pools of light the streetlights made in the pouring rain, and pulled himself onto dry land, shivering just a little as the wind blew through his sopping wet clothing and hair. There was a sudden flash of light, followed by the first rumblings of thunder as the rainstorm turned into a thunderstorm. Even in the harsh light cast by the lightning, Magik couldn't see farther than a few feet ahead due to the rain which the wind was now hurling in his face. Sheltering his eyes with one arm, Magik strode forward as quietly as he could. A short while passed without seeing anyone-- evidently the monks were just as blind in the rainy darkness as he was-- and then, suddenly, a wooden wall swam into view, with one of the Tower's large windows just ahead of Magik. A fair ways off to the boy's right, a pool of light in the distance marked out the indistinct outlines of two monks standing under the tower's awning, shoulder to shoulder in front of the tower's main door, staring out with night-blind eyes at the sheets of pelting rain. The monks' Pokémon, a pair of Bellsprouts, flanked their Trainers, ready to snare any intruders with a Vine Whip. But their night vision amidst the bright lights bathing the entrance was just as bad as their Trainers', so Magik wasn't in any danger of being spotted.

    Magik arrived in front of the Tower's window, stifling a sigh of relief as the decorative awning gave a much-needed respite from the driving rain. Hidden amidst the darkness, he put his hands on the chest-height sill of the glass-less window and, with a jump and a heave of his arms, lifted himself onto the sill and through the large window.
    That was too easy, thought Magik with a grin. I guess the monks don't have much stuff, so they don't need to worry about burglars, he decided, forgetting that an adult would have had trouble fitting through the window.

    The boy switched on his flashlight, getting his first view of Sprout Tower. Wooden statues of Bellsprout abounded, and decorative screens shielded most of the room from view, though Magik stared in wonder for a moment at the large, slowly swaying pillar in the center of the tower, the pillar that gave Sprout Tower its name. Staring at the giant pillar, a ten-foot-wide monolith that swayed gently, stretching from floor to ceiling, and was rumored to have once been the stalk of a giant Bellsprout, Magik jumped as a tiny scraping noise from the window at his back startled him. When he turned to look, though, there was nothing there, and no sound; just the pattering of the heavy rain against the ground.
    Magik, frowning at the window, was distracted by an involuntary shiver of cold, and decided that dry clothing was the first thing he needed. Opening his dark blue backpack, glad as usual that it was completely waterproof, he dug around in it until he found his only black shirt and a serviceable pair of dark brown pants. Unwrapping the towel from around the bathing suit his Mom had packed for him, he dried his hair and quickly changed clothes, wrapping the wet shirt and pants in the towel and stuffing them back into the backpack. His socks, underwear and shoes were still wet, but he wasn't shivering any more, which was what counted.

    Magik stepped forward, looking around the room. There was a ladder leading up, and he headed for it. Sure, there was supposed to be a secret passage leading down, but he wasn't stupid-- going in there was how the Trainers the gentleman in the Pokémon Center told him about had ended up in comas, and Magik didn't even have a Pokémon with him. For the first time, he wondered if this was such a good idea... but the rest of the Tower was supposed to be completely safe, for Trainers at least. Wasn't it?
    As he approached the ladder, Magik glanced at the swaying pillar. Then, he saw it-- the entrance to the 'secret passage.' The entrance was a relatively small, approximately human-sized hole in the massive pillar. Magik shone his flashlight into it, but could only make out several steep steps leading down before his flashlight beam ended on the passage's 'ceiling.' Magik shook his head, then started to climb the ladder to the second floor. Then he stopped mid-climb as voices and footsteps from above heralded the approach of several monks. Magik jumped off the ladder, and ran to hide behind the Bellsprout pillar, but was headed off by another pair of monks who were approaching from that direction.
    Trapped on both sides, there was only one place for Magik to hide, though he didn't like the prospect: straight down the secret passageway. Throwing caution to the wind, Magik ducked into the hole, taking several steps before he was sure he couldn't be seen from above, and then flicked off his light. The three monks from the second floor arrived at the bottom of the ladder, and Magik heard them call out to the other two.
    "Anything?" One asked.
    "Nothing, just the usual Rattatas and the occasional Gastly." The responding voice sounded tired. "Can't we just call it quits?"
    "No, not until we find something to give us some clue as to just what it is that's hanging around here."
    "Very well.... But remember: Stay in pairs. No one goes off alone." The latest speaker's voice wheezed slightly with age, but was filled with authority nonetheless.
    "Yes, Elder Li."

    Two groups of footsteps receded, and Magik breathed a sigh of relief, then stifled a yawn. This was no time to be tired, though, so he levered himself up from where he had been leaning on one of the steep, waist-high steps, and started to climb out of the stairwell.
    He stumbled, nearly falling back onto the step he'd been standing on while he listened to the monks, and stopped, panting. For some reason he felt out of breath, but he hadn't done anything strenuous at all, really.
    That's odd. Magik blinked sudden sleepiness out of his eyes and reached for the edge of the next step to pull himself up, but his hands just twitched, refusing to pay attention to what his brain was telling them. His eyelids drooped, unable to keep themselves open, and he slumped against the step. Maybe just a brief nap...
    A purplish-- Gah, purple again, thought Magik sleepily-- face with large, mischievous eyes swam into view right in front of his face, laughing. Magik smiled slightly in response, though he wasn't sure what was so funny-- it must be something good, though. Laughter was a good thing. His eyes fluttered closed again...
    A flash of red light, followed by a streak of brown, swept diagonally past Magik's face, shredding the purple visage that stared him in the eyes, which dissipated. Magik blinked, then took a deep breath. Suddenly, he felt wide-awake. What had come over him? He cast his flashlight's beam around at the stairwell, but couldn't see anything but the dark brown wooden walls of the pillar's insides, and the steps above and below him.

    "Gaaaaastly." The purple face from earlier re-formed a short distance away, the tiny-pupiled white eyes staring at Magik with annoyance. His Pokégear vibrated, and he took it out, wiping at his tired eyes with the back of his other hand.
    "Gastly; the Gas Pokémon. Its body is composed of a cloud of sleep-inducing gas, and it can asphyxiate an unsuspecting victim by enveloping them while nearly invisible."
    "Hey!" Magik said, glaring at the Pokémon. "What's the big idea? Are you the one attacking people who come down here??"
    Gastly shook itself from side to side, indicating no, but grinned mischievously at Magik. It drifted forward, its face disappearing into the faint purple cloud of gas that surrounded it, and moved to entrap Magik from all sides. The boy sucked in a breath and held it, flapping his arms to try to dispel the cloud of gas. Quiet, disembodied laughter emanated from all around him, and he saw that his movements were useless. Gastly's deadly prank was going to succeed if he didn't do something, so Magik started to climb the stairs once more-- the problem was, there were six waist-high steps between him and the main floor. Gastly, still laughing with a playfulness that was rather dissonant given Magik's panic, followed the boy as he struggled to climb without taking a breath.
    Just when Magik didn't think he could go another moment without breathing, the same red-and-brown blur from before flashed over the top of his head. Craning his neck to stare up, Magik lost control of his breath, accidentally gasping in a large breath of Gastly's fumes.
    His vision swam, but then cleared briefly. His would-be saviour was a familiar-looking Pokémon, but Magik couldn't make head nor tail of its presence here.
    "Staryu? Why are you here? Shouldn't you be back at--" Magik was cut off by an involuntary cough, and his vision blurred again, a wave of dizziness nearly making him fall over.
    Staryu, hovering above his head, let out a bell-like chime. Then, it began to spin. Faster and faster, Staryu whirled until its five arms began to look more like a circular disk. The arms, which were tilted at a slight angle, functioned like a fan, sucking up the gas and expelling it upwards into the higher areas of the stairwell.
    "Gaaaast!" The gaseous Pokémon's spherical head coalesced as the last of the gas was drawn away from Magik. The ghost-type wobbled from side to side, its large white eyes crossed with dizziness after its turbulent ride.
    Staryu, however, wasn't inclined to let the ghost get off so easily. A jet of high-pressure water rushed from one of Staryu's arms and pinned Gastly to one of the tall steps, the gas Pokémon too stunned to disappear into its cloud of vapor.
    The Water Gun attack petered out, and Gastly subsided onto the drenched step below it, spluttering feebly. Staryu let out a series of harsh-sounding chimes. Gastly responded with a series of watery gurgling noises that sounded vaguely like its own name. The two Pokémon appeared to be communicating, and Magik, taking deep breaths of fresh air, watched the exchange with interest.

    "Gaaaast??" Gastly's eyes widened at something Staryu was telling it, then it suddenly looked contrite. "Gast, Gastly..."
    Staryu chimed in response, a little less harshly than before, then moved to hover next to Magik, who tentatively gave its glowing red gem a pat of thanks.
    "Gast." Gastly, an apologetic look on its purple face, hovered down from the step where it had been slumped, wobbling unsteadily in midair. It stopped an unthreatening distance away, and bobbed there uncertainly for a moment.
    Staryu chimed at Magik, who, in the same unexplainable way he understood Weavile and Riolu, was starting to figure out a bit of what the star-shaped Pokémon's cries meant.
    "He... didn't know? Didn't know what?" Magik thought for a moment, then figured it out. "He didn't know that humans die if they can't breathe, is that it?"
    Staryu bobbed affirmatively in midair.
    "That's a dangerous prank!" Magik said, more than a bit annoyed, but Gastly was drooping in midair, sadness written across its face, and Magik couldn't stay mad at the Pokémon.
    "Well, as long as you promise not to do it ever again. This was the first time you've tried that prank, right?" Gastly bobbed an affirmative. "Well, no harm done. I'm fine, so just be more careful, okay?"
    Gastly's eyes widened with surprise, apparently not having expected forgiveness. The ball of gas floated uncertainly in the air for a moment, then Gastly turned around and fled in shame.

    Magik, watching Gastly go, realized that there was something he was forgetting. "Hey, Staryu... Thanks. You probably saved my life there. That was amazing."
    Staryu let out a brief tinkling noise, embarrassed at the praise. Magik patted the Pokémon on the red gem at its center, which Staryu seemed to like, then turned to face down the stairs. Staryu chimed at him, wondering why he was going the wrong way.
    "I'm still not done with what I came here to do." Magik explained to the Pokémon. "Riolu could be seriously hurt, or even die, if I don't fix whatever went wrong here."
    He started down the stairwell, his flashlight out in front of him. Staryu dithered in midair, then followed, unwilling to let the defenseless Trainer go alone. Magik continued down the stairs, which emerged from the other side of the massive Bellsprout pillar. Magik found himself standing on a platform near the ceiling of a giant room whose walls and floor his flashlight beam didn't even reach. However, the stairs didn't end at the platform, instead turning to his left, heading downwards, the edge of the pillar forming a creaking wooden wall to the boy's left. Magik was confused for a moment, then realized that to have the entire stairwell inside the pillar itself would weaken the wood too much, so it spiraled around the outside. He set off downwards, holding on to the sturdy railing that separated him from the steep drop on his right. The stairs turned left again when he reached the giant pillar's corner, confirming his impression that the stairs were arranged in a square-edged spiral, and Magik became increasingly certain that the answer to the problem was at the bottom of these stairs. It took him nearly five minutes to get all the way to the bottom of the pillar, which widened as he moved further down, making the spiral larger.

    Finally, Magik's flashlight beam, aimed in front of his feet, revealed a kind of floor that was different from the light brown wood of the spiral stairway. Dusty, deep brown floorboards stretched as far as his flashlight could illuminate in all directions, the only landmark in the empty floor being the start of the stairway at his back, and the immense base of the pillar to his left.
    A moment passed as Magik squinted into the gloom, then he raised his eyebrows with surprise. A faint voice could be heard in the distance, quietly muttering something. Were there monks down here, after all? No, that couldn't be it, because the monks were the ones forbidding everyone from entering. Who was it, then?

    The quiet voice came closer, but it still wasn't loud enough for Magik to tell what it was saying. He wasn't sure whether he should say anything, but curiosity got the better of him.
    "Who's there??" he called loudly. The voice's low muttering stopped suddenly. Magik shivered involuntarily-- the sudden silence was eerie. Then an answering light appeared in the darkness, shining like a flashlight. There was another, fainter red light hovering near the distant light, and Magik sighed with relief. There was someone here after all!

    "Hello!" Magik shouted, waving. "Are you okay? Do you need help?" When there was no response, he frowned and stepped forward, towards the other flashlight, which drew closer at the same time. Magik squinted, and aimed his flashlight at the ground for a moment, trying to see the person's feet, at least. At the exact same moment, the flashlight dimmed, as if it too had been lowered.
    Magik's Pokégear hummed, the MoveDex activating from Magik's pocket.
    "Mirror Move. An attack that reflects moves or effects such as--"

    Staryu suddenly tackled Magik out of the way as a bolt of lightning roared past, narrowly missing the star-shaped Pokémon. The reflection of Magik's flashlight and Staryu's glowing core was gone, as if it had never been there. Magik, sprawled on the ground, shone his flashlight upwards, revealing, where the mirror barrier had been, a Pokémon.
    The Pokémon was undeniably a ghost-type, but it was very different from the Gastly earlier. It looked like a floating purple cloak or robe, and malevolent yellow eyes peered out from under a hatlike structure that covered its small round head. Its chest had several orange, oval-shaped gems set into it, and the hem of its cloaklike body was trimmed with a pinkish part at the bottom edge that trailed off, looking frayed. The Pokémon seemed to be speaking, or muttering something, but Magik couldn't make head nor tail of it.
    Predicting his Pokégear's comment, he took the device out of his pocket before it even started to vibrate. Its mechanical voice promptly launched into an informative speech.
    "Mismagius, the Magical Pokémon. Its cries sound like incantations, which can result in a number of harmful effects. Rarely, though, a Mismagius's chant can bring luck."

    Somehow, Magik didn't think that this particular Mismagius was going to be bringing anyone luck anytime soon. He raised his flashlight, trying to blind the Pokémon as it turned its baleful eyes towards him, but it didn't so much as squint.
    A small sphere of pulsing shadows appeared in front of the Mismagius, growing larger as the malevolent ghost aimed the projectile straight at Magik. Unable to do more than scramble backwards, the boy could see that he wasn't going to be able to get out of the way just by rolling aside. Mismagius finished its chant, and with a sibilant hissing sound, the Shadow Ball flashed through the air towards Magik.
    Just at that moment, Staryu, a pinkish shield of light emanating from its core gem, flashed into place between the ghost-type Pokémon and Magik. The Shadow Ball struck Staryu's shield with a shower of pink sparks, then flew off at an angle, deflected by the transparent barrier.
    "Light Screen. A defensive move that will deflect most non-physical attacks." Magik's Pokégear, still in his hand, piped up.
    Mismagius wasn't deterred, though. It chanted briefly, and Staryu braced itself for another attack... Which never came. Mismagius disappeared into the shadows. Staryu rotated back and forth in midair, searching for its foe. Then, Mismagius reappeared out of nowhere, immediately in front of the star-shaped Pokémon. It spun, and used its body to smack Staryu across its red gem-like core, passing straight through the pink barrier and making a sound like a heavy piece of clothing hitting a wall. Staryu was knocked to the floor, bouncing once and clattering to a stop, its core flickering erratically.
    "Astonish. A ghostly attack that can temporarily immobilize its target," commented the Pokégear. Magik scrambled to his feet, attempting to rush over to Staryu. His foot froze mid-stride, though, and he gasped in shock, suddenly unable to move his arms or his legs.
    Mismagius floated up to the immobilized boy, lowering itself over his head like the cloak it resembled. Magik, unable to see, shouted for help, but only Staryu could hear him, his voice muffled by the ghostly fabric.
    The star-shaped Pokémon rattled feebly against the ground as it tried in vain to rise to Magik's defense. The Pokégear fell from Magik's immobile fingers, clattering against the ground in sharp counterpoint to Staryu's struggles.

    Mismagius, its body now draped around Magik's shoulders, began to mutter yet another incantation. The Pokégear seemed to hesitate for a moment-- but that couldn't have been the case, because it was just a machine, after all-- but then the device said in a voice that anyone would have sworn was subdued:
    "Curse. An attack that works differently for ghosts." Having delivered its hopelessly inadequate information, the Pokégear fell silent.

    A few moments passed, then Mismagius swept itself off of Magik's head. The boy, his eyes closed, slumped to the floor, in a deep sleep that would not end unless Mismagius willed it. Muttering darkly, the Pokémon hovered over to the irritating Staryu that had dared to get in its way.
    A simple incantation was all that was required to summon a Thunderbolt. The crackling beam of energy shot towards Staryu, but deflected off of the still-active Light Screen, flying straight up like a signal flare and dissipating harmlessly in the air high above. The Light Screen, taxed to its limits, disappeared, and Mismagius, muttering an annoyed chant, summoned another Thunderbolt to finish the job.

    Then the malevolent ghost abruptly went flying forward as a burst of black energy exploded from the back of its head.
    "Sucker Punch attack!" The Pokégear cheered from the floor.
    The source of the unexpected strike faded into view, looking pleased with himself. Gastly, who had been moping around near the giant underground room's ceiling, had seen the thunderbolt, and had come to investigate. Mismagius was no friend of his: Thanks to the interfering newcomer to the Tower, there were no visitors to play pranks on anymore.
    ~And it feels good to help,~ Gastly thought to himself, though he'd never admit it out loud.
    Staryu shook itself furiously, raising a clattering din that served no purpose but to make Gastly wince.
    ~Quiet down, drama queen.~ The ghost told it, rolling his eyes.
    ~!!! !!?!?!~
    ~Yeah, yeah, I know you're genderless. It's an expression.
    ~... =( ~
    ~Just stay there 'till you can move, I'll see what I can-- GAAACK!~ Gastly's instructions were cut short as, the moment he got close to Magik's still form, Mismagius rose suddenly from the Trainer's shadow. It brought with it an ethereal black blade that slashed across Gastly's gaseous face with a sickening tearing noise.
    "Shadow Sneak," warned the Pokégear, "A very fast attack that strikes from hiding in a shadow. Almost impossible to avoid."
    Gastly drifted to the ground, dazed and overwhelmed by the sheer power of the attack. Staryu rattled agitatedly against the ground as Mismagius drifted over to the gas Pokémon, muttering a short incantation to summon a Shadow Ball.
    ~I'll finish you off once and for all, amateur.~ The bigger ghost growled, a hint of unsteadiness beneath its tone. The orb of shadows in front of Mismagius grew larger, and with a vicious hissing noise... struck the empty floorboards, where an illusory decoy had lain just a moment before.
    ~Hey, buddy! Watch who you're callin' an amateur. I'm not the one who just fell for the same trick twice!~
    ~Wha?~ Mismagius whirled, but not quickly enough. Gastly's Sucker Punch attack struck the malevolent ghost directly in the face. Mismagius sprawled on the floorboards, looking for all the world like a discarded purple-and-pink piece of clothing. The Pokémon trembled, attempting to get up, then subsided, defeated, to the floor.

    ~Release them all from your curse.~ Gastly commanded.
    ~You don't know what you're doing! Humans are disgusting creatures... They'll destroy us all if they can.~ Mismagius hissed venemously. ~I'm doing Pokémon everywhere a favour by getting rid of the humans, one at a time.~
    ~That's why you're doing this? Some kind of twisted revenge?~
    ~Twisted? Twisted? Let me tell you what twisted really means, young ghost.~ Mismagius spat.
    ~A thousand years ago, I was sealed here for destroying a tower that the humans of that time tried to build. Since then, I have not once left this place. All that was left to me was hearing the comings and goings of the humans above, the humans who have the freedom I do not, the humans who think they are entitled to profane the ancient burial grounds! They built a tower atop the bones of their long-forgotten ancestors, and when I tore it down, they sentenced me to eternal confinement for protecting what their ancestors bound me to protect! Don't speak to me of 'twisted!' I have seen the true, fickle nature of humans, and it is more twisted than any revenge I could devise!~
    Gastly looked shaken. ~They're not all like that.~
    ~And you, I imagine, have so much experience with humans,~ Mismagius hissed sarcastically.
    ~Enough to know that I don't want to kill anyone with my pranks.~
    ~I could teach you. I could teach you to harm, to kill. You would be a good student. The humans would never appreciate you-- you're just fodder to use for training their slave Pokémon.~
    ~Did you just offer to be my evil mentor? Wow, that's so far beyond cliché I don't know what to call it. Thanks, but no thanks. Besides,~ Gastly said with a slight smile, ~A certain boy recently showed me that humans aren't as cruel as you seem to think.~
    ~Fool... You fool! I'll never stop! Do your worst! I'll just come back to haunt you!~
    ~Did I just hear you say, 'do your worst?'~

    Gastly gathered a Shadow Ball and launched it at the prostrate Mismagius. The bitter ghost Pokémon screeched as the shadows ate at its ethereal form, scattering it into tiny pinkish fragments that dissipated amidst the darkness. Gastly, exhausted but proud of himself, took a moment to rid himself of any lingering doubts. Then, he hovered over to Magik to see how the kid was doing. The boy's eyes flickered open, then closed again. Gastly, waiting for him to wake up, lost patience and licked him across the face.

    "Gah!" Magik shouted, bolting upright and wiping his face with the back of his hand, then clutching his temples as his head swam from getting up too quickly. "Urgh, that's nasty!"
    "Lick," the Pokégear commented innocently from where it was sitting, forgotten, on the floor to Magik's right. "An attack that may cause paralysis." When Magik and Gastly turned to stare at it, the device grudgingly added, "...in certain circumstances."
    "Whatever," Magik said, picking the Pokégear up and pocketing it. "I've got this really bad headache..." he complained, rubbing at his eyes. "Last thing I remember-- Staryu!" He said with sudden panic.
    An answering chime from just above Magik's head indicated that Staryu seemed to have recovered from its temporary stun. The star-shaped Pokémon went to hover near the steps leading up to the surface, indicating that Magik should probably head back up soon.
    The boy smacked his palm into his forehead. "I really don't feel like climbing stairs right now. I've been walking, running, hiding and swimming all day, exploring this tower all night, and I just wanna' sleep!"
    An unsympathetic chime met his list of complaints, and Staryu's meaning was clear: an unequivocal 'suck it up.' Magik sighed, trying unsuccessfully to stifle a smile, and staggered over to where the steps began.
    "Where did Mismagius go, anyway?"
    "Gast." Gastly said, with finality and satisfaction.
    Magik grinned tiredly at the ghost-type as he took the first few steps of the long path back to where daylight was breaking in the world above. "Good job, Gastly. You too, Staryu. Thank you both."

    ---June 2, Year 1505 MTA; 06:45---


    Nurse's Log: Veronica Joy, Violet City, June 2, Year 1505 M.T.A.
    Thankfully, but quite unexpectedly, the problem seems to have been solved for us. However, I should report in chronological order:
    Shortly after midnight, the Ecruteak Gym Leader, Morty, arrived. Unable to recognize the cause of the unkown ailment afflicting the Pokémon from the Sprout Tower incident, on a hunch I sent a request for the ghost-type Leader to lend us his expert opinion.
    Upon arriving, he immediately diagnosed the problem: A condition he referred to as, "Curse-Induced Stupor." According to Morty, the only reliable way to remedy the effect was to find and defeat the ghost responsible. This left us in a precarious position, given that the Pokémon Center is a specifically medical establishment and not authorized to commission Trainers for missions such as elimination of dangerous Pokémon.
    However, to our surprise, at approximately 6:30am today (June 2) every single Sprout Tower-related patient was released from care, apparently completely recovered. Also, within a few minutes, we were in touch with the Hospital, where the Trainers who had previously been in untreatable comas had suddenly awoken, with headaches but otherwise none the worse for wear.
    At this point we can only assume that some brave Trainer has defeated the ghost Pokémon responsible for the Curse. This concludes today's log, for now. Having been up all night, I need to sleep...


    ---June 2, Year 1505 MTA; 08:03---


    Bright morning sunlight shone through the infirmary window as Riolu opened his eyes slowly, blinking against the bright light as he sat up and took stock of his situation. Though he seemed to dimly remember the room being full when he came in, the infirmary beds were entirely empty, except for the one he was lying in... Along with Weavile, who was watching him lazily from the pillow on her side of the bed.
    Not having noticed her there, Riolu jumped, then scooted away uncomfortably, blushing slightly.
    ~What, did I startle you?~ Weavile asked, a bit amused. ~I thought your Aura sense told you where everyone was.~
    ~So did I,~ said Riolu. ~I think it's that I'm getting so used to having you around all the time, I notice more when you're not there.~
    ~So the almighty Aura isn't infallible. Too bad! Ooh, so there is something that gets to you, after all. Look at you blush! I'm going to have to sneak up on you more often.~
    Riolu flushed even more deeply, the extra colour showing purple underneath his blue-black skin. He'd hoped his light blue fur would hide the blush, but apparently not. He was just glad that Weavile didn't realize the actual reason for his blush.
    ~Where do you think Magik is?~ he asked her, eager to change the subject. Weavile, sitting up, yawned and jumped off the bed, then went to look into the Pokémon Center's lobby.
    ~He's not here, but he should be back soon. Can't you use that Aura to figure out where he is? Or is there a range limit on that stuff?~
    Riolu thought about that for a moment. ~I can give it a try.~ As soon as he knew what he was looking for, Riolu could feel a presence that couldn't be anything but his Trainer. Magik's combined youthful energy and exuberant personality made him emanate Aura like a beacon to Riolu's sixth sense. That beacon was slightly dampened at the moment, though, by exhaustion. Riolu frowned. ~He's been up all night. And there are two Pokémon with him.~
    ~Ooh, company. I'm looking forward to meeting them!~ Weavile said, absently sharpening her claws on the doorframe.
    Riolu wasn't so sure. ~What if Magik loses interest in us, with new friends to play with?~
    Weavile gave him a don't-be-crazy look.
    ~Magik's not like that.~
    ~You're right.~ Riolu smiled. Weavile smiled back at him, and the young Pokémon's heart skipped a beat.
    Definitely a good thing that she doesn't know, Riolu thought ruefully, his blush returning in full force as Weavile skipped out of the room on her way to say hello to Magik and the newcomers.


    --Fin--



    Character Report:
    Required Characters: 40,000 to 60,000
    Used Characters (Story only, not intro/disclaimers/this report): 88,141
    Result: OVERKILL. But, as usual, I couldn't just cut off the epic ending.


    Author's Notes:
    *Magik doesn't keep his Pokémon in their Poké balls unless there's a practical reason to do so. That's why Weavile and Riolu are both out, travelling with him.
    *As you may have guessed, in my continuity, in addition to Trainers being able to 'leave the routes,' distances are expanded; Route 33 in Chapter 1 was quite short, but still took about ten minutes of running racing to cross, so logically, Route 32 is miles and miles long.
    *Some parts of this chapter, and almost the entirety of Chapter 1, tend to be very 'light-hearted,' perhaps verging on 'tasting like diabetes.' However, certain plot points of Chapter 2 and a few minor hints in Chapter 1 should be giving you the feeling that it's all going to turn a little bit less happy sometime soon... If you aren't getting that sensation then I'm doing something wrong.
    *The reference in Nurse Joy's Pokémon Center log to 'year 1505 M.T.A.' is thanks to Neighborhood-Guest. I originally had it be "5 After Rocket," for lack of anything better, but I asked for better suggestions and he came up with this beautiful little blurb:
    "The 'MTA' stands for 'metá tin álfa', the romanization of the phrase, "after alpha" in Greek. The reason for this is because, according to the article, the first form of writing began with the Unown at the various ruins of the known Pokemon world - including, you guessed it, the Ruins of Alph. This all happened 1500 years before Red/Blue/Green/Yellow; thus, '1505' is the year your story takes place in."
    Thanks, N-G!
    *The inclusion of the Pokémon food chain is one of my attempts at realism. They've got to eat something, many Pokédex entries refer to the Pokémon as using (insert ability here) to 'capture prey,' and it's just something that occurred to me that I need to use to add flavour. The Bellsprout on Route 32 are based on Venus Flytraps (though their evolved forms are actually more so.) Their entire body consists of a plant and a giant mouth, and their Pokédex entry says they capture 'prey' with their vines. Neighborhood-Guest asked whether Bellsprout just ate something half its size... The answer: yes, yes it did.
    Last edited by Magikchicken; 30th January 2011 at 07:39 PM.
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  6. #6
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    Default Re: Something to Prove: Chapter 2 Requires Grading

    In the words of the author, "random favoritism" for the win! :P

    Claimed, even though I'm still on a hiatus. I just couldn't pass it up.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Something to Prove

    Introduction:
    The sky was a clear, bright blue, with not a cloud in sight; today was the kind of day when the heavens seemed wide-open, as if one could simply step forward and lift off into the vast expanse of blue. The noonday sun, regally surveying the scene from directly above, bathed the world in a light that seemed to lend every blade of grass, every pool of water, a radiance of its own.
    Let me tell you, your introduction was absolutely beautiful. Not only did you describe the setting in vivid detail, but you also gave the readers an introduction to your story's characters in case they haven't read your first story. Everything was described with quite a keen eye for detail, and that added to the overall value of the story because I knew exactly where the story was taking place when it began. I also thought that it was excellent that the details, in a sense, followed the plot of the story - in other words, your introduction wasn't the only part that was described with such detail. Rather, the entire story was very detailed, but that's something that I will get into in later sections, so I'll just get to my point now.

    While your introduction was indeed very appealing for imagery and offered up plenty of eye candy (which, granted, is difficult in written form on its own, so that's commendable), I felt that it was lacking a hook that drew the reader in that wasn't the sheer amount of details that you provided. For many readers, these details will, in fact, draw them in; however, when some people skim over a story, a lot of detail right at the beginning may come across to them as a tedious read. I'm not one of them (thank goodness ^^; ), but there are people out there that simply wouldn't read this for the fact that there's a lot of detail right off the bat.

    The thing about developing a strong hook in your introduction is that you have do pull it off quickly and immediately. Get the reader's attention with something awesome in the beginning, hook them into your story's plot, and then go into detail about everything. Your story starts off with Magik exiting Union Cave to the blinding light of the Sun, which is all right on its own with enough detail; however, if you had offered up a small piece of the action when the Garchomp was about to kill him and the fisherman later in the story, and then flashed back to him stepping out of the cave, it would have really peaked the reader's interest. The battle with the Garchomp was really action-packed and interesting to read, so if the reader sees this immediately, they'll know that this story is worth going through all of the details, because they want to see the outcome of the action that you showed them in the beginning.

    So basically, bait the readers with a bit of action in the beginning, then goad them into reading further by either developing the action some more or moving the plot away from it for a while. Either way, they'll want to see more, and they'll continue reading.

    For the most part, your introduction did a good job covering all of the necessary things that an introduction needs, and all of those things were executed very well. You just need to work on drawing the reader in some more, and you'll be set.

    Plot:
    Magik exits Union Cave en route for Violet City. Along the way, he runs into a Trainer that obviously doesn't know how to control his Pokemon; his Garchomp nearly kills everyone present when it's released. However, he's saved by a Staryu that was caught in a whirlpool created by the Trainer's other Pokemon, a Gyarados.

    Not long afterward, Magik decides to keep going towards Violet City. Along the way, Riolu is poisoned by a wild Ekans, which hastens his pace. When he arrives, he finds that the whole town is having trouble with something in the basement of the Sprout Tower; upon investigation, he finds that the source is a Mismagius. It would have done the same thing it did to the townsfolk's Pokemon to Magik, but a Gastly that he helped earlier comes to his aid, and defeats the Pokemon, saving the town's Pokemon in the process.

    While the plots of this story (since this could probably qualify as two stories if you honestly wanted it to) may seem pretty basic in scope, they fit into the more lighthearted attitude that this story is having thus far. Everything is fleshed out well, and the details do a good job of supporting the flow of the plot.

    Having read your other story, I can say with confidence that your story seems to be lacking a central problem; since this is a story with multiple parts, a central conflict that directly involves the main character is pretty much imminent. The conflicts that you've introduced so far are good, but they lack the kind of impact on the story that a central conflict really has. What I'm essentially saying is that the conflicts you've given so far don't feel threatening, and the story could have just as easily gone on without them. A central conflict forever changes the scope of the story and everyone involved, and that really hasn't happened yet here.

    As you noted at the end of the story, I noticed the darker and edgier side of this story begin to surface at times, though, so the central conflict is more than likely on the way. Just make sure, when you do bring it up, it feels more threatening than what you've given us so far.

    Dialogue:
    No real complaints in this section. The dialogue that you'e chosen fits in with the tone of the story (save for a few vulgarities, but that's part of the darker side of the story, so that's really not a problem), and the personalities and emotions of the characters show through in their spoken words.

    My favorite part of your dialogue by far was how you showed Staryu's dialogue in the form of emoticons to suit its genderless nature. When I first saw the sad face being used when it was talking to Gastly, I honestly smiled. Later on, I made the connection to its bell-like voice being similar to the sound that AIM makes when a new message is posted, and since AIM uses emoticons, and all...

    I don't know if that was what you were going for, but that was what I got out of it. Good job with this part.

    Grammar:
    Stickler time! D:

    in the excited spark in his dark blue eyes
    Don't you mean "of his dark blue eyes"?

    held on to the boardwalk for dear life.
    You did this a couple of times - it should be "onto" in this case.

    He was back at the Center at the base of Mount Union, and the sun was a bit further towards towards the western horizon than it had been the last time he'd set out from here. It was still barely past three in the afternoon, though, so Magik wasn't about to call it quits.
    Whaddaya mean, "towards towards"? O.o

    That beacon was slightly damped at the moment, though, by exhaustion.
    In my personal opinion, I think "dampened" would have been a better choice there, even though what you chose works just as well. I just think my choice reads a bit better, that's all.

    Nitpicking aside, let's get into the main problem that I noticed with your grammar.

    Pidgeys fluttered amongst the treetops, occasionally startling a sleeping Hoothoot; Once, Magik stopped to stare with amazement as a sudden gust of wind dislodged a whole cloud of Hoppip,
    You definitely used semicolons more in this story, as ST recommended, but there were a few grammatical issues with the majority of them when you used them. This is one of those cases: when you use a semicolon to link two distinct but related thoughts together, you don't capitalize the word that comes after the semicolon. This happened a few times in your story, so I figured it was worth pointing out. Here's another example:

    A nearby fisherman waved an easygoing hello; the boy nodded and waved back, but continued to watch the river: His attention had been caught by a spot of turbulence a ways out into the water.
    The same rules apply with colons: you don't capitalize after you use one. In this case, I think that the following would have been a better way to word it:

    A nearby fisherman waved an easygoing hello; the boy nodded and waved back, but continued to watch the river, as his attention had been caught by a spot of turbulence a ways out into the water.
    One more, for good measure!

    Within, Magik could see a number of disoriented-looking water-type Pokémon swirling around helplessly, but they didn't hold his attention: The roar had come from the giant, draconic blue-and-tan Pokémon that had been creating the whirlpool: A Gyarados.
    Same as above. I noticed that you wanted to put emphasis on the reveal of the Gyarados; if you want to do that, separate the reveal from the rest of the paragraph, like so:

    The roar had come from the giant, draconic blue-and-tan Pokémon that had been creating the whirlpool.

    A Gyarados.
    Giving that kind of attention to a specific sentence makes it much more noticeable to the reader.

    The above isn't to deter you into thinking that you didn't use semicolons right; I found several examples of correct use, so you only need to correct these small errors. The below example is one of many better uses of the semicolon:

    The injured dragon left a thin trail of purplish blood on the boardwalk behind it, but this didn't seem to slow it down; its every step made the entire section of floating walkways sway from side to side unsteadily.
    Only a couple more things, and then we can move on. Take a look at this:

    "Oh, you're up." The nurse from before said, emerging from the Infirmary.
    What's wrong with this, you ask? Well, the word "said" modifies the dialogue and makes the dialogue itself and the words following it into a single sentence. When the dialogue uses a period at the end and you're using "said" or something similar as a modifier, you replace the period with a comma. You also don't capitalize the first word following the dialogue. Here's the corrected version:

    "Oh, you're up," the nurse from before said, emerging from the Infirmary.
    Finally, last one!

    Very well... But remember: Stay in pairs.
    If you use an ellipsis to end a sentence, you should place an extra period on the end of the ellipsis and then leave a space to denote it:

    Very well.... But remember: Stay in pairs.
    You left the space but forgot the extra period, so I figured I should point it out for you.

    Don't let the sheer number of examples I gave make you think that your grammar is bad; I had to look really hard to find all of them, so overall, your grammar is great. Moving on!

    Detail and Description:
    Amazing.

    That one word describes your details. You did an excellent job fixing the mistake that you made with details that ST pointed out last time. You literally described everything around your characters, and you did so quite well, so the story was easy to visualize from start to finish.

    Here are a few of the parts that I particularly liked:

    Opening one such bundle, the boy laid out a veritable feast-- six tuna-and-cheese sandwiches, a full thermos of cold Moomoo Milk, and a generous pile of dried Apricorns-- and the three travelers dug in with gusto.
    Ever heard of the Bag of Holding? I noticed that you like to reference articles from TVTropes, so I did a little research of my own. In any case, this part reminded me of that article; it was all the more so when I found out that Magik had more of those from when his Mom made them for him before he left Azalea Town. And considering your note about how the routes are longer than in the games, well... xD

    As Magik passed by, watching with interest, a hapless Combee buzzed too close to one of the Bellsprout, and a vine lashed out to capture it, the flytrap Pokémon swallowing the tiny bee whole.
    O.o

    Holy Hell...the Bellsprout swallowed something that's almost half its size? I didn't know its mouth was that big! Perhaps a Weepinbell would have been better here, but that's just my opinion.

    Now for a suggestion!

    'After Rocket,' as in '5th Year After Rocket,' may not be a realistic milestone-- after all, eras are rarely marked by anything so minor as a political/gang movement's downfall-- but it's definitely the best choice for indicating approximately when the story takes place: two years or so after the events of Gold/Silver/Crystal/HeartGold/SoulSilver, or five years after Red/Blue/Yellow. If anyone's got a better suggestion, given the extremely vague history of the Pokémon World, I'd be glad to hear it.
    I've come up with a couple of possible solutions for you using Bulbapedia's article on the history of the Pokemon world.

    The first is "A.M.", meaning "After Mew". According to the article, the population of Mew dwindled when they metamorphosed into both humans and other species of Pokemon. This seems like a good place for a turning point in a timeline to me. However, the problem with this system would be placing the exact date of when the metamorphoses actually started; that's anybody's guess, since there's no mention of exactly when it happened in any Pokemon media. So let's try for something a little more fitting for the region this takes place in, shall we?

    1505 M.T.A.

    The "MTA" stands for "metá tin álfa", the romanization of the phrase, "after alpha" in Greek. The reason for this is because, according to the article, the first form of writing began with the Unown at the various ruins of the known Pokemon world - including, you guessed it, the Ruins of Alph. This all happened 1500 years before Red/Blue/Green/Yellow; thus, the "1505" to accommodate your story. Logic dictates that, once the first form of writing was established, humans would be able to actually write down the date, so why not start keeping track of it when they were first able to do so?

    That second one was a stroke of genius on my part, I think. ^^

    /big ego

    Battle:
    This Grade is long enough as it is, so I'll just give my most basic thoughts about your battles. They were all excellent. 'Nuff said.

    Length:
    Staryu and Gastly are in the Hard category; the suggested length for Pokemon in this category is 20,000 to 30,000 characters. Combined, this story calls for 40,000 to 60,000 characters. Your story is 86,736 characters, so it's OVERKILL, but that's fine. ^^;

    Outcome:
    Drum roll, please...

    ...

    When Riolu read Magik's Aura, he couldn't help but notice that the two Pokemon that were with him had bonded in a way. When he really thought about it, he realized that this connection that they shared was not unlike the one he and Weavile shared with their Trainer.

    Looks like they'd be having some more company on their walks.

    Gotcha! Staryu and Gastly were caught!

    I'll be honest, I really like where you've gone with this story so far, and I'm definitely looking forward to what you'll come up with next. Just try to work on my suggestions in the future, and I won't have to sound like I'm complaining for half of the Grade. :P

    Enjoy your catches!

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