Cecilia’s footsteps echoed as her heeled feet clattered off the wooden staircase. She was running late, the meeting upstairs would have already commenced as her PokeNav showed the time to be thirteen minutes passed one, the meet having started on the hour.

She quickly glanced out the window as she reached the last step and proceeded into the narrow corridor. The bustling city of Rustboro buzzed nosily outside as plumes of smoke ascended into the air from the Devon Corporation building in the west to the factories in the east, the industrial city never slept.

Cecilia half-jogged down the corridor, paintings of various famous figures and powerful Pokemon lining the wooden walls. She checked each door, failing in her attempts to remember which room the guests were gathered.

They had all agreed to meet in Rustboro, the usual meeting ground of Lilycove now inconspicuous due to Magma and Rockets’ influences within the port city, as Hoenn’s Capital shifted to the industrial city. Near the end of the corridor, an oaken door lay slightly as voices crawled out of it, she had finally found the correct room.

“Sorry I’m late!” Cecilia called as she barged through the doorway, the seven faces within all turning from their debate to look at her.

“Cecilia!” Archie growled. “It is good to see you!” the Team Aqua leader followed, his bulky frame shifting uncomfortably within the black suit he wore as his blue and white tie hung loosely from his neck.

“Who’s this?” Mr. Stone demanded of the new arrival. He sat forward from his leather chair at the far end of a long table alongside his son, Steven. A door sat closed behind them.

“Now, Cedric,” Professor Birch began his reply. “No need for hostility.”

“Yeah,” Flannery roared in agreement, to a nod of approval from Roxanne beside her, the two on the left hand side of the table with Archie. Professors Birch and Cozmo rested opposite them, studying a drawn out map of Hoenn covering the table’s surface, with even more pictures lining the well-lit room.

“I invited her,” Archie responded. “She’s an intelligent young woman.” The man winked at her as he finished speaking, Cecilia brushing off the charm offensive. She knew that Archie liked her, but held no interest in the man. She had far more important issues to worry about.

“Are we just inviting random strangers in off the street for our meetings?!” Steven intruded.

“She had more right to be here than you do!” Roxanne cut the former Champion off. “You were dethroned by Erik a week ago!”

“Where is the young man anyway?” Cedric Stone spoke next.

“Declined our offer of attending,” Professor Birch replied. “He has spent the week back in Littleroot Town with his mother, laying his Pokemon to rest, saying his goodbyes, and packing.”

“Packing?” It was Steven who spoke, a triumphant glint in his eye at hearing the words.

“Yes,” Cecilia cut in, speaking for the first time and ended that particular branch of the conversation.

“Very well, have a seat, young lady,” Cozmo offered, pulling out the empty chair from beside him.

“Thank you, the name is Cecilia, by the way,” she accepted.

“We were just discussing reforming the region,” Cedric Stone began. “Wallace and Wattson have been suspended for their involvement with Team Rocket, so new Gym Leaders will need to be appointed.”

“Cedric,” Archie interrupted. “What is your game?”

“Whatever do you mean?”

“You invited us all here today not to discuss Gym Leaders, but something else, what do you want?”

“Well,” the man began, linking his hands together and resting his elbows on the table. “I propose a reform of the governing body. The ‘authorities’ of Hoenn have clearly failed, and now the region is slowly uprising against our control after Erik’s defeat of my son. Steven was previously keeping the peace, and now to quell these rebellions, we need strong leadership.”

“So what do you propose?” Professor Birch enquired, the man still shaken over the loss of his daughter as he fingered a medallion on his neck, a small picture of May embedded within a golden coin attached to a piece of string.

“As one third of the previous leadership regime, and both immense resources and connections. I myself am well placed to restore the peace,” Cedric announced, to gasps and murmured responses from the rest of the group.

“I have another idea,” Archie retorted, as the door behind the Stones’ swung open. “Get them out of here,” he ordered the two figures who emerged from the doorway.

“Right you are boss,” Mylos responded as he grabbed Steven and dragged him from the room, the former Champion leaving without a word, his spirit crushed by Erik. Grant did the same to Cedric.

“You can’t do this! I have many powerful allies!” Cedric roared as he was shoved from the room, the door slamming shut behind him.

“Right,” Archie followed. “Cecilia I called you here to be a witness.”

“To what?” she responded, as the other four remaining members of the group joined Archie in casting their gaze to her.

“The forming of our new government,” Professor Birch responded.

“The five of us shall lead Hoenn from now on, eradicating any remaining Rocket influence and restoring the region,” Roxanne added.

“Winona was going to join us, but said no,” Flannery said despondently. “Think she’s too broken up over what’s happened.”

“I shall assume the role of head of research and innovation,” Professor Cozmo spoke. “Archie is the new head of state security, which includes both the police and any armies we may need to muster. Professor Birch is our new head of finance and resources, Roxanne head of infrastructure, and Flannery chief of the trainer’s union.”

“Any issues that need to be decided upon out of those fields, or large enough that it needs to be decided by the five of us, shall be done so in a vote during our monthly meetings,” Birch added.

“And the commoners shall all have their say too!” Archie bellowed.

“Yes, issues raised by the common citizens of our region shall also be discussed within our meetings, and if necessary, voted upon.”

“We shall all sign this declaration, henceforth declaring us as the ruling authorities of Hoenn,” Cozmo chirped in, pulling a sheet of paper from his pocket.

“With you as our witness,” Roxanne spoke to Cecilia.

Cecilia nodded, as pens made scurrying and scratching noises upon the paper as it was passed hastily around the table, before landing at Cecilia for her to sign the section declaring her as witness.

“So what now for you?” Archie asked as she scribbled her signature. “Back to becoming a researcher?”

“No,” she replied. “I am a trainer now, time to get my licence back.”

“And challenge the Gyms in Hoenn?” Flannery excitedly interrupted.

“There is one more thing we need to do,” Roxanne intruded before Cecilia could reply.

“Yes there is!” Archie bellowed, standing up from his chair. “Time for war!” he added, slamming his fists on the table.

“War with Kanto will bring us noth-” Cozmo began before Roxanne silenced him with a scolding stare.

“We shall take Team Rocket down in their own home!” Birch added passionately. At the professor’s words, Flannery screamed in agreement.

“I shall lead our army into Kanto,” Archie declared. “Give me a couple of months to gather willing recruits, Mylos and Grant shall be my lieutenants. Cecilia, will you be my right hand girl?”

“No, two months is too long to wait for me.”

“So what’s your plan?” the former Aqua Leader enquired.

“Erik’s plan,” Cecilia corrected him.

“So with the reforms of our government,” Wally’s television set blared. “The promises of more openness, honesty and interaction from our new leadership have been made,” Gabby added, speaking into Ty’s camera and filling the screen.

“But what of our new Champion, Erik?” Gabby added. “Since winning the Pokemon League Tournament eight days ago, no one has heard a peep from him. But myself and my colleague have now been promised exclusive access to our new Champion. Find out more at six o’clock, this has been Gabby and Ty on your four o’clock news.”

“What do you think, Gallade?” Wally asked his friend, who sat on his uncle’s couch beside him. “Time for us to leave?”

His Pokemon nodded in response. The young man clutched his trainer’s licence in the palm of his hand and wheeled a suitcase along the floor with the other.

A tearful farewell followed between nephew and uncle, before Wally made his way from Verdanturf, through Rusturf Tunnel, passed Rustboro City, exiting Petalburg Woods and after a brief detour to Petalburg City to say goodbye to his parents, the young trainer made his way towards the beach of Route 104.

“Gallade?” Wally turned to his Pokemon as the two strolled along the scorched beach of Route 104, sand happily flicking up at their feet. The clean-up effort made by dozens of citizens from within Petalburg had been a success, and only a few mementos remained from what the people now dubbed as “The Battle For Hoenn”. Wally’s Pokemon purred in response to his trainer’s question.

“Where we are going, I’m not going to be able to use you. But I want you to be by my side still, forever.”

The defeat to Erik had at first crushed Wally, who spent the proceeding week loitering around the graves of his defeated Pokemon, pondering what to do with his life, his accomplishments amounting to nothing. However, the day before yesterday he had received a call on his PokeNav from the reigning Champion, asking to meet on Route 104 and to board Mr. Briney’s boat.

Wally looked to the sea, where a pearl-white yacht floated gently on the water’s surface, swaying in the waves as a crisp wind swept across the shoreline. Gabby and Ty stood on the ship, alongside the old sailor himself, the trio immersed in conversation. At the ship’s stern stood Erik and Cecilia, both peering off into the ocean that awaited them.

“Nice of you to join us,” Cecilia called to Wally, as the young man climbed on the ship. “Are we ready to leave then?” she asked Mr. Briney.

“Erik?” the old sailor asked the Champion, who shook his head at the question.

“There’s one more thing I must do, alone,” he responded, before strolling to the ship’s brow, away from judging eyes and into isolation.

His soul felt empty as he ran his fingers along the Pokeball-less strap across his waist before resting his arms on the yacht’s prow. He had released the Pokemon in his storage back into the wild, to return to their homes as he prepared to return to his own. Kanto awaited, and Pokemon caught outside of the region’s borders were unable to be used in battle.

Erik peered into the calm waters, sighting Tentacool swimming lazily within as he recalled his journey. From a young boy alongside Blaze in the back of a truck, to the Champion of Hoenn standing here by himself. Despite being surrounded by friends and even his mother within the boat’s cabin, who had insisted on journeying back to Kanto with them, he still felt helplessly alone.

“Blaze, May, Dancer, Ice, Leaf,” he began, recalling all those that had been lost along the way in a sorrowful recollection of memories. He had forgiven himself during the battle with Steven, conquering the demons who dwelled within himself, but loneliness still haunted him. “Dad…” he finished his prayer. “I’ve learned so much throughout my journey, and we all conquered Hoenn together.” He moved his hand to his heart. “I know you’re all with me, in here. When we all go back to Kanto I shall form a resistance to Giovanni and his gang. Rocket controls the region and have enforced the same trainer rules as in Hoenn, one Pokemon per route, no killing wild Pokemon needlessly and so on and so on. It will be tough, rallying Hoenn is only a mere footprint in the sand compared to what awaits us, but I know with you all in my heart, we shall succeed.”

As the sun descended and a chill took to the air, Erik signalled for Mr. Briney to begin their journey towards Kanto. With a final glance at Hoenn as the island disappeared from view, Erik joined Cecilia, Wally and his mother in the cabin.

To Be Continued In….. Challenger: Return to Kanto.