Hoenn’s Last Stand

Chapter Twenty-Five – Hoenn’s Last Stand

A sudden silence surrounded the battered and scorched beach, loose flames tearing havoc across shards of rock and splinters of wood.

The wind was as cold as snow as it howled around Cecilia, the trainer peering through borrowed binoculars at the battleground from aboard her own transport. Team Rocket’s bombardment had torn through all but the beach’s last defences, as she spotted Flannery clambering to her feet from behind the shattered remains of Mr. Briney’s hut. The Lavaridge Gym Leader she had used the small building to shield herself from the rain of fire, water and poison emanating from Giovanni’s battleship.

Roxanne picked herself up from the beach’s southern rise, crawling out from underneath her own protection, a Graveller, who had sacrificed himself to protect his trainer. Both gym leaders’ Pokemon sprawled lifelessly across the ground, as the duo beat a hasty retreat towards Petalburg City.

Her gaze turned to Archie, the Aqua leader hoisting Winona from the ocean. Her Pokemon had plunged into the depths, unable to withstand the barrage of attacks. Splash and Seal joined them, as they too all began their retreat to the city. A legion of speedboats chased them towards the shoreline, as Erik clutched his father in his arms, oblivious to the scenes unfolding around him. Cecilia knew that she had arrived too late.

“Tally ho!” a shout from behind her called. The small white yacht she stood on swayed calmly on the waves, belying the violence encompassing the battlefield. She had been sent to gather any support she could find to reinforce Hoenn’s defenders, but the only volunteers were an aging man and his Wingull, along with a further two people she had once considered enemies.

“My house…” Mr Briney gasped as he steered his boat into the fray. “Come on Peeko, let’s help our friends!” he barked to his Wingull, who chirped happily in response.

The speedboats were in range for her to count them. Twelve. With a larger boat reinforced with a certain metal she couldn’t identify leading from the front. As the two other volunteers marched onto the deck, four of the speedboats altered their course and sped towards them.

Erik lifted his head and strained his vision through tear-soaked eyes. A large speedboat lined with specially tempered steel armour crashed into the beach, sand parting upon contact as Giovanni’s vessel reached its landing point. Archie rushed past him, heading towards Petalburg with Winona clenched in his arms, the Fortree gym leader rendered unconscious by a strike from a water blast.

Splash and Seal joined Rocky upon the cliffside, poised to attack but awaiting their trainer’s order which never came. Flashes of battle caught Erik’s eye to his left, as Mr. Briney’s yacht shot out of Route 105 and collided with a speedboat, carving through the rubber dinghy like a knife as Rocket members leapt off the sides. Fire, grass and water intertwined as Pokemon attacked from the yacht, launching strikes at three other speedboats.

“Norman!” Courtney called, giggling slightly as both her and Giovanni headed an army of grunts. Her every action was filled with energy and vigour, the perfect contrast to the calm but menacing man beside her. “Oh, Mr. Traitor!” her high pitched voice rang once more after no response. She almost carried herself like a younger woman, skipping as she walked and hastily attempting to keep pace with Giovanni’s long strides. The woman wore a mix of purple and black, with knee high boots and a frilled skirt underneath a tight-fitting top. A loose black cowl only partly-covered her purple curled hair. Despite being middle-aged, her face showed no signs of the fact.

Giovanni strode towards him, saying nothing. He appeared to be in full control, as if the fight had already been won. An explosion roared behind them, as the gas lined inner tubes of a speedboat exploded on contact with a blast of fire from the yacht. The Rocket grunts turned to look, but their two leaders kept their gaze solely on Erik and Norman.

“Oh no,” Courtney squealed mockingly. “Did the traitor perish in my flames? Oh deary me!” she shrieked like a child.

Giovanni raised a halting hand to his grunts, as they lined out on the beach. He ascended the rise towards Erik with Courtney in tow.

“Oh deary deary me,” Courtney mocked as she skipped towards Erik, “Norman’s gone, gone… gone!”

Erik dropped his head in silence, holding his father tight within his arms.

“Enough of this,” Giovanni finally spoke, to which Courtney stopped in her step and performed a slight curtsy. “Norman was a good man who believed in a better future. Our future. It must have taken a lot to turn him against us. I am most impressed with you once more, Erik. You surpass my expectations time and time again.”

Erik said nothing as he cradled Norman in his arms, his thoughts remained predominantly with his father, May and Blaze as Giovanni’s words passed by him like wind.

“You have fought well. Very well. But you must now realise that you are defeated. All of your allies have retreated and that boat out there will soon vanish under the waves.”

“No…” Erik whispered.

“No? Perhaps another demonstration is in order then.” Giovanni clicked his fingers, to which Courtney pulled a headpiece out from under her cowl to her mouth and barked the words “Wallace, you’re up.”

Erik looked to the yacht, noting that another one of the speedboats had been destroyed and the other now lay unmanned, as Briney had began turning his vessel towards the beach in an attempt to assist Erik. An enormous wave rose from the ocean. Wallace emerged from the depths sat atop a large serpant-like creature, its yellow coils sprayed out across the wave as the Milotic rode the rising sea like a ship of its own.

The wave crashed into the yacht, claiming the boat within its grasp and overturning the vessel. Wallace’s surprise attack then crashed down on the remains before the sea began to swallow the yacht’s remnants.

“It’s done. And my reward?” Wallace’s voice sang out of the speaker for Erik to hear.

“Will be signed and sealed when we’re finished here,” Giovanni replied, after which Courtney flicked the headset off.

“No…” Erik whispered once more, he dropped his head and held his father’s body ever tighter. All he ever wanted was Norman’s love and approval, but when he had finally received it, his father was lost to him.

“I leave you with a choice,” Giovanni spoke to him, his commanding voice booming across the hillside like a strong gust of wind through the grass. “Join us now and take Norman’s old place by my side, or fall with him.”

“No…” Erik said for a third time, unable to muster up the willpower for anything else.

“Then regretfully, you will be buried alongside your father,” Giovanni replied coldly.

“You must stop Rocket,” Norman’s voice echoed around Erik’s mind. “You must become champion.”

“I want to be the greatest trainer who ever lived!” a child’s voice joined Norman’s within, Erik quickly realising that it was his own.

“You taught me to be strong, I now have six badges, all because of you, Erik,” Wally’s voice added to the mix.

“I’m staying with you until the end,” May’s voice followed, as Erik moved his hand to his heart which was aching mercilessly.

He thought of Cecilia, of Archie and all the other’s that depended on him. The fire’s began stoking within himself once more. He thought of Ice, of Leaf, of all the Pokemon and people he had lost as Blaze’s spirit roared fire back into his heart.

“All I ever wanted,” he whispered aloud, as Giovanni strained to hear his voice. “Was to be loved.”

“You couldn’t have made me more proud, I love you, my son,” the final voice reverberated in his mind.

He lay his father’s body on the ground. Erik sprang to his feet, then he grabbed the Pokeballs from his belt and launched them. As fury surged through his veins and boiled his blood, Erik’s thoughts settled on one thing. That the man in front of him had taken it all from him. All his Pokemon roared at once, with so much ferocity that even Giovanni took a step backwards.

“And you took that from me!” Erik bellowed, pointing an accusing finger at the Team Rocket leader. “Blaze, May, Dad. They all loved me, and you took them from me. You!”

“You may direct your anger and blame towards me,” Giovanni retorted. “But we both know that the one you blame is yourself, and we both know that you’re right too.”

A half-dozen Rocket grunts had ascended the hillside at the sight of their boss being threatened by Erik’s furious Pokemon, all squeezing their Pokeballs tightly. Erik saw Courtney glance to the side, and was surprised to see what at.

“Didn’t think I’d leave ya, did ya?” Archie grinned as he strolled out into the clearing. “And who’s this little lady?” he spoke to Courtney, unsuccessfully attempting to sound charming.

A ruckus on the beach was next to divert the group’s attention, as the sunken yacht’s passengers were engaged in battle with Rocket grunts. A new speedboat had arrived, Erik guessing that the passengers had clambered onto the unmanned dinghy and proceeded to the beach despite their setback. He spotted Briney and Peeko fighting a duo of Koffings, Cecilia locked in a fight with three grunts at the same time, and a couple of people he had to squint to recognise charging through the sands towards the small rise leading to him.

They were cloaked in full crimson robes, with thick hoods and heavily concealed faces, but Erik had seen enough of the duo to identify them as Grant and Mylos. The Magma duo had joined their cause.

“Still you fight,” Giovanni said, no hint of emotion in his controlled tones. “Courtney, see them off, I have other things to sort out. Contingencies.” And with those words, the Team Rocket leader released a Fearow from its Pokeball, climbed on top, and flew back to his cruiseship.

“Coward!” Archie shouted after him, before sending his Sharpedo to battle against the six grunts on the hillside. “Think I might need a hand here!” he followed, as Erik sighted more grunts advancing up the rise.

“We’ve got you covered!” Flannery and Roxanne cried, as the two gym leaders rejoined the battle. “Just a quick stop to withdraw some more Pokemon from storage, we’re back now though!” Flannery spoke, as the two engaged more of the grunts.

“Looks like it’s just the two of us,” Courtney giggled, almost bouncing as she spoke. “Wanna take this someplace more private?” she said with a wink.

“It’s her!” Mylos bellowed, the bulky man panting as he reached them.

“Who?” Grant replied, only a step behind.

“Her you idiot!” Mylos followed, pointing a finger at Courtney.

“I know but who’s ‘her’?” Grant’s expression had only grown more puzzled.

“Courtney! Maxie’s girl! Tabitha kidnapped her!”

“Nope. Wrong,” Courtney retorted, a sly smile snaking across her face.

“What? But you were one of us!” Mylos’s expression now matched Grant’s

“Was. Was. Was. Should I say that again?” she giggled once more. “Maxie was a pathetic man, not like my ‘Vanni.”

“But you loved Maxie! Everything he did was for you!” Mylos cried, Erik could sense the strain in the man’s voice at the memory of his friend.

“I never loved him I’m sorry to say,” she started. “Oh wait…No I’m not sorry. I could see he was destined for greatness so I went along for the ride.”

Mylos’s expression noticeably dropped at her words.

“And he did everything for me?!” she squealed, her voice reaching an incredibly high pitch. “That’s so cute! I’m once again not sorry to say that when I had heard he died I laughed, the thought of that pathetic man being burnt alive by the one thing he thought could save him! Poetic!” she giggled frantically.

“What has happened to you!” Mylos roared, clenching his fists, it was extremely visible to Erik how much the man was having to restrain himself. “You were always sweet and innocent, and now you’re this! What have they done to you?!”

“Wait a second,” Erik interrupted. “How did you know about how Maxie died?”

“Yes, how did I know, Grant?” she thrust her hips onto her hips and smiled at the man, who was shaking.

“I…Erm…Dont know?” Grant replied, his voice quivering violently.

“Because you were our inside man!” she squealed with delight, clapping her hands at each word.

“What?!” Mylos roared as he grabbed his comrade.

“Not anymore!” Grant squealed. “I promise. I swear. It was only because Rocket kept threatening me. Please don’t hate me. Or hurt me.”

“Oh no, Granty boy went all quiet after our old pal Maxie bit the dust,” Courtney said in a slightly more serious tone, thrusting her hands firmly back on her hips.

“How do we know that you’re not going to stab us in the back the moment we give you a chance to?” Erik asked the man who Mylos had a strong hold of.

“I promise. I won’t. Magma and Maxie and Mylos are…err…were all I have. I was just scared. I’m sorry.”

“Mylos let him go,” Archie growled, turning from a battle between his Sharpedo and a trio of Golbats.

“And why should I listen to the leader of Aqua?!” Mylos retorted, releasing Grant from his vicelike grasp and storming over to Archie.

“Ooh, I sense discord in the ranks!” Courtney jibed.

“Mylos that’s enough!” Erik roared, to which the Ex-Magma Admin visibly backed down. “More grunts are coming, we need you three to take them on. I’ll handle Courtney.”

“Oh no you won’t!” Courtney giggled, seeing the tide turn as the defenders of Hoenn slowly overpowered the Rocket grunts. Cecilia and Mr. Briney had carved their way through the thinning resistance on the beach as more and more grunts climbed the hillside, some through choice, and others through necessity. Archie, Roxanne and Flannery were struggling to stem the flow. “I’m outta here!” the woman followed, throwing a Crobat into the air and retreating to the ship on the back of the poison-typed Pokemon.

“You won’t get away with what you’ve done!” Mylos roared after her.

“I will! And we’ve still got all your plans we stole from your base to ponder over!” Courtney called after them as she rode off.

“Erik,” Archie growled. “What now?”

“Can you guys handle this?” Erik questioned, seeing any defeated Rocket grunts hastily retreat back to their ship, either swimming through the beckoning seas or clambering onto speedboats and surfing through the waves towards safety.

“Course we can! Why, where you going? And where’s that kid Wally?”

“I don’t know, Dad said he had other plans for him. I’ve got to go to Sootopolis and defeat Wallace-”

“Yeah! Take that traitor scum down!” Archie interrupted.

“No,” Erik countered. “I need his badge. The only way to rally the region and stop Rocket is for me to become Champion.”

“Then go!” Archie roared as his Sharpedo took a fierce blow from a Weezing’s smog attack.

“Yeah we got this!” Mylos added as he turned his attention from Grant to the oncoming black and purple horde.

“I’m with you guys ’til the end!” Grant said weakly, fumbling around his belt for a Pokeball.

“Good luck,” Erik responded as he mounted Soar and recalled his other Pokemon into their capsules.

“You too,” Mylos replied after him. Archie had already switched his focus to his battle as Erik took to the skies heading straight towards the white crater once more.

Sceptile blew away a Koffing with a powerful gust of sharp leaves, as Mightyena combined furious bites with strong headbutts in rapid succession against a pair of Rocket-owned Poochyena. Tropius and Lairon teamed up against a collection of Zubats as Milotic and Xatu combined their efforts against another grunt’s Pokemon.

“Where’s Erik going?” Cecilia shouted to Briney, taking her attentions away from her Pokemon for a moment. The two had forced their way further and further up the beach, many grunt’s falling to her fatigued party as Peeko swung towards Petalburg Woods time and time again, dropping scores of berries at her team’s feet.

“I don’t know, but wherever it is, it must be important,” the old man responded, tracking the Latios with a hint of admiration within his jaded eyes.

“Must be,” Cecilia whispered to herself. She shared Briney’s tiredness, her eyelids weighed heavily upon her face and her muscles screamed in agony after diving deep into the ocean to save the old sailor after Wallace’s wave had launched them into the depths. Her usually fluffy and free flowing hair had turned irritatingly straw-like as it clung to her skin as if it had been soaked in glue.

Peeko airdropped another supply package of berries for her weary team, who shielded one another as each of her Pokemon took it in turns to gobble up their share. Defeated grunts scampered past them, flicking sand and dirt into the air as they raced towards safety. Combining their efforts with those on the ridge, Cecilia and Mr. Briney had cut down half of the landing party, but their shattered Pokemon were now relying on nothing but sheer willpower to push them through the pain barrier.

“Tropius! No!” Cecilia screamed in agony as her grass-typed Pokemon fell to an savage aerial sweep by a school of Golbats. She remembered catching the huge beast as she left the Weather Institute after the battle with Magma. Her and Tropius had always flown together across the land, cutting through the skies with smiles on their faces and laughter warming their hearts. It felt almost as if part of her had been ripped out, she had never lost a Pokemon in battle before, but the soul-connecting bond between her and her friend had been mercilessly severed. The Golbats fell in quick succession as powerful jets of water shot them down, before her Milotic too, was taken from her. The evolved form of Feebas she had spent hours nurturing was so fixated on vengeance that she failed to realise that a Muk had crawled over to her, smothering her snake-like frame with a suffocating liquid ooze.

Her remaining Pokemon fought valiantly. She was a formidable trainer, she knew that, but a daunting sensation of fear steadily swam through her. The loss of a Pokemon was a pain she never wished to experience again.

Her Lairon cut his way through a Koffing, the solid steel armour encasing his body used as a tenacious battering ram to force his way through the army of Grunt Pokemon. She looked then to her Xatu, who had destroyed the villainous Muk, frying its mind with psychic waves so the poison type’s brain resembled its outer form, and now the flying type commenced an aerial bombardment of its own. Cecilia saw Sceptile surround a Weezing in a whirlwind of leaves, before calling the razor-sharp objects inwards. Mightyena continued his mixed assault of bites and headbutts to a group of Grimers with the Xatu frazzling the minds of all that lay below her, until a furious blow struck her in the face.

Xatu was pummelled by a Machoke, who, along with three others of his species, began an unrelenting assault on the downed Pokemon deep behind enemy lines. She had been gifted a the Pokemon as a present for her twenty-second birthday from her father, and treasured it ever since.

“Save-” Cecilia started roaring the order to her Pokemon, but a sharp pain in her heart caused her to realise it was already too late. “Her…” she whispered as tears suddenly pricked her dark eyes.

The despondency swept through her Pokemon, her belief crushed as another of her friends fell. Her three remaining Pokemon began a steady withdrawal towards her, Sceptile and Mightyena moving agilely to avoid a series of blows from rival Pokemon, but her Lairon lacked the speed. A herd of Rocket-owned Pokemon swarmed the steel-type, who was lost within the crowd. She so desperately had wanted an Aggron.

“Is this it for us, Peeko?” Mr. Briney asked his Wingull, who had perched herself on his shoulder. Sceptile and Mightyena stood firmly in front of them, protecting their trainer and the old sailor from the army of Pokemon that approached. Cecilia counted four Machokes, two Weezings, two Muks, a Golbat, a Crobat and alongside them, a score of Grimers, Koffings and Zubats.

“I’m sorry, everyone, I’ve failed,” Cecilia whimpered, as the army began its assault. Mightyena and Sceptile charged to meet them as defeated Koffings and Grimers were launched into the air. Cecilia watched on as her Mightyena battled against all four Machoke, dodging wild swings and countering with vicious bites. One went down, then another, before a crushing blow struck him in the jaw. Mightyena rolled out of the way of a finishing strike, slamming his skull into the aggressor’s stomach and wrapping his ferocious jaws around its frame, before a karate chop from the final Machoke struck her in her abdomen.

“I came out here to prove to everyone I could do it by myself,” Cecilia said grimly. “And now I’ve not only lost all my friends, I’ve lost my Pokemon licence too,” she finished, as her Mightyena slouched the the floor, too weak to see the finishing blow coming. She loved all canine-like Pokemon, and ever since capturing a Poochyena, she had cherished him until he had grown into a fully fledged Mightyena, he was her second favourite Pokemon. Her closest friend, her Sceptile, was flagging too against constant poisonous strikes which sapped the last drops of his energy.

Her eldest Pokemon and friend mustered the remainders of his strength and launched a flurry of blows against the surviving Machoke. Once the fighting type was defeated he harnessed power from the sun and launched a beam of solar energy against the Crobat, who flopped lifelessly to the ground alongside the two Weezing and Golbat that he had defeated earlier. Waves of poison and streams of liquid ooze smashed against the failing Sceptile’s staggering frame, as the toxins ate at his insides, the grass type Pokemon looked back at its trainer and smiled, before closing his eyes and falling to his final rest.

Cecilia’s vision was blurred through her tears as the surviving Rocket Pokemon approached both her and Briney. Peeko was no fighter, so she had flown down into Mr. Briney’s clutched arms. If the two were to fall, they would do so together. He had already closed his eyes and accepted his fate.

The dozen or so poison types who arched their bodies before Cecilia inhaled breath, preparing for a final assault.

A large boulder smashed into a Muk, followed by a flamethrower incinerating the other. More fires engulfed the army ahead, the flames encompassing the Team Rocket army and smothering them in their fiery embrace.

“Yeah you run away boys!” a gruff shout called from behind the fleeing grunts, the remaining Rocket members had been defeated. Archie, Mylos, Grant, Flannery and Roxanne stepped out from beside the burning flames.

“What’s wrong with you?” Archie asked Cecilia, seeing the girl in tears.

“She’s lost all her Pokemon, and her licence I presume,” Briney replied for her, seeing that she was too despondent to speak.

“So? I’ve just lost my last Sharpedo, and my licence too!” Archie chuckled. “Don’t matter though, we’ve won here and Hoenn is safe…ish.”

“So what now?” Mylos asked, as hundreds of fallen Pokemon lay scattered across the beach, scared with flames, poison and pools of foamy water.

“Now? It’s all down to Erik,” Archie responded as he looked up to the sky. “All our hopes lay with him.”

The dimming sun cast its fading rays over Soar as the Latios carried his trainer towards the giant mound of white stone, which sprung from the sea like a mole upon his skin. A bitterly cold wind nipped at Erik’s sides as he rode, carrying with it the distinctive essences of a sea still healing from the severe scorching of Groudon’s heatwave.

Every second of the ride over the sea back towards Sootopolis was a further memory of regret, pain or intense sadness. The thoughts circled around Erik’s mind in a never ending spin. Starting at the caves under Route 128 which saw Maxie perish within Groudon’s fiery awakening, he felt no remorse at the time, but after meeting Courtney and hearing her words, he felt a tinge of sorrow for Magma’s former leader. The next spoke of the wheel of memories led him to May, screaming for him to save her as she plunged to her doom, but he had failed to do so. Then it turned to Blaze, where once more he was too slow, his own Pokemon vanquishing his closest friend with a dark energy blast right before his eyes. Finally, it landed on his father choking on the poisonous blast as they stood together on the crest of the hill. Memories fluttered back and forth of his childhood, to his teenage years, then to his journey through Hoenn. Each thought showed him what he had wanted all along. He had wanted his dad back.

“I must become Champion,” Erik spoke out loud, wiping the memories from his mind as he focused on the one thing he used to push himself through this.

Soar crashed down onto the stone streets of Sootopolis where Erik dismounted and rushed into the Pokemon Centre. After healing his team, he considered the eighth gym. Naturally, as a region so full of rivers, lakes and seas abundant with water type Pokemon, Hoenn would have many powerful water trainers, and therefore the final gym was home to aquatic Pokemon users. And the leader happened to be Wallace, the man who had stabbed them in the back during Team Rocket’s assault on Hoenn.

Erik sent Rocky back into storage specifically for the gym fight. He couldn’t risk his Camerupt against water Pokemon due to his dual fire and ground typing being doubly susceptible. Instead, he withdrew Zap. The Electrode he had caught within the Team Magma hideout would have the type advantage, and also allow him to rest Dancer during the battle against the gym trainers, saving her for Wallace.

Exiting the Pokemon Centre, Erik once again clambered onto his Latios, before the legendary Pokemon rose up and hovered above the stone city. It wasn’t difficult to locate the Pokemon Gym. The centre of the crater was filled with seawater, where over the hundreds of years since it had crashed onto the planet the ocean had eroded away chunks of stone and filled in the gaps. Erik couldn’t fathom how deep the enormous pool of water went, but located directly at the midway point lay the building where he would challenge for the final badge.

The Gym was a strangely rectangular building seemed to be composed of some odd material. A navy blue block of rough stone with a heavy set metal door guarding the entrance, and no windows. Soar landed softly on the small patch of grass, which floated on the small island, as Erik descended before slamming the palm of his hand on the door.

A metallic thud echoed time after time as he thumped the door repeatedly, and each time he was met with no response from within.

Erik tried to force open the door, pulling at the edges with his hands, but once more it was no use. He moved his hand over the strange material that lined the walls, hoping to find a secret switch or telecommunications device, to no avail.

“Enough of this!” he shouted to anyone that was listening. “Soar, blast open this door!”

His Latios didn’t need to be told twice, waiting a moment for his trainer to get to a safe distance. Soar shot an energy blast at the door which melted on impact, the thin metallic sheets that made up the door frying within the sweltering heat of the Latios’s attack.

Erik stepped inside to see a huge room full of pools of water, some laying still and others bubbling calmly. Sprinklers lined the roof, ready to turn on at a moment’s notice as a gym trainer loitered by a switch. The most eye catching feature of the room, however, was that all three walls in front of him remained hidden behind waterfalls. Cascades of water repeatedly crashed down into small bodies of water at the bottom, another gym trainer standing in swimwear underneath the waterfall furthest away from Erik.

“Hello, challenger,” a third gym trainer called to Erik. She was in a full body swimsuit which clung tightly to her body as she hovered next to a small square section of glass flooring in the centre of the room. Drops of water flowed off of her short, blonde hair as she pierced Erik with steely blue eyes. “I’m Tiffany, and-”

“I don’t care who you are!” Erik interrupted. “I’m here to take down Wallace.”

“Oh, you don’t know the rules,” Tiffany responded proudly, although confusion drew itself across her features. “You have to defeat us to-”

“I know the rules, I have seven badges already,” Erik retorted, he had already withdrawn Soar to his Pokeball and was scanning the room for signs of the leader. “Wallace knows who I am, he knows I don’t need to defeat his lackies.”

“Erm…Okay…One second,” the confused woman replied, picking up a waterproof walkie-talkie from her pocket and speaking into it. “Wallace, sir, there’s a guy here who wishes to challenge you without defeating us first. Says you know who he is.”

“Is it that green haired kid again? He already got his badge, what more does he want? Directions to the Pokemon League?!” Wallace snapped back down the communication device, his usually calm melody of a voice in a frustrated strain.

“Wallace!” Erik roared. I’m here for you.”

“Uh oh…Erik? I’ll be up in a mo!” the device replied before cutting out. The sound of machinery blared into action as the glass square in the centre of the room ascended. It screeched and groaned until it reached a certain height, then one side of the cube slid open. Moments later, the slender figure of Wallace rose into the glass cube from below, extending a hand. “Come with me,” the Sootopolis Gym Leader requested.

Erik showed no hesitation and half-ran towards the cube, entering into it with Wallace and descending into the floor with him.

“Our battle arena is right at the bottom of the crater,” Wallace said, placing one hand on his hip and the stroking his clean-shaven chin with the other. Erik noted that the leader refused to make eye contact with him. “This glass elevator was constructed by-”

“Wallace I don’t care,” Erik snapped, staring at the Sootopolis Gym Leader with icy cold eyes. “Why did you betray us?” he followed, before his attention was diverted by the sights outside the glass container. He could see a vast ocean of creatures within the deep depths of the crater, Gyarados swam side by side with Tentacruel and Sharpedos as food floated within edible baskets for the Pokemon who played together joyfully.

“Because, Erik,” Wallace wept, his voice changing from a strained tone to a whiny, high pitched noise. “Giovanni promised that if I helped, he would allow me to remain in charge of my Gym. I can’t abandon my aquarium, it was my father’s work and now mine! Please don’t be mad at me for that! I don’t know how you survived, you were doomed, I only thought that-”

“Oh stop whining!” Erik shouted so loudly that Wallace jumped slightly backwards. “I don’t even know if we won or lost, I left the beach so I could defeat you. And that’s what I’m going to do.”

“But I-”

“Are you a gym leader or not?! Do your job!”

Wallace remained in a stunned silence as Erik admired a new object, the glass dome which the elevator was entering into. After descending into the dome, the glass cube stopped in place, with a side of glass opening on both Erik’s left and right.

“You go to the left, I go right,” Wallace said before racing out of the elevator and descending a white staircase. There was a line of stairs reaching downwards from Erik’s side too, as the glass cube they rode on hovered over a giant fish tank.

Erik almost ran down the stairs, before realising at the bottom there was barely enough room for him to fit, although he could see almost the entirety of the fish tank from here. The water inside was so clear that he sighted Wallace on the other side, who also had little room to manoeuvre. The battle arena was to be the giant square container of water in front of him, which housed rock formations and beautiful corals. Scanning the tank, he noticed a rack containing six sets of underwater breathing apparatus bolted onto the bottom. Each of his Pokemon apart from Seal and Splash would have to withstand a barrage of attacks from Wallace’s Pokemon, reach the bottom then equip the breathing equipment without running out of oxygen first.

“To make it interesting I always tell my challengers this,” Wallace quivered. “The gear at the bottom absorbs electricity, so any electrical based attacks won’t work unless you want your Pokemon to suffocate! Good luck!”

Erik shot him a warning glance, but the strange man was right. Dancer and Zap’s type advantage was nullified. He grabbed Zap’s Pokeball as Wallace threw a Luvdisc’s capsule into the water, the small Pokemon appearing into the container.

“I don’t believe a word this guy says,” he spoke to Zap’s Pokeball, before launching it upwards into the air, the capsule spinning round and round until it released the Electrode into the water.

“So you send out an electric Pokemon anyway,” Wallace laughed, his usual graceful body language returning. “I know you were a fool, Erik.”

Erik ignored the jibe whilst watching the battle unfold. Zap swam by rolling rapidly, using the motion to move towards the breathing gear. Wallace’s Luvdisc calmly followed, reserving his energy and mockingly restraining himself from launching an attack.

“Oh, and the force of any non-water moves are slowed by the water pressure in the tank. So nullify any grass type attacks too!” Wallace giggled. Erik felt his blood boiling as beads of sweat began forming on his forehead.

“Get him, Zap!” Erik commanded his Electrode, who replied by charging up an electrical attack and attempting to fire it, but the breathing equipment attached to him soaked up the voltage.

“Perfect!” Wallace giggled again, as his Luvdisc launched a pulse through the water, throwing the Electrode backwards.

Zap tried a different method of attack, rolling into the sea-dwelling creature. The Luvdisc calmly moved aside and mocked Erik’s Pokemon once more by remaining completely still and allowing Zap to charge again. The Electrode attempted to surround himself with electrical energy, but once more the breathing apparatus absorbed his efforts.

Erik threw Zap’s Pokeball into the air and recalled his Electrode. He would have to think of another plan, and fast. Hoenn depended on his success.

The setting sun signalled dusk on the day of the battle for Hoenn as Wally waited patiently for the gentleman who stood atop the podium to speak. After obtaining eight badges and braving Victory Road, he was invited, along with many others, to enter a new “Pokemon League Tournament”, the details of which were about to be explained. The podium rested against a backdrop of one single large building, constructed from stone, glass and metal in a chaotic mix. The building would contain many different arenas and battlegrounds within, all awaiting the finest trainers in Hoenn to pit their wits against one another.

“Thank you all for attending!” Steven Stone’s voice boomed through the microphone as the last of the invited trainers arrived. The Champion of Hoenn scanned the thirty or so eager faces in front of him, with the former Elite Four by his side. Sidney, “Master of Dark Types”, loitered to his left alongside Phoebe, the “Ghost Whisperer”. To his right stood Glacia, the “Ice Queen”, and Drake, “Lord of Dragons”.

“I am delighted to announce the grand opening of the Pokemon League Tournament,” Steven roared, to howls of approval from the trainers he overlooked. “Approved by the authorities of Hoenn, and following in the footsteps of Kanto’s new-look tournament, the Elite Four are now no more than mere challengers to my crown! All twenty-seven of you are, by the time of this official announcement, the strongest trainers in Hoenn with all eight badges, so together with the old Elite Four shall enter a knockout tournament. The winner of this shall face me in a match to determine who shall become Hoenn’s new Pokemon Champion!”

“Who will face who?” a woman from beside the young man spoke.

“There will be fives rounds of battles!” Steven declared. “All randomly drawn. Whoever wins all five matches shall be granted the privilege to face me in battle!”

“And when does the tournament start?” a man who had pushed his way to the front questioned. “And how often will the winner hold the title?”

“That’s the most exciting part! The Authorities of Hoenn want the issue decided as soon as possible. So the tournament will start right now! The winner will be declared Champion until the next tournament in five years time!” Steven declared, to gasps from his expectant audience. “If you will all follow me inside this grand building, you will be matched up with one another and the first round of battles shall commence in twenty minutes time!”

“Wait!” Drake roared, The Lord of Dragons’s voice was both commanding and fierce. “Where’s our say in this?!”

“Drake,” Steven responded, locking eyes with the furious man. “You and your friends have agreed to this already, you’ve all signed contracts.”

“Forced to sign contracts you mean!” the man shouted in response for all to hear.

“Any more from you and you know the consequences,” Steven barked back, to which the man dropped his head and murmured something unintelligible in response. “Now if you’d all like to follow me,” the Champion spoke back to the audience.

Steven led the way inside the towering building, with the former Elite Four all following him inside. The four elite trainers looked despondent, almost as if they had been forced into resigning their positions. Usually a trainer who had acquired all eight badges would have to first defeat the Elite Four in a row, before challenging the Champion to a one-on-one fight. Almost like defeating a gym leader after beating his trainers first. The young man didn’t know why it had been changed, but he suspected something more sinister was happening.

After all the other trainers had followed Steven inside, Wally waited so he could individually look at each one, searching for one person in particular.

“Erik,” he whispered to himself. “You didn’t make it. I’m so sorry.”