Pokemon: Legendary Adventures (The Journey Begins) @flyg0n
The Hound of the Hour

So here we are at Chapter 9! Koa nearly has a full team, and he makes his way to Pastoria to challenge Wake.

As for the egg, no one has managed to guess it yet, but keep trying! Azurill was a good guess, but don't forget only Azumarill have white spots. Their first stage doesn't. As a hint, think of something that's blue with white spots on its first stage. Good guesses though!

Now, on to the story!

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

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

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

Houndour (Male) {Ability: Flash Fire} - Ember, Thunder Fang, Bite, Howl

Koa stood just outside Hearthome city, on the early stretch of Route 212. A scattering of sparse woods spread on either side of him, a cool breeze blew. The sky overhead had turned a slightly darker shade of blue, and the sun was beginning to dip below the horizon. Normally, he would have waited to leave Hearthome until morning, but after receiving Houndour, he'd simply been too excited to wait. Besides, if he left now, he could get a headstart on getting to Pastoria City.

It was also a perfect day to introduce his new friend to the team. He'd left not long after Professor Rowan sent him over, so he hadn't had a chance to let everyone meet him. Now that he was ready to travel to Pastoria, however, he wanted to properly introduce him. His other Pokemon were already out, standing in a loose semi-circle around him.

"Come on out, Houndour!" he called, tossing his pokeball into the air. Bright light emerged and formed into Houndour's canine form before fading. Houndour gave a happy bark, then looked around, examining his surroundings.

"Everyone, meet our new team member, Houndour." Echo screeched excitedly, fluttering off over to land in front of Houndour. Almost immediately, his demeanor changed. A growl rose in his throat, and his ears lay flat. Echo took a step back before fluttering several feet away, crestfallen.

Koa frowned. "Houndour, relax. These are your new team members. Your friends."

Hazard stepped forward, his fur sparking in annoyance, and glared up at Houndour. Houndour snorted and looked away from the little Joltik, as if dismissing it. Then he turned to face Rascal. The two locked eyes and immediately began growling.

"Hey! Knock it off," Koa shouted. Houndour immediately backed down and sat obediently beside his trainer. His other pokemon glared at Houndour, clearly displeased. Koa frowned. This wasn't good. He hadn't expected such a poor reception. Yesterday, Houndour had been so friendly with him... What had changed? He thought back to everything he'd read up on Houndour last night. They were loyal pack pokemon and usually cared deeply for their pack members. Maybe Houndour simply didn't see the other pokemon as his pack yet?

"Well, Houndour, these are going to be your new packmates, so you'll have to get used to them eventually. But in the meantime, I think I'm gonna nickname you."

At that, Houndour's tail began to wag again. Fortunately, Koa had already deliberated on the perfect nickname. It had taken him a great deal of thought, but he'd finally settled on a name he'd read about ages ago. The Canalave library had had many books on ancient mythology. One such book referred to a being thought to be part pokemon, part human, and whose followers were convinced it served Yveltal and helped ferry lost souls."How about Anubis?" Houndour barked in agreement. "Anubis it is, then," Koa said with a smile. He'd ultimately chosen it for three reasons. First, it was a name from mythology, which he loved. Second, it fit Houndour, somehow. And third... well, his Houndour had been a bit like a lost soul, he supposed. Stolen by Team Blackout but eventually returned. Now he just had to figure out how to get Anubis used to the team.

With that in mind, he set out down Route 212. For the first part, it was a simple road cutting between a sparse woods. He opted to keep everyone but Echo and Anubis in their Pokeballs. After a short walk, he brought out his bike to pick up the pace. Route 212 was easily one of the longest routes in Sinnoh, and would take a week or more to cross. By bike, he figured he could make the trip in 5 days. The evening wore on and it began to grow darker out. It would be time to make camp soon.

"Hey, you there! Stop!"

Koa pulled the brakes on his bike and looked to see a man wearing a guard uniform approach him. He shone a flashlight at Koa, making him squint. Houndour began to growl, but Koa quickly shushed him.

"What are you doing here?" the guard demanded.

"Walking," snapped Koa, struggling to keep the irritation out of his voice. The guard lowered the flashlight beam slightly.

"Let me see your trainer's license."

Koa scowled and rummaged through his backpack, careful not to disturb the egg. He handed it to the guard. "I'm a trainer, and I'm just traveling to Pastoria City."

The guard shined his flashlight on the trainer ID. "Hmm..." A moment later, he handed it back. "I'm terribly sorry about that," he said, his tone changing from gruff to amiable. "With all these robberies and pokenappings, us guards have been on high alert. I protect the Pokemon Mansion, you see. My name is Bobby, by the way."

Koa glanced past the guard, realizing for the first time that a large fence ran down part of the route. Just beyond the fence, he could make out the roof of an exceedingly tall and large building. Now that he thought about it, he remembered seeing an article talking about the mansion and its beautiful gardens. "It's alright," Koa conceded. "And I'm Koamaru. Although you probably saw that already," he added.

Bobby smiled. "Hey, that Houndour of yours looks pretty tough. Want to battle?"

Koa's eyes lit up. He hadn't had the chance to use Anubis in a proper battle yet, and he needed the experience. He was by far the weakest member of his team. "Sure!"

"How about a one on one? I have to keep one of my Pokemon healthy, just in case."

"Sure," Koa said. He looked down at Houndour, who had sat patiently by his feet the whole time. "Ready for your first battle?" Anubis barked and leaped to his feet.

Bobby led him to a spot a short way off the road. He took a pokeball from his belt and tossed it out. A rather impressive Hoothoot appeared. It stared at Anubis with its large red eyes, then cocked its head sideways. "I'll take the first move if you don't mind," Bobby said.

Koa shrugged. "Sure."

"Use Peck!" Bobby called. Hoothoot's beak began to glow and it flapped into the air. A moment later, it dived at Anubis.

"Ember," Koa said. Anubis growled, then opened his jaws and unleashed a flurry of red hot embers towards the approaching Hoothoot.

"Dodge, Hoot hoot," Bobby called. Hoothoot whirled out of the way of the embers, only a few grazing it, then struck Anubis head-on.

Anubis dug in, sliding back only a few inches before shaking Hoothoot away. Hoothoot landed at the other end of the battlefield, a fierce gleam in its eyes.

"Quick Ember again!" Anubis launched another flurry of embers at Hoothoot.

"Hold it back with Confusion." Hoothoot's eyes glowed bright blue, easily catching the embers midair. With a twist of its head, it hurled them back at Houndour twice as fast. They struck him, Houndour didn't even flinch. Instead, he seemed to smile as the embers were absorbed into his body.

Bobby grimaced as Koa grinned. Houndour's special ability, Flash Fire, absorbed damage from any fire type moves and increased his power.

"Echoed voice!" Bobby shouted. Hoothoot opened its beak and emitted a loud cry that rivaled even Echo's shrieks. Koa covered his ears and Anubis folded his ears back, cringing. Over the noise, he just barely heard Bobby's command.

"Keep it up, Hoothoot." The sound ceased for a half-second as Hoothoot took a breath. Then it started up again, twice as loud. Koa grimaced. He had to stop it soon. Echoed Voice increased in power the longer its user kept it up.

"Use Howl!" Still cringing, Anubis threw his head back and let loose a loud howl. His entire body flared up with energy for a moment. "Now, charge in with Thunder Fang." Anubis sprinted at Hoothoot, struggling against the force of the Echoed Voice. His jaws opened wide, crackling with electricity. The Hoothoot's eyes widened in shock and it poured more energy into its attack. Houndour pressed forward, eyes narrowed in determination. With a final, mighty leap, Anubis lunged forward and sank his jaws into Hoothoot. Electricity spasmed across its body, cutting off Echoed Voice. A moment later, it fell limp. Anubis dropped it, grinning gleefully.

Bobby held out a pokeball and returned Hoothoot. "Not bad, kid," he said, looking up. "I wasn't expecting a Houndour to know Thunder Fang."

Koa returned Houndour, who was looking exhausted now that the fight had ended. "Thanks. Your Hoothoot was strong too."

Bobby ended up giving him some money as a reward, and he left feeling fairly pleased. Despite his win however, he knew Houndour had gotten lucky. If it hadn't been for his Egg move, Thunder Fang, he would have lost. Which meant he needed to start making plans for training Anubis. Tomorrow, he decided. For now, he would let his Houndour rest. He set off once more, keeping an eye on the sky. It was growing dark out, but he figured a few more minutes wouldn't hurt. Besides, it was a nice night out. The moon hung bright in the sky, and plenty of stars lit the night. He followed the Route straight south for a while until he reached the entrance to the Pokemon Mansion.

Now that he saw it from the front, he realized it was truly spectacular. It stood nearly three stories tall, with a magnificent red roof. Counting windows, he realized with a jolt there had to be at least twenty rooms, possibly more. A long paved path ran up to the front of the mansion, with rows of beautiful flowers dotting either side. The distant sound of flowing water emanated from the fountains along the walkway and near the entrance, he spotted to grandiose statues. Koa let out a low whistle. The place was really something.

He turned away, scanning the area to find a suitable spot to camp. In the distance, he spotted an older couple making their way towards the entrance to the mansion.

As they approached, the lady spoke. "Ah, were you admiring the mansion young man?"

Koa nodded. "It's pretty sick!" He took a closer look at the lady. She wore a simple yet elegant purple dress, complete with a hat and scarf. The gentleman wore a brown suit and formal cap and carried a cane, though it didn't look like he used it for walking. What caught his eyes, however, was the pokeball the woman carried in one gloved hand.

"Are you a trainer, young man?" the gentleman asked.

"Yeah. Are you guys trainers too?"

The lady chuckled softly. "Not exactly, but we do raise pokemon. My name is Reina. What's yours, dear?"

"Koamaru."

"And I'm Jeremy," the gentleman said, offering his hand. Koa shook it.

"I remember being your age and competing in the gym circuit. Of course, that was quite some time ago," Jeremy said. "Tell me, how many badges do you have?"

Koa frowned. "Only two. I was going to get my third at Hearthome, but I guess Fantina isn't there."

Jeremy shook his head. "Hmph. Same thing happened to me during my journey."

"Fantina seems to take her little training trips at the worst times," Reina commented.

"I know right?" Koa burst out. "I mean, I know training is important, but I wish she could have gone another time."

Reina patted him comfortingly on the shoulder. "I know it is not much comfort, but would you like to battle Jeremy and I? I remember a good battle always cheered me up when I was upset."

Koa smiled. "Sure!"

Jeremy spoke up. "Tell you what, young man. Reina and I will make you a deal. If you beat us in a tag battle, you may stay in a guest room at the Mansion."

Koa's eyes went wide. "Really? Wow, that would be awesome!" he grinned. "You better get ready to lose."

Reina and Jeremy grinned, a fire lighting in their eyes. "Don't think we'll be going easy on you, young man," Reina said.

The couple led him to a clearing a short ways away from the gate. They both tossed out pokeballs, Jeremy releasing a Chatot and Reina releasing a Roselia.

Chatot emerged onto the field and fluttered elegantly down, then took a bow. Roselia did a little twirl and flourish. Koa eyed the two pokemon thoughtfully. Neither appeared overly tough, but he didn't want to take a chance. He really wanted a chance to stay in the mansion. Selecting two pokeballs from his belt, he tossed them out.

"Go Hazard, Rascal," his two pokemon emerged onto the field. Rascal snarled and sparks danced across his Joltik's fur.

"My that is an impressive pokemon. What is it?" Reina asked, gesturing to Rascal.

"A Tyrunt," Koa said proudly. " They're from the Kalos region I revived her from a fossil I found myself."

"My my... well, this will be interesting," Jeremy said. "I consider myself a gentleman, so you may have the first move."

Koa took a moment to mentally prepare himself. "Hazard, Bug Bite on Roselia. Rascal, use Ancient Power on Chatot."

Hazard dived forwards, jaws glowing, and Rascal began to charge up a large silver boulder. Hazard darted across the field, drawing closer and closer to Roselia. Still, it wasn't until he was almost upon them before their trainers gave a command.

"Peck," Jeremy called. Almost simultaneously, Reina gave her command. "Roselia, Magical Leaf."

Chatot darted across the field, intercepting Hazard. The Peck attack struck him hard in the side, sending him flying. Simultaneously, Magical Leaf and Ancient Power collided. The boulder shattered easily and Magical Leaf collided with Tyrunt. Rascal staggered back from the force of the attack, then roared angrily. Koa scowled. He found himself both impressed and annoyed. The two pokemon had moved in perfect sync. They weren't strong, but they were an excellent team.

"Chatot, Hyper voice!"

"Roselia, Stun Spore."

Chatot flew into the air and opened its beak. A loud noise filled the air as waves of blue sound-energy erupted from the tiny Chatot. Below, Roselia twirled her flowers, yellow spores drifting from them and filling the battlefield around Roselia.

Chatot's Hyper Voice struck both Hazard and Rascal, knocking them back. Koa found himself amazed once again at his opponents' teamwork. Chatot had needed no prompting from its trainers to know to dodge Stun Spore by flying up. And until the spores dispersed, Rascal wouldn't be able to get close. Clearly, Koa realized he would have to step up his teamwork to win.

"Rascal, Ancient Power, and far as you can shoot it," he said, a plan forming in his mind. He knew Reina and Jeremy's pokemon weren't as strong as his, and were at a type disadvantage. All he needed was a couple good hits. "Hazard, String Shot on the boulder," he said.

Rascal opened her jaws, forming the large silver boulder. A moment later, she blasted it, aiming right between Roselia and Chatot. Just as she fired it, Hazard latched on with his String Shot. He was yanked forwards, putting him directly between Roselia and Chatot.

"Electroweb!" Koa shouted. Hazard leaped off the boulder as it crashed harmlessly into the brush. Electricity gathered between his pincers, then he fired it straight at a shocked Chatot. The web pinned it to a tree, shocking it mercilessly. Hazard landed a few feet away, eyes sparkling triumphantly.

"Cut Chatot free with Magical Leaf," Reina called. Roselia immediately spun towards the pinned Chatot, firing a stream of sharp glowing leaves. The Magical Leaf struck Electroweb, cutting Chatot free, though the bird appeared exhausted. It fluttered in the air, barely able to stay aloft.

Koa grinned. Roselia had left herself wide open, and the paralyzing spores had dispersed. "Rascal, Bite!" Rascal grinned and charged across the battlefield, jaws open wide.

"Roselia watch out! Use Poison Sting," Reina shouted.

"Chatot, Sing," Jeremy said confidently. Chatot opened its beak, the beginning of a song forming.

"String Shot," Koa called. Joltik fired a fine thread of webbing upwards, wrapping it around Chatot's beak and wiring it shut. The Chatot eyes widened in alarm. Meanwhile, Rascal charged straight through the Poison Sting, taking the hit and sinking her jaws into Roselia. She tossed Roselia to the ground, kicking up a cloud of dirt. Her body trembled slightly, and Koa suspected she'd been poisoned.

"Roselia, get up," Reina pleaded.

Koa grinned. Time to end this. "Bug Bite!" Hazard lunged at the weakened Roselia, sinking his pincers in. It gave a single cry of pain before collapsing. At that moment, Chatot seemed to find a new reserve of strength. With a defiant screech, it broke through the webbing on its beak.

"Use Chatter!" Jeremy shouted. Chatot opened its beak and a strange, raucous noise came from within. Both Hazard and Rascal cringed and took a step back. A moment later, Hazard's eyes began to glaze over.

"Oh no," Koa groaned. If memory served, Chatter was a move that had a chance to confuse the opponent. Clearly, Hazard had fallen under its sway.

"Rascal, charge in!"

"Hyper Voice."

Rascal charged forwards, taking the strike from Hyper Voice. "Dragon Tail!" Koa shouted.

"Dodge!" Jeremy called.

With a roar, Rascal leaped into the air, tail glowing. Chatot tried to dart away, but the damage from earlier had taken its toll. She swung her tail in a masterful arc, striking the Chatot in the side and sending it crashing into the ground below. A moment later, the dust cleared, revealing the unconscious form of Chatot.

Jeremy and Reina both smiled and returned their Pokemon.

Koa returned his two pokemon, beaming.

"That was some good strategy, Koamaru," Reina said. Jeremy came up behind her and held out his hand. Koa shook it, still smiling. He was proud of how well Rascal was coming along. She'd tanked two hits excellently. "Thanks. You really had me there in the beginning. Those were some sick combos."

"Why thank you," Jeremy said. "The Stun Spore one was my wife's idea, actually."

Reina smiled proudly at him. "My husband came up with most of our techniques. We've been training Roselia and Chatot for a couple months now."

Koa cocked his head. "Those aren't your regular pokemon?"

Reina and Jeremy both broke into laughter. "Good heavens, no," Jeremy said. "We've raised plenty of pokemon, back in the day. Now my Reina and I just do it for fun."

Koa raised his eyebrows. If those were just their practice pokemon, he wondered what the rest of their team looked like.

"Well, a deal is a deal," Reina said, smiling at him. "Follow us, and we'll show you to the guest room."

Elation flowed through Koa as he followed them. They let him through the front gate, and Koa followed them quietly, taking in his surroundings. The fountains were ornate, and the landscaping was exquisite. The Mansion was even more impressive up close, he reflected.

Jeremy held the doors open for both him and Reina, and Koa stepped inside. Lush, thick carpets covered the floors. Elegant chandeliers hung from the ceiling, illuminating the entryway. A grand stairway stretched upwards, leading to the second and third floors. A few maids cleaning some expensive-looking vases and artifacts waved to them.

"Found another trainer, Miss Yoshino?" One of them called.

"Indeed," Reina said, waving back.

"And I daresay this one has some potential," Jeremy added.

Koa grinned again at the praise but said nothing. It felt strange to be around such wealth. Jeremy and Reina led him down a series of hallways and through doors until they reached the guest quarters. They stopped in front of a set of double mahogany doors.

Jeremy gestured to the doors. "Here is your guest room, Koamaru. Feel free to use whatever amenities you like, and let your Pokemon out. There is a call button for one of the maids, should you need anything."

"And I know how hard traveling on the road can be, so just leave your traveling clothes outside the door, and we'll have them washed for you," Reina said with a smile.

Koa nodded, his eyes darting to the door. He was eager to go in and check it out.

"We usually eat breakfast at 9 o'clock, sharp," Reina added. "You're free to join us, but don't be late." They both looked at each other and seemed to reach some kind of silent agreement.

"I think that covers it. You may go in," Reina said.

"Thank you very much," Koa said. He pushed open the doors to the room and stifled a gasp. Luxury didn't even come close. The room alone was nearly the size of his house. A large, plush bed sat at one end, overlooking a window. There was a computer in the room, and several smaller beds stacked in one corner, seemingly for Pokemon. Hesitantly, he poked his head in the bathroom. It was probably the size of his whole bedroom and contained a tub the size of a kiddie pool, and cabinets full of potions and medicines. "Awesome," he murmured. Returning to the main room, he flopped down on the bed, letting out a contented sigh. After enjoying the moment, he took out his pokeballs. One by one, he released each of his Pokemon. Once his pokemon were out, he carefully removed the egg from his backpack and set it on a desk.

Echo let out a shriek and began to flap about the room, perching on everything. Hazard immediately burrowed under one of the pillows, while Anubis barked excitedly and began to dash about the room, sniffing everything. Rascal stared about curiously before trotting over to the Pokemon beds and dragging one off the pile. She turned in a circle, before settling down with a pleased grunt. He helped himself to a few potions and antidotes from the cabinets, and made sure his team was at full health after their battle.

Anubis finished his investigation of the room and sprang onto the bed, lying next to Koa and wagging his tail. Koa scratched behind his ears, making him wag his tail even harder. Hazard emerged from underneath the pillow and scurried onto Koa's head, nestling himself in.

Immediately, Anubis stiffened. He glared at the Joltik, his hackles raising. "Anubis, stop it!" he snapped. He reached up and patted Hazard, whose fur was fluffed in irritation. "Hazard is my friend, see?"

Anubis let out a disbelieving snort and lay down facing away from Hazard. Koa sighed. He'd have to do something about that. But not tonight. Tonight, he would enjoy his one night living a life of luxury.

xXx

The next morning, he awoke to his Poketch alarm going off. He almost rolled over and turned it off to go back to sleep, then remembered Reina's warning about breakfast. He yawned, then sat up, peering at the time. 8:15. Plenty of time to relax and get dressed. Poking his head outside the door, he realized his clothes had been left on a hanger outside the door. They smelled of a strong, clean scent, even better than the soap he was used to from the Pokemon Center. One of the larger rips on his leather jacket had even been mended. Grinning delightedly, he brought the clothes inside and laid them on the bed.

After a quick shower, he got dressed and returned his pokemon, save for Hazard, who had made himself comfortable in his hair. The Joltik was so tiny, he figured he might as well let him stay out. He exited his room and started to wander the mansion. They'd mentioned he was free to wander the halls, as long as he didn't enter any rooms without permission. The only people he really saw were a few maids, otherwise, the mansion was quiet.

He turned a corner, wondering where the dining hall was when he spotted a young boy in a crisp white suit. He had dark grayish-blue hair and appeared to constantly have his nose turned up. A Monferno bounced beside him, its smug expression mirroring its trainer. The boy appeared to be saying something to a Shroomish that stood at his feet. Koa could only make out a few brief snatches of the conversation.

"-get stronger... won't ... on my team. Got it?"

As Koa approached, the boy returned both Pokemon.

"Excuse me, do you know where the dining hall is?" he asked.

The boy turned to face him and immediately frowned. A moment later, a girl who looked almost identical to him emerged from a room. Judging by their narrow faces and similar hair, he guessed they were brother and sister.

"Excuse you, the name is Liam, thank you very much." 'Liam' sniffed disdainfully. "Are you another one of those strays that Jeremy gives our rooms to?"

Koa's eye twitched and he clenched his fist. A strong temptation to punch the smug look right off Liam's face seized him, but he held himself back. He liked Reina and Jeremy quite a bit and didn't want to do anything to upset them.

"I'm a trainer who Mr. Jeremy and Mrs. Reina invited to stay the night," he said, halfway between a growl and normal speaking voice.

The girl snorted. "Hmph. As long as you don't stick around. You trainers bring down the beauty of the Mansion. Honestly, I don't know why Mr. Backlot allows it," she grumbled, a distasteful frown on her face. "You may call me Lady Celeste, by the way. Do not forget the 'lady' part."

"Honestly, enough about beauty, Celeste." Liam shot his sister a glare before turning back to Koa. "Are you at least a strong trainer?"

"I have two badges," Koa snapped. "And I'm getting my third once I get to Pastoria."

Liam snorted. "Just two? I could easily get all 8 if I felt like it."

"So you have zero then," Koa retorted, unable to keep the anger from his tone.

"I don't need silly badges," Liam said with a shrug. "They're for lesser trainers."

Koa literally bit his tongue. It took every bit of his restraint not to tackle the little snot to the ground. On his head, he could feel the familiar buzz of Hazard's irritation.

"Or maybe you're afraid you're too weak," he muttered under his breath.

Liam's gaze traveled to Koa's head. "A Joltik? Well, I suppose it is impressive that you have such a rare Pokemon. But they're not really much good until they evolve. Even then, they're pretty pathetic."

For a moment, Koa saw red. His mind flashed with thoughts of smacking some sense into the kid. "So what Pokemon do you have then?" he snarled.

At this, Liam grinned. "Sister dear, shall we show him what real Pokemon look like?"

Celeste smiled sickeningly and nodded. They both took out five pokeballs each, releasing their Pokemon one by one. In addition to Monferno, Liam had a Weavile, a Medicham, a Kadabra and a Blissey. Celesta had a Blissey of her own as well as a Cherrim, Roserade, Kirlia and a Leafeon.

Koa's jaw dropped at the sight of the assortment of Pokemon. He quickly recovered and scowled. All of the Pokemon looked like the prime of their species and boasted shining coats and gleaming eyes. Not to mention, Liam's Pokemon looked tough. Liam smiled smugly. "You see? Real trainers have strong Pokemon."

"Hmph," Celesta grumbled. "What good is strength if your Pokemon are ugly? Beauty is what is key."

Koa glared daggers at them. "Real trainers raise their Pokemon themselves."

Looks of utter offense crossed both Liam and Celeste's face, and Koa couldn't resist a smirk. He'd touched a nerve. "If your Pokemon are so great, let's have a battle, one-on-one."

"Oh fine. I suppose my Pokemon could use the workout," Liam said, shrugging.

Ten minutes later, Koa stood across from Liam at the Mansion's battlefield.

"Come, Monferno," Liam said, lazily tossing out a pokeball. The Monferno emerged in a flash of light, then gave a lazy yawn.

"Let's go, Anubis," Koa said calmly. Anubis burst onto the field with a loud bark.

Liam yawned. "Monferno, use Flamethrower." Monferno reared back, then blasted a huge stream of fire at Houndour.

Koa smirked. Idiot. The size and power of Flamethrower was fairly impressive, but it wouldn't do a thing against Anubis and his Flash Fire. "Howl." He said calmly. Anubis threw back his head and howled as the flames washed over him. As the flames faded, a grin spread across Houndour's face. Koa glanced across the battlefield. Liam didn't even seem to have noticed Anubis' lack of damage.

"Thunder Fang."

"Flame Wheel."

Monferno leaped into the air, gathered flames around its form then spun its body into a flaming wheel and rolled straight for Houndour.

Anubis stood still, jaws open wide as electricity arced across them. Monferno collided with him, pressing against him, but once again, the attack did nothing. Monferno bounced back a couple feet, then Anubis struck. He clamped his jaws across Monferno's arm, shocking him mercilessly and shaking him hard. With a snarl, he tossed Monferno across the battlefield. Monferno crashed to the ground and slid several feet.

"Now, Ember."

"Focus Punch," Liam snapped.

Koa raised his eyes at that one. Focus Punch wasn't a move Monferno could normally learn, unless through special breeding. Still, he wasn't particularly worried.

Monferno raised its fist, a bluish-white glow surrounding it as it charged up the attack. Anubis snarled, then opened his jaws. A massive stream of blue embers shot across the field, powered up significantly by Flash Fire.

Monferno's eyes opened wide, but it was too late. The embers smashed into Monferno, interrupting his attack and throwing him backward.

"Bite!" Anubis sprinted across the battlefield, his jaws glowing. Before Monferno or its trainer could react, he sank his jaws in and slammed it into the battlefield, knocking it out. Liam scowled and returned Monferno. "Hmph. You got lucky I suppose."

Koa stared, dumbfound, at Liam. "Seriously? You know what, forget it..." he muttered. Liam would never admit to losing. He returned Anubis, shaking his head. Liam had strong Pokemon, sure, but completely lacked knowledge of how to utilize them. It still felt good beating him, though.

Leaving it at that, he turned and strode away as quickly as he could, before he did something he regretted. He'd just have to find the dining hall himself. Thankfully, it didn't take long to do so, thanks to assistance from one of the maids, who proved much friendlier than the children. Five minutes later, he found himself seated at the largest table he'd ever sat at, enjoying a hearty breakfast with Jeremy and Reina. They made excellent conversationalists, and he found himself telling them tales of his journey and Pokemon. They regaled him with tales of their own, and explained that they were old friends of the Mansion's owner, Mr. Backlot. By the time he finished breakfast, he found himself sorry he would have to depart soon.

Yet he also recognized he'd tarried long enough. The time drew near to noon, and he needed to get back on the road to Pastoria. He bid them a farewell and many thanks, then collected his things and departed. Though leaving the mansion saddened him, he was thankful not to have to see the twins more than once.

Soon the mansion was behind him as he continued his trek south. His stay had put him behind by a good day or so, but he didn't care. It had been a fun break from the usual routine of traveling and training. He took out his bike, thankful once again that it used pokeball technology to make it compact and easy to carry. He set off, his mind on the road ahead and his plans for training.

Jeremy had also given him some advice on Anubis, which he hoped to try out tonight. He'd said that pack Pokemon like Houndour took time to adjust to the dynamic of a pokemon team, which wasn't the same as a pack. An easy way to kick start that adjustment, however, was with a battle. Admittedly, he felt a little stupid for not thinking of it earlier.

He traveled late into the night to make up for lost time. The moon had risen well into the sky before he finally stopped for the night. One by one, he sent out each of his Pokemon. Last of all, he sent out Anubis.

"Okay Anubis, you're gonna have a battle." Anubis ears immediately perked up and he began wagging his tail. "Against one of my current pokemon," Koa added, watching Anubis reaction carefully. His tail stopped wagging and he frowned. His eyes darted first to Rascal, as if wondering if she would be his opponent. Koa shook his head. "You'll be fighting Echo."

Anubis took one look at the Golbat and huffed disapprovingly. Koa smirked knowingly. After explaining what happened to Jeremy, he'd realized that Anubis didn't seem to respect the rest of his teammates. A quick battle would rectify that.

"Ready Echo?" Echo shreed excitedly and fluttered into the air. Anubis took a stance several feet away, facing the Golbat nonchalantly.

"Okay Echo, start with Wing Attack!" Echo's wings glowed with energy and he dived at Anubis.

Anubis snarled, his jaws crackling with electricity, then leaped for Echo with Thunder Fang.

"Dodge," Koa said calmly. Echo easily dodged the attack, then whirled midair and struck Anubis expertly in the back. Anubis crashed to the ground and ate dirt.

"Confuse Ray!" Echo opened his jaws, charging an orb of energy.

Anubis stood, a snarl still in his throat. His jaws glowed white and he ducked under the Confuse Ray, narrowly dodging it. With a mighty leap, he jumped towards Echo.

"Crunch," Koa said, simply.

Anubis' eyes widened as he realized his attack was carrying him straight into Echo's gaping maw. In a panic, his legs whirled midair in a vain effort to stop himself. A moment later, Echo's jaws closed around Anubis, easily enveloping half his body. He shook him hard, then spat him out. Koa watched Anubis, expecting him to be knocked out. To his surprise, the Houndour forced himself to his paws, his body trembling with the effort. Impressive. Anubis had a lot of grit, though he would expect nothing less from a pokemon bred by Rowan and Blake.

With a snarl, he lunged forwards, his jaws crackling as he used Thunder Fang again.

"Dodge and Wing Attack."

Echo whirled out of the way easily again, then spun and smashed Anubis straight down into the dirt. A cloud of dust kicked up, shielding the Houndour from view. Echo hovered calmly above it, waiting. It cleared a moment later, revealing Anubis, battered yet still standing, a defiant glare on his face. He took a step towards Echo. Then his whole body trembled and he collapsed, unconscious.

Koa grinned. "Good job, Echo." Echo shrieked happily and landed on his shoulders, licking his hair. He patted Echo and walked over to Anubis, who had woken up. Pulling out a few potions from his bag, he quickly treated Houndour's minor wounds. He returned to the campfire he'd made, giving Anubis some space to wake up. Echo hopped off his shoulders to stand by the fire. After a few seconds, Anubis got to his paws and shook his head. His tail hung low and his ears drooped. Slowly, he walked over to Echo, his head still hung low. He looked up and whined, something Koa took to be a sort of apology. Echo grinned and shrieked amiably, patting the Houndour with one wing. Anubis barked happily and licked Echo, who licked him back, shocking Anubis thoroughly. Koa laughed. He had a feeling that no one had ever licked the Houndour back.

Letting out a sigh, Koa sat back, pleased. He watched as Hazard approached Anubis first, chittering a hesitant greeting. Anubis barked and wagged his tail, prancing around the Joltik happily. Good. The battle had worked just as he hoped. Thanks to Jeremy, he realized Anubis didn't think of his teammates as teammates at all, but through Echo's superb display of battling, Anubis had learned a valuable lesson. Respect.

xXx

The next morning, Koa hit the road early. He figured he could reach the southernmost point of Route 212 by tonight, then begin his journey east. In the hours since yesterday, Anubis had acclimated well to the team, even Rascal. As he pedaled south, he began to plot out some moves for Anubis. Flamethrower was a must. Unfortunately, he knew Anubis was nowhere near strong enough to master the move. If he could buy a TM for it, then he could get a jumpstart on the training. Of course, he also wanted to buy a TM for Dark Pulse. Two TM's would be expensive, not to mention getting some for the rest of his team. He'd read about a move known as Acrobatics, which would be perfect for Golbat. After some deliberation, he decided to start with Acrobatics. Anubis needed more time to build up his strength and speed. His battle with Echo made it clear he had a ways to go to catch up with everyone else. A flicker of anger flowed through him as he remembered that Anubis was only so far behind because he'd been stolen by those dirty thieves... Well, at least he'd punished one of the thieves good.

Tucking the memory away, he turned his attention back to training. Giga Drain was an eventual must for Hazard. Absorb worked for now, but Giga Drain was basically Absorbs much more powerful relative. It would give Hazard fantastic coverage as well. Rascal currently had the most potential of his pokemon. First, he was considering replacing Dragon Tail for Dragon Claw. It was a stronger move. Although using her tail in battle was quite convenient. Next up was Crunch instead of Bite. Thanks to her special ability, Crunch would be a supremely powerful and versatile move. After that, he wasn't sure. Rock Slide would be unnecessary, since he'd read they could develop the technique on their own upon evolving. Perhaps a power move...

The rest of the day he spent planning and strategizing moves. His Poketch came in quite the handy since he could take notes on what he wanted to work on. A few trainers challenged him, who he managed to beat without too much trouble. Anubis got some solid training in, though he did lose once or twice. By the time he stopped for the evening, he'd reached the south end of the route. Gratefully, he sank into his sleeping bag, slipping into a comfortable sleep.

xXx

The first stretch of Route 212 led through a dense forest. The ground was littered with leaves and branches, so he opted to leave his bike inside his backpack and do it the old fashioned way. Walking did have one significant benefit however - all his pokemon could follow him.

Echo remained somewhere in the woods nearby, no doubt trying to find a Honey Tree if he had to guess. Every now and then, he caught a glimpse of the Golbat's furry body through the trees. He made a mental note to buy him a jar when he reached Pastoria.

Rascal trotted several feet ahead, roaring at any wild pokemon that came close. Most ran off, terrified, but few stood their ground. Those that did were treated to a swift battle, usually with Rascal as the victor.

Anubis and Hazard had engaged in an amusing game of tag, with the Houndour trying fruitlessly to pounce on his much smaller teammate. Hazard was just too fast for him, and had become quite good at moving just far enough away to avoid being caught, without expending too much energy. Koa enjoyed watching the two, plus it was great training for Hazard.

As he continued, he saw less forest Pokemon like Starly, Burmy or Roselia and started to see a few Croagunk and some Shellos and Bibarel. The sight made him grimace inwardly - the appearance of amphibious pokemon only meant one thing. He was approaching the edge of the marsh.

The very last section of Route 212 consisted of boggy marshland that stretched all the way to Pastoria. Well, at least he was still a couple days away from it. There were a series of lakes and rivers spanned by boardwalks and bridges that he would have to traverse first. Once he was out of the forest, he'd be able to use his bike as well.

By lunch the next day, he was out of the forest and crossing the boardwalk by bike. The day was pleasant, with only a few clouds in the sky, hiding the worst of the noon heat. A gentle breeze blew, sending ripples through the water below. He saw quite a few wild pokemon basking in the sun or relaxing in the waters. A few fishermen waved to him in acknowledgment as he passed by, but otherwise, the route was quiet. He crossed the rest of the bridge area that day, thanks to his bike. The day was so pleasant, in fact, that when night came he decided to forgo the tent and simply sleep on his sleeping bag. A decision he quickly came to regret.

Sometime after he fell asleep, Anubis curled up next to him and Echo hanging from a tree overhead, a downpour began. He awoke spluttering and confused, half-submerged in a puddle. Rain pounded all around, making it almost impossible to see more than a few feet in any direction. It took him several moments to find his backpack, which to his horror had floated several feet away. He snatched it up, holding it close. Once he was sure the egg was safe, he returned his pokemon, who were all varying states of miserable, and clipped their balls to his belt. The rain continued on, soaking him to the bone. The trees overhead provided little protection, and the best he could settle for was draping his sleeping bag over a branch and huddling under a bush a few feet away.

For the first ten minutes, he debated setting up his tent but soon dismissed the thought. It would get far too wet by the time he finished putting it up. Frustration ate at him as he watched the rain. Of all the things he'd prepared for and read about, he'd never bought an umbrella. He laughed bitterly at the thought, wondering what Blake would say if he saw him. Probably reprimand him for not thinking. Oh well. He'd just have to buy one in Pastoria. Hopefully, the rain would stop by the morning.

As it turned out, he hoped wrong. For the next two days, the rain poured non-stop. He was forced to keep all his pokemon in their pokeballs, and his progress slowed to a near halt. His boots and pants were covered in more mud than he'd seen in his life, and he was starting to forget what the word dry meant. It wasn't until the third day that the rain finally eased into a steady drizzle.

On the evening of the second day, he began to grow particularly tired of the rain. He was grumpy too, since he didn't really want to let out any of his pokemon in the torrential rain. None of them would appreciate it one bit. Instead, he tried to keep his focus on the one thing he was actually looking for - The Shard House. A well-known collector of shards resided somewhere on this route, just outside the marshlands. Apparently, the man had quite the collection of expensive TM's from his training days. He'd made it known that he would trade them to anyone who brought him shards. Koa had his fingers crossed that the man had a Giga Drain TM.

Then, in the distance, he spotted it. A dim square of light, barely visible through the rain. Since he was fairly sure no other houses were out here, that had to be it. Breaking into a jog, he raced the last several yards to the house. He knocked lightly on the door. Now that he thought about it, he had no idea how complete strangers would feel about another stranger knocking on their door late at night.

A moment later, the door swung open. The man who stood in the doorway was practically a small giant. He had tanned skin, laugh lines around his eyes, and stood over six feet tall. And he wasn't just tall either - he was well built, too. Not fat, but broad-shouldered. The man wore cargo shorts, a hikers vest and hat, and thick waterproof boots. Koa stared at him.

"Good grief, kid, you look like a drowned Rattata! Come inside." The man stepped back, opening the door wider.

From somewhere inside, a second voice called. "Is it another trainer, Fred?"

His initial surprise faded and he stepped inside, standing just inside the door, acutely aware of the small puddle of water he was creating on the floor.

Fred shut the door, blocking out the sound of pounding rain. "Sure is, Gail. You trainers are nuts, tramping about in a storm like this." The last remark seemed to be a playful jab at the woman.

Koa breathed a sigh of relief and took a look around. The cabin was small, yet homey. There was a kitchen, a small table in the middle of the room, and a door that he assumed led to a bedroom. A woman, who he assumed was Gail, moved purposefully about the kitchen, seemingly cooking or preparing something.

"Look at you!" Gail chided. "Don't worry about the puddle. Why don't you use our bathroom and get yourself dried off? I know I always loved a hot shower after a rainstorm." She gestured to a door he hadn't noticed.

Still in a daze, Koa nodded. He gently took his backpack off and set it by the door. He took out his one pair of spare clothes, mentally thanking his past self for investing in the waterproof backpack, and walked to the bathroom. After a long, hot shower, he emerged feeling much better. He was given a bag for his wet clothes, which he left in the bathroom.

"Feel better?" Gail asked once he came out.

Koa nodded. "Thank you," he said hoarsely.

"Come sit down, kid," Fred called from his spot at the table.

Hesitantly, Koa crossed to the table and pulled out a chair, sitting down. He was a bit surprised still with the warm reception he was given.

"We should probably introduce ourselves," Fred offered. "My name is Fred, this is my wife Gail. Although some people like to call me the Shard Man. I collect shards, you see."

Koa nodded. "Yeah. That's actually the reason I stopped here."

Fred's eyes went wide and leaned across the table with the eagerness of a young child. "You have some shards to trade? Let me see them-"

"Perhaps you'd like dinner first?" Gail asked. "There will be more than enough time for pleasantries after you eat. And I know you must be hungry," Gail added, looking pointedly at Koa. "You trainers don't get many home-cooked meals when you're traveling."

Koa nodded, realizing for the first time how hungry he felt. The past couple days he'd survived on just nutrition bars. In a few minutes, Gail had dished out a hearty helping of hot stew and rolls for each of them.

After dinner, which Koa found he thoroughly enjoyed, Gail left briefly and returned carrying a large briefcase. Koa recognized it as a TM storage case.

"Now, let's get to business," Fred said. He took the case from Gail and set it on the table. "What kinda shards you got?"

Koa retrieved the shards from his backpack, setting them out on the table. He had about twelve green, and a few red and yellow.

"Tell you what, kid. I'll give you any TM you like for your green shards." Fred opened the case and slid it to Koa.

Koa's eyes lit up and his jaw dropped as he stared at the TM collection. It rivaled that of a small Pokemart, and contained several that couldn't even be found in the largest department store. By his estimate, the case contained well over 30,000 dollars worth of TM's. He browsed them reverently, his mind whirling as he tried to decide which one he wanted. They had Air Slash, which would have been great for Echo, but he was pretty sure a Golbat could learn the technique naturally. Eventually, he settled on Giga Drain. It was the only move that Hazard really needed, plus it would be perfect for the Pastoria gym.

"Thank you," Koa said as he tucked the TM away in his own case. "This will be perfect!"

"I take it you will be challenging Wake?" Gail said.

Koa nodded in reply. "I couldn't challenge the Hearthome gym"- This comment elicited an eye-roll from both Gail and Fred- "So I figured I'd go to Pastoria and visit the Great Marsh. I'd love to fish up a Gyarados maybe."

"Ooo, that'll be a toughie. They're pretty rare," Fred mused. "You know you could just catch a Magikarp, right? Those things are practically everywhere."

"Yeah, but training them is really hard. They can't learn any attack moves."

Fred shrugged. "True, I supposed. Personally, I've always been partial to Wooper.

Koa stared at Fred. "Wooper?"

"Sure!" Fred said. "They're small, but real hardy. And once they evolve, they can be really tough, if you train 'em right. Even Gail has never defeated my Quagsire."

Gail scowled playfully. "I'm pretty sure that Quagsire of yours is descended from a legendary or something."

"I'll think about it," Koa said eventually. He hadn't considered it before, but perhaps his plan would need adjusting now that his team had changed. A Wooper could be a good replacement for a Gyarados. If Fred was right. He found it hard to imagine a Quagsire standing up to the raw strength of a Gyarados. Or maybe instead of a water type, he could try for a grass type to help at the gym... Perhaps he would have to reconsider some of his plans. Setting the thought aside for later, he turned his attention back to Fred. "So you and Gail were both trainers?"

"Nah, I'm an explorer at heart. Gail is the real trainer. She got all eight badges." Fred said, watching his wife proudly.

"Any tips for Wake?" Koa asked.

Gail chuckled and shook her head. "Don't worry about Wake too much. He's tough, but he's not even as hard as Roark was for me. What Pokemon have you caught?"

Koa quickly rattled off his team.

"Hah! Yeah, you can handle Wake, just fine." Gail said. She glanced at a clock on the wall. "Well, I do think it's getting late. It's not much, but you can sleep on the couch if you like."

"That's good with me," Koa replied. Gail proceeded to show him to the laundry room, informing him he was free to wash his muddy clothes, then turned in for the night with Fred. Koa ended up staying awake another hour or so, just long enough to start his clothes drying, then turned in for the night.

Just before he settled in, he released Echo. The Golbat almost let out his trademark shriek, but Koa hushed him. "Hey there buddy," he whispered, rubbing the Golbat's head. Echo gave a low chirp and nuzzled Koa. "I figured you'd like to be out of your ball a bit since it's not raining. Get some rest, I'll see you in the morning." With that, Koa snuggled into the couch, drifting into a pleasant sleep.

The next morning, he left early, staying just long enough to thank his hosts and give the rest of his team a chance to stretch their legs. Then, with wishes of good luck and a warning to be careful crossing the marsh, he set out. Within the hour, he had reached his last obstacle before Pastoria City - the marshland.

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

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

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

Anubis (Male Houndour) {Flash Fire} - Ember, Bite, Thunder Fang, Howl

Thanks as always to my reviewers, you guys are awesome. Special thanks to those who have reviewed basically every chapter. AnyaFyre, James 95, pokemonking, Echothehybrid.

Also, DivineWhiskey asked about the possibility of romance in this story. I do love a good romance, and I admit that pokemon stories are usually really lacking in that department. Truthfully, I don't have anything planned for the story, but its not off that table either. None of the characters I've introduced so far are the type Koa might be interested in. And not to mention, Koa is pretty focused right now on his own goals. That said, now that you brought it up, I will definitely keep the idea in mind. If I can find a good way to work it into the story, I would love to tie something in eventually.

As for guest user Keckleon, keep an eye for chapter 10, which should drop next Saturday or so. You might like the pokemon he runs into at the marsh ;)

As always, feedback is greatly welcomed and appreciated!

1. The Plan 7766 0 0 2. The Unplanned 5148 0 0 3. Rocky Road to Success 7322 0 0 4. Every Roserade has its Thorns 5998 0 0 5. Rematch and Revival 5995 0 0 6. Unstoppable, Immovable 7204 0 0 7. Looking Onward and Inward 7028 0 0 8. Where the Hearthome Lies 6360 0 0 9. The Hound of the Hour 8685 0 0 10. From Marsh to Shining Marsh 7979 0 0 11. Mach Power 8486 0 0 12. You've Got to be 'Kitto'ing Me! 6841 0 0 13. Getting Ghosted 7569 0 0 14. Cal-Amity Square 5932 0 0 15. Don't Gabite Off More than You Can Chew 7183 0 0 16. Enter the Unown 8641 0 0 17. A Strategy for Success 7673 0 0 18. Getting Your Psyduck in a Row 6302 0 0 19. Breaking the Ice Fang 7787 0 0 20. An Electrifying Encounter 8282 0 0 21. KOa'd 8668 0 0 22. Blackout 11062 0 0 23. Heart's Fire 9950 0 0