Stroll - Emolkyu - Pocket Monsters | Pokemon (2024)

Chapter 1: Chapter 1

Chapter Text

The dewy scent of trees was in the air, a light breeze flicked at Jake’s dusty blonde hair. He was on his knees, grey-green eyes wide in astonishment.

‘I could've sworn I was just dozing off in Miss McAuley’s maths class. I always knew that algebra would send me insane in the end.’

Jake was most definitely not in a classroom. He viewed the scenery around him. He appeared to be situated atop a small hill, woodland stretching as far as the eye could see in every direction. The colours of the world seemed... amplified somehow — the blues deeper, the greens lusher, every texture sharper, more defined. Chirping filled the air; unlike any bird song he was familiar with. He had the strangest feeling that something, or some many things were watching him.

Abruptly, Jake brought up his palm and slapped it across his face. Nothing happened. A light burn stung his cheek.

‘Well, I didn’t enjoy that. Turns out, I am not a masoch*st, which is good to know.... Unfortunately, it also means I am not dreaming’

Jake lifted his gaze to the sky, breathing deeply; it was a splendid day, the sun shining brightly above. The warm rays caressed his face, the very real sensation unnerving him. Aside from an odd chorus of unfamiliar animal calls, the scene was quintessentially woodland, as typical as any he'd known.

‘Right.... not much sense dawdling about here. Let’s explore a little and see if I can figure out where I am’

Jake rose to his feet, searching around. There were very little obvious distinctive features aside from trees, trees.... and more trees. Jake sighed and began a cautious descent down the hill, guided only by the direction of the wind. He tread carefully, sidestepping roots, pushing through the deciduous foliage. As he delved deeper into the woods, the thick canopy above filtered out the sun, darkening the shadows around him.

Jake massaged his temples, grappling with the sudden transition from classroom to wilderness. His school was deep within a city, and while there were several parks, none were expansive enough to match what he was seeing now.

Patting down the pockets of his light grey hoodie, he found his smartphone, house keys, and wallet. "Thank God" he murmured relieved.

Relief swiftly turned sour as Jake took out his phone and cursed as he realised there was an "out of service" message displayed on the screen.

"Just perfect," he muttered with a trace of irony.

Still, he unlocked the phone, surprised to see Pokémon Black Version 2 still open; he hadn't finished it yet. His preference had always leaned towards the more recent games, preferring their more advanced 3D graphics, but his friend Josh always insisted that the earlier games were more fun. He had been enjoying the earlier instalments, mainly because he found it more convenient, having them accessible on his smartphone, and Jake was close to conquering the last of the pre-3DS Pokémon games.

Distractedly with scrolling through his phone, it took Jake a moment to realise that his foot had bumped into something unexpectedly soft on the trail.

‘Bliip’ an odd chirping sounded.

Lifting his eyes from the screen, Jake found himself locked in the gaze of a colossal blue bug. With a head that seemed too large for its lithe body, the creature peered at him, huge eyes reflecting a startling depth of intelligence. A curious light shimmered in its eyes, seemingly scrutinising Jake with similar confusion.

‘Bliip-Bliip?’

Startled, Jake jumped back from the largest insect he had ever seen, only to feel another soft lump against his heel.

‘Bliip!’

Glancing around, Jake saw another blue bug, this one looking decidedly less pleased having been stepped on. In a flash, it reared back and spat a sticky white substance at him.

Reacting quickly, Jake swerved his head to the right with the gooey mixture missing by an ear.

‘Not the kind of scene I’m into!’ Jake quipped at the creature. Seemingly surprised by his quick reflexes, the bug hurriedly scuttled away. A loud rustling drew Jake's attention, and he turned to see what seemed like dozens of the blue critters swarming away from him.

‘Bliip-Bliip,’ they chirped in unison, their voices high-pitched as they ran into the undergrowth.

Completely bewildered, Jake stood still, watching in amazement as the peculiar creatures scurried away from him. They must have perceived a threat or predator, though he couldn't imagine too many animals from Earth that would be able to prey on such sizeable insects.

‘Well, live and let lie, I’m getting outta here’

Turning back around, he stopped short. The first blue bug hadn't moved and was still gazing up at him curiously.

‘Bliip-Bliip?’ Who are you the bug seemed to be asking.

‘Wait... Are you trying to communicate with me?’ Jake responded aghast.

Jake had never heard of talking insects. Was this some kind of science experiment gone awry? Recalling scenes from sci-fi movies, he began to pat himself down, checking for anything unusual. He had watched too many Alien films to dismiss the potential dangers of such an encounter.

"Bliip," the creature responded, nodding its head. The gesture was surprisingly endearing, coming from a foot long bug.

‘I never thought I would find a bug charming’ mused Jake. ‘It doesn't look like it's going to eat or impregnate me though appearances can be deceiving.’

‘My name is Jake, nice to meet you’

‘Bliip’ Bug nodded again. Introducing itself.

‘So, Bug, you wouldn't happen know where we are by chance?’

‘Bliip-Bliip?’

‘You are wise in your counsel’ Jake nodded gravely, the surreal nature of his situation starting to get to him.

“Perhaps we may meet again, farewell.’ Jake said unnerved at the stare of a bug that seemed to understand him all too well. He needed to find some normalcy. Jake carefully stepped around the insect and started to quickly stride through the woods.

‘I am hallucinating; I am going crazy. Talking foot-long bugs. Is this a twisted math class? A surprise VR lesson? Why would it include bugs? Let's see’

‘Log off’

‘Menu’

Time for the nuclear option.

‘CTRL+ALT+DEL’

Nothing. Dismissing the ridiculous notion, Jake continued to navigate through the foliage, deep in thought. After a while, the trees began to thin, a soft burbling of water could be heard. Realising his thirst, he quickened his pace and found himself at the edge of a serene creek.

"Bliip" A high-pitched chirp sounded close to his left ear. Startled, Jake’s heart leapt in the air. The bug he thought he'd left behind was now perched on his left shoulder, having stealthily climbed up his back.

In his haste to shake off the bug, Jake lost his balance. His heel snagged a root, sending him sprawling backwards into the clearing. The ground sloped sharply, gathering pace, he slid down the muddy incline plunging headfirst into the bubbling creek.

Lying motionless in the water, Jake wore a blank expression. "This day just keeps getting better," he sighed.

Lifting his head, he glanced back up the bank. The blue bug, was staring at him with a curious gaze, its expression seemingly asking him, "Why did you do that?" Jake just sighed.

Having successfully quenched his thirst, Jake stood from the creek and looked at the clearing for the first time. He nearly lost his balance and tumbled back into the water from sheer shock. Surrounding him were creatures, crossing the divide of the familiar and fantastical.

In the sky, a flock of petite birds, no bigger than a typical sparrow, deep blue plumage appearing almost black in certain light. Streaks of white adorned their underbelly and wings. There large, round eyes, a brilliant shade of red, contrasting starkly with its dark feathers. Unmistakably they were Rookidee, flying-type Pokémon from the Galar region. They weren't alone.

Nearby stood a couple of chubby, squirrel-like Pokémon, roughly a foot tall on hind legs. Their backs were covered in warm, chestnut-brown fur which transitioned to a creamy beige on its belly. Especially fluffy cheeks gave the impression of stuffed pouches, hinting at its well-known appetite. Skwovet, normal-type Pokémon from the same region.

Rubbing his eyes, Jake’s attention returned to the blue bug, a Blipbug he now realised. What he had first thought to be gigantic was in fact tiny by Pokémon standards. Meanwhile, the creature had made its way to the water’s edge.

"This can't be real. Pokémon? What kind of drugs am I on?" Jake internally wondered.

He was acutely aware of his clothes, heavy and wet from the water, and the gentle breeze that started to dry his skin.

The Pokémon around him displayed a mix of curiosity and caution. Some seemed to be stifling giggles, no doubt appreciating his power slide.

Finally, pulling himself out of the water, Jake gave a theatrical bow, playing along with the apparent applause from his unexpected audience. Though he struggled to grasp the reality of the situation, he couldn't help but notice more Pokémon scattered throughout the clearing. Pidove circling overhead, Caterpie and Metapod clinging to the trees.

Suddenly, a bold Pokémon darted to his feet, barking a cheerful "Yamp!" up at him. It resembled a corgi but sported a sleek, sunny-yellow coat accented by brown patches on its ears, eyes, and the base of its tail. Its large triangular ears stood straight, revealing a soft brown interior, and a fluffy, deeper yellow collar encircled its neck.

Jake knelt carefully, scratching behind the creature's ears. The Yamper hummed with pleasure. The softness of the fur under his fingers made Jake think, "It's real. I can actually feel it."

"Nice to meet you too buddy," Jake said, smiling as the Yamper wriggled happily under his touch. The surrounding Pokémon, observing his friendly interaction, seemed to relax and returned to their activities.

For a time, Jake found himself seated by the creek's edge, trying to dry out in the sun. Yamper having comfortably nestled itself onto his lap. Its stubby tail wagged contentedly as he stroked its fur. The Blipbug, which Jake had encountered earlier, had once again perched on his shoulder, seeming quite pleased with its chosen spot. Jake observed the beautiful and peaceful scenery around him.

The clearing bustled with Pokémon activity, the creek's refreshing waters drawing various species. Most seemingly ignoring his presence.

Jake tried to piece together his strange situation. Just moments ago, he'd been enduring a typical school day; nothing had seemed amiss.

"Could I be in another world? No, that's impossible," he mused. "But with all these Pokémon around... Maybe Satoshi Tajiri discovered this place first and was inspired to create a game?"

Shaking off the improbable thoughts, he met the eyes of the Blipbug on his shoulder. "Bliip?" it chirped, looking puzzled.

"It's nothing, little buddy, just struggling to accept reality."

"Yamp!" Yamper, feeling left out, yamped up at Jake, seeking attention.

"You sure are lively," Jake remarked, scratching the Yamper behind its ears, sending the puppy Pokémon into bliss.

"Did I... die? From sheer boredom in class? Or old age?" Jake pondered. Sure, Miss McAuley's lessons often felt endless, but he'd made it through before. And old age? At fourteen, that seemed unlikely unless he was Benjamin Button...

"And I don't recall any trucks either..."

Jake rummaged in his pocket, retrieving his phone. A muttered curse escaped his lips; the device was drenched and looked beyond repair.

“I can't let this get to me," he murmured, drawing in a deep breath to steady his nerves. "There's got to be a town nearby. Someone there can help." Memories of his mother's advice came to mind; "Jake, adapting to new places is just like learning to ride a bike—shaky and uncertain at first, but stick with it, and you'll smooth out the ride. When you're feeling lost or overwhelmed, just stop for a moment. Take a deep breath. Find your centre." As she was a respected child psychologist, Jake figured she knew what she was talking about.

Setting the Blipbug gently on the ground, he rose to his feet. "I need to find some signs of civilisation. Do either of you know the way to the nearest human settlement?" he asked, hopeful.

The Blipbug and Yamper exchanged glances, then turned their gaze to Jake and finally to the direction of the creek.

"Bliip," chirped the Blipbug.

"Yamp," barked the Yamper in agreement.

Taking their cues as a positive sign, Jake responded with a warm smile. "Follow the creek, then? That sounds like a solid plan." He crouched once more, extending his hand in thanks, and the Pokémon nuzzled into his touch appreciatively. "Thanks for pointing the way."

With a companionable chirp and an agreeable bark, the Pokémon lingered for a moment longer before they moved towards the thicket. They paused, looking back as if to ensure he was alright, then, with a gentle rustle, they disappeared into the greenery — not with abruptness, but with the quiet understanding that each must journey onward.

Jake couldn't help but feel a twinge of disappointment as he left the Pokémon behind. Part of him — a big part — wanted to just stay, to live out the adventure he’d always imagined. But he had to get his head on straight. Top of the list was finding some sort of town, figuring out where in the world he’d landed. Dreams were one thing, but he couldn’t forget the basics. He needed help, and for that, he needed other people. No use pretending otherwise.

Jake followed the course of the creek; its waters clear and burbling. Jake could not hold himself from staring in wonder. Fish-like Pokémon, possibly Magikarp or Goldeen, swam below the surface. Above, Butterfree fluttered gracefully, alighting on the blossoms dotting the water's edge, while Rookidee and Pidove flitted across the sky.

Determined, Jake steeled himself against further astonishment. "This is a Pokémon world," he reminded himself. "I need to adapt."

As Jake meandered along the expanding curves of the creek, his sense of time began to blur, stretching out in the serene wilderness. He was impressed by the demeanour of the Pokémon he encountered. Based on some of the games he had played, wild Pokémon were supposed to be more aggressive and dangerous. Which he supposed they would be if they were threatened.

Most Pokémon seemed indifferent to Jake's presence, some were curious but skittish and kept their distance. A few of the more audacious ones ventured closer, but perhaps upon noticing his lack of Poké Balls and accompanying Pokémon, they retreated. Maybe they had hoped for a battle but were reluctant to challenge an unarmed human.

‘Quite the honourable characters,’ Jake mused to himself.

Some of the Pokémon he encountered were more territorial. Chewtle — turtle-like Pokémon with pronounced toothed jaws — were often spotted sunning themselves by the river were notably less welcoming, growling threateningly whenever he ventured too close.

Without warning, a searing pain exploded in Jake's ankle. A strangled cry burst from his lips as he crumpled to the ground, the cold metal grip of a bear trap clamping mercilessly around his leg. Vision blurred by tears, he forced himself to look down, nausea rising at the sight of jagged teeth buried in his flesh. The pain was overwhelming, a tidal wave that threatened to drag him into unconsciousness. He could barely think through the agony, through blurry vision the trap seemed to be moving by itself. It was a tortuously slow pace, extracting itself out of his leg, revealing large, round, yellow eyes. Realisation dawned on Jake despite the pain; a Galarian Stunfisk, its natural trap mechanism cruelly sprung by his unwitting step.

The Stunfisk emitted a sharp, metallic, "Stun!" Agitated that its ambush had been sprung by unintended prey, having released his leg the creature bounced away, likely in search of a new hiding spot. Jake could do nothing but sit helplessly on the riverbank, his leg disabled with pain.

Wincing, Jake examined his injured leg. A choked gasp slipped out as he took in the severity of the wounds. Blood was oozing from the punctures, but, fortunately, the metal hadn't reached bone. It seemed the Stunfisk had restrained itself when it had realised, he was a human. He hastily removed his light-grey hoodie and wound it tightly around his leg, hoping to slow the bleeding.

As Jake gingerly stood, a raw scream escaped him with each stab of pain in his leg, pain like nothing he'd ever felt before. Panic was clawing at him, making every breath an effort, every step a battle. He limped, grimacing, toward the trees, the ground beneath him a mix of mud and betrayal.

The Yamper and Blipbug, with their friendly demeanour, had given him a glimpse of the world he'd always imagined. But now, with each throb of his leg, Jake couldn't ignore the harsh lesson he'd just learned. These Pokémon weren't just pixels on a screen—they were real, powerful, even the small ones and not all of them had friendly dispositions. The danger was real, it could hurt him, it could be worse. Much worse.

That truth was now painfully obvious. He was here, injured and alone, in a world that didn’t necessarily operate by all the rules he knew. But giving in wasn’t an option. He had to keep going. One foot in front of the other.

As determined as can be, yet hobbled, Jake pressed on, following the river's course. The signs of civilization remained elusive, and he worried over just how far he'd have to trek with his injured leg. Breathing deeply to calm himself, Jake was starting to think he was relying on his mother’s advice way too often for one day.

The once bright day began to dim, sun setting on the horizon. Jake knew he needed to find shelter soon. For now, the towering trees lining the riverbank seemed like his best bet. He chose to press on a bit further, hoping a better refuge might present itself.

Time continued to pass, shadows lengthened, and light dwindled, the sun setting below the horizon. The dusk settled to an impenetrable night that blanketed everything, and Jake found himself exhausted, starving, and needing to find camp. With careful movements, he sat down under a particularly large riverside giant, the best shelter he could find.

Trying to relax under the tree, Jake's leg ached with a persistent, nagging throb, but brave as he could, managed to keep his cool. He tried to think what could help him in this situation. From the games he remembered berries that could work wonders on injuries — oran, sitrus, were the names. If he could spot some around here, they might just take the edge off.

First things first, though. He'd rest up for a little while, cobble together some kind of camp. It would be good practice, almost like those outdoor school projects, only this time it was no joke. As he leaned back, he called to mind those leisurely hikes and campouts he’d had with his friends. The memories helped steady him as he carefully gathered branches, a quiet determination setting in. There was a method to setting up camp, a step-by-step process he’d done before, which he now replicated, organising the wood into a neat pile. All the while, he kept his hopes up for any hint of berry bushes.

Jake continued to grapple with the mystery of his sudden presence here and the uncertainty of returning home. Jake held a lot of knowledge of the Pokémon world that offered hope. He was aware of legendary Pokémon and of their natures. However, to gain the answers to his particular situation, he would need to find at least one of Arceus, Palkia, or Dialga. Finding such beings would be a daunting, if not impossible, task on his own. The games hinted that they could be found in the Sinnoh region, but Jake's current whereabouts in relation to Sinnoh remained a mystery, as did his means to get there.

Lost in thought, Jake's mind wandered to home, his family: his parents and younger sister. They undoubtedly would be devastated by his sudden disappearance. Unlike tales of children from troubled backgrounds whisked away to other realms, Jake had a loving family. Heck, he even had close friends at school, boys and girls, who genuinely cared for him. While he wasn't exactly in the popular crowd, Jake was generally well-liked. Really, just a regular kid who liked games. It seemed an odd twist of fate that someone with such a grounded life would find himself in this predicament. He shook his head to stop his introspective spiral.

"Snap out of it, Jake," he muttered to himself. "Going down memory lane won't help. Let’s find something to eat." He was ravenous after such a long time without food.

Jake crept toward a thicket, eyes looking for any hint of the familiar berries. Gone were the conveniences of the game —no floating indicators or confirmations as he reached into the brush. His mind fumbled for the memory of an oran berry’s shape and hue, hunger blurring his recollection. Shrugging off doubt, he plucked a handful of mixed berries, their vibrant colours a stark contrast to anything on Earth, and they reduced his hunger with unexpected heartiness.

A particular berry, coloured in deep purple, caught his eye. It sparked a sliver of recognition—Chesto berries, known in the Pokémon games for curing sleep conditions. He sank his teeth into the rich flesh and a surge of revitalising energy coursed through Jake, dispelling his weariness. He was now wide awake. The allure of sleep fading, replaced by an urge to continue his quest to find a settlement, even if it meant traveling under the cover of night.

Jake checked the other bushes wondering if any of them could be oran or sitrus. He sampled a few, not remembering the exact colour they were supposed to be. He struck lucky, with a light blue berry. Almost instantly, the throbbing pain in his leg subsided somewhat. This must be the oran berry from the game. Removing his makeshift bandage, he was astounded to see the wounds visibly shrinking.

‘If I could bring even a few home, I'd revolutionise A&E," he mused.

Yet, as he scanned the bushes, he could find no more of the miraculous oran berries. Although an ache remained, he could walk although with a slight limp. He pocketed several chesto berries for the road ahead. Energised, Jake returned to his campfire, igniting the end of a stick to light his path.

With a brisker limp, Jake made steady progress alongside the river, keeping to the tree line to evade any more potential mud traps. The night was alive with sounds—distinctive cries, roars, and chirps of Pokémon echoed around him. The cacophony reminded him of an African night safari he once took as a child, where the calls of savannah animals filled the night.

Time seemed to pass quickly, Jake kept alert for more berry bushes, boosted by his supply of chesto berries, spotting at distance some nocturnal Pokémon. Across the river, a family of the fox-like Nickit’s with a larger Thievul eyed him warily before disappearing into the shadows. Silhouettes of now familiar Rookidee flitted between the trees occasionally joined by the larger form of Corvisquire.

The forest began to take on an eerie quality. Jake felt the constant sensation of being watched. Every so often, pairs of glowing eyes would emerge from the dark foliage, only to retreat when he met their gaze. The weight of the unknown eyes bore down on him, making the hairs on the back of his neck stand up and sending shivers down his spine. Feeling the increased tension of the situation, Jake gripped tighter on his makeshift torch, a slight tremble in his grasp.

"Brilliant move, Jake," he chided himself sarcastically. "Venturing into a forest in another world... at night? Even Ash might've thought twice about this one."

Yet, Jake's stubborn nature always nudged him forward. Once he set his mind to something, he was committed.

"It’s just a little midnight stroll," he rationalised. "It's almost... romantic? Well, if I weren't alone." He chuckled softly. "Some folks even prefer that. Dad always said there's a flavour for every taste in this world." Though, Jake doubted his father ever envisioned "this world" being quite so literal.

Jake was jolted by the sound of the underbrush stirring, a distinct hum of energy in the distance. The noise hinted at a Pokémon duel. Seized by excitement at the prospect of witnessing his very first Pokémon battle, Jake hastened toward the source of the noise. Yet, the scene that unfolded before him was far from what he had anticipated.

POV -???

Night had descended, and for Emolga it was time to embrace the skies. She had fur that was a blend of stark black and pristine white. It rippled in the moonlit breeze. Large, rounded ears perked up attentively, and her big, expressive eyes scanned the surroundings. Circular patches of yellow on her cheeks pulsed softly, reservoirs of stored electricity. With a membrane stretched between her limbs like a cape, she was the Pokémon world’s own flying squirrel, ready to glide effortlessly through the air.

Having painstakingly climbed one of the higher trees, Emolga had perched herself on a lofty branch. Her heart thudded in her chest as she shuffled as close as she could dare to the edge.

A wave of nervousness washed over her, "Why should I, born to soar the skies, fear heights? This time, I will conquer!" she mentally rallied herself. With her face scrunched in resolve, sparks emanated from her yellow cheeks. Despite her fierce determination, she only really succeeded in looking even more adorable.

She was somewhat of a late bloomer compared to the rest of her siblings who had already achieved flight moons ago.

‘There is nothing to be afraid of, I just won’t look down.’ She looked down. She froze. Oh no, the embarrassing truth. She, a flying squirrel, petrified of heights. The memory of her siblings' laughter when they discovered her secret made her cheeks burn.

Shaking her little head, she dispelled the negative thoughts ‘No, I will not give in! My siblings will be amazed. This time I will ascend to heights never seen by Emolga before!’ clenching her paws.

Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted a faint ember glow moving along the river. But she was too engrossed in her mission to pay it any heed. ""Eyes closed, leap, and let my instincts glide me," she whispered.

Emolga closed her eyes and jumped.

POV - JAKE

As Jake homed in on the source of the electric hum, his eyes caught a flurry of movement high in the canopy. A Pokémon, reminiscent of a squirrel, cheeks ablaze with stored electricity, plummeted through the leaves. Panic etched across its face as it tried to control its rapid descent. With the ground approaching, the creature's wings beat frantically, but instead of slowing its fall, the flaps sent it spiralling, tumbling through the air chaotically.

Jake's concern mounted as he watched the scene unfold. He was internally debating whether to step in when suddenly, the Pokémon snapped out its wing-like membranes. The manoeuvre caught the air and the Pokémon shot in a beeline toward him. It was an Emolga, the electric flying-squirrel Pokémon, Jake realised, its body vibrating with frenetic energy. As the Pokémon spiralled into sheer panic, the Emolga's control over its electric charge started to falter, unleashing erratic sparks into the surrounding air.

Jake's eyes widened as he realised the Pokémon's trajectory.

"Whoa, heads up!" Jake exclaimed. To no avail. With shocking intensity, the little Pokémon smashed headfirst into Jake's face, knocking him clean off his feet. As the creature's panic escalated, electric currents bolted from its cheeks, engulfing Jake. Shocks vibrated his bones. Darkness closed in, 'Shocking encounters indeed.' his last coherent thought.

POV - EMOLGA

‘Owie’ the Emolga muttered rubbing her head. She was sat on a peculiar bipedal creature, which she eyed curiously. She recalled her mother's stories of these beings. They arrived with powerful Pokémon and tried to ensnare others using strange spherical devices. None of the Pokémon Emolga was acquainted with had ever been captured, although her father boasted of once defeating one of their mighty companions. Emolga harboured doubts about that tale; her father wasn't exactly a formidable Emolga in her eyes.

Indeed, during their playful skirmishes, Emolga often bested both her parents and siblings when she could reach them. She might lack confidence in her flying abilities, but her electric capabilities more than compensated for it.

Refocusing on the unconscious being beneath her, Emolga realised she'd never personally encountered one, given the seclusion of her part of the forest. Rumours spoke of a large gathering of these creatures residing in a den further down the river. However, considering her aviation challenges, she'd never ventured that far.

The creature stirred slightly, waking up. Emolga panicked, not quite sure what to do. She felt responsible for its current condition, though it really should have gotten out of the way.

Emolga did not know how it would react to her continued presence. She looked around for anything that might help her.

POV - JAKE

Jake's consciousness slowly seeped back. His head felt foggy, and his body seemed distant. Letting out a groan, he attempted to marshal his scattered thoughts. His limbs felt numb, so he tentatively wiggled his digits, hoping sensation would return. Memories of the recent encounter rushed back, and his eyes flew open, only to gaze upward to the very Pokémon responsible for his predicament. His gamer's knowledge kicked in: Emolga, an electric-flying type, clearly demonstrated by the aerial volt tackle to the face, Jake thought dryly.

The tiny creature leaned forward, its large, round eyes wide, a mischievous spark in its innocent and probing curiosity that seemed almost comical given the circ*mstances. Its rounded ears were twitching to sounds that Jake could not hear. Trademark yellow patches stood on her cheeks, thankfully not sparking anymore.

‘Emol?’ the Emolga chirped, tilting its head to one side innocently. Jake marvelled at how, even without shared language, the Pokémon's expressive eyes seemed to convey its sentiments.

‘Seems like someone skipped their flying lessons,’ Jake muttered, despite the residual tingling in his limbs. His light-hearted tone belied his discomfort.

Emolga’s eyes widened in surprise at first, but upon grasping his meaning, its cheeks puffed out indignantly.

‘Emol, mol, mol!’ it retorted with fervour, as if to say he should've watched where he was going.

‘I seem to recall you had your eyes shut the whole time,’ Jake retorted, though the Emolga's endearing display of indignation brought a grin to his face.

The Emolga looked stunned, and Jake caught a glimpse of what seemed like embarrassment cross its features.

‘Mol, emoool,’ the Emolga mumbled, averting its eyes and glancing guiltily at the ground.

Jake wasn't entirely sure, but the creature's demeanour seemed apologetic. Observing the Emolga more closely, Jake felt it appeared younger than most of its kind. He couldn't quite put his finger on why he thought that having not seen a real one before, but its behaviour gave away hints of youth.

‘Well, I can't really move right now, but I think I'll be okay. How about making it up to me with a cherri berry?’ Jake asked hopefully remembering the paralysis-healing berry from the games.

Emolga's expression brightened, glad it could be helpful and scampered away on all fours, noticeably forgoing its species’ usual gliding motion. Jake remained motionless, the initial shock diminishing as he began to regain feeling in his extremities, aware that regaining his full strength would take some time.

Soon after, Emolga scampered back, placing a cherry-like berry into Jake's mouth. He bit into the cherri berry, its tangy sweetness washing over him as a tingling warmth began to ease the numbness in his limbs. With each bite, the feeling grew into a comforting heat that loosened his stiff muscles and encouraged deeper breaths.

The warmth intensified across his body, bringing with it a sense of relief as the stiffness in his muscles began to dissipate. Jake noticed his breathing becoming deeper and more even as his diaphragm relaxed, suggesting that the berry might contain some anti-inflammatory agents or natural muscle relaxants. His fingers and toes twitched and then moved at his command, a sure sign of the berry's restorative powers at work.

It wasn't an instant fix, but a slow reawakening, allowing him to become reacquainted with movement. Eventually, Jake was able to sit up, with Emolga hopping down to sit patiently beside him.

"Thanks, Emolga," Jake whispered, lifting his hand to gently stroke the Pokémon's head. A contented sigh escaped Emolga as it suddenly became aware of the affectionate gesture. Its tail stiffened and its eyes grew wide with surprise... but soon it relaxed again, succumbing to the enjoyable scratches.

"You really enjoy that, huh?" Jake observed, smiling at the content Emolga. "Not used to people, are you?" he continued.

The Emolga nodded in agreement, pointing at Jake and raising a single finger, communicating that Jake was first one it had seen. Jake's eyes widened in amazement. He knew Pokémon were intelligent—after all, the games and the anime suggested they had cognitive abilities on par with humans, and he recalled the Blipbug he had encountered— it was strange witnessing mathematical skills in animals.

"Name's Jake," he said, introducing himself.

The Emolga responded with a cheerful chirp, "Mol, mol, emol," as if stating its own name in return.

Emolga stayed by his side as he waited for the paralysis to fully subside. Jake was amused by her occasional lack of grace but found her to be an energetic and cheerful presence. As they spent time together, Jake came to realise that this Emolga was female. Her sulkiness when teased reminded him of his own spirited younger sister, though he mused she might not take kindly to such a comparison.

Remarkably, she seemed to understand him without any trouble. Although Jake couldn't fully comprehend her in return, he managed to catch the gist of her thoughts through her animated expressions and motions.

"Why were you out flying so late?" Jake inquired softly, aware that he was venturing into sensitive territory.

Surprised by the question, Emolga hopped off from Jake's now somewhat moveable lap.

With a hint of melancholy in her chirping, "Emol, mol, mool," she gestured towards the branch, then cast her gaze downward, covering her eyes.

Jake took a good look at Emolga, thinking how it kind of reminded him of a Pikachu, what with its cheek patches, size and electric typing. But Emolga had its own thing going on with those wing membranes it used to glide. It didn't really fly like a Pidgey or a Spearow did, instead, it was more like it surfed the air currents to sail around treetops and the like.

"Being scared of heights must be rare for an Emolga," Jake commented empathetically, looking kindly at the grounded squirrel. "So, you're basically a Skwovet?" he teased.

‘Mol!’ Emolga was indignant at his words, patting her belly, she was nowhere near as fat as a rat like that.

Jake flashed a grin at the Pokémon. As feeling returned, he wobbled to his knees. His vision blurred briefly before he shook his head clear, looking into Emolga's inquisitive gaze. The young kit appeared intrigued, examining him with keen interest, the lack of human interaction lending her a cute innocence.

Jake couldn't resist. He dove into a tickle attack, his fingers expertly tickling Emolga's belly. She let out indignant squawks that quickly turned into giggles, squirming under his relentless tickling. Jake's grin grew wider with each giggle, enjoying their playful skirmish.

After withstanding a round of tickles, Emolga deftly slipped from his grasp and climbed up to sit on the top of his head.

Jake looked up with a grin at Emolga as she attempted to recapture her composure. Gazing down into Jake's eyes, her head tilted upside down, she wagged her finger at him in a playful reprimand. With a spirited "Mol, emol, mol!" she asserted her authority — she was in charge here, and she wouldn't tolerate such indignity.

Jake simply rose to his feet, careful of his leg. Taken aback at the sudden change in altitude, Emolga's expression wavered, and she toppled from his head. Swiftly, Jake reached out and caught her.

"Is it that bad?" Jake asked, peering down at the Emolga cradled in his hands as he gently lowered her to the ground.

The Emolga's posture drooped momentarily, the shame of her aversion to heights momentarily dampening her usually vibrant spirit. But resilience sparked within her almost instantly. With a bright chirp of "Mol, mol, emol!" she clenched her small paws with newfound resolve. A soft buzz of electricity hummed in her cheeks as she pointed her nose toward the sky, flapping her wing-like appendages with gusto. She would not let a minor detail like that bring her down.

Jake admired the young Pokémon, retaining such enthusiasm despite suffering what must be a debilitating condition for an Emolga.

Suddenly a wave of tiredness hit Jake, it must be past midnight now, his exhaustion must be catching up with him. He picked out a chesto berry from his pocket and popped it into his mouth. He felt, his mind clear, though his limbs still trembled a little. He needed to rest soon, the berries only acted as an amphetamine, keeping him awake, but doing nothing for physical exhaustion.

"Know any place around here where I could crash for the night?" Jake asked, looking down at Emolga.

With an eager twitch of her ears, Emolga scampered up to Jake, tugging at his jeans with a determined little paw. She knew just the spot. Jake, despite the pain, followed her lead, limping along as she zapped off with surprising speed on the ground. Even if she would not fly, she was fast on her feet.

As he struggled to keep up with her lively pace, a thought struck him. "I can't keep calling you 'Emolga,' can I? Especially if we bump into more of your kind." He pondered for a moment. The Emolga glanced back at him, head co*cked to the side in a questioning tilt.

"How about Trixie?" he suggested. The name seemed to fit her perfectly – she was adorable, full of mischief and her tricks had quite literally knocked him off his feet.

Trixie paused, shuffling her feet as if contemplating the new name. She shot a look at Jake, almost as if she sensed the joke behind his choice. But quick as a flash, her expression brightened.

"Emol!" she chirped, seemingly pleased with her name, and with a renewed energy, Trixie – no longer just any Emolga – buzzed ahead, leading the way.

Periodically, Trixie would bound ahead and pause, waiting for Jake to catch up.

‘Mol, emol?’ she chirped; her tone playful yet quizzical - what the heck is taking you so long?

‘I must confess, my talents do not lie in one-legged runs’ Jake admitted sardonically.

‘Emol, mol,’ Trixie waved her paw dismissively, as if to say, "No excuses!"

Definitely like my little sister Jake thought bitterly.

Pokémon continued to be a presence. In the background, the rhythmic tapping of Pikipek echoed through the trees. Tangela occasionally allowed a pair of eyes to stare out at him from the unknown body within its vines. It made Jake realise how strange some of the Pokémon designs were when seeing them for real. Foongus were a particularly bizarre mon. Jake struggled to contain his laughter at the sight of what was essentially a live waddling shroom, though still being careful to avoid its spore. Trixie was acting quite literally as Jake’s guiding light in the darkness, and it seemed they were approaching the end of their trek.

Emerging from the dense trees, they reached a shadowed grove where a faint sound of buzzing could be heard. It was clear now: Trixie had led Jake to her home.

The grove was an idyllic spot, the kind discovered by chance when straying slightly off the beaten path. It was neither excessively lush nor dense, its open spaces allowing shafts of moonlight to filter through the leaves and speckle the forest floor.

At its centre an oak tree rose stoutly from the earth, its trunk wide and strong. Around the midpoint of its ascent, where thick branches began to stretch out like arms, there was a subtle break—a natural hollow that might have gone unnoticed had it not been for the lively presence of electric squirrels darting in and out.

"Follow me," Trixie seemed to say with a flick of her tail, darting towards the centre tree. Two Emolga dropped from the leafy canopy above, spiralling around her with delighted chirps. They were clearly kin – her cheeky siblings, Jake mused, watching their high jinks with a smile.

Jake paused for a moment to take in the playful pair, their distinct personalities shining through in stark contrast to the generic versions he remembered from his games. One was the epitome of a show-off, sporting a tuft of fur that stood up defiantly between its ears, giving it a rebellious, punk-like appearance. Meanwhile, its sibling seemed more reserved, maintaining a slight distance from the more boisterous 'punkemolga,' which continued to zip around Trixie with relentless chirping.

As Jake ventured deeper into the grove, two more Emolga suddenly swooped into view, effectively blocking his path. Their cheeks sparkled with electricity, a warning sign that wasn't lost on Jake. These two were clearly larger than Trixie and her playful siblings – likely their parents.

"Emol, Mol!" the larger of the two uttered, its sparks intensifying as it eyed Jake warily.

Jake instinctively took a small step back, keen on avoiding another shock. The memory of the last jolt unsettling him.

Trixie zipped back in front of Jake, positioning herself between him and her parents. She stretched her arms out protectively. Her siblings, caught up in the moment, glided in and latched onto the backs of their parents, their eyes fixed on Jake with an unmistakable gleam of excitement, no doubt hoping something interesting would happen.

Chirping animatedly, Trixie launched into an explanation, addressing the elder Emolga. She recounted Jake's encounter with her, her cheeks flushing a deeper shade as no doubt she had to reluctantly admit her fear of heights once more to her family.

As Jake observed Trixie's bold stance and listened to her spirited chatter, he found his appreciation for her – and Pokémon in general – growing immensely. It struck him just how much more there was to these creatures than what he'd experienced in the games. Sure, the games were fun, offering a taste of adventure and strategy, but they fell short in capturing the depth of real interactions, the subtle nuances of their personalities, and the genuine bonds they could form.

He thought about the courage it took for Trixie to confront her parents, to admit her fears, and to stand up for him, a human she barely knew. It was a far cry from the scripted, predictable behaviours of game characters. These were living, feeling creatures each with their own quirks and braveries.

Following Trixie's heartfelt pleas, her parents' demeanour softened. They regarded Jake with less suspicion, eventually giving him a nod – a silent approval for him to come closer.

At this signal, Trixie's siblings erupted into a chorus of joyful chirps. They took to the air, swirling around Jake's head in a whirlwind of excitement, their curiosity palpable. The one Jake had dubbed 'Punkemolga', with its rebellious tuft of fur, zoomed right up to his face. Its eyes sparkled with a bold, inquisitive gleam. Jake had a hunch that this one was a boy, its spunky attitude seeming to be a dead giveaway.

‘"Whoa, easy there, mate!" Jake chuckled, gently warding off the enthusiastic 'Punkemolga' hovering close to his face. "You've got quite the spirit, haven't you?"

Punkemolga chirped in response, tilting its head as if considering Jake's words before zipping back to join its siblings in their playful dance around him.

"Looks like I've got myself a fan club," Jake said with a laugh, watching the energetic display with a mix of amusem*nt and awe.

Upon closer inspection, Jake noticed that the more subdued Emolga, relatively speaking, had cheeks with a distinct orange hue. "Orangemolga," he mentally nicknamed it, amused by his own naming convention.

"Hey there, 'Punkemolga'," Jake said with a playful grin. "You're quite the lively one, aren't you? A real adventurer, I bet!" His words were met with an enthusiastic burst of chirps and acrobatic flips from the Emolga, clearly liking his nickname.

'Orangemolga', on the other hand, floated nearby with a more reserved air, its orange cheeks giving it a contemplative appearance. "And you must be the thinker, right 'Orangemolga'?" Jake said softly, his smile warm. The Emolga chirped gently in response, inching closer with a curious gaze.

Trixie, meanwhile, looked visibly miffed, her cheeks ballooning.

"Emol, mol!" she protested, hopping onto Jake's shoulder in an attempt to divert his attention from her siblings.

Despite her efforts, her siblings continued their energetic dance around Jake, undeterred by her display.

Trixie's frustration soon reached a peak, and she began to emit increasing sparks from her cheeks. This finally caught her siblings' attention. They hastily retreated towards their parents, who watched the scene with amused smirks.

This entire exchange didn't go unnoticed by Trixie, who seemed even more put out now. She slid off Jake's shoulder and positioned herself right in front of his face, chirping loudly for attention.

"You're not getting jealous, are you, Trixie?" Jake chuckled, amused by her behaviour.

Trixie responded with a stubborn "Emol, emol," turning away as if scoffing at the idea. Why would she be jealous of an idiot like him?

"Oh, Trixie, don't worry. You're still my number one guide here," he reassured her, reaching up to gently ruffle the fur on her head. The gesture seemed to appease her, and her cheeks slowly deflated as she accepted the affection with a contented chirp.

"They're just like a normal family, aren't they?" Jake thought, a grin spreading on his face. It was kind of funny to see how much personality these Pokémon had.

"Nice to meet you all," Jake said, turning to the elder Emolga managing a weary smile. "I'd really appreciate it if you could show me a place to crash – I'm pretty wiped out."

Following a 'Mol, emol' from who seemed like Trixie's mother, Jake, with Trixie still on his shoulder, wearily trailed her around the oak. They arrived at a spot you'd hardly call a shelter, more like a smartly hidden nook with a leafy makeshift roof and a floor of dirt and twigs. Just enough space for a human. "Not exactly luxury, but it'll do," Jake thought, surveying the simple but clever setup. As he expressed a theatrical yet sincere thanks to the Emolga family, they chirped back playfully, then literally buzzed up to their den at the top of the trees, leaving him to settle in for the night.

Jake took in the shelter, noticing a little alcove inside that seemed perfect for something Trixie-sized. Her fear of heights must be chronic to the point she could not live with her family up in the trees.

“This your pad, Trixie?” Jake asked, glancing at her as she still perched on his shoulder.

“Emol, mol,” Trixie chirped, her gestures imperious, as if to say, ‘Welcome. Be honoured’

Jake smiled at her grandiose manner. “Oh, I’m fully aware of the honour, my lady” he replied playfully. “Not every day I get invited to such luxury.”

An “Emol” sounded behind him. Orangemolga was there, offering a sitrus berry. “Wow, thanks!” Jake said, accepting the berry. It was deliciously sweet and tangy, and as he ate, he felt its calming effect soothing his aching leg. A wave of gratitude washed over him, his eyes dampening slightly at the feeling of relief. He had been seriously worried about his leg, but he could now put the trauma of the Stunfisk encounter to the back of his mind. Compartmentalise. That was the key.

Orangemolga zoomed off, while Trixie gave Jake's head a comforting pat before hopping down into her den. Bone-tired, Jake followed suit, squeezing into the space beside her. It was a tight fit, but he managed to make himself somewhat comfortable. Lying there, his mind wandered briefly over the day's surreal events. He had stepped into another world, encountered Pokémon in reality, and now here he was, taking shelter with one. It was a lot to take in for a day, and part of him wondered if it was all just a dream.

But the gentle warmth of Trixie nestling against him brought a sense of peace and an odd feeling of belonging. With these thoughts floating in his mind, exhaustion finally claimed him. His breathing slowed, and he slipped into a deep sleep, thus ending his first extraordinary day in a world far from his own.

POV – TRIXIE

As Trixie awoke, warmth was the first sensation that greeted her, comforting her as she emerged from slumber. Bleary-eyed, she yawned cutely and stretched her body up, feeling every muscle relax. Shafts of sunlight pierced through the leafy canopy above, casting a patchwork of light and shadow around her. Beside her, Jake slept soundly, his breathing a rhythmic lullaby of peace. She gazed at him, her small face reflecting a mix of curiosity and affection.

Her thoughts gently meandered to their first meeting. Jake had seemed so strange to her then, a creature of two legs and smooth skin, so different from the usual fare of her forest home. Yet, his eyes radiated kindness, and his touch, a gentle presence that softened her sense of isolation. It wasn't that she resented her family, and she loved her siblings, annoying as they were. But being land-bound as she was, unable to join them in the treetops, Trixie often felt like an outsider among her own kind.

Trixie’s parents, and likely her ancestors, had lived in this forest for generations. It was a rather idyllic habitat for emolga, with little need to venture far. As a result, most of her kin that lived here held little interest in the wider world. Trixie had always been curious, and truly, if it weren’t for her fear of heights, she would have probably seized the first opportunity to leave the nest and explore beyond their familiar woods.

With Jake, however, she found a sense of belonging that had eluded her amongst her treetop kin. His presence filled a void she hadn't known was there, bringing an unexpected companionship.

Introspection complete, Trixie decided on the most entertaining course of action available: she impishly leaped onto Jake’s stomach with the enthusiasm of a playful sprite. Her small, lightweight form landed with a surprising thud. However, to her astonishment, Jake didn't wake up. The lummox snored on.

Puffing her cheeks out in frustration, she leaned in closer, cheeks sparking to a small Nuzzle.

He definitely reacted to that. Jake woke with a start, sputtering and gasping, his eyes wide with shock. "What in the—?" he exclaimed, momentarily disoriented. His gaze fell on Trixie, and for a second, he seemed utterly bewildered, as if he had forgotten where he was. Then, with a shake of his head, he seemed to remember, his expression melting into one of amused resignation.

"Oi, Trixie, you're a proper little rascal, aren't you?" Jake laughed, gently scooping her, tickling her again up in his hands. Trixie wriggled and chirped happily, her eyes twinkling with mischief.

"Thought you could use a wake-up call," she said with her playful demeanour, tilting her head to one side.

"Yeah, thanks for that," Jake replied with a mock grumble, but his smile betrayed his true feelings. "I guess alarm clocks aren't needed in a Pokémon world with you around, huh?"

Trixie didn’t understand an alarm clock, but his tone was light and friendly. She responded with a joyful squeak, hopping from his hand back onto his chest, ready for another round of play.

Jake seemed to gather himself, rubbing his eyes, still a bit dazed from the abrupt awakening, Trixie noticed a change in his expression. He looked around at her den, pondering. His eyes clouded over, reflecting a deep, faraway thought. He seemed to be grappling with something beyond her understanding. The air grew tense, as if Jake was standing at the edge of a precipice, one that weighed heavily on him.

Just as then, a loud growl erupted from Jake's stomach, slicing through the tension. Trixie giggled at the sound, her eyes sparkling with amusem*nt. Trixie was about to make fun when her own stomach betrayed her with an even louder growl.

Jake and Trixie looked at each other a moment before bursting into laughter.

“Let’s find some breakfast!’ Jake said.

POV - JAKE

Jake stretched, feeling refreshed and pain-free, though his stomach now felt overly full from the berries. Breakfast with Trixie and her family had been a delightful affair. Punkemolga and Orangemolga, buzzing around with their adorable, mischievous energy, cheekily snatched berries or nuzzled him just as he was about to take a bite. Initially, Jake laughed along, but he soon decided to retaliate. In a smooth sleight of hand, just as Punkemolga reached for another berry, Jake swapped a sweet pecha berry for a spicy tamato. Trixie's giggles, were the loudest among her family, rang out in delight at the trick, especially at the sight of Punkemolga’s comically red face.

Punkemolga, still sporting a hint of red from the spicy berry, playfully darted around Jake’s head, letting out a series of energetic "Emol, emol!" Cries full of indignation.

Orangemolga, more reserved, hovered near Jake with a gentle "Emol..." and performing a series of aerial flips, also amused at Jake's trick.

Jake chuckled at this and offered Orangemolga a sweet berry. In response, she cooed softly and nuzzled his hand affectionately.

Trixie, seemingly struck by a pang of jealousy, playfully leaped in to nudge Orangemolga away from Jake. She then positioned herself in front of him with a possessive air, chirping “Emol, mol” and gesturing towards Jake as if to say, ‘This is mine!’

Jake simply lay back, leisurely digesting his berries, he mused on how well the Emolga were adapted to their surroundings. Their unique combination of agile flying and the ability to harness electricity meant they probably had few natural predators around. They would likely remain largely undisturbed by bird Pokémon such as Hoothoot, Pidove, and Rookidee, as any sensible ones would steer clear of them. In a vast forest such as this, the likelihood of encountering many rock or ground types was low, which meant these Emolga probably enjoyed a rather carefree lifestyle.

It was another beautiful day. Jake looked up, noting the relatively warm temperature, a stark contrast to the icy winter he had left behind at home. The sight of Pokémon freely roaming everywhere was a clear indicator, but this seasonal weather made it even more conclusive: he must indeed be in another world. How could this have happened? He had often read similar stories where characters were reincarnated into different personas or met legendary beings like Arceus, destined for greatness. But his experience was different. He had simply appeared here, out of nowhere, still as himself – as Jake. He mused that whatever force had brought him here could have at least had the courtesy to leave him near a town. But no, it had to be right in the middle of an endless forest.

It could have been worse he supposed, out of all the fandoms out there Pokémon must be one of the best places to land. If not for his family, he would be elated at being in a world with Pokémon. This was the stuff of dreams. How many kids, or even nostalgic adults would kill to be given this chance?

However, he could not help it. Although he loved Pokémon, Jake wanted to see his family again, and he would have to try. This world was one of miracles and any answers or means could likely only be found in the Creation Trio of Arceus, Dialga or Palkia. How to do that? Jake knew from the games that the most likely location of these Pokémon was the Sinnoh region.

Based on the fauna he had met so far; he was probably in Galar. It was ironic, in a way, that this detail made the most sense, that he was in the place that mirrored his home country on an alternate Earth. However, the fact that he did not land in Wyndon suggested that this world did not align perfectly with his own. If he was in Galar, but not quite the Galar he knew, what did that mean? Was this a parallel universe, a different dimension, or just a crazy dream?

If he found the Creation Trio, what would he do? Why would or should they help him? And what if this was a one-way trip? The questions kept coming, each more absurd than the last. Maybe he’d discover he was the chosen one, or maybe he'd wake up tomorrow as a Magikarp.

Jake's thoughts were starting to spiral into a ramble. Taking a deep breath to centre himself, he refocused. "Right," he thought, "one thing at a time. My priority hasn't changed: find a human town first." However, he reminded himself to approach this differently than he had the day before. In hindsight, wandering aimlessly through a forest, especially at night, hadn't been the wisest choice. Jake knew he needed to get his bearings and try to understand how this world of Pokémon actually worked.

Throughout all the Pokémon games, anime, and stories, a consistent theme persisted: the need for a Pokémon companion to protect oneself from wild Pokémon, and often, from other humans as well.

Being a devotee of the games, if not the anime, he pretty much knew every Pokémon that existed, and he understood that some would not be as friendly and had some outlandish powers that could seriously harm him. He did not know how far the town was, and if he encountered any that were more dangerous, then his survival would be uncertain. Jake eyed the Emolga’s, who were so quick to give him his trust thanks to Trixie.

He looked at Trixie, who probably sensing his emotions, had started to gaze at him with a mix of curiosity and, perhaps, a hint of apprehension.

‘Emol?’ Trixie said. Jake could read the meaning of the question. ‘Are you going to leave?’

Jake felt a jolt of surprise at her understanding of his mental state and gazed intently into Trixie's eyes. From within them, he sensed an undercurrent of profound loneliness.

Perhaps his emotions were difficult to articulate. He had never owned a dog, yet he imagined that the bond forming between them might be akin to such a companionship, yet this was something far more. He could not doubt the connection that had come to exist. In that moment, Jake understood that leaving Trixie was not an option. No, he simply couldn't – he wouldn't leave her behind.

“Yes, Trixie, I need to go.” Jake said, pausing. Trixie’s face fell, looking despondent. "But I don't want to leave you," Jake added with sincerity.

Trixie perked up slightly, her eyes searching Jake's face, a soft "Emol?" escaping her.

"I need to find my way, figure things out," Jake gently explained, his eyes softening as he continued, "but leaving you behind... that's not part of my plan." He paused, his gaze lingering thoughtfully on Trixie. In a tender, inviting tone, he asked, "Would you like to come with me?”

As he posed the question, Jake felt a twinge of self-awareness. He couldn’t deny a certain selfishness in his request. It was a significant ask to expect such a young Pokémon like Trixie to abandon her familiar surroundings and family to accompany him. His recent experiences had taught him the value of caution; he knew well the dangers that wild Pokémon posed, and Trixie's assistance could prove invaluable. Yet, there was more to it than just needing protection. Trixie’s spirit, her inquisitive nature, it all reminded him so much of his little sister. The thought of leaving her, especially with that forlorn look in her eyes, was just something he couldn’t bring himself to do.

"Of course, we'd need to check with your parents first," Jake said thoughtfully, keeping his tone measured. "And maybe it could just be a trip to the next town, nothing too daunting. See?" He gestured to his empty belt. "I don’t have any Pokeballs, so it's not like I can, you know, 'catch' you or anything."

He scratched the back of his head, a mix of earnestness and vulnerability in his eyes. "Truth is, I'm kind of on my own here, and I'm not really sure where I am. Your help would mean a lot to me. And hey, who knows? Maybe along the way, we could work on that fear of heights of yours, huh?"

Jake realised he was starting to ramble, a sheepish grin crossing his face. He wasn't used to asking Pokémon—or anyone, really—to join him on what felt like an uncertain journey. The games definitely hadn't prepared him for this. Seriously, what were the Pokémon Company thinking? They should have known a kid was going to be isekai’d someday.

Jake felt a sudden, soft cannonball thud against his stomach and looked down to find Trixie hugging him tightly. As he gazed into her eyes, he saw an unmistakable sparkle of pure joy. Her ears twitched playfully as she chirped, “Emol, emol,” nodding with an enthusiasm that needed no translation.

Grinning widely, Jake wrapped his arms around her, returning the embrace warmly. “I’ll take that as a yes then,” he said, his voice filled with affection.

Trixie pulled back slightly; her eyes gleaming mischievously. She tilted her head, puffing out her chest in a proud gesture, and chirped, “Emol, mol!” as if to say, "I knew you'd need me!"

Jake chuckled, giving Trixie a gentle tousle on the head. "So, I've got myself an Emolga sidekick now, huh? Ready to show this lost sheep the ropes?" His voice danced with mirth, echoing her lively spirit.

Trixie bounced excitedly, her tail flicking with enthusiasm. "Emol, mol, mol!" she chirped, which in Jake's mind translated to, "You bet!”

Jake's attention was drawn to a subtle movement at the edge of his vision. Turning, he saw Trixie's family observing them from a distance, their faces a blend of curiosity and mild amusem*nt.

Approaching them, Jake knelt down respectfully. "I know it's a big request, but would it be okay for Trixie to join me on my journey?" he asked.

Mama Emolga, her eyes seemed understanding, gave a slight, approving nod.

Trixie's reaction was radiant, her eyes alight with excitement and gratitude. This moment was more than mere permission; it was an acknowledgment of her readiness to venture out and become Jake's partner.

"I will definitely take good care of her," Jake promised, meeting the family's gaze. Mama Emolga nodded, her trust evident, while Papa Emolga's nod, more subdued, still carried weight. Trixie's siblings chirped joyfully, fluttering around her in a playful, affectionate farewell.

That had gone smoother than Jake expected. He speculated that Trixie’s parents were aware of her loneliness, perhaps recognising their own limitations in helping her conquer her acrophobia to join them in the treetops. This, Jake mused, might be a fundamental distinction between trained Pokémon and their wild counterparts. Wild Pokémon, though much more intelligent than typical Earth animals, appeared to primarily act on instinctual behaviour. They probably didn't possess the nuanced understanding or ability to impart complex skills like flying to their young if they were not born with it. While many Pokémon trainers would have the patience and capability required for such intricate teaching.

Jake turned back to Trixie's parents, offering them a grateful nod. "Thank you for all your help and for letting me stay with you. I won't forget this kindness. We'll make sure to come back for a visit," he promised sincerely.

A chorus of heartfelt "Emol, emol!" rang out from Trixie's family as she bid them farewell, each chirp carrying a tone of affection and well-wishes for her new adventure.

Chapter 2: Chapter 2

Chapter Text

POV - JAKE

The morning sun was just peeking through the trees, casting a soft glow that felt nice and warm on Jake’s skin. He followed Trixie back to the creek they’d left the night before, the light making the forest look kind of magical. The leaves were dotted with dewdrops that sparkled like tiny jewels, and the sounds of the forest waking up filled the air.

As they walked, Trixie stayed firmly on the ground, avoiding even the lowest branches. She was relatively fast on her feet, but an Emolga that could not glide was not too much different from a Pikachu really, except those wing-like membranes hindered her, getting in the way of her movement, so she simply could not be as agile on the ground. Trixie wouldn’t even try to climb trees and navigate via the branchway. It was clear her fear of heights wasn’t just a small thing; it was chronic and if they kept going like this, getting to a town would take forever.

“Alright, stop,” Jake said suddenly, causing Trixie to freeze mid-step. It was a good place to take a break and think.

Jake took a deep breath, looking around at their surroundings – the open space, the nearby creek, the gentle rustle of the trees. It was peaceful, almost serene, and yet his mind was racing with thoughts on how to help Trixie. He knew they couldn't just keep walking; they needed to start addressing her fear here and now.

“Look Trixie, I want to try a few things to see if we can start you flying, ok?”

Trixie responded with a whining "Emol," her body twisting away in an obvious display of reluctance.

“Come on Trix, if we don’t start working on this now, you’ll never fly, right?”

“Emol, mol!” Trixie gestured at Jake cheekily, as if she was saying, “It's no big deal, you can just take care of me for life!”

“Why did I have to pick this Emolga,” Jake thought to himself exasperated. She had a couple of perfectly airborne siblings without this kind of attitude. If only she did not remind him of his little sister.

He looked at Trixie with mock sternness. “Listen, young lady, it's time to face a harsh truth. If you keep avoiding flying, you’ll end up as round as a Greedent, especially with the way you've been snacking!”

Trixie gasped in horror at his words, looking down at herself in alarm, imagining a vast belly that could barely lift itself off the ground. The very idea of resembling a Greedent – a Pokémon she found utterly annoying for always stealing her food – seemed to strike a chord.

Jake knelt, bringing himself eye-to-eye with Trixie. "I've got an idea," he said with a reassuring smile. "It won't be overnight. But if all goes well, you could end up soaring higher than any of your kin."

Trixie perked up at his words. She stepped closer to Jake, her gaze lifting to meet his with a newfound spark of interest.

“Emol?” she chirped questioningly

Reflecting on his mother's advice about conquering fear, Jake concluded that a gradual, step-by-step approach would be most effective, especially if paired with positive reinforcement. As he had mulled over her words, inspiration had struck him, recalling the countless paper airplanes he had crafted over the years and observing which designs soared best.

He knew that Trixie was more of a glider than a traditional flyer. Instead of flapping her wings vigorously, she needed to learn how to extend and adjust them to catch the air currents, gain speed, and navigate around obstacles. This train of thought led him to the idea of 'skimming' – a technique perfectly suited for Trixie's natural abilities and her current level of comfort with flying.

"Alright, Trixie, remember how you jumped from one of the highest spots last night? Well, we're not going to do that today," Jake said, trying to sound reassuring. "This time, we're going to start really low to the ground. A nice, easy low-altitude approach, okay?"

As Jake scanned their surroundings, he realised they weren't alone. Various wild Pokémon were scattered around the clearing, some going about their business, but a few curious eyes were fixed on them – or rather, on him. It dawned on Jake that he might be one of the first humans these Pokémon had seen in a long while, considering how untouched and natural this part of the forest seemed.

"Hi there!" Jake greeted, waving to a Rookidee that sat perched on a branch, watching them with interest. "Do you think you could help us out for a moment?" he asked, his tone friendly and polite. The Rookidee, initially taken aback by his sudden call, quickly recovered and let out a chirpy "Dee!" before flying over to him, seemingly intrigued by the request.

“I want you to demonstrate something for me, so that Trixie here can see what she will be doing,” Jake said to the Rookidee.

The Rookidee tilted its head to one side, eyeing Jake with a curious gaze. It fluttered its wings and hopped closer, chirping, "Dee, Dee!" The tone was inquisitive, almost as if it was asking, "Sure, but what's in it for me?" Its small beak opened and closed with each chirp, and there was a playful glint in its eyes, awaiting Jake's offer.

Jake couldn't help but feel slightly amused, negotiating with a Pokémon over berries. After agreeing on a number, he carefully held out his hand, keeping it low to the ground for the Rookidee to hop onto. The sensation of its tiny claws was weirdly cool – not at all like what he’d expected. He half-expected the Rookidee to do what birds back home did in this situation, but thankfully, it seemed Pokémon had better manners.

Jake watched, fascinated, as it glided just above the ground, skilfully navigating the uneven terrain. The way it kept tight to the ground but manoeuvring around roots and stones scattered across the forest floor was almost artful. The Rookidee performed the act relatively slowly, and Jake knew Trixie would be able to pull this off at a much greater pace once she got the hang of it.

"Check this out, Trix," Jake said, pointing at the Rookidee. "It’s not flapping about wildly; just cruising with the air. Looks cool, huh?’

Trixie observed with fascination, intrigued by a concept she hadn’t previously considered. Watching the Rookidee, not typically known for such assistance, helped Jake further understand the unique value a Pokémon trainer could offer to wild Pokémon. This blend of innate ability and strategic guidance opened up possibilities for Pokémon that they would rarely explore on their own in the wild.

With a mock grimace, Jake grumbled wryly, "Talk about daylight robbery," as he handed over the five Oran berries. The Rookidee accepted them with a sort of prim air and then flew off, leaving Jake half-amused at its shrewdness.

"Alright, Trixie, your turn now, let's give it a go," Jake encouraged, his voice a mix of excitement and support.

Trixie responded with a determined "Emol," her earlier reluctance seemingly replaced by a newfound resolve. She cautiously approached Jake and perched on his outstretched hands. Unlike the Rookidee's light, precise touch, Trixie's fur felt softer and fluffier, warm and comforting. Jake sensed the gentle thrum of Trixie's tiny heartbeat against his palms, the rhythm picking up slightly as he carefully raised her off the ground. Staying in his kneeling position, he gently lifted Trixie, bringing her to hover just about half a foot above the forest floor.

As she settled in, preparing for her attempt, Jake looked into her eyes, sensing both her anxiety and her eagerness to try. He gave her an encouraging nod, "You can do this, Trixie. I believe in you."

POV – TRIXIE

Trixie braced herself, taking in Jake's guidance with a deep, steadying breath. His words echoed in her mind, a mantra to focus on: "Remember, it's not about how high you go, but just about feeling the glide. Just jump and spread those wings. Let the air do the rest."

Nervously, she nodded, drawing comfort from Jake's steady, reassuring presence. This was her moment – the leap that would redefine her. It would be the beginning of the legend where she soared above her fears. A sense of pride swelled within her at the thought of what she was about to accomplish.

Summoning all her courage, Trixie made her leap. For a glorious moment, she felt the exhilarating rush of cool air against her fur, the world around her appearing to move in slow motion. But then reality, along with gravity, abruptly caught up with her. "Hang on... this isn’t right," she thought in a fleeting moment of panic.

Thud. Darkness took her.

POV – JAKE

Jake couldn't help but look on with amusem*nt at Trixie, her head stuck in the mud and her legs flailing comically in the air. He let out a sigh of mixed frustration and amusem*nt, reaching down to gently grasp Trixie's legs and carefully pull her out of her muddy predicament.

As he turned her around, Jake was greeted by the sight of her adorable face, now completely smeared with mud. He suppressed a soft snort, trying hard not to laugh at the sight of the mudmolga in his hands. Carrying her to the river's edge, he gently splashed water on her face to clean off the mud.

“Maybe if we keep at it, you'll end up learning Dig instead,” Jake joked, to lighten the mood.

Trixie let out a disheartened “Emol, mol...” her spirit dampened by the failed attempt.

Seeing her upset, Jake’s amusem*nt turned to concern. He mentally kicked himself for his insensitivity and wrapped Trixie in a comforting hug. “I’m sorry, Trixie. It’s alright, we just need a bit more practice, that's all,”

Trixie let out a forlorn “Emol, mol,” her wings drooping as she gestured downwards in a way that said, 'At this rate, I'll never learn.'

Jake, with a tone brimming with encouragement, replied, "Hey, there's no need to talk like that. You just need to remember to spread your wings, that's all. We'll keep working on it until you can glide, even if it's just for a short distance. I believe in you, Trixie. You can do it!"

“Emol, emol!" Trixie chirped, flapping her wings, ears perking up, powering up once again.

After her fall, Jake offered Trixie a berry, hoping to lift her spirits. Together, they made their way back to the clearing, the site of their ongoing challenge.

Once there, Jake gently lifted Trixie, cradling her small form in his hands with tender care. “This time,” he advised calmly, “extend your wings before you leap. Allow the air to support you.” His voice was a steady beacon of reassurance. “Focus on gliding, without worrying about direction for now.”

Trixie gazed up at him, her eyes a whirlpool of fear and determination. With a firm nod, signalling her readiness, she inhaled deeply. Gracefully, she spread her wings wide, the delicate membranes shimmering in the sunlight, casting intricate patterns of light and shadow. Jake could sense the tension in her body as she braced for the leap.

Then, in a swift, decisive movement, Trixie pushed off from the safety of Jake’s hands. Time seemed to stretch, elongating the moment. Jake watched, his breath caught in his throat, as Trixie’s initial wobble in the air gave way to a semblance of control. Despite her unsteady start, she managed to harness a gentle air current. For a few precious seconds, she glided – her flight slightly clumsy and her trajectory unpredictable, but it was a genuine glide.

The moment of triumph, however, was fleeting. Trixie’s glide morphed into a quick descent, culminating in a graceless landing that sent a puff of dust into the air. Jake’s heart twinged with empathetic pain, yet he couldn’t suppress a surge of delight. She had indeed fallen, but more importantly, she had flown, if only briefly. “That’s progress,” he reassured himself.

Quickly, Jake approached Trixie, who was dusting herself off. “Did you feel that? You were so close,” he encouraged, his voice imbued with excitement. “Let’s give it another try.”

“Emol!” Trixie agreed rubbing her head.

As the morning sun climbed higher, casting golden rays through the leafy canopy, Jake and Trixie settled into a rhythm of perseverance and patience. They dedicated themselves to the task at hand: mastering the art of gliding. Each attempt, each leap from Jake’s hands, saw Trixie’s confidence inch a little higher, her glides growing steadier and more assured. The forest clearing, dappled with sunlight and shadows, became their arena of determined effort.

As Jake watched Trixie exert herself, he recognised fatigue setting in, but he also saw the bigger picture. This exercise, he mused, was more than just about learning to glide; it was about building endurance. Each effort, each strain of her wings, was like a muscle being steadily strengthened. He knew that by continuing these sessions would not only enhance her ability to sustain longer flights but also prepare her for the intense, rapid-fire nature of Pokémon battles.

After their intense morning session, Jake thought it best to take a break, using the opportunity to meander down the creek. He also had his eye out for a more challenging training ground, somewhere sprinkled with identifiable obstacles to up their game.

Scooping up Trixie, Jake offered her a berry, placing her comfortably on his shoulder. “You've earned first-class seating on the Jake Express,” he quipped with a grin.

Trixie nibbled on the berry, then looked at Jake with a playful glint in her eyes. "Emol, emol!" she chirped, which Jake interpreted as her cheeky way of asking for in-flight entertainment.

"Ah, demanding passenger, huh?" Jake retorted. "Unfortunately, our in-flight movie system is down. You'll have to settle for my charming company instead."

Trixie responded with an exaggerated roll of her eyes, a comical gesture that made Jake chuckle. "Emolga, emol!" she exclaimed, which Jake took as a jab at his ego.

"Ouch, tough crowd," Jake said, feigning a wounded heart. "Here I am, your dedicated pilot, and all I get is sass.”

Trixie's response came in a burst of rapid chirps, resembling giggles, her wings quivering with mirth. She affectionately licked Jake's cheek, a gesture of playful fondness. As they walked, their banter flowed effortlessly, punctuated by Trixie's occasional nuzzles, her cheeks sparking lightly

As they progressed, Jake noticed the creek gradually widening, its banks stretching out further than before. The trees around them seemed to shrink in size, their once towering forms now thinning into more modest silhouettes. The terrain underfoot became increasingly marshy, and Jake could feel the damp earth squelching beneath his trainers, mud clinging stubbornly with each step they took.

The Pokémon presence remained strong and diverse. Rookidee and Pidove darted through the skies, their wings slicing through the air with swift, agile movements. On the branches above, plump Skwovet and Greedent were a common sight, voraciously munching on chestnuts and berries. Jake felt a small tremor of disgust from Trixie at the sight of these Pokémon, her body tensing slightly on his shoulder.

Amongst the more peculiar Pokémon were Applin and Cherubi, hanging almost ornamentally from the nearby bushes and trees. Their presence lent an almost surreal quality to the landscape, like a living, breathing fairy tales. Jake, however, found himself turning his gaze away whenever a more predatory Pokémon approached to snatch a bite from one of these living delicacies. It was a natural part of the Pokémon world, but it still stirred a sense of discomfort within him.

By mid-afternoon, Jake discovered a spot that appeared ideal for Trixie's training. It was an eclectic mix of the marshy land they'd been navigating and a deciduous setting, rich with varied natural elements. The ground, a blend of soft, damp soil and firmer patches covered in fallen leaves, offered a forgiving surface for Trixie's landings, yet was stable enough for Jake to oversee her practice.

The area was dotted with rocks of different shapes and sizes, creating natural launch points for Trixie’s gliding. Between these rocks were gaps that would challenge her precision and agility. Overhead, a canopy of low-hanging, gnarled branches, interspersed with convenient gaps, formed an aerial obstacle course. Additionally, tree roots crisscrossed the ground, adding complexity to their natural training ground.

"Alright, Trixie, we're going to set up camp here for a bit, and yeah, it might take us a few days," Jake explained to Trixie, who was perched comfortably on his shoulder, her small weight familiar and reassuring.

Jake felt a twinge of impatience to reach a town, to find a way back home, but he knew that haste wasn't the answer. Deep down, he understood that to encounter legendary Pokémon like the Creation Trio in Sinnoh, he needed more than just luck; he needed a robust and reliable Pokémon team. Building such a team meant taking the time to train and strengthen each member, starting with Trixie. It wasn't just about battling; it was about forging bonds, understanding each Pokémon's unique abilities, and learning how to work together.

As Jake began to set up a makeshift camp for himself and Trixie, a simple mantra played over in his mind: compartmentalize. He was in a foreign world, an almost overwhelming circ*mstance, yet he was managing, step by step. And now, he had Trixie, an adorable and trusted partner by his side. Sure, she had her weaknesses, but the progress they'd made was undeniable. She had started gliding, and now it was just about gradually increasing her confidence with height. Before long, he was certain, she'd be flying quicker and more ably than any of her kind.

Using the natural resources around him, Jake got to work. With no camping tools at his disposal, he relied on the environment. He gathered a pile of dry leaves and soft moss to create a cozy, cushioned area for them to rest. For a fire, he collected fallen branches and twigs, arranging them carefully in a small clearing. He knew they would need the fire for warmth and light as the evening drew in.

Jake put the finishing touches on the makeshift bed of leaves and moss, then turned to Trixie, who was perched on a nearby rock, watching him with keen interest.

"Your help was invaluable, as always," Jake remarked with a hint of sarcasm.

Trixie responded with a series of chirps, "Emol, emolga, emol," as if to say, 'Of course, I was supervising. Someone has to ensure you do it right.'

Jake raised an eyebrow, a playful grin on his face. "So, did my efforts meet the high standards of Her Majesty?"

"Emol," Trixie chirped back, her tone suggesting, 'Just barely.'

Jake leaned in closer, feigning seriousness. "I’m all ears for any improvement tips. Or maybe you’d prefer a more... hands-on approach to your service?"

Without warning, he scooped Trixie up, launching into a tickle fight. Laughter and chirps filled the air as they playfully tussled, ending up breathless and joyously dishevelled.

“Alright, time to get back to training,” Jake announced, receiving an enthusiastic nod from Trixie. He guided her to the start of their natural obstacle course, a gnarled branch at chest height, perfect for Trixie’s take-offs. The soft ground below would ensure any landings were safe and low impact.

“You've got gliding down; now we need to work on speed, control and landing,” Jake said, his eyes reflecting both pride and anticipation. “Skimming’s the next step. It's all about staying close to the ground and building up from there.”

In the ensuing days, their training intensified. Each morning, Trixie would perch on the branch, then launch herself into a low glide, barely inches above the ground. Jake, keeping pace beside her, would call out encouragements. "Keep it steady, you’re doing brilliantly!" he'd say, watching as her wings remained steady, maintaining a consistent altitude above the earth.

Trixie’s endurance visibly grew with each flight. She'd glide in short bursts, gradually extending the distance each day. "Your wings are getting stronger; I can see it!" Jake would note, watching her tackle longer stretches of the course.

Trixie's control and precision also sharpened with each exercise. Jake set up a series of small, spaced-out obstacles - rocks and low branches - challenging her to weave through them. Her agility grew as she nimbly navigated these barriers, her reactions swift and accurate.

During a break, Jake observed, “You know, you're picking this up faster than I thought you would.” Trixie's chirpy response, “Emol, emolga,” seemed to say, “Obviously!”

With each training session, Trixie's confidence in her flight mechanics soared. She became proficient in take-off, gliding, and executing smooth landings. Jake, keen to enhance her skills, would create makeshift challenges to sharpen her spatial awareness, a crucial skill for navigating the more complex landscapes at higher altitudes. Interestingly, Trixie found that by releasing small electric shocks towards the ground as she moved, she could swiftly alter her course, adding an innovative twist to her aerial manoeuvres.

One of the most significant changes was in Trixie's reduced fear of heights. As her skimming skills advanced, her apprehension lessened, preparing her for eventual high-altitude flights.

Jake also honed Trixie's landing techniques, praising her for each successful attempt. “No face planting in the dirt anymore, eh?” he’d say, clapping, as she beamed with pride.

Despite their progress, the training wasn’t without its challenges. Trixie faced her fair share of setbacks – crashing into obstacles, missing landings, and sometimes freezing mid-air. Yet, with a blend of Jake's unwavering encouragement and clever strategies, coupled with Trixie's own determination and eagerness to learn, they began to see significant improvements

After several days of intense training, a bright and early morning seemed just perfect for what Jake had in mind – the grand finale, the ultimate test of Trixie's newfound skills. As he looked over their training ground, a mischievous glint sparkled in his eyes. Over the course of their training, he'd been secretly plotting and crafting something special, something he proudly referred to as the "Course Extraordinaire."

“Are you ready?” Jake asked, his voice teeming with a theatrical flair. “For I have devised a cunning plan”

Trixie, perched at the starting point, responded with an enthusiastic chirp, “Emol, emol!”

“Behold,” Jake announced grandly, sweeping his arm across the landscape, “the most daring, the most challenging, the absolutely, positively, unquestionably incredible obstacle course known to Pokémon and humans alike!”

Trixie tilted her head, and clapped her paws at his announcement, her eyes sparkling with amusem*nt and a hint of scepticism. “Emol?” she seemed to query, as if asking if he was serious.

“Yes, my dear lady,” Jake continued with a dramatic pause, “this course will test your might, your wit, your agility, and your electrifying skills. Only the bravest of the brave, the fleetest of the fleet, dare to embark on such a perilous journey!”

Trixie responded with a playful roll of her eyes, emitting a soft “Emol, emolga,” chuckling at Jake’s over-the-top performance.

Jake grinned, then softened his tone to one of sincerity. “But in all seriousness, I know you can do this. You’ve come so far, Trix. Just remember what we’ve practiced, and you’ll be amazing out there.”

With a confident “Emol!” Trixie readied herself, her wings fluttering in anticipation. She glanced back at Jake, who gave her an encouraging nod.

POV - TRIXIE

With a deep, steadying breath, Trixie perched herself at the edge of the gnarled branch, which served as the beginning of the obstacle course. Her heart beat a rapid rhythm, bubbling with excitement within her. She focused, honing in as Jake’s words rang in her ears.

“Ready!” Trixie set her resolve. The world seemed to pause for a moment, every detail becoming sharp and clear in her keen Emolga eyes.

“Set!” Trixie bent her small legs, preparing for the leap. She flexed her membrane-like wings, drawing in another deep breath, this time remembering Jake’s advice to calm her mind.

“Go!” At the sound of Jake’s call, Trixie propelled herself off the branch, descending rapidly toward the ground. She extended her wings at the last possible moment, catching the air beneath her picking up her body.

As she skimmed just inches above the ground, the world transformed. Every leaf, every blade of grass, was a streak of vibrant green, rushing by in a verdant blur. The scents of the forest were heightened – the earthy aroma of damp soil, the tangy smell of wild berries, the subtle fragrance of blooming flowers.

Trixie revelled in the rush of air under her wings, the exhilaration of speed. "Faster, smoother, sharper," Trixie urged herself, instinct guiding her every twist and turn. She dipped and swerved with a grace that was both natural and breathtaking, agilely making her way to the first berry set upon a rock.

With a swift move, she picked it up and, in a fluid motion, tossed it towards Jake, who was racing along with a hollow log to catch the berries. The entire scene was a dynamic display of teamwork and skill.

Continuing her flight, Trixie navigated the course with newfound confidence, her body moving to an inner rhythm. She weaved under branches, over rocks, and through the natural hollows that appeared in her path. The wooden Skwovet models, strategically placed to mimic the surprises of a forest, were no obstacle for her. She darted around them effortlessly, her movements a blend of precision and speed.

The intensity of the glide was utterly intoxicating. Each sharp turn, every deft manoeuvre, made Trixie feel more alive than ever before. A surge of energy pulsated through her veins as she realised, "I am actually having fun!" The thought surprised her; she'd never imagined that flying could be this enjoyable. Jake had been clever to turn this into a game. Helping her to overcome her fear with such joy and encouragement was nothing short of genius. "Maybe he's not as much of an idiot as I thought," she admitted to herself, a playful smirk in her thoughts.

While maintaining her rapid pace, Trixie skilfully adjusted her wings to gain altitude, targeting a wooden Skwovet model perched on a branch. Just as she honed in on her next manoeuvre, Jake's voice sharply cut through her focus. "Thundershock!" he commanded. In response, a primal, instinctive force awakened in Trixie's mind. Her body instinctively reacted, channelling electric energy that crackled and surged within her. She unleashed a shock of electricity at the imitation Skwovet. “Take that, fat rat” she thought with satisfaction. Using the momentum of the shock, Trixie diverted her flight path, dive-turning into the more rugged, rocky terrain below, skimming the ground.

“Trixie, Quick Attack!” Jake's voice rang out with urgency. Again, a primal instinct surged within her as she approached a particularly large stone. Her surroundings became a blur, her body emanating a vibrant glow. Propelled by an innate force, she accelerated at a breathtaking pace, swiftly manoeuvring up and down the other side of the rock with agility.

Trixie was nearing the final stretch now; she felt the burn in her arms keeping her wings steady. The world around her a whirl of green and brown. Yet, in her heightened state, she absorbed every detail with crystal clarity, keeping to the earth's contours. Ahead loomed the large tree, the end of the course. Jake had outdone himself this time, setting up what appeared to be a Greedent model. "Quite the craftsman," Trixie mused with amusem*nt, impressed by the model's lifelike appearance.

Determined to make a grand finale, Trixie focused her energy, aiming to deliver her most powerful shock to the supposed model. In the background, she faintly registered Jake's voice, a note of confusion in his words.

“Huh, I thought I had left a bunch of berries there,” she heard him say.

But it was too late to change course. As she unleashed her electric assault, she realised, to her astonishment, that it wasn't a model at all – but a real Greedent! Stunned by the sudden zap, the monster squirrel’s cheeks, comically stuffed with berries, involuntarily expelled their contents. Berries flew in all directions, almost in slow motion, as the startled creature was unceremoniously knocked off its perch. With a heavy thud, the Greedent landed in the bushes below.

Trixie gracefully landed on the branch, recently vacated by the dislodged Greedent.

"Oops!" Trixie's thought.

An awkward silence hung in the air before Jake and Trixie locked eyes... which they helplessly burst into laughter.

"Trix, you were brilliant right through to the end!" Jake exclaimed; arms outstretched. Trixie, delighted, launched herself off the branch. She playfully circled around his head, showing off her newfound agility, before landing in his welcoming arms for a hug.

"I had so much fun. Thank you, thank you!" Trixie chirped at Jake, her voice brimming with enthusiasm. Though the specifics of her words were beyond him, Jake understood her gratitude clearly – her eyes sparkling.

"You seem to have a new favourite trick up your sleeve," Jake remarked with a grin, looking fondly at Trixie.

"Emol, emolga!" she responded, her playful yet proud tone almost saying, "Absolutely, and there's more where that came from!"

Their cheerful banter, however, was abruptly interrupted. A series of aggressive rustles emanated from the bush where the Greedent had landed. The mood shifted. Trixie and Jake turned simultaneously; their playful expressions replaced by ones of alertness.

Then, suddenly, the enormous squirrel burst out of the bush, its eyes locked on Trixie and Jake. The creature looked far from pleased.

POV - JAKE

Jake's eyes widened, taking in the scene with a surprise and a quick mental calculation. "Well, that escalated quickly.” This was it, his first real Pokémon battle. "Hope those training sessions pay off now," he mused, half-excited, half-anxious.

He glanced at Trixie, who had migrated to his shoulder, ready to launch, her expression a mix of revulsion and determination. "She's got a score to settle with this overgrown squirrel," Jake noted, a smirk playing on his lips despite the seriousness of the situation.

Trixie, her gaze fixed intently on the Greedent, seemed to radiate a readiness for battle. It was clear she was not just prepared but eager to face off against one of her least favourite foes.

"Alright, Trixie, let's show this Greedent what we're made of," Jake said, stepping back to give her room. "Remember, use your speed and agility. We've got this!"

"Emol!" Trixie's cry rang out, full of determination.

To Jake's surprise, the Greedent was quicker off the mark than he had anticipated. It spat out what looked unmistakably like a Spit Up attack, a chestnut hurtling from its mouth at an alarming speed.

Trixie, ever agile, leaped off Jake's shoulder in a swift dodge. Jake's eyes followed the trajectory of the incoming projectile, and he had a split second to react. "Not getting knocked out again," he thought, hastily contorting his body into what could only be described as a clumsy imitation of the Matrix move. The chestnut whizzed past, barely missing his face, as he awkwardly landed on his backside.

From his somewhat less dignified position on the ground, Jake quickly regained his focus. "Trix, Quick Attack, then Nuzzle!" he called out, his voice a mix of urgency and excitement.

Trixie was already in motion, her body skimming just inches above the ground. She seemed to become one with the air currents, her agility unparalleled. Gathering a surge of white energy around her, she darted towards the Greedent with incredible speed. Her form blurring as she closed in on her target.

At the last moment, she collided with the Greedent's belly, a burst of white energy on impact. Her cheeks sparked with electric power, releasing a jolt of energy as she executed the Nuzzle. The Greedent shuddered under the electrifying assault, its movements slowing noticeably.

"Nice one, Trix!" Jake shouted, a grin breaking out despite the tension. He quickly got to his feet, ready to keep up with the fast-paced battle.

"Alright, Trixie, circle around, keep moving!" Jake's instructions were rapid-fire now, his mind working overtime. Trixie, understanding the plan, kept her pace swift and unpredictable, skimming around the Greedent, who struggled to keep up with her speed.

The Greedent, though noticeably slower, wasn't ready to call it quits just yet. It geared up for another attack, determination in its eyes. But Trixie, ever the nimble one, was already darting away, dodging with a grace that made it look almost too easy.

"This is turning into a bit of a mismatch," Jake thought with a wry smirk. Watching Trixie’s elegant skimming against the Greedent's clumsy attempts was like comparing a jet to a tricycle. Her advantage over the land-bound creature was stark – her ability to skim close to the ground allowed her to weave through the terrain with an agility that the Greedent simply couldn't hope to match.

"Thunder Shock, now!" Jake called out, seizing the moment. Trixie responded instantly, her body crackling with electric energy as she unleashed a bolt of lightning towards the Greedent.

The Greedent, not exactly known for its agility even on the best of days, was now utterly immobile, a sitting duck for Trixie's electrifying move. The full force of the Thundershock hit it square, causing its eyes to bulge with shock. With a dramatic wobble, the oversized squirrel-like creature keeled over, face-planting into the ground with a resounding thud. As it lay there, berries began popping out of its mouth – one, two, three – until a veritable stream of assorted fruits spilled out. "Greedent by name, Greedent by nature," Jake mused with a chuckle, watching the spectacle.

Trixie, displayed her victory, perching triumphantly atop the defeated Greedent's head. Her paws were raised theatrically, as though she was soaking in the applause from an imaginary adoring crowd.

Jake couldn't help but smile at her. "Don't let it go to your head, Trix," he called out, "Remember, pride cometh before the fall!"

Trixie turned towards him, her expression a mix of playful defiance and pride. "Emol, emol!" she chirped, which Jake interpreted as, "I can't hear you over the sound of my awesomeness!"

Shaking his head with amusem*nt, Jake walked over to her. "You did great, Trix," he said, his tone softening. "Couldn't have done it without you."

In response, Trixie hopped off the Greedent and scampered up Jake's arm, nuzzling his cheek affectionately. Her little paws patted his face gently, and her tail waggled in contentment.

Basking in the glow of their victory, Jake gently stroked Trixie’s soft fur. He then shifted his attention to the Greedent, still sprawled out unconscious on the ground. Reaching into his pocketed stash, he retrieved a cheri berry and carefully nudged the Pokémon awake. Holding out the berry, he offered it as a remedy for the paralysis. "Sorry about the mix-up, buddy," he said softly, his tone imbued with genuine apology.

With a chirped "Greed," the Pokémon accepted the berry, its demeanour swiftly changing from dazed to delighted, its forgiveness easily bought with food. The Greedent scampered off into the underbrush, disappearing into the foliage.

Having tended to the Greedent, Jake turned back to Trixie with a grin. “I’d say you passed the test with literal flying colours!” he exclaimed.

“Emol!” Trixie responded, her tone brimming with pride. She leaped off his shoulder, performing an impressive flip in mid-air, before gracefully circling back to her preferred spot on his shoulder.

“Now, for your reward... let’s have a drumroll, please,” Jake teased, prompting Trixie to play along by rhythmically tapping on his shoulder.

Jake put on a thoughtful face, his expression a blend of mock seriousness and playful mischief. "So, what should your grand reward be?" he mused aloud. "How about a luxurious spa day for one Emolga, complete with a twig massage and leaf fan service?"

Trixie let out a series of chirps that sounded suspiciously like laughter, finding his absurd ideas entertaining.

“Or, given my current lack of resource," Jake continued, grinning, "how about the priceless gift of... absolutely nothing right now?" He chuckled at his own joke. "But I promise, once we reach the next town, we'll find something a bit more tangible."

“Emol, mol” Trixie playfully nipped at his ear, as if to say, "I'll hold you to that promise!" Jake responded with a gentle tickle, sending her into a flutter of giggles and spins.

Catching his breath, Jake finally said, “Alright Trix, let's pack up and get moving. Next stop: the town, and maybe we'll find some real rewards there.”

With an agreeing "Emol," Trixie hopped down, ready to assist. Together, they quickly gathered their sparse belongings and stood ready to begin the next leg of their journey. As they prepared to leave, Jake took a moment to reflect. He couldn't help but feel a surge of gratitude for Trixie. She had not only overcome her fear of heights but had grown into a trusted and devoted partner. "I couldn't have asked for a better companion," he thought, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. With Trixie by his side, Jake felt ready to face whatever challenges lay ahead.

Chapter 3: Chapter 3

Chapter Text

POV – JAKE

As Jake and Trixie continued their journey down the creek, the warmth of the day steadily intensified. The creek began to meander, its banks gradually giving way to the sprawling expanse of a marsh. The landscape around them transformed subtly yet persistently, the ground underfoot becoming softer, squelching with each step they took.

Tall trees still towered above, their roots sprawling like gnarled fingers into the moist soil, while dense clumps of weeds clung to the water's edge. The air was thick with the scent of damp earth and decaying vegetation, a pungent aroma that filled Jake's nostrils and clung to his clothes. Every breath felt heavy in the increasingly muggy atmosphere, and he found himself wiping his brow more often than he liked.

The sounds of the marsh provided a constant, ambient soundtrack to their journey. The distinct croaks of Croagunk and Palpitoad resonated through the air, in eerie and rhythmic amphibious calls. Enormous Gastrodon, with their vividly coloured bodies, sluggishly navigated the aquatic fringes of the marsh, leaving trails in the soft mud as they moved.

With every step, Jake had to be increasingly cautious. The ground beneath him was deceptive – solid-looking patches often gave way to the squelch of marshy undergrowth, threatening to swallow his foot whole if he wasn't careful. His trainers were caked in mud, adding a cumbersome weight to each step, a constant reminder of the Stunfisk, which he certainly did not wish to encounter again.

Above and around him, Trixie was a contrast to his struggle. Having shed her fear of flying, she seemed to revel in the freedom it offered. With grace, she skimmed just above the surface of the marsh, wings barely touching the water before she soared up again. Her flights were punctuated by playful loops and turns, displaying a joy in her newfound confidence. Each time she returned to perch on Jake's shoulder, there was a triumphant gleam in her eyes.

Watching Trixie's display, Jake couldn't help but feel a pang of envy. Her ability to rise above the mire, both literally and metaphorically, was a sharp difference to his own earthbound fortune.

"You know, Trix," Jake quipped, watching her fly, "if you're going to show off like that, the least you could do is offer to give me a lift.”

Trixie landed on his shoulder, chirping "Emol, emolga," she seemed to say, which he took as, “Sorry, you’re a bit too fat for me”

Jake gave his flat stomach an exaggerated pat. "Cheeky, aren't we?" he remarked with a wry grin. "You do realise, all those berries are turning me into a shadow of my former self," he continued, his voice laced with mock despair. "I’ll be looking like an Inteleon at this rate!"

Jake furrowed his brow at the notion, a thoughtful expression replacing his usual easy-going demeanour. As he surveyed the marsh stretching before them, he couldn't help but ponder how much farther they would have to go. The squelching mud underfoot and an oncoming light fog beginning to roll in from the marsh made every step feel heavier.

He glanced at the berry bushes dotting the landscape, their bright fruits a sharp contrast to the dull greens and browns of the marsh. Getting to them was becoming a real hassle, though. The ground was so soggy it was like walking through thick soup, and more than once, Jake had almost lost a shoe to the trenched mud.

The Pokémon situation didn't make things any easier. Jake eyed the Chewtle colonies warily. These Pokémon were all over the marsh, and where there were Chewtle, their evolved form, Drednaw, was never far. They guarded the berry bushes like little terriers, making it clear they weren't up for sharing.

Since their run-in with Greedent, Jake and Trixie had faced a few more Pokémon battles. Trixie, with her distinctive typing and exceptional agility, easily outmanoeuvred most opponents who struggled to land even a single hit on her. But Drednaw, with their rock-hard defences, were a different story. Jake knew that Trixie didn't have the best matchup against these tough rock-types. Perhaps they could handle one or two, but taking on a whole colony? That was pushing their luck.

He understood why the Pokémon were so protective. In this marshland, food wasn't exactly lying around for the taking. Everyone, Pokémon and humans alike, had to fend for themselves. Still, this made snagging a quick berry snack way more complicated than it should've been.

Jake briefly toyed with the idea of hunting a Pokémon for food, but quickly realised the complications. First off, he lacked the necessary tools; capturing a Pokémon without them seemed impossible. Sure, Trixie could probably help, but the thought of asking her to harm another Pokémon for food was unthinkable to him, even though he knew she sometimes ate bug Pokémon. Then there was the second, more significant hurdle: his own nature. Deep down, Jake was just too kind-hearted. The idea of eating creatures as intelligent as Pokémon didn't sit well with him. Maybe he'd re-think it later after all, he wasn't exactly a stranger to a good steak back home. But for now, he just couldn't do it. What could he say? It might be shameless, but he was simply not the type to want to meet the cow before eating the burger.

Jake's state of cleanliness, or rather the lack thereof, certainly wasn't doing him any favours. Encased in layers of marshland grime, he was a far cry from his usual self. Given the circ*mstances and the lack of any spot to clean up properly, he was starting to feel like he might be mistaken for a Garbodor if they stumbled upon a town.

Trixie hadn’t appeared to notice yet but in his mind's eye, he sometimes pictured Trixie’s reaction as she'd hold her nose, feigning horror at his state, and then turning away in disgust. Jake imagined himself collapsing to his knees in despair as Trixie walked away from him.

“I would have to commit seppuku with the humiliation!” He thought.

Jake's daydream abruptly ended as he caught Trixie's gaze, her expression a mix of amusem*nt and mild confusion, her nose wrinkling slightly.

He winced, turning away with a muttered "Gah," a wave of embarrassment washing over him. Fortunately for him, Trixie remained tactfully silent on the matter, judging him with only the occasional sniff.

Together they continued their long trek through the marsh, their only companion the rhythmic squelch of mud beneath his feet.

As Trixie and Jake ventured deeper into the marshy forest, a change began to permeate the air around them. Fog, initially just a thin veil, began to thicken, slowly creeping through the trees and enveloping them. The landscape, once familiar became barely navigable, as the mist settled and slowly morphed their surroundings into something eerie.

Trees, which had stood tall and imposing, began to loom oppressively. Trunks taking on increasingly ghastly appearances. Branches, gnarled and twisted, reaching out like crooked fingers, as if trying to grasp something. The once vibrant green foliage seemed muted, shrouded in the growing mist, giving the forest an almost monochrome appearance.

"The trees are getting a bit dramatic, don't you think?" Jake tried to joke; his voice slightly uneasy in the thickening fog.

Trixie, perched on his shoulder, emitted a soft "Emol," a hint of apprehension in her tone.

Jake noticed a dropping in temperature, the summer warmth giving way to a clammy chill that did not fit the season. He shivered, wrapping his arms around himself. Feeling an uncomfortable pinprick upon the back of his neck.

Mist began to swirl, tendrils curling and uncurling around them. Sounds became muffled and distant, as if the fog was not just obscuring sight but also swallowing sound. The usual marshland noises were dampened, replaced by a heavy silence that was occasionally punctured by a distant, unidentifiable rustle or the splash of his trainer.

The marsh previously full of Pokémon sounds and life seemed to dry up in that regard. The increasing scarcity of life beginning to disturb him.

Jake squinted, trying to make sense of forms that seemed to flit just at the edge of his vision.

"Just our imagination, right?" he whispered, more to himself than to Trixie.

"Emol," Trixie chirped in response, her ears flattened against her head, usual playful tone subdued.

The atmosphere grew heavier, air thick with a sense of foreboding. Even the trees seemed to lean in closer, their gnarled forms casting unsettling shadows in the fog. The feeling of being watched grew, a sensation pressed uncomfortably at the back of his neck.

From somewhere in the distance, a whisper drifted, faint and elusive. It teased at the edges of Jake's hearing; a murmur barely discernible over the marsh's hush. He tilted his head, straining to discern its nature, but it remained just beyond comprehension. With every step, he willed himself forward, a growing unease within.

Then, a rustle. The grass beside him quivered as if touched by an invisible hand. Jake's nerves tightened, a knot of apprehension forming in his stomach.

Whisper, whisper. The sounds multiplied, surrounding him in an eerie symphony. Each murmur seemed to brush against his ears, a ghostly caress that left him shivering.

He glanced at Trixie, her wide eyes mirroring his own trepidation. Their shared look was a wordless exchange of fear and uncertainty.

Rustle, rustle, rustle. The noise grew, movement seemed to encircle them. Grass blades danced as if to a sinister tune, something unseen and ominous.

"Trix, get ready," Jake's voice was a low, urgent command, his words slicing through the thickening tension.

Rustle, rustle. Whisper, whisper, whisper. The sounds converged, an auditory vortex swirling around Jake and Trixie, each rustle and whisper amplifying their rising panic. The forest seemed to close in, the whispers and rustles unrelenting in the heart of the mist.

Then, abruptly, silence.

The sudden absence of sound was more terrifying than the whispers. Jake's heart pounded in his ears, the only sound in a world gone mute. The mist clung to him, cold and damp.

He stood there, frozen, every sense heightened., Trixie’ presence on his shoulder offering a slight comfort. The silence stretched on, oppressive, suffocating. Jake's breaths came in sharp, ragged pulls. His eyes darted frantically, searching the impenetrable fog.

In that silence, in that moment of suspended terror, the world held its breath. And Jake knew, with chilling certainty, that they were not alone.

Thud! A sound resonated softly through the fog, deep and muffled, vibrating the air. Jake tensed, rooted to the spot as the rhythmic thuds continued, growing steadily louder, closer.

Thud! A massive outline began to emerge. Towering and vast, it loomed above, segmented and undulating slightly with each step.

Thud! The ground resonated with the sound. A broad, curved shape hinted at a formidable jawline, started to grow out of the mist. The creature's head was clearly massive, dwarfing Jake. Two backward-arching horns protruded from its forehead, adding a demonic visage.

Thud! Below the horns, two faintly glowing spots pierced the fog, like embers smouldering in the grey. Their gaze, though obscured, was unmistakably fixed on Jake, sending a shiver down his spine.

THUD!

Frozen, Jake stared at the creature before him.

'Really now?'

POV - ???

It watched. It watched from behind the veil of fog, its eyes fixated on the two figures making their way through the mire. It knew not their names, only that they were there, and It was here.

It saw the tall one, trudging heavily, his steps laboured and slow. It saw the smaller one, flitting about with a grace It lacked. It did not like this. It watched their interactions, their laughter, their camaraderie. It hated this.

It followed them, always a shadow, always unseen. It moved with stealth. They would never see. It giggled. It was hidden by the fog and the gnarled trees. It observed their every move, every word, every chuckle. With each moment, It hated.

The tall one wiped his brow, laughed, spoke words It couldn't hear but could imagine. The smaller one responded with chirps, perching on his shoulder. It saw something between them, It did not know what it was. But It wanted it. It hated it.

As they progressed towards the haunted forest, the feeling inside It intensified. It needed it and It would have it. For the first time in Its existence a desire was born. A desire to disrupt, to destroy. It imagined the small one away, separated from the tall one, lost and alone. It imagined the tall one alone, isolated, looking at It. Calling It.

It giggled at the thought, a sound that could have been a sobbing cry or a hysterical laugh. It would make them pay for having each other. It would bring them sorrow, for in their sorrow. It would enjoy. It would hate. In doing so, maybe find Its own place, Its own connection.

The haunted forest loomed ahead, a place where shadows danced, and whispers lived. They had come to Its home. It would welcome them. Full hospitality would be given. It giggled at the thought, this time sounding like whisper.

It would weave Its plan. The fog thickened, and It moved closer, Its steps silent, Its resolve firm. The time was coming, and It would be ready. It knew what else lived here. It hated them as well. But It would be useful.

It knew nothing of the past, nothing of the future. But It knew this – It would no longer be just a watcher. It would be a disruptor, a bringer of despair. It would BREAK them. For in their loss, in their destruction, perhaps It would find something akin to joy.

Chapter 4: Chapter 4

Chapter Text

POV - JAKE

Jake inhaled deeply, striving to regain his composure. The world seemed narrow around him, its focus on the immense behemoth that had materialised out from the fog. His previous encounters in this Pokémon world, though varied, had done little to prepare him for such a moment. True, there had been the mishap with the Stunfisk, but aside from that, his experiences had been mostly neutral or positive, even including the occasional Pokémon battle.

When imagining an encounter with Pokémon in the real world, one might typically picture meeting a Pikachu or an Eevee — creatures of cute and charm. However, the reality before Jake was different. A Scolipede, a monstrous entity, towered in front of him, dwarfing every Pokémon he had encountered to date. Stretching over two meters, its segmented form loomed large, with antenna-like horns reaching up into the fog-laden air. Its vivid red and purple body stood out starkly against the muted tones of the haunted forest's backdrop.

Jake felt a nervous twinge shoot down his body as the rhythmic clicking of the Scolipede's legs resonated against the damp earth. Its eyes, large and unblinking, glowed almost yellow, fixating on him with an alien intensity. A primal part of him understood that this was a mind unlike his own.

It was silent, vocally speaking, which Jake found strange for a Pokémon. Then again, real world centipedes didn't have much of a cry either.

He was lost in absurd thoughts again.

A sibilant hiss pierced the silence, emanating from the creature as it advanced towards him with an almost predatory grace.

'Alright, it seems to have something on its mind. Perhaps something along the lines of “I'm just about ready for dinner. Fancy joining me?”' Jake mused, his thoughts edging towards the ludicrous.

The Scolipede moved forward, its multiple legs creating splashing sounds as they churned through the terrain, its gait crossing the uneven ground reminiscent of the movements of a tank.

Thought went out the window. Panic started setting in. Jake instinctively reached for a weapon, but then the reality hit – he was unarmed. No knife, no bear spray, nothing that could fend off a creature of this size and strength, though he was pretty sure any of those items would do nothing either. Heck, you would probably need to bring a missile to do anything to this thing.

Adrenaline surged through Jake's body, sharpening his senses. He remembered earth YouTube videos: don't run, it could trigger a chase. Make yourself big, make noise. But those rules were for bears, not... this.

The Scolipede shifted its massive form. Jake took a slow, cautious step back, trying not to make any sudden movements. He did not know what to do; the thought of taking his eyes off the creature seemed unthinkable.

“Emol?” Trixie cried softly, as if reminding her of his presence.

‘Damn it,’ he thought, he had Trixie, how could he have forgotten. He brought himself together.

“Don’t worry, Trixie, we’ll be fine,” Jake said, his voice trying to project a confidence he was desperately trying to feel himself.

“This must be kind of what like those kids in Jurassic World felt at times, though they didn't have the advantage of Trixie.” Jake thought.

Right, the Scolipede was a poisonous-bug type Pokémon, known in the games for its high aggression and the menacing claws at its neck. It was also notoriously adversarial towards Centiskorch, often preying on them after a victory. Regrettably, in their current surroundings, there were no Centiskorch to divert its attention.

There was no way to be completely sure, but if Jake were to use the game terminology, he would probably estimate that Trixie was around level 15, based on the moves he thought she knew. Emolga did not learn a flying move until at least level 25, which left him without any super-effective options.

Jake realised that the battle they faced with the Scolipede would be arduous, perhaps even insurmountable, for Trixie. He understood that she would willingly fight at his behest, yet he also knew such a confrontation could leave either or both gravely injured. Jake remembered the promise he had made to her family. It was time to try the diplomatic option.

“Nice to meet you, Scolipede” Jake concentrating to keep his voice steady and friendly. “My name is Jake; my partner and I are just trying to find our way through this marsh. Would you let us pass?”

Completely contrary to Jake’s expectations, the massive insect actually stopped to listen.

Jake continued, his voice a co*cktail of nervousness and forced cheerfulness. "You know, you're quite the impressive Pokémon, aren't you? I mean, look at you! Those horns, that colouration—it's really something!" He swallowed hard, hoping his compliments didn't sound too desperate.

The Scolipede hissed softly, its multitude of legs shifting uneasily, but it seemed to be paying attention. Jake noticed a slight tilt of its head, perhaps a sign of curiosity or, hopefully, vanity.

Encouraged, Jake rambled on, "And that carapace! I've literally never seen anything like it. You must be the envy of the marsh, right? Everyone must respect you a lot." The Scolipede's antennae-like horns twitched, possibly a sign of pleasure or acknowledgment.

Jake, feeling slightly more confident but still very much on edge, added, "It would be really honourable of you, a Pokémon of your stature, to let us small folks pass. We wouldn't want to intrude on your, uh, magnificent territory."

The Scolipede's hissing lowered in pitch, almost contemplative. It seemed to preen under Jake's praise, its body language softening. The creature's eyes, still fixed on Jake, didn't seem as intimidating now.

“Emol, emol” Trixie nodded in support, seeming to be adding to Jake’s words.

But the Scolipede's reaction was alarming. It reared up, its formidable 8-foot stature and twitching horns casting an intimidating shadow.

Jake hastily, put his hand to Trixie’s silly mouth, not quite knowing what she said but figured it had something to do with Scolipede’s age or size.

“Hey!” Jake whispered fiercely at her. “Don’t you know it isn't polite to mention a lady’s age”

Trixie just licked his hand cheekily.

"Oh, mighty Scolipede, please overlook this idiot Emolga's remarks. She's just a bit naïve and doesn't yet appreciate the elegance that comes with age."” Jake said to the Scolipede, hoping against hope that he was correct on his assumption of what Trixie had said.

Luckily, Scolipede seemed to relax, its horns twitching with a dignified air... if that was possible.

Jake took a cautious step back, maintaining eye contact. "So, what do you say, friend? Can we go on our way? You've got better things to do than bother with us, I'm sure."

There was a moment of silence as the Scolipede seemed to ponder Jake's request. It leaned back slightly, its horns moving in a way that suggested it might agree.

Behind them, a loud splash resounded, like the sound of an object plunging into the water.

"Emol!" In surprise, Trixie sprang almost two feet into the air from Jake's shoulder. Reacting quickly, he managed to catch her just before she could fall into the marsh.

Hesitantly, Jake glanced over his shoulder, his face draining of colour at the sight.

In the murky water, a Venipede was in distress, struggling on its back. Its typically crimson carapace was now marred with deep, unnatural gashes, oozing green blood that tainted the surrounding water. Each segment of its exoskeleton bore harsh signs of damage, indicative of wounds that seemed less like the result of natural causes and more like the aftermath of deliberate, cruel torture.

The Venipede's numerous legs flailed helplessly in the air, experiencing the bitter predicament that insects can find themselves. The futile movements of its legs sent echoes through the marshy forest, with ripples spreading outward across the water.

Amidst this struggle, the Venipede's cries rang out, high-pitched and sharp, slicing through the marsh's hushed quiet. "Veni, veni!" it shrieked, each call piercingly sharp to Jake’s ears. In its voice, he could discern the unmistakable tones of desperation and pain.

Jake's mind spiralled as he began to understand the gravity of the situation He turned back, almost in slow motion, to face the Scolipede. The megapede sat eerily still. Jake felt a lump in his throat, his swallow echoing in his ears in the tense silence. He wracked his brain for words, anything that might defuse the tension.

Standing there, he couldn't help but think of the irony of their situation. 'Just great,' he thought sardonically, 'stuck between a mama bear and her injured cub.' The air was thick with the scent of marsh and fear. On his shoulder, Trixie's body seemed to tighten, instincts on high alert.

Stillness shattered in an instant. The Scolipede exploding into a furious full-frontal charge. High-pitched hisses of fury.

Muscles rippled beneath its segmented skin. A blur of crimson and purple, it lunged forward. Jake's eyes widened in shock. The creature's size belied its speed, a terrifying whirl of motion.

"Trixie!" Jake's voice was a sharp crack in the air. They couldn't run. Not from this.

The Scolipede's many legs pounded the earth, a thunderous rhythm that matched Jake's racing heart. Its horns, like lethal spears, aimed directly at them.

Jake's mind reeled. Bearing down on him, the enormity of the megapede, its sheer power, was overwhelming. Every instinct screamed danger.

Trixie bristled on his shoulder, electricity crackling in her tiny form. They were cornered, no escape.

In that moment, Jake understood. Fight. Their only choice.

Jake steeled himself. Battle was inevitable.

“I’m not going to lie to you, Trix. This will be a tough one. Speed is your ally here. From what I remember, wild Scolipede are primarily physical attackers, with limited range capabilities.” Jake's voice was tense, his eyes fixed on the looming Scolipede. He hoped fervently that this one did not know Venoshock.

Grasping the seriousness of their predicament, Trixie sprang into action. Her cheeks buzzing as she skimmed low to the marshy ground at great speed. The Scolipede, massive and furious, twisted its body with a Poison Tail attack, tail whipping through the air, Trixie swerved expertly, the move missing her by inches.

"Double Team!" Jake commanded. In response, Trixie split into multiple images, creating a disorienting array of duplicates down and around the Scolipede. The creature hesitated, its eyes darting between the illusions, confusion momentarily clouding its instincts.

Capitalising on the moment, Trixie soared upward, flying perilously close to the Scolipede's horns. "Thundershock!" Jake shouted above the din. Electric bolts erupted from Trixie, zapping the Scolipede with each strike. However, the attacks seemed more annoying than harmful to the giant insect.

Regaining its composure, the Scolipede unleashed a flurry of Poison Sting attacks towards Trixie. Perceiving the imminent threat, Jake yelled, "Quick Attack, now!" In response, Trixie accelerated swiftly, skilfully dodging the barrage of venom. The toxic darts whizzed past her, just falling short.

Trixie persistently countered with Thundershocks. While these strikes didn’t cause much damage, they buzzed around the Scolipede like pesky gnats, visibly aggravating it. The continuous shocks, rather than deterring it, seemed to amplify the Scolipede's aggression.

In a tactful move, Trixie released a Thundershock close to the ground, just as another wave of Poison Stings came her way. The burst of electricity abruptly altered her flight path, allowing her to deftly navigate through the incoming attacks. Her swift, darting movements kept her out of the Scolipede's reach. Jake watched, relieved that their training was paying off.

The battle continued, filled with the sounds of electrical shocks and frustrated hisses. Amidst the chaos, Trixie, a swift blur, using the terrain and trees for cover. Jake, his pulse racing, kept issuing commands, desperate for an opening.

In response to Trixie's evasions, the Scolipede, fuelled by rage, launched what appeared to be a Take Down, barrelling towards where Trixie had just been, knocking down trees and tearing up the ground. She narrowly escaped, the Scolipede's massive form barely missing her.

The ongoing clash of attacks and dodges heightened the Scolipede's anger, as it failed to make contact repeatedly. Each unsuccessful strike seemed to drive it into a more reckless frenzy.

Jake's thoughts buzzed as he quickly analysed the Scolipede's weaknesses. An idea dawned on him – the Scolipede, being an insect, wouldn’t blink. This could be a crucial vulnerability.

"Trixie, Charge!" he called out. Trixie responded with a resolute "Emol!" She positioned herself at a safe distance and started to accumulate electric energy, her body visibly crackling with the increasing power.

Meanwhile, the Scolipede kept up its pursuit. It charged after Trixie. Each movement relentless, more furious than the last. The beast's fury grew, every action fiercer, unyielding in its aggression.

Before the Scolipede could get too close to Trixie, Jake seized the moment. "Quick Attack!" he commanded sharply. Trixie responded, surging forward like a lightning strike. Darting through the marsh, she blurred into motion, rapidly closing in on the massive insect.

As Trixie neared the Scolipede, Jake held his breath. "Now, Spark!" he shouted.

Trixie's body erupted in a burst of electric energy, channelling the built-up charge into a high-impact Spark attack. She aimed directly at the Scolipede's eyes, the electricity seeking its target with unerring precision.

The Scolipede reeled back, a hiss of pain and surprise escaping from its jaws. Its massive form staggered, disoriented by the sudden assault on its sensitive eyes.

Jake watched, heart in his throat, as the Scolipede struggled to regain its bearings. Trixie, having delivered her attack, darted back to safety, her energy spent but her spirit undimmed.

For a brief moment, an eerie silence descended upon the marsh. The Scolipede, disoriented, blinked rapidly, struggling to regain its sight. Jake recognized this fleeting pause as a crucial, albeit temporary, advantage – a much-needed break in the relentless battle.

The calm shattered abruptly. The Scolipede's demeanor shifted. Its eyes glazed, staring distantly. In a flash, it spun and charged directly at Jake.

Caught up in Trixie's fight, Jake hadn't noticed he'd edged into danger.

"Keep calm and carry on, right?" his thoughts flashed sardonically.

But his reflexes were too slow. He jumped aside, yet not fast enough. Agony ripped through his left side as the Scolipede's claws grazed him. The impact whirled him around, hurling him to the muddy ground. A fierce, burning pain engulfed him.

Lying there, disoriented, he felt a subtle throbbing pulse through his wound, an undercurrent almost lost in his shocked and foggy state of mind. His breaths came in shallow gasps, each inhale a stab of pain. The wet ground beneath him felt cold.

“Trixie!” he thought desperately, struggling to regain his senses. Clawing at the mud, he tried to rise, his injured side aflame. Jake refused to look at the wound, fearing what he'd see.

Standing, Jake's breathing was ragged, each inhale a struggle, fighting both pain and the encroaching mist. The fog around him thickened, swirling into a dense shroud that obscured his vision. He thought he saw a shadow, a large form, movements in the mist, but they were fleeting, elusive.

"Trixie!" he called out, his voice strained and laced with pain. There was a desperation in his tone, a plea for a response, for any sign of her presence.

"Emol!" The response came, sounding close, filled with urgency and concern.

Jake turned towards the sound; his movements hindered by pain. "Trixie, where are you?" he called again, his voice echoing strangely in the fog.

"Emol, emol!" Her cries sounded again, this time with a hint of distress, as if she too was searching, lost in the enveloping mist.

Jake stumbled forward, trying to pinpoint the direction of her voice. The fog played tricks on his senses, sounds seeming to come from all directions.

"Trixie!" His shout was more insistent, tinged with a growing fear of being separated in this blinding whiteness.

Her responses became fainter, "Emol..." drifting away as if carried by the mist. Jake turned frantically, trying to orient himself, but the fog made it impossible to discern any direction.

He strained his ears for any sound, any clue of her whereabouts, but the fog seemed to swallow everything.

The last faint echoes of Trixie's panicked calls faded.

Soon, his sight was completely obscured, leaving Jake enveloped in nothing but a world of misty terrain.

POV – ???

It watched. It laughed. It cried. It laughed again. It cried again. It did not want to do it. It had to.

It watched them, two figures amidst the marsh. It saw the tall one, speaking to the giant one, moving. It didn’t understand. It hated it.

It remembered how it had crept into the hive. How easy it was to take the young one. It enjoyed that. Necessary. It had to create chaos. Sow discord.

It saw the tall one, now hurt. Good. It should be alone. It liked that. The small flying one, worried, fluttering around. Annoying. It should leave. It wanted to scream.

Its tool, lay injured. It had served its purpose. A diversion. A disruption. It did not care for it. Only the outcome mattered. Only It

It saw fog enveloping them. It helped. Perfect. Isolation creeping in. It relished the sight. The tall one calling out. Desperate. Lost. It giggled. Whispers whispering.

It hated what the tall one was doing with the giant bug. It didn't understand. The feeling was deep, dark. Unfair. Why did they get to have something It couldn't even name? It yearned for whatever it was, even as It loathed it. They shouldn't have it. Only It.

It watched as the figures became shadows in the mist. Soon, they would be separated. Alone. Just like It.

The flying one. It was not needed. It would take its place. Only It.

None could interfere.

It had to do it. It had no choice. It was alone. Always alone. Watching. Hating. Envying.

It stayed in the shadows, hidden, satisfied. The fog was its ally. The terrain, its domain. The tall one would be alone. Just like It. In the misty terrain.

POV - TRIXIE

Trixie squinted as she tried to peer through the fog. Everything was blurry and white, like being inside a cloud. She adjusted her wings, hovering just above the ground, her heart fluttering with worry. "Jake, where are you?" she thought, her voice small in the vast mist.

She didn't always admit it, but she really liked Jake. He was like the older brother she never had but secretly wished for. Sure, he could be a bit silly sometimes, but he made her laugh, and he gave the best scratches behind her ears. He also always shared his snacks, even the ones he really liked.

And now he was lost. In this fog. She felt a pang of fear. "I've got to find him," she emoled, darting through the mist.

As she zipped through the mist, she imagined finding him and scolding him for wandering off. "Wait till I find you, Jake. You're going to get such a lecture!" she planned in her head. But she knew that once she saw him safe, she'd probably just end up giving him a big, relieved hug. Or maybe a small Nuzzle, just to show him she was annoyed.

As Trixie fluttered through the dense fog, her keen eyes caught a slight movement on the ground. Curious, she descended for a closer look. There, partially hidden by the mist and underbrush, was the young Venipede, still writhing helplessly on its back. Its little legs kicked at the air, struggling to right itself. Trixie's heart went out to the creature in its plight.

She hovered closer, her wings gently stirring the fog around them. With a careful push, she helped the Venipede turn over. "There you go," she chirped softly, watching as the Venipede slowly steadied itself on its legs. It seemed so vulnerable, so much smaller than its fearsome mama she had battled earlier.

Hoping it might know something, she asked, "Have you seen Jake, my human? Tall, walks on two legs, talks kind of goofy?"

The Venipede stopped crying out in pain, giving Trixie a look of disbelief. It was as if it was saying, "Are you serious? I've been here, upside down all this time, and you think I've been sightseeing?"

Trixie puffed up a little, feeling slightly embarrassed but not wanting to show it. "Well, I had to ask! You could've had a quick glance before your... um, unfortunate situation," she retorted, trying to maintain her composure.

The Venipede rolled its eyes, its tone dripping with sarcasm. "Yeah, sure, because that's exactly what I do for fun. Hang around upside down to spot random humans."

"And really, ‘talks kind of goofy’? That's your description?" the Venipede continued, still incredulous. "I've met rocks with better observational skills."

Trixie bristled at the comment, her pride as an Emolga slightly wounded. "Hey! I'm just trying to help here. You could be a bit nicer, you know."

"You do realise I was just being tortured, right?" the Venipede said, its tone a mix of sarcasm and genuine annoyance.

“You know, complaining too much about small details like that is just not cute” Trixie said dismissively. “Anyway, back to Jake!”

The Venipede glared at her, its pain temporarily overshadowed by irritation. "Seriously? Look around you, my blood is spreading around in the water. How about showing a little Pokemonity?"

Trixie, momentarily taken aback, quickly regained her composure, her playful charm resurfacing. "Well, I could offer you a berry, but..." she held one out, eyeing the berry with a hint of reluctance. "You know, these are my absolute favourites. I don't just give them away to anyone."

Despite its evident pain, the Venipede shot Trixie a look of sheer indignation. "You're joking, right? Here I am, bleeding out in the water, and all you can think about is your precious snack?"

Trixie, fluttering energetically around the Venipede, asserted, "I’m a growing girl!" Her curiosity piqued, she inquired, "But why are you bleeding? I've never seen a Pokémon bleed before. Does it hurt?"”

"Are you crazy? Of course, it hurts? What the heck do you think it feels like!?” Venipede retorted, “Hah” it sighed heavily, as only a centipede could. “Some deranged Pikachu came at me. Never seen anything like it.”

Considering her next move, Trixie offered, "Okay, we might have a deal. I'll give you a berry, but you've got to tell me where that Pikachu went." She thought it might be a clue to finding Jake.

“What part of ‘upside down all this time’ don’t you understand?” if Venipede had recognisable body functions, no doubt it would be heaving in frustration right about now.

Trixie, a bit taken aback but firm, said, "Ok, ok. Sheesh, you can have the berry. But you've got to help me find Jake afterward."

“Oh, thank you, and your compassionate heart” the Venipede replied, its voice dripping with heavy sarcasm.

“Thanks! I love praise!” Trixie chirped happily.

"It wasn’t a compliment," the Venipede grumbled but still begrudgingly accepted the offered sitrus berry.

Trixie smiled to herself, feeling a sense of accomplishment. 'Jake would be so proud,' she thought.

Now well-healed, the Venipede scoffed, its voice taking on a boastful tone. "If my mom were here, she'd destroy you. I'm part of the toughest hive in these marshes, you know." It puffed out its chest, trying to look intimidating despite its small size.

“Sure, tough guy” Trixie responded giggling at its boasting despite its lack of facial expression. “Forget that! Jake! Jake! Jake!” She called out loudly, hoping for a response. Nothing.

“Stop being an idiot!” the Venipede exclaimed. “Did you not hear what I just said! A! Deranged! Pikachu! Stay away from crazy - That’s what my mom always says!”

"Hey, you promised to help me find Jake," Trixie retorted, her impatience evident in her tone.

"Alright, alright, I'll help you," the Venipede grumbled, sounding a bit sour. "But can't you use that tiny brain for a moment and think? We're not just going to waltz around blindly in this fog without a plan."

“How about this” the Venipede continued. “I am pretty good at sensing movement from the ground vibrations. And you can fly. We go for a high and low approach, going tree by tree.”

"Brilliant! That's totally a Jake-style strategy!" Trixie chirped excitedly, clapping her hands, delighted.

"Is Jake the only thing on your mind!?" sighed the Venipede, feeling like its sanity was hanging by a thread. “Don’t forget. We need to keep an eye out for that Pikachu, so we should stay close to each other. Don’t want it sneaking up on us.”

They got to work. Trixie zipping up to the branches to try and spot any movement in the fog, while Venipede trailed closely, attempting to detect the vibrations of the ground, as they moved through the misty terrain.

Chapter 5: Chapter 5

Chapter Text

POV - JAKE

The mist enveloped Jake in a cold, damp embrace. He could barely see his hand in front of his face, let alone the path ahead. Around him was a blur of white, an expanse of nothingness. Every step felt uncertain.

Jake clutched his side, pain throbbed relentlessly. He had earlier thought that the Scolipede's claw had torn him open, but now, as he braved the fog, he had been relieved to find it was only a graze. He was not so relieved that the pain was wildly disproportionate, intensifying with each passing moment. 'It must be the venom,' he thought, a shiver of fear running through him.

As he stumbled forward, the mist seemed to play tricks on his eyes. Pointed ears appeared and disappeared within the fog, always just out of reach. At first, he thought he was hallucinating, a side effect of the venom. But then he saw them again, clearer this time, yet still elusive. A flicker of hope ignited in him – could it be something, or someone, who could help?

In his weakened state, Jake's thoughts turned towards finding Trixie, but he couldn't ignore the harsh reality of his situation. His voice was barely more than a weak, raspy whisper, the venom coursing through him sapping his strength and making it hard to even call out. 'I need to find Trixie,' he thought desperately, 'but how can I, when I can barely raise my voice?' The thought of being unable to reach out to her, to reassure her or even himself that they would reunite, weighed heavily on him.

Driven by need, Jake followed the apparitions of pointed ears. His sense of time was distorted; seconds felt like hours, and his movements seemed sluggish, as if he were wading through water. The pain from the wound and the venom coursing through his body made it hard to focus, but he pressed on, steps heavy in the marshy landscape.

Every strained step Jake took seemed to make the fleeting sightings of pointed ears more frequent, playfully eluding his sight amidst the thick fog. His heart raced within him, the throbbing exacerbated by the stabbing pain at his side and a tumultuous mix of hope and apprehension. 'Might that be Trixie?' he wondered, even as he knew the ears were not quite right. 'Yet they’re so familiar. A Pichu, or maybe a Pikachu? Or something else?' The possibility of encountering a Pikachu, however uncertain, spurred him forward, lending purpose to his faltering steps.

The fog, which had been impenetrable, began to relent gradually, almost teasingly. Jake noticed the change, the way the oppressive white around him began to dissipate, giving way to the vague forms of the world beyond. The ghostly outlines of trees began to materialise from the whiteness, branches like skeletal hands. Above, the sky was a muted, diffused light, slowly piercing the fog's veil. The world was slowly returning to him, piece by piece.

Jake pressed on, muscles protesting with each step, the venom from the Scolipede's claw making his limbs feel heavy and uncooperative. But the growing clarity of the pointed ears kept him moving. They were more distinct now, tangible even, no longer just fleeting shadows. He was drawing nearer, the distance between him and this mysterious guide shortening.

As the mist continued to recede, a figure started to take form in the clearing fog ahead. Jake's breathing hitched, a mixture of fear and excitement constricting his chest. The figure was still shrouded in the remnants of the mist, but it was undeniably there, waiting for him. What was this Pokémon that had led him through this labyrinth of fog and confusion? Soon, he would come face to face with the owner of those pointed ears, the entity that had silently guided him through the misty terrain.

"K-Kyuu?" A hesitant sound, a soft murmur, drifted to Jake's ears. It was faint, almost at the edge of hearing, carrying a hint of nervousness, perhaps even fear. The cry bore a resemblance to a rasping Pikachu, yet oddly distorted, as if it were echoing down a long, distant corridor.

Jake squinted, trying to see through the thinning veil of mist. As the fog slowly lifted, his blurred vision rendered everything in washed-out tones – the marsh grasses a faded green, the trees mere shadowy shapes. A gentle breeze caressed his skin. He strained to focus, determined to locate where the unusual sound was coming from. His head felt airy, his thoughts obscured by the venom coursing in his veins. Sounds seemed to echo around him, simultaneously louder and yet distant.

Then, he saw them – the pointed ears, they were not quite right. They protruded from a clump of long marsh grass, oddly limp and droopy, unlike the iconic ears of a Pikachu he remembered from. The ears were a faded yellow, the tips stained with the greens and browns of the marsh, blending in the long grass.

“K-Kyu?” Again, that same hesitant, distorted cry.

Jake's heart leapt. 'Could it really be a Pikachu?' he thought, although a part of him doubted it. The sound he'd heard was too warped, laden with a depth of emotion that seemed out of place for a typical Pikachu cry. "Maybe it's injured, just like me," he pondered. "Perhaps we're both having a bit of a rough day." The venom was clouding his judgment, causing him to question what he saw and heard.

As Jake continued his cautious approach through the marsh grass, each step deliberate despite the throbbing pain at his side, he was keenly aware of the fragile balance he was maintaining. His eyes were fixed on the mysterious figure ahead, mindful of not making any sudden movements that could startle it.

He had closed the distance to about five feet when a clearer, yet still distorted cry rang out, “K-Kyuu... Kyuuu!” The voice, stronger than before, seemed to carry a warning - a plea for distance. The voice was stronger this time. Almost as if it had tried to convince itself to be more confident, and failed.

Jake paused and glanced to the side, catching a glimpse of something through the fading mist. There, partially concealed by the fog, was a cluster of bushes adorned with bright pink fruits, reminiscent of strawberries. A realisation dawned on him. "Pecha berries!" he exclaimed silently, a flicker of hope lighting up his face. This mysterious guide, whatever it was, must have understood his plight and led him here.

With a sense of gratitude, Jake carefully approached the bushes. His movements were slow, his arms weak from the venom's effects. None too gently, he plucked one of the berries, not pausing to examine its vibrant pink hue, throwing it into his mouth.

Chomping down on the berry, Jake was greeted by its sweet and tangy burst of flavour. A wave of relief washed over him, soothing the relentless ache he'd been enduring. Curiously, he glanced at his wound. What he saw was alarming – a seemingly minor cut, yet the surrounding area was alarmingly red and swollen, almost like the buboes he'd seen in black death history books. But as the berry's juice worked its magic, he watched in amazement as the inflammation began to subside. The angry redness started to fade, and the swelling visibly shrank.

Spurred on by this rapid improvement, Jake devoured another berry, then another in quick succession. With each fruit, the changes were more noticeable: the pain receding to a dull ache, the angry redness dimmed, and the swelling reduced further. The venom, which had been wreaking havoc in his body, was losing its grip.

After downing a few more berries, Jake felt almost reborn. The mental fog that had clouded his thoughts lifted, his limbs felt lighter, and the once-persistent pain was now just a faint echo. The small wound was still there, a well-earned trophy from the Scolipede, but the poison's threat had all but vanished.

He sat down in relief, leaning against a tree, the grim thought that he might not have made it floating away. As he sat there, the taste of pecha berries still lingering on his tongue, Jake's mind began to wander.

The ordeal had brought a realisation to Jake: returning home wouldn't be easy. Moreover, his latest experience drilled home a truth he had not wanted to contemplate – he would be on this world a long time.

He was in a world unlike his own, a world where dangers lurked in unexpected places. His own vulnerability was now clear. 'I was lucky this time, meeting this Pikachu. I can't be so careless again,' he thought, chastising himself. Even the games, subtly emphasised that survival in a Pokémon world wasn't just about wandering and exploring; it was about being prepared, being strong.

Jake's mind turned to Trixie, his loyal but currently absent partner. 'I've got to find her. We need to become stronger, together,' he resolved. He knew that the world they were navigating could throw similar or even greater dangers their way again. Being prepared was essential, not just for his own wellbeing but also for Trixie's and any other Pokémon who might become part of their journey. He understood, with a sense of sobering clarity, that his quest would not be brief; it could stretch over years, the outcome uncertain.

Jake closed his eyes a moment, and took a deep breath, trying to centre himself. His mother’s advice, which he had sometimes thought of as corny in the real world, was proving very useful in this one.

But as he thought, a new resolve forming within him, he couldn't help but let out a small chuckle. "Leave it to me to learn the hard way," he murmured to himself, shaking his head. "Next time, I'll be the one doing the rescuing... or at least, that's the plan."

A whisper of movement. No footsteps. Directionless. A rustle against the grass.

Jake, out of his haze, turned back to the spot where he had last glimpsed the Pikachu.

It was no longer there.

A raspy “K-kyuu?” echoed from behind him.

Unsure of the sound he had just heard, Jake whirled around, rising to his hands and knees. His gaze drawn to a figure emerging from the dissipating mist. It wasn't the Pikachu he had imagined while under the venom's influence. Instead, he saw a creature shyly peeking from behind a tree. Its fur seemed tattered, blending eerily with the marsh's shadowy tones. The ears hung lifelessly on its head, unaffected by the gentle breeze. The expected yellow of its fur seemed to be faded. A dull, light brownish hue.

Jake pondered to himself, "Could it be sick?" Concern laced his thoughts as he addressed the figure. With cautious curiosity, he called out, "Hey there, I'm Jake," his voice light and friendly, hopefully disguising his apprehension. "Are you okay, Pikachu?"

Upon hearing Jake's call, the creature cautiously emerged from behind the tree, gradually unveiling more of itself. Its movement seemed too fluid for a Pikachu, unnaturally smooth, particularly given the marshy terrain it was trailing.

Jake slowly raised himself, remaining on his knees; alarm growing at the slow reveal. He began to recognise the true nature of the creature before him. This was most certainly not a Pikachu; Rough circles, seemingly scribbled on haphazardly with a black marker pen stared back at him emptily. Iconic red cheek pouches, dulled. Mouth, a jagged line of stitched mockery. A crude caricature of Pikachu's typically joyful features.

"M-Mimi - k-kyu," the creature uttered softly, a poor impression of the Pokémon it was trying to imitate. A trembling whisper that unveiled its true identity: Mimikyu.

Jake's eyes were fixed on only the head of its disguise; the Mimikyu remained hidden, too shy or cunning to reveal its full form. Knowing what it was, the partial glimpse, in all honesty, was rather unsettling. A tremor of apprehension trailed down his spine at the first encounter with a ghost Pokémon.

"Nice to meet you, Mim..." Jake's voice trailed off, an icy chill filling the air. The atmosphere constricted around him, heavy with unspoken threat. The Mimikyu halted, its eerie stillness more terrifying than any movement. Animosity washed over Jake, an oppressive sense of danger emanating from the creature, thick as fog and sharp as knives.

Internally berating himself, Jake recognised his folly. The cardinal rule – never shatter the illusion, the masquerade.

"Uh, I mean P-pikachu, y-yeah, of course, nice to meet you, Pikachu," Jake stammered, his words tumbling out in a hurried, clumsy attempt to correct his near-fatal slip. The air around them was still charged, suspicion emanating from the Mimikyu, its gaze piercing through its costume like an accusation.

"A-as I thought, you actually were a P-pikachu. Yeah... it was so obvious, how silly of me," Jake continued, his voice quivering slightly with the strain of maintaining the facade. He forced a weak smile, hoping it looked more convincing than it felt. The smile was a tightrope walker, balancing precariously between relief and dread, each word a step back from the edge of a perilous cliff.

The hostility seemed to fade, albeit slowly, as did the dissipating mist under the morning sun. Yet, the tension lingered, a thin thread stretched to its breaking point, the Mimikyu unmoving.

“So, you must have seen me injured, right? Brought me to these berries?” Jake said gesturing.

“Mimi-Kyu, Kyu” Affirmation. Another terrible Pikachu impression. The Mimikyu’s voice rasped, as if it had rarely been used.

“Thanks, uh, Pikachu, for your help,” Jake said, catching himself. “I might not have made it without you.”

At Jake's expression of gratitude, Mimikyu seemed momentarily perplexed, pausing as if unsure how to process the thanks. Its ragged ears gave an awkward twitch, mirroring the slight, jerky movements of its hidden form beneath the cloak. There was a moment where it appeared to withdraw, the frayed edges.

Then, as if recalling its Pikachu guise, Mimikyu attempted a few tentative hops, but with visible hesitancy. It followed up with a stiff, almost robotic nod, its entire form moving in a somewhat forced manner.

Mimikyu took another cautious step forward, its movements somewhat rigid. “Kyu, kyu!” it responded, striving for an upbeat tone, but not achieving it.

Jake, aware of the Mimikyu's strained attempt, contorted his face into a forced smile. "Ah, yes! Very... Pikachu-like," he remarked, voice infused with a feigned enthusiasm hoped sounded believable. "You certainly have the energy of a true Pikachu."

The Mimikyu emerged from the thick marsh grass, and Jake found himself irresistibly drawn to the two cutouts in its costume, a glimpse of its true self. Gazing into those openings, he was engulfed in a wave of intense malevolence, a deluge of emotions nearly overwhelming him. Through these darkened gaps, he sensed deep insecurity, acute envy, and an undercurrent of fear. Yet, there was more – a profound, almost tangible obsession that sent chills down his spine. Below these tempestuous feelings lay longing, sadness, and, to Jake's astonishment, a flicker of hope.

He averted his gaze, and the maelstrom subsided.

Mimikyu tilted its head, more disconcerting than endearing. "Mimi, Mimi?" it chirped, more strained than cheerful.

"Absolutely!" Jake responded, nodding with exaggerated enthusiasm. "Who wouldn't recognise a Pikachu, right?" His laugh was nervous, and he silently prayed it didn't sound as disingenuous to Mimikyu as it did to him.

Surveying their now clear surroundings, Jake observed they were in a dense, haunted forest, the spiky, leafless trees exuding a musky scent of marshland. The soft, marshy ground yielded slightly under his knees. He speculated whether this untouched, unwelcoming area might be Mimikyu's home, with no visible signs of habitation.

The Mimikyu seemed to relax somewhat, its movements softening from their previous mechanical stiffness. "Mimi-kyu, Mimi-kyu!" it announced, but its forced attempt at imitation was glaringly obvious.

Jake cast another glance around, the forest's oppressive silence weighing heavily on him. "So, uh, this place is quite... secluded, isn't it? Do you... do you live here all by yourself?"

Mimikyu's response was a slow, almost sad nod, followed by a soft "Kyu."

Jake's heart twinged at the gesture. "It must be pretty quiet, living out here alone," he ventured, his tone sympathetic yet tinged with awkwardness.

The Mimikyu seemed to perk up a bit, its movements gaining a slight buoyancy. "Mimi, kyu!" it chirped, a hint of eagerness in its voice, though it still maintained a shy demeanour.

"Ah, right, of course... This whole forest is your playground, isn't it? Kinda cool being a lone ranger," Jake said, attempting to keep things light and easy. He was keenly aware of the Mimikyu's increasing attempt to embody its Pikachu persona, though still failing horribly. He continued to play along. "Must be pretty awesome, having all this space to yourself, huh?”

Mimikyu hopped a little closer, its movements becoming less restrained, though it still exuded a sense of shyness. "Kyu, Mimi-kyu!" it attempted, its tone striving for Pikachu's cheer.

Jake nodded; his smile genuine. "Yeah, it's nice to have a place where you can just be yourself, isn't it?" He glanced around at the thick foliage. "Do you, um, find interesting things in the forest? Like berries or... hidden treasures?"

The Mimikyu's disguise head tilted, considering the question, before it nodded eagerly. "Kyu, kyu!" it responded.

"That's really cool," Jake replied, his curiosity piqued. "I've always liked exploring. Never know what you might find, right?" His eyes followed the Mimikyu as it moved a bit closer, its body exhibiting a faint tremor. Jake wondered if it was excitement or something else.

The conversation continued, with Jake asking about the different seasons in the forest and what it was like during rain or sunshine. Mimikyu responded with increasingly, if not entirely coherent, "Mimi" and "Kyu" sounds, each time inching closer.

Not being able to restrain his curiosity, Jake's gaze unintentionally shifted towards where Mimikyu’s 'legs' were supposed to be. Once again, he was met with an intense wave of hostility radiating from the creature, tinged with layers of pain and sadness. Quickly, he redirected his eyes, subtly shifting his focus to avoid highlighting his observation.

He took a small step back, starting to awkwardly back away, trying. "You know, I really should be heading back soon. It's getting late, and, well, I have a long journey ahead of me."

The Mimikyu trailed him, its behaviour subtly changing, displaying a hint of uncertainty in its movements. "Mimi... Kyu?" it asked, its raspy voice carrying a tone that was almost pleading.

"Uh, sorry, Pikachu. I've really got to find my way back home, you know? And I can't do that if I stay here in the forest," Jake replied softly.

“Kyu, Kyu,” Mimikyu responded, as if to say, "No need to leave, you can stay here."

Jake tried to maintain a friendly tone. "It's really nice here, don't get me wrong. But, you know, I have people waiting for me. They'll be worried if I don't show up."

Mimikyu tilted its head, a soft "Kyu?" escaping it, as though questioning his need to leave.

"Yeah, and I have things I need to do, you know? Responsibilities and all that," Jake continued, his voice still gentle but a hint of urgency creeping in. "It's like you with this forest, right? You've got your own stuff to take care of here."

Mimikyu seemed to hesitate, its movements slowing as it processed his words. "Mimi... kyu," it murmured, sounding slightly dejected but still not fully convinced.

Jake's patience started to wear, though he tried to keep his frustration in check. "Plus, I've got my own journey, Pikachu. There's a lot I still need to do. Can't do that if I'm staying in one place, can I?"

The Mimikyu looked at him, its body language conveying a sense of reluctance. Jake took a deep breath, trying to find the right words.

"And, well, I need to find Trixie," Jake finally said.

Silence descending.

Menace swelling.

Malice emanating.

With Trixie's name uttered, the atmosphere turned. A chilling coldness spread.

Mimikyu's character shifted, shy and sorrow shedding, the Pikachu facade fading, revealing something more akin to its authentic nature.

Mimikyu's movements became more deliberate, its body language no longer clumsy, but sinister.

Its head turned slowly, ominously towards Jake, the openings in its costume revealing nothing but shadow.

He realised in that moment the true peril he was in, standing there with a creature whose sadness had turned to animosity, whose loneliness had morphed into malice.

Jake sighed; he would not be going anywhere.

Chapter 6: Chapter 6

Chapter Text

POV - TRIXIE

Deep in the heart of dense marshland, tendrils of midday light pierced through the canopy above. Trixie glided cautiously among the foggy lower branches; wings held steadily against the moisture-laden air. Rich, earthy scents of damp foliage and the musk of the marsh filled her senses. Within her, unease persisted, even as her bright eyes darted across the faded landscape with hope.

The fog, both a veil and a barrier, gave her a sense of disorientation, masking both the dangers and the path ahead. In her heart, a singular determination glowed – to find Jake, her partner.

Trixie buzzed from branch to branch, feeling a growing tiredness in her wings. The fog had transformed her recently joyful flights into something more laborious. "Flying isn't the same without Jake," she thought, a touch of weariness creeping into her otherwise optimistic tone. "Things are harder, but I'm not giving up!" she mentally reassured herself, her spirit still buoyant.

Sticking close to the lower branches, she heeded Jake’s advice to stay cautious. Gaze determinedly scanning the below marsh for any sign of Jake amidst the mist.

Her reluctant ally, the young Venipede dutifully traversed the damp earth below, pausing occasionally to lower his small, segmented body against the ground, attempting to detect vibrations. Yet, the soft, spongy marshland beneath muffled any hopeful tremors.

Trixie, her voice tinged with worry but optimistic, emoled softly, "Jake's out there, Veni, we can't just give up. He's depending on us."

“Speak for yourself. This isn’t some adventure. And frankly, I need to report back to my hive. I’ve had enough for one day.” Venipede replied.

Undeterred, Trixie pressed on. "Come on, Veni, you said you'd help out!"

Venipede, replied with his usual flat tone, "Firstly, it's Venipede, not 'Veni.' Secondly, Jake is your human, not mine. We're dealing with a serious situation here. I've just had a close encounter with real danger in these woods. And isn't it true you had a battle with my mom? Why should I keep helping you?"

“Jake seemed to be getting on fine with your mum until you came along,” Trixie observed, fluttering near Venipede.

“That wasn’t my choice. I got dropped into it by that Pikachu,” Venipede grumbled.

Trixie's eyes sparkled with curiosity as she glided closer. “Oh? That Pikachu? What happened? Where did it go? Tell me everything!” she urged excitedly.

Venipede let out yet another sigh. “Okay, okay, I’ll explain,” he said, resigning himself to her curiosity. “I was just there, minding my own business when suddenly...”

“You got ambushed? Wow, how did that happen? Sounds super exciting!” Trixie interjected, barely containing herself.

“Not exciting. A nightmare. And would you let me finish? Seriously, how does your human get a word in edgewise around you?”

Venipede hesitated, letting Trixie power down a bit. She managed to quiet herself, albeit with difficulty. Pressing his body against the earth, Venipede spoke with conviction. “Alright, pay attention. I was deeply engrossed in vital training. You see, perfecting my Defence Curl is absolutely critical for my evolution, and the hive” he explained, his tone laden with grandeur. “Picture me, perfectly curled up, a future Whirlipede in the making.”

“Ooh!” Trixie emoled, dutifully clapping her paws. The image of a lone Venipede, just sitting there curled up into a cute, spiky ball, sparked a giggle from her.

Trying to ignore her, Venipede pressed on, pride evident, “There I was, unbreakable. But then suddenly, I’m being tossed around! A plaything in an instant. I was just about to react when... well, I was caught slightly off guard.”

Trixie’s eyes sparkled. “Were you taking a nap? Napping on Jake’s shoulder is the best! But I didn’t know it was part of special training!”

Venipede, slightly irritated, clarified, “It wasn’t a nap, Trixie. It’s a strategic position for evolution, not sleep.”

“But you were all curled up! That's how I sleep sometimes. It's super cozy!” Trixie exclaimed, tilting her head.

Venipede sighed deeply, feeling the weight of their miscommunication. “It's more than just being cozy. It's about being prepared, being ready to evolve into something stronger. I'm on the path to become a Scolipede, not just lounging around.”

“Wait a sec, you said a Pikachu attacked you? But Pikachu are the friendliest! They don't have scary claws or anything. I used to play tag with a bunch of them near my den!” Trixie said, her voice bubbling with enthusiasm and a hint of nostalgia.

Venipede's voice took on a serious tone, “It wasn't just any Pikachu, Trixie. This one was different, crazy even. I only caught glimpses of it, but its eyes... they were weird, as if they stared right into your soul.”

“Maybe it just wanted to play a staring contest with you! Pikachu love to play pika boo, you know!”

Venipede exasperated “No, Trixie, it was not a game. It was menacing, not playful. This creature... it wanted to hurt me... it did hurt me. Nothing like the Pikachu you're talking about”

Trixie giggled, soaring back up high to the low branches. “A Pikachu, really? Oh, I hope Jake meets one too! He would have a lot of fun! But we should find him soon, I want to play too!””

“These woods are full of dangers. We need to stay alert,” Venipede warned, serious in his tone.

“You should learn to have a bit of fun, you know!” Trixie retorted playfully, ascending in a spiral. As she rose, the clearing mist below unveiled the world anew, sparking hope in her curious gaze.

“For the record, Scolipede do not have ‘fun’, it's about discipline.”

Trixie, her enthusiasm undiminished, responded, “Danger or not, our main job is finding Jake! Look, the fog is lifting. Let's get moving, Veni!”

Under his breath, Venipede grumbled in resignation, his voice barely audible as he followed Trixie, “It’s Venipede, not Veni…”

With the dense fog receding, they trundled on. Trixie’s eyes widening as the once obscured wetland forest came into view, bisected by a river, its waters lazily weaving a path amidst the trees. This was the river, that she and Jake had been tracing towards the human den before their unexpected separation.

Further along, where the river curved, Trixie noticed the trees thinning out, giving way to a more expansive open field. Here, the river stretched wider, its banks guarded by tall grasses that swayed rhythmically.

Life had returned; Chewtle and Drednaw basked on marshy islands, Corphish and Wooper rested on the sunlit riverbanks. In the distance, Trixie glimpsed what could only be Bouffalant – creatures known to her only in stories. Large ringed horns, the only visible signs. Excitement filled her; as she realised, she’d never been so far from her den before. 'Jake would've loved this,' she thought, a wistful longing for her partner.

Trixie glanced around with a little concern. "Veni, where do you think we are? The scents and sounds are all different here, and I’m pretty sure we’re quite far from where we started?"

Venipede, his antennae twitching, pointed with one of his many legs. “I recognise this area. Do you see that tall, twisted willow by the riverbank? It's a landmark not far from my family's hive. We’re not far.”

Trixie’s ears perked up, and she tilted her head, her voice laced with a mix of excitement and apprehension. "A hive? Like with lots of other Venipede’s? That sounds... busy. And a bit intimidating."

Venipede, his voice steady yet laced with unmistakable pride, responded, “Intimidating? Precisely. We embody discipline. We epitomise strength. One day, we'll reign supreme in the bug world." He puffed up, grandeur returning to his voice. "Our hive? It's the most formidable around here. And that Pikachu? I bet my mama and siblings are scouring the woods for me. They must have realised my indispensable role by now. Just imagine their faces when I recount my experience”

"Yes, yes, but what about Jake? We can't just go to a bug family reunion! We need to find him!"

Venipede, pausing to let the rustling leaves overhead subside, said, “Consider this, Trixie: Our hive knows much of these woods. They might have seen something, heard something.”

Trixie, her tail flicking thoughtfully, finally nodded. “I guess it makes sense... But we're in and out, got it? We find out what they know and zip back to find Jake! No bug buffets, though that sounds kind of tasty, or meet-and-greets.”

“Agreed. No detours. And for the last time, it’s Venipede, not Veni,” Venipede corrected

"Sure thing, Veni!" Trixie giggled.

Trixie trailed Venipede towards his hive, skimming just above the damp ground. She noted the soft squelching sounds accompanying Venipede's methodical steps as they journeyed forward. The air around them was rich with the earthy scents of wet soil and decaying leaves. Ahead, a large fallen tree loomed into view, its moss-covered bark and size indicating it was once giant.

"This is it," Venipede said, his voice betraying his pride. "Our fortress. Our hive is beneath that log."

Trixie spotted a large log, half-submerged in the soft soil, an odd choice for a home at first glance. Yet, as they drew closer, she discerned a hidden entrance at one end. She briefly pondered how the sizable mama Scolipede could possibly fit through such an opening.

As they reached the entrance, Venipede led the way down a gently sloping tunnel. The air inside was cool and damp, a contrast to the muggy marshland above. The tunnel walls were reinforced with layers of soil and plant matter, providing insulation.

Within the hive, a hush of focused activity prevailed. Numerous Venipede, curled into small spiky balls, rolled swiftly across the spacious chamber, covering distances with remarkable speed. They communicated through clicks, even while rolling, orchestrating their collective efforts to upkeep the hive. Whirlipede lined the walls – motionless, silent sentinels, awaiting evolution, yet ever-ready to literally whirl into action at the sign of threat.

Trixie, buzzed with curiosity at the sight, having never seen anything like it. She zipped through, curiously taking in every detail. The hive was a labyrinth of tunnels and chambers, each serving a specific purpose. Some were lined with a soft, fungus-like material, likely for resting. Others had piles of leaves and twigs, possibly food stores.

The absence of the Scolipede was noticeable. "Mama must still be out searching for me," Venipede explained, his tone filled with respect. "She's the protector of our hive."

Trixie, her eyes sparkled with mischief, nudged a young Venipede with her nose, watching it roll before coming to a stop. "Do you all roll around like this? It's like a game of bowling!" she chirped, her round ears twitching.

Venipede sighed with exasperation, maintaining his serious composure. "This isn't a game, Trixie. It's efficient locomotion. And they're in training, not for play."

"But they’re so cute!” Trixie exclaimed, gently nudging the Venipede balls again, fascinated by their movement.

Venipede sighed again. "Cute is irrelevant. They are future defenders, honing skills crucial for the hive’s safety. Please refrain from poking them. More importantly, we must focus on the Pikachu matter. Its unpredictability poses a threat to the hive's security."

Trixie tilted her head. "So, who should we talk to about Jake and this mysterious Pikachu? There must be someone here who knows something, right?"

Venipede nodded, as a centipede could. "We should speak with the second in command, my older sister. She oversees the hive's activities and gathers information from the scouts. If anyone knows about this Pikachu, it will be her."

Venipede led Trixie through the hive's passageways, each turn revealing more of the intricate tunnel network. They moved along what appeared to be the main channel. Venipede of various sizes rolled back and forth, their movements swift and purposeful, in a constant hum of motion. Trixie watched, fascinated by the orchestrated chaos, as they rolled their way through the bustling corridor.

The tunnel widened into a chamber, which seemed to serve as the central hub of the hive. It was more spacious than the others, with the ceiling arched high above to accommodate the larger size of a Scolipede. The walls were reinforced with thicker layers of earth, providing a sturdy structure. Two Whirlipede, coiled, silent and motionless, stood guard on either side of the chamber’s entrance.

In the centre of the chamber was a Scolipede. It was smaller than the mother Scolipede Trixie had battled alongside Jake. Despite this, the Scolipede was still an imposing figure, segmented body adorned with vibrant markings that seemed to ripple with each subtle movement. Her antennae-like horns twitching alertly, sensing their approach.

As they neared the Scolipede, Trixie noticed her antennae quiver, almost like a sign of relief. "You're back, Venipede. Concern was high. Mother searches above ground," the Scolipede stated, her tone firm, yet with an undertone of concern. "Your absence stirred unrest."

Venipede moved forward, posture as stiff. "I have returned from defence training," he said with a touch of pride. "Encountered erratic Pikachu. Threat to hive."

The Scolipede's response seemed practiced. "Again, with defence training? Evolution more than just that..."

Venipede interrupted, unwavering. "Defence crucial. Must perfect. To evolve like Mother."

The Scolipede let out a small sigh. "Matter discussed before. Dedication noted. Now, Pikachu?"

Venipede, tone unchanging, continued, "Pikachu disrupted training. Ambushed." He paused, a sound of slight embarrassment creeping in. "Surprising event. Not usual."

"Strong Pikachu," he added. "Used claws. Hurt me. Left me in bog."

The Scolipede, now fully attentive, nodded. "Understood. Report important. Elaborate further."

Trixie watched, standing to one side, her eyes yo-yoing back and forth between Venipede and his sister, fascinated by the change in Venipede's demeanour around his family. Quite soon, unable to contain herself any longer, she burst into the conversation.

"Excuse me, Excuse me!" Trixie interjected; ears twitching excitedly. "But what about Jake? We need to find him! And this Pikachu, you know, the ones I've met are usually super friendly. Do you know anything about a Pikachu that's not so... well, cuddly?" her tiny paws fidgeting.

The elder sister Scolipede tilted her head slightly, eyeing Trixie with a blend of curiosity and mild surprise. "And you are?" she asked in her usual direct manner, an almost imperceptible softening in her tone.

"I'm Trixie! Veni... I mean, Venipede, is helping me find Jake! He's my human and best friend!" Trixie replied, bubbling with enthusiasm.

Her antennae twitched slightly. She quickly regained her composed demeanour. "You keep intriguing company, Venipede," she remarked. "Regarding the Pikachu: a section of the woods exists. Typically deserted. Silent during scout patrols. Reports of Pikachu sightings are infrequent. They appear atypical. No further investigation was conducted. Not assessed as a threat. Until now.

Trixie's eyes lit up. "Ooh, where is this part of the woods? Maybe Jake and the Pikachu are there! Can we go check it out, please?" she asked, charm offensive engaged.

The elder sister Scolipede twitched her antennae to reply, but before she could, a deep, resonant thudding sound echoed through the chamber. Every Venipede and Whirlipede in the room tensed, instinctively aware of what the sound meant.

Mama was home.

POV - JAKE

As the syllables of Trixie's name hung in the air, an eerie silence echoed in the marshy woods, tension thick. Jake sensed the chilling transformation in the air, an undercurrent of malevolence, that seemed to almost physically radiate from the Mimikyu standing before him. It was unnervingly motionless. Its disguise, the crude facsimile of a Pikachu, stared at him, haunting emptiness drawn on its fake eyes.

Jake found himself in secluded woods, shrouded in isolation – it was just him, an unchained prisoner, and a ghost Pokémon whose instability that was as unmistakable as the damp, clinging fog that was still lingering amongst gnarled trees surrounding them.

Every instinct screamed at Jake to tread carefully, to appease the volatile spirit before him without revealing his true awareness of its nature. He could almost taste the bitterness in the air, feel the prickling of his skin in response to the unsaid threats that hung between them.

Just a few days ago, he was back on Earth, in school, engaging in inane banter with his friends and sitting through admittedly dull classes. Now, here he was, caught in a hostage situation with a delusional Pokémon. He sighed again.

Jake, trying to maintain his own facade, spoke softly, "Sorry, I was wrong, ok? I am happy to stay here with you."

Mimikyu stood rigidly, its drawn-on eyes fixed on Jake. After a moment of tense silence, "Kyu," Malevolence remained. It was not convinced.

Jake swallowed hard, searching for the right words. "I... I got nowhere else to go, really. It's pretty nice here, you know? Just us, hanging out." His voice was steady, but he was on edge, careful with his words.

Jake continued, "Yeah, just us. No one else. I'm not looking to go back... anywhere else." He spoke, meticulously steering clear of another mention of Trixie, aware that even a hint of her name could provoke another volatile reaction, that would not let him go unharmed.

Minutes stretched on, each passing second felt like an hour to Jake. Mimikyu's gaze never wavered, its scrutiny intense and unyielding. Jake could feel the mental strain of the situation, every word he spoke weighed heavy on his mind.

Slowly, Mimikyu began to unwind, the sinister air starting to fade, though a trace of caution lingered. "M-mimi, Kyu?" it ventured, almost like a whispered question, ‘Will you really stay?’

In response, Jake gently lowered himself to the ground, settling amidst the damp leaves to make himself as comfortable as possible. He positioned himself to be at eye level with Mimikyu, all the while cautiously avoiding any direct gaze at the holes in its disguise. "Why would I leave, right, Pikachu? This place has its own unique charm," he said, managing a small, reassuring smile, trying to convince himself to be sincere.

At his mention of ‘Pikachu,’ Mimikyu suddenly froze, it seemed to be self-conscious of something, as if it had forgotten something important.

"Mimi, kyu!" Mimikyu chirped, straining to sound cheerful but falling short. The Pokémon appeared rather embarrassed by its own performance. Jake observed, a blend of disbelief and amusem*nt in his eyes, as it awkwardly attempted a jovial hop. 'It's trying so hard to be a Pikachu, but it's just... painfully bad at it,' he thought, a mix of sympathy and a barely restrained nervous laugh bubbling within him.

The Mimikyu continued with another raspy overly enthusiastic "Kyu!" This time, it added a little spin, which only made its disguise sway more awkwardly.

Jake knew what he had to do.

"Wow, Pikachu, you sure are full of surprises! You really had me fooled there, didn't you?" he exclaimed, infusing his tone with an exaggerated sense of wonder. Jake was struck by the absurdity of the situation. ‘it's like an exceptionally bad Punch and Judy show' he reflected with an internal shake of his head.

With each strained attempt to mimic a Pikachu, the tension in the air slowly ebbed away. The sinister aura that had previously clung to Mimikyu now shifted, revealing a layer of endearing desperation that, in its own way, evoked a faint, unspoken sympathy in Jake.

As Mimikyu continued its awkward charade, Jake slowly blew out his cheeks, a sense of relief washing over him. With the immediate threat seemingly gone, he permitted himself a moment to relax.

The encounter had sharply brought home to Jake the difference between dealing with Pokémon as pixelated characters and meeting them in actuality. The games provided a delusion that capturing Pokémon was a simple matter: just throw a Pokéball, and they're yours. No complications, no second thoughts.

Jake knew Mimikyu well; it was among his friend Josh's favourite Pokémon. He had often debated the strengths and weaknesses of Mimikyu's battle attributes, analysing its role in various strategies. But those conversations never really touched on the Pokémon's true nature – the envy, deep-rooted insecurity. The profound loneliness.

Mimikyu, held a certain allure in the games. A popular choice for battlers, with a unique Disguise ability, very useful as it shielded them from the first move. Dual ghost and fairy typing also gave them a rare upper hand against dragon-types. However, the game never considered the complexities of personality. The game never took their actual Pokedex entries into account.

Jake could not just walk away from this. Attempting to flee was not an option – Mimikyu simply wouldn't permit it. Yet another harsh truth, another realisation of the implications of living with real Pokémon. Humans occupy a precarious position and, by themselves, were at the mercy of Pokémon and their whims.

He pondered on the delicate balance that must exist between humans and these powerful creatures. Back home, humans were the undisputed masters of their environment, but here, in a world with Pokémon, that dynamic was drastically different. Without the companionship and alliance of Pokémon, humans were vulnerable.

Jake watched Mimikyu intently as it awkwardly shuffled from side to side, movements hesitant and uneven. It looked up at him shyly, emitting a soft, uncertain “K-kyu?” Jake could see only one real way to leave this situation. Take Mimikyu with him.

Deciding to take Mimikyu would be no easy choice. Jake's ultimate aim was to return home, a quest that likely involved encountering one of the Legendary Pokémon, believed to have the power to send him back. Accomplishing this would be no small feat; he would need help, and that would require Pokémon. Mimikyu had already clearly demonstrated a level of malevolence at the very mention of Trixie that did not bode well for future team dynamics.

Jake couldn't help but feel a profound sense of sympathy for Mimikyu. The more he observed it, the clearer it became that its actions – the insecurity, the envy, the obsessive behaviour, even the moments of hate – were all manifestations of something deeper. It was loneliness, a curse that seemed to be woven into the very fabric of Mimikyu's existence.

He realised that beneath its imitation, its malicious outbursts, there was a creature yearning for acceptance and companionship. Mimikyu's struggles resonated with Jake, touching a chord of empathy within him. It wasn't just a Pokémon acting out; it was a being dealing with emotions as complex as any person's.

Jake understood that breaking through to Mimikyu wouldn't be simple. It would require patience, understanding, and a genuine effort to connect. He considered the delicate balance of acknowledging its disguise while reaching out to its true self. 'How do I get Mimikyu to trust me, to see that it's valued for who it really is?' he wondered.

He thought carefully about his approach, weighing his options. Finally, with a deep breath, Jake decided. 'I'll start by showing Mimikyu that it's not alone, that it's understood. We'll take small steps, but we'll take them together,' he resolved internally.

POV – MIMIKYU

It watched. Eyes peering through the disguise. It saw him, the human called Jake, approach. It felt strange, a flutter inside. It knew not what it was.

It tried to be the desired one. It chirped, "Pika?" voice small and unsure. Jake smiled. Would he see? Would he know?

It saw Jake's smile, wide and warm. It heard his words, but understood not. It felt his presence. It liked this. It feared this.

Jake showed It a ‘game’. A sharing game. It hesitated. It feared being known, being seen. But It was curious. It played along. It mimicked, it shared. It felt... something. A warmth? It puzzled over this.

Jake shared stories. It listened. It heard his laughter, his words. It did not understand all, but It felt more. It felt a pull. It was new. It was scary. It was... It was something.

It risked to speak. “Kyu,” It said, voice small. Jake smiled. Not rejected. It liked the feeling. It was new. It was something.

Jake looked at It. Really looked. It trembled. Would he see? Would he know? It braced for fear, for rejection. But Jake's eyes were kind. They were accepting. It felt more.

It shared more. It showed Jake a trick, a small trick. Jake clapped. It had never felt this before. It was... something.

Jake's gaze soft, understanding. It spoke. It tried to respond. It wanted it. It did not know.

As the sun began its descent, It felt change. It was unsure. It liked Jake. It feared losing this feeling. It decided. It would stay close. It would not leave. Not EVER.

None would interfere.

It only wants Jake. Only It. No others.

Chapter 7: Chapter 7

Chapter Text

POV – JAKE

Jake stretched out his legs, a sense of relief spreading through his muscles. The cool, damp grass under him probably mirrored his shape by now, given the hours he'd spent sitting here. Dusk had settled and Jake hadn't really made the progress he'd hoped for.

In hindsight, bonding with Trixie had been rather straightforward; a volt tackle to the face, and quite literally boom, he was on the path to partnership. If only all relationships were so easy. Jake mused over this simplicity compared to his current situation.

Sure, Mimikyu had grown attached to him, as anyone would have, had they spent their entire life isolated, in a cold bleak forest such as this. Glancing around, he found Mimikyu’s choice of habitat decidedly odd. There did not appear to be any nest or shelter – just open woods. He recalled how in Pokémon Sun & Moon, Mimikyu was found in a ruined haunted shop, but here, there was no such structure. "It is, technically, a ghost, right?" he pondered. Where would a ghost reside out here? In a bush? Did they even need a place to call home? Did they sleep? Did they eat? These were curious questions, but with no clear answers in sight. And at the rate things were going, Jake half-joked to himself, he might just end up staying in this forest indefinitely with Mimikyu to find out.

Jake let out a sigh, his mind drifting back from its wanderings. "Alright, time to refocus," he murmured to himself, gathering his resolve. He turned back to the Mimikyu, all sets of ‘eyes’ fixated on him. They had not left him all this time. Jake had found this seriously creepy at first, but by now just took it as rote, heck, he even found it kind of cute. "This world is really starting to get to me’ he thought wryly.

"You know, Pikachu, you're a pretty good listener. You ever considered a career in therapy? I’m pretty sure I might need it myself at this rate."

Mimikyu perked up, its disguise swaying slightly. "Mimi, Kyu!" it chirped, appearing more confident in its lacklustre act. Jake remained unconvinced.

Jake smiled, his eyes still carrying a hint of wariness. "I'm serious! You have some real insight. I should have my mum write you a reference! I don’t always quite get what you are saying, but I think I feel better for it!" he said lightly.

Mimikyu responded with a series of enthusiastic "Mimi, Kyu!" its movements becoming more animated, seemingly convinced that Jake was fully deceived by its act. Jake watched, a blend of mild amusem*nt and contemplation on his face, as Mimikyu hopped around in a circle. With each hop, the disguise fluttered awkwardly, revealing small glimpses of its shadowed true self. Jake noted that Mimikyu didn’t react to the mention of 'mum' in the same way as ‘Trixie’; quite possibly the concept itself was unfamiliar to it.

His mother, who often worked with kids facing similar challenges, always stressed the importance of taking the time to build trust and rapport was a crucial first step in the process. For Mimikyu, it was a good start, but clearly not sufficient. It was time to take this to the next level.

Jake breathed deeply, ‘Ok, let’s start slow. This might be dangerous’

Gathering his thoughts, Jake turned to Mimikyu. "Pikachu, you ever get the urge to see more of the world?" he asked casually, "I mean, the forest is great and all, but there's a whole lot out there to explore."

Mimikyu paused mid-hop, turning towards Jake with a curious tilt of its head. "Kyu?"

"New places, new faces. It could be fun, don't you think?" Jake ventured, watching Mimikyu closely.

Mimikyu’s response was not what he expected. The creature stilled. The previous playful chirpiness vanished, replaced by a low, almost growling "Mimi..." The atmosphere around them thickened palpably, the forest, already hushed, became oppressive, the silence deafening.

A shiver of disquiet slithered down his spine. He sensed the cut-out eyes of Mimikyu's costume piercing through him, burning a hollow gaze into his very being. Jake's caution spiked, knowing this could be dangerous ground. Mimikyu, while delusional, was far from foolish; it clearly understood that his ultimate goal was to reunite with Trixie. It remembered. It knew. It was scared. That was the key.

"Pikachu, it’s okay," Jake tried to reassure, words seeming to hang awkwardly in the air, failing to bridge the growing tension.

The Pokémon shifted uneasily, its disguise fluttering. The atmosphere grew taut, the playful innocence that had marked their earlier interactions now overshadowed by the palpable sense of jealousy and possessiveness.

Jake attempted to brush off the escalating tension, adopting a light-hearted tone. "Hey, no pressure, just thought it might be a nice change, you know?" he said, striving for casualness. Yet, even to himself, his words rang somewhat hollow, failing to truly alleviate the mounting strain.

Mimikyu's response maintained the silent, seething stare, body language speaking volumes. Jake could sense the creature's deep-seated fear of abandonment, its desperate clinging to the only positive connection it had known, tenuous though it may be.

Instead of fear, a wave of irritation started to wash over Jake. His urgency to move forward now pressing and he simply didn't want to spend a night in these woods. His sympathy for Mimikyu's sad, delusional existence was genuine, but it was becoming clear that the next step in truly helping it was to break the cycle of isolation.

Despite the Pokémon’s almost cute, misguided attempts at mimicry, which had grown on him, Jake understood that Mimikyu needed more than the sheltered existence it had in this forest. He needed to convince Mimikyu that there was a world beyond these, where it could form real bonds, with both him, others and perhaps heal from its deep-seated insecurities.

"Pikachu, listen,” Jake said firmly, rising to one knee, deciding to take a risk. “Staying here won't change things. There is more to life, more to you, than a lonely existence out here."

Mimikyu's response was almost immediate, no longer unsettlingly still, rather it seemed to recoil as if bitten, more animated than he had ever seen it. "Mimi... Kyu!" it protested, the tone laced with hostility and unease. It’s true nature again coming to the fore. It did not like his words.

Jake watched Mimikyu's reactions intently, finding it difficult to fully understand the body language beneath its disguise. The deepening night draped eerie shadows across the Pokémon, the atmosphere felt charged around them, the tension hanging heavy in the air.

‘I'm not sure how long you've been here. Alone in these woods, Pikachu,” Jake started slowly, eyes tracking each subtle movement and twitch beneath Mimikyu's disguise. A watchful gaze on its shadowed figure. “But in all this time, I haven't seen any other Pokémon around. It looks like you’ve been alone here. This... this isolation, it's a prison. You have a real chance now to break free from it.”

"K-Kyu?" the Mimikyu uttered. A soft sound, barely a whisper, almost lost in the stillness of the forest.

He gestured expansively towards the forest's edge, where the silhouettes of trees marked the boundary of Mimikyu's known world. “Out there, beyond these woods, there’s a whole world waiting – a world filled with real adventures, genuine connections. Connections that go beyond this...” His voice trailed off for a moment.

"M-Mimi..." Soft. Uncertain. The ominous aura beginning to fade.

Jake stepped forward, his expression filled with sincerity, an urgency in his tone. “You don’t have to stay hidden, confined in these shadows,” he said gently. “Out there, Pikachu, there's a place for you where you can find your true self, more than just...” He paused again.

His words hung in the air, giving Mimikyu a moment to absorb the gravity of what he was proposing. Jake's eyes conveying a silent message.

“M-mimi, K-kyu?” it ventured softly. Shyly. Hopefully.

“And you won’t be alone,” Jake continued, a promise in his words. “I'll be there, every step of the way. We'll explore together, discover new things, meet new friends. It's a big world, Pikachu, full of wonders and surprises. And it's waiting for us, waiting for you to be a part of it.”

He took another step, closing the distance between them, the Mimikyu right in front of him “So, what do you say, Pikachu? Ready to leave these shadows behind and see what's out there? With me?”

Silence. The Mimikyu was frozen.

Jake still on his knee waited patiently, hand extended.

Minutes passed. Mimikyu absolutely still. Jake continued to wait, kneeling position beginning to feel a little uncomfortable.

“Well, this is awkward” Jake thought.

Jake waved a hand in front of its face. Nothing.

“HA!” Jake suddenly shouted at it. Still nothing.

After a while, “Is it ok?” Jake thought, a bit confused. “I knew my words were sharp, but not super-effective against ghost Pokémon”

Jake felt a sudden tension. Until now, he hadn't touched Mimikyu in all their interactions; the Pokémon had been too shy, never presenting an opportunity. Besides, he was unsure how it would react to contact.

“Time to roll the dice’ Jake said out loud, breathing deeply.

He reached out tentatively, towards Mimikyu’s head, definitely not going near its ‘eyes’. He was nervous but also very curious what a ghost would feel like.

Fabric. Surprisingly soft fabric in fact.

“A little like one of those beanie toys my sister loves’ Jake mused to himself. "Quite warm, actually; I thought it would be cold."

“K-kyu?” A sound so quiet, maybe only an Audino could hear.

Jake continued to pet the fabric. It really was so soft. Did Mimikyu have washing machines?

"M-mimi, kyu?" The sound was louder this time.

At the heightened cry, Jake momentarily stopped his hand, tension spiking. Braced for a reaction.

But contrary to his expectations, Mimikyu's response was uncertain, maybe even embarrassed.

It hesitated before repeating a slightly louder, yet still shaky, "M-mimi, kyu?" Its attempt at imitating Pikachu seemed even more strained now, almost endearing in its awkwardness.

At Jake's touch, it almost tried to shy away, emitting a squeaky, timid "K-kyu?" The sound was laced with shyness and, perhaps, a hint of fear, as if it worried its disguise would be busted. Its Pikachu imitation, already unconvincing, now carried a note of vulnerability.

Mimikyu inched back slightly, quivering under Jake's gentle strokes. It was a small, almost imperceptible movement, but Jake noticed. 'It's probably never been touched before,' he thought. He made a conscious effort to be even more gentle, trying to reassure the Mimikyu with his soft, careful movements.

As Jake continued with the gentle strokes, an idea began to form in his mind. It no longer seemed right to keep calling the Pokémon Pikachu, yet he knew that addressing it directly as a Mimikyu would be a risky move – ‘Or more likely the last move I would make,’ he thought dryly, still more than a little unbelieving of his situation.

He pondered a suitable name, something that could bridge the gap between its Pikachu disguise and its true identity as Mimikyu. A name that could perhaps help it embrace a new identity, one that was closer to its true self but without the shock of being directly called Mimikyu. Jake hoped that in time, the new name would allow Mimikyu to gradually accept and reveal more of who it really was.

"Jekyll," Jake murmured to himself, testing it on his lips.

“K-Kyu?” Mimikyu tilted its fake head. Still shy. Still somewhat confused. But somewhat beginning to relax, embarrassment fading, starting to almost lean into his touch.

"How about that, huh? Jekyll?" he said aloud, smiling at the Pokémon. The name perfectly captured the duality that was Mimikyu, subtly acknowledging its dark side but also appealing to the positive characteristics of its nature. “I can’t just keep calling you Pikachu, you know? You deserve a real name.”

Mimikyu paused again, tensing a bit under Jake's hand still resting on its 'head,' as if contemplating the new name. Jake was charmed by how the Pokémon seemed to overthink anything that might impact its identity.

"Kyu, Kyu... Mimi, Kyu!" After a moment of apparent consideration, Mimikyu chirped affirmatively and began hopping delightedly, seemingly accepting the name. Jake let out a sigh of relief, amused by the thought that, fortunately, Mimikyu wasn't familiar with Robert Louis Stevenson's work.

As Mimikyu, now Jekyll, hopped around, Jake withdrew his hand from its 'head.' "Alright, Jekyll," he said with a smile. "So, what do you say? Ready to go on an adventure with me?"

Jekyll stopped, motionless once again. Faint suspicion emanated from its true eyes. Aware of his goal. Aware of Trixie. Jake could almost feel the battle inside. Insecurity and jealousy, warring with a crushing loneliness, and what could now be felt much more clearly. The faint glimmer of hope Jake had perceived during their initial encounter had now grown into something more concrete, something substantial.

After a long silence, a faint “Kyu” was heard. A small shy nod of acceptance.

Jake took a deep breath, feeling a mix of relief and genuine happiness for Jekyll. His own sense of intimidation had diminished; he was fairly confident now that Jekyll wouldn't directly harm him. However, he acknowledged that this assurance might not apply to others or different situations. "Still, this is progress," he reassured himself.

As Jake stood up and offered his arm, Jekyll quickly jumped onto it. There was an unusual sensation at the contact with its true body beneath the costume – a surge of raw, unfiltered emotion that seemed to radiate from it. The disguise was more than just a physical cover; it was a barrier concealing the true emotional essence of Mimikyu

Jekyll paused momentarily, glancing back at the familiar woods with a hint of hesitation. After a brief, almost contemplative shake of its body, it turned its gaze towards Jake, signalling a readiness to leave. Together, they began to walk away from the dusk-set woods, embarking on a journey into a world unknown to Jekyll, but full of possibilities.

Chapter 8: Chapter 8

Chapter Text

POV – JAKE

Dusk had settled over the landscape, draping a lingering warmth of evening light that softened the edges of the forest. Jake, with each determined step, navigated through the underbrush, his eyes searching for the familiar course of the river that would lead him back to Trixie and towards the nearest town. The air was filled with the increasing hum of Pokémon life, the now familiar calls of the ever-present Rookidee, and the slowly awakening Hoothoot. Jake had missed their cries and felt a pang of relief upon hearing it again.

On his shoulder, Jekyll, the Mimikyu he had recently convinced to follow him, sat cautiously, its body twitching, reacting to every adverse sound and cry. Clearly not comfortable.

As they continued, the treetops above them gradually dimmed the fading daylight, creating shadows and gentle illuminations along their route. Jake sensed Jekyll's gaze weighing heavily on him, carrying an almost accusatory undertone. As if Jekyll's eyes were silently questioning, "Where the heck are you taking me? Can we go back now?"

"It's not that bad traveling with me, is it?" Jake said, glancing at Jekyll with a small smirk. "I mean, sure, I'm no ranger, but I've got my charms, right? And you – you're getting the exclusive Jake tour. Top-notch stuff, even if I have no real idea where we are!"

He chuckled, observing Jekyll's reaction. The Mimikyu remained silent, its eyes fixed on him, the resentful feeling fading somewhat. Jake smiled to himself at the reaction. He had made considerable strides in persuading Mimikyu to abandon its isolation, but he was struggling to encourage Jekyll to unwind.

Jake’s tone softened, and he added more earnestly, "Seriously though, I know this is all new to you, stepping out of your comfort zone like this. It's brave, you know, to break away from the familiar. Not many can do that."

Jekyll tilted its head slightly “Kyu”, the gesture seeming to convey a sense of understanding, if not complete ease.

"And I appreciate it, really," Jake said, meeting Jekyll’s gaze with a warm, appreciative smile. "You chose to come with me, and that means a lot. We're going to have some great times, you'll see."

Despite his encouraging words, Jake was well aware that the most perilous part of their journey still lay ahead. Not so much for him, necessarily, but quite possibly for Trixie. "Would she even realise?" he wondered thoughtfully. Trixie was quite the innocent Pokémon. He doubted she would recognise something as complex as envy, even if it were to figuratively nip her on the rear. Jake sighed, reflecting on the unusual combination of a mischievous Emolga and an emotional Mimikyu. A dynamic duo indeed....

Jake's train of thought was abruptly cut off by an unusual thud in the distance. It was an unfamiliar noise, and for a moment, he half-joked to himself that it might be his own stomach growling – he was pretty hungry, berries could only do so much after all. Casting a glance at Jekyll, who was now comfortably settled on his shoulder, Jake noted the Pokémon's unreadable expression, almost as if it was asserting, “That wasn't me.”

Then came another thud, this time carrying a somewhat rhythmic pattern. A sense of apprehension began to build in Jake. He really hoped it wasn't what he was starting to fear it could be. He knew of Pokémon eggs. In many cases the method of their creation did not make much sense. Jake was not curious to find out.

Still, Jake cautiously stepped forward through the undergrowth towards the sound. Strangely, a fresh, almost invigorating scent starting to enter his nostrils. He knew this smell. He listened more closely trying to filter out the distracting bumping noises. Burbling sounds. The sound of flowing water. They had found the river.

Both relieved and excited, Jake hurriedly pushed through the bushes, Jekyll clinging on with a faint, protesting “Kyu!” at Jake’s sudden change of pace. Before them lay the river, its waters cutting a path through the land and winding into the distance toward an expanse that resembled an open plain. The marshy ground was gradually giving way to vast stretches of long grass, almost savannah-like in appearance. Trees still lined the riverbank, but they were now fewer and farther between.

In their haste, Jake and Jekyll had unexpectedly stumbled upon a scene straight out of a nature documentary. Mid-conflict, two Chewtle – locked in a headbutt – abruptly stopped and swivelled their heads towards Jake, expressions with surprise at the interruption.

Chewtle were small Pokemon, but what they lacked in size, they made up for in sheer grumpiness. Their hard shells, a vibrant blue and brown, gleamed slightly in the dimming light. Unblinking eyes fixed on Jake and Jekyll, transforming from surprise to annoyance, the supposed territorial battle forgotten. Jake noticed their strong jaws, which, even to his untrained eye, looked capable of a powerful bite.

Realising that a skirmish seemed unavoidable, Jake turned his attention to Jekyll perched on his shoulder. “Shall we?” he asked, a hint of determination in his voice.

The Chewtle eyed Jekyll cautiously, expressions betraying a sense of confusion. To them, Jekyll appeared as a Pikachu, but there was something unmistakably odd about it. Its disguise, though resembling the electric Pokémon, gave off an eerie, almost deranged aura.

Jekyll, sensing the close attention from the Chewtle, reacted with a display of its own. The cut-outs of its disguise emanated waves of malice and intimidation, an invisible yet palpable force that seemed to fill the air around them. Jake could feel the tension rising from Jekyll, a silent but clear message.

The Chewtle, either too stupid, stubborn or both to understand Jekyll’s message, simply readied themselves, growling low.

Jekyll let out a sharp, discontented "Mimi, kyu!"

"Not too thrilled about this, huh? Don't worry, we've got this," he reassured, readying himself for the impending battle.

As Jekyll hopped down in front of him, a thought crossed Jake's mind. The Mimikyu was still staunchly maintaining its Pikachu disguise, even in his presence. He hadn't outright acknowledged it as a Mimikyu yet, playing along with the façade. 'Now what moves can I call out?' he mused. 'Does Mimikyu learn anything resembling Pikachu's moves?'

Jake sighed, why did this have to be so complicated.

POV - JEKYLL

Jekyll watched. It had left the unending. The trees, the shadows. With Jake. A new path, unfamiliar, unsettling. Jekyll was not just 'It' anymore. It was Jekyll now. Jake’s Jekyll.

But then, the Chewtle. An intrusion. Jekyll’s time with Jake, disturbed. How dare they? Jekyll thought, emotions a whirlpool of conflict. This journey was meant to be its transformation, yet here it was, threatened.

War within. Jekyll wanted to show strength for Jake, to be more than a disguise. Yet, the disguise must stay. The true face of Jekyll, forever hidden. Strength in the mask, not beyond it.

Jekyll seethed. 'They will regret,'. Jekyll vowed. This journey, it was Jekyll’s. Alone with Jake. Not for intruders.

Anger. It rose in Jekyll. It would show them. Show Jake.

Battle approached. Jekyll was ready. Strong, but hidden. Force, within mimicry. They would not know.

'They'll see,' Jekyll thought, manically. Jekyll's strength, but NEVER the truth.

POV - JAKE

As the Chewtle lunged forward, jaws extended in what appeared to be a Bite attack, Jake barely had time to process the unfolding battle. Reacting instinctively, he called out the first move that came to mind, the only one he knew for certain that both Pikachu and Mimikyu could use. "Jekyll, use Double Team!"

In response, Jekyll swiftly created multiple copies of itself, each illusion flickering and darting around the battlefield. The Chewtle, taken aback, charged at the multiplying images, following them around in a circle, only to crash headlong into each other with a resounding thud. Dazed and shaking their heads, they growled at each other, barks sounding almost like an accusatory, "How about you look where you're going, huh?"

Jake watched the scene with a small smile, but there was a frustration brewing within him. He knew the perfect move for this situation would be Wood Hammer, a grass-type attack in Mimikyu’s repertoire. But he couldn't call it out without breaking Jekyll's illusion of being a Pikachu, a reality that Jekyll clung to. This limitation gnawed at him, and his mind raced as he tried to figure out what to do.

Recovering from their collision, the Chewtle exchanged brief glances, as if reaching a silent agreement. Then, almost in unison, they opened their mouths to unleash a Water Gun attack, a powerful stream of water aiming directly at Jekyll.

In a split second, Jake called out the next move he could think of, one that both Mimikyu and Pikachu knew. "Jekyll, use Baby-Doll Eyes!" he shouted, not entirely sure what to expect.

Jekyll, the usually menacing figure, suddenly shifted its posture. The fake eyes of its disguise, seemed to widen, the normally empty, almost deranged expression morphing into an endearing gaze that was equally unsettling and amusing.

The Chewtle, caught off guard by this unexpected and rather bizarre display, hesitated. Their Water Gun attacks, thrown off by the distraction, veered off to the side, missing Jekyll by a wide margin. The water splashing harmlessly against a nearby tree, leaving Jekyll unscathed.

Jake watched, momentarily dumbfounded. The usually intimidating Jekyll, now attempting to be adorable, was a sight he was not quite sure how to process. A part of him wanted to laugh at the absurdity of it all, while another part was just relieved that the move had worked, albeit not in the way he had expected.

Following that unexpected performance, the thought of using 'Charm' made Jake slightly apprehensive. 'I'm kind of terrified to even imagine how Jekyll would pull that off,' he thought wryly. This also made him realise he didn't actually know Jekyll's gender. It was a detail that had never come up in their interactions, and frankly, it wasn’t easy to determine just by looking. With a shrug, Jake dismissed the odd thought as just another quirk in their growing list of peculiarities.

This time remembering to maintain a safe distance from the battle, Jake racked his brain for a strategy, fully aware that Mimikyu couldn’t naturally perform any of Pikachu’s offensive moves. Meanwhile, the Chewtle relentlessly launched Water Gun attacks and attempted to charge in with Bite. But Jekyll, nimble and swift, seemed to almost hover above the ground, its feet barely making contact. Jake observed this, realising the advantage Jekyll's ghostly nature provided in battle. Its ability to move so seamlessly over any surface an incredibly useful attribute.

A faint, elusive sound tickled the edges of Jake's awareness. It was barely there, a whisper of familiarity lost in the clash and clamour of Jekyll's fight with the Chewtle. He tried to focus, but the sound was intermittent, fading in and out like a distant echo. Each time it surfaced, it tugged at his memory, yet the urgency of the battle kept pushing it to the fringes of his consciousness.

As the battle progressed, Jake's options felt increasingly limited. He kept calling out for more Double Teams and Baby-Doll Eyes, hoping to wear down the stubborn Chewtle. He couldn't help but admire their tenacity, even as it frustrated him. If only he could command Jekyll’s true Mimikyu moves, he mused, this would have been a straightforward battle.

Meanwhile, the elusive sound seemed to grow clearer, more pronounced with each clash and movement of the ongoing battle. the energy of the combat seemed to be drawing it closer, making it more eager to be heard. Still, it remained just out of reach of full recognition.

The blue snapping tortoises spotted a chance during the brief lull. They quickly teamed up, launching a pincer attack to sandwich Jekyll from both sides.

As they dived toward Jekyll, with what appeared to be a Tackle, their physical forms mysteriously swept through the ghostly Mimikyu, like wind through leaves. Jekyll’s Pikachu guise miraculously held up, not a thread out of place. Jekyll almost seemed to exhale in relief, relaxing as the Pokémon's direct hits passed through without effect.

Astonishment and bewilderment crossed Jake’s face, a single sweat drop trailing down his temple. 'How on earth did that not bust the disguise?' he wondered internally. The two Pokémon, equally stunned, screeched to a stop, their faces a picture of confusion as they faced what they thought was a Pikachu.

The spectacle of Jekyll, deftly keeping up its Pikachu act under such direct attacks, left Jake both amazed and puzzled. He pondered the extent of Jekyll’s imitation – just how resilient was the act in the heat of a real Pokemon battle?

Jake had a small epiphany at this, recognising a unique advantage that differed from his experiences in the games. To many opponents, Jekyll appeared as a Pikachu, despite how unconvincing the disguise seemed to him. This misconception could lead enemies to use no effect type moves against Jekyll. This realisation made Jake understand that Jekyll's Disguise ability could serve as a twofold layer of defence in certain situations, misleading foes while also protecting Jekyll from the first direct hit.

The two snapping tortoises regrouped, slightly more wary but still undeterred, they prepared to resume their attack. Deciding to shake things up, Jake made a bold call. "Jekyll, Thundershock!" he shouted decisively. As the words left his mouth, he watched Jekyll's reaction closely.

Jekyll seemed to seize up, disguise twitching oddly. Hesitating. Jekyll, who had been so confident in its mimicry recently, seemed to be caught in a moment of uncertainty, at a loss on how to execute a move it didn't possess, at the same time knowing it had to keep up with the façade. Jekyll, caught up in its paradox, simply could not move.

Just then, from the rustling trees above, a sudden burst of energy disrupted the tense standoff. A high-pitched, exuberant cry pierced the air, full of delight and laughter. "Emol!" The unmistakable sound of a Thundershock crackled through the atmosphere, striking one of the Chewtle with a jolt of electricity that sent it spiralling into the river.

The remaining Chewtle, witnessing its companion's swift defeat, quickly assessed the new threat. Realising it was now outnumbered, it let out an indignant chirp at Jake, as if accusing him of unfair play. Jake couldn’t help but think to himself, ‘Well, they were ganging up on Jekyll too.’

As the disgruntled Chewtle disappeared into the river, a blur of energy burst from the trees. "Trixie!" Jake called out, barely able to hide his excitement. With the speed of a cannonball, his adorable Emolga buzzed towards him, her small, furry body crashing into his arms with an enthusiastic thud.

"Oof!" Jake grunted at the impact, laugh escaping him despite the surprise. He felt Trixie's warm and soft fur against him, her little body giving off a warmth that clearly showed just how happy and affectionate she was to see him again.

"Emol!" Trixie chirped happily, ears twitching, tail flicking rapidly as she snuggled in. Her excitement was palpable, and her affectionate nuzzles conveyed just how much she had missed him.

Jake couldn't help but laugh, the sound bubbling up from deep within. "I've missed you so much, Trixie," he said, hugging her close. Her soft fur tickled his nose, and he felt the beating of her tiny heart against his chest. "You're just in time!"

“Emol, emol!” Trixie chirped in joy, as if she were saying, “You can’t handle a day without me, huh?”

Caught up in the joy of the reunion, Jake was almost oblivious to a faint, steadily growing rumbling sound. It was deep, growing deeper, strangely reminiscent of a heavy rolling tyre.

Jake sighed, relief and delight interrupted as he began to suspect where this was going.

“Not this again’

POV - TRIXIE

Hours before, Trixie had been tirelessly scouring the area, eyes keenly scanning the landscape below. The river flowed steadily alongside, waters winding through the marshy islets and lush greenery.

Trixie had been delighted that it had been so easy to convince the Mama Scolipede to help find Jake. “After all, my charm is unmatched” Trixie thought smugly.

"Revenge must be swift," grumbled Mama Scolipede, her voice low and stern as she trudged along. Massive and vibrant with her crimson/purple markings, she moved with purpose, segmented body undulating, her horn-like antennae twitching with barely contained aggression.

Trixie chirped back cheerfully, "Oh, you're excited to help find Jake too! He’s super fun, you'll see!"

Mama Scolipede glanced at Trixie, monstrous antennae twitching. "The wrongs against my young must be righted," she stated firmly,

Trixie simply nodded and smiled. "Yep, Jake's great at fixing things! He'll know just what to do!"

The Mama Scolipede let out a low rumble, a sound that might have been a sigh. "Justice will be served. That 'Pikachu' will face consequences."

"Of course!" Trixie agreed. "Jake's really good at solving problems. He and Pikachu will be best friends in no time!"

Mama Scolipede seemed to sigh once again, as only a megapede could. “We shall split up. You search along the banks. I shall venture further inland. The Pikachu will not escape.” Scolipede uttered tonelessly.

“Yes, ma’am!’ Trixie saluted, having now grown used to her clipped conversational style.

Sadly, Venipede had not been able to continue helping with the search for Jake.

"I require time to recuperate and fortify my defences; my prior preparations fell short," the Venipede had stated with his flat tone. "The search for your human will be in your and mama's capable hands. This way, I might just preserve my sanity..."

Trixie had briefly puzzled over this. 'I don't really get it. Who wouldn't want to come along and find Jake?' she wondered, quite baffled.

Trixie continued to zip from branch to branch, navigating the riverbanks in search of Jake. Flying had always been a bit of a workout for her, especially since she hadn't really had that much practice before meeting Jake. But she remembered his advice clearly: keep the flights short and swift. So, with brief, energetic bursts of flight, she darted between the trees. Each time she landed, she'd pause, using her sharp senses to scan the surroundings for any hint of Jake's presence.

As dusk settled in, painting the river in a warm, golden hue, Trixie's search for Jake grew more urgent. She fluttered from one flying Pokémon to another, her friendly demeanour softening their caution towards her "Have you seen a human around here?" she'd ask eagerly, only to be met with shakes of heads and murmurs of 'no'.

Despite the growing sense of despair, she reminded herself to stay hopeful, to keep pushing forward. The thought of losing Jake, whom she had bonded with so quickly, was too much to bear.

As the evening settled in, Trixie's ears tuned into something out of the ordinary. Initially faint, the sounds became more distinct against the backdrop of the forest. A rhythmic splashing, perhaps a sign of a water Pokémon's move. Intrigued, Trixie perked up, attention fully captured.

Then, cutting through the ambient noises, came a voice. It wasn't just any voice – it was commanding, familiar, and it tugged at Trixie's heart with a mixture of hope and urgency. 'Could it be?' she wondered, her pulse quickening.

With renewed vigour, Trixie propelled herself through the air, her wings carrying her swiftly towards the source of the sounds. As she flew, the noises grew progressively louder and clearer, guiding her path like a beacon. The splashing was accompanied by other sounds now – the occasional grunt, the rustle of movement, a hint of a skirmish.

As she neared the scene, she caught a glimpse of two Chewtle and an odd-looking Pikachu out of the corner of her eye. Then, the command "Thundershock!" rang out. Thinking it was meant for her, Trixie instinctively unleashed her attack, sending one of the Chewtle flying into the river.

But then, all her focus shifted as she spotted him - Jake. With a burst of joy, she dove towards his open arms, the worries and fears of her search melting away in an instant.

Finally, she had found Jake.

POV - JEKYLL

Jekyll watched. Focus intent on the Chewtle. Interlopers intruding. Jekyll would destroy, Jekyll giggled.

Jake not attacking. Jekyll was frustrated. Did not understand.

Jekyll was strong. More than the façade. Yet the disguise is paramount. Jekyll was conflicted. Jekyll must remain shrouded, behind the mask, not beyond it. None must know. Yet Jekyll must win.

Jekyll's thoughts raced, wanting to show power. For Jake. To protect, to prove, but limited. Bound by the illusion.

"Thundershock!" Jake's command echoed in Jekyll’s mind. Hesitation. Confusion. Did not know. It couldn't perform the move. Jekyll wasn't a Pikachu. Mimicry was not enough. Jekyll doubted, feared. They would know. Jake would know. Jekyll would know.

It was Jake’s Jekyll, not Jake's Pikachu. It was Mimikyu.

Then, lightning. Real lightning, not from Jekyll. From above.

Jekyll looked to see. The small, flying one. Not gone. Not away. Here with Jake. Jekyll saw it. The ‘bond’. That’s what it was.

Jekyll had come so close. So close to it. Now, Jekyll would be abandoned. Alone again. Back from whence it came.

Mute in Its envy.

Quiet in Its hatred.

Silent in Its isolation.

At that moment Jekyll felt not malice, but terror.

POV – JAKE

Jake's arms were wrapped tightly around Trixie, the warmth and softness of her fur a contrast to the tension that gripped him. A deep, ominous rumbling sound was growing louder, drawing closer with a threatening urgency that set every nerve in his body on edge. He could feel the ground vibrating beneath his feet, the sound resonating through the air like the approach of a relentless storm.

"Get ready," he called out, his voice firm despite the rising anxiety within him.

“Emol!” Trixie perked up, swiftly relocating to Jake's shoulder, alert and focused, ready to face whatever was coming. Jekyll remained unnervingly still, unnaturally so. Since the end of their skirmish with the Chewtle, Jekyll hadn't moved.

Jake sensed a change in Jekyll – something he felt he might understand under different circ*mstances. Unfortunately, the urgency of the moment left no room for contemplation. The growing roar, the increasingly violent tremors underfoot, akin to a minor earthquake in their fury, demanded his undivided attention.

The Scolipede crashed through the trees, massive body rolling, head over tail, an enormous Rollout at terrifying speed. A whirlwind of motion, a blur of crimson and purple hurtling directly towards them. Jake's heart raced, adrenaline spiking.

With no time to think, he reached out and grabbed Jekyll, yanking it out of the destructive path. As the colossal Pokémon thundered past, Jake felt the force of the wind it generated, sending his hair flying, rattling his bones, the ground trembling underfoot.

The Scolipede, missing its target, rolled past them, looping back in a tight, agile curve, its many legs unfurling and planting firmly on the ground. It reared up, standing tall and foreboding before them, its multitude of legs casting an ominous shadow over the terrain.

The muddy riverbank, already marred by the recent scuffle with the Chewtle, braced itself for another confrontation. The uneven, soggy ground, interspersed with marshy islets and ringed by dense trees, seemed to shudder under the Scolipede's pure unadulterated fury.

Trixie leaped off Jake's shoulder with what seemed to be excitement. She flitted around the Scolipede, chirping cheerfully as if introducing an old friend to Jake. Scolipede’s body seemed to sag very slightly, as if it had heard this before. Jake watched with a little confusion and bemusem*nt, finding Trixie's lack of awareness both endearing and worrisome.

The Scolipede, clearly not in the mood for pleasantries, let out a low hiss, its segmented body rippling with barely contained aggression. With a swift, dismissive gesture, it signalled Trixie to clear the way, its horn-like antennae pointedly aiming at Jekyll, who remained in Jake's arms, still lost in its emotional turmoil.

"Scoli," the Scolipede, its gaze locked onto Jekyll with a palpable intensity.

Realising the danger, Jake called out, "Trixie, come back!" His voice urgent.

As he beckoned Trixie to return to the relative safety of his shoulder, Jake's eyes flickered to Jekyll. The memory of the injured young Venipede surfaced in his mind, and pieces fell into place. With a sinking feeling, Jake realised why the Scolipede was here – Jekyll.

Scolipede was here for revenge, not reconciliation.

Jake exhaled slowly, gaze drifting into the distance as he pieced the puzzle. He watched Jekyll, still motionless and silent.

It hit him – that fog hadn't been a natural occurrence. It was Jekyll's doing, a manifestation of Misty Terrain. Jake's eyes narrowed, not in anger, but in contemplation. He remembered Jekyll's withdrawn figure, the silent plea.

An understanding began to form in Jake's heart. This wasn't just about deceit; it was about a desperate longing for a connection. He glanced at Trixie, joyful demeanour a stark contrast to Jekyll’s sad turbulence.

In that moment, as Jake watched Trixie and Jekyll, a breeze flicking at his hair and the riverbank soft under his feet, he felt a strong sense of purpose. He didn't need words to show it; his actions would speak for him. He realised he had to be more than just a friend to them – he had to be the link that held their little group together. Jekyll, in particular, needed more than just fun and adventures. It needed to feel like part of a family, a place where it wouldn't be so alone anymore.

Right then, with the cool breeze on his face and the gentle hum of the river in the background, Jake made a silent vow. He'd be there for Jekyll, make it feel included in their unique little team. He was determined to ensure that Jekyll knew it had a place where it truly belonged – right here, with him and Trixie.

“Trixie, a quick intro – this is Jekyll,” nodding towards the Mimikyu, who remained quiet. “We just met recently. Jekyll's been a big help, already becoming a part of our team.”

“Emol! Emol!” Trixie chirped, a quick and cheerful greeting for Jekyll, who still stood silently, not responding to the introduction.

As the Scolipede loomed menacingly before them, Jake knew they had to act fast. He glanced at Trixie, her cheerful chirps contrasting sharply with the situation. "Trixie, we need a distraction. Keep it busy, but stay safe," he instructed, urgency in his words.

'Time for round two,' he thought, steeling himself for the challenge ahead.

With a swift nod to Jake, she launched into the air, zipping around the Scolipede in swift, darting movements. Her agile form became a blur, weaving through the air, an effort to draw the Scolipede's attention away from Jake and Jekyll.

Jake shifted his focus to Jekyll, who remained in its own emotional world, oblivious to the imminent threat. With worry and exasperation, he urged, "Jekyll, snap out of it, we need you now," his voice sharp but with concern. "We're in deep here, and I can't do this without you." Jekyll's usual vacant stare, however, seemed even more hollow now. The eye cut-outs in its costume, typically expressive in their own eerie way, now devoid of any discernible emotion.

The Scolipede, distracted by Trixie’s aerial trickery, swung its massive head, following her movements. Its antennae twitched, trying to track the speedy Emolga, but Trixie was too quick, her flight pattern erratic and unpredictable.

Jake knew they couldn’t depend solely on Trixie's distraction. He turned to Jekyll, urgency in his voice. Dropping to one knee beside the Mimikyu, he placed a hand gently but firmly on its fake head. "Jekyll, you need to hear this," voice intense. “We made a promise to adventure together, remember? I said I wouldn't leave you behind, and I meant every word. Do you understand? We need you now more than ever.” His words carrying both encouragement and desperation.

A subtle change began to manifest in Jekyll’s posture. A slight stir of energy, a hint of something within. The eye cut-outs on its costume, previously hollow, seemed to flicker with a faint glimmer of recognition, almost as if grasping the gravity of the situation. It wasn't a complete return to its usual self, but it was a start.

Just then, the Scolipede, visibly irked by Trixie's evasive flying, executed a swift turn. In a rapid response, it launched a barrage of Poison Sting attacks toward her. The air was filled with a flurry of sharp, glistening barbs, each dripping with toxic venom.

Trixie, relying on her quick reflexes, darted through the air with agility. She narrowly zigzagged past the incoming projectiles, each one missing her by mere inches. A sharp, startled cry escaped her as she manoeuvred through the onslaught, veering off course to avoid the venomous darts. The near-misses sent her careening towards a tree, which she barely managed to avoid.

“Now, Jekyll!” Jake commanded, a newfound urgency in his voice.

Jekyll, as if roused from a trance, began to move towards the fray. Steps hesitant at first, almost like a sleepwalker slowly coming to life. But then, as if a switch had been flipped, Jekyll's demeanour seemed to change dramatically. Coming to life with a renewed vigour, Jekyll hopped energetically from one foot to the other, trying to renew its act, but there was something undeniably forced about it. The movements were again a bit too mechanical, lacking the natural, cheerful fluidity of the Pokémon it impersonated.

"Double Team, Jekyll! Now!" Jake shouted, ignoring the display. Jekyll responded instantly, creating multiple copies of itself that scattered across the battlefield, a confusing blur of movement designed to disorient the Scolipede.

Trixie, still airborne, darted around the Scolipede, her movements a whirlwind of speed and grace. She was a blur of energy, weaving through the air, drawing the Scolipede's attention away from Jekyll.

“Baby-Doll Eyes, Jekyll!” Jake called out next. The Mimikyu's duplicates all turned their gaze towards the Scolipede, their eyes wide and seemingly innocent, yet unnerving in their number and synchrony.

The Scolipede's rage only intensified. It whirled and thrashed, its fury growing with each thwarted attempt to strike its targets. The battle escalated into a maelstrom of movement and noise, a chaotic dance of attack and evasion.

Then, in a burst of unbridled anger, the Scolipede unleashed a Poison Tail attack. Its tail, a lethal weapon, whipped across the battlefield with deadly force. Trixie, sensing the imminent danger, swerved sharply in the air, narrowly avoiding the toxic sweep.

Jekyll, unable to match the agility of its airborne teammate, was caught in the path of the Scolipede's tail. The strike landing with a jarring force. Jake watched, almost curious as the Pikachu head of Jekyll's costume was not decapitated as one might imagine. Instead, the head appeared to collapse inward under the force, as if Jekyll's actual form within had quickly shifted to avoid the blow. The head of the costume deflated, lying limp to one side, suddenly empty.

Silence descended abruptly, the battle pausing as if the world itself had stopped to bear witness. There stood Jekyll, true Mimikyu form exposed for all to see, the remnants of its disguise lying flopped to one side. Jake, Trixie, and even the Scolipede seemed frozen, the revelation hanging heavy in the air.

Jake could feel it – a palpable, dark energy emanating from Jekyll, intensity growing by the second. The air around them seemed to thicken, charged with a malevolence so profound it was almost tangible. Hyde, the hidden facet of Jekyll, had emerged, unleashing a hatred so visceral that Jake found himself taking an involuntary step back.

Jekyll, with its true nature now laid bare, emanated an aura of sinister darkness. The Mimikyu's essence itself seemed to pulsate with a murderous intent. He recalled a similar reaction from Jekyll at the mere mention of Trixie's name, yet that had been a mere shadow of what he was witnessing now. This intense, overwhelming presence was unprecedented, a manifestation of darkness far beyond anything he had previously encountered.

Trixie, however, seemed to be unaware of the gravity of the situation, had her head tilted head in confusion as she glided closer to Jekyll, her eyes on the deflated Pikachu head. If Jake was not mistaken, he thought Trixie might be giggling. It was kind of funny in a way, but this was probably not the time to make light of it.

The Scolipede, meanwhile, seemed to sense the danger. Its previous aggression waned, replaced by a cautious wariness. It took a step back, its many legs moving in a hesitant retreat, not turning to flee but clearly unnerved by the sudden outpouring of hatred directed at it. The confusion in its eyes was evident – the creature it had sought revenge upon was not what it seemed.

The tension in the air grew thicker, a slow, creeping crescendo that seemed to suffocate. Jake knew he had to act, to somehow defuse this volatile situation. He took a cautious step towards Jekyll, his voice barely above a whisper, "Jekyll, listen to me..."

But as he reached out, he hesitated. The malevolence emanating from Jekyll was intimidating, almost paralysing. Jake's knowledge of Pokémon battles, of strategies and moves, felt irrelevant in the face of such raw, unbridled emotion.

Trixie, still hovering near Jekyll, emoled softly, confusion turning to concern. Her innocence stood in contrast to the brooding malevolence before her. She looked back at Jake, her eyes seeking guidance in a situation she couldn’t comprehend.

Sensing the underlying sadness in Jekyll, Jake could feel the loss it felt, thinking it had forfeited its place by his side, Jekyll's identity as a Mimikyu had been clear to him from the very start, but it never mattered. Jake had been pretty scared at first, after all the Pokedex description from the games did not provide a hopeful story. Despite this, he had come to appreciate Jekyll for who it was, a Mimikyu, that simply craved acceptance and friendship, not the Pikachu it pretended to be.

With this understanding Jake, trying to seize the moment, called out with renewed conviction, "Jekyll, use Astonish!" He watched as Jekyll, momentarily taken aback by the acknowledgment of its true form, quickly rallied. The Mimikyu lunged towards the Scolipede, its sudden movement catching the giant bug-type Pokémon off guard. Jekyll's ghostly form flickered, delivering a jolt of surprise that left the Scolipede momentarily stunned.

"Trixie, Charge up!" Jake's next command rang out. With an enthusiastic "Emol!" Trixie responded, beginning to gather electrical energy around her, tiny body crackling with accumulating power

"And now, Jekyll, Curse!" Jake commanded, his voice resonating. Jekyll, momentarily still, underwent a noticeable transformation in demeanour. With a low "Kyu," it acknowledged the command, body language shifting from passive to intensely focused. Drawing upon the well of malevolence and rage that had been simmering within since its disguise was compromised, Jekyll began to channel these dark emotions into the Curse.

As Jekyll concentrated, the air around the Scolipede visibly warped, the atmosphere thickening with an almost tangible malice. The Curse, fuelled by Jekyll's pent-up anger and resentment, was far more potent than Jake had anticipated. It enveloped the Scolipede in an aura of oppressive energy.

The effect was immediate and startling. The Scolipede, already disoriented from the Astonish, now found its movements severely hampered. Its once swift and agile manoeuvres slowed to a laborious crawl, its natural aggression visibly dimming under the weight of the Curse.

Observing the impact of Jekyll's Curse, Jake couldn't help but let out a low whistle, "Damn, haters really are gonna hate," he murmured, slightly taken aback by the sheer intensity of Jekyll's unleashed fury.

"Now, Trixie, Spark!" Jake shouted. Trixie, charged and ready, zoomed towards the Scolipede. She collided in a burst of electric energy, the Spark attack amplified by her Charge. The impact sent the Scolipede reeling backward, its massive form toppling ungracefully into the river with a splash that sent ripples across the water.

The Scolipede, caught completely off guard, floundered in the water. Its bulky form struggled against the current, clearly out of its element in the river.

Seizing the opportunity, Jake called out his final command. "Jekyll, Misty Terrain, now!" Jekyll, its energy waning but spirit reignited by Jake's acceptance, summoned a dense fog that enveloped the area. The terrain transformed, shrouded in a mystical mist that obscured their presence from the floundering Scolipede.

"Come on, this is our chance!" Jake urged, grabbing the now slumped Jekyll and signalling Trixie. They darted away, following the course of the river, their footsteps muffled by the mist. Behind them, the sounds of the Scolipede's frustrated hisses and splashing faded into the distance, once again swallowed by the misty terrain.

As they made their escape, Jake was buzzing with adrenaline. He had to admit, he'd had a blast. Real-life Pokémon battles were nothing like the games. No waiting around for your turn - it was all about timing your moves, thinking on your feet and using the environment around you. Somehow, they'd managed to come out on top, even when it seemed like everything was stacked against them.

They had managed to turn a dire situation into an escape, not just from the Scolipede but perhaps from the emotional turmoil that had gripped Jekyll. He glanced at Jekyll and Trixie as they made their way through the mist. No doubt a reckoning was coming but the immediate danger was behind them, at least for now, the journey ahead promised to be filled with more challenges, discoveries and new partners as Jake continued his quest for home.

Chapter 9: Chapter 9

Chapter Text

POV – JAKE

Time was not on his side, Jake sighed as he viewed the rising moon, the soft glow beginning to dominate the twilight sky. The daylight was fading for sure now. Around him, the landscape was transforming, the dense, marshy forest gradually giving way to more open plains. The trees, once a thick canopy overhead, now sparser, allowing views of the vast expanse of sky turning a deep shade of twilight blue.

As he led his companions down the riverbank, the changes in the environment were unmistakable. The ground underfoot shifted from the squelching, muddy earth of the marshes to firmer, grass-covered soil. The air, once heavy with the scent of damp wood and moss, was now fresher, carrying a hint of the grassy plains ahead. Unfortunately, signs of human settlement were still elusive in the night.

Large herds of Bouffalant grazed in the distance, imposing figures silhouetted against the fading light. Their bulky forms moved with a slow, deliberate grace, heads bowed to the long, waving grass that rustled softly in the gentle evening breeze. The occasional snort or grunt from the herd punctuated the quiet, a reminder of the wild and diverse Pokémon life that Jake was only just beginning to encounter in reality.

In the quieter nooks of the landscape, he noticed the subtle signs of other Pokémon. Here and there, the distinctive swirl of a Dunsparce's nest could be seen, a subtle disturbance in the otherwise undisturbed grass. Skorupi scuttled in the dimming light, movements quick and almost ghost-like in the twilight. Occasionally, the soft rustling of leaves betrayed the presence of Fomantis, their green bodies blending seamlessly with the foliage.

As the moon climbed higher, casting a serene silver light over the landscape, Jake knew they wouldn't reach a town before nightfall. With a resolve, he began to scan the surroundings for a suitable place to camp.

Finding a small clearing with a soft bed of grass, Jake sighed, "Well, Trixie, looks like it's yet another night out under the stars." He gathered some dry sticks scattered around the clearing, arranging them in a small pile. With a nod towards Trixie, she used a tiny spark to ignite the kindling, starting a small but comforting fire for their rudimentary campsite.

Trixie fluttered to a nearby branch, eyes sparkling in the moonlight. "Emol!" she chirped, as if to say, "That sounds like fun to me!" Her tail flicked playfully as she glanced down at Jake, an energetic buzz in her movements.

Jake's lips curled into a smile, amused by her energy. "Sure, it's all fun and games for you, Trixie – you're a Pokémon. But I've got to say, a bit of home comfort wouldn't go amiss right about now." He started to unpack, only to pause with a rueful shake of his head. There wasn't much to unpack really – his hoodie had seen better days, and his clothes were ripped up, no contenders for a fashion show, or maybe they were...

Trixie glided down from the branch, landing lightly on Jake's shoulder. "Emol!" she chirped mischievously, as if teasing him, "What, no five-star hotel out here?"

Jake smirked, feeling the gentle weight of Trixie on his shoulder. "Yeah, I was really hoping for a nice warm bed and a hot meal. Instead, I get a patch of grass and a cheeky emolga." He ruffled her fur gently, an exasperated look on his face.

"Emol, mol!" Trixie retorted playfully, nuzzling against his cheek as if to say, "But you love me anyway, admit it!"

As they played, Jekyll silently watched it's on Jake's other shoulder. Jake could feel a distinct heaviness emanating from Jekyll, not physical but emotional. He sensed the Mimikyu's unease, the lingering effects of its earlier outburst, a remnant of the Curse it had unleashed.

In the aftermath of their skirmish with the Scolipede, Jekyll had been noticeably quiet. It seemed acutely aware that Jake, and possibly even Trixie, had uncovered its true identity, but did not seem to know what to do about it. Jake's recollection of the Pokedex entries from the games loomed in his mind – there was no forgiveness for those who exposed a Mimikyu's pretence of being Pikachu, often leading to dire consequences, even at the cost of its own life. This didn’t bode well for the Scolipede, should Jekyll ever become powerful enough to track it down.

Despite Jekyll’s sombre mood, however, Jake thought he had made some considerable progress with Jekyll’s attitude. First breaking it out of its isolated existence, to even having a battle with it and commanding its true powers.

He pondered, his gaze drifting to the stars above. "How do other trainers handle Mimikyu in the real world, away from the game's rules and guidelines, of which there were none?" he mused. From the games Jake could infer that Mimikyu were rare Pokémon, so there was likely not that many around in the wild, which meant even fewer trainers would be likely to have one either.

"It's tricky," Jake mused quietly to himself, thinking over his experiences with Jekyll. "Mimikyu are complex, always balancing that Pikachu act with their true capabilities. You can't just catch one and expect it to behave like any other Pokémon." Any who tried would likely need an extraordinary amount of patience and a deep understanding of Mimikyu psychology to truly connect with them, if they were not killed in the process.

If the lore was anything to go by, Pokedex were rare devices, that very few trainers had access to. "How many trainers out there would understand a Mimikyu? You would probably have to be some kind of exorcist or have a serious interest in psychology to figure that out?" he pondered. Having encountered one Mimikyu so far – Jekyll – his experience suggested a sad reality for these lonely creatures.

As Jake cast a sidelong glance at Jekyll, he had half-expected to see, at the very least, silent disapproval regarding Trixie's presence. Remarkably, Jekyll had been quiet, offering no sign of discontent. Recalling Jekyll's volatile reaction in the forest and the intense animosity that surfaced when its disguise had been busted, Jake thought wryly, "I'd bet anything that Jekyll's plotting some elaborate plan for Trixie's mysterious disappearance right now"

He sighed to himself. "Next time I catch a Pokémon, I hope it's something less complicated... Like a Slowpoke, perhaps. Yes, just a simple, easy-going Slowpoke."

Time for the next step.

“Trixie, would you mind giving me and Jekyll a moment?” Jake asked, glancing between his two Pokémon companions.

“Emol?” Trixie responded, her tone questioning, as if to ask, "You're kicking me out?"

Jake couldn’t help but chuckle at her reaction. “Just for a little bit. Jekyll and I just need to have a chat, you know? But hey, maybe you could scout around and see if you can find us some berries? We could all use a snack.”

Trixie tilted her head, considering his request. “Emol!” she chirped cheekily, agreeing with a hint of mischief. With a quick spin, she took off into the night, though Jake noticed her occasionally glancing back, clearly planning to eavesdrop.

As Trixie disappeared among the trees, Jake turned to Jekyll, who had vacated his shoulder to sit quietly next to him. “Jekyll, about earlier…” he began.

Jekyll shifted slightly, its body language betraying a hint of anxiety. The Mimikyu had known this was coming, dreading it. Jake could feel the tension emanating from it, the pain, Jekyll feared this moment. He would have to be careful.

In the distance, Trixie's playful rustling in the bushes was a reminder of her presence. Jake smiled to himself, understanding her curious nature. "She needs to hear this too," he thought, accepting her discreet participation in their conversation.

“I’m not going to beat around the bush, I know Jekyll, I know you’re a Mim...” Jake hesitated as waves of hostility once again emitted from the Mimikyu. The air around them seemed to grow colder, the atmosphere thickening with Jekyll's silent, desperate rage.

“Mimi, Kyu” Jekyll uttered sharply, as its posture grew more menacing, no longer still but unnervingly smooth, turning to Jake like he was in a horror movie, a far cry from its usual, clumsy attempt of a Pikachu impersonation. As Jake confronted the truth, Jekyll seemed to unravel, its façade slipping away. It was a transformation that revealed a side of Jekyll he had rarely seen, one that was more unsettling than any mimicry.

In this moment of vulnerability, Jekyll was not pretending to be something it wasn't; it was manifesting the core of its being – a kind of deranged, but deeply insecure and lonely ghost. The air around them almost warped with the haunting tension, spirited by Jekyll's internal struggle. Jake could sense the Mimikyu's confusion, identity crisis laid bare under the moonlight.

For a moment, it appeared as though Jekyll might lash out, its instinctive response to fear and exposure. Yet, beneath the sinister display, Jake sensed something else – a deep-seated fear. It was not just the fear of being seen for what it was, but also the terror of being rejected, of losing the companionship it had always wanted, that it had hoped for perhaps its whole existence.

Jake gulped a little, feeling a twinge of fear. Yet, he knew the importance of this confrontation. "There's no use denying it, Jekyll. You heard me command you to use ghost moves no Pikachu could ever do," he said firmly, watching as Jekyll's sinister demeanour shifted to one of fear.

He looked directly into the cut-outs of Jekyll's costume, ignoring the malice, trying to connect with its true eyes. "I've known since the night we met," he continued, his voice softening. "But I don’t care if you're not a Pikachu. I'm just happy I met you, Jekyll."

“K-kyu?” Jekyll’s soft voice, still not familiar with use, faint and uncertain, from beneath its ragged costume. The Mimikyu recoiled as if Jake’s words were too bright. Its entire form quivered. The trembling wasn’t just fear; it was a deep, resonant confusion, a confrontation with a reality it could never acknowledge.

Jake could sense Jekyll's fear, palpable in the air. The Mimikyu's usual eerie calm had given way to a vulnerability so raw, it was heartrending. Its eye cut-outs, once just vacant holes in a costume, now seemed to convey an overwhelming sadness.

"You've been alone and scared," Jake spoke again, voice a comforting whisper in the quiet of the night. He moved closer to Jekyll; movements deliberate and gentle. "But you don’t have to be anymore. We're here, together. We promised to explore the world, didn’t we?"

Carefully, Jake reached out to Jekyll’s costume, his fingers tenderly adjusting the ragged cloth. "I don’t want to journey with a Pikachu, Jekyll. I want to travel with you, just as you are." With each word, he straightened a fold here, patted down a crease there, a slow, methodical reassurance. This act, typically a solitary ritual for Mimikyu, becoming a shared moment.

As he worked to fix the costume, Jake could feel Jekyll's tension. The Mimikyu stood rigid, uncertain, holding its non-existent breath. Jake’s hands moved to clean a smudge, staining his fingers, his touch light. "You're not alone, Jekyll. You're part of us now, part of a team, a family."

Finally, with the costume tidied and straightened as best as he could manage, Jake looked into Jekyll's eye cut-outs. He enveloped Jekyll in a gentle, genuine hug.

Jekyll stiffened in shock, completely unaccustomed to such direct affection. Then, almost imperceptibly, it seemed to relax, its rigid posture softening, the disguise slackening. Inside its costume, Jekyll was experiencing a rush of emotions so intense, akin to a dam bursting. For the first time in its life, Mimikyu did not need to cry in solitude.

POV - JEKYLL

Jekyll watched. Jekyll cried. Jekyll did not know what to do. Emotions, unfamiliar and overwhelming, swirled inside. The gentle touch of Jake, the fixing of the costume. It was all too much yet not enough.

Jekyll had been seen, truly seen. Not just as a shadow behind a disguise. The feeling was terrifying, yet there a glimmer of something like... acceptance.

A hug, something Jekyll never thought it would receive. A sense of belonging, a hint of safety. But these feelings were new, confusing. Jekyll had always been alone, hidden in the shadows. To be accepted as Jekyll, as Mimikyu, was a concept it was still grappling with.

The small, flying one, ‘Trixie’. Name, a source of its unease, too bright, too close to what it wanted to be.

Jekyll plotted. Jekyll schemed. The small, flying one would have to go, eventually. There would be a right moment, a perfect opportunity. For now, Jekyll would bide its time, hidden behind its repaired facade, a ghost waiting in the dark.

But even as these plans formed in its mind, Jekyll found its attention drifting back to the fire, to the warmth it felt from Jake’s presence.

“Kyu...” Jekyll whispered to itself; soft sound lost in the crackling of the flames. The idea of plotting against Trixie felt important, yet somehow, also felt slightly less urgent, almost... petty? Jekyll shook its head, dismissing the thought. The small, flying one's time would come, Jekyll assured itself, not quite as convinced as it once might have been.

POV – TRIXIE

Trixie sniffed at a particularly tasty-looking apple, ears perked up as she half-listened to the conversation between Jake and Jekyll. Settled comfortably on a branch, she munched on the apple, slightly amused and a bit puzzled by their serious tones. "They're so dramatic," she said with a little emol, feeling a tad bored.

She let out a soft giggle, enjoying the sweet crunch of the apple. Then, hearing Jake's call, she perked up, her ears wagging with excitement. "It's my turn!" she thought gleefully.

Gracefully, she leapt from the branch, executing a playful dive-bomb toward the ground. Her wings caught the air perfectly, allowing her to swoop low and then glide up for a perfect landing on her favourite perch - Jake's shoulder.

"Perfect landing, Trixie," Jake said, scratching her ears gently. "You're getting so much better at that. I'm really proud of you."

A wave of happiness washed over Trixie at the praise. She loved praise, especially from Jake.

Trixie caught a peculiar look from Jekyll, but she shrugged it off with her usual cheer. "Who wouldn't look at me like that? I am pretty adorable," she thought. "It's great to meet you, Jekyll," she chirped, the words bubbling with her infectious energy. "I've always had loads of fun with your cousins!"

Jekyll did seem like an odd-looking Pikachu, but Trixie wasn't about to let appearances get in the way.

"I know what you're thinking. I had the same thought initially," Jake said slowly, his tone gentle. "But Jekyll isn’t a Pikachu. It’s actually a Mimikyu."

At Jake's words, Jekyll shifted its body in a slightly awkward manner. Trixie, however, just co*cked her head to one side inquisitively. "What’s a Mimikyu?" The name was unfamiliar to her. She looked at Jekyll curiously. "Hey, Jekyll, what are you?"

Jekyll seemed to tense up at her question. "Did you not hear, foolish one?" came a voice, higher-pitched than Trixie expected. It was rather cute actually, despite the words being less than friendly.

"Hey, I'm actually really smart, you know!" Trixie protested with a hint of pride in her voice. After all, she could count all the way to five!

"Spare me your platitudes, the one is speaking," Jekyll retorted sharply, still cute.

At that moment, Jake cleared his throat, giving a small cough to recapture their attention. "Trixie, I'd like you to officially welcome Jekyll into our little family," he said, pausing awkwardly as if grappling with a slightly delicate subject.

He leaned toward Trixie. "Trixie, I have a super-important mission for you," he said quietly, but with gravity. "We need to uncover a top-secret fact about Jekyll. Can you find out if Jekyll's a boy or a girl?"

Trixie nodded eagerly, "Yes, Commander!" she saluted. She then turned to Jekyll, her voice bubbling with curiosity. "So, Jekyll, are you a girl like me?" she asked, without hesitation.

Jekyll's posture stiffened. "Insolent creature, does Jekyll not clearly embody the male form?" Jekyll retorted, its voice tinged with outrage and disdain.

Trixie emoled back to Jake with satisfaction. "He's a boy!"

Jake, stepped in diplomatically. "Well then, Jekyll, that officially makes you Trixie's brother in our little family here. It's important you two look out for each other."

Jekyll appeared somewhat taken aback by this, as if the concept of being part of a family, let alone having a 'sister,' was a completely foreign notion.

Meanwhile, Trixie's face lit up, her eyes twinkling. "As your big sister, Jekyll, you've got to listen to me!" she declared, her voice bubbling with excitement.

"Cease your prattling or you will face Jekyll’s wrath!" Jekyll retorted sharply, raw indignation shaking his very being.

Trixie flitted off Jake’s shoulder, buzzing around Jekyll in an energetic orbit. "Oh, we're going to have so much fun together!"

POV – JAKE

"Well, looks like they’re getting on," Jake mused, as he watched Jekyll feign pursuit of a gleeful Trixie. The sight was amusing, albeit in a slightly bizarre way, with Trixie seemingly inexhaustible in her energy.

He, on the other hand, felt the complete opposite. "I'm absolutely beat," he admitted to himself. Mental exhaustion was setting in – keeping up with a world so vastly different from his own was proving to be a real workout. It had been a day marked by swift and surprising turns: a Scolipede ambush to start, followed by an emotional rollercoaster with Jekyll, and then yet another Scolipede skirmish to top it off. "Here's to hoping not every day is this eventful," he thought with a wearily.

Feeling the weight of the day, Jake announced, "Alright, team, I'm going to catch some sleep." As he settled down, Trixie zipped over with a cheer, snuggling close to him in a warm, furry bundle. Jekyll, in contrast, stood silently to the side.

Jake idly wondered if ghosts like Jekyll even needed sleep. He reached out, giving Jekyll a gentle pat. As his hand brushed the Mimikyu's costume, he reflected on the whirlwind of the past few days. "Four days in a Pokémon world, two companions, but still alive and surviving." he thought, disbelieving but content as weariness overtook him, drifting him off to sleep under the stars of his new world.

Chapter 10: Chapter 10

Chapter Text

POV - JAKE

It was another idyllic summer day, the early sun casting a golden hue over the landscape. The light of dawn brushed the open plains, turning the grass into a sea of shimmering green and gold. Trees, once a dense forest, now stood sparsely scattered, branches swaying lightly in the morning breeze.

As Jake gazed across the sight, his eyes followed the winding path of the river, waters catching the morning light and sparkling brightly. It meandered towards the horizon, leading his relieved gaze to a small town in the distance. Even from afar, the town seemed quaint, more of a village really, nestled at the edge of the river.

Beyond the village, where the river kissed the sea, a vast blue expanse stretched outwards, meeting the sky at a distant, hazy line. The sea shimmered under the morning sun. The sight was breathtaking, and for a moment, Jake felt the enormity of the world he was now a part of.

He took a deep breath, the fresh, crisp air filling his lungs. The scent of grass, earth, and a distant salty tang from the sea mingling together.

As they trailed along the riverbank, Jake, flanked on either shoulder by Trixie and Jekyll, enjoyed the tranquil morning. Trixie, ever restless, often glided off Jake’s shoulder, only to loop back around to her favourite perch.

“Emol,” Trixie pointed towards the small town on the horizon, “You better not forget my reward.”

Jake grinned, recalling his earlier promise to Trixie. He teased her in a mock-serious tone, “But my dear lady, has the pleasure of my esteemed company not been reward enough?”

“Emol, emol,” Trixie shot back cheekily, as if to say, “Nice try, but I expect the very best.”

Jake chuckled at Trixie. He leaned in closer, adopting a conspiratorial whisper. "Ah, but what if I told you there's more? A surprise, perhaps?"

Trixie's eyes widened, her tail flicking rapidly. She chirped, "Emolga, emol!" Seeming to say, "A surprise? Do tell!"

Shaking his head with a laugh, Jake tapped his chin thoughtfully. "Hmm, but it's a secret. Can you keep a secret, Trix?"

In response, Trixie nodded vigorously, small paws coming up to cover her mouth. "Emol, emol," she promised.

Jake's eyes glinted. Without warning, he lunged forward, fingers wiggling. "Gotcha!" he declared triumphantly.

Trixie squealed with surprise and delight, trying to wriggle away even as she laughed. "Emol, emolga!" she protested between giggles, which might have meant, "Tricked again! Stop doing that."

In truth, Jake wasn’t entirely certain what kind of reward to offer Trixie. He figured she’d be happy with some sort of sweet treat, as he wasn’t sure if the Pokémon in this world appreciated accessories like they did in the games. After all, animals on Earth generally seemed indifferent to such things, and he guessed Pokémon might be similar. “But then, there are Pokémon contests in this world, right? How different are they from dog shows on Earth? Do dogs even enjoy those shows?” Jake's thoughts really were as random as this whole journey.

As he walked along the firm riverbank, the fresh scent of hay wafting through the air, another realisation struck him – he had no money. That practicality hadn’t crossed his mind, but now it posed a real challenge. How would he manage to get anything? Jake still had his wallet, but he would be greatly surprised if his meagre cash would translate to anything usable here.

Thus far, Trixie hadn't really taxed Jake's resources – not that he had any to offer to begin with. She did, however, occasionally take a playful jab at his ego, of which he admittedly had in ample supply. Trixie seemed quite content feasting on the various berries and fruits that the natural world offered, quite happy to fetch them for herself, and would even occasionally share with Jake. “And what a generous heart she is” Jake mused sourly. The tickle battles had been fierce.

“K-kyu?” Jake felt Jekyll pinch on his shirt, an insistent tug that seemed to say, “Pay attention to me as well!”

Jekyll, on the other hand, was more enigmatic. Jake found himself pondering a Mimikyu’s diet. He had never seen Jekyll eat. "Does he consume souls? Isn’t that what ghosts are supposed to do? And if so, how would I even go about getting them? Maybe a future as a slasher is on the cards?"

Jake turned to face Jekyll, with a soft smile. "Hey there, buddy. Didn't mean to neglect you," he said gently.

Jekyll's form under the Pikachu costume seemed to quiver slightly. He murmured a soft, "Mimi, kyu," as if to express, "Don't forget me."

Trixie, ever the playful one, fluttered close "Emol, emolga!" maybe something like, "I’d notice you if you weren't so quiet all the time."

Jekyll seemed to stiffen noticeably, retorted with a harsh, "Kyu, mimi!" which, might have meant something akin to, "Keep your comments to yourself, insolent furball!"

Jake let out a sigh, his gaze shifting between Trixie and Jekyll. Despite his hopes, they still weren't exactly on the best of terms. Trixie, always brimming with energy, was quite the extrovert. Jekyll was more reserved, a quiet presence mixed in with occasional, somewhat eerie outbursts.

'Maybe, just maybe, they'll find some common ground,' he thought, though he wasn't entirely convinced it would happen anytime soon.

'It's a start,' he mused, 'and sometimes, that's all you need.'

Pokémon life was abundant, Jake found himself fascinated with the close-up sight the Bouffalant herds grazing on the expansive plains. Majestic, curved horns peacefully moving as they bent their heads to graze on the verdant grass. Jake knew they had a reputation as aggressive Pokemon, so he was careful to keep his distance.

Closer to the river's edge, the environment took on a more rugged character. Skorupi lay partially buried in the increasingly sandy banks, armoured bodies blending with the terrain. Shelmet, with their unmistakable shell-like exteriors, crawled slowly, methodically along the moist earth.

The small coastal town, that had been a distant sight, now unfolded before Jake's eyes, details increasing in clarity. From his vantage point, Jake could see more of the buildings forming the town's skyline. They were an eclectic mix, some with the weathered charm of age, others more modern but still in harmony with their surroundings.

'Finally, signs of other people,' he thought, relieved.

Between Jake and the town, lay a wooden picket fence, a demarcation separating the wild from the civilised. The fence stretched across the landscape, a simple barrier, a more symbolic boundary than a physical deterrence.

Beyond the wooden fence, a quaint rural life revealed itself. Small patches of farmland bordered the outskirts of the town, crops swaying gently in the breeze. The outlines of farmhands at work in the distance. Small tractors could be seen trundling along, engines a distant, comforting hum that spoke of human activity and industry.

Jake neared the fence, eyes drawn to a simple wooden farm gate along its length. On the other side, lounging on a wooden chair, supposedly to guard, was a man. Even from a distance, his robust build was noticeable. He was stretched out leisurely, legs extended across the ground, leaning back with his arms crossed, head tilted to his chest.

As they got closer, Jake observed more details. The man's large belly was prominent, stretching the fabric of his khaki uniform. Around his belt several red and white Pokeballs were attached. If Jake had held any remaining delusions of this world being earth, the human with the iconic tools of Pokémon thoroughly disabused him of that notion.

The man sported a hat, reminiscent of a cowboy's, adding a touch of ruggedness to his appearance. A cigar, loosely held in his mouth, completed the picture of a man at ease. The gentle rise and fall of his chest and the soft snoring sounds confirmed Jake's suspicion – the man was asleep.

Jake lingered just outside the gate, feeling a bit out of his element. How does one politely wake a sleeping man, especially one supposedly tasked with guarding a gate? Was this what they called a Pokemon Ranger?

Jake cleared his throat, somewhat loudly, hoping the sound would be enough to rouse the man from his peaceful slumber. No response, just the continued rhythm of snoring.

Before Jake had the chance to figure out his next move, Trixie, buzzing with curiosity, flew over to the man. The hat, resting atop the man's head, seemed to have caught her fancy. She circled it, sniffing and inspecting with the attention of a jeweller appraising a gem. Overcome by curiosity, Trixie deftly lifted the hat with her tiny hands, revealing a shock of bright orange hair, chirping "Emol!" in delight as she held it out for Jake to see.

At this, the man’s eyes flew open, face reddening. "Who dares?!" he thundered, jolting upright so quickly that Jake half-expected him to topple over.

Jake, momentarily at a loss for words, observed Trixie's startled reaction. She quickly zapped to the safety of his shoulder, still holding the hat. With delicate care, she gently positioned the hat on Jake's head. "Emol, emol," she chirped proudly, "Look what I found?"

The man's green eyes, wide with shock from the unexpected hat theft, focused on Jake and Jekyll, widening even further in surprise. "By Arceus! You've been through the wringer, haven't you? You're looking a bit rough there, lad."

Jake glanced down at his worn attire, responding with a dry tone, "Yeah, you could say the last few days haven't been kind to me."

The man gave Jake a more discerning look, noting his youth. "You're not from around here, are you, boy? I would've recognised you. We rarely get newcomers. Did you wander in from the Wild Area? How'd you manage that?"

"Sir, I'm willing to share what I know, but could you please direct me to the nearest Pokémon Center first?" Jake asked, hoping to address their more immediate needs.

"You've got manners, boy, I'll give you that," he said to Jake. Then, turning his attention to Trixie, his tone carried a hint of reproach. "But I can't say the same for your Emolga. It's just not right to take a man’s hat, you know."

Trixie responded by tilting her head, eyes wide and innocent. "Emol?"

The man tried to maintain his stern demeanour, but as he gazed into Trixie's eyes, his resolve began to waver. "Well," he started, his voice less certain, "I guess... I mean, it's not that big of a deal."

His stern façade continued to crumble as he looked longer at Trixie, his protestations growing weaker. Finally, with a resigned, yet amused sigh, he conceded, "Well, I suppose exceptions can be made..." Charm was super effective. "But, uh, boy, would you mind returning my hat?"

“I apologise for Trixie, sir, she just likes to play around. Name is Jake.” he introduced himself, handing the man his hat, who re-donned it with relish. “And these are my partners, Trixie and Jekyll” motioning towards his Pokemon.

“Pleased to meet you Jake and co, circ*mstances aside.” the man nodded. ‘Symington, Roger Symington. I am the Pokemon Ranger assigned to the town of Applinby.”

“Applinby? That doesn’t sound familiar. Can I ask where we are exactly, Mr Symington?”

“Just call me Symington, lad. Everybody does. Is your head on alright? I would hope you would know given where you’ve just come from.”

"Uh, it's a bit of a complicated tale," Jake replied cautiously. He had considered how to explain his origins, yet the right words seemed elusive. The truth would likely lead to more questions, ones he couldn't answer himself. "To be honest, I'm not entirely sure myself. I believe I'm lost, but my memory isn't exactly clear on the details." He settled on the idea of amnesia as his safest explanation for now.

“Well, let me take you into town, lad. I’m sure we can find you the help you need,” Symington said, his voice tinged with a sympathetic understanding. He reached for one of the Pokeballs on his belt and tossed it into the air. In a burst of light that momentarily dazzled Jake, the Pokeball opened, releasing its inhabitant.

Jake's eyes widened as a Mudsdale materialised before him. The Pokémon was massive, muscles rippling under its mud-streaked hide. Its hooves, large and seemingly made of solid rock, thudded heavily against the ground. The Mudsdale’s mane and tail were thick and dreadlocked, giving it a rugged appearance. Jake, having only seen such a creature in games and shows, was impressed by the sheer size of the real thing.

Symington, noticing Jake's amazement, chuckled heartily. “Impressive, isn’t she? This here is Ol’ Bess. She’ll carry you to town. I’d join you, but I reckon I’m a bit too heavy for her these days,” he joked, patting his belly with a good-natured grin.

He helped Jake mount the Mudsdale, ensuring he was seated comfortably. “Don’t worry, Bessie’s as gentle as a Skitty. She’ll get you there safe and sound,” Symington reassured, still smiling.

As Bess started her gentle pace, Symington matched her stride, leading them with an unhurried, yet assured step towards the heart of Applinby. "Jake, lad, I know this all might be a bit much to take in, but welcome to Applinby, right here on Armor," he said, his voice carrying a warm note of hospitality.

Jake tried to absorb this new reality. The Isle of Armor, he recalled, was an additional area introduced in the Sword and Shield games, a relatively small island off Galar's east coast. As they moved closer to the town, he pondered the differences of the game's portrayal. "It seems the games must have really downsized the scale," he thought. "And Applinby? There was no mention of such a town in the games."

Jake puzzled over this new conundrum as they made their way down the narrow path towards the town. The path, lined with apple trees, gradually showed signs of being more frequently travelled as they neared the town. True to its name, Applinby was a haven for Applin, the literally apple-shaped Pokémon. He noticed Flapple, known for their acidic nature and peculiar shape, darting across the sky. The more leisurely Appletun, with a sweet demeanour and unhurried movements, lounged contentedly near the trees. It was not at all clear what they were doing. Quite the odd Pokemon really.

"Do not many go out into the wild, Symington?" Jake asked, his curiously.

Symington rubbed his chin thoughtfully before replying, "Well, you see, lad, for regular folk around here, venturing too far into the wild can be a bit dicey. We've got our share of the wild Pokémon out there, and not all of them are friendly."

He chuckled lightly, then continued, "Of course, we do get the occasional trainer from the mainland, to explore a bit deeper inland. They're usually looking for a challenge, or to catch rare Pokemon you know."

Jake listened intently, his interest growing with each word.

Symington's expression turned a bit more serious. "There's a path that leads further in, but it's home to some dangerous Pokémon. Got a large Scolipede hive along that trail. Not the best place for a leisurely stroll, if you catch my drift. Thankfully, they stay well clear of here."

Jake winced slightly at the mention of the Scolipede hive but remained silent, prompting Symington to carry on.

"But it's not all bad," Symington added, his tone lightening. "We've got a trainer school right here in town. The young ones, they sometimes head out on small excursions into the safer parts of the wild. It’s a good learning experience for them."

The patches of wheat fields gradually gave way to Wooloo farms, quite the change from the sheep farms that could be found on earth. The landscape was dotted with small herds of the fluffy sheep-like Pokemon. “Quite adorable, really” Jake mused as he watched them merrily roll about in the fields. Large and horned Dubwool, were more measured, more rarely interspersed with the herd.

“I must say, lad, is your Pikachu, ok? I’ve not seen too many with that colourisation." Symington asked, glancing over.

Jekyll went rigid at the comment, before wagging his tail and trying to twitch his ears. “Yeah, that’s still not a Pikachu, Jekyll” Jake thought to himself wryly.

“Uh, right, well Jekyll here is a rare type of Pikachu... not found in many places.” Jake said awkwardly, not too sure what to say, but not wanting to put Symington’s life in danger.

“Mimi, Kyu” Jekyll said, rasping a bit, this time trying to hop a bit. “Uhh, he’s not helping here”

"Ah, is that right, lad? I must say two electric types! That must really amp the excitement!’ Symington said jovially, remarkably believing Jekyll’s act.

Jake cringed a little inside at the terrible pun, smiling weakly. “Uh, yeah, my brain often short-circuits trying to juggle these two.” Not being able to help himself.

“Ahaha, you get it, lad” the large man actually belly laughed.

As Jake rode into Applinby on Bessie with Symington walking cheerily beside them, the so-called 'town' revealed itself more as a large fishing village. The settlement sprawled lazily along the coast; a certain rustic charm to it.

"You see, lad," Symington began, "Applinby here might be the biggest place, here on Armor, but that's not saying much. It's our little capital, in its own charming way."

The houses, a blend of stone and wood, bore the marks of time and the sea's breath, yet there was an undeniable warmth to them. Fishing nets hung intricately outside several homes, while small boats rested alongside, hulls telling stories of many voyages.

The port, Armor Station, was a modest affair. A few ships swayed gently in the water, masts standing silently. Symington's chuckle broke through Jake's observations. "Don't expect a bustling harbour here," he said. "Mostly supply ships and the occasional Corviknight drop. But they keep us connected to the mainland."

As they strolled, village life unfolded around them. Children played in the narrow streets, laughter echoing off the walls. Their eyes lit up with joy and excitement at the sight of Jake's Pokémon, particularly Trixie. "Look, an Emolga!" one child exclaimed, pointing with delight. "It's so cute!" another chimed in, their faces beaming.

Trixie, always curious, glanced around, basking in the adoration she received, while Jekyll looked on with a resentful gaze at the child who had showered Trixie with praise.

Amidst the human residents, many Pokémon mingled. Jake noticed Yamper and Wooloo trotting about, their presence almost as common as the Wingull and Pidove overhead. The occasional Growlithe or Rockruff scampered by in the company of their owners.

As they continued, Symington pointed out towards the open fields they had just traversed. "That there's the Fields of Honor. You came through the scenic route, lad."

The most striking feature of Applinby, however, was what could only be a dojo. Jake couldn't help but notice its traditional architecture, reminiscent of a Japanese or perhaps Johto-style building, which made it stand out against the village backdrop. "Ah, that's our pride and joy," Symington said, following Jake's gaze. "The Master Dojo, under Mustard’s watch. He’s the founder and mayor of our little Applinby. A legend in his own right, he is."

It was clear that this was a place where everyone knew each other. As they passed, several locals greeted Symington with good-natured teasing. "Off from your nap, Symington?" one called out with a laugh. Symington responded with a jovial retort, "Just taking a break to show our new friend here around. Can't wait to get back to it, though!"

As they arrived at the Pokémon Center, Jake took in the small but well-kept building. It was unassuming, yet the iconic Pokémon Center sign glowed softly in the coastal light. Symington, with his customary chuckle, said, "Here we are, lad. The Pokémon Center, right by the port. You'll find everything you need here. Best of luck to you and your companions, Jake."

“It was nice meeting you, Symington” Jake gratefully thanked the large.

“Not to worry lad! You just get yourself back to your feet. I’m sure we will see each other again soon” Symington said cheerfully.

Leaving Jake in front of the Center, Symington waved goodbye, his figure blending back into the village. Jake stood for a moment, taking in the sights and sounds of Applinby, the air was filled with the salty tang of the sea, the cries of Wingull, and the small crash of waves.

Jake took a deep breath and stepped through the automatic doors of the Pokémon Center. The interior was a blend of modern convenience and coziness. The walls were painted a soothing shade of pastel, and the floor had a clean, polished look.

To his left, there was a small shop, shelves neatly stocked with various Pokémon essentials – potions, Poké Balls, and even a selection of berries. The shopkeeper, busy arranging items, offered Jake a friendly nod.

The waiting area was modest, a few comfortable chairs arranged neatly around a low table. The Center felt homely, an atmosphere more akin to a community centre than a sterile hospital environment.

At the desk, a Nurse Joy, trademark pink hair and welcoming smile, was busy with paperwork. Behind her, a couple of Chansey bustled about, attending to their tasks with a quiet efficiency.

Before Jake could approach the desk, a tiny Happiny waddled over to him. The little Pokémon was adorable, with its pink, egg-shaped body and a curious gleam in its eyes. "Happi-happi!" it chirped, voice high-pitched and cheerful, but obviously trying to be professional.

Jake couldn't help but smile at the lovely creature. The Happiny gestured with its small hands, indicating that he should follow. Understanding the gist, Jake nodded and followed the Happiny to the front desk.

"Happi," it said again, pointing to Nurse Joy, who looked up and noticed Jake.

"Hello there! Welcome to the Applinby Pokémon Center," Nurse Joy greeted him with a warm smile. "How can I assist you today?"

Jake thanked the Happiny, and turned to Nurse Joy. "Hi, I'm Jake. I'm new here, and well, I think I could use some help with my Pokémon and maybe some advice about the town."

"Absolutely, please may you return your Pokémon to their Pokéballs so I may take them to our scanning facility?" Nurse Joy asked, her tone both professional and kind.

Jake hesitated, searching for the right words. He glanced at Nurse Joy, her smile radiating warmth and understanding, and decided honesty was the best approach. "Uh, well, you might find this hard to believe, but I actually woke up a few days ago, lost in the wild area. I've been trying to find my way here ever since, and... well, I met these two along the way," he explained, gesturing to Trixie and Jekyll.

Nurse Joy's expression shifted to one of concern. "You were lost? Out there? By yourself? That's quite alarming." She quickly stepped around the desk, her professional demeanour blending with genuine worry. Gently, she held Jake's face, examining him closely for any signs of distress or injury. Jake couldn't help but blush slightly under her scrutiny; Nurse Joy was quite attractive.

Trixie, ever the explorer, had drifted away, distracted by the cute Happiny. They were soon engaged in their own little world, chirping and hopping around each other.

Jekyll, remained perched stoically on Jake's shoulder, eyeing Nurse Joy with an intensity that was unmistakably protective.

"Well, physically, you seem ok. You don't have Pokéballs for them?" Nurse Joy inquired, still examining Jake.

"No, I... I don't have anything, really," Jake admitted, feeling a bit self-conscious about his dishevelled state.

Nurse Joy nodded understandingly, then turned her attention to the shopkeeper. “Could we provide this young man with a couple of Pokéballs and some fresh clothes? He's had quite the ordeal."

The shopkeeper, who had been listening in, nodded empathetically and quickly agreed. "Of course, Nurse Joy. Anything to help."

Jake was overwhelmed by their kindness and generosity. "Thank you, both of you. I can't tell you how much this means to me," he said, his voice filled with sincere gratitude.

"Nonsense!" Nurse Joy quickly interjected, her voice firm yet kind. "It's our duty to help those in need, and it's clear you need assistance. Happiny, here will guide you to our shower facilities. While you freshen up, I'll take a look at your Pokémon." She then gestured towards the shopkeeper. "Marvin here will bring you some fresh clothes."

Marvin, the shopkeeper, approached Jake with two Pokéballs and a bundle of fresh clothes. "Here you go, son," he said warmly, handing them over.

Jake accepted them gratefully, turning to Trixie and Jekyll. "Looks like we need to use these Pokéballs, guys," he explained gently. Trixie inspected the Pokéball with interest, eyes wide.

Nurse Joy couldn't help but coo at Trixie's adorableness. "Oh, what a sweet Emolga," she exclaimed softly, her smile widening.

Jake gave Trixie a wink, gently tapping her head with the Pokéball. Taken by surprise, Trixie let out an "Emol!" and was swiftly enclosed within the Pokéball with a soft click.

"Mimi, kyu..." Jekyll was far less enthusiastic. The Mimikyu bristled at the sight of the Pokéball, a sense of reluctance emanating from him. He glared at Nurse Joy; body language not happy to the idea of being away from Jake for even a second.

The tension in the air grew as Nurse Joy, carefully chose her words. "We'll also take care of your Pikachu," she said slowly, avoiding directly naming Jekyll's true species.

Jekyll's animosity didn't wane, both of his gaze’s fixed intently on Nurse Joy. It was then that a Chansey, sensing the growing tension, waddled over. It addressed Jekyll in a series of gentle but firm "Chansey" sounds, its tone authoritative. The conversation, though incomprehensible to Jake, was effective. Jekyll, seemed to relent, posture softening.

Jake, relieved, gently encouraged Jekyll into the Pokéball. "It's okay, Jekyll. I'm not going anywhere. You'll be right back with me soon." With a slight nod, Jekyll finally allowed himself to be caught, disappearing into the Pokéball with another soft click.

Nurse Joy nodded in approval, experience and understanding shining through. "Thank you, Jekyll. We'll take good care of you," she reassured, her voice soothing. The moment of tension had passed.

After a moment, “That’s a really dangerous Pokemon, kid.” Joy said slowly. “I’m not one to judge, but you should be careful. Those Pokemon never let go, you understand?”

Jake nodded reluctantly, “I figured that might be the case. But I couldn’t just leave him, you know?”

Joy nodded; her expression tinged with sadness yet respect. “You have a kind heart, Jake. We'll take good care of him here. Now, why don't you go freshen up? Your Pokémon will be all ready for you once you're done.”

As she spoke, Happiny waddled over to Jake, gently tugging at his sleeve to lead him towards the shower.

These people were so kind, going out of their way to look after him. He knew this was kind of the ethos of Pokemon Center’s but to see it in person really filled him with warmth and hope.

Standing under the shower, Jake let the hot water cascade over him, soothing the aches and pains accumulated over the past few days. This moment of relaxation allowed him to collect his thoughts and regain some composure. He reflected on the world he found himself in; it was different, unfamiliar, but thankfully, it had modern amenities. Jake did not want to think what could have happened if he had been dropped into some war-torn fantasy world, as he read of some other protagonists. Ah, and there he was thinking himself as a main character of some sort of story, he really needed to get a grip of himself.

The more Jake thought about it, the less it all made sense to him. Here he was, on the Isle of Armor in the Galar region, but what did that really mean for him? What was he supposed to do now? Initially, he had toyed with the idea of seeking out Legendary Pokémon like Arceus, Palkia, or Dialga, thinking they might be his ticket home. But now, he was beginning to question that plan.

His hesitation wasn't just about the feasibility of the idea. The truth was, he couldn't imagine leaving Trixie or Jekyll behind. Trixie had chosen to leave her family to accompany him, and Jekyll... well, Jake had a feeling that Jekyll wouldn't let him go easily, even if he tried, but he just couldn’t leave him alone. It was a dilemma that weighed heavily on him.

Deep down, Jake longed to see his own family again, or at the very least, to send them a message letting them know he was okay. But how could he pursue that desire without abandoning the bonds he had formed here?

Jake rested his forehead against the cool tiles of the shower wall, thoughts swirling. "Let's just focus on one step at a time," he murmured to himself. The idea of encountering Arceus seemed distant, a far-off goal with many uncertainties. And it wasn't his only option.

"Maybe I could try to find Cosmog in Alola," he mused. It seemed possible that he was in another dimension, after all, much like the storyline of Pokémon Sun & Moon. Besides, he had always wanted to go to Hawaii. Now he could, with the added bonus of Pokemon.

Jake dried himself, donning the fresh clothes, a light grey shirt, dark trousers with a belt, and a white hoodie. Feeling much refreshed. Jake left the shower, to take a seat in the waiting room, feeling a deep sense of relief.

“Happi, Happi?” the Happiny from earlier waddled over to him, perhaps asking if he needed anything or just being nice.

Jake grinned at the Pokemon, gently petting its small head. “Thanks, Happiny. Would you mind checking with Nurse Joy for an update?”

“Happi!” the Happiny, happily, trotting off.

“Jake, I am pleased to say that both of your Pokemon are in perfect health.” Nurse Joy said as she approached Jake, carrying a tray with two Pokeballs on it.

“That’s great to hear, Nurse Joy, I really can’t thank you enough for all your kindness.” Jake said gratefully. Taking the Pokeballs, clipping them to his belt.

"I’m glad to help. If you're uncertain about your next steps, why not go see Master Mustard? He's usually at the dojo, and if there's anyone who can offer guidance, it's him." That sounded like a wise idea. Given his background as a former league champion and someone who had traversed the Pokémon world extensively, Mustard would be the perfect individual to advise Jake on his future actions.

Jake stepped out of the Pokémon Center, pausing briefly to offer a grateful nod to Marvin and a cheerful wave to Happiny, who chirped a happy farewell in response. The fresh air of Applinby greeted him as he exited, a blend of sea breeze and the earthy scent of the town.

Once outside, Jake freed Trixie from her Pokéball but decided to keep Jekyll contained a bit longer. He was unsure about how well he could manage the ghost Pokémon's behaviour in the presence of others, the Joy incident not inspiring him with confidence.

Trixie emerged with a burst of energy, hovering around Jake before settling comfortably on his shoulder.

"So, how did you find your first time in a Pokéball?" Jake asked, looking over at Trixie with a curious smile.

Trixie let out a chirpy "Emol, mol!" while playfully hugging herself and shutting her eyes.

"Ah, a cozy nap? Guess you won't be needing me as your pillow anymore," Jake teased.

Trixie's eyes flew open, protesting with a rapid-fire "Emol, emol!" as if to argue the point

"Just kidding," Jake said, laughing at her reaction.

As they walked through the narrow village streets, the character of Applinby became more apparent. Wooden and stone buildings lined the streets, the sound of the ocean providing a constant, soothing background. The path to the Master Dojo led them along the coast, with steps that wound up a gentle hill, offering a picturesque view of the sea.

As they made their way, the charm of Trixie didn't go unnoticed by Applinby's younger locals. "Look at that Emolga, it's adorable!" they often remarked, their faces lighting up with joy.

Jake couldn't resist a playful jab. "If only they knew your real personality, eh Trix?" he said.

Trixie just stuck her tongue out at Jake, enjoying the attention.

The path to the Master Dojo was bordered by flowering bushes and small trees fluttering in the sea breeze leading Jake to a low, traditional wall, providing a boundary between the outside world and the focused environment within.

As Jake approached, the dojo's architecture became more pronounced. The roof, a striking shade of yellow, was supported by sturdy wooden pillars that framed the building's entrance. Atop the roof, a prominent Kubfu signified the dojo's spirit and purpose.

Drawing closer, Jake began to hear the sounds of exertion and effort – a rhythm of serious training. Stepping down the path and passing through the entrance, he found himself in a small courtyard. The area was alive with activity; a handful of students, each with their Pokémon, were engaged in various training exercises.

His gaze was drawn to a sporty girl, dark hair in a ponytail, who stood out amongst the others. Beside her was a real Kubfu, mirroring her movements with a disciplined grace. Jake noted that she was the only one with a Kubfu; the other students had Bulbasaur, Squirtle, and a Mienfoo, all moving in a regimented manner alongside their trainers.

At the head of the group stood an old man, hands in the pockets of a green tracksuit. His hair was white and stringy, and his appearance didn't immediately suggest the expected from someone leading a dojo. Yet, Jake knew the man from the games, and of his casual demeanour, Mustard.

"Remember, it's not just about power; it's about strategy and understanding your Pokémon," he called out. "You don't just want to win; you want to win with style and effort!"

Jake stood off to the side, waiting for an opportunity to introduce himself. His attention was divided between Mustard's teachings and Trixie, who, unable to contain her curiosity, fluttered closer to the students for a better view.

As Mustard demonstrated a battle stance, Jake watched, impressed. Despite Mustard's bedraggled appearance, it was clear he possessed a profound understanding of Pokémon and battle strategy. "Think of a battle as a dance," Mustard elaborated. "You're the leader, and your Pokémon is your partner. Together, you craft a rhythm that's hard for any opponent to break."

The students imitated Mustard's movements, their actions mirroring his in a display of synchronized training.

Mustard continued, his voice resonating with wisdom. “Relying solely on Pokémon moves is a rookie's game," he said. "True mastery lies in comprehending your Pokémon – beyond the moves."

With a brief glance at Jake, Mustard carried on. “To excel, you need to see the world as your Pokémon does. Feel what they feel, move how they move, see what they see. That’s the essence of a true partnership in battle.”

Trixie, perched on Jake's shoulder, was practically bouncing with curiosity. Unable to contain herself any longer, she took off, flitting playfully between the focused trainers.

Mustard watched Trixie with a faint, knowing smirk. For a moment, the trainers managed to maintain their focus, undeterred by the playful Emolga's presence. But Trixie, determined and curious, zipped closer to them, tilting her head and letting out a curious and adorable "Emol?"

Jake let out a sigh, a mix of amusem*nt and mild exasperation at his attention-seeking Emolga. Trixie's charm was undeniable, and it wasn't long before one of the trainers, a girl with a Bulbasaur, finally broke her focus, unable to resist Trixie's cuteness.

One by one, the other trainers also succumbed, their disciplined stances giving way to smiles and laughter, all except for the girl with the dark ponytail and her Kubfu. She continued her battle stances, refusing to be distracted.

Mustard watched Trixie's disruption with an amused twinkle in his eye. He let the moment last a little longer before finally calling a halt. "Alright, let's take a break," he declared, bringing the session to a pause. His attention then shifted to Jake. "Remember, strength isn't the only trait a Pokémon possesses. The most successful trainers consider all aspects of their Pokémon's nature, including their appearance," he advised.

The old man breathed deeply and addressed him. "So, a stranger enters our dojo," he said, his tone welcoming yet curious.

The other students, that were not distracted by Trixie, started paying attention to Jake now, including the ponytailed girl, curious at the new arrival.

“Err, Master Mustard, I was recommended by Nurse Joy to meet with you,” Jake began.

Mustard, however, seemed to be examining Jake with a thoughtful gaze, almost as if he were looking through him. He nodded to himself, a small smile playing on his lips, giving the impression of being lost in his own thoughts rather than fully listening to Jake.

Mustard cut Jake off abruptly. "We're having a Pokémon battle," he announced, his eyes fierce with determination.

The students around them paused, their expressions unfazed. This was obviously typical Mustard.

"Talk is easy. It's only through battle that we truly understand each other,"

Jake looked around, sighing resignedly as another inescapable situation sunk in. "Of course, my first trainer battle would be with a former league champion, what else was I expecting?”.

Chapter 11: Chapter 11

Chapter Text

POV -???

The courtyard of the Master Dojo was buzzing with anticipation as the trainers gathered for the unexpected battle. Ciara, standing slightly apart with her Kubfu at her side, watched the newcomer, with a mix of curiosity and scepticism. Her dark ponytail swayed gently in the sea breeze, amber eyes sharp and assessing.

The dojo, with its striking yellow roof and sturdy wooden pillars, stood as a silent observer to the scene unfolding in its shadow. The sound of the sea in the distance mingled with the excited murmurs of the gathering crowd. The air was filled with the salty tang of the sea, blending with the earthy scent of the training grounds.

Beside Ciara, Jab, bright blue hair almost as lively as his personality, leaned back with a relaxed grin, arms crossed. "He doesn't stand a chance against Master Mustard," he remarked, confidence in his voice.

Next to him, Bab, fiery red hair a vivid contrast to his cousin, laughed and nodded in agreement. "Yeah, the old man's gonna school him for sure," he said cheerfully.

Next to them, Siobhan, her orange hair catching the sunlight, watched the boy with her typical cute, smile playing on her lips. "It'll be fun to see what he can do, though," she said, her tone light and optimistic.

Ciara remained silent, her amber gaze fixed on the newcomer and Mustard as they faced each other. She respected Mustard immensely and couldn't imagine this outsider posing any real challenge.

“I don’t recognise him at all, any guesses where he's from?" Siobhan asked, tilting her head slightly, bright green eyes curious.

Ciara shrugged, her eyes never leaving the battlefield. "Who knows? But he doesn't seem like the usual type we get around here."

"Definitely not from Applinby, that's for sure," Jab chimed in, his bright blue hair catching the light as he shook his head. "We know pretty much everyone in town, and he's a new face."

Bab, scratching his fiery red hair, added thoughtfully, "Yeah, and it's not often we get outsiders, especially ones around our age. This is a small place, you know."

Ciara nodded slightly, still watching intently. "And it was Master Mustard who challenged him, not the other way around."

Jab leaned in closer to the group. "Maybe Master Mustard's getting bored of beating all of us. Needed some fresh meat to spice things up!" His blue hair seemed to shimmer as he chuckled at his own joke.

Bab, his eyes following the two trainers in the battlefield, wondered aloud, "I wonder what Pokémon he's got. Looks like he's got another Pokéball there."

Siobhan, her eyes fixed on Jake's Emolga, Trixie, said, "His Emolga is adorable, though. You don't see many of those around here."

Ciara, her gaze momentarily shifting from the battle, added, "They're more common in Unova. But even there, I didn't see them that often."

Jab, playfully nudging Bab, remarked, "Cute, sure, but not exactly the strongest of Pokémon. And that one looks pretty young, too."

Bab, catching Jab's comment, raised an eyebrow and shot back with a grin, "Hey, speaking of which, you've got a Squirtle, Jab. Not exactly standing on a Gyarados' fin yourself there."

Siobhan, unable to hold back a giggle, chimed in, "He's got you there, Jab. Squirtle's cute too, but I’m pretty sure an Emolga would have quite the advantage."

Jab, not missing a beat, retorted with a smirk, "Ah, but looks can be deceiving. My Squirtle's got more spunk than he lets on. It's all about strategy."

Siobhan, her eyes twinkling, leaned towards Jab, "Speaking of strategy, have you actually won a battle yet, Jab? Or are you still 'rehearsing' for your big debut?"

Jab hesitated for a split second, his confident demeanour faltering slightly. Then, recovering, he replied with a grin, "Just you wait. When I get serious, I'll be unstoppable. It's all part of the master plan."

Ciara, overhearing the exchange, couldn't help but interject with a slightly cutting tone, "A plan that's going to take forever to execute, by the looks of it."

Jab's smile wavered, but he maintained his bravado, "Just building the suspense, that's all."

Bab chuckled, patting Jab on the back, "Yeah, the suspense of whether you'll ever get serious."

From Ciara's practiced eyes, the battlefield was a familiar sight, a stage she had seen countless times before. In the Master Dojo's courtyard, several dedicated spaces were laid out for training and battles, each marked by clearly defined boundaries. Today, Mustard and the newcomer, were positioned in one of these designated areas, a space Ciara recognised as reserved for more formal or significant battles.

As Mustard and the newcomer assumed their positions, the usual chatter of the crowd hushed, the sea breeze seemingly carrying the tension. Mustard stood with a relaxed posture; demeanour casual yet confident. Ciara knew that Mustard's relaxed appearance belied the experience he possessed, experience that had been imparted to her and the other students of the dojo

The newcomer seemed a bit nervous but determined. Ciara observed him: a mop of dusty blonde hair tousled by the breeze, grey-green eyes that hinted at unspoken resolve. His Emolga, perched confidently on his shoulder, seemed to echo his readiness, bright eyes surveying the surroundings with keen interest.

“Kid, given that you have two Pokemon, this will be a two-on-two battle. Casual rules.” Mustard voice cut across the din.

"Master Mustard, my name is Jake," the newcomer replied, putting a name to his face for the first time. His voice continued uncertainly, "And could you explain what you mean by casual rules?”

Mustard raised an eyebrow at Jake's question, a faint hint of surprise crossing his otherwise composed features. "Ah, I see. Casual rules, lad. In formal tournament battles, there's a certain etiquette – you're required to register your moves in advance, and there are restrictions on what you can use. But in a casual match like this, you're free to use any moves your Pokémon knows. No limitations."

Ciara's eyes narrowed slightly; a bit surprised. Knowledge of battle formats was common knowledge among trainers. The fact that Jake was unfamiliar with such a basic concept of Pokémon battles was a bit puzzling.

Jake's eyes widened at Mustard's explanation, a realisation dawning over him. "I see, that makes sense. Thanks for explaining," he said.

Mustard, seemingly satisfied with Jake's response, nodded. "Very well, Jake. Let's see what you and your Pokémon can do," he said, his tone shifting to one of anticipation.

Ciara glanced down to her side, where Kaida stood. The small Kubfu, with its distinctive grey fur and curious black-and-white face that resembled a bear cub in training, mirrored Ciara's focus. Kaida's eyes, sharp and observant, reflected a keen intelligence, while her small, sturdy frame spoke of untapped martial prowess. Her arms, previously crossed in discipline, now unfolded as she prepared to observe the battle.

"Keep your eyes sharp, Kaida. Watch their moves, understand the rhythm," Ciara murmured, her voice a blend of affection and guidance. "Think about how you'd counter, how you'd strike."

Kaida, nodded with a resolute "Fu, Fu." She clenched her tiny fists, a symbol of her budding determination. In a swift, almost ceremonial gesture, Kaida reached up and tugged at the single white tuft of fur atop her head, an action that seemed to heighten her fighting spirit, readying herself to absorb every lesson the battle might offer.

"Let's see what he’s got," Ciara murmured, more to herself than anyone else. Kaida nodded, its eyes fixed on the field, ready to witness the unfolding battle.

Ciara watched intently as Mustard released his Mienfoo, a Pokémon known for its fluid, martial arts-like movements. The Mienfoo stood calm and composed, one leg raised, arms positioned in a ready stance, a seasoned martial artist. Its fur, a sleek combination of cream and red, seemed to ripple with barely contained energy, muscles tensed and ready for action.

Jake leaned in, whispering to his Emolga. The small Pokémon, with its sleek black and white fur and adorable appearance, listened intently. Its large, round ears twitched, and the yellow membrane of its wings fluttered slightly in anticipation. The Emolga’s black eyes glinted with determination as it nodded.

Siobhan, assuming the role of referee, announced clearly, "Battle start!" In response, the Emolga launched itself from Jake's shoulder. Wings unfurled, revealing the striking yellow patterning against the black, it soared close to the ground. The Pokémon's agility was remarkable, its flight so swift and low that it took everyone by surprise.

"Wow, look at that speed!" Jab exclaimed; his eyes wide with surprise.

Bab whistled, "That Emolga's like lightning!"

Jake's voice cut through the tension, "Quick Attack, now!" The Emolga responded instantly, body becoming a blur. It darted towards the Mienfoo at intense speed, cutting across the battlefield like a streak of lightning. The rapid movement created a gust of wind, stirring up dust around its path.

"Follow with Tail Whip!" Jake's next command came swiftly. The Emolga spun in mid-air, fluffy tail whipping towards the Mienfoo, a rapid, fluid motion. The tail, a streak of white and black, aimed to strike the Mienfoo off balance, to disrupt its poised stance.

But Mustard remained calm, experience evident. "Quick Guard," he instructed. The Mienfoo reacted with remarkable speed, shifting its stance to a defensive posture. It raised its arms, forming a barrier just in time to intercept Emolga's tail. The impact was absorbed with ease, the Mienfoo's stance remaining firm and unshaken, showcasing its disciplined training and reflexes.

"Brutal counter time, Vital Throw!" Mustard's command was sharp, echoing with authority. In a fluid and devastatingly quick motion, the Mienfoo sprang into action. It seized the precise moment when Emolga came within reach, capturing the surprised Pokémon by its tail with an unyielding grip.

With practiced movement, the Mienfoo pivoted, channelling its strength into a throw. It spun, using its own body as a fulcrum, and with ruthless efficiency, flung the Emolga over its shoulder. The Emolga was propelled through the air, the force of the throw sending it tumbling uncontrollably.

The small flying Pokémon hit the ground with a harsh impact, a cloud of dust erupting where it landed. The Emolga lay momentarily stunned, its body recoiling from the sheer brutality of the move. The Vital Throw, executed with such force, left the Emolga visibly dazed and disoriented, struggling to regain its bearings after.

Jab couldn't help but whistle. "Whoa, that's gotta hurt. Talk about a crash landing!"

Bab, leaning in added, "I mean, I knew Master Mustard was tough, but that was perfectly timed, and that execution? Amazing!”

Ciara winced, "That's Mustard's style, ruthless efficiency."

Siobhan's expression was concerned, "I hope it'll be alright. It's just a little thing."

Jake, shocked by the power of the move, voiced an urgent, "Thundershock, now!" From its position on the ground, the small Pokémon mustered its strength. A sudden, intense electrical charge built up around it, crackling with raw energy. In a split second, a surge of electricity, brighter and more powerful than anyone expected from such a small creature, shot towards the Mienfoo.

Mustard issued a sharp precise response. "Detect!". The Mienfoo, upon hearing the command, seemed to focus inward, becoming alert, eyes narrowing, honing in on the impending attack. It began to move with a fluidity and speed that were almost pre-emptive, each movement calculated to evade the oncoming assault. It was like watching a dance, each step and shift perfectly timed to avoid the electrical surges. The Mienfoo's movements were so precise that it seemed to predict exactly where each bolt would strike.

As the Thundershock missed its intended target, it struck the ground with such force that it caused a subtle tremor, a vibration that resonated through the courtyard floor. The sharp crackle of the electric energy ringing in everyone's ears, a piercing reminder of the Thundershock's raw power. The sheer magnitude of the move, even though it missed, left the spectators momentarily stunned.

"Whoa, are you sure that wasn't a Thunder attack?!" Jab yelled with excitement and disbelief.

Bab added, "That Emolga's got some serious juice!"

Ciara, observing closely, noted the unexpected potency in the Emolga's attack. Despite its dazed condition, it had managed to shake the very ground.

Mustard wasted no time, his voice carrying an edge of command, "Fake Out!" In a blur of movement, the Mienfoo lunged forward, paw extending in a rapid, deceptive strike towards the Emolga. The move, perfectly timed, caught the already dazed Emolga off guard, causing it to flinch instinctively, immobilised by the sudden feint.

Before the Emolga could recover, Mustard issued his next command, "Fury Swipes, finish it!" Voice relentless, ruthless. Mienfoo, with lightning-fast reflexes, launched a barrage of strikes. Its paws became a whirlwind of motion, each swipe delivering a precise, powerful blow. The strikes rained down on the stunned Emolga, one after another.

The Emolga, overwhelmed by the ferocity of the attack, could do nothing but endure. With each successive swipe from the Mienfoo, its small body jerked under the impact, strikes too fast and too numerous to counter. The Emolga's struggle gradually weakened, its movements slowing, until finally, it lay motionless on the ground, appearing to have passed out under the intensity of the Mienfoo's assault.

Siobhan, frowned slightly, green eyes reflecting worry. "Isn't he going too far? That Emolga looks... it's just a bit much, isn't it?"

Ciara, her gaze steely and unwavering, watched on. She glanced down at Kaida, who was observing with a hint of worry in her small, expressive eyes. "This is a real Pokémon battle, Kaida," Ciara said, her voice firm. "This is what we need to be prepared for. It's tough, but we should watch and learn so this does not happen to us.”

Kaida looked up at Ciara, a determined glint forming in her eyes as she nodded, absorbing the reality of what a Pokémon battle could entail.

Jake's voice, filled with a distress and anger, rang out across the battlefield. "That's enough, I surrender!" His face showed deep concern for his Pokemon.

Jake's reaction was immediate. He sprinted across the battlefield, face etched with concern. Reaching the emolga, he dropped to his knees, cradling the small Emolga in his arms. "Trixie!" he cried out, his voice breaking a little with emotion. His hands trembled as he gently lifted her, inspecting her for injuries with dread and care.

For a moment, his expression went blank. Eyes, that had seemed warm and kind, started to bear a cold, hard edge, a brief glare at Mustard before returning his focus to Trixie.

Ciara felt a complicated mix of emotions at the sight. While she didn't have too much sympathy for Jake, this was part and parcel of a Pokemon battle, after all. She could acknowledge the strength of his bond with Trixie. His immediate decision to surrender, prioritising her wellbeing, was a commendable act in her eyes. It spoke of a trainer who genuinely cared for his Pokémon, a quality she could respect.

"Good call," she muttered under her breath, a nod of approval barely perceptible. In the dojo, the line between training and pushing too far was often blurred, and recognising that line was crucial.

Jab whistled, "Tough break for the new guy."

"Yeah, but he's got guts," Bab added, nodding in approval.

Mustard's methods were tough, but they forged strong trainers and Pokémon.

"You had good ideas, kid," Mustard declared, his tone acknowledging Jake's effort. "This was your first real battle, wasn't it?"

Jake, still kneeling beside Trixie, gave a slow nod, his gaze icy and distant.

Mustard went on, his voice carrying a weight of experience. "Choosing this path is no small decision. Many aspire to it, but only a handful truly possess the fortitude it demands." He paused, ensuring his words sank in. "Understanding this early is crucial. Not many do, and too often, dreams are shattered when the harshness of this journey inevitably becomes clear."

Jake's eyes closed briefly, as if processing Mustard's words. He rose steadily, gently returning Trixie to her Pokéball with a careful, almost reverent motion. Stepping back into his position on the battlefield, calm yet with a subtle intensity.

Mustard, observing him, inquired, "Ready to go on?"

A faint, almost haunting smile played on Jake's lips as he nodded, his response laced with resolve. "The question is, are you?" he replied, his voice carrying a cold undercurrent that contrasted sharply with his smile.

Ciara looked at the other Pokeball now in Jake’s hand curiously. What made him so confident? It was no exaggeration to say that Mustard had completely wiped the floor with him so far.

Jab couldn't help but chuckle. "Look at him, acting all cool and mysterious now. What's he got up his sleeve?"

Bab grinned widely. "Yeah, like he's got a chance. He couldn’t even handle Master’s junior team, not that any of us can either!”

Siobhan, watching Jake with a mix of concern and curiosity, gave a gentle, somewhat worried response. "Well, good luck to him. He's going to need it after that last round."

Mustard just stated calmly. “Send out your next Pokemon.”

Jake took a deep breath, gaze locked onto the Pokéball in his hand. With a decisive movement, he released his next Pokémon. To the surprise of everyone watching, a Pikachu materialised on the field.

Jab burst out laughing. "A Pikachu? Oh, this is going to be quick!"

Bab, equally amused, added, "Right? He looked so serious, and then out pops Pikachu. Guess we'll be in time for lunch for once!"

Siobhan, murmured softly, "A Pikachu? That's unexpected."

Ciara, initially sharing the surprise, leaned forward slightly, scrutinising the Pikachu more closely. Something about it seemed off to her. This Pikachu looked different from any she had seen before. It was... unsettling.

As she observed intently, the Pikachu slowly turned its head towards her as if sensing her gaze, ears unnaturally still in the breeze, empty gaze meeting hers. In that moment, the sound of the sea, the feel of the wind, the idle chatter of her classmates, all seemed to fade as she felt a wave of what could only be described as malice, seeping the very air almost tangibly, a rush of darkness. She shuddered, a chill going down her spine and she could not help but take a step back.

“Fu....Fu...!” Ciara felt a furry paw at the back of her leg, and looked down, shocked to see that Kaida was hiding behind her. The little Pokémon was shying away, hiding behind Ciara with fearful whines. Kubfu, known for their stoic and dedicated nature, rarely showed signs of fear or hesitation, and that could definitely be said of Kaida, young though she was. Ciara, feeling Kaida's unease, placed a reassuring hand on her Pokémon.

Ciara, her usual confidence momentarily wavering, turned to Mustard. "Is that really a Pikachu?" Her voice carried an unusual note of uncertainty. It was a sensation she disliked intensely, feeling out of her depth.

Mustard, observing the Pikachu with a calculating gaze, seemed to ponder for a moment. His Mienfoo, ever the disciplined fighter, returned to its martial arts stance, seemingly indifferent to the Pokémon before it. This steadiness from the Mienfoo offered Ciara a slight sense of reassurance.

"Hmm," Mustard mused, his tone reflective, "I haven't laid eyes on one of those in... oh, it must be forty years now, back when I was just a lad." His eyes narrowed slightly; a hint of curiosity mixed with caution in his expression. "They're a rare sight indeed, and to think you have one..." He trailed off, seemingly lost in thought for a moment.

Mustard straightened up, determination in his posture. "Well, no matter. Rare or not, it presents an interesting challenge." His voice carried a hint of respect, acknowledging the uniqueness of the situation. "Let’s see what it can do. Let’s battle!" he announced, his tone shifting to one of excitement.

As Siobhan prepared to announce the next round, Jab leaned in with a playful smirk. "So, round two with a mysterious Pikachu, huh? This should be interesting!"

Bab, chuckling, added, "Mysterious is one word for it. Let's see if it's got more tricks up its sleeve than the average Pikachu!"

Siobhan raised her hand for silence. "Round two! Battle start!"

POV – JAKE

As Jake stood on the battlefield, gaze lingering on the spot where Trixie had been defeated, a storm of emotions raged within him. Anger, confusion, and a cold realisation clawed at his thoughts. He had never felt this furious before. Was it at Mustard, who had so ruthlessly demonstrated the reality of Pokémon battles, or at himself for his naivety? Watching Trixie, his loyal and adorable partner, suffer like that had been excruciating. A bitter pill of helplessness, a spectator's horror that the games never quite managed to convey.

The games. Oh, how different they were from this harsh reality. In the digital world, everything was clear-cut, simpler. Pokémon battles were challenges to be won with strategy and skill, but they lacked the visceral impact, the emotional weight of real confrontation. Here, on the dojo's battlefield, stakes were tangible, consequences real. The pain wasn't just a decrease in hit points; it was visible in Trixie's eyes, felt in Jake's heart.

Mustard's words echoed in his mind. "This was your first real battle, wasn't it?" The question had been rhetorical, but it carried the weight of a profound truth. Jake had aspired to be a Pokémon trainer, upon coming to this world, idealising it through the lens of the games. But reality was a different beast.

It had seemed so straightforward: become the best, defeat everyone in your path, and your Pokémon would grow alongside you. But standing here, in the aftermath of a battle that was far from the sanitised versions of the games, he began to understand why so many opted out of this path.

In the games, there were plenty of non-trainer NPCs, people who chose lives away from Pokémon battles. As a player, it had always seemed like an odd choice. Why wouldn't everyone want to grow and strengthen their Pokémon? But now, it was clear. Not everyone could handle the reality of it. The strain, the pain, the responsibility – it was a lot to bear.

Jake released Jekyll, a torrent of emotions surged through him, fury and upset for Trixie. He took a deep, steadying breath, his resolve hardening. This round, he silently vowed, would be different.

The moment Jekyll materialised; the Pokémon seemed to instantly tune into Jake's emotional state. Mimikyu have particular affinity for emotions, especially the darker ones. For Jekyll it was both a blessing, endowing him with power, and a curse under the weight of absorbed misery.

“Mimi, Kyu?” Jekyll’s voice, reached out to Jake. The Pokémon's gaze, from the cut outs, seemed to pierce through to Jake's turmoil. There was a sense of kinship in that look, Mimikyu knew of pain.

Jake managed a weak smile, acknowledging the bond they shared. But now, as Jekyll turned towards Mustard's Mienfoo, there was a shift. No clumsy Pikachu acts. No awkward impersonations. Mimikyu in its truest form – raw, unfiltered, and dangerous.

The air around them seemed to thicken with anticipation. Jekyll's stance carried a sense of menace, a promise of retribution. This was a Pokémon that knew suffering and was all the more formidable for it.

Mustard didn't hesitate. "Mienfoo, Force Palm!" His voice rang out. The Mienfoo, responding with the precision of an extremely well-trained Pokémon, sprang into action. Propelling itself from its crane stance, closing the distance between itself and Jekyll in a heartbeat.

As the Mienfoo lunged, its palm began to radiate with a bright, pulsating energy, gathering a force of attack. The air around its palm crackled with concentrated power. With a swift, fluid motion that spoke of both agility and strength, the Mienfoo thrust its glowing palm forward, aiming a direct, forceful blow at Jekyll.

Jake quietly instructed, "Let it hit." He watched, almost with a detached curiosity, as the glowing palm made contact, it harmlessly passed through Jekyll's ghostly form.

A flicker of surprise crossed Jake's face as he realised Mustard, despite being a former league champion, appeared unaware of Mimikyu's ghostly typing. 'Knowledge of Pokémon is so varied here,' Jake mused internally. 'Even champions might not know every mystery.'

Mustard, meanwhile, displayed a moment of shock, his seasoned features betraying a rare instance of surprise. "Incredible... a Ghost-type," he murmured, almost to himself. The revelation seemed to add a new layer of complexity to his strategy, acknowledging a gap in his understanding. "I had no idea," he admitted.

Jake's voice rang out clear and decisive, "Copycat, Jekyll!"

In response, Jekyll's form shifted. For a fleeting moment, its true form was partially revealed; a ghostly hand, unnerving and spectral, emerged swiftly from beneath the cloak of its costume. The hand, ethereal and yet somehow tangible, glowed with a pale, otherworldly light as it replicated the Force Palm attack.

The movement was startlingly quick, almost a blur to the onlookers. The ghostly hand shot forward with a speed and precision that belied the Mimikyu's somewhat clumsy appearance. It struck the Mienfoo with a force that resonated throughout the dojo, the impact echoing with the intensity of Jake's pent-up fury.

The Mienfoo reeled back from the hit, clearly caught off guard by the sudden strike. The trainers and spectators alike barely had time to process the swift action before its effects were made evident – the Mienfoo struggling to regain its composure, visibly shaken by the force of Jekyll's attack.

The blue headed trainer’s voice cut through the surprise, "Did you see that? What happened?"

The red-haired lookalike, eyes wide, added, "I'm not sure! Was that an attack?"

The Force Palm from Jekyll seemed to have left the Mienfoo immobilised, its body rigid from the unexpected blow. Sensing the opportunity, Jake issued his next command with urgency, "Shadow Sneak now!"

The shadow beneath Jekyll, an inky blackness against the dojo's floor, began to behave unnaturally. Jekyll's form seamlessly merged into this shadow, becoming one with the dark silhouette.

The merged shadow slithered across the floor, moving with eerie, purposeful intent towards the Mienfoo. The shadow, carrying Jekyll within its dark embrace, snaked its way towards the Mienfoo, silent and almost imperceptible.

Then, in a sudden movement, Jekyll emerged from the shadow directly behind the Mienfoo. One moment Jekyll was part of the shadow, and the next, striking the Mienfoo from behind with ghostly force. The Mienfoo was caught completely off guard, its body jolted forward from the impact.

The trainers around the courtyard, witnessing this unconventional move, were taken aback. The use of shadows as a medium for attack was a tactic, they were unaccustomed to, particularly in a dojo where Fighting-types were the norm.

Mustard frowned but seemed to realise the futility of the situation. His Mienfoo, despite its excellent training and strength, simply had no answers to a ghost-type. With a resigned sigh, he addressed Jake, "I concede this round to you. There's nothing more we can do here."

Jake, still simmering with a cold, controlled rage, gave a curt nod in acknowledgment. His gaze briefly met Mustard's before he turned to Jekyll. "Come back, Jekyll," he commanded, his voice still carrying an edge of anger.

Jekyll, however, seemed reluctant to leave the battlefield. Its gaze locked on the Mienfoo, its empty eye sockets conveying an intense, almost palpable hatred. "Kyu..." it hissed menacingly; stance stiff with animosity.

The Mienfoo was visibly shaken by the encounter, backed away with a fearful "Foo..." Its usual martial poise was gone, replaced by a genuine terror.

After a tense moment, Jekyll slowly, almost begrudgingly, began to return to Jake. As it moved, it kept its gaze fixed on the Mienfoo, its disdain evident in each slow step. "Mimi, Kyu..." it muttered, a final warning or perhaps a promise of unfinished business.

Mustard carefully returned his Mienfoo to its Pokéball, his expression tinged with a hint of concern, perhaps contemplating the Pokémon's mental state after such an unsettling encounter. He then looked towards Jake, a thoughtful look in his eyes.

"I have one more Pokémon, a young Shinx," Mustard began, his voice carrying some regret. "But it's too inexperienced, and facing something like Jekyll... it would do more harm than good. It might leave the poor thing traumatised rather than provide any real learning."

He paused, weighing his words. "You see, understanding Pokémon, knowing what they are and aren't ready for, is a crucial part of training. They often don't realise their own limits, and it's our responsibility as trainers to guide them, to help them understand." Mustard's gaze was firm. "With that, I concede the match to you, Jake. You've earned this victory."

A stunned silence echoed in the dojo courtyard. Clearly none of the other trainers had expected this.

Jake, anger at the old man diminished a little as he absorbed Mustard's words, replaced with a respect for the former champion. Mustard's approach to battling, his concern for his Pokémon's well-being over the desire for victory, resonated deeply with him, especially after what had happened with Trixie.

"Thank you, Mustard," Jake said, his voice sincere. "I've learned a lot from this battle, about myself and my Pokémon."

Jake crouched down beside his Mimikyu, carefully adjusting the Pikachu disguise, straightening the ragged edges with a gentle touch. "You did more than great, Jekyll," he said warmly. "You were amazing out there."

The previous air of hostility melted away, revealing the shy, clumsy nature that lay underneath. Jekyll slumped slightly, head tilting bashfully to one side under the Pikachu disguise. Seeming to fidget with its disguise bashfully. "Kyu?" Gently, curiously. “I did well?”

He fussed over the disguise, making sure it sat just right. "You really looked after your sister today," he said, a smile in his voice. "You should be proud of yourself."

At the mention of "sister," Jekyll stiffened. It seemed as if the Mimikyu was processing this new piece of information, unsure how to react to being called a sibling.

Jake chuckled at Jekyll's reaction. "Yeah, that's right, you're a big brother now," he teased lightly, a playful tone to his words.

"Kyu!?" Still trying to make sense of the still unfamiliar family dynamic.

Before Jekyll could protest, Jake wrapped his arms gently around Jekyll in a warm, appreciative hug. "Thanks for everything, buddy," he whispered. After a moment, he carefully returned Jekyll to his Pokéball, ensuring his Pokémon would have a well-deserved rest.

As Jake pocketed the Pokéball, he reflected on the battle. The victory felt hollow, the memory of Trixie's ordeal weighing heavily on him.

Jake heard steps and looked up to see Mustard observing him thoughtfully. "You have potential, Jake," he said. "Your bond with Jekyll, speaks volumes. They are a rare Pokemon, not many know much about them, but they are known as challenging Pokémon to find, let alone connect with. But it's not just Jekyll – the care you've shown for your Emolga as well... It's clear you have a genuine concern for all your Pokémon. That's a rare quality, and it's commendable."

He continued, gaze turning somber. "As for what happened with Trixie, I know it's tough, I've been there myself. But it's an important part of the journey. Pokémon battles can be harsh, but they're also great teachers. Use this experience to grow, both as a trainer and as a partner to your Pokémon."

He paused. "You've developed a deep connection with your Pokemon. That's what makes a trainer great, more than just victories in battle. It's about the bond, the understanding between you and your Pokémon. Keep nurturing that, Jake.”

If the battle had not done it, this definitely had Jake reassess his impression of Mustard formed from the games. Standing before him was a man of genuine depth and wisdom. 'He's so much more than I expected,' Jake thought to himself. 'No wonder he was a league champion. His love for Pokémon, it's not just about battling... it's deeper. He really understands them, cares for them.' Feeling a new level of respect for the old man.

Mustard's face then broke into a warm smile. "How about joining us for lunch? You must be starving after all that."

At the mention of food, Jake realised how hungry he actually was. His stomach gave a timely growl, confirming Mustard's assumption.

Mustard laughed heartily. "Ah, I always find myself famished after a good battle too! Come lad, let's get some food."

Chapter 12: Chapter 12

Chapter Text

POV – JAKE

As Jake followed Mustard into the dojo, he couldn't help but be impressed by the meticulous care evident in its upkeep. The interior was spacious and spotlessly clean, yet every inch bore the unmistakable marks of rigorous training. The wooden floors were scuffed in places, marks of countless footfalls and battles, both human and Pokémon.

The dojo was a blend of traditional and modern. On one side, there were heavy bags and sparring mats, clearly well-used but in good condition. On the opposite side, Jake noticed more specialised equipment: balance beams, agility ladders, and even a small area with sand for footwork training. It was apparent that this space was designed for both Pokémon and humans to train together, though Jake could see that the facilities seemed particularly well-suited for fighting-type Pokémon.

As they walked, Mustard, still clad in his light green tracksuit that seemed to mirror his lively spirit. "This place, my boy, is my passion project," he said, his voice full of warmth and pride. "After years on the Pokémon battles circuit, I wanted to create a space where I could pass on my knowledge and experience to a new generation of trainers."

Mustard's stringy hair bobbed slightly as he walked, but his posture was straight and his steps were firm, exuding an air of understated strength. He gestured broadly at the dojo around them. "Here, we focus on the art of Pokémon battle, the connection between trainer and Pokémon. It's about synergy, understanding, and respect.”

"Let's get your Pokémon sorted out, lad," Mustard said, leading the way. "We're training hard every day here, and it's normal to pick up a few bumps and bruises along the way. Running to the PokéCenter for every little scrape just wouldn't do, so I've arranged something more convenient with Nurse Joy." As he spoke, Mustard gestured towards a corner of the room where a Chansey was meticulously tending to a small, well-equipped medical station.

Jake and Mustard handed over their pokeballs to the Chansey, the plump, pink creature with a kind and gentle expression. It wore an apron, giving it a nurse-like appearance. Its round eyes were attentive and caring as it efficiently organised the items on the medical stand.

"Chansey!" the pink blob greeted cheerily as it took Jake's pokéballs. Observing the Chansey work with such independence, Jake was struck by a realisation. ‘Incredible,' he thought, 'how some Pokémon, like Chansey, are capable of such complex tasks.' The sight of the Chansey, efficiently managing its station with such skill and care, another example of the remarkable intelligence that many Pokémon possessed, which was not to be underestimated. Knowing that Trixie was in capable hands, Jake finally allowed himself to relax.

Continuing their tour, Mustard led Jake through the well-equipped dojo, pointing out the various training areas. As they walked, Mustard casually mentioned, "I trained a champion here once, Leon. A fiery one, but sadly not the brightest, I’m still not quite sure how he managed to find his way to it in all honesty. He never did complete his training with me. He also never defeated me, so I suppose technically, I'm still the best," he said with a twinkle in his eye.

Jake, intrigued, asked, "What types of Pokémon do you usually train here, Master Mustard?"

"Oh, we have a variety, but there's a special place in my heart for fighting types," Mustard replied, gesturing around the dojo. "I used to run a Fighting gym in Stow-on-Side. But I've since travelled the world, seen all sorts of Pokémon, not all. This dojo is the culmination of that experience."

Jake's thoughts turned to his own goals. "Have you been to Sinnoh, by any chance?"

"Ah, Sinnoh. I spent a good deal of time at the Battle Zone and around Veilstone City," he said. "They have a reputable fighting gym there. And the Pokémon! Lucario, for instance, a powerful fighting-type. Always regretted not having the chance to catch one myself."

Mustard paused. "You know lad, for some Pokémon, especially the more powerful or rare ones, you need to earn their respect and trust before you even think about catching them. Trying to catch a Pokémon without this mutual understanding, you can, and some do but... it's disrespectful, and often leads to a bad end for both the Pokémon and the trainer."

Mustard shook his head. "You see, I've always been bothered by trainers who rush into catching Pokémon without building a bond first. It's something I emphasise a lot here in the dojo - the importance of respect for Pokémon. Sure, battling is a thrill, and I love it, but the real joy comes from the bond and partnership it fosters between a Pokémon and its trainer. That's the heart of true training, that is how you become strong.”

Jake nodded thoughtfully. 'Mustard's perspective... it has some similarities to Ash's in a way,' he mused internally, 'though with a stronger emphasis on the training and battling aspects.' Jake certainly respected that viewpoint.

"And how would one go about traveling to a place as far as Sinnoh from here?" he asked.

Mustard, leaning against a training dummy, seemed to ponder the question for a moment. "Well, lad, traveling such long distances isn't a simple task," he began. "Much of the world, particularly in the more remote areas, are teeming with wild Pokémon. Many are not documented, and can be quite formidable, making such journeys very expensive to those without strong Pokemon.”

'So that's how it is,' he reflected. The idea of navigating a world where seas and skies were home to dragons and other formidable Pokémon suddenly put things into perspective. It made sense now why such journeys weren't commonplace. Even with modern technology, the risks and challenges were substantial. And the cost of such an expedition, he realised, would be beyond the reach of most people.

"And how did you become the Mayor of Applinby?" Jake queried, curious.

Mustard chuckled. "That's a story for another time, but let's just say I wanted to retire, be away from the spotlight. A champion is given a lot of leeway, and I knew that this was the perfect place to do just that.”

“Well lad, lunch should be ready now, I am sure Honey has prepared quite the spread, she really is the most fabulous chef.”

Mustard's words were followed by a warm, inviting aroma as he led Jake towards what appeared to be the living quarters of the dojo. They entered a cozy room dominated by a large dining table laden with an array of dishes. The variety of food was impressive, ranging from hearty stews to fresh salads, all laid out in an inviting display.

Standing near the table was a woman with a welcoming smile, her presence exuding a sense of warmth and hospitality. "Ah, here she is. Jake, meet my wife, Honey," Mustard introduced her.

Honey, with her brown hair tied back neatly and a light apron adorning her attire, extended a hand towards Jake. Her demeanour was both elegant and approachable, a contrast to her reputed background that Jake recalled from the games. 'Wasn't she a CEO of a trading firm?' he thought, quite the move from high-powered career to a dojo matron. Jake recalled she was also a powerful Pokemon trainer, with Pokemon from all over the world in her team.

Honey's warm smile welcomed Jake as she greeted him, "It's lovely to have you here at the dojo, Jake. Please, make yourself comfortable." Her voice was inviting, making Jake feel at ease in the new environment.

Jake and Mustard took their seats at the large table. Shortly after, they were followed by the four young students, Jake had spied training in the courtyard. They each appeared to be around Jake's age.

"Jake, let me introduce you to our students. First, we have Ciara," Mustard began, indicating the sporty girl he had noted earlier. Ciara certainly caught the attention. Dark brown hair pulled back into a high ponytail, emphasised an athletic build and a deep tan. Ciara's eyes, a startling shade of amber, not an eye colour found on Earth, held a piercing gaze that seemed almost as if they were trying to burn a hole right through Jake. She nodded slowly at him, but coldly.

"This is Siobhan," he continued, indicating a girl with vibrant orange hair and soft green eyes. She gave Jake a tentative, yet friendly, smile. There was something about her that felt familiar to him.

"You wouldn’t happen to know Symington, by any chance?" Jake asked.

Siobhan's eyes widened in mild surprise, a shy but genuine smile forming on her lips. "Oh, uh, yes," she stammered softly, her voice tinged with a hint of nervousness. "He's my uncle." She gave a small, self-conscious laugh, touching her bright orange hair. "I guess my hair kind of gives it away, doesn't it?" As she spoke, her smile became a bit more assured. Jake returned her smile, finding a sense of kindness in the nice girl's demeanour.

Seemingly needing no introduction, bright blue hair shining. Jab stepped closer to Jake. "Hey there, I'm Jab," he said with a grin that seemed permanently etched on his face. "And this is my cousin Bab. We're the unofficial welcoming committee."

Bab, not to be outdone. "We try to keep things lively around here. Can't let all this training take the fun out of everything, you know?" His red hair fiery.

Jake smirked a little, they reminded him of some of his friends back on Earth - always ready with a joke, not too concerned with the serious side of life.

"Nice to meet you both," Jake replied with a chuckle. The bright, unusual hair colours were something he had noticed about this world - so different from Earth. 'Blue and red hair, just naturally like that,' he mused, 'never ceases to amaze.'

“You really shouldn’t listen to these two.” the dark-haired girl, Ciara said dismissively. “They will just infect you with their bad habits.”

“Hey! We only have good intentions. You just take things way too seriously.” Jab jabbed at Ciara.

Her amber eyes narrowed slightly. "Hard work and dedication are what bring success, not just fooling around. When was the last time either of you actually won a battle?" she countered.

Jab and Bab exchanged a quick glance, usual confidence wavering. "Well, you know," Jab started, "winning isn't the only measure of a trainer."

"It's all about the journey, not just the destination," Bab added,

Ciara crossed her arms, gaze piercing. "This dojo is about discipline and progress, not fun and games."

Jab, unfazed, gestured animatedly. "Who says you can't train hard and play hard?"

Bab nodded solemnly, "It is the way.”

"As long as your 'philosophy' includes some actual training." Ciara said seriously. Jake had the sense that Ciara tended to be serious, often.

Siobhan stepped in with a gentle voice, cutting through the growing tension. "Let's not argue, guys. The food is getting cold."

‘Ah, and here is the peacemaker,' Jake thought, a small smile to himself.

As they all settled around the table, the lively atmosphere of the dojo seemed to converge into a warm, communal feeling. Jab and Bab took seats next to each other, banter continuing with each other, jokes and playful nudges, seemingly in their own world. Siobhan, still shy, sat quietly opposite Jake, with occasional glances at him. Ciara, on the other hand, maintained her intense gaze on Jake, her expression still carrying a hint of cold scrutiny. Jake thought about the Kubfu he had seen by her side earlier. He supposed that Mimikyu were likely the antithesis of most fighting type Pokemon, which did not help her mood.

As they began to eat, Mustard turned to him. "So, Jake, what brings you to our little corner of the world?" he asked

"Well, before our impromptu battle earlier, Nurse Joy in town suggested I seek your advice." Jake paused, gathering his thoughts. "I've been lost in the woods for the past few days, and to be honest, my memory of events before that is pretty hazy."

The table fell into a brief silence, the others' expressions turning to concern. Siobhan's eyes widened slightly, while Honey's face showed a mix of shock and sympathy.

Mustard nodded. "Ah, teleportation events. They're rare, but not unheard of. It's one of the reasons I'm not too fond of psychic type Pokémon," he said.

Jake listened intently nodding as he processed Mustard's words. The notion of teleportation events in this world, albeit infrequent, offered a plausible, albeit partially true, explanation for his sudden and unexplained arrival. It was a convenient theory that aligned somewhat with the reality of his situation, even if it didn't capture the full extent of the extraordinary circ*mstances that brought him to this world.

"Yeah, that's probably it, though it's kinda hard to put my finger on. The whole thing just feels random, you know?" Jake said hesitantly.

Jake's story unfolded as he shared his experiences since arriving in this unfamiliar world. He recounted how after finding himself alone in the woods, with no clear memory of how he got there. The only thing he could do was follow a nearby creek, hoping it would lead him to civilisation

Jake talked about the encounters with Trixie and Jekyll, who had each become crucial companions on his unexpected journey. "It's been quite an adventure, to say the least," Jake said. "I probably would not have survived without them."

Honey, who had been listening attentively throughout Jake's account, chimed in with a warm and understanding smile. "You've certainly been through a lot, but you've shown remarkable resilience to make it this far," she said.

Mustard nodded in agreement. "Indeed, it's a good thing you ended up here in Applinby. We'll do what we can to help you find your way. Honey and I have quite a few contacts; we'll reach out and see if there's been any report of a missing person." He paused, then added, "You do seem to be Galarian, which is promising."

A sense of guilt washed over him. He knew any search for a missing person in this world would be fruitless – the report they'd be looking for didn't exist here. Yet he couldn't find the words to reveal this truth. "Thank you, both of you," he said, a bit conflicted. "I really appreciate your help," he added knowing their well-intentioned efforts would inevitably lead to a dead end.

Mustard's expression then shifted. "I saw the bond you have with your Pokémon during our battle. It's clear you have potential, Jake." He leaned back slightly. "Why not stay at the dojo for a while? Get your bearings, train a bit. There's nothing to lose in learning more about Pokémon and honing your skills."

Ciara, had been quietly observing the conversation, suddenly spoke up, her tone laced with a hint of objection. "But we barely know him, Master Mustard. And he has a ghost Pokémon..." Her voice trailed off, but her concern was evident.

Mustard nodded, acknowledging her point. "True, bonding with a ghost Pokémon like Jekyll is no simple feat. It requires strength of character and a deep understanding," he said. “That is exactly what we cultivate here.”

Jake leaned back, mulling over Mustard's proposition. The opportunity to learn from a former champion was a rare privilege, one that few could boast of. The realities of travel in this world – the challenges and the costs involved seemed to point him towards a clear path, stirring a mix of emotions within him. On one hand, he felt a surge of excitement at the prospect of living out what had once been only a dream. On the other hand, a tinge of sadness lingered at the thought of his family back home, missing him and unreachable across the chasm of worlds. He took a deep breath, trying to focus on the present. "One step at a time," he reminded himself silently.

"Master Mustard, I'd like to discuss your offer with my Pokémon, if that's alright?" Jake asked respectfully. "Your offer is very generous, and I'm grateful, but I feel my Pokémon should have a say in this decision too."

Mustard nodded approvingly. "That's a wise approach, lad," he responded. "Take your time."

Jake thanked Mustard, and Honey, making his way back to where Chansey was stationed. The pink Pokémon handed him his Pokéballs with a cheerful "Chansey!" and he nodded his thanks, clipping them back onto his belt. Stepping out of the dojo, Jake found himself in the expansive courtyard, the sea breeze greeting him with its refreshing touch.

He walked towards the edge of the courtyard, where a low wall encircled the area, a safety measure against the steep drop to the sea below. The sun hung high in the sky, casting a brilliant shimmer across the ocean's surface. The salty tang of the sea air mingled with the fresh scents of the surrounding nature.

As he leaned against the wall, Jake's gaze swept across the landscape. Below, the quaint town of Applinby lay spread out. The Fields of Honor, where he had first entered the town, stretched out, a patchwork of greens and browns interspersed with the occasional distant Pokémon moving about.

His eyes followed the winding path of the river as it made its way to the sea, its waters merging with the vast blue expanse. For a moment, Jake allowed himself to simply breathe in the beauty of it all, feeling a sense of calm amidst the whirlwind of his recent experiences.

Standing at the edge of the world, or so it felt to Jake, he gazed out at the endless expanse of ocean stretching before him. The vastness of the sea represented the true enormity of the Pokémon world.

"I suppose Kalos should approximately be in that direction," he mused, the Pokémon world's counterpart to France. How did the rest of this world's Europe look? Were there regions and Pokémon he had never even heard of?

Jake's eyes drifted skyward, to the clear blue expanse above. Somewhere up there, Rayquaza soared through the stratosphere. He chuckled to himself; in this world, he was probably the one of the only humans who knew about its existence.

Jake released Trixie from her Pokéball, she appeared on the ground, usual vivacious spirit dimmed. Her small body seemed to sag, a disappointment weighing heavily on her. Her eyes, usually full of life and curiosity, were downcast.

Approaching her cautiously, Jake knelt down, bringing himself to her level. "Hey, Trixie," he started gently, trying to catch her gaze. "It's okay, you know. That battle wasn't your fault. It was on me—I called the wrong moves."

Trixie looked up, her large eyes meeting Jake's, a soft "Emol..." escaping her.

"That Mienfoo we faced was experienced, much more than either of us," Jake continued, his voice soothing. "Remember how well you did against the Scolipede? You were amazing there. We're both young, we're learning. We'll get better together."

Trixie's ears drooped, her tiny paws fidgeting as she absorbed Jake's words. She let out a quiet "Emol, mol..." as if she was struggling with her own sense of inadequacy.

Jake reached out, gently stroking her head. "You have nothing to be ashamed of, Trixie. Battles are as much about learning as they are about winning. We're a team, and we'll support each other, no matter what."

Trixie's eyes shimmered with unshed tears; emotions palpable. She leaned into Jake's touch, a soft "Emol..." murmuring from her.

Jake embraced Trixie gently, feeling her small body trembling with emotion. "We've learned a lot from that battle, haven't we?" he said softly. "The only way to get better is to keep practicing. And that's exactly what we'll do."

Trixie gazed up at him, her eyes showing a hint of her usual spark. "Emol, emol!" she chirped.

"And remember how far you've come already," Jake said, "You were afraid of heights, couldn’t even get off the ground but look at you now, soaring like it's nothing.”

"And we made it here, to Applinby, together," he continued. "That's a huge achievement, Trixie.”

Deciding to lighten the mood further, he playfully tickled her under her wings. Her cheeks sparked in response, sending a small jolt of electricity through Jake's fingers. He winced slightly, but his smile remained. "Guess I'm getting used to that," he thought bemusedly.

Trixie, now fully back to her mischievous, playful self, nuzzled Jake affectionately, her eyes twinkling with joy. "Emol, emol!" she chirped.

Jake's heart swelled with affection for his little partner. "That's the Trixie I know," he said, his voice filled with warmth. "Ready to take on the world again?"

Trixie responded with a cheery "Emol!" and a playful flap of her wings.

Jake stood up, brushing the dirt off his knees. "Alright, Trixie, we've got a decision to make," he said, watching as Trixie fluttered up from his hands, circling once before settling comfortably on his shoulder. With a touch, he released Jekyll from his Pokéball.

Jekyll materialised, its gazes turning to Jake. "Mimi, Kyu!" it greeted, resentment and confusion evident in its tone. Jake noticed Jekyll's gaze lingering on Trixie, an unreadable expression, the Pokémon's feelings towards the Emolga no doubt still complex.

"Listen, you two," Jake started, voice firm yet gentle. "Trixie, I want you to thank Jekyll. He stood up for you in that battle."

Trixie turned her head towards Jekyll, a soft "Emol?" escaping her lips, tone uncertain yet grateful.

Jekyll, for his part, seemed taken aback. His usual hostility towards Trixie waning as he tried to process the Emolga's gesture. "Kyu?" it responded, the sound betraying a hint of surprise.

Jake gathered both Trixie and Jekyll closer. "So, I've been thinking," he began, "Master Mustard has offered us a place at the Master Dojo to train. It's a big opportunity, and I think it's the best place for us to learn how to be better trainers and Pokémon."

Trixie's ears perked up at the mention of training. "Emol!" she chirped enthusiastically, clearly excited by the prospect.

Jekyll's response was more subdued but no less affirmative. "Mimi, Kyu," it agreed in a tone that suggested loyalty to Jake's decision. There was a sense of resolve in its posture, a willingness to follow wherever Jake led.

"Good," Jake nodded, pleased with the small progress. "We stick together, we train together, and we grow stronger together. That's how we'll make our way in this world."

Jake's pulled both Pokémon into a gentle hug. Trixie nuzzled into Jake's neck, her tiny hands patting him gently, while Jekyll, though initially stiff, slowly relaxed into the embrace.

As they broke apart, Jake's eyes were resolute. "Alright then, let's do this. Together, we'll become the best we can be."

Chapter 13: Chapter 13

Chapter Text

POV - JAKE

The first light of dawn broke over the horizon, casting a soft, golden hue across the sprawling courtyard of the Master Dojo. In the midst of this, the air was alive with the sounds and energy of rigorous training. Jake, surrounded by his fellow students, was in the thick of an intense morning session, contrasting the peaceful dawn.

Sweat beaded on Jake’s forehead as he transitioned into another set of coordinated drills. His muscles ached with a now familiar burn; from the days he had spent training under Mustard’s watchful eye. It was a far cry from the more abstract training methods he remembered from the games; here, every movement, every command was tangible and exacting.

Now clad in a mustard yellow Gi, Jake was in the middle of yet another rigorous kata, a series of fluid martial arts movements. Each motion precise, a blend of balance and strength that Mustard insisted was crucial for a Pokémon trainer. "A fit body means a fit mind, Jake," Mustard had said earlier. "Pokémon battles require quick wits, and that starts with the foundation of your body."

These words resonated with Jake as he executed a series of punches and kicks, body moving in sync with the rhythm of his breathing. He understood the logic; the physical discipline was not just for show. It honed reflexes, sharpened focus, and prepared him for the split-second decisions required in Pokémon battles.

As he moved through the martial arts sequence, Jake found it fascinating that he was learning to fight as well. The style was a blend of eastern martial arts that focused heavily on Karate. It reminded him of Bea, the Fighting-type Gym Leader from the Galar region, known as a Karate master. A thought crossed his mind – had Mustard trained her too? The idea seemed plausible, given Mustard’s expertise and reputation.

As he completed his kata, Jake felt a sense of accomplishment. His previous experience playing team sports on Earth had given him a foundation, but this was different. This was more than physical fitness; it was integrating mind, body, and spirit – a holistic approach to being a Pokémon trainer that did not come across as necessary in the games.

During his physical routine, Jake's Pokémon were also engaging in their specialised training. Jake watched intently as Trixie soared gracefully through the air. Under his direction, she was not only enhancing her flying skills but also building stamina and agility, which were crucial for aerial battles.

"Trixie, let's focus on elevation changes!" Jake called out. Trixie responded with an enthusiastic emol, darting higher into the air before swooping low, skimming just above the ground.

Jake remembered their earlier work on a skimming technique, where Trixie flew close to the ground, utilising the terrain to her advantage. However, he was acutely aware that many gym battles would take place on flat terrain, which meant Trixie would be much more exposed in those environments, this had been made very clear in the earlier battle with Mienfoo. He knew they would have to adapt their strategy to suit different battle conditions.

Mustard, clad in his customary light green tracksuit, moved through the students with a keen eye and encouraging words. His approach to training was hands-on, blending traditional methods with innovative techniques. He paused beside Jake, observing Trixie’s progress with a nod of approval.

“The key is synergy, lad,” Mustard said, voice carrying over the sounds of training. “It’s not just about the strength or skill of your Pokémon. It’s about how well you understand each other, how you adapt and respond as a team.

"Thanks, Master. I'm trying to build her stamina and control, especially at higher elevations. But I'm concerned about the flat terrain of gym battles," Jake replied, eyes following Trixie's movements.

Mustard nodded. "That's a valid concern. In gym battles, you won't always have the advantage of varied terrain. You'll need to train Trixie to be just as effective in open, flat areas."

He continued, "Consider working on her acceleration and deceleration. Being able to quickly change speed can be just as disorienting to opponents as agile movements. Also, practice mid-air stops and sharp turns. They're vital for dodging attacks, especially when there's less cover."

Jake listened intently. "That makes sense. We'll work on those techniques. I want to make sure she's as prepared as she can be."

Jake’s attention was drawn to a new figure joining their training session. It was Mustard's Mienshao, the Pokémon's presence exuded wisdom and discipline. The Mienshao moved with a fluid grace that spoke of years of experience and training.

Mustard had introduced the Mienshao to Jake a few days ago "This is my trusted companion," Mustard had said, a note of pride in his voice. "We've been through many challenges together."

The Mienshao's long, whip-like arms moved with an elegance and precision that was almost mesmerising. Its fur a pristine white, with purple tips that added a striking contrast.

Jake couldn't help but feel a sense of awe in the presence of this Pokémon. Its strength and agility evident in every move it made. The Mienshao assisted Mustard in demonstrating advanced training techniques, Jake realised the depth of skill and power it possessed.

"This Mienshao," Jake thought, "it is the most powerful Pokémon I've encountered so far."

Jake had been slightly intimidated by Mienshao at first, the power of the aura it seemed to exude reminded Jake exactly how fragile he was. Yet, the Mienshao simply went around demonstrating various combat techniques, each executed with a masterful ease. This Pokémon was a mentor in its own right and seemed to very much enjoy the process of guiding the younger Pokémon in the dojo, much like its partner.

A few feet away, Jekyll was engaged in a more grounded exercise. Today under Mienshao’s supervision, the Pokémon was practicing evasive manoeuvres, darting between obstacles with surprising agility. The training was meticulous, focusing on reaction times and strategic positioning, far more nuanced than Jake had anticipated.

Jake had found himself in a bit of a predicament with Jekyll a few days ago. They had been out in the courtyard, ready to begin training for the first time. Jake had turned to Jekyll who simply stood by his side, tone encouraging yet firm. "Alright, Jekyll, time to get to work."

"Mimi, Kyu?" Jekyll responded, as if to say, “Why should I, when I can just stay with you?” not budging an inch, gaze fixed on Jake with a stubbornness that was both endearing and frustrating.

Jake tried a bit more insistently. "Come on, Jekyll, we need to practice. You did great yesterday; let's build on that."

But Jekyll seemed to have other ideas, merely shuffling closer to Jake, looking up at him just tilting his head with a ‘Kyu?” showing no interest in training. “I just wanna stay and look at you?” Jake could sense the Pokémon's saying, which while touching, was not particularly helpful.

Just then, Trixie, energetic as ever a half-eaten apple, which she had no doubt once again snatched from the pantry, clutched in her paws. "Emol, Emol!" she emoled cheerfully, ready and raring to go.

“How are you gonna fly when you eat so much, huh?”” He imagined Honey in the kitchen, tallying the missing fruits, a usual casualty of Trixie’s endless appetite.

“Emol!” Trixie retorted, patting her belly with confidence, as if declaring, “I’ll burn it off in no time.”

Jake watched as Jekyll's attention shifted to Trixie. The slight hint of indignation in Jekyll's posture was unmistakable "Kyu!" Jekyll intoned, with a haughty air as if to say, “How dare you approach the master so casually?”

Seizing the moment, Jake said, "Looks like Trixie's all set. How about you, Jekyll? Ready to show her how it's done?"

Jekyll seemed to stiffen, as if caught in a trap, confused once again and not sure what to do. Jake smiled to himself; he really found this part of Jekyll’s personality amusing.

Jake kneeled to Jekyll’s level, gently placing a hand on his shoulder. "Hey, Jekyll," he said softly, making sure his tone was encouraging. "You see how eager Trixie is to get stronger? She's really putting her heart... and stomach into it. What do you say, buddy? Are you going to let her have all the fun, or are you going to show us what you can really do?”

Trixie interjected. "Emol, emol!" she chirped, which roughly translated to, "Your big sister will be the strongest!" Her eyes sparking mischievously.

Jekyll, upon hearing this, stiffened up with another indignant "Kyu!" Somehow seeming haughty. "Mimi, kyu!" Jekyll seemed to retort, which might have meant "I shall not be bested by the likes of you!"

Jake couldn't help but laugh. "Well, who knew? Trixie, you're the best motivator Jekyll could ask for," he said.

Back in the present, Jake had considered how best to train Mimikyu and Jake felt his mind wandering back yet again, to the countless conversations he had with his friend Josh, the self-proclaimed Mimikyu aficionado. Josh, with his encyclopaedic knowledge of Pokémon and an almost peculiar obsession with Mimikyu, he would often rave endlessly about his strategies with pedantic enthusiasm.

"See, Jake, the real genius of Mimikyu," Josh began, pushing up his glasses with a finger, "lies in its ability to catch opponents totally off guard. Take Thunderbolt or Psychic, for instance. No one expects a Mimikyu to pull off moves like those!"

Jake remembered how he would often nod along, sometimes more focused on the sheer volume of Pokémon stuff crowding Josh's room than the detailed strategies being outlined.

"And don't get me started on the speed," Josh continued, voice rising with excitement. "Mimikyu can often move before the disguise is even broken. It's like, bam! Surprise attack, and your opponent's still reeling from the shock of it!"

Jake had always found Josh's passion both amusing and, at times, mildly exasperating. Josh really would delve into the minutiae of every Mimikyu move and strategy, it could be kind of overwhelming.

"You really need to leverage that element of surprise, Jake. That's the key! Mimikyu isn't just cute; it's cunning, it's fast, it's—"

"Yeah, I get it, Josh. Mimikyu's awesome," Jake would interject, trying to move to a less intense topic. But Josh's enthusiasm was a runaway train.

"Exactly! And don't even get me started on the lore behind Mimikyu. Did you know—"

Jake let out a small chuckle, thoughts returning to the present moment. Those long, humorous talks with Josh had really opened his eyes to the special abilities of Mimikyu. Never had he thought he'd find himself actually training one, yet here he was with Jekyll.

The key was leveraging its speed and the art of surprise. But Jake was aware of their limitations in their current setting. While they were in a fighting dojo, access to moves like Thunderbolt or Psychic, which Josh so often raved about, was unlikely. Mustard, despite being a celebrated move tutor, didn’t specialise in those particular moves. But that didn't dampen Jake's resolve. He was ready to make the most of what they could learn here, focusing on the strengths and strategies that were within their reach.

Mustard, observing Jekyll, approached Jake. "So, you're thinking of shaping Jekyll into a bit of an unpredictable fighter, huh?" he asked, a spark of interest in his tone.

Jake nodded affirmatively. "Jekyll's naturally inclined for the unexpected. I’m thinking of expanding beyond typical ghost-type moves."

"I’ve been considering Drain Punch. It fits well with the environment here," Jake added, watching Jekyll intently.

Mustard rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Drain Punch, you say? That's an astute choice. Combining attack with healing – it suits Jekyll's style. Let's try it out."

Mustard brought in his Mienshao to demonstrate the move. "Mienshao here will show us the technique, Jekyll can try copying them," Mustard suggested, his tone indicating he was keen to see how this would unfold.

"Shao!" Mienshao called out, stepping forward with readiness that merged elegance and strength. In a fluid motion, it coiled and then uncoiled rapidly, lunging to strike a training dummy with its whip-like arm, which blurred upon impact. The controlled, forceful punch caused the dummy to shudder, while a faint glow around Mienshao's arm indicated the energy-draining aspect of Drain Punch, though of course, nothing actually drained from the training dummy.

Jake watched as Jekyll observed Mienshao closely. Using Mimic, Jekyll began replicating the move. Underneath its disguise, Jekyll's real claw struck out at rapid pace, mimicking Mienshao's movements.

Jake watched Jekyll manoeuvre through the training exercises and noted a certain clumsiness in the way he moved. "It's all about balance," he thought. "Jekyll's agility seems compromised while maintaining its Pikachu disguise. We'll need to focus on improving that." Jake realised that their portrayed speed from the games was more about the swiftness of their attacks, and not necessarily bodily agility.

"Shao, Shao!" Mienshao chimed in, demonstrating swerving its body, and how this could be used for moves to miss at the last moment, which could be followed by a brutal counter.

"Let’s focus on that then," Mustard said. "Jekyll, watch how Mienshao moves. Try to replicate not just the attack but also how it evades."

Jekyll, attentive, began attempting to mirror both the attack and the evasion techniques. The Pokémon's efforts to maintain its disguise while adapting to the new movements were both impressive and but somewhat comical. It was clear that this training was pushing Jekyll's abilities in new directions.

As he watched Trixie and Jekyll diligently move about the courtyard, he thought to himself "This is what real Pokémon training is about." It wasn't just the Pokémon themselves getting stronger; it was also him, as a trainer, learning the art and science behind effective training. Jake could see progress in Trixie and Jekyll, but more importantly, he felt a growing confidence in his own abilities to guide them, and other Pokemon he would come across in future.

Around them, the dojo was alive with the sounds of training. Jake's gaze shifted to Siobhan, her vibrant orange hair neatly tied back, with her Bulbasaur. The sight of the Bulbasaur immediately brought back the rush of nostalgia for Jake. It had been his chosen starter in Pokémon Red. Seeing a real Bulbasaur was still a surreal experience for him.

Stout and sturdy, a wide, friendly face. Patterned green skin, and the distinct bulb on its back which seemed to pulsate gently. The first time Jake had met it, he couldn’t hide his delight. “Wow, a real Bulbasaur,” he had exclaimed with excitement. The Pokémon had regarded him with curious, gentle eyes, emitting a soft “Bulba” in greeting.

Jab and Bab were engaged in a light-hearted sparring match, laughter infusing the intense training session. Jake observed Jab's Squirtle, oddly sporting sunglasses, much like its anime counterpart, and Bab's who strangely had a playful Mienfoo, the Pokemon seemed to mirror their trainers' laid-back attitudes. The Pokémon seemed more focused on enjoying themselves than serious training, often joining their trainers in crafting pranks, especially aimed at Ciara and Siobhan. "I guess Pokémon really do reflect the natures of their trainers," he thought, amused.

Ciara, in contrast to the rest of the dojo, trained in solitude. Her presence was marked by an air of aloofness, standing apart from the other trainers. Jake couldn't help but notice her – tanned skin glistening with the effort of training, dark hair pulled back into a tight ponytail. She moved with a sharp precision that spoke volumes about her dedication. Every motion of her and her Kubfu was calculated and deliberate, reflecting a serious commitment to their training.

Despite having a Kubfu, a Pokémon revered as legendary in the games, Ciara didn't draw the awe one might expect on the Isle of Armor. Jake pondered this, realising that perhaps, on this island, a Kubfu wasn't as rare a sight as elsewhere. "Maybe they're just more common here," he thought.

In the time Jake had been at the dojo, he had learned little about Ciara. She was a mystery, often silent during meals, quickly finishing before slipping away to train more. Her interactions were limited, quietly speaking mostly to Siobhan and occasionally to Master Mustard. To everyone else, she was silent, her cold demeanour forming a barrier that few seemed able to cross.

Jake observed her training from a distance, noting the intensity in her amber eyes and the disciplined way she and her Kubfu moved in sync. "She's serious about her training, that much is clear," Jake thought.

The afternoon training session drew to a close and Master Mustard clapped his hands together loudly, signalling the students to gather in the courtyard. With Mienshao at his side and Honey accompanying him.

The students, along with their Pokémon, formed a semi-circle around Mustard and Honey, arms behind their backs in a disciplined fashion. Jake stood among them, a sense of anticipation building.

"I'm pleased with the progress everyone has made," Mustard began, though his eyes did linger with a doubtful expression on Jab and Bab, who were trying to appear more attentive than usual. His voice carried across the courtyard. "But as the Galar Pokémon League approaches in a couple of months, it's time to elevate your training. You’re ready for the trials."

His gaze then shifted to Jake. "Jake, you haven't been here long, but you've done well. These trials will be a test, but you've proven yourself a capable lad," he said with an encouraging nod.

Mustard stepped aside, allowing Honey to take centre stage. The afternoon sun seemed to frame her. "The first trial," she began slowly, voice clear and engaging, "will be an ingredient hunt. Your objective is to gather Max Mushrooms, which are vital ingredients for a special concoction of mine.”

Honey continued. "You'll find these mushrooms in the Forest of Focus, within the Wild Area." At the mention of the Forest of Focus, Jake rolled his eyes, a wry smile forming on his lips. It was almost ironic; he had traversed this very forest to arrive at Applinby.

"The Max Mushrooms you're looking for are quite distinctive," Honey explained. "They have a vibrant, glowing appearance, with colours that can range from deep blues to purples. You'll often find them growing in clusters, attached to the sides of trees or nestled in the more humid and shaded parts of the forest.”

Jake couldn't suppress a smirk, amused by the real-life representation of what he'd only experienced in the games.

Mustard stepped forward again "This trial is not just about a hunt for ingredients. It's an opportunity to learn essential survival skills that every trainer needs to know. You'll learn how to navigate through the wilderness, set up camp outdoors, and how to interact safely and effectively with wild Pokémon. These aren't just lessons for the trial; they're skills that will serve you well on any journey you undertake."

He paused, taking a breath. "You will be leaving just before dawn tomorrow morning, so I suggest you all get a good night's rest and prepare your Pokémon. The better rested and prepared you are, the more successful you'll be in the trial."

Mustard's gaze then shifted to Honey, his expression softening with a smile. "And remember, Honey here is quite the connoisseur when it comes to Max Mushrooms. She'll be judging the quality of what you bring back, so do your best to impress."

He concluded his address with a final note on the importance of teamwork. "You will all head out together, but once you reach the Wild Area, you're free to choose whether to stick together or venture out on your own. This trial is as much about individual growth and independence as it is about learning to work together as a team."

Jake let out a soft groan, the prospect of a bright and early start reminding him vaguely of past school wilderness expeditions. "Great, up with the sun, back into the wild," he thought with amusem*nt and mild resignation.

Despite the early start, a wave of excitement washed over him. He was in a world where Pokémon were real, every new day brought adventures that once existed only in his dreams, and now he was actually participating in a trial that was part of a Pokémon journey.

Jake's eyes then fell on Trixie and Jekyll, his companions, his loyal friends. As the day's light began to wane, giving way to the evening, Jake knew that with Trixie and Jekyll by his side, he was ready to face whatever the wild had in store for them. He smiled, looking forward to the dawn of a new adventure, thinking, "Let's show them what we're made of."

Chapter 14: Chapter 14

Chapter Text

POV - JAKE

The stillness of pre-dawn enveloped Jake’s small room in the dojo, where the faintest light of the approaching sunrise barely filtered through the thin curtains. He lay in bed for a moment, relishing the quiet. The room, though modest, was impeccably maintained, with tatami mats lining the floor and walls adorned with simplistic but elegant decorations.

Yawning, Jake sat up, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. After a quick wash, his gaze fell upon the small wardrobe provided by the dojo. Inside, a few clothes hung. Most didn't fit quite right, and he would often choose to wear the dojo uniform, its fabric now familiar and comfortable against his skin.

Today, however, called for something different. He sifted through the limited choices, eventually pulling out clothes better suited for outdoor activities and camping – a sturdy pair of pants and a breathable, long-sleeved shirt.

Jake turned his attention to assembling his pack, most of which he had done the previous evening. The essentials first – water, some rations, a basic first-aid kit. Every item was carefully chosen for utility and necessity.

In the corner of the room, Trixie, his ever-energetic companion, flitted about, nibbling on her breakfast of fruit. Movements were quick and playful, the soft movement of her wings a familiar sound in the quiet morning.

Jekyll, in contrast, was a picture of calm, perched contentedly on the windowsill, watching Jake as always, an air of content seeming to emanate from the cut outs of his disguise.

"Ready for the big day, Trixie?" Jake teased, packing the last of his items. "Or are you just going to spend it chasing after berries?"

Trixie paused in her flitting about, head tilting to one side, eyes gleaming with a playful glint. She zipped up to Jake’s face, hovering just inches away. “Emol, emol,” she chirped, bright eyes twinkling “And what about you, Jakey? Still need me to shock you awake in the mornings?”

Jake chuckled sourly, he hated being called Jakey, imaginary though it was, he carefully packed his gear. “Thank goodness you’ve stopped that,” he replied with a shudder. “I prefer my morning alarm without a side of static, thank you very much.”

Trixie buzzed around Jake’s head in a loop, her playful energy palpable. “Emol!” she trilled, which Jake interpreted as a cheeky, “But it sure got you up faster!”

Shaking his head Jake zipped up his bag. “I’ll take a few extra minutes of sleep over your wake-up calls any day,” he said, giving her a fond look. “Your energy is better spent not frying your trainer.”

Jekyll who had been watching Trixie with an air of disapproval, suddenly, he puffed up his fake chest, fixing Trixie with a stern look. "Kyuu, Kyuu!" he intoned, “How dare you address the master so irreverently!”

Trixie simply blew out her cheeks and crossed her eyes.

Jake observed this, a fond smile on his lips. “You two are quite the pair,” he said with a sigh. “Time to go.”

Seeing Jake ready to leave, Trixie flitted over to him landing lightly on her favoured perch. Jekyll leaped off the windowsill perching himself on Jake's opposite shoulder with a hint of satisfaction.

As Jake stepped out of his room, walking down the corridor towards the courtyard, his thoughts drifted to Master Mustard and Honey, their kindness since his arrival at the dojo. They had welcomed him with open arms, provided him with a place to stay, and never once made him feel like an outsider.

He passed by a room that remained closed most of the time. Behind that door, he knew, was the Mustard family's reclusive son, Hyde, Jake had never met him, but he knew of his fondness for coding and that he probably spent most of his time immersed in a computer with his Porygon.

A pang of sadness momentarily gripped Jake as he remembered a conversation he had with Mustard and Honey. They had confirmed that no missing person's report matched his description, a common occurrence they said, especially in a bustling city like Wyndon, where they suspected he was from. Honey had offered him a comforting hug, and Mustard had reassured him with kind words, telling him he could stay at the dojo as long as he needed.

Their generosity and genuine care were often overwhelming to Jake. "The Pokémon world is really kind in some places," he mused to himself. It was a welcome to the loneliness he had felt upon his unexpected arrival in this world, and he was deeply grateful for what they had done for him.

Jake continued down the hallway, the soft light of dawn casting long shadows on the floor. Trixie, perched on his left shoulder, seemed to sense his mood and nuzzled against his cheek gently. Jekyll, more stoic, sat quietly on his right shoulder, his presence now a steady reassurance.

Jake stepped into the dojo courtyard, the first few rays of sun bathing the area in a warm, golden light. He noticed Ciara standing near the edge of the training area, her Kubfu, Kaida, by her side.

He hesitated for a moment, a slight awkwardness in his step. Interactions with Ciara had been few, limited to extremely brief exchanges during training exercises. She was an intense person, often quiet, she seemed completely focused at all times. And truth be told, Jake found her somewhat intimidating – not just in her attitude, but also in appearance. She was striking, dark brown hair pulled back into a high ponytail, accentuating the sharp lines of her face. A fit, athletic build, honed by rigorous training. Skin deeply tanned from countless hours spent under the sun.

Before he could think on what to do, Trixie, the almost literal social butterfly, fluttered off his shoulder. She buzzed excitedly over to the pair. Ciara watched Trixie approach; expression cautious but not unwelcoming. Kaida, spotting the energetic newcomer, crouched slightly, as if unsure how to respond.

Jake took this as his cue. As he neared, Kaida looked up, noticing Jekyll on his shoulder. The Kubfu’s posture changed, Kaida backed up a bit, body language shifting to one of apprehension, quickly moving to hide behind Ciara's leg, peeking out cautiously. The little Pokémon's eyes darted between Jekyll and Jake with wariness.

"Stay away from Kaida," Ciara's voice cut through the morning air, low and with a distinct almost American twang. Her words terse.

Jake stopped in his tracks; a bit taken aback. "That accent... are you from Unova?" he asked, unable to contain his curiosity.

Ciara's expression hardened. "Did you not hear what I just said? Stay away from Kaida. That means me as well," she replied sharply. Her gaze flicked to Jekyll, wariness in her eyes, though she seemed to be making an effort to avoid looking directly at him.

Meanwhile, Trixie, oblivious as ever, continued to try to engage with Kaida, emoling cheerfully through Ciara's legs, undeterred by the Kubfu's apprehension.

"I'm just making conversation," Jake said, a hint of defensiveness creeping into his voice. "I've been here a few days, and we haven't really spoken at all."

"Was that not a hint? I don't want to talk to you," Ciara shot back, her voice cold and dismissive.

"Well, what else are we gonna do? We'll be traveling together for a bit anyway," he pointed out.

Ciara let out a small sigh, her stance softening ever so slightly. "Fine, yes, I am Unovan, from Castelia. I grew up on the streets. The Master picked me up," she conceded, her voice lowering slightly. "It's a long story, and I'm not going to tell you anything more."

As she spoke, Ciara's gaze finally met Jake's, her amber eyes holding a certain depth. She sighed again, a hint of resignation in her voice. "I know about your situation. I'm sorry, it's not easy being abandoned."

Jake felt a bit of surprise at her acknowledgment of his predicament, though he hadn’t been abandoned exactly, just dropped in the middle of nowhere. For a moment, the barrier she had put up seemed to waver, a glimpse of understanding, perhaps even empathy, beneath her tough exterior.

Ciara's eyes narrowed as she glanced at Jekyll on Jake's shoulder. “Do not take my sympathy for your... situation as acceptance. That Pokémon is dangerous and should not be in the hands of an inexperienced trainer.” she said, her voice firm.

Jake felt a flash of indignation. “That’s not fair,” he countered to Ciara. “Jekyll is actually really nice. Sure, he’s only nice to me, but that’s beside the point.”

Ciara just looked at him, her expression unchanging. Jake met her gaze, feeling slightly sheepish under her scrutinising eyes. He opened his mouth to object further, but before he could continue their conversation was interrupted by a soft voice.

“I’m really not a fan of getting up this early,” Siobhan yawned as she approached them, her vibrant orange hair a stark contrast against the morning light. Following closely behind her were Jab and Bab, both yawning and rubbing their eyes, sharing Siobhan’s sentiment about the early start.

Ciara’s attention shifted away from Jake and Jekyll, giving him a momentary reprieve. He took a breath. He glanced at Ciara, who had now turned her attention to Siobhan, her expression slightly more relaxed.

Jekyll had really got Ciara’s hackles up. Jake glanced at Jekyll as if to ask, ‘What did you do?’ The Mimikyu just turned his head, meeting his gaze with a soft “Kyuu?”.

Just then, Siobhan moved closer to greet Trixie, who was still trying to speak to Kaida with her usual enthusiasm. “Hey, Trixie!” Siobhan exclaimed softly, reaching out to scoop the Pokémon into her arms. Trixie chirped happily, delighted at the attention, waggled her wings in contentment as Siobhan hugged her.

Ciara, who usually maintained a serious front, seemed to soften slightly around Siobhan. “Make sure you’ve packed enough water,” Ciara advised seriously.

Siobhan nodded, practicality shining through despite her more girlish manner. “And lots of snacks too, right? Can’t have too many of those,” she replied with a light chuckle.

He greeted her with a friendly, “Morning, Siobhan,” to which she responded with a shy wave and a faint blush, eyes briefly meeting his before looking away. She was a nice, cute girl, Jake thought, though she took her time opening up to new people.

Jab and Bab then burst into the courtyard. “Can’t wait to try some of those mushrooms!” Jab declared loudly, grinning.

Ciara just rolled her eyes, ignoring them. Siobhan, however, looked at them with faint amusem*nt. “You do know we’re not supposed to eat them, right? I’m not actually sure how they affect humans,” she said.

“That’s exactly the point!” Bab chimed in with a mischievous glint in his eye. “Who knows? Maybe they’ll make us grow huge or something!”

“I wonder if we’ll start seeing things,” Jab added with a laugh.

“Just be careful not to pick any magic mushrooms,” Jake joked with a grin.

Jab and Bab laughed, coming over to greet him with a friendly handshake each. As Jake shook their hands, he mused amusedly that, in this world, some of the mushrooms actually were magical.

Meanwhile, Ciara and Siobhan drifted off to one side, engaging in a quiet conversation. Siobhan occasionally glanced over at Jake; still shy. Ciara, maintaining her serious facade, listened intently to Siobhan, nodding occasionally. The contrast between Ciara's intensity and Siobhan's gentle nature was interesting, yet they seemed to get along very well.

Trixie, having wriggled free from Siobhan’s affectionate grasp, was now darting around the courtyard, curiosity leading her in playful loops and dives. Jake just couldn't help but watch her with a smile, thinking how much she loves flying now.

Turning his attention back to Jekyll, Jake decided it might be wise to return the Mimikyu to his Pokéball for now, considering Ciara and Kaida’s earlier reaction. He spoke softly to Jekyll, who seemed to understand, and soon he was safely inside his Pokéball. Jake noticed that the other trainers didn’t seem especially bothered by Jekyll, leading him to wonder if Ciara had a specific reason, perhaps a past experience, for her apprehension towards Jekyll. Kaida’s reaction also didn’t do any favours. Jake resolved that he would have to keep working with Jekyll to try open him up more to meeting new Pokemon. He supposed it was also possible that the other trainers were just not as aware of Jekyll’s true nature.

Master Mustard and Honey soon emerged from the dojo. Honey, a basket in her arms, approached the trainers, with a warm smile She began distributing food supplies.

"Here you are, everyone," Honey said, her voice soft. "Some snacks to keep your energy up during the trial. Make sure to eat well and stay hydrated."

The trainers accepted the food with gratitude, some offering thanks, others just nodding appreciatively.

Master Mustard, standing beside Honey, cleared his throat, drawing the attention of all present.

"Students," he began, his voice firm, "this trial is not just about finding ingredients.” He paced slightly; hands clasped behind his back. "Remember the key learnings we've discussed: navigating the wilderness, setting up camp, and interacting safely with wild Pokémon. These skills are crucial for your journey as trainers."

He paused, looking at each of them in turn. "You are free to engage in battles with wild Pokémon, but be mindful of your and your Pokémon's safety. This trial is also an opportunity to demonstrate the behaviours expected of a Pokémon trainer – respect for nature, for each other, and for the creatures you encounter."

"Good luck," Master Mustard concluded, his expression softening slightly. "The trial begins now. Make the most of this opportunity."

With those final words, Jake and the other students left the dojo courtyard. They walked through the quiet town, which was still mostly asleep at this early hour. The streets were deserted, with only the occasional rustle of leaves or distant sound of a waking Pokémon breaking the silence.

Jake noticed the Pokémon Centre as they passed by, lights still on, a reminder of the round-the-clock dedication of its staff. Further along, they passed the port of Applinby, or Armor Station. Boats were being readied for the day's fishing, crews moving about with purposeful energy.

As the group reached the fence at the edge of town, they were greeted by a cheerful voice. “Morning, everyone! Ready for an adventure?”

Standing there was Symington, the Pokémon Ranger, unmistakable orange hair under his cowboy hat, with his large, friendly belly.

Symington spotted Siobhan in the group and his eyes twinkled with mirth. “Ah, there’s my favourite niece! Didn’t scare you out of bed too early, did we?” he teased.

Siobhan rolled her eyes, a hint of a smile betraying her amused annoyance. “Uncle, I'm your only niece, and you know I’m not a morning person,” she replied.

Turning his attention to Jake, Symington extended a hearty handshake. “I’m glad you’ve managed to find your feet, lad,” he said. Jake shook Symington’s hand, gladly, the bluff man a reassuring presence.

Symington led the group out of the town, walking alongside them with his usual cheerful demeanour. Jake noticed a well-trodden trail underfoot, different from the route he had taken by the river to first enter the town.

"So, tell me about this trial of yours!" Symington boomed, his voice echoing with enthusiasm. “The good Ol’ Mayor is always creative!”

"We're off to become mushroom hunters, Symington. Maybe we'll find some that'll make us grow ten feet tall!" Jab said excitedly.

Symington chuckled heartily, patting Jab on the back. "Well, just make sure you don't pick any like that one time I did," he said. "Spent days on the toilet, I did! Not the adventure I'd recommend, let me tell you."

Siobhan’s face turned a shade of red, a bit embarrassed by her uncle's story. She shot him a look that was half amused, half exasperated. Jake smiled wryly at Siobhan's reaction; his dad was worse, much worse. Catching his gaze, she responded with a shy but genuine grin.

Trixie, zipping around the group, flew up to Symington, who greeted her with a delighted "Well, hello there, little one!" Her energy boundless, her curiosity drawing her to each new sight and sound along the trail.

"I think I know where we need to go," Jake said to the group. "I've made this journey before; I’m pretty sure that I was dropped right in the middle of the forest of focus. I just followed the river. It's probably our best bet to do the same."

Ciara raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure? It's a big area to cover," she said.

“Trixie was raised in those woods; we can just follow her nose.” Jake gestured at the flying squirrel.

"It sounds like a good starting point to me," Siobhan said, her voice gentle yet decisive. Jab and Bab also chimed in with enthusiastic agreement.

Reluctantly, Ciara agreed to follow along, probably to stick close to Siobhan. Jake thought she sometimes just liked to object to make a point.

They continued on the trail for a while, Symington regaling them with tales of his experiences as a Pokémon Ranger. Eventually, they reached a point where Symington came to a halt, just past the Fields of Honour.

"This is as far as I go, folks," he said, his voice still cheerful. "Good luck with the trial and watch out for the Scolipede hive around here. They seem to be a bit touchy at the moment."

At the mention of Scolipede, Jake felt a shiver run down his spine. He had almost forgotten the encounter with the Venipede and the monstrous Scolipede. He glanced at the Pokéball containing Jekyll, feeling a twinge of relief that the Pokémon was inside but resolved to remain vigilant for any signs of the formidable Scolipede.

"Thanks for the heads up, Symington," Jake said smiling weakly, trying to keep his voice steady.

Symington waved them off with his usual good humour. "Take care out there!”

The rising morning sun cast long, golden rays through the increasing canopy of trees, dappling the path ahead of them. The terrain gradually changed from the well-trodden dirt of the town outskirts to a more natural, rugged path. The trail meandered, slowly fading, following up the gentle curves of the river a reverse image of Jake's earlier journey on his way into town.

Jake glanced at his companions, noting the varying degrees of interest. Siobhan walked close by, enjoying the scenery. Ciara remained quiet, her gaze fixed ahead, occasionally speaking to Siobhan. Jab and Bab just talked and chuckled, pointing at the various Pokémon and sights along the way.

As the group progressed, the trail led them through the now familiar open plains, an expanse that seemed to stretch under the wide sky. The plains were dotted with herds of Bouffalant, their massive forms grazing peacefully. Jake observed these imposing creatures, the students keeping their distance, aware of their reputation for being territorial.

He noted how the Bouffalant effectively served as a natural buffer zone, or more like 'bouffa' zone, he supposed, between the town and the greater wild area. He wondered whether their presence was a coincidence or by design to keep the more dangerous elements of the region at bay.

As they cautiously skirted around the edges of the fields, maintaining a respectful distance from the Bouffalant, Jake could see the trail gradually fading into the distance. Ahead, a dense canopy of trees marked the beginning of the marshy forest.

Breaking the silence, Jake mentioned. "Last time I was here, I had to cross a marshland further up. It was... well, let's just say it wasn't the most pleasant experience."

Siobhan turned to him, curiosity lighting up her face. "A marshland? That sounds challenging. Were there many wild Pokémon there?"

Jake nodded. "Yeah, quite a few, Chewtle and Drednaw for days. I’ve already seen way too many of those. It was a bit of a struggle, honestly."

Siobhan laughed softly. "Oh, definitely. You've got to watch out – those Pokémon can be quite territorial, you know."

Ciara listened quietly, her expression unreadable, while Jab and Bab seemed more absorbed in their private jokes.

"So, do you and your friends get to leave the town much?" he asked, trying to sound casual.

Siobhan gave him a slightly puzzled look, as if the question was somewhat unexpected. "Not really," she replied, her shyness still apparent but easing into the conversation. "I don’t really know what it's like on the mainland, but leaving on your own without Pokémon isn’t easy. We’re pretty isolated."

Jake nodded, encouraging her to continue.

"Sometimes our families take us on trips to places like Grimnore or Timeston, usually by boat," Siobhan added. "But it's mainly trainers and rangers who venture further inland. They're the ones who travel around the most."

Jake mulled over this; back home humans had the liberty to traverse almost any terrain at will. Sure, there were dangerous spots, but rarely anything as inherently prohibitive as what Siobhan described. It struck him how different life was in a place where one's ability to explore and travel was so closely intertwined with Pokémon.

Here, it seemed, humans had adapted to a reality where venturing beyond familiar grounds without the aid of Pokémon was not just challenging but often unfeasible. It was an interesting cultural shift. Most of the people he had encountered so far appeared to accept this balance without question. They lived in a world where mutual dependence with Pokémon was the norm, an integral part of their culture and lifestyle. This acceptance and adaptation to such a unique way of life was both intriguing and admirable to Jake. It was a testament to the resilience and adaptability of humanity, how they could embrace such a drastically different mindset when shaped by their environment.

However, Jake knew that this would not be the case for all individuals in this world. Like any society, there would be variations and exceptions. Yet, the ones he had met so far seemed perfectly happy with this lifestyle.

Seizing the opportunity for a more meaningful conversation. "So, what was it like growing up in Applinby?"

Siobhan answered. "It's kind of a small place, as I said, we’re pretty isolated from the rest of Galar. We don't get many strangers. I went to the primary school in town with Jab and Bab. Mustard is really kind to us; he gave me my Bulbasaur when I decided to become a trainer."

"That really is kind of him," Jake said, impressed. "And why did you want to become a trainer?"

Siobhan's face lit up with a dreamy expression. "Applinby is nice, but it's small. I want to explore more of the world, see what's out there. It's a simple reason, but it's mine."

Jake nodded, understanding. "That's an excellent reason. Exploring and experiencing new things is what it's all about." Siobhan smiled gratefully at him, a faint blush on her cheeks.

Jake continued. "So, the Galar Pokémon League must be a big deal here. Do you watch it?"

"Absolutely! When it's on, it's like Applinby comes to a standstill. Everyone gathers at the pub to watch it on TV. It's a real community event."

"That sounds amazing," Jake remarked. "Did you ever get to meet Leon, the Champion?"

“I did meet him, but I was quite young. He wasn’t Champion then, so I didn’t really know who he was,” she said. “He got a Charmander from Honey, kind of like how I got my Bulbasaur.”

Ciara, who had been quietly listening, added her thoughts. “I never met Leon. He’s undoubtedly a strong trainer, but I’ve heard he didn’t complete Mustard’s trials. It’s a bit ironic, isn’t it? Someone who so easily gets lost becoming a Champion.”

Jake responded with genuine interest. “Yeah, that is interesting. Kind of makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Must mean he’s exceptionally skilled to overcome that.”

He smiled appreciatively at Ciara, glad to have her contributing to the conversation. Feeling encouraged, he tried. “About Unova, I’d really like to—”

Ciara held up a hand, cutting him off, but her tone was less harsh than before. “Look, Jake, I appreciate the chat, but I’m not really open to discussing my past. It’s nothing personal.”

Jake sighed a little, Siobhan shot Jake an apologetic look, a slight shrug conveying her apologies on behalf of her friend. She was clearly used to this.

The trail gradually faded into a more natural path as Jake and his fellow students delved deeper into the wilderness. The ground underfoot became increasingly marshy, prompting them to take a brief pause. They each pulled on a pair of wellies, preparing for the wetter terrain ahead.

Jake's steps grew more cautious. He knew they were nearing the territory of the Scolipede hive, a thought that made him vigilant for any signs of its kin. "Trixie, keep an eye out, okay?" he whispered.

POV - CIARA

She had believed those chapters closed; the nightmare left far behind. Castellia, with all its shadows, was supposed to be a distant memory, no longer a burden for her to bear.

Her gaze occasionally drifted to Jake, who was leading the students down the path to the Forest of Focus. He seemed a decent person, thrown into a challenging situation. To Ciara's critical eye, it was evident that Trixie absolutely adored Jake. She admired that, even envied it, albeit grudgingly.

Yet, Jake's partnership with Jekyll complicated her feelings. While she respected his ability to connect with Trixie, Jekyll's presence stirred memories and fears she preferred to keep buried.

Ciara's thoughts drifted to a conversation she’d had with Master Mustard shortly after his battle with Jake. "Master Mustard," she had started cautiously, "Jekyll. What kind of Pokémon is he?"

Mustard had paused, setting down a bowl of Pokémon food. "Ah, Jekyll... the Mimikyu, yes?" he said, his tone thoughtful. "Mimikyu are quite rare, Ciara. Not many know of them, it is with good reason they are sometimes called the lonely Pokémon. They are seldom seen in the wild, let alone with trainers."

Leaning against the wall, Mustard crossed his arms. "You know, since that battle, I've been doing a bit of research myself. Truth be told, I'm still piecing things together. The accounts I've come across are enlightening, but not always in a comforting way. Mimikyu, well, they're a rare encounter for trainers. And there’s a reason the tales about them are scarce. Some trainers who have come across Mimikyu... they've simply vanished, which only adds to the mystery surrounding these Pokémon."

He sighed. "Mimikyu are beings grappling with a profound insecurity, and this can manifest in rather... unsettling ways. It’s a challenge, a real test of a trainer’s resolve. Not many are equipped to handle such a Pokémon."

Ciara had felt a chill at his words. "Disturbing ways?" she echoed; her voice tinged with unease.

Mustard nodded. "Indeed, it's a curious aspect of Mimikyu. There have been instances where trainers form partnerships with these Pokémon, spanning years. Yet, over time, these trainers find themselves overwhelmed, losing touch with reality. It's a tragic turn, but not unheard of with ghost-types."

He paused "Forming and maintaining a bond with a ghost-type, it's a path fraught with challenges, both emotional and mental. It requires deep patience, understanding and an unwavering commitment – qualities that are extremely rare."

He had then looked at Ciara directly, expression thoughtful. "However, Jake seems to have done a remarkable job with Jekyll. It's quite rare, what he's managed. You see, catching Trixie first, a Pokémon with similar characteristics to Pikachu, is often a recipe for disaster with a Mimikyu.”

He paused, "But Jake, he's used his bond with Trixie as an anchor for Jekyll’s darkest fears, as an example of what could be, as motivation. It's a delicate balance, using one relationship to nurture another, but so far, he looks to be handling it well.’

Mustard’s gaze drifted. "Of course, this is how it appears to us. There's no telling with certainty if it will always be this way. Such dynamics are ever-evolving. But it's Jake's path to walk. I’ve seen trainers and Pokémon separated, and I am not one to divorce a trainer from a Pokémon when I see there is a genuine connection. It’s a great tragedy when this happens, a failure on many levels. It breaks the trainer, and more importantly the Pokemon." He seemed to sigh. “Mimikyu are sad creatures, Ciara, to force one to give up on its hope would be a cruelty.’

Ciara had heard Mustard’s words, even understood them to a degree, yet her nights did not. Fragments of memory. A twisted grin. A sinister laugh. A feeling of being watched. Pursued by terror. A grudge. A childhood folly. She shuddered.

Siobhan's gentle voice broke through her reverie. “Are you ok?” she asked.

Ciara turned to face the orange-haired girl. "Yeah, I'm alright," she replied with a slight nod, her voice steady. "Just lost in thought for a moment."

Shaking off these thoughts, Ciara refocused on the path ahead. She reminded herself that she was here for a reason, to prove her capabilities and to rise above her past. She couldn’t let old fears hold her back, not now.

A rustling in the nearby bushes caught Ciara's attention. A sense of anticipation surged within her. "Perfect," she thought, "a battle. Just what I need to refocus."

Without hesitation, she moved towards the source of the sound, her hand already reaching for Kaida's Pokéball. "Kaida, let's go," she said, releasing her Kubfu into the open.

Jake's voice echoed behind her, slightly uneasy for some reason. "Wait, Ciara! Be careful!"

But Ciara was already in motion, her focus. This was her element, where her clarity and purpose were sharpest. Kaida, sensing her determination, took a battle stance, ready to engage.

POV – JAKE

“This has got to be the oddest Pokémon I've seen so far,” he thought. His mind briefly wandered back to the Foongus he had encountered in the woods on his first day in this world, which was now challenged for the top spot on his list of bizarre Pokémon encounters.

He observed the Lickitung's wide-set eyes, which seemed to convey a sense of bewilderment, as if the creature was perpetually lost in its own world—or more likely, just lost in general. The Pokémon’s round, pink body was large enough to reach up to his chest, though who knew with how far that tongue extended.

He couldn't help but feel a twinge of sympathy for the Lickitung. There it stood, tongue lolling out, probably just waiting for some unsuspecting bug Pokémon to wander by. It seemed almost innocent in its own peculiar way. "Not exactly the fearsome wild Pokémon encounter you'd expect," he mused to himself.

It felt to a little odd being the one initiating the battle. "Feels a bit strange, like we're the ones intruding," he thought. "I guess Pokémon, much like animals, are more hesitant to come near larger groups."

There had been a certain awkwardness to it that Jake hadn't anticipated. In the games, it was quite straightforward, just walk around in the tall grass and battle. But in the real world of Pokémon, they did not just automatically battle you. "Are we supposed to just... attack one? Ask it to battle?"

The Lickitung, initially just standing there with its tongue outstretched, seemed surprised as Ciara charged in. Jake watched; a bit taken aback by her aggressive approach. "Well, that escalated quickly."

“Kaida, Rock Smash!” Ciara commanded, her voice sharp with focus.

Kaida lunged forward; her fist aimed with precision. Jake knew that a human, a hit like that, especially on a vulnerable spot, would be devastating. But the Lickitung, though lacking in agility, cleverly used its tongue to swat Kaida's fist away, turning it into a protective barrier.

Jake couldn't help but be impressed. "Huh, so it's not just for show," he murmured to himself.

The Lickitung, now fully engaged in the battle, seemed to be enjoying the challenge. It initiated what seemed to be a Wrap attack, its tongue extending swiftly in an attempt to ensnare Kaida

From the sidelines, Jab's voice rang out like a seasoned football commentator, "And here comes the Wrap attack, a classic Lickitung move!"

Bab chimed in with his analysis, "Notice how it uses its tongue, not just for reach but also as a defensive barrier. Clever strategy there."

Jake leaned over to Siobhan, whispering, "That thing's tongue... it's like a weapon in itself."

Siobhan nodded, "Yeah, it's Lickitung's main tool in battle. Gotta watch out for it."

Thinking about the Pokédex description, Jake wondered if the Lickitung’s saliva had properties similar to a Komodo dragon's, potentially harmful with contact. He was not curious enough to try for himself.

“Kaida, Scary Face!” Ciara instructed next.

Kaida's attempt at looking fearsome seemed more cute than scary. Jake chuckled to himself, but Jab's voice boomed, "Ah, the old Scary Face tactic! But will it work on Lickitung?"

Bab responded, "Well, it's more adorable than scary, but it seems to have thrown Lickitung off its game!"

The Lickitung, recovering from its momentary surprise, retaliated with what seemed to be a Supersonic attack. The high-pitched sound waves filled the air.

"Ah, a sonic attack from Lickitung! I can no longer hear myself think, but this could turn the tide," Jab exclaimed excitedly.

Ciara, undeterred by the Lickitung's move, shouted her next command. "Kaida, Focus Energy now!"

Kaida seemed to centre herself, closing her eyes for a moment. Her muscles tensed, an aura of concentration enveloped her. Despite the cacophony of sound waves from the Lickitung's Supersonic, Kaida remained unfazed, focus unbroken.

Bab noted, "Excellent use of Focus Energy there. Maintaining composure under pressure."

Jake was surprised. "I didn't know Focus Energy could be used like that. Smart move," he thought.

"Now, Brick Break!” Ciara shouted.

With a surge of energy, Kaida delivered a powerful, precise strike. The impact was so forceful that it sent the Lickitung reeling backward.

Jab's voice rose in excitement, "And that's a game-changer! A critical hit!"

As the Lickitung lay defeated, Jake turned to Siobhan, impressed. "Well, I guess that's one way to win a battle," he remarked.

Siobhan smiled, watching Ciara recall Kaida. "Yeah, she's incredible. She takes after Master Mustard in a lot of ways. Her strategy, her focus... it's almost like watching him in action."

Jake's curiosity piqued. "Do you guys have tournaments or something between the students?"

"Oh, we have monthly tournaments at the dojo," Siobhan replied, her eyes lighting up at the mention. "Ciara pretty much always wins. She's tough to beat."

Jake noticed a hint of pride in her voice as she added, "I've won a couple of them too, though it's been a while."

Jake raised an eyebrow. "Oh, really? Should I be watching out for you then, Siobhan?"

"You might be surprised. Don't underestimate me, Jake." Siobhan laughed.

Her expression then softened, becoming more thoughtful. "But you know, I think Ciara is probably quite wary of you. You might be the first serious challenger she's had around her own age. She really wants to be the best, you see.”

Jake pondered this, glancing over at Ciara, who was recalling Kaida back to her Pokéball. "Aiming for the top, huh? That’s ambitious."

"Yeah," Siobhan agreed. "But she is determined, and if anyone can do it it's her. Anyway, I should go check on her." With that, she trotted off towards Ciara.

Jake stood still for a moment. He reflected on his own journey and the path he found himself on since joining the Master Dojo. Initially, his goal had been simple: get his bearings, gain experience, learn how to train Pokémon effectively. The idea of being 'the best' hadn't really crossed his mind; his aspirations were more practical, more immediate.

But hearing about Ciara's determination, her clear-cut goal of being the best, ignited something in Jake. It wasn't a desire for fame or the thrill of victory that spurred him; it was the need to fulfil a more personal mission. He wanted to meet one of the Legendary Pokémon, capable of finding a way to communicate with his family back on Earth. That goal had always been at the back of his mind, a distant hope that had increasingly seemed almost too grand to pursue.

The more he thought about it, the more he realised that competing in the Pokémon League could be a crucial step in that direction. Developing a strong team, proving his skills as a trainer – these were not just badges of honour; they would allow him to be in a position to achieve his goals.

Master Mustard was a former Champion, obviously with significant influence and freedom. The respect and autonomy Mustard commanded were not just due to his past title but also because of the power and knowledge he had amassed over the years. "If I could achieve even a fraction of that," Jake mused, "I might stand a chance at meeting a Legendary Pokémon."

The landscape around them teemed with life. Chewtle and Corphish colonies were frequent sights, their figures dotting the marshland. Trixie, who Jake kept out of her Pokéball as she disliked being confined for too long, darted about, winning battles with her agility and type advantage. Jekyll, content in his Pokéball, was on Jake's mind; he knew keeping him confined wasn't a long-term solution.

Ciara remained relentless, actively seeking out confrontations with wild Pokémon. Her battling style was aggressive, a reflection of her training under Master Mustard. Siobhan, on the other hand, engaged in battles with a more tempered eagerness. Her Bulbasaur, was particularly suited to fighting the Pokémon of the wetlands, which gave her a distinct edge. Siobhan's approach was not quite as intense as Ciara’s, but still bore hallmarks of Mustard's teachings.

The weather gradually shifted, with clouds turning a somber grey and a light drizzle beginning to fall. The sounds of Croagunk and Poliwhirl echoed across the marshland, blending with the soft patter of rain.

Jake struck up conversations with Siobhan, learning about her interest in Pokémon nutrition. She spoke passionately about the diets of Pokémon and how it influenced not only their battle performance but their overall well-being. Her knowledge on the subject was comprehensive, and as they walked, Jake learned about different berry types, nutritional supplements, and even homemade Pokémon food recipes.

Jab and Bab, though less inclined towards battling themselves, provided constant entertainment with their running commentary on each skirmish. Their insights were surprisingly detailed. They were avid followers of the Pokémon League. In a conversation with them, Jake had subtly inquired about trainers like Gloria or Ash, but they seemed to be unaware of them, which made Jake curious about where he was on the timeline of events.

The light drizzle persisted as Jake and his fellow students made their way down the trail, engaged in casual conversation. Trixie, ever the energetic scout, zipped ahead of the group, her movements full of playful curiosity.

Suddenly, she circled back towards Jake, emoling in a tone that was unusual for her. Jake noticed the change immediately. "What is it, Trixie?" he asked.

‘Emol!’ Trixie responded pointing her paws towards the hill in the distance.

At first, the distant sounds were just a faint echo, barely discernible over the rain. But as they climbed the muddy hill, echoes grew clearer, clinks and clashes ringing. A Pokémon battle. A large scale one by the sounds of it.

Below them, in a natural clearing bordered by dense foliage, a battle raged with intensity. Jake's eyes widened as he took in the sight: about twenty Pawniard, metallic bodies glinting in the dull light, arrayed in a disciplined, almost military formation. At their rear stood a commanding Bisharp, its eyes scanning the battlefield with cold calculated precision, directing its troop with sharp, movements.

Opposite the Pawniard, a more chaotic cluster of Venipede whizzed about, their spherical bodies a rolling about at pace. Charging Whirlipede whirled wildly. And dominating the scene was the regrettably now familiar sight of a Scolipede, towering and monstrous, its segmented body moving with a surprising grace that belied its size. Barbed legs struck the ground with force, sending splatters of mud into the air.

Nearby, a broken willow tree marked the battleground. Trixie flew back to Jake, her eyes wide. Jake saw a flash of recognition in her eyes; she seemed to know this place.

Jake, watching the intense battle below, turned to Siobhan. “What do you think we should do?” he asked, his voice barely above a whisper.

Siobhan, eyes fixed on the clash, replied, “It looks like a territorial battle. Wild Pokémon can be quite aggressive about their territory. Bisharp, especially, are known for trying to establish mini empires.”

Jake considered this. “Is this common?” he asked, intrigued.

Siobhan nodded. “Yes, wild Pokémon hunt for food, of course, but territorial disputes are also an important natural instinct for many. Bisharp are particularly notorious for it.”

Ciara, who had been observing silently, added coldly, “Unless they’re taken down by an internal plot.”

Jake recalled the Pokédex entries for these species. The entry indicated that Bisharp were ruthless, often prone to internal disputes and even civil wars. He recalled Kingambit, that were present in Paldea, and he supposed the rest of the world as well, the ultimate evolution of Bisharp. “Suppose it takes an exceptional Bisharp to become a Kingambit, I wonder how rare they are?” he mused to himself.

Ciara’s voice broke through his thoughts. “We can’t intervene. The numbers are overwhelming. But we should stay alert for any stragglers.”

Ciara’s statement hung in the air, her voice firm. “Still, as trainers, it’s our duty to help Pokémon in need, especially in the wild.”

Siobhan nodded in agreement, reaching into her pack to pull out potions and antidotes. “We should be prepared, just in case.”

As they continued to watch, the Bisharp maintained its position at the rear, eyes cold and calculating. The Pokedex indicated that Bisharp often used Pawniard as expendable soldiers. The Bisharp's demeanour seemed to confirm this, waiting for the right moment to strike.

Suddenly, Jake’s gaze locked onto the Scolipede, a flash of recognition crossing his face. “That’s the same Scolipede we encountered earlier,” he whispered to Trixie, who emoled in understanding. Jake wondered if his previous battle had influenced this clash in some way.

The Pawniard, despite their smaller size, were holding their own against the Venipede and Whirlipede, slowly but steadily wearing down the monstrous Scolipede. The Scolipede, as aggressive as ever, fired Poison Stings and charged through the Pawniard formation. However, the Pawniard’s steel typing rendered them resistant to the poison attacks, and they were only really knocked to the ground without any real damage, though a bit muddy.

The Bisharp’s eyes began to glow with an intense focus, and Ciara identified the move. “It’s gearing up with Laser Focus,” she said. “It’s waiting for the perfect moment.”

The Bisharp's eyes, sharp and calculating, never left the Scolipede, its body coiled like a spring.

The Scolipede reared up, massive body casting a looming shadow, preparing to launch its Poison Tail attack. The Pawniard troop braced themselves, their formation scattering into a looser one.

In a flash, the Bisharp sprang into action. Movement a blur, a streak of silver against the green backdrop of the marsh. With terrifying precision, it slashed at the now vulnerable neck of the Scolipede.

Jake's eyes widened in shock as the Bisharp’s claws, glowing ominously, sliced through the Scolipede's exoskeleton, a knife through butter. Green blood, acidic and potent, sprayed from the Scolipede's severed body, sizzling as it made contact with the ground and nearby Pawniard. The corrosive substance ate away at the marshland, leaving steaming patches of decay in its wake.

Siobhan gasped audibly, her hands flying to her mouth in horror at the sheer ruthlessness of the attack.

Ciara watched the scene unfold with a stoic expression, but even she closed her eyes for a brief moment, perhaps in silent acknowledgment of the brutal reality they were witnessing.

Jake watched, his heart pounding, as several Pawniard writhed in agony, steel bodies visibly corroding under the toxic assault. The acidic blood ate through their metallic exteriors, leaving some immobilised, once sharp and gleaming forms now tarnished and pitted.

The air was filled with the sounds of battle turning to chaos – the dying hisses of the Scolipede, the clanging of the Pawniard trying to retreat from the corrosive spray, the victorious yet ominous call of the Bisharp.

The Bisharp uttered a satisfied “Bish”, standing tall amidst the chaos, eyes reflecting a cold satisfaction. With a methodical shake of its claws, it flicked off the remnants of green blood, its metallic skin unmarred.

The remaining Venipede and Whirlipede, shocked by the sudden turn of events, quickly burrowed into the ground, retreating as fast as they possibly could. The Bisharp, commanding and unyielding, signalled its troop to pursue the fleeing Pokémon.

As the Pawniard troop vanished into the underbrush, Jake stood there, grappling with the raw brutality he had just witnessed. The Bisharp's ruthlessness was unlike anything he had seen before. He had read about the nature of some Dark-type Pokémon in the Pokédex, but witnessing such ferocity in reality was jarringly different. He hesitantly turned to Siobhan and Ciara. "Did you... did you know about this?"

Siobhan's voice was shaky, tinged with sadness, almost on the verge of tears. "My uncle told me stories... about how brutal it can be in the wild. But hearing about it and seeing it are two different things," she whispered.

Ciara, sensing Siobhan's distress, wrapped an arm around her, pulling her close. Her tone was cold, distant. "Bisharp are dangerous," she stated flatly. "They show no mercy when they gain power. But it's common for them to fall to their own kind or meet a fate like that Scolipede. Power breeds enemies."

Jake looked down at Trixie, who seemed to mirror the somber mood, her usual vibrancy dimmed. He hugged her close. "I'm sorry you had to see that," he murmured. Trixie licked his cheek in response, a small gesture of comfort in the midst of the grim reality.

Even Jab and Bab, usually the source of light-hearted banter, were unusually silent, their expressions somber and thoughtful.

Jake, looking for some understanding, asked Ciara, "Does this happen in the Pokémon League?"

Ciara shook her head. "Very rarely. Fans don't want to watch death matches. There are underground tournaments where this happens, but they're illegal and widely condemned. It used to be more common in the past, but now, those found participating in such events face severe consequences, including lifetime imprisonment and confiscation of their Pokémon."

Ciara, still maintaining her stoic attitude, shook Siobhan in her arms. "Get yourself together," she said, voice firm yet not unkind. Siobhan nodded, wiping away tears, trying to regain her composure.

Jake watched Siobhan with concern. He felt a wave of sadness himself but remembered his mother's advice about dealing with difficult situations. "Process it, but don't let it consume you," she had said. He decided to compartmentalise his feelings, planning to reflect on them later.

Ciara took charge. "We should help the ones left behind," she stated decisively, stepping cautiously into the aftermath of the battlefield.

The mood was somber yet determined as Jake and the others navigated the scarred battlefield. The ground beneath their feet was uneven, marred by the corrosive aftermath of the Scolipede's blood. Patches of earth still hissed and bubbled, a reminder of the deadly encounter that had just taken place.

The sky, overcast and grey, seemed to reflect the gravity of the situation. The gentle drizzle that had been a soothing presence earlier now added to a melancholic atmosphere, casting a damp veil.

Trixie flew alongside Jake, usual playful demeanour replaced by a focused seriousness. They moved cautiously, searching for any survivors. Fallen Pawniard were scattered across the battlefield, their steel bodies dulled and pitted where the acid had taken its toll.

Amid the destruction, Trixie suddenly let out a sharp cry, drawing Jake's attention. She fluttered down towards a small, curled-up shape partially hidden under a damaged fern. It was a Venipede, body tightly coiled in fear, trembling visibly.

Jake hurried over; heart heavy at the sight of the frightened creature. The Venipede seemed unharmed physically, but the battle had clearly left its mark. He knelt beside it, trying to offer some comfort, but the Venipede remained tightly wound, body shaking.

Jake knelt beside the trembling Venipede, unsure how to offer comfort to the traumatised creature. Each time he moved closer, the Venipede's body flashed more intensely, a clear sign of its persistent use of Defence Curl. The move created a rhythmic glow around its coiled form, trying to protect itself from any further harm.

Trixie, floating nearby, “Emol, emolga’ almost as if saying, “Hey, it’s Trixie. I remember you.” Jake could sense the intention behind her emoling, a soft attempt to reassure the scared Pokémon.

As he watched Trixie's efforts, realisation dawned on Jake, Trixie had told him of her adventure, and though he really only got the gist, her Venipede impression had been memorable. This was the same Venipede that had been hurt by Jekyll during their first encounter.

Overwhelmed by its continuous use of Defence Curl, the Venipede's movements began to slow, body glowing faintly as it finally succumbed to exhaustion and passed out. Jake sighed, gently stroked the small creature, whispering, “I’m sorry for your loss.” It was quiet, save for the soft sound of rain and the distant murmurs of his companions tending to the other Pokémon.

Trixie gazed at Jake with a sad, pleading expression, silently urging him to do something more. Nodding in understanding, Jake reached into his pocket and pulled out a Pokéball. He remembered Mustard’s poignant words when he had handed them out, "You never know."

With a gentle tap of the Pokéball against the Venipede’s form, it was engulfed in a red light and pulled inside. The capture was swift and uneventful, a stark contrast to the chaos that had preceded it.

Trixie, upon seeing the successful capture, flew up to Jake, hugging his neck for comfort, gratitude and relief. Jake let out a sigh, his thoughts tinged with irony. “Three different Pokémon in one week...” he mused to himself.

Jake held the Pokéball containing the Venipede, a quiet, sombre moment, rain gently falling around them and sounds of healing in the background, a moment that should be triumphant, and joyous instead shadowed by a bitter reality of Pokémon.

Chapter 15: Chapter 15

Chapter Text

POV – TRIXIE

Perched on a branch, trusty apple in hand, Trixie surveyed the camp at the edge of the Forest of Focus. This place, her former home was situated somewhere within the forest, now served as a temporary settlement for the group. The forest, with its dense and looming trees, marked a contrast to the sparser woodland that made up the soothing wetlands they had just traversed.

The gentle rain had now faded to a light, intermittent spitting. It left the air fresh and the ground damp, yet the campsite, which had been wisely situated near the dense canopy of the forest, was reasonably sheltered. This thoughtful placement meant that, while the earth was moist, it wasn’t uncomfortably soggy, allowing them to set up their tents without much trouble.

The students moved about their tasks with a quieter energy than usual, the day's events with the Bisharp casting a sombre shadow, particularly over Siobhan and Jake. Trixie tilted her head, puzzled by this. To her, the natural world's ways, with Pokémon claiming and defending their territory, were just a part of life. She recalled her family's own battles back at her grove – defending their home against pesky Skwovet, Hoothoot and the like.

But now, as she munched on her apple, Trixie pondered a new thought. "Maybe those Pokémon weren't as strong as I thought they were," she mused. After all, since teaming up with Jake, she had seen and experienced battles of a different scale. The world seemed bigger, more complex, and the opponents more formidable.

Her thoughts briefly drifted back to that battle with Mustard's Mienfoo. The defeat had been a real shock, a jolt to her confidence. She remembered feeling crestfallen, the sting of letting Jake down weighing heavily on her. But Jake had been so understanding and supportive. He and Mustard had spent extra time with her, practicing the more complex aspects of flying. It had made her stronger, more agile, and more confident than ever.

As far as she knew, her parents had not faced any opponents like that. It would be interesting to see them again, to see how far she had grown, flying being the obvious win since joining Jake.

The camp, nestled at the forest's edge, provided a sense of security and a barrier against the elements. The trees' thick foliage offered a comforting embrace, shielding them from the full brunt of the rain.

Trixie knew she was an essential overseer of the camp setup, a role she took seriously. She buzzed from one student to another, inspecting their work with a critical eye. She made sure to keep everything in order, ensuring their efforts met her high standards, for her and Jake's comfort.

In between her 'supervisory' duties, Trixie found time for play of course– swooping down to snatch an apple here, playfully buzzing around a head there. These were just ways of contributing to the camp's atmosphere, keeping morale high. "They'd be lost without me," she mused.

As the campfire began to crackle and sparkle, its warm glow bathed the campsite, touching both the trainers and their Pokémon companions. Around the fire, a circle had formed. The trainers were trying to unwind through light-hearted conversation, laughter occasionally breaking through the stillness of the evening.

Siobhan, whom Trixie had grown particularly fond of, was busily preparing a meal that sent inviting aromas wafting through the air. Herbie, her Bulbasaur, sat beside her, watching her movements with an almost identical curiosity.

Not far from them, Ciara sat with Kaida, the Pokémon's eyes reflecting the flickering flames. Ciara's newly captured Pawniard was still in its Pokéball, resting and healing from the recent battle's aftermath. Ciara's expression seemed thoughtful, but she was quiet as always.

Jab and Bab were engaged in an animated discussion, no doubt about today’s events. Jab's Squirtle sat beside him, not doing all that much, really. Bab's Mienfoo, was quite literally laid on its back, seemingly napping, a complete contrast to the poised Mienfoo Trixie had battled earlier. ‘What lazy Pokemon,’ she scoffed to herself, lying back on her branch.

Siobhan, noticing her, offered a welcome distraction. "Hey, Trixie, want to try some real Pokémon food?" she asked.

Trixie's eyes lit up, and with an excited emol, she quickly swooped down to taste the offering. The flavours were new and exciting, a delightful change from her usual diet. "Wow, this is amazing!" she thought.

Trixie's mouth began to water as she prepared to dive into the bowl of Pokémon food. However, before she could indulge, she felt a light bop on the head.

“Hey there, Little Miss Trixie,” Jake teased with a wry smile, “I swear all you’ve all you've done today is eat.... well, not much help with setting up the camp, huh?”

"Hey! I've been super helpful, you know!" she protested, cheeks puffed out.

Jake chuckled. "Oh really, with what exactly? Well, maybe you're just the best mascot we could ask for, Trix," he replied with a grin.

"I am not a mascot! Look at how adorable and indispensable I am!" Trixie responded, widening her eyes, tilting her head, amping up the charm.

Despite her best efforts at being irresistibly cute, Jake only smiled more, clearly not swayed by her performance. "Sure, sure, our adorable little mascot," he teased, scratching her ears. Ah, the bliss! No, she would not be distracted! Jakey would know her wrath! What was it that Jekyll said to her sometimes?... “I will not stand for this insolence!” she emoled, not that convincingly.

Jake just smirked, scooping her up. Her usual charm offensive really wasn’t holding up against Jake so much anymore. "Hmm, I need to up my game! Can't let him think he's got me figured out!”

“You really get on well with Trixie, don’t you?” Siobhan grinning at them.

“What? With this little rascal?” Jake grinned. “More like I’m not sure what she would do without me.”

Trixie puffed up her cheeks again. “That’s my line!” she buzzed at Jake, poking his cheek.

Siobhan’s Bulbasaur, Herbie, commented "She does keep things interesting, doesn't she?"

“Hey, I’m not interesting, I’m very important!” Trixie chirped back.

Jake laughed and pulled her into a hug. “You're definitely an important part of the team, even if you're a bit of a handful at times,” he said affectionately. “But let's not get sidetracked. We’ve got an important job to do.”

Siobhan nodded warmly, “You’ve got to introduce your new team member, huh, no worries we’ll save some food for you both.”

Trixie, upon hearing Siobhan's words, swooped down from Jake to give Siobhan a grateful hug. "You're the best, Siobhan!"

"How spoiled you are, Trixie." Jake commented, wryly. He turned to Siobhan, "Thanks for the assist, we'll be back soon."

With Trixie back on his shoulder, Jake walked a short distance from the camp, heading towards the river's edge. The soft murmur of the water and the rustling of leaves created serene scenery for their stroll.

Jake spoke softly to Trixie. "Time to welcome our new brother, and well, sort of reintroduce Jekyll to the whole situation," he explained, his tone suggesting anticipation and a hint of uncertainty.

Trixie dropped to the ground as Jake gently released Jekyll from his Pokéball, and the Mimikyu appeared with a flourish. He seemed genuinely pleased to see Jake, hopping up to him, still seeming a little uncertain, cautiously nuzzling at his trainer, who responded with a gentle pat on his costume's ears.

When Jekyll's gaze shifted to Trixie, the holes in his disguise seemed to narrow, an odd sensation emanating from him. ‘Perhaps he’s just showing affection for his adorable big sister?’ Trixie thought.

"Ah, my esteemed trainer, it is a pleasure to see you once again," Jekyll said in a tone that was almost reverent. "However, I cannot say the same for this... fluttering nuisance," he added, casting a disdainful look at Trixie.

Trixie chirped back playfully, "Hey Jekyll! Missed me, huh?" She fluttered around him.

Jekyll, trying to maintain his composure, replied, "Of course, how could I not miss the constant annoyance of your presence? You should consider gracing the farthest tree with your absence."

Trixie laughed. "Oh, Jekyll, you’re always such a kidder! Such a little brother!" she emoled, nudging him gently with her paw.

Jekyll bristled at the comparison, his cloak rustling slightly in indignation. "Little brother? I am a being of shadow and mystery, not some... sibling to be trifled with," he retorted, trying to sound imposing.

But Trixie just giggled "You're just too cute!"

Jekyll's demeanour shifted subtly, shadowy form beginning to gather energy as he muttered, "I must punish you for your insolence!"

Before the situation could escalate, Jake scooped both Pokémon onto his lap in a hug. Jekyll, who had been on the verge of a more menacing response, was taken completely off balance. "W-What?" he stammered; poise replaced by confusion and uncertainty. He froze, momentarily lost in the still unfamiliar warmth of a hug.

Trixie, nestled comfortably in Jake's embrace, giggled again at Jekyll's reaction, having witnessed similar moments before.

"Now, now," Jake interjected, tone gentle but firm. "I know you two are getting along in your own way, but I have something important to share." He continued to pet Jekyll, who seemed to be melting into a rare state of bliss.

Jake explained the situation regarding the capture of Venipede, recounting how it had come to be part of their team. As he spoke, he exuded a growing confidence, clearly becoming more comfortable in his role as a Pokémon trainer.

Jekyll seemed still to be in a daze from Jake's affection and paid little attention to the story.

Jake finished his explanation with a decisive note. "Time to introduce your new brother," he said, keeping his hand on Jekyll, releasing Venipede from his Pokéball.

Venipede emerged from the Pokéball, segmented body a vivid blend of deep red and black, with sharp, protruding spikes that added to its menacing appearance. Its eyes, small and beady, scanned the new environment, particularly Jake, with a calculating gaze.

“It is as I suspected. I have been captured. This is acceptable," he said in a detached manner, feelers twitching.

Jake stepped forward; his expression empathetic. "Venipede, I'm truly sorry about what happened to your mother," he began delicately. "I can't imagine how tough this must be for you."

He paused, searching for the right words. "We found you at the edge of the battlefield. I know this is an unexpected change for you, but I want you to know, if you agree, you can come with us, and we will be with you every step of the way." Jake continued, his voice warm and welcoming.

"The strong survive. My mother often spoke of her triumph over the Drapion that once ruled these lands," Venipede stated firmly. "Now, it's my turn to grow stronger."

He paused briefly “Tales were heard of the warm-blood two-legs. Mother once said, ‘In the wild, even in turmoil, lies the chance to evolve.’ Joining you is an opportunity for growth.”

At this, Trixie's imagination conjured an image of a group of small Venipede gazing up in admiration at their towering mother. The thought brought a smile to her face. “That sounds really cute,” she mused.

Venipede continued. “I accept joining your hive.”

Jake, who might not have fully grasped the depth of Venipede's words, nonetheless understood his acceptance. He reached out with a warm smile, extending a gesture of welcome. "Welcome to the family," he said, his voice filled with genuine warmth and sincerity.

As Jake patted him, Venipede paused, seemingly unsure how to react to this new sensation. After a moment, he stated flatly, "This is pleasant," his tone almost robotic.

Trixie, still hovering nearby, giggled at Venipede's reaction, finding his serious demeanour amusing and slightly endearing.

Trixie buzzed closer to Venipede. "Veni, it's great to see you again!" she chirped, remembering their previous encounters and the adventure to find Jake.

Venipede, however, seemed less enthused. With a flat, unchanging tone, he sighed, "So, my fate is to join this hive with you. And I am called Venipede."

Interrupting the exchange, Jake spoke up, "I can't just call you Venipede forever, and 'Veni' doesn't quite fit, does it?" Trixie's expression faltered, thinking she had come up with a great nickname.

Venipede looked cautiously at Jake, awaiting what would come next. Jake continued, "I've been thinking about it and have settled on a great name for you if you'll accept it."

Venipede's response was straightforward. "I await your decision."

"I think Arthrox will be a good name for you," Jake declared. "Back in my homeland, there's an ancient legend of a hero who rose to conquer against all odds. Your name will carry that mantle, with a bit of venom added to it. What do you think?"

"Name accepted," Arthrox responded, his tone still flat yet sounded satisfied, a bit prideful, somehow.

Jake was delighted and reached out to pet Arthrox again. "This is pleasant." Arthrox remarked.

Arthrox then straightened up, antennae high in the air, posture serious and focused. "I swear my allegiance to you, my trainer. Under your guidance, I, Arthrox shall become a mighty Scolipede and overcome any adversary."

Trixie, unable to resist, chimed in cheerfully, "Welcome to the team, Artie!"

Arthrox let out a resigned sigh at the nickname but then seemed to harden his resolve and with a finality that seemed to resonate to his very core, he declared, "Death will come to all Bisharp."

POV – JAKE

Jake gently ran his hand along the Venipede's segmented body, who seemed to vibrate at his touch. It was a unique, yet, oddly satisfying feeling. A hard, chitinous exoskeleton that was a contrast to the softer fur of Trixie or the warm cloth-like texture of Jekyll's disguise. He noted how Arthrox's body was a mix of deep reds and green, with subtle pointed spines that were surprisingly firm to the touch.

He considered Arthrox's somewhat cold demeanour towards the loss of his mother, and separation from his family. "Maybe it's a trait of Bug Pokémon," Jake thought, it may be that they are just more analytical. Trixie also had a relatively quick recovery from the Bisharp incident, wondering if, like many creatures in the wild, Pokémon possessed an instinctual ability to accept such events as natural parts of life.

“This isn’t so different,” Jake reasoned. “Pokémon, like Earth's animals, seem to have a natural instinct for survival, and they adapt to their circ*mstances, however harsh they may be.” He thought about the idea that Pokémon, while capable of experiencing a wide range of emotions, might also possess an intrinsic ability to accept the realities of their world – where the rules of nature often played out in raw and direct ways.

He knew that Pokémon could feel sadness – he had seen it in both Trixie and Jekyll as proof of that – but the incident told Jake that this world would demand a certain level of resilience. Perhaps this was another lesson Mustard intended to teach with this trial. “It’s not about getting used to it,” Jake thought, “but about acknowledging that these situations happen, and the only way to prevent or change them is through strength and training.”

Jake smiled at Arthrox, feeling a sense of happiness at welcoming a new member to their team. However, he acknowledged the challenge ahead. Unlike Trixie or even Jekyll, understanding Arthrox's emotions and reactions would be different, given the Venipede's lack of facial expressions and visible signs of emotion, he was not familiar with antennae and what they might indicate.

"This will be a new kind of challenge," Jake thought, each member of his team would require a unique approach. He was determined to understand and connect with Arthrox, just as he had with his other Pokémon.

Jake glanced over at Jekyll, who hadn't reacted or said anything since Arthrox's introduction. He had been apprehensive about how Jekyll would respond, knowing his history. Cautiously, Jake tried to peer at Jekyll, expecting some sort of response, but found him unusually quiet.

Picking up Jekyll to face him directly, Jake noticed that Jekyll seemed to be lost in a kind of blissful daze. "Didn't expect this reaction," Jake thought, a bead of sweat forming on his forehead. Gently shaking Jekyll, he tried to bring him back to the moment. Jekyll suddenly came to, appearing to almost blush, if that were possible, as he awkwardly stuttered, "K-kyu," which Jake interpreted as a plea to be put down. Complying, Jake set Jekyll down carefully.

He then turned to re-introduce Arthrox to Trixie, who chirped happily, “Emol, emol” which probably meant something like. "Hey Artie, good to have you with us!" Arthrox simply responded with a flat "Veni."

Turning to Jekyll, Jake introduced Arthrox cautiously. To his surprise, Arthrox didn’t show any sign of recognising Jekyll, again simply nodding in acknowledgment. Perhaps, Arthrox thought Jekyll was indeed a Pikachu, Jake was not ready to disabuse him of that notion right now. Jekyll, for his part, seemed rather indifferent, turning his attention back to Jake without much reaction.

Jake sighed, both relieved and bemused by the lack of drama. "Well, that went better than expected," he thought. Jekyll at this moment seemed entirely obsessed with Jake and seemed to pay little attention to anything else. This could not continue, Jekyll needed more positive connections. Trixie was playing her role as an anchor of distraction well, though she could sometimes get carried away. However, he couldn't help but feel that Jekyll could benefit from making a friend, though he wasn't quite sure what kind of Pokémon would be a good match for him.

"Alright, let's head back to camp," Jake announced. He picked up Arthrox, who observed everything with a curious, almost analytical gaze. Trixie and Jekyll settled back onto his shoulders, and they made their way back to the campsite.

As they walked, Trixie tried to engage Arthrox in conversation. “Emol, emol?” she nattered on. "So, Veni, ready for some adventures with us?"

Arthrox replied in his usual flat tone, “Veni, Veni” possibly saying. "As long as it contributes to my growth."

Jekyll, still a bit distant, muttered a soft “Mimi, Kyu” which was probably. "Just don't get in my way."

Trixie giggled, “Emol, mol!” seeming to say. "Looks like we're going to have lots of fun together!" No doubt already plotting playful antics they could get up to together.

Jake just sighed; he had a real mix on his hands now. An Emolga; Trixie was adorable, and he loved her, but she really was quite the handful, a real mischievous one with a naïve side that he had to watch out for. A Mimikyu; Not easy to manage by any stretch of the imagination, despite this Jekyll could really be quite cute when he was around Jake, just sadly not in front of anyone else. And now there was Arthrox, a Venipede, who seemed to bring a more reliable and disciplined energy to the group, though Jake found it challenging to decipher what was going through his mind.

As Jake walked back towards the camp, his mind wandered to the concept of type specialisation among trainers. Perhaps it was because the more different types you owned the more complex it was to have a deeper understanding and connection across the various Pokémon. Focusing on one type would, perhaps, bring a sort of shared mindset that made training and bonding more intuitive.

Jake reflected on his own approach. At the rate he was going, he was shaping up to be more of a generalist. This had always been his strategy in the games, selecting a diverse team of Pokémon to balance out weaknesses and strengths. However, reality was proving to be more complex. Dealing with the different personalities, ensuring they get along with each other as well as all the individual needs, and abilities of a varied team was a challenge he hadn't fully anticipated.

He would have to talk with Master Mustard when he returned to Applinby. Maybe he could offer some insight "Am I on the right track with this approach, or is there something more I should consider?" Jake wondered.

Jake was soon sat by the campfire outside his tent, the rain having given way to a tranquil evening. A light breeze carried the faint, comforting scents of wet earth and wood smoke, mingling in the cool air. He looked around, taking in the peaceful scene. The flickering flames cast a warm glow, illuminating the faces of his fellow trainers who were gathered around a picnic cloth spread on the ground.

The setting reminded Jake of camping trips with his friends back home, and it struck him that these classmates of his were becoming friends in their own right to a certain extent. All except perhaps Ciara, who still maintained a certain distance.

Trixie was in her element, playing with the other Pokémon. She seemed to be involved in some kind of game with Bulbasaur, Squirtle, and Mienfoo, though it was very hard to tell what it was. They seemed to be having a good time, however, given the playful sounds and occasional bursts of laughter.

Jake, upon noticing Arthrox at his side, cautiously offered a bowl of what Siobhan had described as sweet nectar mix – a type of Pokémon food with a syrup-like consistency, allegedly irresistible to bug types. His expectation for a gentle acceptance quickly dissolved as Arthrox, contrary to Jake's assumption, lunged at the food with startling aggression.

Jake jerked back, a jolt of shock coursing through him. The thing could've bitten his hand off! Arthrox started gnawing on the food in an almost frenzied fashion. Not gentle at all. Perhaps a characteristic of his species' natural hunting behaviour.

Siobhan, seated not far from him, chuckled softly at his alarmed expression.

"It can take a while for some species to get used to interacting with humans," Siobhan said, amusem*nt still in her voice. "Especially for a Venipede. They're known for their aggressive nature."

She glanced affectionately at Arthrox, adding, "Looks like Artie here might need some time to adjust to the gentler side of things."

Jake nodded. "Yeah, I guess we'll need to work on that," he replied, smiling sheepishly.

Jekyll was as always, perched quietly on Jake's shoulder, observing with an air of detachment, yet seemingly content to simply be in Jake’s presence.

Siobhan fidgeted slightly, her green eyes glinting softly in the firelight. Pushing a strand of her orange hair behind her ear, she spoke up with a tentative voice, "Um, Jake," she started, "I was wondering... how did you end up here on Armor?" She paused, adding a bit shyly, "You mentioned something about it over lunch the other day, but could you tell us more?"

Jab and Bab paused their banter, turning their attention to Jake, while even Ciara seemed to lean in slightly from her spot beside Kaida.

Jake felt a twinge of tension at the question. His story was not a typical one, and he was still grappling with the reality of it himself. "Honestly, I'm not entirely sure," he admitted, trying to sound casual. "My last clear memory was sitting in my math class back home. Then, suddenly, I was here."

The others exchanged surprised glances. "Were you at a trainers' school?" Jab asked, a hint of curiosity in his voice.

Jake shrugged slightly, "I don't think it was anything like that."

Ciara, who had been quietly listening, chimed in. "For someone with no formal training, you almost seem to know what you're doing."

Jake playfully rolled his eyes, "Thanks, Ciara. I try my best." earning a small 'hmph' from as she turned away.

Siobhan, emboldened by the conversation, ventured further. "What about your family?"

Jake paused, a faint sense of sadness crossing his face. "My memory's a bit hazy, but my mum's a child psychologist," he shared. The group looked impressed at that; Ciara's interest noticeably piqued again.

"And my dad... he talks a lot about finance and risk. Sounds boring to me, but he seems to like it." Jake added with a light chuckle. "I also have a little sister. She... I think she'd miss me a lot."

The mood around the fire shifted as Jake's tone grew sombre. Siobhan's expression softened, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to..."

Jake waved off her concern. "It's okay, really. It's still just... strange, being here."

Bab piped up. "So, Jake, you mean to tell us you were teleported here during math class? What if you're some kind of wizard, and you didn’t even know it?”.

Jake couldn't help but crack a smile, funnily enough he had actually contemplated that idea. "Yeah, if only my grades were as magical as that theory," he said back, drawing a chuckle from Siobhan and even a slight smile from Ciara.

The conversation shifted to their plans for the next day, Ciara, with a glint in her amber eyes, suggested, "We should split up. The goal is for one of us to find the best Max Mushroom, so it makes no sense to work together." She cast a dismissive glance at Jab and Bab, who seemed undeterred. Jake knew they would not listen and end up teaming up anyway.

Siobhan nodded in agreement, her thoughtful green eyes reflecting the firelight. "That's true, there can only be one winner.” she smiled then, looking confident.

Ah, the nutrition specialist might be uniquely qualified to win this one. Jake wouldn't let her win that easily. He added playfully, "I’m on board with that, though don't think I'll make it easy for you, Siobhan."

"Oh, I wouldn't expect anything less, Jake," Siobhan's grin widened at him.

"But what if two of us find the same shroom?" Bab asked.

Without missing a beat, Ciara responded with a small smirk, "Then we settle it with a Pokémon battle. May the best trainer win."

Catching Jab and Bab's knowing looks, Jake sighed inwardly. They probably intended to trail close to Siobhan, hoping for an easy find, they would likely only find a beatdown.

He glanced at Trixie, who was still playing, and then at Arthrox, who was continuing to eat furiously. "With Trixie's sharp senses and Arthrox's natural instincts, we stand a pretty good chance at finishing strong in this trial." he mused internally. His gaze then shifted to Jekyll, who was, as ever, observing him with a curious tilt of his costumed head, the cut outs giving off an almost endearing feeling. 'Kyuu?'

Sadly, Jekyll, despite his unique abilities, might not be particularly helpful in the search for mushrooms, but he was a powerful Pokemon, and his presence was reassuring. Smiling, Jake reached out and gently hugged the Mimikyu, who seemed to melt into the affectionate gesture, a soft 'K-Kyuu' escaping. Jekyll needed a lot of reassurance, and Jake by now was more than happy to give it.

The night deepened; the trainers began to settle down. Jake decided to keep his Pokémon out for the night. They returned to his tent together, creating a cozy little family huddle. Arthrox found a comfortable spot on the ground to burrow into, and Jake hoped he'd still be there in the morning. Trixie, ever the snuggler, curled up close to Jake, earning a slightly resentful stare from Jekyll. Unfazed, Jekyll seemed to take up a watchful position, eyes fixed on the tent entrance.

"Thanks for watching over us, Jekyll," Jake whispered, feeling a sense of security and warmth in the company of his Pokémon. As he drifted off to sleep, he thought about the day ahead, the adventures it would bring, and the strength of the bonds he was forming with his Pokémon team. The sounds of the night forest, the gentle breathing of his Pokémon, and the distant calls of wild Pokémon lulled him into a peaceful slumber in yet another night in the wilds of a familiar but fantastical land.

POV - JEKYLL

Jekyll watched. Jekyll considered. The new one, ‘Arthrox’, familiar yet distant. Jekyll remembered the capture, a moment in the past, fleeting and insignificant. The bug mattered not.

Confusion swirled in Jekyll's mind, a maelstrom of unfamiliar emotions. Happiness? A foreign concept, yet there, lingering at the edges of its consciousness. The small, bright one, ‘Trixie’, still a source of annoyance, now seemed... trivial. Petty plans of removing the fluttering nuisance felt less urgent, almost foolish.

Family. The word echoed in Jekyll’s thoughts, a concept so alien it might as well have been from another world. Jekyll knew loneliness, envy, longing. But family? Beyond the costume, beyond the mimicry. Jekyll had spent his existence in solitude, imitating in a vain attempt to belong. But belonging had never come.

Jekyll felt. Jekyll sensed. The fear from the ponytailed one, the indifference from the others. But from Jake, something else. Something warm, something accepting. A feeling Jekyll could not name but now realised had been his deepest craving. Nourishment for a starved soul.

In the darkness of the tent, Jekyll watched over Jake, Trixie, and now Arthrox. A family, a unit, a concept still so new. Jekyll, once a shadow, an imitation, part of something real. The longing, the envy, the hate – they were still there, but dimmer, overshadowed by this new, strange feeling.

Jekyll did not understand it fully. The complexities of these emotions were... perplexing. But one thing was clear – Jekyll had something it had never had before. Something precious.

Jekyll decided. Jekyll resolved. This feeling. He would not let it slip away. For the first time, Jekyll had something to lose, something to hold onto. And it would do everything in its power to ensure it never faded.

Chapter 16

Chapter Text

POV - JAKE

An early morning light filtered through the dense canopy of the Forest of Focus, casting dappled shadows on the forest floor. The air was fresh, filled with the earthy scents of moss and damp soil, intensified by the recent rainfall. A gentle, cool breeze rustled the leaves, bringing intermittent whispers of distant Pokémon calls.

Jake moved cautiously through the underbrush, his eyes scanning the vibrant greenery that surrounded them. The forest was alive with the sounds of nature: the soft rustle of leaves, the occasional chirp of a Pidove, the distant sound of the creek gently flowing. The ground under his feet was slightly damp but firm, covered in a carpet of fallen leaves and twigs that crunched softly with every step.

Trixie flitted from branch to branch overhead, large, expressive eyes focused, perky ears twitching alert. Her nose twitched constantly, testing the air for the elusive scent of Max Mushrooms. Every now and then, she would pause, sniffing intently at a spot before moving on, her tail flicking with excitement.

At Jake's side, Arthrox, crawled steadily, segmented body moving in a rhythmic, undulating motion. His antennae quivered as he navigated through the forest, touching the ground and then the air, trying to pick up any vibrations or signals that might lead them to their prize.

Jake called out to Trixie, "Hey, are you sure you're on the right track up there, all I’m seeing is more trees?"

Trixie paused on a branch, looking down at him with a smirk. "Emol, emol!" she chirped, which Jake interpreted as, "Doing more than you, at least!"

Jake couldn't help but chuckle. "Ouch, that hurts, Trix."

Arthrox, seemed to grow slightly impatient. "Veni, veni," he grumbled, perhaps a Venipede's way of saying, "Just focus on the task, will you?"

In response, Trixie dove playfully towards Arthrox, fluttering around him with a mischievous grin. "Emol, emol!" she teased, probably saying, "You can't catch me!"

Jake shook his head with a wry smile. "Glad to see at least one of us is taking this seriously," he said, glancing at Arthrox.

Suddenly, Trixie perked up, her ears twitching. She let out an excited cry and darted off through the trees. "She's onto something!" Jake exclaimed.

"Lead the way, Trix!" Jake called out, spirits lifting.

"Arthrox, if we find this mushroom, maybe I'll let you roll across my shoulders as your victory lap," he said. That might actually be a nice massage, Jake needed it after the stress of dealing with three Pokemon, he couldn’t imagine what having a full team would be like.

Arthrox, paused briefly in his rolling motion and responded in a serious tone, "Veni. Venipede.” possibly meaning. “Rolling on human shoulders is impractical and potentially harmful."

Jake blinked in surprise, a laugh escaping him. "Well, I guess you've got a literal point there," he admitted, amused. "Quite the straight shooter, huh? We'll need to work on your sense of humour."

Arthrox responded with a, "Veni, veni," as if to say, "Let's not waste time."

Jake chuckled "You really don't do jokes, do you, Arthrox?"

"Veni," Arthrox replied, which Jake took to mean, "Jokes are not efficient." Jake sighed a little, he was a nice balance to Trixie he supposed.

Jake and Arthrox burst into a small, sun-dappled clearing, where they were greeted by an amusing yet frustrating sight. There, perched atop a large, green-glowing Max Mushroom, was Trixie, gleefully stuffing her face. Cheeks bulging comically with shroom; eyes closed in delight as she savoured each bite.

"Emol! Emol!" she chirped between mouthfuls, clearly in her element.

Jake stopped in his tracks, exasperated. "Trixie! You're supposed to be finding them, not eating them!"

Arthrox rolled up, segmented body coming to a halt. He looked at Trixie with what seemed like disbelieving eyes, if a Venipede could look disbelieving. "Veni, veni!" he intoned, “What do you think you are doing?”

Trixie, oblivious to the dismay of her companions, continued her feast. Bits of mushroom fell from her mouth as she munched happily. She looked like a child caught with her hand in the cookie jar – utterly guilty yet too delighted to care.

Jake sighed, running a hand through his hair. "Of all the Pokémon to have on a mushroom hunt..." he muttered to himself.

Trixie, cheeks still bulging, looked up innocently. "Emol, emol," she mumbled, trying to excuse herself with, "But it's so tasty!"

Arthrox seemed to let out a deep, exasperated sigh. "Veni, veni," he grumbled. "An objective is not tasty."

Jake shot. "That's a cute excuse, but how are we supposed to complete the trial with you eating all the evidence? And you shouldn’t talk with your mouth full!"

Trixie puffed her cheeks out even more, a look of offence on her face.

Annoyance etched across Jake's face as he stood in the clearing, watching Trixie happily munch on the Max Mushroom. "Trixie, this isn't a game," Jake said sternly, "We actually need these mushrooms for the trial, and you're just eating them!"

Arthrox, echoed Jake's frustration. "Veni, veni," which Jake interpreted as agreement.

Jake racked his brain, trying to figure out how one discipline’s a Pokémon. It wasn't something the games had prepared him for. "Maybe I should withhold treats," he pondered, but that would never work with Trixie. Then, an idea struck him.

"If you keep this up, Trixie, there will be no headpats for you," Jake warned, hoping the threat would work.

Trixie's eyes widened in shock; her mouth still full of mushroom. The very idea of no headpats seemed to genuinely distress her, and finally she looked up at Jake with a guilty expression.

Arthrox seemed to approve of this tactic, murmuring "Veni, veni," in a tone that Jake took to mean "Harsh discipline is indeed the answer."

Just as Jake was about to continue his scolding, a rustling in the bushes caught his attention. He paused, listening, but dismissed it as just the breeze. However, Arthrox tensed up slightly, his antennae quivering.

Jake's attention shifted from the half-devoured mushroom to a glinting object partially hidden under a fern. He crouched down, his fingers brushing over a green stone with a crystalline texture. At first, he wasn't sure what it was – the stone was cool to the touch, its surface almost glass-like. He lifted it up, examining it in the soft morning light filtering through.

Trixie crawled up to his shoulder, hugging his neck. “Emol, emol,” probably saying. "Sorry, sorry," she cooed, trying to make amends.

Jake ignored her, looking at the stone that radiated a gentle glow in the sun, illuminating Jake's awed face. Intricate etchings of a leaf pattern adorned its surface. "A Leaf Stone," Jake murmured, his memory jogging back to his gaming days. He faintly recalled that such a stone could indeed be found in this forest. This was an incredible find.

He pocketed the stone, thinking of its potential use in future. He didn’t have any Pokemon that could evolve with one, but who knew what could happen in future.

Trixie, sensing Jake's softened mood, kept hugging his neck emoling softly, clearly a bit distressed. Jake was about to reassure her when a sudden, loud 'Tang!' broke the silence, the sound echoing ominously through the trees.

Startled, Jake spun around, Trixie clinging tightly to his shoulder. The rustling in the bushes ceased, replaced by the furious gaze of a Tangela. Vines writhed angrily, perhaps upset that its source of mushrooms had been disturbed.

This was a great chance to test out Arthrox’s mettle. The grass-type Pokémon was an interesting sight, its large, expressive, eyes angrily peeking out from a dense tangle of blue vines. Jake recalled the Pokédex entry mentioning that no one had ever seen what lay hidden beneath those vines. Observing the Tangela in person, Jake was no closer to solving that mystery himself.

According to the base game stats, Tangela were theoretically stronger Pokemon than Venipede, but Jake was interested to see how much a typing advantage had an effect in reality. Unlike the games there were no Pokemon levels or stats, so it was hard to truly gauge the strength of Pokemon. The only possible indicators seemed to be a Pokémon's physical conditioning or perhaps an intangible aura, but Jake lacked the experience to discern these nuances on his own. An actual Pokédex would have been helpful in this situation, but unfortunately, Jake didn't possess one, nor did he know how to acquire one.

"Arthrox, let's start with Poison Sting!" Jake commanded, hoping to take advantage of the type mismatch.

Arthrox, however, seemed to have his own ideas. Instead of launching a Poison Sting, he wound tightly into a ball, using Defence Curl. Jake's initial frustration gave way to surprise as the Tangela's Vine Whip lashed out, only to bounce harmlessly off Arthrox's armoured body.

"Okay, smart move," Jake muttered, acknowledging Arthrox's defensive strategy. But his appreciation was short-lived as the Tangela, undeterred, tried to Bind Arthrox. The vines attempted to coil around the curled-up bug Pokémon, but again, they slipped off, unable to gain any hold.

"Arthrox, let's try Fury Cutter now!" Jake called out, hoping for a more aggressive approach.

Yet, Arthrox continued his defensive stance, rolling into an even tighter ball. The Tangela, growing visibly frustrated, ramped up its assault, vines whipping, but each attack seemed futile against Arthrox's defence.

As Jake watched Arthrox continuing his defensive approach, he understood a direct appeal was necessary. "Arthrox, think about it," he began. "To evolve and become stronger, a balance of offence and defence is necessary. You're destined to become a Scolipede, renowned for their power and speed. Embrace that inherent aggression. It's a part of who you are and who you can become. Defending is vital, but so is taking action. You joined me on this journey to grow and evolve, right? Let's show that potential now!"

Arthrox seemed to shudder a bit at this, the desire for strong defence conflicting with his desire to evolve. One last push. "Arthrox," he said passionately, "your name isn't just a label, it's a legacy. It's derived from a legendary hero, renowned not just for his defence but for leading the charge with valour and strength. A hero who stood at the forefront, noble and fearless. You carry that spirit within you. It's in your very nature, in the core of your being. To evolve, to grow, you need to embrace that part of yourself. You have the potential to be more than just a defender. You can be a warrior, a protector, and a leader. Embrace the warrior spirit of the legendary hero you're named after. Lead the charge, show your strength!"

Jake's words seemed to resonate with something within Arthrox. The cute spiky ball seemed to almost vibrate, he uncurled, a glint in his eyes. “Veni, veni!” he cried with an almost fanatical battle mania. “Oh, forgive me, for the monster I have created” Jake thought wryly.

Jake suddenly noticed the Tangela's vines shifting, quivering slightly in an almost rhythmic pattern. The ends of the vines began to release a fine, yellowish powder, drifting slowly towards Arthrox. Recognising the move, Jake's mind raced. "Stun Spore," he thought, a move designed to paralyze its opponent.

Jake's eyes darted between the Tangela and Arthrox, who was now radiating an almost palpable aura of battle readiness, fuelled by the fervent pep talk. Seizing the moment, Jake called out, "Arthrox, super-fast Rollout! Scatter that spore!"

Arthrox responded with a burst of energy, his body spinning at an incredible speed. The motion created a gust of wind that scattered the incoming Stun Spore. A few of the stray particles headed straight for Jake. With a startled expression, he quickly dove to the side, Trixie leaping off his shoulder, as he landed awkwardly on the damp forest floor. Leaving him lying there for a moment, staring up at the canopy above, his mind echoing the thought, "Why does this keep happening to me?" Jake looked up to see Trixie perched safely out of the spore's path, a faint smirk on her face, clearly finding the situation more entertaining than concerning.

He re-focused on the battle. "Now, Arthrox, Toxic!" Jake called out from his new position on the ground.

The Venipede spewed a viscous, purple substance, a concentrated poison that flew through the air and landed with a splat on the Tangela. Almost immediately, the Tangela, which had been vigorously attacking moments ago, began to falter. The vibrant blue of its vines started to darken at the points where the toxic substance had made contact. Many of the lively vines seemed to wither and droop, losing their elasticity and vigour. The Tangela's movements slowed considerably; its previous energy now visibly drained by the potent poison coursing through its body.

Regaining his feet, "Follow it up with Poison Sting!" Jake urged.

His segmented body coiled, then uncoiled with explosive speed. The stinger at the end of his body, now glowing ominously with a deep purple hue.

With a swift and aggressive motion, Arthrox lunged forward. Poison darts shooting out from his caudal stinger, finding its mark, piercing the weakened Tangela with pinpoint accuracy. Each hit pushed the back, the force of the attack.

The Tangela, already severely hampered by the Toxic, now had to contend with the relentless barrage of Poison Stings. Each strike delivered more venom into its system, causing its vines to twitch and convulse erratically.

As Jake watched the Tangela bravely endure the onslaught, he couldn't help but feel a pang of sympathy. Despite its weakened state, it was still trying to stand tall, to show its resilience. But Jake knew the battle had to end, and Arthrox was the one to finish it.

"Arthrox, use Poison Tail!" Jake called out; voice firm but tinged with a bit of reluctance.

Arthrox responded with a swift movement, tail a blur, whipping through the air. Unlike Poison Sting, Poison Tail was more about brute force. The slender, segmented tail of the Venipede was not just a stinger; it was a weapon in its own right. As it lashed forward, the tip of the tail, coated in a thick, viscous poison, struck the Tangela with a resounding thud.

The impact was significant. The Tangela, already reeling from the Toxic and the repeated stings, could no longer maintain its stance. Its vines wilted, as the poison took its final toll. With a final shudder, the Tangela collapsed to the ground, unconscious and defeated.

Jake remained still for a moment, absorbing the aftermath. The transformation of Arthrox from a creature relying on defence to raw aggression was both impressive and somewhat disconcerting. The thought of facing a swarm of aggressive Venipedes was not a fate he would wish on anyone.

His mind drifted to Arthrox's mother Scolipede, whose presence had left a deep impression on him. Her colossal size, the menacing manner in which she moved, and her evident ferocity remained vivid in his memory. Arthrox, with his balance of defensive skill and inherent aggression, seemed destined to grow into a formidable creature, much like his mother. Jake contemplated this, realising that with Arthrox's evolution, he might have a true powerhouse in his team – a real tank in the making.

Jake couldn't help but beam with pride at Arthrox's performance. "You did amazing, Arthrox!" He exclaimed, full of praise. Carefully, he reached out to pick up the Venipede, mindful of the creature's poison. To his relief, Arthrox seemed to have a fine control over his venom, so Jake was safe from harm. Gently, Jake hugged the Venipede, feeling a sense of accomplishment and connection.

Arthrox, unaccustomed to such displays of affection, initially seemed stiff, but soon relaxed, emitting a series of contented "Veni, Veni" sounds, probably saying. “This is pleasant.” or something like that, he had an expressionless face, but his feelers were twitching and petting Jake’s face, so Jake guessed this meant he was happy.

"You see, this is what we can achieve together," Jake he reiterated softly. Arthrox responded with an enthusiastic vibration, perhaps the equivalent of a nod. Jake felt a rush of satisfaction. The Venipede nuzzling closer to Jake. This was no doubt a new experience for Arthrox, but one that he appeared to be welcoming enthusiastically.

He stood up, still holding Arthrox gently. "We're going to do great things, you and I," he said with a confident nod. "I can't wait to see how strong you'll become."

At that moment, Trixie flitted around them, emoling happily, congratulating Arthrox on his successful battle.

"Ah, and look who it is? The mushroom thief?" Jake teased.

Trixie's ears drooped slightly, a rare sign of genuine remorse from the usually mischievous Emolga. “Emol, emol!” she chirped as she fluttered down to Jake's shoulder, probably saying “I am really sorry, I promise I won’t do it again.” nuzzling against his cheek.

Jake couldn't help but soften at her gesture. "Don’t make promises you can’t keep.” Jake grinned at her. “Alright, I forgive you," he said with a sigh, wrapping her in a hug. "But try not to eat our goal next time, okay?" As he spoke, he gave her a headpat, thinking to himself that he was probably be too lenient with her. But then again, she could really be irresistibly adorable, even when she did not try to be.

Trixie emoled happily; mood instantly lifted. She licked Jake's cheek affectionately, delighted to be off his bad books.

Turning his attention to the Tangela, Jake used a revive, watching as the Pokémon slowly regained its strength. "Sorry about the disturbance," he apologised sincerely. The Tangela, noble in defeat, seemed to accept his apology with a nod of its body in understanding. Jake extended his hand, shaking one of the Tangela's vines, respecting the Pokémon's honour and bravery.

With the Tangela situation resolved, Jake, Trixie, and Arthrox continued their search for a Max Mushroom. They delved deeper into the Forest of Focus, with Jake carefully marking their path to ensure they could find their way back.

It was midday before they made any further progress. The sun was high above, casting a warm light through the trees. Jake kept a keen eye out, hopeful that they would soon find what they were looking for. Trixie's nose twitched as she continued to sniff the air, and Arthrox moved steadily alongside Jake, his senses alert for any hint of their elusive target. The forest held many secrets, and Jake felt a sense of excitement and anticipation as they ventured deeper into its heart.

As they wandered deeper into the forest, Jake's attention was drawn to some oddly shaped fruits hanging from the trees around him. They were apricorns, a variety of colours adorning their surfaces. There were black, white, and blue apricorns, each with its own unique texture and sheen. Jake knew from his knowledge of the Pokémon world that these apricorns were used in crafting specialised Poké Balls.

"Hey Trix, can you grab a few of those for me?" Jake asked, pointing towards the colourful apricorns.

Trixie, eager to help, zipped through the air, deftly plucking a selection of apricorns from the trees with her tiny paws. She brought them back to Jake, who carefully stored them in his pack for later use.

As he examined the apricorns, Jake found himself pondering their potential transformations. He knew that Fast Balls were designed for speedy captures, and Heavy Balls were effective for larger, heavier Pokémon. But what about a Lure Ball? How would it function in reality, and would it really be more effective for Pokémon caught while fishing, as the games suggested?

And then there were the more enigmatic types like Level Balls or Love Balls. How would their unique properties translate into real-world mechanics? Jake just shrugged, he supposed he would find out eventually.

"For now, a Fast Ball, Heavy Ball, and Lure Ball could be really useful," Jake thought to himself. "I’ll have to see if there's the Cram-o-matic is available in Hyde’s room back at the dojo."

With the apricorns safely tucked away, Jake, Trixie, and Arthrox resumed their search for the elusive mushrooms.

The trio continued their quest through the dense foliage of the Forest of Focus, the air thick with the earthy scent of damp soil and rich vegetation. Trixie fluttered ahead, her nose twitching as she scouted the area. Arthrox moved with a methodical rhythm, segments flowing smoothly over the forest floor.

As they neared a familiar creek, recognition dawned on Jake and Trixie. This area was close to where they first journeyed together to Applinby, not far from Trixie's family den.

"Hey, Trixie, how about we visit your family once we're done here?" Jake suggested, noticing Trixie's sudden spark of excitement.

Trixie chirped happily at the idea, her tail twitching in anticipation. Arthrox, overhearing the conversation, let out a resigned sigh.

"Veni, Veni," he murmured, an air of exasperation in his tone as if to say, "More of them?"

Jake chuckled at Arthrox's reaction. "Alright, buddy, you can rest in your Poké Ball until we're done visiting," he said, recalling Arthrox to his ball with a knowing grin.

“Emol, emol!” Trixie cried suddenly, seeming to remember something. Jake grinned at her as she gestured him to follow, this reminding him of when they first met. Following her lead, Jake navigated through the dense underbrush of the forest. He leapt over gnarled roots, ducked under hanging vines, and pushed through thick foliage. Eventually, they reached a spot where the forest seemed to grow impossibly dense, light struggling to penetrate the thick canopy.

Trixie pointed eagerly towards what appeared to be a mystical, almost portal-like entrance to a clearing. Jake stalked carefully, cautiously peering into the ethereal portal.

What was presented to him was a scene straight out of a fairy tale. Dense clusters of mushrooms of various shapes and sizes carpeted the ground, with occasional tall stalks of Foongus dotting the landscape. At the centre of the clearing, lay a slumbering giant, an absolutely colossal Amoongus. They were meant to be only two feet tall, according to the Pokedex Jake remembered, but this one seemed more akin to a Totem Pokemon. Its enormous bulk was still, giving the impression of a deep, undisturbed sleep. The air was thick with a sweet, earthy scent, punctuated by the almost tangible presence of glowing spores that hung like a delicate veil over the entire scene.

Jake held his breath, one wrong move, one accidental rustle, and the peaceful scene could erupt into chaos. The spores, suspended in the air, shimmered slightly in the very thin sunlight that filtered through the canopy.

Jake tread carefully, aware of the effect spore lingering in the air, that could cause him real harm if he made contact. He cautiously navigated around the perimeter of the clearing, wary of waking the slumbering mushroom Pokémon.

The Foongus and Amoongus appeared motionless, not reacting to anything. Jake wondered if mushrooms actually needed to sleep? A random thought to be sure, but this was once again quite the random situation.

His eyes caught sight of a Max Mushroom, its vibrant red-pink colour standing out amidst the more subdued tones of the clearing. The mushroom was out of his reach, so he carefully instructed Trixie to retrieve it.

"Trixie, we need to be as quiet and as careful as possible. Use your agility to weave through the spores." Jake said softly. ‘And no nibbling this time.”

Trixie hovered at the edge of the mushroom clearing, Jake watched intently, aware of the delicate balance they needed to maintain to avoid disturbing the sleeping fungi Pokémon. He gave her soft, guiding commands, each one a whispered strategy.

"Quick Attack, Trixie. Quick but silent," Jake instructed, his voice barely audible. Trixie nodded slightly, her body tensing for a moment before she darted forward. The move was a swift, silent glide, barely stirring the air as she nimbly navigated through the forest of mushrooms and spores.

Navigating the spore clouds required more than speed. "Now, Acrobatics," Jake said, a gentle urgency in his tone. Trixie responded with a series of fluid, acrobatic manoeuvres. She twisted and turned gracefully in the air, her movements a dance of precision and grace. Each turn was calculated, each flip designed to avoid the spores that hung like mist in the clearing.

Reaching the Max Mushroom, Trixie slowed, reaching out carefully, paws gently encircling the mushroom. With a skilled tug, she detached it from the ground, securing it safely.

Trixie made her way back; Jake's eyes following her every move. "Steady now," he whispered. Trixie's return journey was a tense, and she showed her control with Jake carefully timing moves to avoid the spore clouds, movements delicate in the dense, spore-filled air.

Slowly, but surely Trixie emerged from the clearing, handing off the mushroom to Jake. He grinned at her, giving her a silent high-five. Together they retreated from the clearing, relief palpable. The Foongus and Amoongus remained undisturbed, slumber uninterrupted. Jake let out the breath he had been holding, the Max Mushroom safe in his grasp.

Jake couldn't suppress the exhilaration bubbling inside him as he and Trixie strolled back. "Trix, you were just awesome back there!" he said.

"Emol, emol!" Trixie emoled, which Jake translated in his mind as "No, it was you who was awesome!"

Jake chuckled. "Nah, Trixie, the awesome one is you!" he insisted.

“Emol!” Trixie countered, insisting in her own way, “No, it's definitely you!”

"Okay, okay, we're both awesome, agreed?"

"Emolga!" Trixie concurred, zapping around him in agreement.

“And your flying, Trixie – you've improved so much!” Jake continued. “You’ve more than made up for your... snack mishap.”

“Emol, emol!” Trixie replied, likely meaning something along the lines of “I told you I’d make it up to you!”

“You sure did! We were basically ninja back there!”” Jake said with a grin.

A voice suddenly cut through the air, almost catching him off guard. "Ninja moves in the woods, Jake? You're full of surprises." The words were laced with a low, almost American accent.

Startled, Jake turned to see a girl standing just off the path, athletic frame leaning casually against a tree, arms crossed. Her dark brown ponytail swaying slightly in the breeze; intense amber eyes gleaming with a little amusem*nt, and a lot of challenge.

Caught in mid-laughter, Jake’s cheeks flushed with an embarrassed warmth. "Oh, uh, hey Ciara," he stammered, earlier bravado melting away under her gaze. He awkwardly shifted the Max Mushroom in his hand, as if trying to make it less conspicuous. It did not work.

Ciara's smirk widened slightly; eyes drifting to his hand, eyebrow raised in amusem*nt. "Seems you've got your prize there," she noted, nodding towards the mushroom in Jake's hand. "Impressive."

"Yeah, we did," Jake replied. "Trixie found it, actually. She did a great job."

“Emol!” Trixie beamed at the praise, perched once again on his shoulder, puffing out her chest in pride. “No, we did a great job!’

Ciara looked at Trixie and then back at Jake. "Well, congratulations. But you know what this means, right?" A challenge clearly in her eyes. “Let's see if you can keep it."

Jake couldn't help but tease Ciara a little. "Couldn't find one for yourself, huh?" he said with a smirk.

Ciara nonchalantly revealed a mushroom in her hand. “Already found one,” she stated coolly. Glancing at Trixie and then back to Jake, her expression shifted to a slight, knowing smirk. “But I saw you in the woods earlier. Curiosity got the better of me – I wanted to see your strategy in action. Besides, in this game, two mushrooms are definitely better than one.”

Jake raised an eyebrow. "So, you want to knock me out of the trials?"

Ciara's gaze was steady, her voice firm yet not unkind. "Only if you're not strong enough to compete," she countered.

"You just wanna battle, huh?" Jake replied.

Her response was immediate, her eyes flashing. "To be the best, I have to defeat all rivals along the way. It's as simple as that."

"I'm honoured you consider me a rival," he said flashing a grin at her. She was a battle maniac, just like Master Mustard.

Ciara's lips hinted a subtle smile. "I've been keeping an eye on you, Jake. Your bout with Master Mustard left some questions in my mind. I've tested myself against everyone else, but you're still an unknown. It's time to see if you live up to the Master’s praise," she declared.

"What are the stakes?"

Ciara held up the mushroom, confidence unwavering. "If I win, this mushroom is mine. You'll be left to find another, risking your spot in the trial."

"And if I come out on top?" Jake inquired.

Her smirk deepened. "Then this mushroom is yours," she said, holding it out slightly. "And I'll do you one better – I’ll teach you a Pokémon move. Trust me, it's not an offer I make lightly."

Trixie took that moment to flutter up to Ciara, greeting her cheerfully. Despite her cool exterior, Ciara's eyes softened for a moment at the sight of the playful Emolga, a rare glimpse of her softer side. But just as quickly, her gaze returned to Jake, determination clear.

Jake gave a theatrical bow, playing along. "Well then, it shall be my honour to engage in battle with you," he said with a grin.

Ciara watched him with an amused yet exasperated expression, a small smile tugging at the corners of her mouth despite her best efforts to remain stoic.

He straightened up, his grin widening. "Get ready, Ciara. We're about to embark on an epic battle for the ages!"

Ciara's eyes rolled subtly, her demeanour shifting back to her usual cool composure. "Alright, enough with the dramatics," she replied. "Let's focus on the battle. I'm here for a challenge, not theatrics. Pure skill, pure Pokémon battling - that's what counts."

Jake nodded, remembering the battle etiquette Mustard had instilled in him. "Since I'm the one being challenged, I get to set the terms, right?" he said thoughtfully. "Let's make it a two-on-two battle. Casual rules."

"Let's do this," Ciara affirmed, battle mode engaging. With a swift movement, she unclipped a Poke Ball from her belt. "Go, Valianta!" she declared, throwing the ball with practiced precision. Her Pawniard emerged, its bladed body reflecting the forest's dappled light.

Jake had initially found the practice of announcing Pokemon names before sending them into a battle a rather peculiar behaviour. It didn't seem to hold any practical purpose, but it seemed to be a tradition deeply rooted among trainers. An almost ceremonial aspect of Pokemon battles, that was possibly tied to the generally more ritualistic and honourable culture of the people, and creatures of the Pokemon world, which aided the relative civility that seemed to exist in this world.

Jake recognised the potential in Ciara's team. With a Pawniard and a Kubfu at her disposal, she could become a very formidable trainer. Yet, that potential was still in its infancy. From his knowledge of the games, he remembered that Pawniard were primarily physical attackers with limited ranged capabilities. However, he lacked a Pokémon in his current roster that directly countered Pawniard's specific type strengths. Trixie was probably his best option.

Jake turned to his Emolga. “Trixie, you ready to show what you can do?”

“Emol!” she chirped excitedly. “You bet!”

“Alright, Trix, this time you have plenty of branches and trees to cover, but so does Pawniard.” Jake began. “Pawniard will try get close to you, don’t let that happen.”

Trixie nodded in understanding, and with a firm emol, took off into the sky skimming close to the ground, circling the chosen battleground. It was a partially wooded area, a mix of cover and open spaces. Uneven terrain allowed for quick movements and sudden attacks, perfect for a Pokémon like Trixie.

Ciara, however, chose the unexpected, "Valianta, Fling!" With precise coordination, the Pawniard kicked up a nearby rock, its metallic arm gleaming in the sun as it then smacked against the object with a great ring, the projectile hurtling at great speed straight at Trixie.

Jake's eyes widened but kept his calm. "Trixie, Quick Attack, now!" he instructed. Trixie's body blurred into motion, a streak of white and black zipping through the air. Effortlessly dodging the incoming rock, the wind from her speed rustling the nearby leaves.

Ciara’s command rang out clear and decisive. "Valianta, Metal Sound!" The Pawniard's arms clashed together, creating a high-pitched, metallic resonance that echoed through the clearing.

The sound was sharp, like the ringing of a bell, but magnified and distorted. It reverberated off the trees, amplifying its intensity. Trixie, caught mid-air, winced visibly, the discordant noise ringing in her sensitive ears. She faltered, her flight disrupted, turning into a wobbly descent towards the ground.

Jake's heart raced, his own ears ringing. He suddenly noticed Ciara was wearing ear protectors, she had clearly been more prepared than he for this battle. He watched Trixie struggle, small body trembling from the auditory assault. The forest seemed to hold its breath, the usual rustles and whispers of the forest quieting under the oppressive sound.

Before Jake could issue a counter-command, Ciara seized the opportunity. "Follow with Metal Claw, now!" she ordered. Valianta, taking advantage of Trixie's disorientation, surged forward with astonishing speed. Its clawed arm, glinting menacingly in the sunlight, was poised for a strike.

Trixie, still recovering, fluttered her wings desperately, trying to regain altitude. But the Pawniard was relentless, closing the gap between them rapidly. Its metallic arm, honed to a deadly edge, cut through the air with a sinister swish. Jake breathed, this seemed extremely similar to the Bisharp’s deathblow on the Scolipede from earlier. Ciara had clearly learned well, the aggressive tactics of the master.

Thinking quickly, Jake knew he had to turn the tide. "Trixie, Thundershock, aim it at the ground!" he shouted.

Trixie, still regaining her balance, obeyed. She released a powerful burst of electricity towards the ground. The Thundershock hit the earth with a crackling roar, jolts of electric energy radiating outward. The ground itself seemed to vibrate, the air crackling with static.

The shock did two crucial things. First, the force of the impact provided Trixie with counter-thrust, halting her descent and propelling her upwards. The surge of energy beneath her paws acting like a springboard, launching her back into the air.

Second, the spreading electrical energy caught both Trixie and Pawniard in its radius. For Pawniard, the shock was a disorienting hit, causing it to recoil. For Trixie, however, the electric current was a boon. Her hidden ability, Motor Drive, kicked in, absorbing the electricity, converting it into pure speed.

Now supercharged, Trixie's movements became a blur. Jake seized the moment. "Now, Trixie! Acrobatics!" he commanded.

With lightning speed, Trixie executed a series of flips and twists in the air, body moving with enhanced agility. In swift, fluid motion, she dropped down onto Pawniard, tiny feet connecting a precision drop-kick to its head.

The impact sent Pawniard reeling, metallic body clanging against the forest floor. Trixie, meanwhile, used the momentum to leap and soar upwards, gaining altitude and distance from her opponent.

Ciara's eyes narrowed, perhaps impressed, but still determined. "Valianta, Torment!" she commanded sharply. Dark energy, like a creeping mist, snaked its way from Pawniard towards Trixie. It was a bizarre sight, almost like watching shadows come to life, moving against the natural order. As it reached Trixie, it seemed to seep into her, wrapping around her like an unwelcome cloak.

Trixie, who had become so vibrant and confident in the air, faltered. It was as if the dark energy was sapping her confidence, her belief in her own abilities. The effect was immediate and unsettling. She wobbled in the air, looking down and panicked, her fear of heights re-surfacing, altitude dropping as she struggled to maintain her flight. Jake could see the distress in Trixie's movements. The real application of Torment hadn't just affected her ability to execute Acrobatics repeatedly; it had struck at the very heart of her flying skills, literally tormenting her with one her deepest fears.

But Jake had an insight. He remembered their early days of training, how Trixie had first learned to master her flying by staying close to the ground.

"Trixie, remember how you first flew!" he called out, his voice steady. "Stay low, use the ground to your advantage, just like we practiced!"

Trixie, hearing Jake's words, seemed to find a renewed sense of purpose. Her wings steadied, and she began to skim the ground, movements regaining fluidity and grace. With Motor Drive still active, her speed was astonishing, an almost untouchable blur as she darted just inches above the earth, using the ground as her ally, agility amplified by her proximity to it.

"Trixie, stay low and circle around, use Charge!" Jake instructed; voice calm yet urgent.

Trixie obeyed, buzzing as she skimmed just above the ground, circling Pawniard at breakneck speed. The Charge move caused her body to store up even more electric energy.

Ciara, still maintaining her cool demeanour, grew slightly frustrated, knowing her options were limited in this situation. "Valianta, Fling, keep throwing!" she ordered, hoping one would connect.

Pawniard hurled objects repeatedly, but they could not even get close to Trixie, as she weaved against the ground, each one well wide of their target.

Jake watched, intrigued, as Pawniard's demeanor shifted. The dark energy enveloped it completely, sharpening its focus and movements. Ciara switched tactics. "Assurance, now!" she said, still cool. The dark aura that had surrounded it during the Torment seemed to intensify, transforming into a shroud of confidence and resolve.

Valianta launched herself at Trixie, now seemingly assured with a sense of purpose, movements more calculated, stepping with bolstered confidence. The move seemed to be about mental fortitude, about instilling a belief in oneself to execute the perfect attack. The Pawniard soared through the air, aiming to intercept Trixie.

Jake wondered how much more effective this move could be if a previous attack had managed to hit Trixie. Jake guessed that quite literally spoke for itself, the more assured the Pokemon was the more damage it would do. “Another interesting lesson, I suppose” Jake mused. Anyway he, was not about to let it make contact. His timing would be crucial.

Jake gauged the perfect moment, "Trixie, Shock Wave, now!"

Trixie unleashed a burst of electric energy that radiated out from her in a rippling, visible aura. It was a spectacle of raw power, the air around her crackling intensely with vibrant, blue-white electricity. The energy wave, amplified by her charged state, spread outwards with a deafening, sizzling sound that resonated through the forest.

The wave expanded, enveloping Valianta in its grasp. The Pawniard had no chance to react. The force of the attack was immense, the energy coursing around and through its metallic body. There was a moment where everything seemed to freeze, the world stilling as the move seemed to infuse Valianta. The air began to almost visibly shake, vibrational ripples that even reached Jake, shaking his very bones.

With an almost explosive force, Valianta was propelled backward. The Pawniard was lifted off its feet, flung through the air by the sheer magnitude. It landed several feet away, beady eyes rolling, seemingly blank. This battle was won.

Ciara's expression was one of surprise, usual composure ruffled. Jake was equally taken aback; the power of Shock Wave had exceeded his expectations.

The forest seemed to go momentarily silent in the wake of the attack, the usual sounds of nature subdued by the electric discharge. Leaves quivered from the force of the Shock Wave, the scent of singed vegetation and ozone hung heavily in the air.

Ciara, somehow regaining her cool, looked at Jake with a little bewilderment. "Exactly what has that Emolga been eating?" she asked. "That power... it's just way too much, it’s unnatural." She stated.

“Uh, not really sure.” Jake answered hesitantly, Trixie kind of fed herself, a bit too often in Jake’s opinion. Trixie, indeed, seemed to possess unusually potent electric attacks, something even Mustard had noticed. It then dawned on him - Trixie had consumed a Max Mushroom. In the games it was known to amplify a Pokémon's stats in battle, it seemed to have given Trixie an unforeseen edge from the outset.

"Uh-huh," Ciara said, eyeing Jake with a hint of suspicion. "Perhaps a freak occurrence then?"

Jake opened his mouth to respond but paused as he noticed Trixie floating towards him, looking extremely sluggish. Her energy seemed to completely sapped, almost dropping out of the air with tiredness.

Rushing to her, Jake caught Trixie gently in his arms before she could plummet. She looked up at him, her eyes half-closed, and letting out a weak "Emol," as if asking, "Did I do okay?"

Jake couldn't help but laugh softly, "You did more than okay, Trix. You were awesome, as always" he assured her, hugging the Emolga. "You deserve the biggest treat."

At the mention of a treat, a faint spark of energy returned to Trixie's eyes. She managed a hopeful "Emol," as if to say, "It better be the best one ever."

Jake cooed at her, stroking her gently as if to send her to asleep. "Of course, the best treat for the best partner," he whispered. She emoled quietly, her eyes fluttering shut, her body relaxing as she drifted into a deep contented sleep.

Ciara, who had been watching the exchange, commented, "That's quite a bond you've got there. Impressive, considering how little time you've spent with her."

Jake looked up, a hint of pride in his eyes. "Thanks. But I've noticed you and Valianta are already in sync, and you only caught her yesterday. That's incredible."

Ciara shrugged; her expression nonchalant. "Master Mustard's training," she replied simply. "Ready for round two?"

Jake nodded, a determined look crossing his face. "Yeah, I'm bringing out Jekyll. You sure you're ready for this?"

To Jake's surprise, Ciara's usual composed demeanour faltered momentarily, a flicker of unease crossing her features. Her response came sharply, almost defensively. "What's that supposed to mean? You questioning my ability?"

Realising he'd struck a nerve, Jake held up his hands in a placating gesture. "Hey, I didn't mean anything by it. If you're good to go, so am I."

Ciara's posture remained tense, eyes flashing with hostility. "Just get on with it," she snapped.

Jake, was a bit taken aback by her reaction but thought it wise not to press the issue, replied calmly, "Woah, okay, okay, just checking. We're good to continue."

Ciara gave a curt nod and released her next Pokémon into the battle. Kaida, her Kubfu, emerging with a poised and disciplined stance. Jake noticed something distinctive about Kaida; the Pokémon was wearing a red and yellow belt-like item, a Focus Sash, Jake realised. In the games, this item was protected a Pokémon from being knocked out in a single hit. The fact that Kaida had this on probably meant the Kubfu was practicing enduring significant hits. She was likely one tough cookie.

Kaida's looked to be in top condition, fur shining healthily in a rich blend of grey and white, stoic in stance, noble in demeanour. Her eyes were sharp and alert, exuding a sense of quiet strength and determination.

Jake knew from his knowledge of the Pokémon games that Kubfu were considered mythical Pokémon in Galar, evolving into the formidable Urshifu, one of the strongest Fighting-type Pokémon known. It struck him how remarkable it was for Ciara, just fourteen, to be given such a Pokémon by Master Mustard.

Jake held a significant advantage with his knowledge from playing Pokémon games, which gave him an edge. It certainly made him appear much more experienced than he actually was.

The fact Ciara held none of his advantages yet had reached her level through pure training and real-world experience, spoke volumes of her skills and potential. “I had not really thought about it before, but she must be a real prodigy. Comparable to Leon, perhaps, though I still do not know enough about the relative levels to be certain.” Jake thought to himself.

Jake shrugged releasing his Mimikyu, who immediately turned to Jake. Jekyll quickly hopped over to him with an affectionate "Mimi, Kyuu!" as if to say, “I am very happy to see you!”

Jake kneeled slowly to pet the Pokémon's disguised head gently. The costume was now in top condition given Jake had been tending to it every evening. Jekyll seemed to quiver in delight at his touch. “He really is cute when he wants to be, just as adorable as Trix in his own way.” Jake thought, delighted at his progress.

"You ready for a battle, Jekyll?" Jake asked softly. Jekyll nodded eagerly at Jake a happy ‘Kyuu!’ escaping as he turned to face the battle.

Recently, Jekyll's had been nothing but charming and endearing, the more sinister facets of his nature almost obscured. At the sight of Ciara and Kaida, something in Jekyll shifted ominously.

It appeared almost as if Jekyll were smiling, the jagged line of mockery on his disguised face twisting, it was not a gesture of joy. There was malevolence in that smile, a dark mirth that sent a shiver down Jake's spine. This was an aspect of his Mimikyu companion that had begun to feel distant, almost forgotten. Jekyll advanced, movements becoming eerily fluid, gliding untouched by the natural laws of motion, unaffected the caress of the breeze. Gaze, deepening into disturbing glee, starting to consume the light around him.

Slowly but inexorably, an almost palpable malevolence began spiriting through wooded clearing. Jekyll’s aura turning sinister, authentic self revealing, the shadowy form that could barely be seen under his costume becoming more pronounced and haunting. The forest itself seemed to react to Jekyll's presence, leaves rustling uneasily, air growing colder. The playful "Kyuu" was replaced by a deeper, more ominous sound resonating with a chilling malice. A true spectre, a being of nightmare.

Jake's eyes shifted to Ciara, and he was taken aback. The normally unflappable, cool-headed Ciara had now become a portrait of raw panic. She seemed to have frozen, unable to take her eyes of Jekyll. Her body began to shake. Kaida who had first appeared as an embodiment of stoicism and bravery, began to resemble her trainer, her small body trembling.

Jekyll revelled in the terror, an almost predatory instinct heightening, he seemed to sense that their fear rendered him unbeatable in this moment. A sinister delight in his movements, dark satisfaction in their fright. He was absorbing their fear, feeding off it, power amplifying with each wave of their dread.

His grew increasingly menacing, each motion calculated to heighten the sense of horror. He glided towards them, presence casting an increasingly eerie shadow. The more Ciara and Kaida quaked in terror; the more Jekyll seemed to grow in strength.

Almost without warning, Kaida broke. With a sharp cry of "Fuuu!" – a sound that cut through the air – the Kubfu turned abruptly. Her small, previously poised body now a blur of frantic motion, paws barely touching the ground as she sprinted away. Her movements seemed erratic, uncontrolled. The bushes rustled violently as she disappeared into the undergrowth, her panic-stricken escape leaving a trail of disturbed leaves and broken twigs.

Ciara, witnessing Kaida's breakdown, seemed to be jolted back to reality. Her face was usually a picture of confidence and composure, but her eyes, were wide, filled with lingering fear. For a moment, she stood frozen, her gaze locked on the path Kaida had taken, her chest heaving with rapid, shallow breaths. The usually unshakeable Ciara appeared vulnerable, almost fragile.

She turned to Jake, her eyes not meeting his, but Jake could see fear, and most of all shame. Her voice, barely a whisper, trembled as she uttered a single word, "Sorry." Then, she too turned and ran after her Pokémon, leaving Jake standing in bewildered silence.

Jake stood motionless, his gaze lingering on the trees that had swallowed Ciara's retreat. The image of her, so uncharacteristically vulnerable and shaken, was etched into his mind. He made a half-step forward, an instinctive move to follow, but halted. Was it his place to go after her? What would he even say? He imagined he’d be the last person she would want to see right now.

His thoughts were interrupted as Jekyll bounded back to him, hopping energetically with a joyful "Kyuu!" The ghost Pokémon seemed utterly delighted, probably saying something like, "That was fun! That was fun!" while circling around Jake's feet. Perhaps Trixie's influence was beginning to show in him?

Jake let out a weary sigh. This was kind of part of the deal to have a Ghost-type Pokémon, wasn't it? Unpredictable, mischievous, sometimes unsettling. He had to admit, Jekyll had performed impressively, in his own way, though it was not quite the battle Jake had envisioned.

A wry thought crossed his mind: did this count as a victory? It seemed somewhat hollow, not quite the triumph he had anticipated. “Might it be a little too soon to ask Ciara for my battle spoils?” Jake murmured to himself.

His eyes fell on the Max Mushroom in his possession. Despite the odd turn of events, the objective was complete. It was time to head back to camp. He hoped he had chosen well; after all the drama, this mushroom had better be worth it. He would try to check on Ciara with Siobhan.

As he started walking back, Jekyll’s antics continued at his side, a small, beacon of levity in yet another strange day in this world. "Well, Jekyll," Jake he said to his partner, a faint smile crossing his face, "you certainly know how to make an impression."

Stroll - Emolkyu - Pocket Monsters | Pokemon (2024)

FAQs

Are pocket monster cards worth money? ›

If you have a binder or box full of Pokémon cards sitting in your closet or basem*nt, the contents could be worth thousands of dollars. Or maybe less than $100. It depends. Pokémon cards have skyrocketed in value in recent years, with collectors purchasing some rare cards for over $1 million.

What are Japanese pocket monsters? ›

Pokémon known in Japan and South Korea as simply Pocket (ポケットモンスター, Poketto Monsutā), is one of the first Pokémon manga to come out in Japan and ran for 13 volumes.

Are pocket monsters the same as Pokémon? ›

The original full name of the franchise is Pocket Monsters (ポケットモンスター, Poketto Monsutā), which has been commonly abbreviated to Pokemon (ポケモン) since its launch. When the franchise was released internationally, the short form of the title was used, with an acute accent (´) over the e to aid in pronunciation.

What is the meaning of pocket monster? ›

The word "Pokemon" is actually a contracted romanization of the Japanese brand Pocket Monsters (ポケットモンスター, Poketto Monsutā). So, when you're tossing out a Pokeball, you're literally engaging with "pocket monsters."

How can you tell if a Pocket Monster is first edition? ›

The first edition stamp is found in the bottom left corner of the card's frame. It's very close to the Pokémon artwork, in fact, it actually aligns with the banner where you see the length and weight of your Pokémon. This stamp is just a black circle with a 1 found in its center.

What is the oldest pocket monster card? ›

The first Pokémon cards were issued in Japan in October 1996. In the United States a demo pack came out in 1998 and the first packs debuted in January 1999. Ever since then collectors of all ages have been captivated by the charismatic characters. The cards that came out in 1999 are known as the Base set.

Does Japan still call it Pocket Monsters? ›

In the original japanese the official title is pocket monsters and the official shortening is pokemon which is used as the name of the creatures.

How many Pocket Monsters are there? ›

Due to the large number of Pokémon, a listing of each species is divided into articles by generation. The 1025 Pokémon are organized by their number in the National Pokédex—an in-game electronic encyclopedia that provides various information on Pokémon.

What was the first pocket monster? ›

Bulbasaur is the first when considering the Pokedex, Arceus is the first Pokemon when considering lore, and Rhydon is the first when considering the real-world creation of the games. Rhydon was the first designed Pokemon, though of course, it underwent a couple of iterations.

How old are Pocket Monster cards? ›

Sets. The Pokémon TCG debuted In Japan in 1996 with the release of "1st Starter & Expansion Pack/Base Set" (第1弾スターターパック & 第1弾拡張パック), which was the original core series of cards and Theme Decks released in Japan on October 20, 1996, and in the United States on January 9, 1999.

Is Pocket Monsters copyrighted? ›

There's a principle in copyright law: It's not the idea that's protected but the expression. The Pokémon Company, Game Freak and Nintendo collectively own the character designs in the titular game and series, as well as the way that intellectual property is portrayed.

What language are pocket monsters in? ›

As featured prevalently in Pocket Monsters Best Wishes, the anime began using another new made up language to obviously reduce the costs of paint editing the show in the various different languages that it is now distributed in. Originally the series had Japanese text and it was painted out by the English dub.

What did Pokémon copy from? ›

the original dragon quest (and also dragon quest 2, which came out before pokemon) still had monsters in it, whose designs were blatantly ripped off by pokemon. the source is the game, feel free to go check out some dragon quest 1/2 gameplay and look at the monsters. one of several examples, yeah.

What is Pokémon called in Japan? ›

Pokémon, abbreviated from the Japanese title of Pocket Monsters, and currently branded in English as Pokémon the Series, is a Japanese anime television series, part of The Pokémon Company's Pokémon media franchise, which premiered on TV Tokyo in April 1997.

Are pocket monster cards real? ›

A quick way to test if your Pokémon card is real or fake is to take a close look at the edge of it. Real Pokémon cards have a very thin sheet of black between the cardboard. It's very thin, but up close it is easy to see the darkness between the two thin halves of the card. Fake cards do not have this.

How many Pocket Monster cards are there? ›

In fact, not counting promos, Japanese language cards, or special expansions, there are precisely 13,178 Pokémon cards from main set releases right now – with plenty more designs to come.

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