Welcome back and thank you all for your incredible support. A few quick review responses before we jump into the chapter.

DemonWolf25- I could see that happening possibly. I did actually consider it for a bit and am still teetering on if he should get that pokemon. Convince me ;)

The Black Kraven-Well I'm glad Avery left such a strong impact. You're review actually made me laugh I was so blown back by your response!

When Winds Whirls-Thanks for the kind words. I'm definitely trying to make mine stand out from the others out there.

Chapter 3: Shocking Reveals & A Rocky Situation

Pewter City was more like a large town than an actual city. Sure, it was huge compared to the likes of Pallet, but most places were. Calling Pewter a city still felt like a stretch. Maybe it's because there were very few buildings that reached the clouds like in Viridian, with most standing two or three stories tall at most. It still had its fair share of larger structures and spanned quite a distance, so perhaps that's what earned it the status of city.

David took in all the scenery as he and Spirit walked down the streets towards the Pokémon Center. Pewter was far less crowded that Viridian, so having his large fire horse walk alongside him was not a great inconvenience. He saw many people with Pokémon of their own going about daily life and a few wild ones roaming about. A very large Rhydon curled up behind a man like a Lillipup as he drank coffee with an attractive woman.

Sometimes it was easy to forget that even the biggest and toughest of Pokémon could have a docile side. A few people took the time to gawk as he and Spirit walked by. A few kids younger than David even tried to rush up and pet him.

David honestly wasn't sure how Spirit would react if they had succeeded. Thankfully their parents knew enough about Ponyta not to let that happen. With one potential disaster avoided, David didn't waste any time locating the Pokémon Center.

The task proved to be an easy one as the Center was one of the most frequently visited places in the city. The only locations that truly rivaled it were the Gym and the Pewter Museum of Science. The first person he asked was kind enough to give crystal clear directions and after some more walking, David was at the front entrance.

He returned Spirit to his ball before entering the square building, not wanting to draw any extra attention to himself. Walking down the street was one thing, but a Ponyta indoors would turn too many heads. David noted that the facility was much smaller than the Viridian Pokémon Center had been. Was it a budgeting issue or perhaps that the League valued some Centers over others?

It didn't actually matter to David so long as his Pokémon were well cared for. Unlike Viridian, the Center was buzzing with activity. People sat around the common area having conversations or running back and forth between the lobby and their rooms. Some were busy hogging the video phones to the point a line had formed.

There were also a host of Pokémon following after their trainers, from the common Pidgey and Rattata to various bugs caught in the forest. While waiting in line to speak with the Nurse Joy on duty, David also caught sight of several Pokémon from other regions running around. A Zigzagoon chased after a bouncy ball and two trainers with a Fletchinder and Marractus respectively were heading outside to the battle fields for a practice match.

When it was finally David's turn, Nurse Joy paused for a moment and eyed him critically.

"Excuse me, but you wouldn't happen to be David Amara, would you?" David blinked in surprise.

"Yes I am. How did you know that?" He voiced in response. The nurse just giggled.

"I received a call from my sister telling me all about the trainers who saved her Center from that dastardly Team Rocket. She mentioned one of them had pink eyes. You left quite the impression young man." David didn't know how to respond and just smiled awkwardly as his face heated up. This only made Nurse Joy laugh more. "Thank you for helping my sister out like that. It was very brave of you."

"It really wasn't much. Me, Ash, and Misty just did what was right."

"Well, there are not too many people now a days that still do the right thing. Now how can I help you?"

"Could you please take a look at my Pokémon? We're planning to challenge the Pewter Gym soon."

"Certainly. It is my job after all. If your Pokémon are even half as strong as I've heard, I don't think you'll have too much trouble." Just what had the Viridian Joy been saying?

She then took the tray of David's pokeballs and started to walk away when the lights above began to flicker on and off. The entire lobby took a collective pause to watch the odd behavior, except for those on the video phones whose calls all abruptly ended.

"Everyone please stay calm," Nurse Joy announced in a loud voice for the soft-spoken woman. "The power will be back on in a moment." No sooner had she said this, the lights hummed back to life, though their glow was a bit dimmer. The return of power was enough to satiate most of the crowd, who went back to their business as if nothing had happened.

"What was that all about?" David asked, hoping the lights going out wouldn't be a running theme of every Pokémon Center he visited. Nurse Joy looked a bit nervous.

"Oh nothing, nothing at all," she replied fast. "Just an issue with the wiring. We're having someone take a look at it."

David wanted to ask more, but the nurse hurried through the nearby door that read "Employees Only" and escaped. He might have tried to investigate further if an earsplitting shriek hadn't nearly deafened him.

"David Amara!" The familiar voice of Nia hollered as she came running up to him. She had changed her outfit slightly, now wearing a new black t-shirt that actually fit her shoulders, though it still ran long over her shorts. Her expression was not as flattering. "What the hell took you so long? I was starting to get worried."

"Hello to you too," David said with some cheek. This was not what Nia wanted to hear and she leaned in, her glare growing more powerful. Maybe she knew how to use Scary Face? "Nia, I just got here less than an hour ago. Calm down before you make a scene."

His words appeared to knock Nia out of her worried rage as she remembered they were in a public place. She immediately adopted a flustered demeanor and grabbed David by the hand, dragging him away to a private booth.

"So you just got here?" She asked the moment they sat down.

"Yes Nia, just now," he replied with an exaggerated emphasis. Sometimes it was exhausting being her friend. "Spirit and I came straight here after we got out of the forest. Nothing much happened in there except for this one guy in a samurai costume nearly attacking us."

"He attacked you too!" Nia exclaimed. Her hands slammed on the table. "That little jerk jumped out of the bushes when I was trying to teach Frost and Blaze Metal Claw. Frost nearly took his head clean off. He thought he was hot stuff until Blaze was through with him and his Pinsir. The only thing hot about him were the burns Ember left after we knocked them both out." Nia then paused and blinked. "Wait, who's Spirit?"

"My Ponyta," David answered, ignoring the gapping expression now on Nia's face. "I caught him near Route 22."

"That's so cool!" Nia gushed, any previous grievances with David's tardiness forgiven. "Oh, I would love to have a Rapidash of my own. They're just so cool and run so fast. It's almost like flying."

"You know when Blaze evolves into a Charizard you actually can fly," David reminded, knocking Nia out of her daydream.

"True, but that will take forever. So you had Spirit roast them too?"

"No, Dory took care of them." A pause. "My Magikarp," David clarified. There wasn't a second of delay as Nia burst out laughing. Not a small chuckle from hearing a funny joke, but full blown and uncontrolled snort filled laughter. It took her quite a bit to calm down, only to ask if David was being serious. When he confirmed that he was, she broke out into another fit.

"How? How could anyone with a Pinsir lose to a Magikarp?" She questioned as her merriment simmered down into giggles. "Either he was worse than I thought or you are some kind of Magikarp prodigy."

"Let's go with the second one," David decided through a chuckle of his own. "So what's been going on since you got here? Have you challenged Brock yet?"

"Oh my Arceus, it's been crazy," Nia immediately jumped at the chance to share. "I didn't realize how many trainers were looking to battle Brock. There's a huge waiting list to get a shot in." This made David's eye brow arch up. He had expected there to be a lot of gym challengers, but it appeared he had underestimated the number.

"Are any of them strong?"

"Heck no," Nia replied without any sympathy. "They're mostly trainers from around the area who thought it would be fun to take on a gym. Like any of them even have a clue how hard it is," she scoffed. "Most are getting sent home crying. Even my brother could do better and he's just a nurse."

David felt she was underselling her older brother just a tad. He may have failed the gym challenge and gone back to school to eventually get a "real job" as a resident or doctor in training, but he was still an incredibly powerful battler when he chose to be. Plus being a human doctor was a very hard job or so David was led to believe.

"So when do you get your turn?" David asked, not wanting to touch on that landmine. He'd have to find out how to sign up himself and soon if the wait was really that long.

"Not for another few days," Nia said as she slumped in her seat. "I signed up at the gym with some of the people I met up with in Viridian Forest. They're busy training up for their battles, but honestly I doubt they need to. Brock's only been gym leader for a year now and their Pokémon are more than ready."

David nodded. It made sense that even more experienced trainers would begin their journey at arguably the easiest gym. Everyone wanted to start off with a win. Based on what Nia said about her new traveling companions, they were somewhat experienced trainers from Viridian who had taken on the gyms years ago and were giving it another go.

"Well, while Nurse Joy is busy taking care of my Pokémon, mind showing me where the gym is so I can sign up too?"

"Of course," Nia cried, her face perking up as she leapt from the seat and already started walking towards the door, leaving David no choice but to follow along.

XXX

The pair walked down the busy sidewalk towards the far end of the city. It surprised David just how far the Pokémon Center was from the gym. Seemed like an intentional design flaw. Nia was happy to point out a few spots along the way she'd visited, like a nice little bakery that sold delicious cupcakes or the local park where her Sneasel defeated a trainer's Sandshrew with a newly perfected Metal Claw. Apparently that's where she was getting most of her training done when she wasn't taking on challengers at the Pokémon Center's practice fields.

"So did Gary pass through yet?" David probed as they made a right near the Poke Mart. "I heard from the Viridian Joy that he went ahead while I was out training."

A dark shadow washed over Nia.

"I don't want to talk about him," she said fiercely, turning her nose up as if something foul were placed under it.

"So you ran into him," David surmised. Nia was so easy to read at times. When she didn't respond, David continued by saying, "Your silence on the subject also tells me you battled him and it didn't go well, did it?"

"How do you know that?" Nia roared, her green eyes locked with his pink. "Did Gary say something? That little jerk…"

"Nia, I've known you for years. If you had beaten Gary in a battle you would have called me instantly," David revealed before she could completely wig out. Upon hearing his answer, Nia let out the most frustrated sigh.

"Fine, yes I saw him. He got here before me and challenged Brock yesterday after we battled. Happy?" Hearing the bitterness in her voice, no, David was not happy. He placed a hand on Nia's shoulder.

"Don't take it too hard. Everyone loses eventually. With all the training you're doing now, next time you see Gary, I'm sure you'll put him in his place."

"Oh you can bet I will. I've been working my Pokémon like crazy ever since we lost so that next time we can both say we creamed that smug Oak." David gave Nia a smile and nodded.

"So what Pokémon did Gary use? I'm guessing Squirtle was the headliner?" To this Nia shook her head.

"He didn't even use his Squirtle in our battle," she admitted. "He said he was saving it for his battle with Brock and that he didn't need the type advantage to beat me. His Pidgey and Nidoran were no joke though. They took out Hydro and Blaze without even trying. I would have used Frost too, but I didn't want him saying we only won because I'd had her longer. That was a mistake." The last part was said mostly to herself.

This did give David something new to think about. He and Gary were always relatively even in their studies, with Gary usually beating him by mere percentages on written work while David edged the youngest Oak out when it came to practical exams. Gary was a by the books sort of person who prided himself of raising Pokémon, in his words, the "best" way possible. Whatever his strategy, it seemed to be working if his new captures could so easily dispatch Nia.

His thoughts on any future encounters with Gary were put aside when a new building came into view. It stood out greatly from the others that populated Pewter City, not just because it was farther away, standing alone surrounded by pillars of stone, but because of its design. The roof was a giant boulder that looked like it could crush even a Wailord. The rest of the gym was made up of smaller stones all stacked together. The words Pewter Gym were written in big grey letters on a sign above the front door.

"Here we are," Nia announced as they drew closer. "What do you think? Pretty impressive, huh?"

David had to agree with Nia's assessment. It was exactly what he would expect a gym that specialized in rock type Pokémon to look like. The two reached the door and pushed against its surprising weight. The door opened, not to reveal a ready battlefield, but a small lobby with two young trainers sitting on a bench, their feet tapping nervously.

"Hello," greeted a woman at the room's counter. "Are either of you here to challenge the Pewter Gym?"

"I am," David declared as he stepped forward.

"Excellent, then may I please see your identification?" David was quick to hand her his Pokedex and the woman placed it on her computer pad. "What about you young lady?"

"I already have an appointment two days from now," Nia answered calmly. The computer made a few beeps, catching the woman's attention.

"Alright, it seems we are pretty booked for the week, but there are a few open spots this Friday if that is ok with you?"

"That works," David answered. He could wait a few extra days. It gave him more time to train up his team for the battle. As the assistant handed David his Pokedex back, the gym doors opened to reveal a dark skinned teen of about fifteen or sixteen years old. He wore an orange shirt with a green vest and pair of brown jeans.

"Who's the next challenger here to battle the Pewter City Gym?" He said in a voice that commanded respect. One of the two boys jumped up, his entire body shaking now. Brock cocked an eyebrow, clearly trying to hide his lack of enthusiasm. David didn't blame him. The kid looked ready to pass out, not face down a gym leader.

After the kid ran through the doors into the actual arena, Brock let out a sigh.

"Hopefully this won't take too long. I'd hate to hurt his Pokémon more than I have to."

David could hear the gloom Brock's voice and immediately empathized with the would be breeder. Being what many would consider the "first" gym that most trainers, especially new ones, tried to face must be hard. Sure he gets plenty of competent challengers during the season, but the number of amateurs greatly outnumber them. Winning is fun, but only when you have to work for it.

"Sorry Brock," his assistant said, voice full of sympathy, "but you've got another ten challengers coming by today." The gym leader let out another sigh before taking a dramatic pose, kneeling before his assistant. "Oh Maria, your beautiful voice motivates me to keep my spirits strong, no matter how weak my body becomes."

"Oh Brock," Maria the assistant laughed, though more of a forced one. David was pretty sure Brock was border lining sexual harassment in the work place. That's when Brock noticed David and Nia standing there and quickly righted himself into a more professional stance.

"Are they next?" He asked with a nod.

"No I'm scheduled in two days and David just signed up for the end of the week," Nia explained quickly.

"Sorry about that," David tacked on with an embarrassed smile and laugh combo. Brock's expression softened up.

"Don't be. It's the responsibility of a gym leader to take on any and all challengers who wish to test their skill."

"Well get set for a real challenge because David and I are going to rock your world. Pun definitely intended."

David and surprisingly Brock both laughed at Nia's poor attempt at humor. He thought he was the only one willing to pretend Nia's puns were a form of comedy.

"Well it's a pleasure to meet you both. I look forward to our battles. You seem like competent enough trainers, so maybe it will be a good time. Until then," he arched his back and cracked his spine. "I have challengers to attend to." And the rock type gym leader headed back into the gym's arena to take on his newest victim… challenger! That's what David meant.

After Brock returned to his duties as a busy gym leader, Maria the attendant offered them the chance to watch in the stands. The Pokémon League supplied official Pokémon gyms with large amounts of funding dependent on how successful they were each competitive season. League inspectors were constantly keeping their eyes and ears open for any hint of malpractice and a reason to revoke a gym's license. Considering the gyms and their leaders were meant to serve as defenders of the region alongside the Ace Ops and pillars of their society, this made a lot of sense.

Still, it would be a massive waste if the government didn't exploit the gym challenge for all its worth. Merchandise, tv spots, and of course ticket sales were a big factor in keeping the gyms afloat paired with whatever side jobs the leaders took up.

While it was possible to set up a private challenge against a gym leader, most of the time there would be at least a few people who stopped by to check out a match or two. Only a few gyms outright refused to make their work a spectacle, those being Sabrina, Blaine, and Giovanni.

Blaine's decision was less of a rebellion against the system and more due to the fact very few trainers could even find his gym, with many not even believing it to still exist.

David knew that in Galar, the gym challenge was an even greater phenomenon where thousands of people gathered regularly for each and every official match. Of course Galar had strict rules and regulations regarding which trainers could compete in their circuit while for most other regions it was an open season.

In the end, neither accepted the offer to watch Brock wail on some poor kid's top percentage Rattata and decided to grab lunch instead. David didn't realize it in all the excitement, but he was starving. The two backtracked a little passed the museum and stopped at a cafe called The Glamorous Glameow. It was easy to find thanks to the giant Purugly that slept in the bay window, reminding David a lot of his mother's lazy Meowth.

After enjoying a cheese burger made from that exotic creature called a cow, David and Nia hurried back to the Pokémon Center to find the large crowd in the lobby had dispersed. Many people were still hanging around the practice fields and either watching or participating in various battles against one another. Nia looked all too excited by the prospect of showing off her team.

"Come on David!" She cried, "Let's get your Pokémon and get in on the action." For once David shared her enthusiasm and rushed with her to the front desk. The lights were flickering on and off again, though not as badly this time.

"Hi Nurse Joy," he said to the pink haired nurse upon reaching her. "I wanted to see how my Pokémon were doing?"

"Huh?" She said dumbly. Her mind looked to be somewhere else as she stared up at the light fixtures. "Oh!" she exclaimed, "I'm so sorry David. I must of zoned out again. What can I do for you?" David raised an eyebrow, but said nothing.

"Um, I wanted to pick up my Pokémon? Are they still being looked over?" He repeated, still eyeing the nurse carefully.

"Yes! Yes they are," Nurse Joy announced in her usual happy tone. "All your Pokémon are in tip top shape. I gave your Ponyta a closer checkup as well and I'm happy to report he's battle ready once again."

"That's so great!" David couldn't wait to start training with Spirit. Nurse Joy laughed again.

"Your Ponyta certainly thought so. Give me one second to collect them." Nurse Joy hustled into the back room, the lights above still buzzing loudly as they remained stuck in limbo. Moments later, Nurse Joy returned with three shrunken pokeballs. "Here you go David. I wish you both luck with your…"

"Ahhh!" A loud shout echoed from down the long hall to their left, making half the crowd leap in fright. The floor rumbled as something approached and seconds later a man came running around the corner with a Sudowoodo next to him. He wore a black body suit like some sort of special agent, even sporting a pair of slick shades. Sadly for him, those shades were cracked and his outfit was covered in small cuts and burns. His Sudowoodo didn't look much better. It was soaking wet and looked ready to cry.

"Chino, what's wrong?" Nurse Joy asked as she ran around to join the two trainers.

"That's it! I've had enough of that little monster!" Chino screeched like a Zubat. "I'm sorry Joy, but if you want that menace gone, you're going to have to find someone else." The Sudowoodo mirrored its trainer's actions, shaking its hard branchy limbs in a wild fashion. Nurse Joy looked crushed.

"Oh please don't give up yet. We've already had so many trainers quit." She sounded so desperate to keep this man around for some reason.

"And hopefully I'm the last person foolish enough to take on that damn Trainer Task, no matter how charming you are about it. This ordeal isn't worth such an insignificant sum of Poke or your favor, not in the slightest."

Chino and his Sudowoodo then stomped out the door with extreme prejudice towards anyone who got in their way. When the door shut behind them, Nurse Joy slid to the ground, sitting on her knees and looking faint.

"Nurse Joy, are you ok?" David asked, rushing to help the shaken woman to her feet. Nia joined them, but continued giving the door a death stare like the guy would magically return so she could give him a piece of her mind. David meanwhile didn't know what to do and settled for fanning the disheveled nurse with his hand. It worked in movies.

"Yes, I'm fine," she finally replied before letting out another sigh. "Not another one…"

"Another what? Who was that guy Nurse Joy?"

"And what was his deal?" Nia chimed in. "He had no right to be such a…"

"Nia," David warned, but Nurse Joy waved him off.

"No, he had every right to be angry with me." Nurse Joy rose back to her feet and brushed her skirt, though her dipped lips didn't rise with her. "You see we've been having some difficulties with our electricity as of late, but I'm afraid I mislead everyone as to the cause."

"What's faulty wiring have to do with that guy's bad attitude?" Nia asked, tilting her head like the innocent flower she was.

"Nia, she just admitted to lying about that," David had to correct, prompting an embarrassed laugh from his childhood companion.

"Yes, well, it is the wiring, but not faulty ones. A Pokémon's been sneaking around the Center recently and chewing through the wires. We think it's eating the electricity and it's been causing all sorts of problems because of it."

"Is it really that strong?" David and Nia asked, though their tones could not have been more different.

"Not especially, but it's a tricky nuisance. No matter how many trainers we ask to take care of it, no one's been able to catch it. Not even the Pewter Gym trainers like Chino and I had to practically bribe him just to get his help."

"That guy was a gym trainer?" Nia said in disgust and David had to agree with her sentiment. He then asked the obvious question.

"What Pokémon is it anyway?"

Overhead the lights sporadically flashed before going out entirely. If it wasn't the middle of the afternoon, the entire Center would be pitch black. Nurse Joy implored people not to panic as the backup generators would be on shortly. While she did this, David caught sight of a small black shadow darting out from a low vent and race through the crowd, startling many as it went by. A few onlookers ran for the sliding door, but the automatic system was offline, leaving them all locked in. The shadow darted towards the three of them.

"I got it," Nia declared as she lunged for the mystery Pokémon. Small yellow spark of yellow surrounded the Pokémon as it leapt over Nia, using her head as a springboard to catapult itself over him and Nurse Joy. It landed perfectly on the lobby counter as Nia faceplanted on the lobby floor. Her hair was no longer secured by her pony tail and stood frizzed all over the place.

The backup generators must have kicked in then because the lights suddenly switched back on, offering some insight into their tiny terror. It stood less than two feet tall, its body completely covered in a layer of yellow fur, the only exceptions being a few brown stripes on its back, black marks at the tips of both ears, and two rosy red circles on its cheeks. It looked exactly like Ash's partner, with the sole difference being their tails. Instead of a solid rectangular shape, it looked more like the top of a heart.

That meant it was a female Pikachu. Neat.

There was a mischievous glint in the Pikachu's eyes as she looked down on them from her raised vantage point, laughing up a storm as Nia stood back up. When Nia saw what it had done to her hair, she let out a rage filled cry that only made the Pikachu's laughter grow.

"You little punk!" She screamed before going for one of her pokeballs. It opened and Frost materialized next to her, arms crossed and a wide smirk on her face. If this concerned the prankster Pikachu, it didn't show. "Frost, tear that mouse to pieces!"

David found Nia's order to be a tad extreme, but Frost was more than willing to carry it out. She dove at the counter, claw raised high before it swept down and through the tiny electric mouse. To everyone's surprise, two more Pikachu appeared next to the Sneasel, then four, then eight, until a horde of Pikachu had surrounded Frost.

Double Team, David realized as Frost struck at each clone savagely, only to be disappointed when the afterimage dissolved into thin air.

"Frost behind you!" Nia's warning came too late as one of the Pikachu charged forward at an incredible speed, leaving a trail of white light in her wake. Frost had seconds to realize what was happening before Pikachu slammed into her back, sending the black furred Pokémon to the floor. Nia let out a howl more furious than Frost's as the Sneasel jumped back up and hissed at the giggly Pikachu.

"David," she snapped, "help me cream this thing." Her order was followed up by releasing Blaze to join the fight. He seemed amused by Frost's anger at first, but when he saw Nia and the laughing electric type, he quickly shifted into a glare of his own.

David found the entire situation quite amusing.

"I thought you didn't want me to help…" David's joke was cut off when Nia turned her evil stare on him, looking even more menacing with her hair all frizzed and wild. He gulped and reached for his pokeballs. In a flash, both Deku and a fully revitalized Spirit joined the fray. Spirit let out a loud neigh and stomped hard against the tile floor while Deku growled at his new opponent.

Perhaps this was overkill for one tiny Pikachu, but David wasn't taking chances with it or Nia. Besides the fact his friend would lose it if they didn't manage to capture this Pikachu, Nurse Joy said the little pest had managed to outwit several other trainers, including a Pewter Gym trainer. Even if it wasn't incredibly powerful, they still had to be careful.

"Blaze hit it with Ember. Frost use Icy Wind." Nia's Pokémon were quick to follow their trainer's command and proceeded to fire a combination of hot and cold at Pikachu, but the tiny rodent scurried out of the way. Thankfully the Pokémon Center walls were built to handle attacks far stronger, otherwise this would have been the second one demolished in David's presence.

Spirit didn't wait for commands and galloped towards the yellow mouse ready to trample her underfoot. David watched with some astonishment as the Pikachu nimbly evaded each of Spirit's well aimed Stomp attacks. It took a brave Pokémon to dart between the legs of a speeding Ponyta and an even luckier one to make it out unscathed. Spirit bucked, trying to catch Pikachu with a kick, but the Pikachu was faster.

"Deku, hold it down with your Vine Whip," David shouted as he focused up. Deku grunted and jumped into the battle as his thin vines shot out towards Pikachu. Pikachu saw them coming and sprinted across the floor, dodging the few attempts made to grab her as she ran into the crowd of onlookers that hadn't fled when the power came back on.

If the people watching had been enjoying the impromptu Pokémon battle, they certainly weren't enjoying it now. Many screamed as Pikachu darted in between their legs, her static charge giving quite a few people a small zap. Her plan worked as none of the other Pokémon were able to chase after her. Even Deku's vines could not maneuver well through the panicked crowd.

David stopped looking for Pikachu and instead scanned the room for possible exit points. She wasn't heavy enough to trigger the door sensor, but she was small enough to make liberal use of the vents. David's forethought paid off when he saw Pikachu zig zag towards the right wall where another vent was positioned close to the ceiling.

"Deku, block the vent," he called, grabbing his Bulbasaur's attention with a pointed finger at the air duct entrance. Deku's froglike lips curled into a grin as he reared back and thrust his vines forward again, this time shooting over the crowd and at the metal panel. His call couldn't have come a moment sooner as Pikachu had freed herself from the sea of legs and darted up the wall to the vent. Just as she was about to get away, Deku's vines wrapped around her body. She let out a hostile squeal as Deku reeled her in. "Nice job Deku, now hold her tight."

Deku grunted in affirmation as his grip strengthened. Pikachu squirmed and wriggled, but the vines constricted further around her yellow body. Nia was ecstatic as she and the other Pokémon cheered for Deku's success. Even Nurse Joy had joined them, all too relieved that someone had finally managed to secure the bane of her existence. It was also at that time David saw Pikachu had stopped fighting. In fact, she was wearing a little smirk. It was when her cheeks began to spark that David realized what was next.

"Deku, let go now!"

Deku, still high on his apparent victory, tilted his head in confusion just as Pikachu unleashed a Thundershock attack. Normally grass type Pokémon were resistant to electric attacks, their bodies naturally insulated from the element or able to disperse the worst parts of an attack. Sadly that didn't work as well when there was direct contact, especially Deku's slender vines.

Terror overtook David when Deku let out a pained cry and the electric current engulfed him. The vines immediately released their hold, freeing Pikachu and ending the attack as Deku wobbled on his feet. David teleported to his starter's side, holding him tightly while the grass Pokémon struggled to stand. There didn't appear to be any major damage, most of it superficial at worst, but seeing his partner flinch in pain from the electrical burns on his side wasn't something David enjoyed.

A small wave of yellow static surrounded Deku, shocking David back onto the floor.

"David are you ok?" Nia asked concerned before rushing over to help. David didn't say anything, his lips stuck in a frown, but offered her a nod. He returned Deku to his pokeball and turned all his focus towards the high pitched squeals coming from the female Pikachu as she taunted them further.

"Hurting my friend isn't some funny prank," he growled in a voice David didn't know he could achieve. His words made Pikachu stop her giggling, though her smirk didn't waver. She raised a paw and motioned for them to take another shot. David was happy to oblige.

"Spirit Tackle it." The Ponyta whinnied in rage and charged at full speed. After what happened to Deku, Spirit seemed even more fired up. Unfortunately the slick floors of a Pokémon Center did not do him any favors and when Pikachu leapt out of the way once again, Spirit struggled to turn around, doing so just in time to avoid being the second victim of Thundershock.

"Quick Attack!"

Pikachu was caught by surprise as Nia's Sneasel barreled into it, landing the first clean hit so far.

"Don't forget about me you little pest," she mocked as Pikachu hurried back to her feet, cheeks sparking and eyes full of frustration. "Use Ember Blaze!"

"You too Spirit."

Both fire types reared their heads and unleashed a hell storm of fire upon their foe. The two attacks struck where Pikachu was standing just as the mouse's body coated in an electric charge, creating a massive explosion. The wind blinded the humans closest to the blast, David and Nia included. When they were able to open their eyes again, they saw their three Pokémon staring at a dark burn mark on the floor where Pikachu had been.

Had being the operative word.

"Oh no, it got away!" Nia cried, stamping the ground in a fuss. David rushed down the nearest hall where he suspected their opponent had fled. It didn't take long for him to find another open vent entrance where Pikachu had surely escaped through.

"It went in here," David called as the others quickly came around to see. Spirit snorted in protest, trying to paw at the open grate with his hoof. Nurse Joy came running up to David with a small bottle in her hand.

"Here David, use this on Bulbasaur." She handed him the bottle, which David recognized as a Super Potion. He thanked the nurse and released Deku. The Bulbasaur looked a bit more together if not still stunned and looked up at David with a sad expression.

"Don't give me that look. Everyone loses eventually," David lightly scolded, sharing the same advice he gave Nia. "You did great stopping that Pikachu in her tracks. She just caught us off guard. I'm sorry I didn't notice it sooner." Deku grunted and shook his head, denying David's words as he butted his trainer's leg affectionately.

"I'm the one who should be apologizing," Nurse Joy said with a forlorn look. Even her hair drooped in disappointment. "This happens every time we try to capture it. It either chases everyone away or manages to escape after breaking something, usually both."

David patted Deku's bulb as he applied a liberal amount of the spray to the injuries along his body. The Bulbasaur hissed, but remained still. The small burns faded away and Deku shook the excess liquid off with a small roar. Spirit walked over and nudged his team mate, bowing his head low.

"Oh don't worry you two, this isn't over yet." David's statement caused all present to look at him. His Pokémon shouted in agreement.

"What do you mean? Surly you aren't going to try again?" Nurse Joy asked. "That Pikachu is far too much for rookie trainers to handle, but since I can't raise the task reward for a single Pikachu, they are the only ones willing to do it. I'm afraid I'm going to have to call the League and personally request a professional Hunter, no matter the cost or how embarrassing."

"It's not gonna cost you anything cause we're gonna be the ones to catch that monster," Nia argued, fixing the last strands of her long hair back into the usual ponytail. "I still owe it a thrashing for messing up my hair." She added darkly. She then turned her determined expression over to David. "So what's the plan?"

"Why do you assume I have a plan?"

"Because you always have a plan," she answered bluntly. David glanced at his Pokémon, who returned his gaze with a nod and their own fierce resolve.

"Ok, I do have an idea," he relented, shooting a mock glare at his now beaming friend. "Pikachu is using the vents to get around, right?" Nurse Joy nodded in response to his question. "Good, then we can use that to our advantage. Here's what we do…"

XXX

About two hours after her daring escape, Pikachu squirmed her way through the maze of Pokémon Center vents on a quest for some delicious human snacks. She never did like confined spaces, but being able to move around unnoticed was too important. It was definitely much easier than living in the forest ever was.

She had always been the strongest of her kind, fearlessly defending her own from any and all intruders. But that got boring after a while. There were only so many threats to deal with at a time and while she enjoyed the thrill of danger, the rest of her nest were happy to be without it. Perhaps that boredom is what pushed her into causing mischief. Not trouble or chaos or anything nefarious, just a little fun.

The other Pikachu didn't appreciate her sense of humor, so of course they didn't take kindly to her harmless antics. It's not her fault they didn't see the genius she was. So what if she accidently led a purple snake monster back to the nest? She got it to leave just the same. No harm no foul, right?

Apparently not as her whole family turned against her after that. Not one would show her any kindness, instead treating her with complete apathy. It was all their fault anyway. They're the ones that pushed her into leaving.

Traversing the forest was a touch scarier without the rest of her nest's support, but she was no ordinary Pikachu. She braved every danger and reached the human city beyond, hungry and tired, but alive. She still had to be careful though. Humans would often attack her nest in the forest. They tried to steal her family away, commanding others to fight at their behest like the cowards they were.

It had taken her some time to find a safe haven while avoiding being noticed. She'd never seen so many humans in one place, Pokémon too for that matter, some far larger than she thought was possible.

Her search came to an end when she found the large building with a red roof. It was full of both people and Pokémon, but most looked too injured or weak to cause her problems. The humans who frequented her new home didn't take kindly to her presence, however, and attempted on several occasions to remove her.

Pikachu giggled as she thought about how those doomed missions went. The pink haired human had sent dozens after her, but none could prove a challenge. Whenever someone arrived that she couldn't overpower, there were plenty of other tricks at her disposal.

That last one with the brown Pokémon looked quite silly when she dropped a bucket of water on their heads.

Pikachu continued through the vents towards the kitchen. She wasn't in the mood for any more electricity today, but she did overhear the pink haired woman telling the angry girl and pink eyed boy about a brand new delivery of Oran Berries. Those were her favorite.

She reached the food room and peeked in to see if the coast was clear. Seeing no one, Pikachu pressed on the panel with all her might, but it wouldn't budge. Pikachu stepped back and tilted her head. That was odd. All these vents were easy to open. She's the one who broke the bolts to begin with. She pushed again, noting how cold the metal felt.

Her efforts were interrupted when a pair of blue eyes appeared inches from her on the other side of the grate. Pikachu jumped back and leaned away as the pink haired woman smiled through the bars.

"Sorry Pikachu, but you're not allowed to steal from here anymore." She sounded like a mother scolding a naughty child. Pikachu huffed and stomped her foot before dashing off back into the maze as the woman kept talking in the distance. So what if the pink haired human blocked off this vent. There were plenty of others she could use. She moved away from the cold metal and deeper into the ventilation system where it was warmer. A little too warm.

Pikachu felt a wave of heat breeze through the vents, making her sweat through her fur as the metal beneath her feet started to grow unbearably hot. As she continued down the tunnels, the air grew thinner and the heat grew worse.

Every vent she tried to open in her panic was shut tight, the metal bars ice cold. She kept moving, her breathing turning into short pants as each vent denied her until, finally, one broke opened and allowed her freedom. Pikachu was in such a rush to escape that she didn't realize there was someone else in the room with her until she heard the vent close shut.

XXX

"Well that worked better than expected," David said with a smile on his face as he and Deku stared down at the overcooked mouse. Pikachu spun around and snarled, electricity sparking from her cheeks. Deku replied in kind and growled menacingly, tilting his bulb forwards.

He watched with honest amusement as Pikachu looked around the small room for another escape point, but to her great surprise, the room was totally sealed off. The door was locked and there were no windows since this was Nurse Joy's operating room, which meant the only way out now was through them. David held up his Xtransceiver.

"Nia, tell Spirit and Blaze to stop. We've got it from here."

"Roger that! Kick her butt David!"

The plan had been simple. Frost temporarily froze all the vents throughout the Center except for the one that led to Nurse Joy's ER, then Spirit and Blaze heated up the vents with their Emberto drive Pikachu here. Now that it couldn't make another sneaky get away, Pikachu would have no choice but to face him and Deku head on and the Bulbasaur was not going down so easily this time.

Pikachu didn't miss a beat and charged forward with a Quick Attackthat Deku had no chance to avoid, so he braced himself and took the blow. Pikachu was tossed back across the room, landing on shaky feet.

The heat must still be getting to her, thought David as Pikachu tensed before a dozen Pikachu filled the room.

Deku didn't hesitate to fire off a Razor Leaf at the duplicates. Several glowing green leaves flew through the air and sliced each one of the clones before connecting with the original. David was impressed by how much Deku's accuracy had improved. While he was busy admiring his own Pokémon, Pikachu was charging up a powerful Thundershock that filled the room with the scent of ozone.

It struck Deku clean and the Bulbasaur let out a distressed rumble through gritted teeth, but unlike before did not give into the attack. His hide was tough and built to hold up against this type of attack. While he was still left a bit burned from the shock, Deku was just fine. Pikachu, however, stood on all fours, her breathing growing more erratic. For such a tiny Pokémon, she had a strong will.

David knew what he had to do and tucked his mouth into his shirt.

"Deku use Sleep Powder."

His starter nodded and released a wide spray of green fumes into the room. Pikachu charged forward into the cloud with another Quick Attack. No sooner had she jumped into the mist did Pikachu slow to a sluggish pace. Her eyes grew weary and she soon had to fight to stay conscious. Her cheeks sparked again and Pikachu let out a weak growl before dropping onto the floor completely limp.

David kept his face covered as he approached, cautious in case this was somehow another trick. When he was certain Pikachu was well and truly asleep, he reached for an empty pokeball on his belt and tapped the sleeping mouse. She was sucked in without any issue.

Stepping away from the dust cloud, David tapped his Xtransceiver once more.

"Nurse Joy, I have some good news for you."

XXX

"Thank you, thank you, thank you," Nurse Joy repeated over and over when David presented her with his capture. She had wrapped the young boy in the tightest hug he'd ever received and it took both Nia and Chansey to pry her off.

"No problem," he wheezed out. David placed the pokeball on the Pokémon Center counter and the three humans gathered around while their Pokémon congratulated each other on a job well done. Deku looked extremely proud of himself.

"So what's going to happen to it now?" Nia asked. Nurse Joy composed herself and tried to regain her professional image, but after seeing the grown woman break down into a fit of tearful joy, that was near impossible.

"Well, I could easily have it released back into the Viridian Forest, but that wouldn't do much to stop Pikachu from coming back and starting this whole mess over again. The best option would be to send it to the League. Maybe they can find a trainer to take it in."

"And if they can't?" Nurse Joy sighed.

"Then I guess Pikachu will be cared for by the League until it can be released somewhere else. Perhaps they'll decide to use it as a loan Pokémon. Those are the Pokémon that get trained and rotated out by Ace Ops and other trainers working on behalf of the League, though I don't see many being interested in one with such a bad attitude."

That possibility made David frown. Since it wasn't an exceptionally powerful Pokémon, it would take considerable effort to train her to meet even the minimum League standards. As it is now, Pikachu wouldn't be very useful on missions for even rookie Ace Ops in training. That rebellious streak of hers would make the process take even longer.

Odds are Pikachu would be stuck in a pokeball most of the time, well cared for no doubt, but unable to have any real freedoms until her attitude improved. If it improved…

"Can I keep her?" David asked. Both woman looked at him with disbelief written all over their faces. It honestly shouldn't have been so surprising, nor a question he had to ask. Pikachu was currently his Pokémon and there was no rule forcing him to hand her over to Nurse Joy or the League.

"Are you certain you want to train this Pikachu?" Nurse Joy questioned, probably questioning his sanity too. David nodded. Electric Pokémon weren't very common in Kanto unless you knew where to look or got extremely lucky. There were only four species of electric types in the region naturally, the Pikachu line being one of them. Adding one to his team now could prove useful in the long run.

More importantly, despite all she had put them and a lot of other trainers through, Pikachu didn't deserve to be left and forgotten.

"Are you kidding me?" Nia, apparently, had a different opinion. "I sort of understood with the Magikarp, but do you really want to train this little menace too?"

"Yes, I think I do," he replied in a happy tone he knew Nia didn't want to hear.

The girl's green eyes narrowed, but instead of murdering him on the spot, she scoffed and said, "Fine, do whatever you want. Don't come crying to me when that thing is too much for you to handle."

"I promise."

"If that's the case, then I'll consider this matter resolved," Nurse Joy said. She seemed happy to have Pikachu out of her hair, regardless of who took her. "I just ran a scan and the Pikachu is in fine health. She should wake up easily enough once you release her. Just… please don't do it here."

David nodded and picked back up his pokeball, clutching the device tightly in his palm. Nia was right about one thing. They had a lot of work to do.

XXX

The rest of the day was far more relaxing than how it started. David was giving all of his Pokémon a long rest after a delicious dinner provided by Nurse Joy as a thank you for catching her nemesis. Nia and David split the reward since both their Pokémon helped out, netting them each 300 Poke. Just enough to by two new pokeballs.

After that is was too late to do any training and David felt it best to be well rested before dealing with Pikachu. So to pass the time before bed, Nia suggested they call Professor Oak and update him on their status. The elder Oak was more than happy to receive their call.

"So you managed to capture yourself a Pikachu?" He asked after Nia and David had filled him in on their journey thus far. He listened with rapt attention, his eyes shimmering whenever they mentioned encountering a new Pokémon. He already knew exactly what Pokémon they captured, but the smile he wore showed how much Oak missed being out in the field.

David did leave out the encounter with Team Rocket, but in his defense, it wasn't really a dangerous situation. Plus he didn't need Nia or his mother freaking out.

"Yeah, but she's got a real attitude. I'm hoping we can reign in her more destructive habits."

"Pokémon have just as many unique personalities as people and not all of them give their respect easily. If you are willing to put in the work, I'm certain Pikachu will open up to become a valued member of your team." Oak's words were enough to ease any fears David might have held. He felt his lips curl involuntarily into a smile.

"Thanks Professor."

"Think nothing of it my boy. You are my star pupil after all. I'd expect nothing less."

"Professor, I'm your only pupil. You haven't had any other long term students since Elm and Hale."

Oak laughed at David's comeback and turned his gaze to Nia.

"As for you Nia, remember to keep a cool head when in the heat of battle and you will be able to overcome any challenge, no matter how difficult it may seem." At first Nia beamed with pride hearing the Pokémon Professor offer his sage wisdom. Then, after a moment of thought, her grin flipped.

"Wait, why is that your advice for me?" Oak, caught off guard by the sudden shift, looked a bit squeamish.

"Oh, no reason…"

"Did Gary call you?" Nia's accusation hit the mark because Professor Oak began to sweat profusely.

"He… may have called earlier…" Nia let out a rage induced squeal before going off on an unintelligible rant of what she'd do to Gary next they met for spreading lies about her. David decided to save his mentor from the danger that was a vengeful Nia.

"So how is Gary doing? Ash too for that matter?"

"Hm, oh, oh yes, they are coming along wonderfully." Oak jumped at the opportunity and Nia was forced into the background to steam. "I spoke with Ash recently and last we spoke he was headed into the Viridian Forest. I assume he's still there given you two haven't run into him yet. You know how that boy likes to wander."

"Too true," David nodded. "I did run into him briefly at the Pokémon Center in Viridian. It must have been after you talked."

"And what about Gary?" Nia demanded, having broken from her muttering.

"Gary is doing quite well indeed," Oak admitted with a hint of pride in his voice. "The boy's already earned his first gym badge and caught well over a dozen Pokémon."

That last bit actually caught David by surprise. He knew Gary would capture a lot of Pokémon, but he didn't realize how fast Gary was moving.

"So what if he has a bunch of Pokémon. It's quality over quantity," Nia decided.

"I'd say Gary has both quantity and quality if your battle is anything to go by," Oak said with a smile until he realized Nia was looking at him again like a Persian on the hunt. "Oh my look at the time, I have to go get dinner started. David, Nia take care now and keep catching Pokémon. Bye." He hung up abruptly, forgetting that both trainers knew he had a professional cook on call.

"Well regardless of what Professor Oak says about his grandson, you're still right Nia," David stated, trying to emphasize the fact that Professor Oak and Gary were family, so obviously he'd be happy for his success. "It's not about how many Pokémon we have, but how we raise them."

"Right!" Nia shouted loud enough that people looked ready to shush her. "That's why after we win our gym battle, I'll build up a team of the strongest Pokémon ever."

"Wasn't that always your plan?" David asked.

"Duh, but repetition helps," came Nia's cheeky reply. David smiled back. No it certainly didn't.

XXX

The sun was high in the sky when David arrived at the public park halfway between the Pokémon Center and Pewter Gym. The park was mostly empty. Most people were either in school or at work this time of day. He'd found a nice spot near the park's large pond full of water type Pokémon. Goldeen and Seaking popped out of the water. Poliwag and Poliwhirl floated by. A lone Slowpoke lazed on a rock, tail in the water and ready to catch something.

Deku, Spirit, and Dory were all out of their pokeballs and gathered around David in anticipation of their training. The reason for their delayed start sat in David's hands as he prepared for what was sure to be an unpleasant meeting.

"Remember, Pikachu is our team mate now," he repeated for the third time. It appeared necessary as both Deku and Spirit reacted violently when David told them he had kept Pikachu. Only Dory appeared happy to add another member to the family. That was probably because she hadn't met Pikachu yet. He could only hope they at least pretended to be glad to have her.

On the way to the park, David had taken the time to read up on Pikachu and found her move set to include Thundershock, Quick Attack, Double Team, Thunderwave, and to his astonishment, Volt Tackle.

The knowledge that this Pikachu had access to an incredibly powerful and equally dangerous move like that made David absolutely giddy. Volt Tackle was a highly regarded attack that turned the user into an electric warhead, destroying nearly anything that stood in its way.

What made Volt Tackleextra special was that the only Pokémon who seemed able to learn it were the Pikachu line, unlike equivalent moves like Flare Blitz or Head Smash. No breeder could figure out how to transfer the move to another species. Breeders lucky enough to create offspring that also knew the move were unable to do so consistently and even using a rough version of the attack was considered extremely difficult, even more so than Deku learning to utilize Toxic.

What made the move so dangerous was that along with its high level of power, it was also exceedingly risky. If the user messes up even slightly, it could cause major injury or cripple their ability to use electric type moves. Even when mastered, there was the unfortunate side effect of recoil damage.

Any further thoughts about Volt Tacklewere designated as a future problem. Right now all David had to worry about was befriending Pikachu, which might be an even greater task. With slight unease, David clicked the release button on his pokeball and in a flash of light Pikachu appeared before them. She dozed peacefully on the grassy terrain.

Against his better judgement, David leaned down and poked the sleeping mouse gently. He didn't trust Deku or Spirit not to take advantage of her vulnerable position and get some sort of revenge. Dory wouldn't, but asking a water type to touch a hostile electric type? No, just no.

David barely touched her fur when Pikachu snapped awake. She leapt up and looked around frantically, taking in what to her was a sudden shift in location. Pikachu noticed the heat filled stares being sent her way by David's other Pokémon until her black eyes landed on him. They narrowed and she growled warningly.

"You can stop that right now," David reprimanded. "We aren't fighting anymore. We battled, you lost, and I caught you. Do you know what that means?"

Pikachu didn't answer and continued to stare with angry eyes.

"It means that you are now a member of our team," he stated firmly. "You won't be going back to the forest or causing Nurse Joy any more grief." Pikachu scoffed, but David just kept talking. "I know we haven't gotten off to a good start, but I want us to be friends." This made Pikachu stop, her glare transforming into a more curious look. "We're aiming to travel all across the region and participate in the Indigo League. It's a big tournament where the best and strongest teams battle to prove their strength. We all would love to have you join us."

Dory cheered on from the water. Deku and Spirit gave their own less than enthused cheers. At least they were trying to pretend. Pkachu looked down at the ground in thought before she jumped up with an adorable smile and raised paw. Taking the hint, David reached out and shook the little hand. Maybe this wouldn't be so difficult after…

"Pikachu!" The little mouse cried as it unleashed a Thundershockon David. His whole body buzzed with pain as his muscles locked up and he collapsed. All of David's Pokémon cried out in panic and rushed towards their trainer while Pikachu jumped away, laughing maniacally the whole time. David groaned as he picked up Pikachu's pokeball and pointed it at the escaping mouse, the red beam catching Pikachu in seconds and confining her once again.

"That's about right," David acknowledged through the lingering pain. He shook off the excess static and flattened out his hair before rising back to his feet, using the overhead tree for support. Deku barked angrily and Spirit pawed at the dirt. Even Dory looked quite miffed. David took a second to collect himself before going for the pokeball release button, only to be stopped by one of Deku's vine. "Guys we have to try again. I'm not just going to keep Pikachu locked up forever. Just be ready in case she tries something else."

None of them looked quite happy with David, Deku especially, but the vine reluctantly went back into his bulb. David took a deep breath before clicking the button and Pikachu emerged from her pokeball. The little mouse bristled as her fur stood on end. She shifted from a look of distress, to confusion, and finally anger when she saw David and his Pokémon. She cried out furiously and waved her short arms at them.

"You can't run away Pikachu, not anymore," David replied showing little sympathy. "If you do, I'll just put you back in here." When he held up her pokeball, David noticed the way Pikachu froze, staring at the device with great apprehension. "I can do this all day, so you're stuck with us now."

Pikachu didn't agree with that statement and began shouting at him again. David let her throw her little tantrum before responding.

"Look, the fact of the matter is I've caught you, which makes you a member of our team whether you like it or not. Count yourself lucky, otherwise you'd be stuck in one of these things on a shelf with no chance of getting out." Pikachu tensed at the notion, face tight as her eyes stared hatefully at the ball. "You don't like being confined, do you?"

Pikachu shook her head back and forth in a blur making David chuckle. Pikachu stopped and shouted at him, her red cheeks darkening a bit more. David raised his arms in a placating manner and knelt down to eye level with the electric type. She recoiled slightly as he did, so David didn't attempt to move any closer.

"How about we make a deal? You stick with us and I promise not to put you back in here or force anything for the time being, so long as you behave yourself?" Dory cried from the water, leaping high a couple times, but Pikachu just looked at her oddly. Deku and Spirit didn't share Dory's enthusiasm in easing Pikachu's nerves and stood silent. The electric mouse didn't answer immediately, her pupils still taking quick glances around for a way to escape. "Or I could just put you back in the ball and save us both the trouble."

"Pika!" She cried in response. David nodded hearing that.

"Good. I'm glad we understand each other." He then took a chance and gently rubbed Pikachu's head with a small smile. Pikachu flinched and her cheeks sparked once, but no shock followed. "I think you have a lot of untapped potential Pikachu and if you give us a chance, I know we'll be a great team and even better friends."

"Pikachu," she said, turning her head away from the pats, but did not make any attempt to run. She walked over to the tree they were under and sat against the trunk with a serious pout on her face. David managed not to laugh at how undeniably cute the act was and turned back to his other Pokémon. Deku looked relieved while Spirit still looked miffed. Dory kept jumping, trying unsuccessfully to get Pikachu's attention. With one task completed with marginal success, it was time to get started on training. They had a gym battle to prepare for.

XXX

Training in the park was a nice change from the short sessions David had managed to put together in the Viridian Forest. As usual, he already had plans for each of his Pokémon, short term for their immediate need to beat Brock and long term for their overall development. All of this was recorded in his little black journal.

The training began as it always did, with thirty minutes of intense physical exercise. More running, more jumping, and in Deku's case more lifting. Focusing solely on new moves or battling wouldn't do them much if their bodies weren't able to handle it. David made sure to get in on the work out himself, trying to keep up as best his ten year old body could.

None of them held a candle to Spirit, however, who David had to constantly assign several more laps in order to satisfy the flame horse's desire to run. With his legs all healed, Spirit was faster than David could have imagined, blazing by and leaving ash in his wake. Even an Olympic sprinter would never be able to keep up with Spirit at half speed, let alone a full sprint.

Dory was also having a fun time. David had stopped by the local Champs Sporting Goods and picked up some heavier weights for her to swim with. For her, nothing much had changed once they began their actual training, with the Magikarp continuing to swim against the weights while improving her maneuverability and Tackle. The only new aspect was her control out of water, which mostly consisted of splashing from the pond to the tree and back again.

She was disappointed at the lack of new instructions, but David reminded her that it was all necessary. Once she evolved into a Gyarados, it would open her up to a whole new realm of possibilities. This promise dissuaded any doubt in Dory's mind and she got to work with renewed vigor.

Deku followed a similar routine to his last with some minor adjustments. Unfortunately since this was a city owned park, David couldn't go cutting down trees or uplifting rocks. For physical training, they simply worked on his own Tackle attack and his aim. Another few items David picked up while shopping was a Frisbee and a handful of discarded soda cans littered the streets.

Besides keeping the planet green, the cans made excellent targets for practicing Razor Leaf at various distances while the Frisbee came in handy for working with a moving target. Deku's vinesalso got a work out as David threw the cans high for Deku to catch and return or knock the Frisbee out of the sky with a single strike.

Eventually Spirit and Dory noticed and stopped their own training to come join. Soon the Frisbee was being knocked around by vines, hooves, and fins, and everyone was enjoying their game. All in all, David was getting his money's worth and it was a ton of fun. He invited Pikachu to join them, but the little mouse was adamant in her refusal.

After working on the physical side, they switched to focus on status techniques. They started out with Toxic, their first attempt at the move. Predictably, it did not go so well. Even with David's instructions, various video prompts on his Pokedex, and Deku's understanding of his own biology, the powerful poison move wouldn't manifest. The closest they got was a short spurt of purple liquid that promptly fell to the ground less than a foot away each time. Anything it touched disintegrated almost immediately.

From what David knew of the technique, it fired a stream of thick purple liquid at the user's foe before exploding into a noxious vapor far worse than Poison Powder. Deku was already proving adept at the latter skill, but David guessed it would take some time before he could muster the necessary levels to utilize Toxic. Still, it never hurt to practice.

Moving on from that failure, Deku once more demonstrated his natural talent manipulating his weaker status capabilities. David had already seen how effective each individual powder was when used against the variety of wild and trainer Pokémon they'd met along the way to Pewter. One whiff and most weaker foes were out in seconds, though the stronger ones managed to shrug off their effects. What David wanted to experiment with was Deku's ability to combine all three moves and unleash them simultaneously.

It turned out Deku was more adept at this process than David would have guessed. The green, yellow, and purple hazes mixed together to form a fog as thick as any individual powder's release, but looked more difficult to produce and control. Pikachu scurried up the tree the first time when it accidently drifted in her direction, covering her nose and shouting at Deku from a high branch. She learned her lesson the last time they battled and refused to come back down.

Later on during some battles against trainers strolling through the park and at the Pokémon Center, David managed to pinpoint exactly how Deku was doing it. It seemed that mixing the toxins together was only possible at a reduced strength to each. This meant that the target was not receiving the full effect of any, but instead the reduced ailments stacked on top of one another. Drowsiness but not sleep, pain but not fully poisoned, and sluggishness but not full on paralysis.

David decided to call this Effect Spore.

When David left Deku to work on his rotation with Spirit, he knew they had a lot to do. Whenever David was busy with his other team mates, Spirit would run laps around the pond trying to make each faster than the last. The fire horse showed no signs of slowing down either, so David decided to push him. Spirit may have been new to this kind of training, but all Ponyta were built to work and Spirit was no exception, if not the embodiment of the rule.

Spirit demonstrated his Tackle and Stomp attacks, which were relatively simple since when paired with Spirit's natural desire to charge forward at extreme speeds. Smashing his hooves into something wasn't much of an alteration. His Ember attack was also quite strong, roasting the cans to cinders when they worked on hitting targets. David didn't risk his new Frisbee and stuck to throwing the cans.

From there, David wanted to teach Spirit three new moves or at least start working on them. Those three were Agility, Flame Charge, and Double Kick. Each move offered something Spirit desperately needed.

First and foremost, while the Ponyta line could learn most of the usual fire type attacks, they excelled primarily in their physical strength. While David had every intention on perfecting Spirit's Ember before eventually graduating to the more powerful Flamethrower and Fire Blast, he also wanted to give him more options for close range combat.

Flame Charge was a quick fix to this issue, being one of the rare fire type attacks that relied on a user's physical strength. On top of that, if used right, the summoned fire could drastically increase the user's speed upon each use. A perfect skill for Spirit to demolish anything that stood in his way. Agility would do the same for his speed, making use of latent psychic energies within his body to speed Spirit up even further.

Speed was, after all, the most important tool a Ponyta could possess.

The third move they practiced was more of an immediate need than long term. Double Kick was a relatively simple fighting type attack where the Pokémon struck with a glowing appendage that channeled fighting type energy. It was also super effective against rock type Pokémon, something that a fire types like Spirit would struggle against otherwise.

David had already determined Spirit and Deku would be his choices to battle Brock, so learning the fighting attack became a must.

Flame Charge and Double Kick showed some improvement after a few hours of intense practice. Flame Charge still hadn't been mastered, but engulfing his entire body in thick flames while running became easier the more they worked at it. Even if it wasn't perfect, David couldn't imagine anyone that would want to see Spirit coated in fire charging their way.

Double Kick was also coming along nicely, but so far David only caught a slight glimpse of the glow he'd been told accompanied a mastered attack. Still, Spirit's legs were strong and able to crack the few rocks they could practice on after some time. All that running really paid off.

The thin purplish/pink glow of Agility so similar to David's own eyes appeared once during their training and only for a few seconds, but in that time Spirit's running speed drastically increased. David was certain that a couple more days would see all three moves used with relative competence.

All his Pokémon were coming along phenomenally with their individual training, improving in leaps and bounds even when David was busy working with another member of their little family.

And then there was Pikachu.

Honestly, David didn't know what to expect. He'd managed to keep the electric rodent from running away, though she did make another attempt after he turned to focus on Dory's training. After being sent back to her pokeball for a five minute time out, she was much more willing to stay put.

Pikachu showed zero interest in training, preferring to stay beneath the tree's shade and watch on with a look of contempt. Any time David asked her to join was met with flat out rejection.

She didn't even consider a nickname.

The only time Pikachu deemed them worthy enough to see her skills was during the physical work out. She had looked at them with complete disinterest until Dory tried catching her attention. It worked, though not the way the Magikarp hoped and she was quickly told off. Spirit then stepped in and taunted the little mouse, which almost erupted into a full on battle.

David managed to keep them from coming to blows long enough for Deku to catch up. After a short conversation of grunts, neighs, and squeaks, Spirit continued on and surprisingly Pikachu leapt up and began running with them. David had no idea what Deku had said, but he had to guess it was some sort of challenge against Pikachu's own abilities.

The amount of pride she possessed dwarfed her size without question.

While it wasn't much, David did get a little showing of Pikachu's skills beyond the few times they battled. She was incredibly quick, the only one of them able to keep up with Spirit for a time as they ran.

Pikachu was also happy to demonstrate her superior electrical power as well, using her Thundershock to strike each can when Deku barked at her during their session. Her red faced anger was clear as day when she missed and had to start over. Her own choice of course.

Once she managed a perfect set, Pikachu smugly walked away, content with ignoring them all once again. David had to hand it to Deku. He was certainly a clever one.

It was too bad that she wouldn't work with him as Pikachu would make for a great option against Brock. Her electric and normal attacks would be useless, but David knew there were a couple ways around that. Iron Tail could give Pikachu the edge against rock types and thanks to a certain non-memory, David knew how effective the steel type attack could be.

Sadly all David could get was a short workout which was still far more than he expected.

The hours ticked by in a blur and before David knew it, Nia was calling him to meet her back at the Pokémon Center for dinner. He called everyone over and promised them a delicious meal for their efforts before recalling them to their balls. Well, all except one.

"Pikachu," he said firmly to grab the yellow mouse's attention, "we're going back to the Pokémon Center to eat." He could see the gears turning in her head, the potential opportunities she'd have to escape. "Look, I know how you feel right now, but I really do want us to be friends. You're a part of our team and we look after one another, like family."

Pikachu's eyes moved back to him for a second before turning up again.

"I want to prove that you can trust me, so I won't force you back into the ball if I can trust you not to run away." Now he had Pikachu's full attention. Her face turned, ears standing tall as he put the ball away. "Besides, there are some benefits to sticking with us."

"Pika?"

"Food, shelter, protection, and all the cuddles you could ask for," he said, the last part earning a huff from Pikachu. "Plus," he added, "now Nurse Joy has to feed and pamper you all you want and can't get mad about it."

The smile on Pikachu's face was far more devious than should be possible for such a cute Pokémon.

XXX

The rest of the day came and went with little fanfare. Nurse Joy was less than pleased to see Pikachu out and about, but since the electric mouse wasn't trying to escape or cause trouble, she had no choice but to care for her like all of David's other Pokémon.

David couldn't deny that the best kind of mischief was the kind nobody could say anything about. By the time bedtime rolled around, everyone was exhausted.

Deku curled up comfortably on the room's soft carpet while Spirit stood at the bed's end as he snoozed. A fire hazard maybe, but David trusted Spirit wouldn't catch anything ablaze by standing still. The day prior David had asked Nurse Joy if there was a large enough fish tank he could use for Dory and she found one with little effort. Currently the Magikarp was peacefully resting in her tank on the window counter. Pikachu, of course, refused anything less than the bed. Since she behaved today, David saw no reason to deny her.

He allowed them to enjoy the extra freedom as he knew most wouldn't be this flexible once fully evolved, at least not indoors. David took the time to send Serena a quick message before joining his Pokémon in blissful sleep.

He'd already missed his usual delivery date and didn't want his digital pen pal to worry. Plus he enjoyed chatting with the quiet girl. He made sure to tell her everything that happened so far, including lots about all his new Pokémon friends.

The next morning he wasn't awoken by the calm rays of sunlight through his window or the white noise of the city. No, his wake up call came in the form of Nia. She barged into his room as if there were no door, nearly getting attacked by David's Pokémon in the process, and proceeded to shake him awake shouting about how they were going to be late for her battle.

He checked the clock after she'd run off. They weren't even close to late.

It didn't take David long to shower and dress himself and join Nia in the cafeteria for breakfast, where the girl was inhaling food rather than eating it. That enthusiasm didn't wane throughout their entire meal and walk to the gym.

As promised, Pikachu was still out of her ball and walking alongside them on all fours. She switched between running ahead and then waiting for the two humans to play catch up, with her calling for them to pick up the pace. It wasn't that she wanted to get to the gym faster and more like she just enjoyed telling them what to do.

Deku walked beside David, his even stubbier legs working overtime to keep pace. He looked happy to be out with his trainer, even if Pikachu was walking with them. Every time they caught up and Pikachu smirked at them, David caught Deku growling softly. It wasn't anything fierce, but sooner or later he'd warm up to their new resident diva.

"Are you sure you're ready for this?" David asked again as the gym came into view.

"Of course I am," Nia snapped. "I've been preparing for this my entire life. You think I'm going to back down now?"

"Not at all," David replied instantly. "I know better than to ever doubt you Nia."

"Good," she said with a smirk as they finally reached the gym and entered the stone cold interior.

Like the last time they visited, there were already trainers there waiting for their turn along the bench until there was no more room, forcing a few to lean against the walls. Some looked ready like Nia. Others looked less so.

Pikachu, oddly enough, stuck closer to David as they entered. He guessed she hadn't been to this part of the city before, so the giant stone shaped building filled with human trainers probably felt a bit intimidating. Even Deku appeared a bit tense.

"Hello there," Maria greeted as they entered. "Back for your challenge?"

"You bet I am!" Nia declared without hesitation, startling some of the more jumpy trainers. "My battle is going to be the best one Brock has all day." Maria merely laughed at Nia's enthusiasm.

"Well no one can say you don't have the spirit of a champion." David joked as the attendant poked her tablet and scrolled down the list. Finally she paused and said, "Ah, here you are. Nia Clover, scheduled for ten this morning. You're actually right on time."

She motioned for Nia to head through the doors and Nia didn't even hesitate to jump forward. Before she vanished behind the door, Nia turned back to David and offered him a smile. It was less boundless confidence and one more of genuine care. "Don't worry about me. I got this."

David chuckled. Of course she did.

"You can go with her if you'd like," Maria declared between their near wordless exchange. Both trainers turned to her. "Normally when people want to watch our gym battles they have to go up to the stands, but for other trainers, coaches, and close companions, there are benches by the arena."

"Really? Thank you so much." David didn't know what else to say. He certainly would enjoy the battle more sitting by Nia rather than being surrounded by a crowd of strangers.

"Don't mention it. There aren't even any audience members today anyway. It's the middle of the work week after all." Nia giggled and David gave a curt nod, before they both entered into the main gym.

The actual gym floor was darker than David expected, with only a few overhead lights to illuminate the field. Pillars of stone and boulders of all sizes littered the floor. At the far end sitting cross legged on an uncomfortable looking mat was Brock. His gaze locked on the two of them.

"You've come at last," he said in a seriously ominous tone. It was such a stark contrast to his attitude earlier.

"You bet we have. I'm here to win a Boulder badge!" Nia didn't seem to notice the shift and played into it as the eager challenger to his stoic persona. Brock then stood up and leapt from the platform.

"Excellent. I like an opponent with true confidence." He then noticed David was there as well. "Oh and your, uh… David, right? Are you here to compete as well?"

"Not until Friday," he replied with a shrug. Deku roared at his side while Pikachu just rolled her eyes with a silent scoff. Brock took stock of his two companions.

"And I suppose you'll be using your Bulbasaur?"

"Yes." There was no reason to hide it. If David had wanted to keep Deku a secret then he would have returned him before entering the gym. Brock had been working as gym leader for over a year, so he had to have some counters prepared for type disadvantages at this point.

"It looks strong. You've clearly done a good job raising it in such a short time." The compliment made David's lips split into a smile.

"Well he was my first Pokémon after all and I've been studying for years. Hopefully I can get Pikachu to the same level soon." He heard Pikachu groan besides him, but didn't say anything.

"If you think his Pokémon are tough looking, then just wait until you see mine," Nia asserted, already brandishing a pokeball. "Now let's get this show on the road!" Brock nodded and grabbed a pokeball of his own as the ref took his position.

It was a familiar looking kid and David could tell this was one of Brock's many siblings. They looked nearly identical. His name was Forrest if David could recall correctly.

"This will be a two on two match," Forrest announced. "The battle will conclude when one side's Pokémon are unable to continue. The challenger is the only one allowed to make substitutions. Are both sides ready?"

"I am."

"You bet!"

"Then begin!"

David watched on from his seat as Brock threw out his first Pokémon. It was a Geodude and a tough one too by the looks of it.

Nia responded by releasing her Poliwag, who glared and let out a trumpeting battle cry. The little tadpole Pokémon hopped up and down, daring the rock type to make a move. Geodude answered by pounding its fist into its open palm.

Brock kicked things off first surprisingly enough and Geodude smashed the ground hard, sending a wave of broken stone down onto the battle field. Hydro was light on his feet and danced around each one.

Hydro fired off a Water Gun that struck Geodude with maximum power. The rock type recoiled as it fell back, shaken, but still in the fight.

Brock made another call and Geodude curled up into a ball and barreled forwards at an alarming speed. It was too fast for Hydro to dodge, so Nia commanded him to use Water Gun again. Hydro fired rapid jets of water, missing the first few shots until finally managing to pin down the fast moving rock type.

"Oh no, Geodude!"

Nia cheered as Geodude was sent back with a cry. The young gym leader wasn't out of the fight yet and told Geodude to use Magnitude. It was a risky move as the power varied each usage, but Geodude was clearly not going to get in close.

David and his Pokémon had to grip the seat to avoid being shaken by the powerful shockwaves. Pikachu squealed in terror as she was nearly flung into the air. Nia and Hydro weren't so lucky as the former fell onto her butt and the latter was left dazed and off balance, allowing Geodude to deliver a powerful Tackle that sent the blue Poliwag crashing into a rock.

"Nia, are you alright?" David cried as he jumped to Nia's side and helped the girl back to her feet.

"Yeah, I'm ok. My butt's just a bit bruised," she joked. "Oh no, Hydro!" The two turned back to the field in time to see Hydro regain his footing, a few patches of dirty welts along his body. They didn't appear to be slowing him down though as he began hopping mad.

"Sorry about that," Brock called from the other side. "I don't usually use that kind of move in here."

"Maybe install a handrail," suggested David, half snark and half annoyance. Nia could have gotten seriously hurt. Brock looked a bit embarrassed and nodded.

"Hey you two, we still have a battle to finish." Nia's words got both boy's attention and David hurried back to his seat, a heated blush on his face too.

"Pika." Pikachu let out a sigh as she sat back down on the bench, shaking her head while Deku patted David's back to console him.

"Hydro use Water Gun," Nia shouted. Hydro reared back and repeated his earlier actions. David knew Hydro had a few other moves in his repertoire, including Bubble and Hypnosis, but Nia was insistent on the stronger attack.

It didn't matter as Geodude was struck clean. The cold water washed over its body, causing great distress due to the four times weakness. It rolled back along the rough terrain and once Hydro stopped the assault did not get back up.

"Geodude return," Geodude was recalled and Brock complimented Nia's use of typing and powerful moves. Nia for the most part was just giddy from winning the first match. That giddiness turned to nerves when Brock released his second Pokémon.

Onix was a massive beast that towered over everything. Standing nearly thirty feet tall, it made all of them look like baby Caterpie. David watched on as Nia attempted to conquer her worries and commanded Hydro forward.

The little Poliwag bravely stared down the Onix and launched another Water Gun, but Onix was deceptively fast. No matter how many shots Hydro took, he couldn't land a single one on the Onix's large frame.

It took David a minute to realize how Onix was doing it. Onix weren't known for their speed, but apparently Brock had found a way around that. While large, they were also narrow to a degree and could bend in impossible ways thanks to their snake like bodies. Whenever Hydro fired an attack, Onix simply leaned or curved away, creating an opening for the water to sail by.

David thought it was a very clever and unexpected strategy. He could admit that many would be caught off guard by the large creature's surprising agility and seemingly inability to be hit. Seemingly being the key word.

Deku would absolutely decimate this thing in their match.

Nia, on the other hand, wasn't fairing nearly as well. She continued to call for the same command until Hydro looked near exhausted. It didn't take much for Onix to then slam its tail hard into the earth, knocking the poor Poliwag unconscious.

There was only a brief moment between Hydro leaving the field and Frost taking his place. She emerged with a loud cry, a wicked grin, and claws raised. The Sneasel looked back and sent David a wave, eyes locking briefly with Pikachu.

"Don't even think about it," he said in a serious tone when he saw Pikachu return her glare, sparks already forming around Pikachu's cheeks. The electric type sat back down with a pout and Deku nodded, satisfied.

"Frost, focus up!" Nia cried and Frost simply rolled her eyes in response before staring down her new foe. Nia's starter held no fear as she charged the rock snake, avoiding a quick Tackle attack and reaching Onix's base.

Before the giant serpent could react, Frost delivered a powerful Metal Claw along its side. Small bits of rock chipped off as Frost dug her claws in deep. David almost felt bad for Onix being on the receiving end of such an attack.

Instead of praise, Nia was currently telling Frost off for running ahead without a command, only to be offered a lackluster apology. David heard Pikachu snort at his side as if she was any better.

"Onix bind it," said Brock as his ace regained its baring.

"Dodge!"

Frost was much more nimble than Hydro and easily evaded the curling Onix before following Nia's order to hit Onix with an Icy Wind.

The attack did a number on rock serpent, freezing chunks of its body which made even the smallest of movements harder and painful. Struggle as it might, Onix was unable to regain the mobility it once had, leaving it at Frost's vindictive mercy as she hacked away with a barrage of Metal Claws before finally going down.

"We did it!" Nia was ecstatic as she raced across the field to a still gloating Frost and scooped the little ice type up in her arms. The Sneasel froze up a bit, but accepted the hug and admiration that came with it.

"You sure did." Both trainers, Nia on the floor and David behind her, looked to see Brock approaching. "Not many can stand up to my Onix. You handled your Pokémon well." David watched Nia blush and let out a chuckle. He was promptly rewarded with an elbow to the gut.

"In recognition of your victory, I present you with this, a Boulder badge." There, in Brock's outstretched hand, was a small metal object David recognized as a gym badge. A real one, not like the fakes he and his friends made when they played pretend.

Nia snatched the badge out of Brock's hand, thanking him profusely for his generosity and stalwartness and a number of other large words David questioned if Nia knew the meaning of. Brock seemed a bit unsure how to respond, so David did him a favor.

"If you enjoyed that battle, then you'd best prepare yourself for ours." Brock's eyes shifted towards him and met his dark pink gaze. Unlike most who did, Brock never commented on the peculiar coloring and offered a smile.

"I look forward to it."

David and Nia exited the gym with little fanfare beyond Nia's constant self-congratulations over her victory. Deku and Pikachu trailed behind them.

"That was so exciting," Nia gushed, still holding her newly earned badge high in the air. "I knew we had it in the bag, but then his Onix just came out of nowhere and was like bam, wham, and then Frost came back and was all boom!"

"I know Nia. I was there." David's attitude was not missed and Nia sent him a childish grin.

"You're just jealous," she snarked. David rolled his eyes and turned, though not enough to miss how much larger her grin became. "Knew it."

"Let's just get your Pokémon to the Pokémon Center. Hydro really took a beating." Nia dropped her teasing and agreed that her Pokémon came first and they picked up the pace.

XXX

It didn't take long to reach the Pokémon Center and for Nurse Joy to take Nia's Pokémon. Frost was returned within an hour with a clean bill of health, though Hydro would have to stay overnight to treat his injuries.

Later on, after they grabbed food for both them and their Pokémon, their time together was interrupted by the return of Nia's new friends. Apparently the Pokémon by Mt. Moon were getting a bit restless and forced them away.

David tried to remember their names, honestly he did, but they all sort of blended together. All four were from Viridian city and appeared to be a close knit bunch. They all took part in the gym challenge at age ten, but lost to Surge and hadn't tried again until now.

Their stories were more about the travel and touristy activities than actually raising Pokémon, but Nia still seemed to find them all fascinating, so David played along as best he could. He barely spoke the entire conversation, nearly forgotten about beyond a few words here and there.

He didn't even get upset when the oldest asked about his eyes. A twitch was the all that slip out. Pikachu didn't seem interested either as she dozed next to them, sparking a bit when someone tried to pet her without permission, not that she'd have given it.

What did make him start paying attention was their plans to leave by bus tomorrow morning. With the increased hostility from Pokémon near Mt. Moon, many trainers were opting to skip it entirely and take the main roads. It would be a week of on and off driving to bypass the mountain, but it was definitely faster than navigating the enormous mountain range that split Kanto.

Before the roadways were built, trainers had to pass through Mt. Moon regularly. Now only the daring or desperate chose that path.

"Nia, you're coming with us, right?" The one girl of the foursome asked, putting Nia on the spot.

"Yes, of course I am!" She replied with equal enthusiasm that made David's heart break just a bit. "Now that I got the Boulder badge, I can get ahead of my mother's journey if I hurry. Cerulean City, here we come."

David frowned. He knew she was eager to complete her journey, but to get so caught up that she forget him like that? The time line may have changed a bit given his desire to slow down, but she didn't need to rub it in his face.

He wanted to say something, but hesitated too long as their conversation came to an abrupt end when Nurse Joy called the others over to retrieve their Pokémon and the four older trainers bid them goodbye.

"So you're leaving tomorrow then?" David asked, making Nia whirl around. "Have fun. I'll let you know how my battle goes."

"Yeah I… oh no!" She cried after her mind finally caught up to her mouth. "I totally forgot about that."

No duh, David thought with some resentment before he reigned in his thoughts. "It's fine Nia. We're both moving at our own paces. You didn't force me to hurry up in Viridian and I can't force you to slow down here."

"But that was like a day or two. Splitting up here would be way too long."

"I know, but we both clearly want to experience things differently and I don't want you to miss out just for me. We can still talk on our Xtransceivers."

"I guess you're right…" Nia trailed off, not as confident as she fiddled with the device on her wrist. She then jumped up with a sudden burst of energy and sent David a determined smirk. "Yeah! I'll conquer the gyms one after another and the next time I see you will be when I'm on my way to the Pokémon League."

"Nia, we'll see each other before the league. Hell, you're not leaving until tomorrow."

"Right… my bad." David laughed and while Nia tried to glare she soon joined him. They made sure to enjoy their last night together for a while, doing as much as they could before heading off to bed.

XXX

Nia's departure occurred early the next morning without much suspense. David offered kind words the whole way there and a promise to battle the next time they met. He was caught a little off guard when Nia wrapped him up in a tight hug. She wasn't usually the most touchy feely, but David returned the affection all the same.

"Take care of yourself, ya dork," she mumbled into his ear.

"You too and don't let anyone show you up, cough Gary." And yes, he said the word cough.

David then watched as his best friend of ten years hopped on a bus full of random passengers, most of whom weren't even trainers, just people traveling for work, fun, or their own personal reasons, and sped off into the distance until the bus was out of sight.

It was with a sigh and heavy heart that he watched it go, that feeling of guilt sticking with him all the way back to the Center. It wasn't that he didn't want to travel with her and he truly hoped somewhere down the line they'd be moving at the same pace.

From that point on the rest of David's day before his first real test as a trainer continued like any other. He gathered his Pokémon after they ate for some further training and a few light spars between one another. There was no reason to risk injury right now.

Dory busied herself with racing the other water types in the park's pond, swimming neck and neck with a very fast Barboach. She had been disappointed when David told her Spirit and Deku would be battling Brock, but understood she wouldn't be able to do much. It helped that David promised her the chance to have a turn during their next gym.

Deku and Spirit, meanwhile, were raring to go. Deku's Razor Leaf had seen a major upgrade and now was a collection of dozens of well-aimed, razor sharp projectiles instead of just two. Spirit had also mastered Flame Charge and Double Kick. His Agility still needed some work, but the psychic manipulation had grown easier.

Once again he tried to get Pikachu to train and was once again met with complete indifference.

They ended up stopping early to spend some time playing with the Frisbee when someone came running towards them, shouting his name in a panic. David was shocked to see it was none other than Nurse Joy.

"David, there you are," the nurse panted, forcing herself to breathe deeply. She was still in her uniform, but looked like she'd been running a marathon.

"Nurse Joy, what's wrong?" He asked as the rest of his Pokémon gathered around them. Deku let out a low growl of concern. Nurse Joy inhaled and let out a loud gasp.

"It's terrible! A herd of Ryhorn are charging right for the city!"

The minute Nurse Joy finished her sentence, David felt a small seed of panic fill his chest. The grasslands between Pewter and Mt. Moon were home to all kinds of Pokémon, but famously known for their Ryhorn herds. It was said the founder of Pewter City raised the first Ryhorn herd and defended the city when it was still a small village with his powerful Rhyperior.

Most of the time those herds stayed closer to Mt. Moon's base, thriving in the rough mountain terrain and on rare occasion coming closer to the city limits. It was at those times when the Pewter Gym trainers and Ace Ops would direct them away, since Ryhorn were famous for their one track minds. Once they started charging it was nearly impossible to stop them.

An entire herd of Ryhorn could demolish a forest. David didn't want to know what they could do to a heavily populated city.

"Do you know what caused them to stampede?" Sadly Nurse Joy replied with a head shake.

"No one knows," she admitted. "We got a call from one of the farms outside the city that a whole herd came rampaging through and ruined his crop patches. One of the Ace trainers in town went out on his Pidgeot to scout the situation. There has to be at least thirty of them and they don't seem to be slowing down."

"Wait, then why are you looking for me?" David had to ask.

"Due to some… complex issues, we don't have a lot of league funding at the moment and so our number of Ace trainers is sort of… lacking. Brock and his gym trainers are already moving to intercept, but he asked me to round up as many capable trainers as I could."

So that's why she was here. Honestly David didn't know if Nurse Joy really thought that highly of him or if she was just desperate. Either way it didn't matter. There was only one thing David needed to know.

"Tell me where to go Nurse Joy. We'll make sure those Ryhorn don't get any closer."

His words appeared to do the trick and Nurse Joy's worry ebbed into cautious optimism.

"Thank you so much David. Head that way down the main road and it should lead to where the rest of the trainers are gathering on the far end of the city." She pointed down an open street where many other residents were fleeing from. Guess word already got out.

David quickly recalled all his Pokémon, but Pikachu, who gave him a flippant look when he tried.

"Sorry Pikachu, but we need to hurry and unless you plan on helping then…" David didn't even finish before Pikachu shouted and ran off. He gave chase, not trying to recall her again since she was heading towards the panicked crowd, exactly where they needed to go.

There was some difficulty navigating the near riot as all were anxiously trying to find somewhere safe to hide. Pikachu was quick to lead him through the masses and the pair soon arrived at the city outskirts, where the roads branched out into open land and hilly slopes that touched the base of Mt. Moon. Looking across said landscape, David could already make out a massive stone grey line in the distance that was growing closer by the second.

"David, good to see you," Brock greeted as David approached the group of trainers. There weren't very many besides Brock and three of his gym trainers, who David identified by their matching uniforms. He also saw a few Ace Ops and a mix of random trainers who also got pulled into this. One in particular stood out, wearing very rugged clothes, a hat that covered most of his face, and a beard that looked strangely enough like Brock's spiky hair upside down. The man looked like he wanted to be anywhere, but here.

So at least Flint's not too much a coward to let the city be ruined, David mused. Just too cowardly to face his family. He turned attention away from the former gym leader to instead focus on the current one.

"Happy to help. So what's the plan Brock?"

"The plan is to drive the herd back into the mountains. I don't know why, but a lot of the Pokémon up near Mt. Moon have been getting agitated as of late. I was hoping to investigate soon, but it looks like I waited too long." Brock's voice grew a bit sullen at the admission.

"I heard about that too," David replied, thinking back to what the older trainers had told them. "What do you need us to do?"

"Release your Pokémon and let's join the others." Brock ordered as they walked towards the other trainers. His words weren't just directed at David as the other trainers began calling out their Pokémon.

Brock threw out his Onix, which roared to the sky above, and his gym trainers released their own consisting of a Dugtrio, Graveler, and a Sandshrew. More Pokémon appeared, a random assortment of local catches spanning from Mankey, Nidoran, and Spearow to a few water types like Psyduck, Golduck, and Wingull. There was even a Roserade believe it or not.

What really caught David's eye was the massive Rhyperior Flint released. It was as big as it was intimidating and oh boy did it intimidate. That horn looked like it could easily pierce through solid steel like tissue paper.

Not wanting to be left out, David released Deku and Spirit to join him and Pikachu. They both let out cries of their own, drowned out by the sheer number of others. Brock walked over with an older Ace Ops member wearing a black vest and took stock of their small army. It was the Ace Op who started barking commands.

"Anyone with a water or grass type Pokémon or a Pokémon with those types of attacks will man the front line. Hit the herd hard with everything you can to slow them down. If your Pokémon know fighting or ground type attacks, use them once the main group begins to disperse. We'll have to move fast to corral the Ryhorn when they begin to splinter. Even one loose Ryhorn can cause serious damage if it gets into the city."

"And what about me sir," Brock asked, confirming that despite his status of gym leader he wasn't in charge at the moment.

"Have Onix dig beneath the herd and try to trap as many Ryhorn as you can. Use its body to block them out." Brock nodded and called on Onix, which roared again before burrowing deep into the earth. The ground beneath David shook and he nearly lost his balance, having to grab Spirit for support. Instinctively he wrapped his arms around Spirit's neck to avoid the flames, though they didn't feel nearly as hot as before.

That Onix could sure move when it counted. Why didn't Brock use it more often in his non-memories?

There wasn't time to dwell on that particular tangent because the earth soon rumbled again and Onix burst from the earth's crust in an explosion of dirt and rock. The giant rock snake had surfaced directly in front of the herd and managed to slam a fair few away with sheer strength and falling debris. Its sturdy body blocked some of the charging Ryhorn, forcing them to stop and face Onix in battle. Unfortunately the majority managed to slip passed.

"Trainers push them back!" The Ace Ops leader called when the Ryhorn drew closer. All the Pokémon unleashed their attacks in a valiant effort to push the Ryhorn back. A Ratatta leapt forward and tried to intimidate the much larger Pokémon with a Growl. A Pidgey used Sand Attack to blind the beasts while the water types doused them with high pressured blasts.

Roserade was raining down Energy Balls and thanks to the bright sunlight fired a quick Solarbeam. Flint's Rhyperior was tearing through the few Ryhorn brave enough to challenge their final evolution. It made David wonder how he could have failed as a trainer when his Rhyperior easily blasted a group of Ryhorn away with one Rock Wrecker. Either the larger world was a lot harsher than he thought or Flint was really that bad a trainer.

That's when a few Ryhorn tried their luck with him.

"Razor Leaf!" Deku jumped high and unleashed a wave of leaves into the leading Ryhorn. Many cried out in pain as the sharp edges sliced their rock hard bodies, some even getting stuck in their ridges. Spirit tried to help too, firing some Embers into the group, but his attack did little to the tough rocky exterior.

One Ryhorn succeeded in sneaking passed the front line and ran towards the city, but to David's surprise Pikachu ran up alongside it. Her cheeks sparked as she leapt onto the rowdy Pokémon's back, causing it to panic and buck wildly.

"Pikachu!" He called and immediately ran to help with Deku and Spirit close behind. They nearly made it when Pikachu was flung from the Ryhorn's head. A surge of adrenaline hit David as he dove forward to snatch the falling Pikachu out of the air, rolling along the grassy field with the electric mouse clutched into his chest.

"You good?" He asked as the electric type stared at him. She quickly turned away and nodded with a short reply. Spirit didn't falter and delivered a powerful Double Kick in combination with another trainer's Mankey who had sprinted to join them with a Karate Chop.

"Quick, they're heading for the south side." David's head jolted up as he noticed a trio of Ryhorn that had not only broken through the first line, but had a major lead and were nearing the city. Spirit stomped forward with a loud neighing and bobbed his head towards David.

The ten year old mind drew blank as his Ponyta knelt before him. Another whinny conveyed Spirit's meaning and David couldn't stop a grin from overtaking his face. He recalled Deku and rushed to Spirit's side before throwing his short leg over the fire horse's back. The instant David was securely on board, the flame horse Pokémon took off like a bullet.

Riding on the back of a Ponyta cutting loose is often described as a thrilling experience. For David, it was certainly more intense than riding baby Ponyta at the local fair. He held a death grip around Spirit's neck to avoid being tossed off the instant the horse bolted. A saddle was the first thing he would get once this was all over.

The speed they were moving at was incredible. Everything was a blur. Pikachu cried as she chased after them, but Spirit was moving even faster than in training. He tore across the field at speeds only a Ponyta could achieve.

When David's eyes stopped shaking, he found they were at least a mile from where they had started and more importantly the Ryhorn were coming right at them.

"Deku, battle on!" David called as he released the Bulbasaur once again. Deku exploded out and fired another Razor Leaf, stopping all three in their tracks.

When the dust died down, all three Ryhorn were left unconscious. David hopped off Spirit and leaned down to embrace Deku as he approached. He looked very proud of himself.

"Great work Deku," he said, patting the small grass Pokémon gently. Something tapped his shoulder and David found Spirit's face inches from his own. The fire type's eyes said it all. "You were incredible too Spirit. I can't believe how fast you are." The Ponyta whinnied loud and David laughed. "Thank you for letting me ride you." Spirt replied with a much softer snort, nudging David again.

"Pikachu," came a little shout and suddenly a panting yellow body wormed its way between them. David looked down at Pikachu as she sat on his stomach, a pout stuck to her face. Oh yeah…

"Sorry about leaving you back there Pikachu, but we didn't have time to wait and I know you don't like the pokeball."

Pikachu's angry eyes faltered for a second before she crossed her tiny arms and shouted again. David took the opportunity to get up and all his Pokémon stepped back as he surveyed the area.

The battle was over. All the Ryhorn had been successfully repelled or defeated. The ones that could still manage to move were heading back to the mountains while the downed were being captured by Ace Ops one by one. Most of the remaining defender's Pokémon were in good shape too, suffering nothing more than a few serious bruises and cuts.

A few of the weaker trainers had run off pretty early when their Pokémon got taken out, so that left Brock, the gym trainers, the Ace Ops, and a few other trainers besides himself.

"Spirit, mind giving me a lift?" Spirit neighed loudly and allowed David to climb onto his back once again. Now that they were no longer in danger, David had time to marvel at how he was essentially sitting in fire and not burning. His hand brushed Spirit's fiery mane and he noticed how warm it still felt, but rather like a heated pillow.

Yes, he could get used to this.

"Pikachu," he called to the yellow mouse. "You want a ride?" Pikachu's initial response was to shake her head, too proud to let someone carry her, but all David had to do was threaten her with more running and she suddenly decided sitting on David's lap wasn't too big an issue. It was her decision after all.

Deku was too big to be afforded the same luxury and was returned with the promise of extra Poke Snacks later.

Spirit carried David and Pikachu across the plains, going at a much slower pace. David had been very insistent on that.

"David, great work," called Brock as he ran over to the dismounting trainer. "You really saved our behinds out there."

"Not really," David said while rubbing his arm. "Lots of Pokémon here could have stopped those three Ryhorn."

"But you're the one who did." David couldn't deny that. "The way you road your Ponyta was quiet impressive as well. Was it your first time?"

"Yeah. Up till now he just burned me."

"They say a Ponyta will only allow someone it truly trusts to ride them. How long have you had yours?"

"Little over a week I'd say," David guessed. He'd actually lost track of when he'd met Spirit. His journey was beginning to feel like one big adventure.

"You must have made quite the impression on it then," Brock commended.

"Him," corrected David.

"Right sorry. Your Bulbasaur wasn't too bad either. I look forward to battling him tomorrow in our match."

It was then David saw a pokeball in Brock's hand. Unlike his others, this one had a blue top with two ridges. "Hey, what's that ball for?"

"Hmm, this? It's for my new Ryhorn."

"You caught one?"

"I think it was the leader. When Onix interrupted their charge, it tried to take Onix on by itself. Seemed a bit old if you ask me, so we didn't have much trouble. Might even make a good member of my team if the league lets me keep it."

"Brock, you're a gym leader. You are the league," David laughed out, much to Brock's embarrassment.

"Speaking of which, we'd all best get back to the Pokémon Center so Nurse Joy can check out our teams, otherwise there might not be any matches tomorrow."

"Good idea. I don't want to hear any excuses when I beat you." Brock responded by extending a hand, a hand that David gladly took hold of.

"I wouldn't have it any other way."

Spirit let out a loud whinny while Pikachu simply sighed, accepting that if she wasn't going to be in the pokeball, walking was an inevitable chore.

XXX

The day had been long and tiring for Nurse Joy. First a herd of Ryhorn nearly destroyed the city, then another horde of trainers came rushing in saying their Pokémon were attacked by said herd. Somehow she still managed to care for all the injured Pokémon with only a single Chansey for backup.

David's team were among the lucky few that got out unscathed. She barely even looked at his Pokémon before shooing him away so she could deal with those that actually required her medical knowledge.

They decided to head back to the park since the Pokémon Center was so jammed, but after their intense encounter with the Ryhorn herd, training was replaced with relaxing. David leaned against Spirit as they basked in the sun's warmth with Deku enjoying it most of all. It was important for a Bulbasaur to get as much sunlight as possible.

He also noticed Pikachu was sticking by the group instead of climbing up to an isolated branch. She curled up just near enough that David could pet her, but far enough away that she could bolt if he tried it.

It was still progress and like most progress, David took it as a win.

Dory was also out and swimming laps once again. She had been enthralled by the tale of how her friends bravely fended off a group of crazed Pokémon, especially the part where Pikachu stepped in and led the charge. At least, that's what he guessed she was telling Dory.

David didn't have the heart to tell her the truth, so he must have just missed that part of the fight. She seemed eager to start training once again so that she could evolve and battle on land like the rest of the team.

The rest of their day was spent mostly lounging around with the exception being the time David spent looking for a saddle for Spirit. They were so well rested that when bedtime came rolling along, none of them could sleep, so they stayed up and David told them all stories about his time in Pallet Town.

He talked about all the fun projects Professor Oak allowed him to assist with, his mother and her amazing baking skills that rivaled Delia's. David told them even told them a bit about Ash and Gary and how silly they were with their constant competitions to prove who was the better trainer.

David jokingly scoffed at the idea of either of them being better than his team, to which all his Pokémon agreed, even Pikachu. David was touched by their faith in him. Eventually they all managed to get some shut eye, which was good since their biggest challenge yet was only a few hours away.

XXX

Those hours ticked by in the blink of an eye and soon David found himself back at the Pewter Gym for the third and hopefully final time that week. He rolled into the gym lobby, which was packed with more trainers than he'd ever seen in one place besides a League competition.

Guess everyone wanted a piece of Brock now that the weekend was here.

"David," Maria called as she squeezed through the mass. "There you are. You… right… on… time." She grunted each word as she forced herself closer. "You can go on in for your match."

"Aren't these people ahead of me?" He asked unsure as many heads turned, probably wondering why he was cutting.

"No. They just refused to sign up ahead of time and started this travesty. Hey, watch where you're grabbing."

David sent Maria a sympathetic smile as he left her to deal with the unruly crowd.

The instant the doors opened he regretted it. There was no warning for the bombardment of loud cheers and banging that erupted from the overhead stand when he walked in. Rows upon rows of brassy fans filled the upper balcony, ready to watch yet another trainer battle their city's gym leader.

All the noise hurt David's ears. Pikachu let a 'chaaa' and held her ears down too. David frowned and stroked Pikachu's head.

"Do you want to go in the ball?" He offered. Pikachu looked at him in utter horror and violently shook her head. She put on a brave face, but David could tell she was still bothered. David did his best to follow her lead and ignore the noise in favor of listening to Brock as the Pewter gym leader approached.

"I'm glad you could make it David. I've been looking forward to our match." Brock didn't seem at all put off by the crowd.

"The feeling's mutual," David called back. Once they started talking, the onlookers hushed themselves and allowed the pair to speak at a normal volume.

"After seeing how you handled your Pokémon yesterday, I'm expecting a real challenge." David smirked.

"And I'm expecting to win." At that Brock smiled.

"Then hopefully you won't be too disappointed when you lose. Go Geodude!" Brock's quip was followed by the release of his first Pokémon. The crowd exploded in excitement when Geodude hit the field, chanting for both trainer and Pokémon.

"Spirit, battle on!"

David enlarged his own pokeball and tapped the button to send Spirit into battle. The Ponyta reared onto his hind legs and let loose a wild neigh that rivaled the crowds cheering. He stared down Geodude with a snort hot air, his fiery mane burning brightly in defiance.

"Normally I'd scold trainers for coming here at such a massive disadvantage, but after yesterday I think you know what you're doing. You wouldn't believe how many trainers I get that think they can win against Onix with a Pidgey using Tackle."

"Or electric attacks?" David asked jokingly. Brock laughed at his candor. Pikachu's ears twitched and she sent him a look, but David leaned over and said, "Don't worry I'm not talking about you." Pikachu eyed him curiously, but didn't protest.

Forrest stepped onto the judge's platform and after repeating the usual gym rules called on them to begin the battle.

"Flame Charge!" Spirit launched forward, his hooves barely touching the ground as his entire body was coated in dark red flames. Neither Brock nor Geodude were prepared for Spirit's swiftness and he rammed into Geodude with all his might.

The attack didn't do much, but it did knock Geodude back a touch. What David really cared about was once the fire had died down, a faint red glow surrounded Spirit.

Brock picked up on this too as he called for Geodude to use Rollout, turning his Pokémon into a literal cannonball that tore up the earth in its approach. Thanks to the speed boost from Flame Charge, Spirit had no trouble cantering out of the way of Geodude's assault. David also saw a faint purple glow, indicating Spirit was using Agility to enhance his speed even further.

"Spirit, wait for it to come around and use Double Kick on the side."

Spirit snorted and danced away from Geodude again, hooves glowing bright as he spun around to deliver a super effective hit with those powerful legs. The force of the attack pushed the rotating Geodude off balance and sent it careening into another rock, which crumbled on top of the two armed Pokémon.

The crowd was in hysterics, either cheering David's success or lamenting Brock's loss in momentum.

David stared at the crushed stones, not convinced Geodude would be taken down that easily. His wariness was proven correct when a large fist shot out of the rubble, revealing Geodude to be just fine.

Brock smiled and called for a Magnitude. David immediately knelt down and Pikachu gripped his pants as the arena began to shake violently. Small rocks were tossed into the air and cracks appeared as powerful seismic waves ripped the field apart.

Spirit struggled to keep his footing while Geodude charged in again. The Pokémon's unique ability to hover allowed it to approach amidst the chaos it had caused. Brock certainly wasn't pulling any punches.

David wasn't going to pull his either.

"Spirit jump!"

Despite the ground shifting like it was liquid, Spirit's strong legs found enough strength to steady and leap into the air high above Geodude. Brock looked stunned as Spirit soared overhead, hooves already glowing before gravity pulled the larger horse Pokémon down, dropping his full weight into the attack.

A dust cloud kicked up from the impact and when it cleared Spirit was standing tall above an unconscious Geodude. The crowd gawked before erupting in a frenzy of applause.

"Not bad David," Brock commended as he recalled Geodude to its ball. "You managed to win even at a disadvantage. I'm impressed."

"You haven't seen anything yet," answered David as he returned Spirit to his ball. There was no point in letting Spirit battle Onix. The Ponyta may have still been in good shape, but the gargantuan rock snake was too much for Spirit to handle.

Its size alone would leave very little room to make use of the flame horse's speed and could allow for a dangerous counter attack. Double Kick wouldn't be enough and David had no interest in sacrificing Spirit just to inflict some extra damage.

Deku roared out when he arrived on the battlefield, igniting another round of excitement. It was rare to see a Kantonian starter, so those watching were extra amped.

Things got even crazier as Onix joined Deku and drowned out both the Bulbasaur and the crowd with its cry. Deku showed little fear towards the opponent that dwarfed him ten times over, digging his feet into the dirt.

Onix started the battle off this time. Its long body allowed it to spring forward with a Tackle. Without waiting, Deku launched a vine to the side and used one of the larger rocks to pull himself out of harm's way. Onix's body crashed into the earth with tremendous force and David saw its rocky body emit a bright shimmer that turned the gray stone a darker steely color.

Harden. Not a bad play increasing Onix's defenses while attacking. A stronger body meant more impact from its physical moves. He definitely couldn't let Deku be hit by that.

"Razor Leaf!"

Deku landed on the stone surface and fired a round of leafy projectiles at the enemy Onix. There were dozens of them and would do massive damage when they hit.

David mentally cursed when Onix made use of its elongated body to maneuver around the stream of leaves, bobbing and weaving in a way no creature that size should be able.

It was time to switch tactics.

"Switch to wide spread," he called out and Deku's leaves suddenly changed course. Deku shifted his posture and the stream of leaves split into a horizontal wave instead of following a linear path. All their practice with aim and control was paying off as the attack covered the entire field like an army of tiny soldiers, swarming every inch and leaving no stone unturned.

Onix roared in pain as its body was pelted by a small volley. The attack didn't hit nearly as hard as before, but now Onix could not escape the onslaught.

"Stun Spore!" David knew their current plan was only a temporary solution and they had to fully immobilize Onix to keep the advantage. Deku stopped pelting the rock snake and unleashed a cloud of yellow powder from his bulb. That small cloud quickly expanded and began to cover the entire field.

If it weren't for the psychic barriers put in place by League registered psychics, the powder would have quickly reached the stands and left everyone feeling its powerful effects.

"Use Dig Onix," Brock cried, desperate to avoid the paralysis inducing spores. Onix recovered from the last attack and dove into the ground before Stun Spore could reach it.

Brock's plan was clever, if not predictable. Onix could easily hide underground until the spores cleared, allowing it to strike without warning. That might have worked if David was willing to wait.

"Deku fire Razor Leaf into the hole!"

The little Bulbasaur got moving immediately, running through the cloud of gas without concern. He charged up a nearby rock and jumped into the air, tilting his bulb towards the open hole before doing as David said and launching round after round of Razor Leaf.

Given Onix's size and the size of the arena, there weren't a lot of places for it to go. Sure they were fast underground, but now that monstrous size was working against it. The fact Geodude and Onix were kind enough to soften up the floor was an added bonus.

Brock shouting for Onix to escape, but it was too late. Razor Leaf sliced through the earth and seconds later Onix emerged writhing in pain before it collapsed in a motionless heap.

"Onix is unable to battle. The winner is David Amara!"

David didn't hear the crowd's reaction. He didn't care. The only thing on his mind was that he'd just won his first gym battle.

"Deku, you were incredible! We actually won," He cried as he charged across the ruined battlefield to scoop up his starter in a hug. Deku growled in approval and wrapped David up tightly in his vines.

"Yes you did." David looked up as Brock approached, a smile on his face despite the loss. "Your Pokémon performed admirably and your strategy was well planned. I am proud to present you with this Boulder badge."

Brock held out the tiny metal object, its gray color shimmering even in the basic gym lighting. When it was placed into David's hand, he felt a much greater weight than he was expecting. Something so small held so much more meaning than one would think.

The crowd continued cheering, for David, his Pokémon, and the victory they both had earned.

XXX

The aftermath of David's near overwhelming victory was much less intense than the actual battle. After Brock had walked him out personally, thanking him once again for their excellent match and his help with the Ryhorn, David had rushed his team to the Pokémon Center.

Nurse Joy didn't seem at all surprised when David told her the good news and quickly took both his Bulbasaur and Ponyta for a checkup. It took longer than he'd hoped since she had a lot of other patients who lost their battles with Brock, so while waiting he released Dory into her tank and told her everything. Once again, the Magikarp was disappointed to miss it.

When Nurse Joy came back, both Spirit and Deku were said to be in good shape. David thanked her and prepared a meal for his team members, showing Spirit the same affection he showed Deku after their win. Before it got too dark, he made sure to spend some time training with Dory while the others rested up. It didn't make up for everything, but Dory was happy to have some time devoted to working towards her much desired ascension.

Pikachu was also more willing to participate in the initial routines. After watching Spirit and Deku battle, David hoped her interest in their training would grow. He demonstrated appreciation for Pikachu's efforts by offering her a cup of Oran Berries he'd picked up while shopping. She ate them up in seconds.

David debated whether or not he should head out that evening or stay the extra night. He already had all the camping gear and extra food they would need, but in the end David decided one more night sleeping on an actual bed couldn't hurt. He had to enjoy such luxury while he could.

The next morning, David stood on the path the lead onto Route 3, the same area where his Pokémon had fended off a herd of crazed Ryhorn. He looked down at his traveling companions, one who looked raring to go and the other who still refused to go into her ball and smiled.

"You know, it's going to be a lot of walking. Sure you don't want to be in the ball for this?"

Pikachu responded by climbing up David's leg, stomach, and shoulder until she settled comfortably on his head. Deku growled and tried to pull her off with his vines, but David waved his starter off.

"Pikachu," she cried while pointing forward and the trio marched along down the dirt road to Mt. Moon and the next step in his Pokémon journey.

XXX

I had a lot of fun writing this chapter, since it's not only the first where battling is a primary focus, but it's also where we get to meet Brock. While I've said the story won't be following the show exactly, I do hope to portray the cannon characters in at least a similar manner to their anime counterparts. Brock is one of my favorite characters and we'll see more down the line as the story evolves.

As for the battles, I'm trying to make them more realistic and feel unique from one another. Power, experience, and basic typing is important, but the idea of strategy and making the most out of every move plays a key role in separating the average trainers from the elite.

Every trainer, or at least the mildly competent one, does things differently and begets different results. I tried to portray that in David and Nia's battles against Brock to demonstrate their dissimilarities.

Nia believes in using powerful pokemon, training them to be physically tough. She subscribes to the school of "try not getting hit, also hitting them". David is more analytic in his approach, preparing ahead of time and adapting his moves and style to best make use of his pokemon's various abilities, enhancing their strengths and covering their weaknesses.

Gary is similar, however he takes things a step further, capturing a wide variety of pokemon and training them for specific goals and then rotates them out when circumstances change. His team is constantly rotated depending on what he needs. Ash, as we all know, focuses on being friends with his pokemon primarily using basic training or special training for obstacles in the moment or when a new move presents itself, training them only to about 80% max of their potential, but pushing them to 120% when it counts.

As for David's newest catch, I always knew he'd capture a Pikachu, however, I do have plans to make sure she distinctly different from Ash's. She's also the first pokemon to show a serious aversion to being caught. I'm trying to clearly display each pokemon's personality and hope I'm getting them across well enough.

Pikachu also doesn't have a nickname yet, but that will change soon. I already have a name lined up, but if you can suggest a better one, I may change it, so take your best shot.

Also, for those who caught it, I have confirmed that regular animals DO in fact exist in this world. We see them in the first few episodes of the anime and my thoughts are they just aren't relevant when compared to Pokemon. Mostly it is just cattle/farm animals we humans eat as well as some fish and insects. It's still a pokemon eat pokemon world and in some cases human eat pokemon, but animals do exist.

Next time David begins his journey through Mt. Moon to Cerulean City. As always reviews are both encouraged and welcomed and any constructive thoughts are appreciated.