Pokemon: Legendary Adventures (The Journey Begins) @flyg0n
KOa'd

A HAH! Chapter 21! Full of confidence, Koa makes his way to Veilstone to challenge Maylene. But will he be successful?

Also if you like Kitto, or any of the battles with him especially, check out Hawkosa on deviantart! He basically created the character and helped choreograph the fight in the previous chapter, as well as many of the later battles in Flames of Victory.

Echo (Male Golbat) {Ability: Inner Focus} - Confuse Ray, Poison Fang, Crunch, Air Slash

Hazard (Male Joltik) {Ability: Compound eyes} - Bug Bite, Electroweb, String Shot, Giga Drain

Rascal (Female Tyrunt) {Ability: Strong Jaw} - Dragon Tail, Ancient Power, Stomp, Crunch

Anubis (Male Houndoom) {Ability: Flash Fire} - Flamethrower, Dark Pulse, Thunder Fang, Howl

Scrapper (Male Breloom) {Ability: Effect Spore} - Seed Bomb, Mach Punch, Sky Uppercut, Giga Drain

Flurry (Female Spheal) {Ability: Thick Fat} - Aqua Ring, Defense Curl, Rollout


"Echo, finish this with Air Slash!"

Echo's wings glowed blue and hurled the razor-sharp blades of air at his opponent, a Haunter, knocking it to the ground. It didn't move again. The Haunter's trainer, a young girl named Margo, returned her pokemon and grinned amiably. "Wow, your Golbat is really strong! You're nearly as good as the Battle Triplets I bet!"

"Thanks!" Koa replied. Echo flew back and settled on his shoulders, clearly pleased with himself. Margo, a young girl close to his age, had challenged him just before he entered Veilstone City. Echo had been quite eager for a battle it seemed, so he'd accepted her offer of a one-on-one. "Who are the Battle Triplets?" he asked curiously.

"They're these super cool siblings who know just about everything about pokemon. Like which pokemon are the strongest and which ones aren't, and all kinds of weird mathematical stuff. I bet they must be one of the strongest trainers in Sinnoh!"

Koa couldn't resist a snort at that. "Strongest in Sinnoh? What about Cynthia?"

She chuckled. "Well, not that strong I guess. But they are pretty tough. And smart, like I said. They helped me teach my pokemon some new moves and stuff. Maybe you should talk to them."

"Huh..." he mused. That sounded intriguing. If they really were some kind of experts on pokemon, they could help make his team stronger. It could only help in his journey, after all. "Where can I find them? Are they here in Veilstone?"

Margo only shrugged. "I think so. They were staying at the Pokemon Center a couple days ago. Maybe they're still there."

"Thanks for the tip. I'll keep an eye out." Koa started for the gate to Veilstone. "Good luck on your journey!" he called back.

"You too!" she called, before jogging away.

A renewed vigor filled Koa as he entered the city. He took a deep breath, reveling in the scent of the ocean mixed with the scents of the city. Echo fluttered on his back, clearly eager with anticipation. Fortunately, finding the pokemon center proved simple enough. It sported the usual trademark red roof, though was considerably larger than Celestic Town's. It stood at least three stories tall and occupied almost half a city block. He stepped inside and handed off Echo to the nurse.

When she returned, holding a fully healed Echo in his pokeball, he decided to ask her about the Battle Triplets.

"Oh yes, they're here now actually! They reserved the battlefield in the back," Nurse Joy replied.

Koa took Echo's pokeball back and started towards the rear exit. "Thanks!" he called back. He stepped through the doors and onto the battlefield. His eyes darted about as he took in the scene before him. He seemed to have arrived midway through a battle. A girl with a Minun stood on one side of the field. Opposite her stood three trainers, though only one seemed to be battling.

The first was a young boy with dark hair, green eyes, and narrow features. He was flanked by what Koa could only assume were his siblings - another young boy who was nearly identical to him, and a girl. Both sported the same color hair and similar features. They wore similar outfits as well: black jackets with silver studs, sporty leggings, and t-shirts. The only real difference between them seemed to be their hair. The lead boy, the one battling, had a streak of green. The girl had a streak of pink in her hair, while the third boy, who lingered towards the back, had a red streak.

Their opponent appeared to be using a Minun, while the green-haired boy seemed to be using a strange looking bipedal feline pokemon. Gray fur covered its chest and body, and red stripes circled its legs, arms and face. A fiery 'belt' of sorts wrapped around its midsection. It towered over the Minun, its yellow eyes leering down at its opponent. Judging by the looks of it, the Minun wasn't fairing well. It panted heavily and stood slightly hunched over, though its eyes still held a spark of determination. At a command from the girl, the Minun rushed forwards in a Quick Attack, darting around the larger feline.

I got off a single Spark attack before the feline twisted around and released a powerful Fire Blast attack from the 'belt' around its waist. The flames struck Minun before it could dodge, tossing it backward. Just like that, the battle was over.

The girl returned her Minun and tucked the pokeball away and crossed the field, shaking hands with her opponent. "Thanks for the battle," the girl said. "Your Incineroar is really strong."

So that's what that pokemon was. Koa recognized the name now as the final form of one of the three traditional starters given out on the islands of Alola. Obviously, it was fire-type.

The lead boy shrugged. "Incineroar are just naturally strong. High attack power and a wide-ranged moveset they can utilize. Minun just aren't strong."

A frown stretched across the girl's face. "But... He's the first pokemon I ever got. We've worked hard and he's done really well! I even beat-"

"Numbers are numbers," the boy replied, matter of factly.

His sister elbowed him hard. "Dimitri!" she hissed. She turned towards the girl and offered her an apologetic smile. "Sorry Joanna. Your Minun is lovely. I think what my brother was trying to say is that your Minun might not be the best for high-level competition. They simply... don't have the natural strength that other pokemon do. But he'll be just fine if you just want to do regular battles."

"Oh," Joanna said quietly. "Is there anything I can do to make him stronger? I don't want to get rid of him. I... I really like Minun."

Dimitri frowned and crossed his arms. "Oh please, Demetria. Don't try to sugarcoat the truth." He turned his gaze back on Joanna. "You should get rid of it if you want to go anywhere, kid. Some pokemon are just made to be weak. That's just stats."

"Oh..." she opened her mouth, then shut it and frowned.

Demetria waved her brother off. "Ignore my brother. He's all stats. I think it's sweet that you like Minun so much."

"You should teach your Minun Thunderbolt instead of Spark."

Koa's gaze was drawn to the third sibling, who until now hadn't spoken. He had his hands in his pockets and seemed almost bored. Or perhaps tired, Koa wasn't sure.

"How come?" Joanna asked quietly.

"Minun excel at using special attacks." The red-haired boy spoke in a low voice, so low Koa could barely hear him. "Unless your Minun has been specially trained, its physical power is very low. But if you give it a strong special attack like Thunderbolt, you can deal a lot more damage."

Demetria held up one finger. "I actually have a TM for that. I could teach it to your Minun if you like."

Joanna brightened considerably at the suggestion and nodded emphatically. Demetria pulled out a TM case. A few seconds later, the deed was done. "Thank you so much," Joanna said, smiling. She bid the three farewell then hurried back into the pokemon center.

Once she had left, Dimitri shot his sister a glare. "I don't get why you gotta be so soft with these trainers. Someone's gotta tell them the facts."

Demetria rolled her eyes. "Just because we know everything doesn't mean everybody else is interested in knowing. Maybe some people just like training for fun."

At that, Dimitri snorted. "Fun? What's the point in that?"

"Oh please," Demetria said. She rolled her eyes and gave her brother a shove. Dimitri just snorted and shook his head, though there didn't seem to be any malice in the gesture.

"We have company." The third sibling spoke again, and his gaze shifted to stare directly at Koa. Koa flinched, then waved awkwardly. He hadn't exactly meant to eavesdrop, but he couldn't help but be intrigued by the trio. Although seeing how they had spoken to 'Joanna' put him on edge. All the talk about stats and numbers and natural strength annoyed him. He was sure there was more to training and to pokemon. Echo and Hazard were sure proof of that.

All three approached him, though Dimitri's expression seemed vaguely annoyed whilst his sister seemed amicable. Koa strode forwards, meeting them halfway. "Hey. Sorry about that, I didn't mean to eavesdrop." He held out his hand. "My name is Koamaru."

Demetria shook his hand firmly. Now that he was closer, he could see the three were probably in their late teens, a few years his senior. "Names Demetria. This is my brother Dimitri-" she gestured to the boy with the green-streak in his hair "-and this is my other brother, Deuce." She pointed over her shoulder to the third sibling, who sported red in his hair.

Deuce offered a nod in acknowledgment, which Koa returned.

"We're the Battle Triplets," Demetria stated proudly.

"I heard about you guys. You're some kind of battle experts, right? And you're supposed to be really strong?" he asked. Perhaps he could learn something from them, and make his team even stronger.

Dimitri frowned. "Really strong? Yeah, I guess you could say that. We're former champions of the Super Single Battle Subway. So yeah, we're strong. Not to mention champions of the Battle Tree."

"The...Super battle subway? And the Battle Tree?" Koa asked, gritting his teeth and doing his best to ignore Dimitri's derisive attitude. Dimitri rolled his eyes, which earned him a glare from his sister. "That's those specialized battle centers right? Like the Battle Zone, right?"

"Exactly. It's a special battle challenge in the Unova region," Demetria explained. "And the Battle Tree is located in Alola."

"Did you want something from us?" Deuce asked, his voice direct, though it lacked the abrasiveness of his brother.

"Well... I want to be a strong trainer. I'm working my way through the gyms right now, but I thought maybe you could give me some tips," Koa replied.

A literal groan escaped Dimitri, while Demetria seemed unfazed. Deuce nodded, as if he'd expected Koa's request. Koa resisted the ever-growing urge to smack Dimitri.

"Sure! We'd love to."

Koa found himself doubting if Dimitri would 'love to', but he put on his best face. Demetria seemed nice enough after all.

"So what kind of pokemon have you caught?" Demetria asked.

"Hopefully you've at least got a Gible or Gabite," Dimitri muttered under his breath.

Koa scowled at the reminder. He reached immediately for Rascal's pokeball and released her. She burst out with a roar, glaring at the three trainers in front of her, raising her snout proudly. He caught the looks of surprise on the faces of the three and relished it.

"Huh..." was all Dimitri said.

"Impressive," Demetria murmured. "So what else do you have?"

One by one, Koa sent out the rest of his pokemon. First Anubis, then Scrapper, Hazard, Flurry and Echo. They emerged with a cacophony of cries, making Koa smile slightly. As always, the sight of his team filled him with a sense of pride. Each of them was strong, and had trained hard. "What do you think?" he asked, grinning.

Silence met his question. Dimitri looked downright unimpressed, eyeing his team with a look of disdain, while Demetria seemed hesitant. Her gaze lingered on Anubis, who stared back at her, his gaze narrowed. Deuce's face was unreadable.

Dimitri spoke first, unsurprisingly. "Your team sucks."

Rage boiled inside Koa. "Excuse me?" His fists clenched unconsciously and he took a step towards the older boy.

"It's just facts." Dimitri took an annoyed breath before continuing. "It'd be impossible to use a team like that. I mean don't get me wrong, a Houndoom is pretty good. And a Tyrantrum would provide excellent attack power, especially if it has a good ability. But the rest of your team is unusable. Why is your Joltik holding an Everstone? If it doesn't want to evolve, catch another electric type. And a Golbat? Even if you can get it to evolve, it won't be tough enough. They simply can't take a hit, unless you train them to have good EV's. A good sweeper could knock them right out. And a Breloom? Sure they have a niche but they also have too many weaknesses. You'd be much better off with a Machamp or another strong fighting type."

Koa blinked as his mind reeled. Anger pulsed inside him, and a hundred replies raced through his head, but none really matched the confusion, anger, and frustration he felt. His pokemon gave growls of anger, Scrapper, in particular, looking insulted.

Before he could reply, however, Demetria cleared her throat. "I... I think I have to agree with my brother on this one."

Koa whirled on her, ready to snap back. Noting his anger, she quickly held her hands up in a placating motion. "I'm sure you worked hard to train your team, and I have no doubt they're wonderful pokemon. But..."

"But what?" Koa snarled.

"Numbers are numbers is all. Statistically, your team wouldn't fare well in the long run. A lot of trainers who become strong in Sinnoh use pokemon like Staraptor and Garchomp for a reason. And usually, they'll have one of the traditional starters. Those are just stronger pokemon, I'm afraid. Not that you can't use your pokemon, but if you really want to break into the competitive field, you'll need to think about training a new team." She shrugged, then smiled, genuinely. "If you just want to challenge gyms though, you don't have to worry."

Deja-vu struck Koa as he heard her words. She sounded just like he had when he'd first began his journey. More knowledgeable, maybe, but the same beliefs. Some pokemon were simply inherently better. "No. I want to battle with my pokemon," he growled, glaring in particular at Dimitri. "Any pokemon has the potential to be strong."

"Don't be a fool. You asked for our advice," Dimitri said. "You don't become the best by using a Raticate. Hitmonchan lacks any kind of reasonable defense. And Golbat are weak. It's just numbers." He shrugged as if stating something as simple as the weather.

"This isn't some kind of game!" Koa cried. "There's more to battling than just numbers. And I'll prove it to you. Come watch me battle at Veilstone gym. I'll show you what my pokemon are capable of." At that, Scrapper gave a cry of agreement, and Echo shrieked defiantly. A low growl rumbled in Anubis's throat.

Dimitri sighed. "No thanks-"

"We should watch," Deuce said. Both Demetria and Dimitri turned and looked at him, surprised. "Why not? Perhaps we may learn something," he said simply. They glanced at each other, shrugged, then nodded.

"We'd love to watch," Demetria said with an eager smile.

xXx

"Welcome to the Veilstone Gym." Maylene trotted across the packed dirt floor of the battlefield to her end of the field. A referee took up a position on the side, and Koa stepped into the challenger's box. His heart thudded in his chest, and out of the corner of his eyes, he noted the Battle Triplets seated in the bleachers beside the battlefield. A referee took up a position on the side of the field.

"So, you good with a three-on-three?" Maylene called.

Koa grinned and nodded. "Sounds good to me!" He already knew exactly which three pokemon he'd be going with. Echo first, obviously. As for his other two, he'd decided on the walk over that he would be using Hazard and Scrapper. Both deserved the chance to show off what they were capable of.

Maylene smiled, determination clear in her expression. She began to bounce lightly on her toes as if already anticipating the battle. "We'll go with the usual rules, if that's alright with you. You can substitute, but I can't. We continue until one of us is out of usable Pokemon. Sound good?"

A trace of nervousness flickered through him as he nodded. He hadn't done any of his usual research or preparation. Had he made a mistake? Shaking his head, he pushed away the thought. No. He didn't need strategy anymore. Not with a strong flying type like Echo, plus his other pokemon. He could do this. Across the field, Maylene nodded to the referee, who held up his arm.

"This match will be between gym leader Maylene and Challenger Koamaru! Will the gym leader please send out her first pokemon," he said calmly.

Standing confidently, Maylene pulled out a pokeball from her pocket and released his first opponent. A tough-looking Machoke emerged onto the field, flexing its muscles. It grinned, taking up a fighting stance. Koa smiled. Well, if she wanted to use a Machoke...

"Go, Echo!"

In a flash of light, Echo emerged, shrieking eagerly.

"Battle begin!"

"Poison Fang!" Echo had barely moved before Maylene called her attack.

"Brick Break!" The two Pokemon lunged for each other, Echo with purple fangs and Machoke with its fist glowing. As Echo drew near, Machoke struck at him. He wheeled narrowly out of the way and sank his jaws into Machoke's arm. In a blur of motion, Machoke smashed his other fist into Echo, sending him flying.

"Air Slash!" Koa cried. Echo caught himself midair and unleashed the attack.

Machoke lunged with impressive dexterity, dodging the attack. "Focus Energy," Maylene said. Machoke took up a defensive stance, tucking its head and arms inward. A golden orange aura flashed around its body.

Koa wasted no time calling his next attack. "Poison Fang." All it would take was a good dose of toxic poison and then an Air Slash or two, and he could win this, easy. Machoke probably wasn't even that strong-

Echo sank his jaws into Machoke's back, causing the reptilian pokemon to flinch. A purple sheen shone in its eyes and Koa couldn't resist a small grin and a glance towards the Battle Triplets. All three wore unreadable expressions, though Dimitri seemed unimpressed. Well, they would be soon. With the poison weakening Machoke, this battle was practically over already-

Maylene delivered her next command with absolute confidence. "Brick Break!" Glowing orange, Machoke leaped into the air, above Echo. Koa gasped. He hadn't expected such a muscular pokemon to be able to propel itself so high. In a single, swift motion, it brought its glowing fist crashing down on Echo, slamming him into the earth.

"Rock Tomb." Machoke landed neatly, then slammed both hands into the earth.

Panic seized Koa. "Echo, get up!" he cried. Rocks surged upwards, surrounding the dazed Golbat, and blocking him from Koa's view. A split second later they crashed down on top of Echo, burying him. A silence fell over the battlefield.

"Echo!" Koa shouted. He jogged onto the battlefield as the huge rocks crumbled to pebbles. Through the faint film of dust, Echo's unconscious form was clearly evident. Heart sinking, Koa knelt next to his pokemon and scooped him up. His eyes flickered open and he uttered an apologetic squeak. "It's ok Echo," he murmured. "We... we just weren't prepared for that Rock Tomb is all." Or maybe you underestimated your opponent. As soon as the thought entered his mind he brushed it off. Machoke had just gotten a critical hit, that was all. Without saying another word, he returned Echo and returned to his side of the battlefield.

His mind reeled, and he forced himself not to look at the Battle Triplets. This was not how this match was supposed to go. Echo was supposed to beat at least two of her pokemon. Instead he hadn't even beat one. Now he'd just lost his best advantage against the gym. His heart raced as his hand brushed over Scrapper's pokeball and Hazard's. Or perhaps Tyrantrum was a better choice? How would he defeat Machoke plus her other two pokemon?

After several more seconds of deliberation, he reluctantly released Hazard. "Alright Hazard, we gotta take down Machoke. It defeated Echo, but it's poisoned." Hazard chittered in acknowledgment and glared at Machoke. The reptilian eyed its small opponent with a look of amusement. It flinched again, clearly still suffering from the effects of poison. At the sight of Hazard, Maylene smiled. "That's a pretty unique pokemon you got. Let's see how strong it is! Machoke, Rock Tomb!"

A silvery glow encompassed Machoke and it roared, a circle of rocks forming high above Hazard. With a grunt, Machoke brought them cascading down towards Joltik.

"Dodge with String Shot!" Koa called. Hazard launched a line of web at one of the falling rocks, zipping to it and leaping off. He darted nimbly from rock to with String Shot, displaying an impressive jumping power than surprised even Koa. He landed safely outside the range of the rocks, only a few feet away from Machoke.

"Brick Break!" Machoke brought its fist down on Hazard, smashing him into the ground. Hazard uttered a cry of shock and staggered backward out of the crater, dazed. Koa cursed inwardly. Another critical. Not good.

"String Shot! Blind it." Hazard shook off the damage and fired a blast of webbing at Machoke striking it in the face. It grunted in shock as its eyes were completely covered, and stumbled backward.

"Electroweb!" Koa shouted, determined to press his brief advantage. Hazard fired the burst of electrical webbing at Machoke, hitting it in the chest, causing it to grunt and fall to one knee. Hope briefly surged in Koa. He could still win this. Machoke was now severely weakened from the poison and the attacks. "Okay Hazard, finish it with Bug Bite," he said nonchalantly, confidence returning to him. He could have this battle in the bag.

Hazard's pincers glowed white and he moved towards Machoke.

"Machoke," Maylene called, her voice surprisingly calm. "Dynamic Punch." As she spoke the words, she mimicked a punching motion, straight downwards. Machoke stopped struggling, holding up one fist. A vivid orange glow surrounded it and in a near exact copy of Maylene's motion, punched straight down. The command and action only took a second to execute. The next thing Koa realized, Machoke drove its fist straight into Hazard, sending him skidding backward.

When he stopped, he lay still for several moments. Koa gaped. Somehow, somehow Machoke had known exactly where to attack. Even blinded, it had managed to get off the attack. "Hazard, are you ok?" he shouted. Hazard shifted and pushed himself to his feet. He stumbled around a few steps, confusion kicking in. Koa cursed. Dynamic Punch was an exceedingly powerful move that sacrificed accuracy for power and hitting the opponent in such a way that it confused them.

Across the field, Machoke had just managed to pull some of the webbings off its eyes. It was breathing heavily, its whole body trembling from the effects of poison. Unfortunately, Hazard didn't look any better. Taking the effects of two very powerful critical hits had taken its toll. "Alright Hazard, use one more Electroweb!"

Hazard began charging the attack. Then, without warning, a pulse of electricity surged through him and he shocked himself. At nearly the same moment, Machoke staggered, then keeled over, finally unconscious from the poison. The referee raised his flags.

"Both pokemon are unable to battle! The match is a tie."

Koa's heart sank. He slowly raised his pokeball and returned Hazard, gripping the ball tightly. He was down to his last pokemon, while Maylene still had two. How on earth was he going to win this? This was all going so, so wrong. A sense of dread filled him as he selected Scrapper's pokeball and sent him out. At nearly the same moment, Maylene sent out her pokemon. A Meditite emerged, hovering a few inches above the ground, its eyes closed.

Scrapper glared determinedly at his opponent, dancing lightly on his feet and he threw a few experimental jabs. He stopped, then glared at Koa, giving a defiant cry. Koa forced himself to focus. "Let's do this, Scrapper."

The referee called the match.

"Mach Punch," Koa snapped. Scrapper sprinted forwards, fist pure white. He became a blur, appearing suddenly in front of Meditite and slamming his fist into the opposing pokemon. It glided backward several feet, still maintaining its hovering posture.

"Seed Bomb." Scrapper formed the glowing green sphere and launched it forwards.

"Detect!" Maylene gave her command moments before the Seed Bomb struck. Meditite's eyes shot open and pulsed with a green light. It twisted its body, allowing Seed Bomb to pass harmlessly by it. "Now, Psycho Cut." Meditite stood and held out its hands. Its eyes flashed purple and a crescent blade of energy shot from its hands, slamming into Scrapper, making him cringe. The Breloom caught himself, dropping briefly to one knee before standing again.

Swallowing, Koa forced himself to focus on the battle. "Sky Uppercut!" Scrapper sprinted forwards, fist orange. Before Meditite could react, he drove his fist into the opponent's chin, causing it to fly into the air. It landed hard but quickly regained its footing.

With no hesitation, Maylene called her command. "Drain Punch." Bot of Meditite's fists began to shimmer with energy. It flitted across the field and appeared in front of Scrapper. It lashed out with one punch, which Scrapper dodged, then caught him in the chest with the second. Just as it did, however, Scrapper leered at it, grinning triumphantly.

Meditite withdrew its fist. A second later, sparks danced over its body as it seized up. A brief moment of relief washed over Koa. Effect Spore had kicked in. "Now, Seed Bomb!" Scrapper summoned the sphere and fired it quickly.

Meditite cringed, its eyes flickered purple as it attempted another Psycho Cut, but was cut short by a burst of static as its body froze. The Seed Bomb crashed onto its head, knocking it to the ground. "Mach Punch!"

"Detect!" Meditite eyes flashed and as Scrapper blurred forwards, it deftly twisted out of the way. As Scrapper passed harmlessly by, its eyes flashed purple and it fired a Psycho Cut.

"Jump!" Scrapper leaped upwards just in time, allowing the attack to pass under him. "Giga Drain." Scrapper landed and shot a blast of green energy at Meditite, sucking away its energy. "Psycho Cut!" it shuddered from paralysis, giving Scrapper an extra second to absorb more energy. Then its eyes shone purple and it blasted a blade of energy under the beam of Giga Drain. The attack struck Scrapper's legs, knocking him to the floor.

As Koa stared at the downed form of Scrapper, a hollow feeling grew inside him. Scrapper struggled to stand, his eyes still burning with determination. Meditite moved closer, still slowed by the effects of paralysis. No attacks, strategies or ideas came to him. What would be the point of trying to think of something now? The battle was over. Scrapper was conscious, yes, but there was just... no way he could succeed. Maylene still had one more pokemon.

"Bullet Punch." When Maylene gave the command, Scrapper glanced back at him and gave an angry cry. Meditite darted forwards. Its fists shone with a metallic sheen. Then it struck, a rapid flurry of blows that hammered into Scrapper's face. He dropped to the ground, eyes closed. Unconscious.

"Breloom is unable to battle!" The referee shouted. "Gym leader Maylene is the winner."

In a daze, Koa returned Scrapper. He stared at the floor, his arms hanging loosely by his sides. From the corner of his vision, he noted the Battle Triplets, watching him. Maylene approached, her expression serious. "That was a good battle. I can see that you care a lot about your pokemon. But you can't get ahead of yourself during a battle. A trainer should always give 100%, even if they think they've already won. And especially if they think they've already lost. I had to learn that lesson a long time ago. True strength isn't always about winning. It's in how you battle."

Koa merely nodded, barely hearing her words. He'd lost. And not just lost, but he'd been humiliated. He hadn't even defeated two of her pokemon. "Thanks..." he mumbled hoarsely. Turning away quickly, he rushed out of the gym. He didn't really want to see anyone right now, or for anyone to see him.

As he stepped outside, he desperately sucked in a breath of fresh air. A wild flurry of emotions surged through him. Disappointment, anger, sadness. Unlike his loss to Roark, this felt worse. Back then, it had just been inexperience. Challenging a gym with just one pokemon was stupid. This time... he didn't have an excuse. Worst of all, he'd lost in front of the Battle Triplets. At the thought of them, a sick feeling grew in the pit of his stomach. Were they right?

Picking up his pace, he returned to the Pokemon Center. His mind was still spinning, but he tried not to think about any of it. Instead, he handed his pokemon off to Nurse Joy and found a seat in the lobby to wait. A few minutes later, his name was called, and he picked up his pokeballs, clipping them back on his belt. He turned around, intent on leaving, only to see the Battle Triplets standing a few feet away, expectant looks etched across their faces. Or rather, two of them. Demetria and Dimitri.

"That was rough," Demetria said, offering a sympathetic smile. "You had a good strategy though, trying to poison her Machoke."

"I saw it coming from a mile away," Dimitri grumbled. "A Golbat, Joltik, and Breloom? Those pokemon won't cut it. A Breloom has too much dependence on a good matchup, and he isn't bulky enough to last long. And like I said, Golbat don't become properly viable unless they evolve. If you can make that happen. Although even if that did happen you could probably do better, considering your team build. And don't even get me started on your Joltik."

"Shut up!" he snapped. He clenched his fits, glaring furiously at Dimitri. "You don't know anything."

"Yeah, kid, the two-time winners at the Battle Subway and Champions of the Battle Tree 'don't know anything'." Dimitri snapped, air quoting his words. "Maybe it's time you faced reality. You-"

"I don't care," Koa growled out the words, his fists shaking. He was genuinely contemplating just punching the kid.

Demetria glared furiously at Dimitri. "Enough! Have some decency, Dimitri!" she cried. "You can't force everyone to battle like you." She turned her gaze upon Koa, "You should have no trouble beating Maylene, I'm sure. But if you like, I would be more than happy to trade one of my training pokemon to you. I have a Togetic that I've been working with that would be perfect-"

The offer was surprising, but he didn't care either way. "Thanks but no thanks. I'll do this my way." Turning on his heel, he started to stride away. Right now, all he wanted to do was train.

He hadn't gone more than three steps outside the center before he ran into someone. He stepped back, an apology on his lips when he recognized the boy in front of him. The third sibling of the Triplets, Deuce.

"Here to gloat?" he grumbled.

Deuce regarded him with a measured gaze, then sighed. "And you wouldn't have gloated if you had won?"

The question made Koa pause.

"You wouldn't have rubbed it in our faces, telling my siblings and I how your 'friendship' and 'bonds' can overcome anything?" His tone remained calm and even, free of any aggression.

Even so, it ticked Koa off. A scowl began to grow on his face. Before he could muster a response, Deuce continued.

"Do you think you're the first trainer my siblings and I have battled who tries to preach to us about the merits of friendship over facts and stats?" Still, his tone remained calm as if asking a simple question.

Gritting his teeth, Koa pushed his anger down. "No," he said slowly. "But it doesn't mean it's not true."

"How do you know?"

"Because-" Koa stopped in his tracks. He narrowed his eyes. "Are you saying it's not, then? Some pokemon are just born weak? Born lesser?"

Deuce regarded him carefully. "I didn't say that. But how can you stand there and tell me that friendship can take you anywhere after a battle like that? How can you claim that any pokemon can be strong if you can't show it?" He paused. His tone shifted, growing softer. "Actions speak louder than words. If you believe this so badly, then prove it."

Koa blinked, then frowned. "Why do you care?" he asked after a moment.

"Maybe..." Deuce began, then shook his head. He let out a long sigh. "Maybe I think there's more to it than just stats and numbers. And EV's and IV's."

Koa blinked in confusion. "What does Eevee have to do with this?"

Deuce chuckled softly and shook his head. "Not that kind. Anyways, that's not what's important. I want you to succeed with your team. I want to know if you're right if there's more to pokemon than just natural strength." He smirked. "Of course, I won't believe it until you beat me in a battle. So you better train hard. And beat Maylene next time."

Koa drew back and blinked. That definitely wasn't the response he expected. He stood up a little taller, looking Deuce straight in the eyes and smirking. "I will. And I'll come back and beat you, once I'm done training."

Respect glinted in Deuce's eyes and he nodded, then started to walk away. He paused and turned back. "And here, you can probably use this, I think." Reaching inside his jacket, he withdrew a light blue disc. Koa took it from him. "Ice Beam TM. The fancy reusable kind. It would be good for your Spheal." With a faint grin, he turned and disappeared into the crowds.

xXx

Thirty minutes later, Koa stood on a hill at the edge of Route 215. It took him another several minutes of searching before he found a suitable spot for training - a valley in between two hills, partially surrounded by trees. He released all his pokemon, who greeted him with varied cries. A smile drifted across his face at the sight of them, and he paused to rub Rascal's head, and give Echo a scratch behind the ears. Then he addressed Scrapper, Echo, and Hazard.

"I'm sorry you guys," he said, kneeling in front of them. "I really messed up in that gym battle." He sighed. "I didn't prepare you guys, and we lost because of it." Echo and Hazard both offered cries of understanding, but Scrapper only fixed him with furious glare before grunting and crossing his arms. Koa's heart sank. Scrapper he'd failed worst of all. His heart twisted as he recalled the battle, how he'd given up at the end, barely bothering to give Scrapper a command. "Scrapper... I gave up on you during that battle. There's no kind of apology I can give to make up for it. But if you'll give me another chance, I promise to never give up in a battle again." Hesitantly, he reached out with his fists, offering Scrapper a fist bump.

For several seconds, Scrapper remained silent, his gaze fixed on Koa. Then he grunted and reached out, bumping his fist and grinning. Koa grinned back, relief filling him. "Now, how about we train?"

At that, Scrapper nodded emphatically.

xXx

For the next few hours, Koa trained alongside his pokemon. He did practice sparring, refined their moves, and worked with Flurry. He regretted not asking Maylene if Flurry could watch the match. Even if he'd lost pitifully, the experience still would have been helpful for her. Instead, he'd let himself get so caught up with impressing the Triplets. Fortunately, her training seemed to be coming along quite well. She was growing in her strength and agility, and he felt sure he could teach her Ice Beam soon.

Between training sessions, he rested and did more research on Maylene. She had three pokemon she used for gym battles - Machoke and Meditite, as he knew, and a Lucario. Based on what he knew, she favored an aggressive, unrelenting attack style. She was also known for having counters for common weaknesses. Her pokemon were all agile and tough.

The rest of the day and night flew by. As the moon rose into the sky, Koa opted to make camp on the route. He wasn't too far from the Pokemon Center, but he liked it out here, in the quiet valley, away from the city. Everything felt somehow clearer and simpler. He sat at the campfire, surrounded by his pokemon, taking in the silence. His thoughts drifted.

At some point, he noted that his pokemon had fallen asleep - Flurry nestled next to Anubis, Scrapper leaning on a tree, and Hazard nestled in the crook of Rascal's arm. It took him a second to spot Echo, who was a few feet farther away, hanging from a tree branch. His gaze lingered on his starter for a few minutes.

Quietly, he stood up and softly walked away from the camp. He felt restless, and sleep seemed far off. His thoughts kept turning to the gym battle, and his conversations with the Battle Triplets. Everything had somehow gone so wrong... why? The thought had hardly crossed his mind before another followed. Specifically, Kitto's words to him in Celestic. Overconfidence can fell even the strongest trainer.

At that moment, he realized his problem had started a long time ago, ever since his battle against Fantina. A frown tugged at the corners of his mouth as he wandered farther away from camp. His thoughts drifted all the way back to his loss to Cade. Instead of trying to understand why he'd lost, he'd dismissed it. Except that had been his fault. He'd predicted the final attack wrong. And winning against Avis... he'd foolishly convinced himself that strength was key. Power. And then when he beat Kitto, he let it go to his head. Told himself if he could beat one fighting type, he could handle them all.

His scowl deepened and he clenched his fists. "I've been an idiot." He felt stupid. So stupid. Instead of actually trying to think, he'd stupidly abandoned the very thing that had helped him win so often. He reflexively smashed his fist against his leg, muttering angrily under his breath. Why had he let himself get this far? Avis had warned him, Kitto had warned him, and he'd ignored all of them. And the worst part of all of it? He could have won the battle today. But his overconfidence had made him mess up.

Deuce was right as well. If he really wanted to prove that any pokemon, any trainer could become great, he had to prove it. Talk didn't matter if he couldn't back it up. All the belief in the world didn't matter if he couldn't show the world what his pokemon were capable of. And he'd utterly failed to do that today against Maylene.

Throwing his head back, he let out a primal yell of frustration. For the first time, he noted the black clouds blotting out the stars overhead. Only the barest glow signified where the moon had risen. Lightning flickered amongst the clouds. Then an ominous rumble echoed across the hills. A drop of water splashed across Koa's nose and he blinked.

Then the heavens opened up. A torrential slew of rain poured from the skies, soaking him in instant. Koa jerked back and stumbled, shocked by the sudden change in weather. He blinked, then peered at his Poketch. How long had he been out here? Judging by the time, well over an hour. His heart beat a little faster and he glanced wildly around. His pokemon were still back at camp! It took him longer than he liked to orient himself in the dark and the rain. Once he did, he set off at a dead sprint towards it.

Half running, half sliding, he descended the slope to the valley where he'd made camp. By the time he reached the bottom, his boots sank into the mud, nearly reaching his ankles. Grimacing, he picked his way to his tent. The comfortable fire from early had turned to ashy sludge, the only sign of his camp being his tent. His pokemon were nowhere to be seen.

A brief wave of panic surged through him before he saw the walls of his tent tremble. A half grin spreading over his face, he knelt down and pushed back the flap. His pokemon huddled together inside, barely able to fit thanks to the relative bulk of Rascal. When they saw him, their eyes lit up in delight.

"Sorry guys," he murmured. He took out his pokeballs, ready to return them. Hazard chittered urgently, his eyes darting to the outside. The cry was not one of greeting, but urgency and fear. Peering closer, he noted that all his pokemon seemed anxious. And there were only five. "Where's Echo?" he cried. Hazard sprang off Rascal's back and darted towards the flap, jumping up and down.

Koa's heart skipped a beat. "Echo's out there?" The storm was only intensifying, the winds howling above the valley and the rain boring down harder than ever. He quickly returned the rest of his pokemon and grabbed a flashlight from his bag, which he'd left in the tent. Then he charged wildly up the slope.

"Echo!" he screamed. The storm swallowed up his voice, but he screamed out again. Surely Echo could hear him, even through the storm. Right? He screamed again for his pokemon, though it was impossible to hear anything. At the top of the hill, he stopped to look around. He could see nothing, except darkness and rain. The occasional flash of lightning lit the sky, though he could still see no sign of his Golbat. A sick feeling churned in his stomach.

Fumbling, he turned on the flashlight. The powerful beam illuminated the night. "Echo?" he shouted again. He swept the beam across the sky. Nothing. The pounding rain eased for a moment, and Koa shouted again. This time, he thought he heard a faint shriek, so distant he doubted it for a moment. With nothing else to go on, he jogged in the direction of the cry.

A good minute later he heard another shriek, this one much louder. He swept the beam across the sky again and spotted a dark shape blur through the sky. Lightning flashed, illuminating the area again, and he saw a huge Staraptor, facing down Echo. His heart jolted. The rain shifted from torrential to a steady downpour. Then the clouds shifted just enough for him to make out the Staraptor as it dove at Echo, slamming into him and sending him spiraling through the sky. The Staraptor wheeled around and began to fly away.

"Echo, no!"

Echo caught himself and let out a screech. The Staraptor turned back, surprised. Then Echo shot through the sky towards it, aiming to sink his jaws into its body. It strafed around him, jabbing him in the back with its sharp talons and eliciting a cry from Echo. Sweeping his flashlight across the sky, Koa saw that Echo was thoroughly bruised. His flight was erratic and sloppy, and he looked as if he could barely keep himself airborne. What was he doing?!

He opened his mouth to cry out when Echo fired an Air Slash attack at Staraptor. A few blades struck the bird, making it shriek angrily. Folding its wings, it streaked like an arrow through the sky, smashing into Echo with an Aerial Ace. Echo was knocked out of the air and sent tumbling towards the ground.

Without thinking, Koa sprinted forwards. Echo's body was nothing but a plummeting shadow, barely visible. He lunged with outstretched arms, and Echo's body thudded into him. Pulling Echo closed to him, he landed and staggered. The ground fell out from beneath him and he let out a yell as he fell off an unseen cliff. A split second later, he crashed hard onto rocky, muddy earth and slid downward at an alarming rate.

Razor sharp rocks tore at him as he rolled helplessly down the hill. He clung tightly to Echo, his only thoughts on protecting the Golbat. At some point, he realized he'd stopped at the bottom of the muddy slope. He lay on his back, panting and limbs shaking. Blinking mud and water from his eyes, he glanced around to see he'd landed at the bottom of a muddy gully. Behind him, the hill stretched upward sharply. Still dazed, he looked down at the Golbat clutched in his arms.

Echo's eyes fluttered open and their gazes met. Koa peered closer at Echo and his heart twisted. The Golbat looked beyond exhausted and was covered with scratches and bruises. His body trembled, and he looked as if he'd been fighting long past his limit. A loud shriek overhead drew his attention and he looked up. The dark silhouette of the Starapator circled above. At the sound, Echo thrashed wildly, slipping out of his grasp and fluttering weakly upwards, utterly intent on fighting it.

"Echo stop!" he screamed. He leaped up but missed him by a wide berth. His mind raced as his heart beat frantically. "What are you doing! Stop!" He jumped again, though he knew it was useless. Echo was already halfway to the Staraptor. Mind reeling, he began desperately attempting to climb the slope.

His feet slid uselessly against the incline. Glancing around frantically, he spotted his fallen flashlight a short distance away. Snatching it up, he shone the beam upwards just in time to see Staraptor hit Echo again, sending him spinning. Echo retaliated with a quick Air Slash attack, striking Staraptor soundly in the chest, though it didn't appear nearly as worn down.

Koa's gut twisted. If Echo kept fighting like this, over-exhausting himself, he could be grievously injured. Why was he fighting like this? He had no more time to contemplate as Echo landed another hit with Air Slash. Almost instantly, the Staraptor wheeled around and struck back with Aerial Ace. The force of the attack sent Echo plummeting downwards. Koa ran forwards. At the last second, Echo caught himself just a few feet above the earth. Before he could fly away again, Koa seized him, holding him tight.

"You have to stop!" he shouted. He reached for Echo's pokeball, but Echo struck it out of his hand. The ball landed in the mud. He screeched anxiously and gestured up towards the Staraptor with one wing. "What? What do you want?" he shouted. Thunder boomed overhead and Echo gestured once more to the Staraptor, who had wheeled closer as if trying to see if Echo would continue attacking.

Once more, Echo gestured towards Staraptor, then fixed his gaze on Koa. Perplexed, Koa stared back. He searched Echo's eyes, trying to understand. Then, like a bolt of lightning, it struck him. Echo was trying to fight the Staraptor for him. So he could catch a strong pokemon. So he could beat the gym and accomplish his goals. His heart stuttered.

This whole time... Echo had put on a brave face. He'd supported him, gave his all in battle. But he'd never believed he could be great. That he could ever be strong enough to stand up to powerful pokemon and win. He'd played along, for Koa's sake. But as far as Echo was concerned, the game was up. He'd reached his limit and he couldn't get stronger. And he was willing to do anything to help Koa achieve his dreams, even if it meant being forgotten.

Echo let out a soft whimper, then reached into Koa's pocket with one talon, pulling out a spare pokeball that Koa always kept on him. Koa's heart broke. In a sudden rush of movement, Echo slipped from his grasp and landed on the muddy earth. He picked up the pokeball and rolled it towards Koa, giving him a long, meaningful look. Then he turned and began to stumble away.

For a second, Koa stared, stunned. Echo, the ever jolly and upbeat member of his team, his starter... doubted himself. This wasn't just about catching a new pokemon, Koa realized. This was Echo, who saw himself as unimportant and replaceable. Common. Insignificant. Without a word, Koa surged forwards and threw himself in front of Echo. "Stop." He spoke softly, but firmly. Echo stared at the earth, not looking up. "Echo, you're my best friend. I would never give up on you. Even if I caught another flying pokemon, I wouldn't forget you. It doesn't matter if I caught a hundred Staraptor. Nobody can replace you."

"I want you to be there the day I climb Mt. Coronet," he spoke louder, his words tumbling out. "Just because you lost today doesn't mean you can't get stronger. It just means we have to work harder. I don't care what the numbers say! I don't care if we lose a hundred battles. I don't care how long it takes us, or if everyone says it's impossible. I stopped caring about all that the day I gave you your name."

At that, the Golbat's head shot up and he peered at Koa, disbelief in his eyes. Koa reached out, rubbing Echo gently on the head. "I believe in you, Echo."

Several flashes of light lit the night as the balls on Koa's belt opened of their own accord. Hazard, Rascal, Anubis, Scrapper and Flurry all emerged, forming a semi-circle around Echo, whose eyes widened in shock. Hazard bounced forward first, chittering something in pokemon language to Echo. Then the rest of his pokemon pulled close around Echo, even Anubis, who didn't seem to care at all about the rain. A sense of stillness seemed to fall, despite the storm.

Suddenly, a blazing light lit up the entire valley. Echo began to glow, the light intensifying until it reached a near blinding level. The rain died down to a steady drizzle. His pokemon all shifted backward, gazes fixated on Echo's shining form. His silhouette began to shift, slowly at first, then all at once. Two sets of wings grew from his rounded body and long ears stretched from his head.

As suddenly as it began, it ended. A shower of light exploded outwards, and then, before Koa's eyes, stood a Crobat. Silence hung in the air, only broken by the steady pater of rain. Echo's now yellow eyes blinked at Koa, who stared in open mouth shock at the Crobat that stood before him. Suddenly Echo gave a loud shriek, fluttered his four wings and twisted upwards into an artful loop before tackling Koa.

Koa caught him and fell backward, laughing, as the overjoyed cries of his pokemon filled the night. He marveled at the feel of the thin, yet soft fur of Crobat, and his new set of additional wings. He was roughly the same size, though his body appeared a bit rounder and more squashed, while his ears were much longer.

"Echo, you evolved..." he hugged Echo again, too happy to even think. He pumped his fist in the air and gave a loud, wild shout of pure joy before hugging his pokemon again. Echo let out a shriek that briefly left Koa's ears ringing, and wriggled from his grasp. His four wings began to beat, slowly at first, but more rapidly, as he rose into the sky. He began swooping and diving, testing his new abilities. At first, his movements were shaky and awkward, but they soon became smooth and natural, as he learned the rhythm of his own wings. In minutes, he was dipping and twisting through the skies showing off a wild display of acrobatics.

As Koa watched, a strange sensation filled him. Pride, mainly, but also tentative excitement. He got a strange feeling, the same he'd felt after earning his Trainer's License. A whole new chapter of his life was about to start. A new chapter of his journey.


Golly! What a chapter! This chapter in particular is near and dear to my heart, as it represents the core themes I love about pokemon.

After quite the journey, Echo finally evolves, becoming a Crobat. The evolution scene was something I've been thinking about for months and months, and I finally got it on paper in a way I'm happy with. I daresay this chapter came out very nice.

Now, I figure I might as well have some fun with reviews! :D

James95: Well, Echo finally evolved! A Suicune encounter you say? Well, you might be right ;)
Guess you'll have to wait and see.
And Porygon is such a good idea it kills me. But I think I already have a psychic in mind :(. Still, I guess I'll see.

Blackbelt219: Yeah, I love to give my characters strong development. Glad you noticed.

Pokemonking: Pride cometh before a fall, as they say. You were right, naturally. Koa fell hard, and paid for his overconfidence.
I won't spoil Kaze's story, but it'll be nice, I'll say that.

Ghost: Well, I do fully intend to write a story one day of Kitto's Unova Journey, although I don't know when. Keep an eye on my page though. I also have the artist I collab with working on a couple comics/pictures of stuff you sound like you'd enjoy ;)

Anyafyre: Thank you! Its makes me so happy to know you're enjoying the story. And you were exactly right, he really let the winning go to his head.

Skullgreymon: Oh my, these are all such good recommendations! His team for now is mostly decided but I plan to have more captures later down the line. Keeping these in mind too.

Boronzu: Thank you for all the feedback, I have taken it into account :)

Wawv: I can understand the curiosity, hopefully later chapters will give insight.

206432: I'll address your thoughts in bundle.
Although this story takes inspiration from the anime, regarding moves I follow game logic.

As for the Snorlax, interesting fact - it's the exception to the rule. It is known as his only pokemon to use more than 4 moves in one battle. It used 6. There's also a Dragonite in Orange Islands that breaks the rule, but the writers back then admit they were being ridiculous. As far as current anime goes, Pokemon actually consistently use only four moves.

Glad you appreciate my intention to have him swap. That nifty little Box Link device will certainly come in handy.

As for romance... well, technically it happens but that doesn't mean its always written well, lol. But that's a topic for another day, another essay.

Why would Joltik be more expensive? Galvantula would certainly require more food, I'd imagine. Not that that's an issue anyway.

Perhaps this chapter will hint at my feelings towards the EV/IV stat aspect of Pokemon Games. At any rate, don't expect this story to adhere much to that side of things.

Draco Meteor isn't off the table, but Ice Fang would be exceedingly useful against the Gabite line.

DarkTSM: Thank you! :D And if I have anything to say about it, it will definitely continue. I have many, many plans!

As always, thank you so much to all those who read and reviewed!

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