Growing Up

Chapter Three – Growing Up


With the taste of freshly baked bread still in his mouth, Erik closed the oak door behind him. Route 104 was ahead of him and he hoped the next member of his party inhabited the pathway. Erik had tried to pass through the woods and onto Rustboro in the night before Wally’s dad stopped him in his tracks and offered him a place to stay until the morning as a thank you for helping his son. Wally had already left, leaving a spare room for Erik to sleep in for the night.

Gully chirped beside him and was clearly refreshed as he took to the skies, circling the group overhead. Blaze, as always, walked to the right of Erik almost having to move his small legs into a run just to keep up with his trainer. Ice took his place to Erik’s left, proudly strutting. String usually lagged behind, struggling to keep up with the group but this time Erik allowed String to rest on his shoulder, so he didn’t feel left out.

As he studied his four Pokemon, Erik realised he could only carry two more. The official rules stated a trainer could only have with them six Pokemon at one time, any more they happen to have are to be put in storage.

Ice growled, then charged into the tall grass, which rustled for a moment.

Out sprang a Zigzagoon fleeing for it’s life, Ice close in pursuit. The wild Pokemon was inches away from it’s pursuers grasp, when Erik threw a Pokeball. The Zigzagoon hardly put up a struggle, delighted it had managed to escape with her life. Ice strolled back to Erik’s side without a care, happy that he was able to help his trainer to catch a new Pokemon.

Ziggy rolled around in the golden sand, the harsh winds causing rough waves, which were battering the beach shore and splashing Erik’s new Pokemon in the face. His Zigzagoon was a flighty creature, still scared of Ice whenever he came within a few metres of her.

Erik had gone down to the beach to allow his Pokemon to enjoy a couple of hours playing in the sand, the relaxation would do them good before they went through the trials of the forest, he hoped.

“This beach is my training zone!” Roared an athletic teenager as he marched over to Erik.

“Nice to meet you, I’m Erik,” came the sarcastic reply.

“Billy,” said the trainer who now looked fit to burst, throwing a Pokeball to challenge Erik to battle. A Seedot appearing out of it, the grass Pokemon casting it’s large black eyes at it’s opponent from underneath a cap grey enough it matched the dull sky.

“Ziggy, let’s see what you’re made off,” Erik spoke softly, the Zigzagoon slowly creeping up to her opponent, who sat still, biding it’s time. Ziggy made the first move, crashing into the Seedot who was unmoved and facing the ground, it’s cap casting a shadow over the grass Pokemon’s eyes. It was building up a rage ready to unleash on Erik’s Pokemon. Again Ziggy rammed into the Seedot, and again, but each time her foe stood unmoved. Ziggy backed off slowly, startled by how little effect her charges were having on the Seedot. Billy’s creature suddenly leapt, all the rage it had built up being unleashed at once on Ziggy, which sent Erik’s Pokemon flying through the air, slamming hard into the soft sands.

“Ziggy no!” Erik shouted, as his newly caught friend lay unmoving on the floor. Ice stormed out onto the field of battle. Erik knew that ice attacks were strong against grass Pokemon and so it proved, as Ice finished off the Seedot with ease before strutting proudly past Ziggy who was now back on her feet, weak but alive.

“Tailow!” Billy roared, summoning into battle his other Pokemon, the bird’s feathers as blue as the deepest pits of the ocean. Ice turned around ready for another fight but Erik called him back, shouting up at Gully who was flying in circles above them.

Gully arrowed down into battle, making high pitched supersonic screeches, the tone of which clearly confused the Tailow. To escape the screams Billy’s flying Pokemon closed it’s eyes and tried flying away, only to end up hurling itself into a nearby rock. As Tailow tried to recover, Gully closed in and blasted his adversary with water, throwing it straight back into the rock and finishing it off.

“Sorry for ending your career,” Erik taunted him, Gully landing on his shoulder and began nipping at his hair.

“You haven’t. I have Pokemon in storage, I just decided to train these two today,” Billy blasted before storming off.

The wooden hut loomed over the stairs at the top of the beach. Ice had raced Gully to the top of the planked stairway, with Erik nudging Blaze and telling him to join them. Blaze’s eyes were little black marbles filled with sorrow at his master’s words. Even though Erik knew he could not only trust, but rely on his Torchic entirely, his first Pokemon still lacked the confidence to leave his trainer’s side.

A pat on the head and some encouraging words later, Blaze slowly built up the courage to run and join Ice and Gully, running as fast as his short legs could carry him and looking like he could trip over at any second.

Erik kneeled down on the sand, now at eye level with both Ziggy and String.

“Hey you two,” he spoke softly and calming, letting his words soothe his two more timid Pokemon, “I know you both had to be saved in your first fights by Ice, but some Pokemon just grow up quicker than others. I’ve only had the two of you for a short time, so I do not expect you two to be super powerful just yet, but of course I will stick by you and give you more chances. If you look at someone like Ice, Blaze or Gully and feel that you’ll never match up to them then you won’t, the doubt would stop that. However, if you let them protect and inspire you, theres no limit to how strong you could all become.”

Ziggy crept up gently to Erik and licked his cheek, a tongue so small and rough it tickled to the touch. String on the other hand continued looking down at the floor, as he always did, almost scared to lift his head up and look his trainer in the eye. Erik gave him a pat on the head, his slimy skin wetting his trainer’s hand, before the three of them joined Ice, Gully and now Blaze at the top of the stairs.

As Gully took flight another Wingull flew straight up to meet him, circling Erik’s Pokemon.

“Peeko get back here!” came a hoarse shout from a nearby elderly man, his head featured only a few strands of hair. He did, however, have a full beard which was as white as snow and piercing dark eyes.

“Gully come down,” Erik ordered his own Pokemon, with both Wingull returning to rest on their trainer’s shoulders. Gully then began his characteristic nipping of Erik’s hair.

“Sorry about that, Peeko just wanted to play. She’s very friendly,” the man’s voice was calm but it sounded like he had to force out every word. Peeko began shedding feathers which fell and got caught on her owner’s full length black overcoat, which he had to pick off, “and enjoys winding me up,” he continued with hearty laughter, before turning his back and walking back into the the wooden hut.

“Wait, Mr.Briney! Please!” Came the wailing voice of a young teenager, holding what appeared to be a lifeless Zigzagoon in his arms, tearings streaming down his young-looking face.

“What’s wrong?” Mr.Briney had already closed the door and wasn’t coming back out, so Erik decided to speak for him.

“I need Mr.Briney, he was once a great sailor and maybe he can help!” The boy cried, giant blue eyes fixated on the wooden hut.

“I can help,” Erik replied bluntly, Gully still nipping at his hair.

“My Zigzagoon is really hurt, and I have no potions, he’s alive but only just,” he said as he lifted up the unconscious Pokemon to show Erik.

“Here, have one of mine,” Erik said, reaching into his backpack before handing him one of the potions the Pokemart employee had handed him back in Oldale town.

“Thank you so much! Thank you, thank you,” the boy stopped his elated cheers and went cold when Erik asked him his next question.

“What happened?”

“A man, rich looking man, named Winstone, with slicked back blonde hair. He jumped out of the forest on me and Zagzig, his Zigzagoon was so strong..” Tears flooded his eyes again, before Erik’s next reply seemed to appease him.

“I’ll get him for you.”

Winstone adjusted his bow tie as his Zigzagoon sized up String, the Wurmple having been given another chance by his trainer to show his worth.

“My last battle ended up with a little teen running away with his dead Zigzagoon in his arms,” Winstone said bursting into laughter.

“He wasn’t dead, I helped heal him with a potion, now I’ve come for you.”

Erik had walked right up to the edge of Petalburg Woods, just as the boy had done, where he was set upon by Winstone leaping out of the shrubbery with Zigzagoon in tow, but unlike the boy, Erik was ready. String had elected to fight, much to his trainer’s surprise. His Wurmple evidently wanting to show him that he was not in need of protection and could handle himself.

Winstone’s creature taunted String, encouraging him to attack with the bug duly obliging by tackling his opponent. The Zigzagoon roared, startling String momentarily before he composed himself and tackled his competitor again, knocking Zigzagoon to the floor.

“Stop playing with that pathetic bug Zigzagoon and finish it off!” Winstone barked, with his Pokemon slamming the full force of it’s body into String, nearly knocking him off the cliff edge on which the battle took place. Winstone smiled and wiped dust kicked up from the battle off of his suit.

“String, come back here!” Erik shouted, before nodding to Gully to go and save his ally. Gully squirted water at the Zigzagoon who dodged it. Gully then went to divebomb his foe but Zigzagoon deftly leapt to the side and rammed into the Wingull, knocking him off the cliff edge. Erik held his breath as he waited, and waited. Gully shot back up, shooting water and knocking the Zigzagoon into Winstone.

“Eugh!” The wealthy man recoiled, before opening his briefcase and healing his Pokemon’s wounds with a potion. But Gully didn’t give up, shooting another watery burst, landing the hit. Zigzagoon fell to the floor but Gully was relentless and this time successfully divebombed the prone Pokemon, finishing off the battle and ending Winstone’s Pokemon career. The rich youth slumped to the floor, silent.

Erik pushed his way through more bushes, his five Pokemon following him through. The forest was so dense the sunlight struggled to push it’s way through the trees, casting a murky darkness throughout Petalburg woods. Gully let out a sudden shriek of warning, Erik’s Wingull had been flying above them the entire time, navigating the woods much easier than the rest of the group. String had coped next best, in his natural environment he has able to keep up alongside his trainer.

Erik suddenly saw what Gully was warning them about, as String was sent sprawling. Another Wurmple had attacked him, before crawling back into the bush it had emerged from. Blaze, Ziggy and Ice were still behind struggling to keep up, with Gully unable to find the assailant as he pecked through the bush it had run off into.

String got back up to his feet and backpedaled, as the other Wurmple had this time appeared out of another bush, and was now charging at String. Erik rapidly reached into his bag and pulled out a Pokeball, throwing it at the wild Pokemon, capturing him.

“Are you okay String?” Erik asked, before his Pokemon give him a timid nod back, String was shaking furiously. “I’ve got a name for our new friend, I’ll call him Speedy!”

The sound of sarcastic laughter caught Erik’s ears, “nearly taken down by a wild Wurmple, my finely trained trio of Wurmples will have no problem!”

The man came out of the bushes like a bug, almost looking like one himself with bulging hazel eyes and large teeth. “Do it for your trainer Lyle, Wurmple number one!”

He almost spat everytime he spoke, as his Pokemon wandered onto the field of battle. Erik responded with a nod to Ziggy, eager for his Zigzagoon to have another chance in battle. His Pokemon had just managed to make it through the bush after a struggle, a couple of cuts appearing under her fur which looked like she had caught herself on some branches.

Ziggy was eager to prove herself, so made the first move by tackling the opposing Wurmple to the soft mud. Her foe managed to lift it’s head up to spray string out of it’s mouth at Ziggy, wrapping Erik’s Pokemon up in a cocoon of string. After a few seconds of struggling inside the string shell, the case made of string stopped moving. Erik’s knew it would be impossible to breathe inside of it, immediately regretting sending Ziggy out to suffocate in battle after she had toiled through the forest. A few more seconds passed with no movement, Erik felt himself shaking and looked down to the floor, eyes welling up with tears, before hearing Lyle shout.

“Wurmple One! No!”

Ziggy had broken out of the shell and taken the Wurmple out, winning the duel.

Erik jumped up shouting with glee, ahead of immediately recalling Ziggy and telling String this is his chance to prove himself.

String used the poisonous point on his head to try and intoxicate his fellow Wurmple, but was unsuccessful in delivering the poison. “Wurmple Two” slammed into String in response, with String returning the blow. Lyle’s Wurmple then went again, ramming String into the ground and nearly burying him under the mud. As String struggled to get back up again Erik told Speedy to save the Pokemon he had nearly killed earlier.

Speedy came out of his Pokeball and finished off the weakened Wurmple withouting breaking a sweat, before making short work of “Wurmple Three” straight afterwards. As String saw another Wurmple proving himself to Erik after he had failed once again, his head dropped. His trainer giving him a pat on the head which did nothing to elevate his mood.

The two trainers stood off against each other, each clasping a Pokeball in their hands. The laboratory technician cowering behind Erik, clutching the research papers in his hands. The grunt opposite them was wearing a tight fitting scarlet red hooded cloak with matching boots, through his outfit Erik could see an even tighter fitting blood red undershirt.

“Why will you Team Magma grunts not leave Devon Corporation alone!” the technician wailed, kneeling down using his bright white labcoat to hide behind.

“Boss says those papers are important, hand them over,” the mysterious man snapped, a shadow over his face cast by the hood he was wearing, his voice sounding gruff, “and you,” he said, turning to Erik, “nobody messes with Team Magma and gets away with it, step aside.”

Erik had been continuing his journey through the woods, when he had stumbled upon an innocent looking man looking for a Shroomish. The man had told him he was a Devon Corporation employee and was out in the woods looking for the grass Pokemon for his studies.

“You know why they have banned the use of Pokemon in all other regions?” Erik said to the man who had come up to the two of them demanding they surrender some research papers. “Because of gangs like you and Team Rocket, using Pokemon for crime.”

“Look kid, if you will not step aside then my Poochyena will get those papers for me,” the Magma member replied, throwing his Pokeball to the floor to release his Pokemon, Erik replied by freeing Ziggy out his own ball for battle.

The Poochyena kicked up sand and dust which had been ingrained in the ground at Ziggy, temporary blinding Erik’s Pokemon.

Ziggy stayed resilient, taunting her opponent by wagging her tail at him.

“Very out of character, but her confidence is clearly on the rise,” Erik thought to himself, before the Poochyena howled in anger, shooting more sand wildly before being itself too blinded not by sand, but by anger. The Pokemon not noticing Ziggy charging at it until she slammed into her foe, finishing the fight.

“Not an out of character taunt, instead, that was actually very clever. Leaving the poorly trained Poochyena blinded by it’s own rage,” Erik smiled at the thought of his Pokemon’s ingenuity.

The Magma member ran off at the sight of his Pokemon losing the battle with the Devon Corporation employee using his own potions to heal all of Erik’s Pokemon as a thank you, before running off himself back to his office in Rustboro.

Further into the woods, Erik battled another bug collector named James, who used a Nincada. Ziggy went into battle but despite her newly found confidence and winning momentum, was unable to inflict a scratch on James’s bug. Erik switched in Blaze who burned the creature to a crisp.

Further on another trainer challenged Erik to a battle, sending out her own Zigzagoon to which he countered with Gully. Gully used his confuse then blast with water tactic he had used on the Tailow before, continuing Erik’s winning streak without him even losing a member of his team yet.

“Finally,” Erik sighed with relief, addressing his team, “those woods are behind us.”

String and Speedy both jumped up together at seeing the treeline fall behind them, the two had become close after String was saved by his fellow Wurmple during an earlier battle. Speedy was acting almost as a mentor and guardian, making sure String was being looked out for. They were all tired after the trawl through the forest, the dark of night closing in around them.

“Another victim!” A young woman shouted as she saw the tired group exiting Petalburg Woods, “whilst you are tired me and my Pokemon will get battle experience by beating you.”

Ice growled, baring his fangs, but Erik held him off and turned to String and Speedy.

“You two have become almost like brothers very quickly. Speedy, you have helped String grow, protected him through the forest and enabled him to believe in himself a bit more and for that I thank you.” Erik then turned to String, as Speedy got the hint and moved to join the rest of the group, leaving the two alone.

“What is this..” The woman who had challenged them sighed, before sending out her Lotad to battle them.

“Ignore her String, I believe in you and always have, but there is only so far pure belief can go. You have to keep going, you need to win a fight otherwise you will never grow up and always need looking after.” String looked down at the dirt, ashamed. Erik continued, “don’t feel like you’ve let anyone down because you haven’t. I’ll give you another chance to prove yourself and don’t worry, if it goes bad then Speedy has your back, we all have your back. Go out there String and beat this Lotad.”

Erik caught a glimpse of fire in String’s eyes, a new found determination. Suddenly his Pokemon was engulfed in a bright white light.

Erik had to take a step back and cover his eyes against the sudden brightness against the coming dusk. When Erik opened his eyes again String was gone, in his place was a Cascoon. His Pokemon had evolved.

“No way!” The lady complained.

Erik knew about evolution, when a Pokemon become powerful enough, experienced enough and had enough belief in themselves to grow up – they entered the next stage in their evolution cycle, growing into a creature stronger than before.

String wasted no time, the newly evolved Pokemon jabbing the opposing Lotad with poison points, succeeding in poisoning the woman’s Pokemon. The Lotad fell to it’s knees, unable to stand with poison coursing through it’s veins. String showed no mercy and finished the weakened Lotad off.

Next the woman sent out a Shroomish, another grass Pokemon weak against poisonous attacks.

Knowing this, Erik instructed his Cascoon to do the same thing again, and again. String succeeded in poisoning his target.

The Shroomish didn’t go down like the Lotad however, and retaliated by releasing spores into the air, String breathed them in and became temporarily paralysed.

Erik recalled him, letting Gully finish off the Shroomish from above. He knew that grass types were also weak to flying attacks.

As Erik turned round to his team, a flash of light caught his eye, Speedy was consumed by the same white light that String was. Erik knew that the sight of String evolving caused Speedy to want to up his game, they may be like brothers but the latter didn’t want to be outshone by String. The light faded, leaving a freshly evolved Silcoon. Usually the same Pokemon would evolve into the same thing, but Wurmples were a rare exception, evolving into either a Silcoon or a Cascoon depending on their personality.

Battle commenced, Speedy and Ice lined up against a Seedot and Lotad in a double battle as the rotten wood creaked below them. Gia and Mia, two young twins, had challenged Erik to a fight and he was challenged by two trainers who were allied, he would have to fight both at once, although both sides could still only use a maximum of six Pokemon.

Ice looked at his reflection in the lake and seemed to smile, the bridge seemed sturdy even if it was rotten, but any of these Pokemon could be knocked off into the lake at any time. Ice stopped admiring himself to jump out and encase his fangs into the Seedot, with Speedy managing to successfully poison the opposing Lotad.

Ice threw the Seedot into the lake to finish it off, with Lotad shooting both of them with watery shots. Speedy charged through the water blast to ram the Lotad into the lake but being a water Pokemon, the Lotad hopped right back up onto the bridge, where Ice was waiting to finish it off.

Erik continued on his way, the city right ahead of them. It was deep into the night now and the lights from the city illuminated the pathway into it. Erik decided to take his Pokemon to the edge of the lake, sitting to rest on the grass verge before entering Rustboro.

He began to drop off, Blaze and Ziggy cuddled up with him. Ice slept on his own as always with Gully dipping his feet into the lake. Erik watched newly evolved duo of Speedy and String playing together further up in the grass for a while before sleep took him.

“Hey there lazy.”

Erik jolted awake, staring May in the face. His sudden reacted in turn waking up his Pokemon. The night was still pitch black.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to make you jump,” May giggled, “I saw you over here asleep from Rustboro.”

“Hello May,” Erik replied groggily, “what are you doing awake at this time?”

“I’m staying in a hotel but couldn’t sleep there, it was very uncomfortable. I like looking across the lake though it’s peaceful, then I saw you, your Torchic breathes small flames when it sleeps.”

“Did you make it through Petalburg Woods okay May?”

“Yes, I’m not actually registered as a trainer. As a researcher I don’t have to accept battle challenges.”

“I might register as a researcher, people are attacking me all over the place these days,” Erik joked, but May didn’t catch on.

“You can’t challenge Gyms if you do that Erik,” her stern words made him sigh as the joke passed over her, a short silence ensuing before she broke it.

“Are these your friends?” she said looking over to Erik’s Pokemon.

“Yes, you know Blaze my oldest Pokemon, I can always rely on in a tough spot.”

May nodded.

“You’ve met Ice too, very self-confident and brash. Gully over there I caught on route 103, where we battled, he’s very playful but I can always rely on him too.”

Erik smiled as he turned his head to see String and Speedy lying beside each other, “those two are like brothers, String was always a bit scared and a bit weak at first, but the more confident Speedy has really got the best out of him. Finally, Ziggy,” Erik started stroking his Zagzagoon’s fur as he spoke of her, “she’s really timid, but surprisingly clever.”

May smiled as Erik talked about his partners, before she rested her head on his chest and looked up at the stars.

“I could stay here forever, Erik,” she told him

“Me too,” he replied, as she leaned over and kissed him on the lips.

They lay together a while before falling asleep in each others’ arms.

The next morning Erik woke up to find May had gone.

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