Chapter Eleven – The Media’s Enemy
A line of trees stretched into the sky from both sides of the sandy road that twisted and turned chaotically, all the way until Route 111 became Route 113.
A swift glance behind him, and Erik saw the cave entrance in the distance to the left, with the desert looming behind his right shoulder. He turned his head back around to be met by a fist which flashed before him. His vision turning to temporary darkness as he crashed to the surprisingly solid ground.
Erik turned his head to see Roller leap in in an attempt to save him, before a Mightyena slammed into his Gulpin – who in turn went flying backwards into Leaf which left the two of them in a slump on the ground. Erik fumbled around for Lady’s Pokeball before the attacker kicked it out of his hands.
“Nothin’ personal kid,” came a gruff voice from the large man standing over Erik. He was wearing a black leather jacket with dark jeans, using a chain as a belt. “Defeating you will get me all over the news, imagine the fame and money that would come with that,” the man laughed as he spoke, his chuckles sounding almost like he was choking on something.
“Your Mightyena is too well trained for this part of Hoenn,” Erik replied, “besides the news is lying to people about me.”
“I know he’s powerful, I have five badges after just defeating your father in battle. I was about to cross the river to get to Fortree town and my sixth badge when I heard the news. I don’t care if they’re lying, I’ll still get famous either way.”
Erik climbed to his feet to see Ice and Blaze struggling with their combined efforts against the thug’s Mightyena. Blaze swiped a kick at his foe, who feinted around it then slammed into the Combusken, sending it rocketing to the floor. Ice moved in to retaliate, barring his fangs which were glistening with ice as always, the thug’s Pokemon ducking under the attempted bite and slamming its skull into Ice’s stomach.
“Finish the Combusken off!” shouted the thug, as Erik stood motionless, too frightened to move.
The Mightyena obliged his trainer’s orders, and opened his jaws to wrap his teeth around Blaze’s throat, before being fried by a blast of electricity from Dancer. Ice got back up to his feet and wrapped his own fangs around the Mightyena, Blaze blasting it with fire to finally finish off their opponent.
As Erik’s team rounded on the thug; the large man ran.
Erik couldn’t tell if Wilson and Brooke were brother and sister, or just very close friends. The two looked almost identical with lime-green hair and piercing amber eyes, and both were well built, wearing rose-coloured outfits. Whatever their relation, the two trainers’ hatred of Erik was clear.
“We were training up to challenge your dad for his badge,” Brooke’s voice was extremely high pitched, the sound of it causing Erik to wince as she spoke. “But we see his evil son needs taking care of first.”
The two had ambushed Erik as he walked further down Route 111, and after a brief introduction, had challenged him to a fight, Wilson was to go first.
“My sister won’t even be needed,” Wilson’s voice was also high, almost boyish despite looking to be in his late-twenties. “I will take you down.”
“Well that answers that question; brother and sister,” Erik chuckled to Blaze, his Combusken chirping in response.
“Shut up!” Brooke squealed, “you Magma people need to be shown there are still people who will fight you. Get him big bro.”
“You got it,” Wilson replied as he launched a Pokeball into the air, the device opened up with an Electrike hopping out.
Erik had given up trying to convince people he wasn’t part of Team Magma, so didn’t even bother, nodding calmly to Leaf; the Gloom taking to the battlefield.
Leaf seemed to be a lot more stubborn and miserable since her evolution, almost as if the previously quiet and innocent Oddish was now going through a teenage phase. Erik was snapped out of his thought process by a quick attack by Wilson’s Pokemon, the Electrike moving as quickly as it had entered the battlefield and swiping at the Gloom.
Gloom inhaled and began the process to release pheromones into the air, but was interrupt by a bolt of electricity from the Electrike who moved quicker than any Pokemon Erik had ever seen. Wilson’s creature moved in for another attack but Leaf reacted in time, sending spores into the air to attract the foe, who fell in love with her.
“Yes!” Erik shouted, he knew from experience whenever Leaf had attracted an opponent, she quickly won the fight.
“Come on Electrike, we’ve been through worse than this!” Wilson encouraged, the electric Pokemon repeatedly shaking his head with eyes slammed shut, like it was trying to shake out a vile thought.
Wilson’s Pokemon blasted a jolt of electrical power at Leaf, fighting through the love and causing damage to the Gloom.
“Oh no,” Erik thought to himself, “this Electrike is too well trained. It can fight through love. It moves at great speeds…” Leaf inhaled, even though her spores weren’t working, she had no other moves, or so Erik thought.
The Gloom blasted a stream of poisonous liquid out of her mouth, managing what Oddish couldn’t and attacking through other means. The Electrike was thrown back but regained itself, a paralysing wave of lightning erupting from its skin, striking and paralysing Leaf; leaving her weak and unable to move.
Erik moved swiftly, withdrawing Leaf into her Pokeball and giving Ice a nod to charge into battle. The Electrike was majorly weakened but still moved quickly, darting around Ice who stood motionless, and waited. As soon as Wilson’s Pokemon made its move, Ice grabbed and crushed it with his fangs.
“No!” Wilson roared, grabbing his next Pokeball in a rage and throwing it, a Makuhita emerging from within. Erik nodded to Roller.
The Gulpin moved quickest, launching a ball of toxic sludge which poisoned the Makuhita upon contact. The fighting Pokemon countering by whipping up a whirlwind, the force of which launched Roller into the air, high up into the sky.
Erik saved his Pokemon by recalling it into his Pokeball, and by the time he turned his head to nod at Blaze, his Combusken had already slammed into the Makuhita in a fiery charge. Blaze was relentless, despite receiving multiple punches to the face, he carried on kicking back, the combined fire and poison proving too much for Wilson’s second creature.
“KILL HIM!” screamed Wilson, infuriated. Erik didn’t recognise the next Pokemon that was sent into battle. A blue and yellow creature stood tall on it’s hind legs, with short arms and sharp fangs with accompanying dragon mane. A quick check of his Pokedex informing him his opponent was Bagon, a dragon type.
Ice strutted out onto the field of battle, Erik knowing that dragon-types were weak to ice attacks. His Mightyena shivered, then stopped, suddenly wincing, Erik realising that Ice was paralysed, contact with the Electrikes skin must have caused it.
The Bagon took advantage, charging in head first, but Ice composed himself then leapt onto the dragon, icy fangs causing great damage. Bagon retaliated with fire breath, but Ice’s teeth were unmelting, the cold glistening still as he ended the match-up.
Erik noticed that Wilson still had two Pokeballs left, and Brooke had all three of hers untouched. Whereas Leaf was too weak to fight with Roller, Ice and Blaze having had taken significant damage already.
“Let’s speed this up,” Wilson declared, throwing out both of his remaining Pokeballs out at once, a Spoink emerging alongside a Mawille. Blaze and Roller marched out to face them.
The Spoink bounced from side to side, never staying still for a moment, and launched a vicious ray of light towards Roller. The Gulpin span around rapidly, dizzy and confused by the bright light which continuously changed colour, but fought through the confusion to launch a ball of poisonous sludge back, successfully poisoning the psychic-type.
Blaze was up against the steel-typed Mawille, who didn’t put up much of a challenge at all due to his flames melting the steel skin, the Combusken turning to see Roller letting out rapid and continual poisonous attacks against the Spoink, one such ball of sludge Blaze set alight, the fire ball of poison incinerating Wilson’s final Pokemon.
Wilson was still shocked and in tears as Brooke faced up to Erik. He had wanted to heal his team before he faced her, but his wrist device had responded to her challenge leaving him unable to.
“I will take you down, you evil boy!” promised Brooke.
“You will be in tears after this like your brother,” Erik said dryly, he was beyond caring now, the two had brought this upon themselves.
An evolved version of Zigzagoon was her first fighter, the slender Linoone staring Roller in the eye as the two prepared to fight. The Linoone moved fastest, headbutting Roller into a nearby tree, the Gulpin retaliating with sludge, which had little effect. Roller was waning.
Linoone moved quickly again, furiously swiping at Roller again and again, Erik knew it was lost, as soon as Brooke’s Pokemon stopped to breathe, he withdrew Roller into his Pokeball, the Gulpin tremendously weak. Blaze leapt in, kicking the Linoone into the tree, again the attack by one of Erik’s team had little effect.
A loud creak could be heard from the tree, with the Linoone standing at full height on her hind legs and screeching at Blaze, challenging him to come forward and attack. Blaze responded, despite Erik’s cries, charging in as the Linoone prepared to lunge.
A further loud creak, and half the tree seemed to fall on top of Brooke’s creature, a dozen or so branches crashing down, which Blaze set alight to make absolutely sure the Linoone had fallen.
Brooke sent out a Wingull. With only Blaze and Lady in fighting condition, and Blaze having a double weakness to Wingull’s dual water and flying types, Erik was feeling lost; and Brooke still had another Pokemon after that.
Lady and Wingulls water blasts intercepted another, cancelling their attacks out. With the Wingull deftly dodging the Tentacool’s following poisonous attacks, the flying creature grabbed Lady in it’s talons and flew her into a tree, then launched Lady back to the ground to a soft thud. Lady was barely moving, but alive.
“I’m sorry Blaze,” Erik whispered to his oldest friend, tears filling his eyes, “it’s down to you now.”
A yellow paw halted Blaze’s advances, as Dancer walked onto the battlefield herself. A watery blast hitting her square in the face and knocking her backwards only seeming to anger the Pikachu, who skipped out of the way of a second water blast before blasting electricity at it. The electrical power surging up the water, all the way to the Wingull’s beak, frying it and leaving Brooke down to her final Pokemon; Roselia.
Blaze had no struggle against Roselia, his fire attacks burning through the grass-type with ease. Erik had beaten both the siblings now, even though they had one badge more than he did. Despite his victories, every single member of his team was extremely weak, they would not survive another battle if they weren’t healed and the next Pokemon centre wasn’t until Fallabor town, a long way away still.
Erik expected a response from the twins, but both were too busy consoling each other. He walked on without looking back.
“Erik!” a sweet sounding voice crawled its way down from one of the identical trees which lined the route to the trainer on the pathway below.
Erik froze. His team were weak, unlikely to survive another fight and yet another trainer was calling his name, he had almost reached the end of Route 111, he was so close.
“Look,” he responded, looking up to see a woman with caramel skin and fluffy dark hair perched on a wooden platform, concealed in the raking leaves and branches of the tree. “The reporters are lying, I’m not joining Magma. My team are too weak to survive another battle, please,” he pleaded, for the first time in his life he was begging. All his Pokemon were back inside their Pokeballs, he had wanted to give them as much rest of possible.
“Dont worry, my dad once angered the media too, I know their tricks.” She flashed him a smile as she spoke, clear white teeth seemingly sparkling in the sunlight. “Come up here, I’ll throw a ladder down, it’s safe, I promise.”
Erik looked around, he saw a couple of trainers emerging from the desert, and was sure he could made out human-shaped figures at the other end of the route as well. Besides, he knew how treacherous Route 113 supposedly was, covered in ash storms from the active volcano which loomed over it. He climbed the ladder.
Each rung he climbed caused the ladder to wobble alarmingly, a creaking noise could be heard from the wooden platform above and Erik always did have a slight fear of heights. He kept his gaze locked above him, terrified that if he looked down he would fall, until he made it to the top.
Cecilia had gone. Pushing aside a huge branch swamped with leaves revealed a treehouse, made of soft pine wood with no windows and a single, small door. The whole thing could have possibly been crafted by Cecilia herself.
He entered cautiously, having to duck to fit through the doorway. He wasn’t the tallest, but the lady now stand in front of him was shorter, of average height for a female.
“This is my secret base,” she informed him, her large brown eyes taking in his own. “Lots of tainers have them, either in trees or in small caves. You can get your Pokemon to make one for you if you see a weak looking area in a cliff-face or a large tree. I come here to hide or relax from the outside world.”
Erik scanned the room, a huge sky blue mat welcomed them and directly in front of him was a huge poster on the wall with a Pokeball on it. Two Treecko dolls lay on the floor underneath it, a table and chairs to the right of the house with a bed and laptop to the left. Erik heard noise coming from the laptop and wondered over, seeing that it was showing the news report of himself right now, he listened to what it was saying about him:
“As you can clearly see,” a voiceover from Gabby announced, to an onscreen image of Erik spying on the two Magma members from behind a boulder. “Norman’s son is looking to follow the two back to their base so he can request to join them.”
Two minutes of highly edited footage and lies followed, Gabby and Ty seemingly having followed Erik since he had left Mauville, the footage even lasting until he climbed Mt. Chimney. They must have continued following him even after he had beaten them.
“There he goes, climbing up the mountain to his destiny.” Gabby stared directly at the camera the entire time, showing no sign of remorse. It was almost as if she believed every single word she was saying. “And now,” she continued, “we confronted Erik and have exclusive footage of the boy himself.”
An edited clip showed, first of him having to stop what Gabby described as his “rabid and out of control Combusken” from destroying their camera, then to Roller repeatedly smashing Magnemite with a rock, despite “a battle never taking place”, then finally, Lady and Roller standing over Magnemite and Whismur as Erik threatened to kill them if the footage of him wasn’t deleted.
“Pictures say a thousand words, and videos speak a thousand pictures,” Gabby summed up, “this boy Erik needs taking down. I repeat, no battle took place, his actions and threats were because he caught us trying to film him and wanted it all covered up. But you do not bring ace reporters Gabby and Ty down easily, we bring you, the people, all the top stories no matter what! G and T signing out.”
“They’ve been showing that report twice an hour, all day,” Cecilia spoke as soon as the report finished. Erik was stunned.
“It’s all lies..” Erik could barely manage a whisper.
“I know,” came the reply from Cecilia, “anyone who messes with the media or the authorities gets burned.”
“Do you know who these authorities are?” Erik asked the question that had been on his mind for a while.
“No one does.”
“How did you know the media were lying about me? Why did you save me?”
“I can tell who the bad ones are, the type of people that join Magma, and you’re not one of them.”
“I’m not a good person, Cecilia.”
“Maybe that’s what we need, in a world where the good people get nowhere, we need someone to break the ice. Someone who’s not the best of people to make their mark in order to let the good people in, if you get me?”
“Not really,” Erik laughed, before jumping backwards suddenly as one of the Treecko dolls turned out to be alive. Cecilia giggled.
“Your Combusken seems strong from what I’ve seen.”
“Me and Blaze go back a long way.”
“Blaze?” she said quizzically. “Oh! You nickname your Pokemon, that’s so cool! Anyway Erik I’ve been meaning to say, feel free to camp out up here until tomorrow. By then, the media will have probably found a new story to spin and you can carry on your journey without the hassle.”
“Thank you, but why?” Erik was confused at the stranger’s kindness.
“Why not? It will be fun,” she replied, a sparkling white smile engulfing her face once more.
Dancer used her electricity to power up a lamp, dimly lighting up the treehouse interior as night closed in. Cecilia had just returned from scavenging for supplies, herself and her Treecko picking up many berries for the Pokemon, with nuts and roots for Cecilia and Erik to feast on.
“Thank you,” Erik started, “I think we will leave in an hour or two, the cover of night will aid us and allow us to sneak through to Fallabor town.”
“It’s too dangerous to travel through Route 113 at night, besides, it would be best to wait until tomorrow for things to blow over before leaving.”
Erik thought of a retort but held his tongue as a menacing thought flowed through his mind. “Why doesn’t she want me to leave,” he pondered, “is she deliberately keeping me here, she could well work for the media or Magma and I’d have no way of knowing.”
“What are you thinking?” Cecilia asked, noticing the sudden silence.
“Where abouts did you go?” He thought if she hesitated or gave a suspicious answer, she could well have popped out to one of his enemies. It was making sense now, why else would a random trainer try to save him because ‘she knows the media like to twist things’ and ‘she could tell he’s not the type to join Magma’.
“I told you? I went to rummage up some food for us..” Cecilia looked almost offended at the question, as if she could read Erik’s suspicions.
“Never mind,” he replied, seeing his team helping themselves to dinner. He decided he would leave tonight, recalling his Pokemon into their Pokeballs whilst Cecilia was sleeping and leaving the treehouse.
Another silence took over the treehouse, one that didn’t depart for the next couple of hours until they all headed to sleep. Erik on the floor recalling his team into their Pokeballs, informing his host that he didn’t want them to sleep on the hard wooden surface.
Erik threw the ladder and climbed downwards to the surface. He had waited for Cecilia to fall sound asleep then bailed, tip-toeing quietly out of the treehouse so he didn’t awaken her.
He reached the bottom and ran towards Route 113, his team were now rested and although still weak, he was confident they were ready for another battle if need be, after replenishing themselves with food and a brief sleep inside their Pokeballs, he let them all out to accompany him.
He turned back to look at the treehouse once he had reached the end of Route 111, it was barely visible but he could swear he saw a shadowed figure pulling the ladder back up. He was sad to leave Cecilia as he did, after all the help she had given him, but knew he could not risk her working in secret for one of his enemies.
Turning back around to face Route 113 he immediately saw why he had been warned about it.
An enormous fog hung over the area in front of him, clouding out any vision he would’ve been granted by the starlight. A quick nod to Blaze and his Pokemon shot out a ball of fire to attempt to light up the pathway ahead of him.
A thicket of large grass burst into flames, allowing Erik to see Route 113 was covered in such thickets and was, luckily, very linear by the brief glimpse of the route he could now see.
“Right,” he spoke to his team, “I need all of you apart from Blaze to return inside your Pokeballs, it’s too dangerous out here for you all.”
His request was greeted by a stubborn refusal, his team wanted to take the journey with him, however perilous the trek seemed.
“Okay, we’ll do this together,” he chuckled, to a huge roar from each individual member of the group.
Erik struggled to breathe, a glance behind him saw his lagging team having the same problem. The volcanic ash was too much from them to bare, but it was too late to turn back now.
Blaze continuously lit thickets of long grass on fire, lighting them a path through the foggy darkness. He inhaled and spat another flame, this one causing a loud screech from within, a metallic bird flying upwards into the sky. The fire glistened off of the bird’s steel skin to illuminate the route in front of them. From here Erik could now see Fallabor town and a hut closer to him, both were still a long way away, but now he knew where he was going. He knew he was heading in the right direction.
Lady shot out a plume of water at the Skarmory, the flames that had engulfed the steel Pokemon being extinguished. Erik followed up Lady’s intuitive move by throwing a great ball at Skarmory; capturing it and naming her “Steel”.
“Keep it up everyone, we will stop for a rest at that hut we saw,” Erik declared to his Pokemon, they all looked shattered and weak but wanted to continue alongside their trainer.
Minutes passed as they struggled on, Lady had collapsed already and the rest of the team weren’t far behind. Erik refused to let them continue; withdrawing them all into their Pokeballs. All except Lady and Blaze, the former he now carried in his arms as they made their way through the ash strewn route.
His Tentacool’s breath was shallow and pulse weak in the extreme. Blaze stuttered in his walking, coughing constantly through the ash and smoke. A small light in the distance guiding them towards the hut, and respite from the torture.
The struggle continued, each footstep more difficult than the last. Each step kicking up ash off the floor and into the air for Erik or Blaze to inhale, the path they had taken behind them now lit up in flames. At this rate, Erik and Blaze would burn the entirety of Route 113 down.
Minutes later they finally reached the hut, slamming the door to one side and entering. Lady’s pulse had gone completely now as Erik set her down upon a large, wooden table in the centre of the room.
Glass artifacts littered the hut, from pipes to vases to replica Pokemon. An elderly man burst out of a back room, quickly followed by one much younger – to see Erik hopelessly trying to revive Lady with CPR.
“What is the meaning of this?!” demanded the aging gentleman, who hadn’t a single hair on his head that wasn’t grey.
“You answer my dad this instant,” the boy followed, a Pokeball in his grasp.
“Sorry,” blurted Erik in a rush, “my Pokemon is dying. Help, please.”
The two residents ran over to where Erik’s Tentacool now lay, checking for a pulse and attempting to clear her airways, to no avail.
“I’m sorry young man,” the elderly man spoke with genuine sadness, “she’s gone.”
“There must be something you can do?!” Erik roared, he was furious with himself for not listening to Cecilia and staying the night. Even if she had turned out to be working for Team Magma, at least Lady would still be here with him now.
“Sorry, we lack any specialist equipment, we just fashion glass items out of ash here; to sell.”
Erik’s head span, he felt incredibly dizzy.
“Are you okay?” the son enquired.
“I..I..” Erik attempted to reply, collapsing to the ground coughing and spluttering. He turned to Blaze for assistance, but his Combusken was already on the floor unconscious. Route 113 had defeated them both.
As Erik’s vision faded he stared at Lady, she was lost to him.
“If only I’d listened..” he spoke aloud, to no one and everyone. “If only I’d.. list..ened..”
The world went black.