Silver and Stone

Chapter Nine – Silver and Stone

Leaf looked out to the angry sea whilst light drops of rain patted her face. She rested against a small mound of dirt which rose from the dirty-yellow sands before her. The flaming wreckage had now been swallowed whole by the sea leaving no evidence of the previous carnage leaving silence to prevail over the landscape.

“You two ready?” Blue asked both Leaf and Wally. The latter sat bolt upright next to Leaf and had his arms wrapped around his legs which he held close to his body. “Hello?” Blue repeated when neither of them spoke. He stood behind them appearing unaffected by the chaos and losses of Archie, Hoenn’s elite fighters and their own Pokemon. “You think Rocket are gonna allow us to wallow in our own tears?” Blue raised his voice slightly when neither replied once more.

“Blue,” Leaf said so quietly her voice was like a whisper. “Give us time.”

“We don’t have time,” Blue responded then looked to Wally. “Come on mate, it’s not like you to be so down.”

“Do you not understand,” Leaf said for her friend. “He’s in shock.”

“What about you? Blue turned to face the ocean as he spoke. “How long will you need because we’re marked now. With Johto gone, we’re next.”

“I know,” Leaf responded.

“Yeah and?” Blue said impatiently, then after a few seconds of receiving nothing in response began walking back towards Vermillion City. “Right,” he shouted back. “Whilst you two cry together I’m gonna go ahead and take down Rocket by myself. I’m heading south.”

“The tournament,” Leaf thought to herself as she watched Blue skulk away. She had forgotten completely about it before now. “Kanto is divided into north and south for the next round, which means-”

“I’m resigning from the tournament,” Wally announced to her, speaking for the first time since losing his Pikachu aboard the ship.

“You can’t!” Leaf exclaimed. She was completely taken aback by the revelation.

“It’s pointless,” Wally continued motionlessly whilst looking downwards. “Why be a trainer? All you do is lose your friends. And for what? To be a ‘Champion’? What difference will that make.”

“Because the people will listen to the Champion,” Leaf replied with urgency in her voice. “Like in Hoenn when Erik became Champion it managed to rally the people around him and overthrow Rocket’s influence from the region.”

“How do we know it will work again?” Wally said despondently.

“It has to,” Leaf spoke without conviction.

“Rocket have been a step above us with every move we’ve made,” he continued with his voice bereft of tone. “This is their tournament which means we’ll never win it. What we need is to focus our energy on finding Erik.”

“And then what?” Leaf snapped. Her frustration wasn’t at Wally himself, but that his words rang true. “Erik’s whole idea was to eventually become Champion of Kanto?”

“I don’t know,” Wally admitted. “But with the Servants’ aid… Maybe we can take the fight straight to Rocket?”

“Where? We don’t even know where to start?”

“Then that’s what I’ll do,” Wally decided. “I shall find out where Giovanni is.”

“What about me and Blue?” Leaf asked the question as much to herself as she did to Wally.

“Blue is in it for personal glory,” Wally said without bitterness. “So he will want to become Champion.”

“Yep,” Leaf agreed.  

“And you are desperate to prove yourself,” Wally said which caused a flare of anger within Leaf at the accusation, but she swiftly swallowed her pride and nodded. “But you also do want to do good and help.” This caused a slight smile on her face. “I think you should do what you think is right.”

“And you?” Leaf asked him before remembering his small rant at the docks. “Nevermind,” she quickly corrected herself. “I think I will follow Erik and Oak’s plan to try and become Champion.”

“It will be tough,” Wally warned her then lifted his head up for the first time and began looking towards the ocean. “Rocket will fix it to give you difficult challenges against difficult people. Also, they may lead you into traps.”

“One thing I’ve never understood,” Leaf began whilst looking towards her officially supplied wrist device. “Is why they don’t just track us on these things?”

“Because,” Wally said and chuckled. “Oak tampered with them so that our locations are sort’ve untrackable.”

“But they’ll know I’ll be in the north and Blue south for the next round?”

“They will. But they won’t know exactly where. Just that you two are in a certain section of Kanto.”

“So they’ll be hunting us in full force? Sending their armies to certain sections of Kanto they know we’re in?”

“No,” Wally paused and wondered himself why they hadn’t done that already. It was Leaf that realised first.

“They think they have us already,” she said. “That we are completely under their control. We weren’t supposed to escape the ship but it was so easy for them to get us all together.”

“Yep,” Wally agreed. “Also they don’t want to raise the suspicions of everyone else. They want people to think the ruling powers are stable and strong, having martial law on the streets or large patrols will cause people to doubt that.”

“So what do we do?” Leaf asked whilst trying to work out a plan in her own mind.

“I don’t know,” Wally admitted. “But if we both try our best I’m sure we will manage.” He turned his head wearily but managed to crack a weak smile at her.

“Good luck finding Erik,” she said whilst returning a slight grin. “And I shall try my best to become Champion.”

They returned to silence as both Resistance trainers stared off into the raging sea. Leaf pondered whether she had made the correct decision but knew that only time would tell. For now, she’d have to accept yet another failure aboard the SS. Anne and take Blue’s cue in order to move on from the losses of Archie, Fury, Moon and everyone else aboard the doomed vessel..

Smiles of several people beamed around the marble table joined by crystal glasses clinking together which caused champagne to spill over the rims and onto lavishly expensive suits whilst celebratory cheers filled the room. Silver took no joy in the revelry and instead preferred to spend most of the occasion staring mournfully out of the large open pane which peered over the hubbub of the city. Regret filled him, the plan had been to capture the Resistance’s leaders within the ship. Instead, dozens of lives were spent just to eliminate a small pocket of their members and the Rocket executives were celebrating like they’d won two wars instead of just the fight for Johto..

“Hooray for ‘Vanni!” Courtney shrieked across the racket raising her glass aloft. She had returned victorious from their campaign in Johto having subdued the region and Silver knew this was the main cause for the commotion. His ‘success’ on the SS. Anne came second.

“Kanto victorious!” a man bellowed from the far end of the room’s gigantic marble table. His auburn hair was spiked above his taut face and deep brown eyes. Unlike the rest of the gathered executives who wore black and purple suits, this man bore a tight fighting Dragon Tamer outfit with his a wine-red cape which trailed from his shoulders down to his ankles. His name was Lance, the old Champion of Kanto and now Giovanni’s representative for all Pokemon trainers in the region.

Giovanni himself stood patiently at the head of the table and allowed his established guests to enjoy their moment whilst he scanned each and every one of them. Judging them, Silver knew, not just as people but their reaction to the success would allow him a glimpse into their loyalties. As always, Courtney sat to his right hand side and Silver to his left.

“Pathetic,” Silver thought to himself whilst returning his attention to the gathered ensemble. “All I see is lapdogs. Rich men desperate for my father’s favour. Corrupt bureaucrats and businessmen. Bent army leaders and dodgy mayors. All worshipping Giovanni like some sort of deity. Pathetic.”

Giovanni tapped his glass twice to emit a soft but sharp sound which had the effect of an explosion. A hush descended over the entire room as the gathered men and women cut their conversations short and returned to their seats to obediently listen to their host’s speech.

“Thank you all for coming,” Giovanni said. Silver looked through the guests once more to see all of them silent and attentive like hounds awaiting their master’s praise. The Team Rocket leader began to talk about their success in Johto and how it was such a momentous day in the history of mankind but Silver was only half-listening. His mood remained dark and glum as he thought of how easy it had been to manipulate Leaf and the Resistance into his father’s trap. It had all been Giovanni’s plan and his victims had followed it precisely down to the last detail. His father had ordered the docks heavily manned to cement the Resistance’s suspicions about Erik being on board but also left the loading cranes lightly guarded to funnel the Resistance in. The route’s through the ship from where the crates were loaded unto the lowest level of the ship where Agatha awaited were to be patrolled by a few of their weaker and more flighty grunts whilst the more elite Rocket members were to seal escape routes and cut off any support that would likely arrive from Hoenn. It had been Giovanni’s plan all along to trap the Resistance with Agatha and blow the ship to smithereens, Silver finally realised. But whilst most of Hoenn’s relief force had been decimated, a few key members of the Resistance had exceeded expectations and managed to escape.

“Any questions?” Giovanni asked his beckoning audience after finishing his speech about the fall of Johto.

“When do I get to take Hoenn?” Courtney squirmed in her seat with excitement.

“Not yet,” Giovanni said coolly. “Hoenn is a much more secure and well defended region than Johto. It will take great effort to capture, therefore we need our battlesuits at full working capacity, a stage which they have not yet reached.” He cast a warning look towards a certain man who Silver guessed was responsible for their design.

“They shall-” the man began his defence.

“Silence,” Giovanni said calmly but the terrified reaction of the man indicated to Silver that his father had threatened him more fiercely previously. “I have a further weapon in development. A superweapon the likes of which this planet has never seen. One which even surpasses Lord Raven’s.” This news came as a shock to Silver who hadn’t the slightest clue of Lord Raven’s weapon or the one Rocket had in top secret development. “When my weapon is ready along with the battlesuits, we shall crush Hoenn beneath us as easily as a Venusaur would to a Caterpie.” A roar of approval sounded around the room from everyone apart from Silver and the man Giovanni had threatened with silence, who now just cowered and shook uncontrollably.

“My son,” Giovanni said directly to Silver in full viewing of the crowd. “You have done well. Impressed me even. This is what happens when you follow my wishes.” The praise took Silver aback. It was the first time in his life that his father had given him even the slightest hint of a compliment.

“Thank you father,” Silver said and nodded as this is what was expected of him. He had yearned his whole life for his father’s approval or even a slight hint of Giovanni even accepting him as a son. The day had arrived and Silver had imagined all his life he would have been full of pride and joy at the moment. Instead he felt sorrow, a pain which had festered for years was beginning to resurface. He had spent so long trying to bury the loneliness he felt within him and replace it with anger, but the compliment he had just received served only to rekindle remorse and emotional suffering.

“Our full focus now,” Giovanni continued, paying his son no more attention. “Should be on cleaning up our own house. Reports inform me that two boats escaped the SS. Anne carrying Leaf and Wally aboard amongst others. These two are now our primary targets and from now on I shall be handling their capture and subsequent execution personally. They shall be extinguished from our region within a week. This, I promise you.”

Silver grumbled quietly. Despite his success his father now had removed from him the duty of capturing Resistance leaders. He knew Giovanni would have a calculated plan of how to catch both Leaf and Wally but for now his father kept his cards close to his chest. Silver would have to wait and see what happened next.

A chill breeze whistled through a gap in the rocky hills where the lake cut through. Aside from a slight wind Route 10 was blanketed in a tranquil silence which would shortly be transformed into unrefined chaos.

Leaf breathed in the fresh, clean air and planted her feet on the freshly cut lawns. A flat of grass lay aside the lake and on it stood both the female trainer and her infamous opponent, a former Champion who had been Erik’s greatest foe in Hoenn and had deep ties with Team Rocket. The Criminal organisation had paid him with money and expensive stones to front their advance into Hoenn only to be stopped by Erik within. He stood now opposite Leaf a defeated man, imprisoned in his home region but somehow freed by Rocket and brought to Kanto in order to stop the Resistance.

“Ready?” Leaf said, her voice laced with fury. He had clearly been their inside informant who had told Rocket of her, Wally and Eriks’ true identities.

“I’m back,” he declared in a cool, calm voice. He bore a black suit and a red tie matched by his black trousers. His purple loafer shoes and gloves completed the Team Rocket colour scheme, he was their man now. “And ready to take my revenge on you Resistance lot,” he said whilst looking at Leaf through eyes of ice and brushed light-turquoise hair from his eyes.

“Steven Stone,” Leaf said his name. “The man who lost to Erik.”

“Leaf Fuguri,” Steven replied, his eyes betraying no flicker of emotion. “Erik’s pet rat.”

Leaf ignored the jibe and instead preferred to consider which of her Pokemon to use first in battle. She had withdrawn a Pidgey named Feather which she’d caught on Route 5, and an Oddish called Sap that she captured on Route 4 to replace the fallen Moon and Fury. The former was a proud bird who tended to stick to the skies rather than spend time with her teammates whereas the grass type Sap was still in his infancy which rendered him small and shy. “I’ll use Feather first,” she decided.

 She cast her gaze over the patch of grass before her to the lake on her left and the entrance to a cave known as Rock Tunnel on her right. The location seemed more apt for a garden party or peaceful gathering than a Pokemon battle but this was a time of a war albeit unbeknownst to the majority of Kanto’s unwittingly oppressed population.

Steven began the battle using a Venonat as his first Pokemon and the small purple ball of fluff with bulging red eyes and surprisingly sharp fangs bounced on the spot. Erik had defeated all the ex-Champion’s Pokemon in Hoenn leaving Leaf to assume that every fighter he now used in battle were gifts from Team Rocket.

“Paralyse the bird,” Steven said coolly to his bug type Pokemon, who responded to his trainer’s orders by launching spores towards his foe. Feather floated above the patch of grass flapping her wings calmly and judging the Venonat through her beady eyes. Before the dusty cloud of paralytic pollen could reach her she glided higher into the skies and retreated above the lake aside the battlefield as the spores harmlessly disintegrated before they could reach Leaf. Feather darted towards the Venonat and swooped down with razor-like talons aimed at her opponent who rolled out of the way in anticipation, causing the Pidgey to swipe at the empty ground. Steven chuckled at the miss born from inexperience but Leaf remained focused. She knew her Pokemon would learn from her initial mistakes.

The Venonat crouched to await the Pidgey’s next move where Leaf guessed the purple ball of fur would pounce upon its foe and sink its fangs into Feather. Her heart stopped as her Pokemon began another downward descent towards the Venonat’s trap. She was stuck in two minds about whether to warn her Pokemon or to trust her to notice the ploy. Feather swooped towards her foe then stopped mid-dive before repeatedly batting her wings downwards at a rapid pace creating a gust of wind which blew her foe backwards. The Pidgey then leapt upon her foe and defeated the Venonat with beak and talons.

“Ah,” Steven said with a sigh. “Clever move,” he conceded then flung another Pokeball. A Beedrill emerged from within and buzzed around the scene eagerly awaiting Leaf’s next fighter.

“Sap’s turn,” she shouted to Feather who proudly glided back to her side. She released the Oddish next onto the battlefield, the grass type creeping sheepishly across the flat terrain whilst flashing constant nervous glances back towards his trainer. “It’s okay,” Leaf whispered to her Pokemon. “You’ll do fine,” she said then smiled at the Oddish to no effect.

Sap’s fears were shown to be well placed. Steven’s Beedrill tore through the feeble grass type like a Goldeen through water. A lance pierced Sap’s side in a failed attempt at a dodge before the Beedrill narrowly missed with his stringer. The Oddish prepared to counter attack with spores but was cut off by a furious assault by his opponent’s deadly lances. Battered, bruised and almost defeated, Sap was recalled by Leaf who patched him up with a potion whilst Giggles took to the fray.

Leaf’s Butterfree danced joyfully in the skies and giggled to himself in the aftermath of his brief performance. The Beedrill seemed angered by the act, as if the show was to taunt him when in fact Giggles was just playful. Steven’s Pokemon zapped through the air at frightening speeds then lashed a lance out towards the Butterfree who twirled aside to dodge the blow. Giggles hung in the air awaiting his foe’s next attack which came rapidly by way of the Beedrill’s stinger. Leaf’s Pokemon twisted through the air again to avoid a lethal strike then retaliated by emitting spores into the air before him. Steven’s Pokemon attempted a third attack by launching itself with its lances pointed towards his foe. The Beedrill swept through the pollen then pulled back a spike to thrust at Giggles, who just purposely plummeted to the grass and sat there awaiting his opponent. Seconds later, the Beedrill dropped from the sky and landed next to the Butterfree with a painful crash, sleeping soundly.

“Two down,” Leaf declared whilst Giggles picked up the sleeping Beedrill and dropped the bug type into the river, laughing all the way. “And I’m without loss.”

“These Pokemon were gifts from Courtney herself,” Steven announced proudly. “Six Pokemon trained by her during her early career as a trainer that she no longer needed use of.”

“Her rejects then,” Leaf taunted him. “The ones she deemed not good enough.”

“Could say the same of you,” Steven said calmly. “The Resistance’s weakest member. The reject.”

“And that reject is beating you,” Leaf said and felt her anger flare like a volcano threatening to erupt inside her before she took in a sharp breath of air to quell the growing flames of rage.

“Not for long,” Steven responded as he picked another Pokeball from his belt, this one housing an Onix. Leaf replied with Sap, the oddish given gentle encouragement from his trainer as he skulked out to meet the enormous rock snake.  

Steven’s rock type instantaneously lashed out a gigantic tail which slammed into the ground with such force it indented into the grass. Sap had dived at the final moment and narrowly avoided a painful crushing. The Oddish attempted to mimic the plan of Giggles before him by launching sleeping spores towards the Onix because whilst the giant snake was immensely powerful, the species were also lacking intellect and Steven wouldn’t care to mention the threat to his Pokemon. That was the former Champion’s weakness, a lack of empathy and concern towards those who fought for him.

The Onix swung his tail in a half-circle in its efforts to collide with Sap who responded by leaping closer towards his opponent where the tail couldn’t reach him. The snake chomped downwards, hoping to catch the Oddish in its gigantic jaws and crush the grass type within, but instead only gulped in the sleeping spores which sent the Onix into a fatal slumber. The instant the Onix smashed into the floor Sap was upon it shooting poisonous spores into the helpless Pokemon’s system. Suddenly, Leaf’s Pokemon became consumed by a bright light. Sap was evolving. The victory the Oddish had seized ended in him gaining the belief he needed to transform from a petite blue blob with leaves penetrating from its head into a larger creature known as Gloom who sported a red-brown flower where leaves once were and featured a constant stream of poisonous drool seeping from its mouth.

“Three down,” Leaf said joyously then recalled Sap to her side, his work was done. Steven looked slightly unshaken now as if he was contemplating a possible defeat for the first time.

“I have too much riding on this,” he spoke once he regained his composure. “How about we make a deal?”

“Go on?” Leaf replied whilst confused at his sudden offer.

“The loser gives up on being a Pokemon trainer forever,” he announced. “They hand in their licence and release all Pokemon from their possession.” Leaf took a moment to ponder the sudden high stakes, why would not only a trainer but an ex-Champion of Steven’s calibre make such an abrupt offer. Unless that was the agreement Team Rocket had offered him in the first place. They had released him from Hoenn’s prisons to gather intelligence about the Resistance and use him against them in battle and then, to keep him motivated, threaten to take away his licence forever if he were to lose against Leaf.

“Deal,” she agreed. She was winning the battle relatively easily, she sensed his adeptness as a trainer but also knew there was no bond or trust between Steven and his Pokemon. Also, despite the threat against his licence, she noticed he had a distinct lack of interest towards the unfolding battle.

“Agreed,” he nodded then released a Graveler, the evolved version of Geodude, to face Leaf’s next battler who was to be Feather as she decided she wanted to see more of the Pidgey in action. Her rock type opponent came in the form of a large boulder featuring two scarily muscular arms outstretched and a further two, smaller arms protruding from its stomach.

Feather moved far more swiftly than her opponent but Leaf knew she lacked its sheer strength and her talons and beak would struggle to scratch the rock skin of the Graveler. This is why  she’d put her Pidgey up for the challenge, to prove itself to her although if her Pokemon started struggling then she would recall her. Feather began by gliding above her opponent, circling the giant boulder and attempted to discern any sign of weakness within its intimidating frame.

“Take it down,” Steven said to one of his Pokemon for only the second time and once again his battler responded. The Graveler stamped towards the outside walls of Rock Tunnel with each stomp, causing the world to shake slightly. Once it had reached the rocky sides it clamped onto a boulder and claimed it as its own by ripping it from the wall before holding it aloft. Feather had remained in close proximity above her foe and studied his actions with curiosity. Steven’s Pokemon suddenly span and launched the boulder towards Leaf’s Pidgey who failed to react in time. The stone collided with her and she tumbled as if she’d lost use of both wings. As Feather flapped and toiled in a desperate attempt to recover her aerial superiority the Graveler approached, causing Leaf’s heart to thunder in her chest.

“Feather,” Leaf cried out to her Pokemon. “Get up, please. I need you to get up. I can’t lose you too.” Her mind flashed back to the SS. Anne where she envisaged Moon and Fury falling once more. The Graveler reached his prone target and lifted fists like anvils before lowering them to pummel Leaf’s Pokemon. As if in response to her trainer’s begging anguish Feather became entombed in a white light. Her frame grew larger, as did her mane, wings, beak and talons before the brightness vanished leaving in its place a newly evolved Pidgeotto.

“To the cave,” Steven commanded his Pokemon who had been dumbstricken by the change in events. Leaf realised this was a clever move as in the open her Pidgeotto retained an advantage of having open skies and room to maneuver whereas inside Rock Tunnel they would be in cramped, tight spaces surrounded by many boulders in conditions much more suited to his Graveler.

“Feather return,” she ordered her freshly transformed Pokemon. “There’s no room for you in there,” she added when she had received a frustrated glance in return. Feather was desperate to try out her new body and test the extents of her power and agility but upon her trainer’s next words she understood her worries. Leaf released Snake to fight within the cave.

Darkness swelled within Rock Tunnel’s eerie brown walls. Zubat flew nonchalantly above or hung upside down from the roof alongside rocks like stone icicles. Wide open spaces were dotted between thick chunks of rock and rises of earth where wild Pokemon such as Geodude and Machop watched the onslaught below like a curious audience.

Snake hissed at Steven’s Graveler before spurting a purple acid towards her opponent before Leaf’s Ekans coiled around herself and awaited the Graveler’s response. The poisonous substance splashed ineffectively against the rock type’s solid skin then trickled harmlessly to the stone surface beneath its feet. Steven’s Pokemon unleashed a roar of defiance towards Snake who now appeared unnerved by her failure to even slightly penetrate her opponent’s seemingly impervious defences.

“Think clever,” Leaf shouted to her Pokemon. “You might not be able to poison that thing but there are other ways of defeating it.” Her Ekans glanced nervously from foe to trainer and back again. A smile carved itself onto Steven’s face when he realised Snake’s predicament. He glanced to Leaf and winked at her then ordered his Pokemon to finish the job.

Graveler stomped casually over to his opponent with the cave rumbling with each heavy step. Snake slithered slowly backwards, too fearful to take her eyes off her opponent and begin a full retreat either back to Leaf’s side or back out of the tunnel and into the open. Steven’s Pokemon approached with death in its dark eyes and once close enough to Snake it began to lift its lethal fists into the air to pummel the Ekans. But it had all been a trap.

Snake darted away and shot acid towards a giant stone icicle which lay directly overhead of the Graveler. The shot landed at the base of her target and began to melt the stone whilst Steven’s Pokemon remained unaware of his peril. The rock type withdrew his fists and turned sluggishly towards Snake when the icicle fell and arrowed towards the Graveler where it pierced through the rock in a cry of agony.

“Four down,” Leaf said, grinning at Steven whose face had turned dark. She released Dino from its Pokeball to join Giggles and Feather by her side but a shake of the head from Snake caused Leaf to leave her Ekans in the fray, the poison type was eager to carry on her victorious momentum. Steven replied with a Meowth, a creature which closely resembled a cat but stood upright on two legs. The cream-coloured normal type featured knifelike claws and had a golden coin embedded on its forehead.

Snake shot poison at her new opponent but the Meowth was too agile for the strike, darting to one side then acrobatically leaping over a second attempt at a venomous spurt. Once her foe approached the Ekans whipped out her tail where poison dripped off the pointed end. Steven’s Pokemon caught the tail mid-air and plunged a set of razor claws to puncture Snake’s slimy skin. The Meowth slashed Snake across the face when she attempted to bite a retaliation then headbutted the flailing Ekans with such force Leaf’s Pokemon was thrown to the stone ground and splayed across the surface. Steven’s Pokemon finished the fight with his claws ripping apart the bond which held Leaf together with her Ekans. Leaf had to stop herself from collapsing to the ground as the pain gnawed at her but managed to retain her composure in front of Steven who would see any sign of weakness as an advantage he could use.

Steven grinned at Leaf but his triumph was short lived. Giggles burst onto the battlefield at the sight of his friend’s defeat and penetrated the Meowth’s mind with psychic attacks which resonated in waves. Unable to oppose the Butterfree’s aerial advantage, Steven’s Pokemon succumbed to the psychic slaughter and left Hoenn’s ex-Champion down to his final hope, a Charmander. Leaf refused to be dictated to by her Pokemon this time when Giggles insisted he remained in battle and sent Dino to end Steven’s career as a trainer.

Flame met rock as aggression met avoidance. Charmander spewed fire across the tunnel whilst Dino hastily hid behind any boulder he could find to avoid incineration. Steven’s Pokemon aimed at the icicles in an attempt to trap or pierce the Ivysaur who had thus far evaded his attacks. Dino sensed an opportunity whilst his opponent launched flames towards the roof and used his vines to lift a boulder from a ground then flung it towards the unaware fire type. Dino’s rock collided with the Charmander with a crack and pained wail. Stone icicles fell from above after being weakened by fire and landed across the room, one crashing into the prone Charmander and allowed Leaf to progress to the next round of the tournament after having had defeated her opponent.

“Hmph,” the ex-Champion commented whilst appearing seemingly unperturbed by his defeat.

“You’re done,” Leaf said, grinning towards him. “For good.”

“I suppose,” Steven said and returned the grin. It was now clear to Leaf that his desire to be a trainer had already been extinguished by the defeat to Erik. “I shall relinquish my licence.”

“Then what?” Leaf said and felt her anger rising. “Become an informant to Rocket? Do their bidding?”

“Only if you refuse to agree to my next offer,” he said, still smiling.

“What do you want now?”

“Peace,” he said then slowly skulked towards her. “Tranquility. My ambitions were crushed long ago. But there are other ways to obtain power, my father had it right all along.”

“What do you mean? What’s your offer?” She backed away from the approaching man still unaware of his intentions.

“I wish to return to Hoenn. My father remains in jail as a co-conspirator. That’s fine.”

“It is?” Leaf thought but decided not to air her concerns.

“But now we have noone to head up our company,” Steven continued.

“Devon Corporation is now government owned and your father’s company now supplies us,” Leaf informed him.

“I know that.” Steven looked at Leaf as though she were ignorant and far below himself. “And if you agree to my offer then I shall continue to supply your government.”

“Out with it,” Leaf snapped impatiently. “What’s your offer?”

“Allow me to return to Hoenn and take my rightful place as chairman of Devon Corporation, your government will listen to you and agree to this.”

“And if I refuse?”

“I shall tell Rocket everything I know. That they should destroy my father’s company and use my contacts within Hoenn to find out everything.”

“Why haven’t you done this already? Surely you’ve had the chance?”

“Haven’t you been listening?” he said and sighed. “I want peace. That was my intention all along, I only told Rocket what they asked so they’d get me out of prison.”

“Deal,” Leaf decided, if only to shut him up. “As long as you continue to supply us with equipment like PokeNavs.”

“Deal,” he agreed and extended a hand which Leaf then shook. “I hope we never see each other again.”

“Agreed,” she said and grimaced. Steven walked her out of Rock Tunnel then escaped on the back of a Pokemon he hadn’t used in battle, a Skarmory, who took him to the skies and back, Leaf knew, towards Hoenn.

Her PokeNav buzzed into life. Rock Tunnel had cut off her signal leaving her with three missed calls from Wally. She dialed his number and pressed the phone to her right ear.

“Leaf?” Wally answered with a voice trapped in panic. “Something’s happening at Lavender Town! How close are you?” She looked towards Rock Tunnel and knew the town lay on the other side.

“Close enough. What’s happening?”

“I don’t know,” he spoke clearly out of breath. “The Servants… have been in contact… They’ve warned me.”

“It’s okay,” Leaf said, attempting to calm her friend. “I’m on my way!”

“Oh…I’m not there yet… Going to get Blue…”

“Okay see you soon,” Leaf replied before going to hang up the phone.

“Wait!” Wally almost screamed. “It’s dangerous…Courtney…a secret weapon…Megastones…”

“Wally,” Leaf said softly. “We’ll handle it.” Her calmness was a lie. Inside her heart threatened to tear out her chest and run a million miles from her. Courtney was treacherous enough by herself but armed with Megastones it could prove impossible for the Resistance. The mention of another weapon, a secret one unbeknownst to Wally or herself. That was even more horrifying.