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Knight & Lady (Hoennshipping)

Rating: R
Pairing: Hoennshipping (Brendan/Yuuki x May/Haruka)

Combining information from the games, manga and anime, this is the story of Brendan's quest and May's woes, and how they both go through them. Based upon my own personal love story.

More importantly...

Although here I am Asuka Darina Arukiwa, I am known as Tiakaneko everywhere else, including Twitter, Facebook, DeviantArt, Blogspot and Fanfiction.net. Therefore, I claim that I am the rightful author of this fanfiction. This is just to clarify that I am not plagiarizing other people's work.
Thank you.
Now, please enjoy reading the story. ^^​

Chapter 1 - Damsel in Distress

She had been avoiding him for months. She did not think she could do it, but she did. Not perfectly, of course, but she managed to do it, nevertheless. Sometimes, she would falter for a bit and start thinking about him again, melting her heart, as it always does whenever she thinks about him, sees him or hears him. Then, though, she remembers what he had done to her, that left her hurt and broken, and set her mind to hating him again, pushing thoughts of him out of her straggling mind. Only then would she regain stability.

Until that one particular Thursday night, that is. It was New Year's Eve day.

-31 December 2009-

May was in her room, checking her reflection in a mirror. She was wearing a black tank top underneath her deep red parka, lined with a lighter shade of red fake fur and a white short skirt. A yellow belt holding 6 Poké Balls hung at her waist. She adjusted her parka and smoothed her chestnut-brown hair for the last time. Then, she grabbed a pair of red and yellow fur-lined boots that lay by the door and left the room, going downstairs.

In the kitchen, her mother, Caroline, was brewing a cup of tea for herself and her husband. May told her that she and Max were going out to the lake, where everyone else in the city would gather, to watch the display of fireworks. Caroline gave them permission to leave the house, though not without warning her to be careful with the people of Petalburg, who have a tendency to fawn over her and her brother –a bit too much– because of their father, Norman. He is the gym leader of the city and is greatly revered by its people due to his outstanding battling skills. Posters and merchandises featuring him could be found all over the city. Their home itself is actually the official Gym, too, housing their family, their Gym assistant Kenny and some Pokémon in their greenhouse.

May groaned. The people of Petalburg really tire her out most of the time.

Upstairs, a door was heard closing. Then, down the steps, came May's little brother, Max, garbed in green parka, almost like May's, and a pair of dark brown-colored long pants. White socks were worn over his feet and a pair of black and green sneakers was in his hand.

"Hey, sis. Ready to go?" he said.

"Yeah, let's go," she replied.

They both said goodbye to their mother, who would be waiting for their father to return from his training area soon. They would then join their children at the festivities. May and Max proceeded to put on the footwear before going out the front door, having to pass through the main battlefield of the Gym before so.

As they walked down the steps outside their home, they noticed a group of citizens waiting for them in front of their house, carrying a large railed platform, decorated with lighted lanterns bearing the shapes of the Balance Badge of the Petalburg Gym. It was usually used to carry them and their family members around, even when they do not want it. May and Max knew that the people were expecting to be able to serve them by carrying them to where the festivities were held tonight, as it was obvious everyone was going to watch the fireworks on New Year's Day. Even after years of living in Petalburg City, one would think the siblings had gotten used to the extreme obsession of the people, but they had not, in fact. They still find it slightly unnerving and awkward at certain times.

So, not for the first time, they declined their offer to transport them to the lake. And, not for the first time, the determined citizens still insisted on letting them carry them. May knew how persistent they can be, and finally allowed them to take her at least half the way there. The obsessed fans happily obliged and so the 17-year-old brunette stepped onto the platform with her brother.

They sat on the platform with their arms crossed on the railings and their heads on top, looking bored. The people also started to sing and recite poetry, telling about the first things in a new year, such as the first sunrise, first tea drink, first dream, first love, first smile and many more. May flinched at the mention of love. They passed through many houses, where lots of people were still getting ready to go out to the local lake. Many of them waved at the siblings, who could not help but wave back.

Halfway there, as promised, May told them to stop and let her down. Reluctantly, the group did so. But Max did not get down.

"I'm going ahead to the lake first, if you don't mind. I might as well just let them carry me," said Max, the future successor of the Petalburg Gym.

"Well, okay then. I'll see you there!" May replied.

With that, off the fans went with Max to the lake. May was dropped off in front of the local Pokémon Center. She thought that it had been a while since her Pokémon had their regular check-ups, so she entered the Pokémon Center through its automatic sliding door. At the main counter, Nurse Joy was in charge, as always. They greeted each other with a smile.

"Good evening, May. How may I help you?" the nurse asked sweetly.

"Hello, Nurse Joy. Not much, just a basic check-up on my team, that's all," May replied in an equally sweet tone.

"Okay, let's take a look at them here..." she said as she proceeded to take all the Poké Balls May handed to her. "This will only take a moment."

May nodded and went off to sit at one of the available seats made for the Pokémon Center's users. She rested her head back and her eyes started to wander around the big space in the Pokémon Center. She could not help but notice that, aside from herself and Nurse Joy, there were only two other people there with them. One burly man was napping on several seats, probably waiting for his Pokémon in care, while the other man, tall, with a snow cap, kept staring at the line of books assembled on the bookshelf at one corner of the Center. Everyone else was outside, obviously, waiting for the moment of a new year. She paid no attention to the men and turned her head sideways. The PC was left unused and unattended. She automatically thought of her Pokémon left in the PC Box. Next, she stared up at the ceiling, only to notice that it was indeed very high.

She came back to her senses when she heard Nurse Joy's voice calling her.

"May, here are your Pokémon again."

May got up at went over to the counter again. Her Poké Balls were placed in a tray, all six of them, and pushed towards her. She clipped all of them back onto her belt and thanked Nurse Joy.

"Thank you, please come again next year," joked Nurse Joy.

May chuckled and said, "Okay, I will. Have a happy new year."

"You too."

With that, she exited the Pokémon Center and saw the blue-black sky blanketing above her head again. It was dotted with millions of twinkling white stars. May could imagine the array of different colored fireworks shaped into different Pokémon in the sky later that night. She could not wait to witness it, as she does every year. Accidentally, she remembered again. He was there with her when they celebrated the previous New Year's Day. She did not expect him.

The girl touched her lips with two slender fingers subconsciously.

"He kissed me... that time..."

A few moments later, she snapped back to reality and did not want to think of that person again, especially not on such a festive night as tonight. She began walking down the snowy streets of Petalburg City. She had declined to be carried because she wanted to enjoy the walk. But now she was beginning to regret that decision. First of all, she did not enjoy the walk, as it did not clear her mind as she thought it would. And secondly, she had noticed another group of fans marching towards her. They were her fan boys. They had never stopped in their advances of trying to get her out on a date with them.

She usually got away by saying that her boyfriend would not like it.

But even they noticed that that boyfriend of hers was always not around her, when she needed him the most.

It was true, but May kept on pretending as though everything between them were happy and dandy; just to get them to give up on her. She was not especially interested in any of the obsessive fan boys. Yet she knew that she could not keep on pretending that she was still together with him, because in actuality, she was the one who asked for a break-up. The fan boys did not know that.

"May! Oh, dear May!" cried one boy.

"Look, May, we've come for you!"

"May, will you sit by me at the lake later?" another one suggested.

"How about me, huh, May?"

Their voices overlapped and sounded just like a buzzing noise in May's ears, as everyone was babbling their own words. She rubbed her temple with one hand, and then put on a fake happy face.

"I'm terribly sorry, boys. But as you know, he will be celebrating with me alone tonight," she tried to fool them. She could not stop the nagging voice inside of her head that asked her whether she was trying to fool them or herself.

"He's not coming, you know that..." said the solemn voice in her head.

"He's not coming, you know that, May," said several of the fan boys simultaneously.

"Huh?" May blinked. "Wh-what are you talking about?" she continued, trying to cover her brief solemn expression with another fake smile. "He'll come. Remember last year? You guys thought he wouldn't show up either, and he did come. My dear love is so full of wonderful surprises!"

May tried her best to sound smitten and cheerful. She did not actually enjoy him coming to surprise her with a kiss that she did not even want.

Apparently, it worked on the boys. Or maybe it was because they pitied her and allowed her to have it her way. Either way, they all dropped their heads at the same time and gave up this time.

"Okay then, May..."

"If you say so..."

"But know that we'll still be here for you!" said one of the very persistent fans.

With that final remark, the boys marched past her down to the lake, waving cheery goodbyes to her. May stared weirdly at those who had tears in their eyes.

"We'll see you there!" they cried together.

The brown-haired Pokémon Coordinator shrugged and continued walking at a slow pace. Hung above several shops along the way were banners and posters related to the upcoming New Year. Some showed illustrations of rice cakes and sushi. She thought of earlier today, when she and her brother helped their mother making the rice cakes.

May patted the boiled sticky rice with water, in a shallow wooden bucket, while her 14-year-old brother pounds it with a large wooden mallet. After a few hits, their father, who had been watching from the sides, fidgeting, finally went over to help Max, who apparently did not pound hard enough. He, after all, was still small and skinny, preferring to read books rather than engage in actual training with his father at the Gym, which he does at times, when he wants to, with the determination of becoming a great battler such as Norman himself.

She smirked a little.

Max had always wanted to inherit the Gym and become the next leader, even though May was supposed to be first in line. She, for one, did not want to trouble herself with such bothers. Her initial reason when she became a Pokémon Trainer in the first place was because she wanted to travel around, not because she had wanted to follow in her father's footsteps, as everyone had expected to do. She was glad to say that now Max is a Pokémon Trainer, her father could concentrate on working on him to become the next Gym Leader, leaving her to her dreams of travelling and becoming a great Pokémon Coordinator. She had had amazing adventures of her own after all these years and she was quite satisfied with her life.

Except for one part; her 'mysterious' lover.

To her, he was supposed to be perfect. He had astounding good looks, he had an amazing family, and he was very skilled in battling. He was Brendan, the son of the famed Professor Birch, and had recently earned the title of the Champion of Hoenn Pokémon League a couple of years back.

-16th April 2006-

He became her friend when they first met each other on Route 101 by accident. May was 13 years old then, having just recently completed her travel around Johto. Wearing a black-collared orange dress-like outfit over a pair of black biker shorts, she was walking cheerfully down the usually peaceful route. She also wore a green bandanna and matching green, black and white full-fingered gloves with orange and white shoes. She was on her way to visit the Professor and tell him about her experience back in Johto, when a Pokémon suddenly dropped from a tree, right in front of her. Poor May had quite a scare and fell down on her bottom.

The Pokémon then laughed and held out a hand to her, to help her get up. May rubbed her hip and looked up to see that it was a boy, not a Pokémon that had scared her out of her wits. His silver-white hair was slightly long and styled messy, partly covered with a black headband with a red Poké Ball design, while underneath the white hair was short black hair. His chest was bared, with his black and red-colored long-sleeved shirt tied around his waist. He wore black long pants with yellow coloring the ends of his pants, which were tucked inside his red and black running shoes. She glared at him but accepted his help anyway. His hands were fitted with fingerless yellow gloves. Once she was up, she placed her hands on her hips and glared even more at him.

"Hey, missy! Sorry I scared you like that. I was just getting down from this tree here," he said, pointing back to a tree with his thumb, "... because I was done with my observation for today already. And now I've got to get back to the lab."

"The lab? But that's where I'm headed too," May remarked.

"Oh? Come on then. You can follow me," he said with a smile. "I'm Brendan, by the way. The Professor's son," he said with a hint of pride.

May glanced at him, and said, "My name's May. The Gym Leader of Petalburg is my father."

"You're my dad's friend's daughter? Hey, nice to finally meet you! You know, we never actually got to meet each other because I had set out on my journey as a Pokémon Trainer earlier than you by a year!" He leaned in close to May, who turned stiff. "You know, I actually assumed the Gym leader's kid would be a guy!" he said with a laugh.

"Wow..." she said in realization. "If it weren't for our age difference, we might have met earlier, due to our fathers being friends."

"Yep! I was finished with my travels and had returned home to help my dad with his researches for the time being. I'm still not sure what I'm going to do next." Brendan hesitated, and then said, "I actually wanted to enter the Pokémon League again, but I just felt that I'm not ready yet... I just recently lost there... I need a good place to train."

"Oh, sorry to hear that. I just got back from travelling, too. I guess I just need to rest at home for a while before setting out somewhere again."

They continued to talk until they had reached the laboratory. Brendan quickly sent his reports to his father, who was in the lab at the time, a rare occasion. He greeted May and noticed that she and his son had become acquainted, so he sent them out to allow them to get to know each other more. It was time the two of them met.

Brendan took her out on a walk around the small town of Littleroot while they talked and talked. For a month and a half straight, they had been spending time with each other whenever they could. May felt bored if she had stayed home in Petalburg anyway, since her brother was on his own journey as a Pokémon Trainer then. Brendan and May would occasionally battle and show off each other's Pokémon's skills. Sometimes, they would just walk in the woods or around town, talking. May would also follow and help Brendan and his father with their Pokémon research at times. Both their families grew closer and would have dinners together.

But after that one month and a half, Brendan received an invitation from a man called Scott, who is the owner and operator of the battle facilities in Kanto, the Battle Frontier. Being the battle-crazed Trainer that he was, he immediately accepted the offer and got prepared to set off to Kanto, leaving his family and May behind. Then, May, with nothing else to do in Hoenn, set out on a new journey in Sinnoh.

After about a year of Sinnoh-travelling, May returned to her home region and continued her career as a Pokémon Coordinator by participating in Hoenn's Contests again. At 15, she won the Grand Festival, garnering first place this time, beating her old rivals Solidad and Drew. She became more thoroughly known then. Max, who had returned home from his journey, and her parents were extremely proud of her achievement. She had become a celebrity of her own.

During that same year, Brendan had returned from training in Kanto and had entered the Victory Tournament at the Pokémon League in Ever Grande City.

-19th August 2007-

As daughter of the Petalburg Gym Leader, Norman, and as the current first-place winner of the Grand Festival of Hoenn, May was one of the special guests to appear during the final rounds of the Victory Tournament in which Brendan won. Other special guests included the President of the Pokémon League, Charles Goodshow, Professor Birch himself with his wife, the previous Champions, Tyson, Wallace and Steven, all the Gym Leaders of the Hoenn region, and previous holders of the Hoenn Ribbon Cup of the Grand Festivals, Doctor Abby, Yuma, Robert and Drew.

She remembered the look of joy and excitement on Brendan's face when he was announced the winner against Drake, the final Elite Four member. He jumped and punched a fist into the air before going over to hug his Pokémon, Swampert, who was equally proud as his Trainer over their victory. Cameras flashed to snap pictures of him, horns were blared and the spectators were cheering their wildest. The special guests stood up to congratulate Brendan with a handshake or a pat on the back, while his parents embraced him tightly. May waited patiently as she waited for the others to clear a way for her to get to Brendan.

Brendan noticed her and walked over to her calmly.

"So... You're the current holder of the Ribbon Cup now," he said to her with a crooked smile carved on his lips.

"And you're the Hoenn Champion now," May replied easily.

"Haven't met you a long time, May."

"I know... I kind of missed you," May said in a low voice.

"Pleasure to finally meet you again," he said and extended a hand to her. She was not sure whether he heard her last remark or not.

May gripped his right hand with hers and they shook hands. "Nice to meet you again too, Brendan Birch."

Suddenly, a female reporter named Gabby and her cameraman, Ty, came to them and started filming and asking Brendan some questions.

"So, Brendan, how does it feel to be the new Champion of Hoenn?" asked Gabby.


After all the hustle and bustle of interviews and announcements and official ceremonies, there was a grand feast held for Brendan's winning. It was nighttime, Brendan and all the special guests were in a big mess hall situated in the Pokémon League building. It had always been used to celebrate the winning of a new Champion. Everyone was enjoying themselves and having loud conversations amongst each other. May was seated quite a ways from Brendan, who was too busy talking to the other guests anyway. Norman sat next to his daughter and he noticed her quietness.

"He's very popular now," he had said.

May turned to face her father. "Huh?"

"A few years ago I could see you two had become good friends. Then he left for training, and now you two could meet each other again after a long while," Norman stated matter-of-factly. "So why aren't you as thrilled as I thought you would be? Shouldn't you be talking to him right now?"

"Dad, come on. He's busy talking to others. I just don't want to interrupt," May replied, trying to sound as normal as possible.

Norman raised an eyebrow at his daughter. He had thought that she liked his friend's boy.

"Well, you're right anyway. Come, eat your dinner," he said to May.


Later that night, some of the Gym Leaders decided to return to their Gyms, but those who had wanted to stay in Ever Grande City for a while longer were given special suites in the Pokémon League. After dinner, Winona, Roxanne, Wattson and Flannery left Ever Grande City back to their own respective cities and town. The others had come outside to see them off.

Seeing as it was already late, the rest of them bade each other goodbye and went to their own suites, congratulating Brendan for the last time. Only Norman's and the Professor's families were left. Norman and Professor Birch and his wife went and talked for a bit more, leaving their teenagers together.

"Hi, Brendan. Some night, huh? How're you coping with your new form of popularity?" May asked him.

"Oh, well, tiring, you know. But I'm enjoying every last bit of it. I'm so proud of my Pokémon. They were the ones who helped me win," he said, holding one of his Poké Balls in one hand.

May only smiled at him, and they were stuck in an awkward silence.

Suddenly, Brendan grabbed her hand and called out to his parents, "Mom, Dad! May and I are going out for a little stroll! We'll be back at the suites by eleven!"

The three adults nodded their approval.

Brendan threw the Poké Ball he had in his other hand up into the air and called out his Arcanine. He swung a leg over the large Legendary Pokémon's back and, still holding May's hand, pulled her up so that she sat behind him.

"Hold on... real tight!" Brendan warned her with a smirk.

"You have an Arcani-" her question was cut short when Arcanine began to speed away. She gasped in shock at the amazing speed and hugged Brendan's waist very tightly.

Brendan chuckled when she did so. The wind whipped their faces hard and threatened to knock Brendan's headband and May's bandana off. After a while of speeding around, Brendan commanded Arcanine to slow down to a respectable pace. He turned his head around to look at May, who looked rather impressed.

"Y-you have an Arcanine now, Brendan?" May asked him, her voice slightly shaky from travelling too fast.

"Yep, I caught this amazing guy back when I was training in Kanto, on the way to the Battle Arena facility," he explained, patting the Arcanine's shoulder at the same time.

It gave him a low, affectionate growl in reply. May went in front of it to stroke its head and admire its beauty. The Arcanine's eyes widened when it saw her and started to make many cute, short whining sounds, letting its tongue hang out. Then it gave her a short lick on the face and nudged her with its head. Brendan was surprised, and curious, of his Arcanine's reaction towards May.

"Huh? It seems that my Arcanine recognizes you or something," he pointed out, baffled.

May looked into Arcanine's eyes, previously fierce and proud, now playful, and a memory flashed into her mind. Several years ago, when she was travelling Kanto with Max, Ash and Brock, she had met an Arcanine and had wished to capture it to use it in her Pokémon Contests, but finally cancelled her desire when she found that it had a litter of three Growlithe puppies to take care of. The whole family had once been captured by the villainous Team Rocket, and May and Drew were the ones who successfully saved them.

"Are you... maybe... one of the Growlithe puppies that we saved a few years ago? The same one?"

The Arcanine gladly nodded its head when May recognized it and went on to nudge her again.

"Wow, you're all grown up! You're so cute!" She giggled and hugged it.

Brendan, who stood by their sides, watched the scene that unfolded before his eyes.

"Wait, you two really know each other? It's kismet!" he said, amazed. "How?"

As they walked around the lake that surrounded the Pokémon League battle stadium, May told Brendan everything about the story of how she met up with this Arcanine as a Growlithe and how she saved its family. The many streetlights flanking the path they were on were dimly lit and created a mild glittering effect on the surface of the lake water as it reflected the light. The moon itself made a large reflection on the water.

May had just finished telling her story when a bench came into sight. They had walked for quite a while, so they sat down to rest their tired legs. It had been a long day for them, anyway. Arcanine, who had been loyally following them also sat down on his haunches, next to them. The two Trainers were quiet again. May glanced just a little, and could not help but notice the beauty of Brendan's white hair shining like silver under the moonlight.

Brendan spoke up. "You know... I was thinking... of giving you my Arcanine. I know how much you wanted one before and how you two have gone way back."

May gave an ever-so slight gasp.

"So... Arcanine," he continued. "Would you like to have May as your new Trainer?"

The black-striped orange and cream-colored Pokémon stood still. It had enjoyed its time with Brendan, but it owed May its life. Finally, seeing that Brendan was willing to let it go, it decided to go with May. It went over to Brendan and pushed its large head towards his chest, who gave it a pat on the head with a small smile. Then it turned to May, and bowed to her, signifying his loyalty to her now. Brendan took out its Poké Ball and called it back inside. He took May's hand gently and placed the Poké Ball in her hand. She closed her fingers in on the red and white Pokémon containment device.

She faced her male friend. "Are you... sure about this?"

Brendan stared at her intently for a couple of seconds, and then moved in to lock his lips with hers. May was completely caught by surprise, but she soon realized how good Brendan's skin felt against her own. She touched Brendan's cheek with her fingers and returned the kiss. The two of them were enjoying their act of love too much that their kisses were getting more frequent and violent. Both of them released each other soon though, gasping for air, as they were feeling suffocated from kissing too hard. May leaned in for more, but Brendan had gotten up.

"It's nearly eleven o'clock. We should get back," he said, in a tone that May had thought sounded indifferent.

She replied with an embarrassed 'um'.

Arcanine was called out again, to bring them back to their suites this time. Brendan's room was the most special, now that he was the Hoenn Pokémon Champion. He said a short goodbye and goodnight to May, and she walked back to her room alone, her face still flushed pink. She had a hard time going to sleep, because all she did was think of him.

The day after, May and her father returned to Petalburg City, while Brendan and his parents went back to Littleroot Town. May stayed inside her house, half expecting Brendan to come, and half expecting him not to come. But of course, he did the latter. She could not decide whether to be disappointed or not. Just when she had made up her mind to go visit him herself, she arrived at his house to learn that he and Professor Birch had long gone on a road trip around Hoenn, to study the behavior of various Pokémon in the region. His mother stayed behind because she wanted to take care of the house. She was the one who told May that.

"Why, I'm surprised you didn't know that, May. I thought Brendan would have told you, or your father," she said.

"I was... sick. I laid in bed all day," May gave an excuse.

"Oh, I see. You poor thing, how are you feeling today? Fine? I'm sure you are, or else you wouldn't have walked all the way here," the woman went on.

May would sometimes visit Brendan's mother and talk over tea. At other times, she went off to Pokémon Contests and trained her Pokémon for the upcoming Grand Festival, determined to protect her title.


-31st December 2009-

May was still on her way to the lake. While memories of her and Brendan flashed through her mind, she could not help but slow down her steps. Fearing Max would get worried over her, she stopped her reminisces and began to walk quickly. In her rush, she bumped into a man in front of her, who grabbed both her hands and prevented her from getting to her Poké Balls. She realized that he was the tall stranger in a snow cap that she saw in the Pokémon Center earlier. She was even more desperate in her struggle to break free when he brought her to a secluded alley next to a sushi restaurant. He pulled her by the wrists with one large hand with a strong grip, without looking back and without a word.

"Hey, you! Did you follow me or something? Erkh, let me... go!" May tried to scream, but her voice came out as a helpless squeak. "D-do you know who my father is?"

The man finally stopped. He gave a small chuckle, and turned to face the frightened girl with a smile carved on his lips.

She stopped struggling, and her muscles instinctively relaxed.

"You! How could you-! You never-! I can't believe you're-!" she spluttered.

Brendan smirked. "Are you going to finish your sentences or what?"

May hung her head. For a long time, she did not move or say anything. Brendan raised his other hand and was about to place it on her shoulder, when she suddenly jerked her hands away from his grip, which he never released since just now. She had an angry look on her face, while Brendan's expression was that of a shocked one.

With a trembling voice, she said, "I waited for you... I hoped for you... But you let me down... everytime. Everytime, Brendan, you would fail me, leaving an unflattering impression of yourself on me. I hated you, I told you that, but you keep coming back..." May placed both her hands on her head and shut her eyes tight. "I was always so confused with you! Why are you doing this to me?" she raised her voice.

Brendan stood unmoving. He was at a loss for words. He did not expect her to still react like so. His eyes showed sadness for a brief moment, and then, slowly, he said, "May, do you remember that day when you declared that you don't love me anymore?"

She glared at him through the corner of her eyes and retaliated violently, "Of course I do! How could I forget such an event?"


About a year ago, she was training her Pokémon by entering them in the Fallarbor Town Pokémon Contest, which she won easily now that she's an expert in becoming a Pokémon Coordinator. She had just walked out of the hexagon-shaped building when someone bumped into her. The person was running really hard and the impact they both received was so immense, both of them fell down on the ground.

"Ouch!" cried the two of them in unison.

May felt the throbbing pain on her right shoulder, where the person's arm hit her. She massaged it with her left hand and looked at the person who collided with her. She could not believe her eyes and even considered that she was dreaming. It was Brendan, staring back at her. He was wearing a tight-fitting black and orange shirt that complimented his body build and a pair of black and gray shorts worn over gray long pants. His shoes and gloves included colorations of green, orange and black and white. His green and white headband that was used to keep his hair out of his eyes had now been flopped to one side, covering his left eye.

"Brendan..? What in the world are you doing here?" May asked him, completely surprised by their encounter.

He got up, adjusted his headband back in place, pushing his hair back and offered a hand to help her up.

"I-I was... I'm here with my Dad, studying the behaviors of Pokémon in a habitat polluted with volcanic ash," he said, panting slightly from the running he did just now.

May got up, thanks to Brendan's helping hand.

Fallarbor Town was situated near the large Mount Chimney, a volcanic mountain that constantly spouts black volcanic ash in areas around it. Professor Birch presumed that the heat and the limited vision in areas such as those must have left an impact on the local Pokémon.

"Oh, right... Your mother did tell me you were helping out your Dad in his researches..." May said with a hint of sadness, "That's why you went away... without even tellin-"

Brendan interrupted her. "And anyway, why are you here?"

May pushed her hair behind one ear, looked away, and said, "I was here for the Pokémon Contest."

Brendan nodded and shifted into a jogging stance. "Oh, I see. Well, May, nice to see you again. I think I have to go now. Bye, take care," he said, patted her shoulder with one hand, and continued his run.

Again, May felt betrayed. Every time she thought that he was going to give in to love her as she did with him, he transforms into a personality that seemed not to care about her at all. She wondered if he had a problem with himself sometimes. She tried to shrug it off and proceeded with her training. Later that night, after training so hard with her Pokémon, she was so tired that she immediately fell asleep on the comfortable seats in the Fallarbor Pokémon Center when she was supposed to go to her own room that she booked for the night earlier.

Sometime before dawn arrived, she awoke because she thought that she felt something brushing against her arm. She opened her eyes to see a teenage boy leaning over her, their faces too close together for comfort. She had wanted to scream, but he muffled her voice by clamping his hand over her mouth.

He released her and she growled a whisper, "Brendan! What were you thinking?"

"I just wanted to see you, May... I was surprised myself to see you sleeping out here. Don't they have rooms for lodging in the Pokémon Center?" he whispered back.

"They do, but I was so tired I flopped down over here. I didn't want to walk all the way to my room."

Without warning, Brendan pressed his lips against hers; kissing her like he never did before. In between the kisses, he stopped and asked her, "Do you miss me?"

May blushed hard. "Of-of course I do..."

Brendan was about to start kissing her again, but she pushed him away with both hands.

He looked at her questioningly. "What's the matter?"

"I... I don't know what I'm doing actually," she said truthfully. "But I think I can't handle all this confusion anymore."

"What do you mean?"

"What is it with you?" she said, almost in disgust. "Can't you see that you're hurting me? Sometimes, it's like you want me, and sometimes you act like you don't want me at all! It's killing me on the inside, Brendan!"

"May, I..."

"No! I can't take it anymore! I have to stop loving you! I hate you, Brendan! I hate you for hurting me all this time and not knowing it!"

She stood up, turned her back on Brendan and grabbed her fanny pack. She ran out of the Pokémon Center with tears in her eyes, her beautiful brown hair flowing behind her. She immediately left back to Petalburg City that very night.


"Well, trust me, dear; I had a reason for doing this to you..." the 18-year-old male Trainer said to her, keeping his voice low in the darkness of the alley they were in.

"That's what you say every time. It doesn't help. I told you, I don't want to see you anymore," said May, who crossed her arms and turned away from Brendan. Whenever he tried to place his hand on her shoulder, she would avoid and turn away again. He knew that she was beginning to cry already.

"I'm sorry, May..."

"You always say that..." she said slowly and began to soften up again. "But I always get the feeling that you're not. Brendan, I love you. Is it so hard to love me back? I thought you do love me too... I always thought I might be wrong and that I was just embarrassing myself every time I made a romantic move on you."

"...So you still love me even after that night?" he wanted to make sure.

"Of course I do! It's so difficult to let these feelings go, even after I tried so hard..."

"May, you have to understand... I do love you. It's not that I don't want you... It's just that... I can't have you," he said gravely.

She was silent for a while, before asking, "Why?"

"I... I don't feel comfortable telling you, May. You might be in danger," he answered seriously. "This is something I must do alone."

May turned around, flung her arms around him and buried her face in his chest. "Brendan, I'm willing to sacrifice myself for love! Please, let me be with you. Lovers are supposed to face hardships together! You can trust me, Brendan; I love you with all my life. I will be by your side always..."

Brendan looked down at May with great sadness. But then he realized that she was right. He could not keep lying to her anyway. He should have known that. He stroked her hair with one hand, while the other hand was placed on her waist. He lifted her chin with a finger and bent his neck to softly kiss her forehead. Then he released her, and stepped back.

He raised his hand to his snow cap and pulled it off.

Two brutal scars that looked like claw marks were visible on his right temple. May gasped and covered her mouth with her hands. Her eyes began to produce tears again.
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Chapter 2

Chapter 2 – Dragon Warrior

While he was travelling on his own at the age of ten, he passed through the Meteor Falls, near Fallarbor Town, and came across a powerful Dragon Tamer named Nicolas, who offered to further train him after seeing his battling style. Young and vain at the time, he rejected the offer. He eventually took on the Pokémon League challenge, but lost to the last of the Elite Four, the Dragon Master, Drake, who told him that he was too proud. He tried returning to Meteor Falls, to seek Nicolas's help, but he was the one who got rejected this time, though was told to prove his worth to earn the apprenticeship.

-3rd April 2006-

Brendan was at home in Littleroot Town, still in bed, sleeping soundly. Suddenly, a loud howl filled his ears, which caused him to wake up abruptly. Turning his head to the side of his bed, he found his father, grinning widely, and his Poochyena, nicknamed Chase, looking at him. He checked the clock on his wall and barely saw, in the dark, that it was 4 am in the morning.

"Dad..." he started to groan.

"Morning, son! Hurry up and get ready, because we're going to see what wild Poochyena do at this time of the day today!" he said loudly. Before leaving the room, he also said, "Isn't it exciting?"

Brendan was sure he said that last sentence to annoy him, so he rolled his eyes. He let his head fall back onto his pillow and covered his entire head with his blanket. As soon as he did that, he felt a sharp pain on his foot. He lowered his blanket from his face quickly and looked to see Chase chomping on his left foot. It looked back at him with eyes that said, "Get up or I'll bite harder."

He sighed. "Fine... I'll get up now."

The black and gray puppy-like Pokémon released his foot and let out a small yip of approval. Brendan sat up, yawned loudly and stretched his arms. On the way to the door, he grabbed his towel that was hanging from a chair, placed it around his neck and went to the bathroom to freshen up. Once he was done, he went inside his room to change. He wore a clean set of his usual black and red Trainer outfit. He checked his reflection in the mirror in his room and simply brushed his hair back with his hand, before putting on his headband.

When he opened the door, he found Chase sitting loyally outside, obviously waiting for him. When it saw him, it got up to its feet and wagged its tail, lolling its tongue out. It barked once at him and bounded off downstairs and outside the house, expecting him to follow. Brendan did, and he was led to the front of the lab, where his father was, waiting in his jeep that he used to drive recklessly with. Today was the first day he became his father's own personal assistant since he returned from the Pokémon League. He figured that he would take a short break from battling and help his father in his research for a while, thinking about his next step in life at the same time.

"Hop in, Brendan! We'll take the jeep first, and then we're going to have to walk on foot at some point," he said.

Brendan lifted Chase up and placed it at the back of the jeep, where it likes to be, before getting onto the jeep. As he closed the jeep's door, he could not help but wonder if his dad was going to be the cause of some accident later, and hoped that he would not.

"Okay, Dad. I'm ready. Let's go," he said, and the ever-excited Chase barked, copying him.

Professor Birch already had the engine running earlier, so he switched the jeep's gear higher and drove towards the wilderness of Route 101. Brendan was told that they would head for higher grounds, near a certain cliff, where the pack of Poochyena they were supposed to research were expected to be found. He could clearly see a hiking trail for travelers who walk on foot and a marked path for vehicles such as his dad's jeep to traverse upon.

After about half an hour's drive, the Professor stopped the jeep and turned off its engine. He placed his index finger on his lips, telling Brendan to be quiet. Very carefully and silently, they hopped out of their vehicle. Professor Birch had brought a briefcase with them, full of research papers and observation notes. Brendan was given his own kit, so that he could jot down information to be recorded in the laboratory's computer by Joshua, the lab assistant, later. Chase intelligently followed with light steps.

They walked, and occasionally hid behind bushes and trees until a flat, earthy clearing ending with a cliff at the end came into sight. Not only that, there were three adolescent Poochyena sleeping in the middle of the clearing. The early morning sunlight shone dimly over their grey and black fur, creating a beautiful glossy look. Brendan found it exciting, watching the beauty of nature that surrounded him, simply observing out of curiosity.

Whenever the pack moves out, they would attempt to follow them unnoticed. Brendan was surprised that the whole job was more tiring that it looks. They had to travel on foot quite a lot, swiftly but silently, which took much effort, and sometimes had to climb up very tall trees to hide or get their bearings. Despite so, he liked the little adventure with his father and Chase. He could already tell that he was going to enjoy helping his father out.

-15th April 2006-

Brendan had now become quite accustomed to performing the Professor's researches, and was often exhilarated when his father told him to go out in the wild, even if the location is just too near to his house. He loved being in the trees, with his shirt off, feeling the breeze of the wind and smelling the earthy smell of the outdoors, which seemed to help him forget about his loss at the Pokémon League and his rejection with Nicolas. His hurt pride had seemed to heal little by little with time.

One day, he had just finished noting down the location of a flock of Taillow and Swellow, and so jumped down from the tree he was in, to run back to the lab and tell his father. He did not see the girl walking on the ground and ended up landing right in front of her, shocking her out of her wits. When he did notice her, though, he could not help but let out a laugh before holding out a helping hand to her.

"Hey, missy! Sorry I scared you like that. I was just getting down from this tree here because I was done with my observation for today already. And now I've got to get back to the lab."

That was the first thing he said to her; May, the daughter of the famous Gym Leader of Petalburg City. They introduced themselves to each other and walked to the Pokémon lab together, because both of them were headed the same place. It turned out that they were supposed to have met earlier, what with their fathers being good friends and all, but since Brendan set out on his journey as a Pokémon Trainer earlier than May, being a year older than her, they never had the chance to meet.

They quickly became friends and started to spend more time with each other. May often came by to Littleroot Town, as she would only stay at home if she had stayed in Petalburg City. She would get pestered by her fans if she was out and about the city. Being with Brendan was always fun and exciting, as he liked to take her out to the woods with their Pokémon, or it was fun even if they simply took a walk around Littleroot. Brendan told her many stories that happened during his adventure as a lone Trainer.

-1st June 2006-

One day, the two decided to go into the forest again, as it was becoming their routine. They were laughing merrily as they headed towards one big tree that became their usual place to hang out.

"Really? Is that what the man did? That's silly of him!" May said, still giggling.

"I know! My Pokémon and I just couldn't stop laughing," Brendan said, who also chuckled.

At the base of the tree were its large roots that protruded through the hard earth in some parts. Brendan stepped on it and grabbed onto the lowest branch he could reach, hoisting himself up. Then, he reached his hand down, to help May up. They climbed up to one more thick and strong branch above them. They sat next to each other, letting their feet dangle down, and looked out to the other trees in the forest.

"May..." Brendan began, breaking the silence. "This morning, I checked my mailbox and found an invitation from the owner of the Battle Frontier facilities, Scott."

May turned to look at him with her pair of beautiful sapphire-blue eyes.

"He's inviting you to Kanto?" she asked slowly, before going completely quiet. Both of them did not say anything, but she then spoke up again after a while, "When are you leaving?"

Brendan shifted in his position. "Umm... As soon as possible, actually. Maybe... tomorrow."

May lowered her head. "Tomorrow...? Are you sure you have to leave so soon? Have you thought about it?"

"Yes, I have. I'm very sure I know what I want. I need to get stronger, May. I have a goal to achieve..." he told her. "I've been astray from my training for a while now. It's time I get back on track. You understand, right?"

"Yeah, I do... I haven't thought about it that way..." she realized. "I'm sorry; I should've supported your decision. It's what you should do, after all," she finally said with a small smile.

Brendan gave her a sideways hug, surprising her, and said, "Don't fret. I'll be back. We'll meet again someday. I promise."

May closed her eyes and enjoyed the warm feeling of Brendan's hug, assured by his promising words.

The next day, May and her parents had come to Littleroot Town in the morning, to see Brendan off to Kanto. Both their families were outside Brendan's house. Brendan's parents kept hugging him over and over, while giving him advices, especially his mother. Even Chase kept yapping at his feet.

Norman gave him a pat on the back and said, "Think carefully and wisely as you plan your strategies. The Battle Frontier is a tough challenge that requires you to fully trust yourself and your partners."

"Thanks, sir. I'll remember to do that," Brendan replied with a smile.

He then turned to May, who looked gloomy. He placed his hands on her shoulders and she looked up into his eyes.

"You'll be back...?" she asked in a voice so low, it sounded like whispering.

"I'll be back," he said firmly and hugged her again.


-29th July 2007-

"Arcanine! Summon your most powerful Fire Blast!" Brendan shouted, despite feeling greatly fatigued.

The Arcanine skidded to a stop and opened its mouth wide. The Regice under Pyramid King Brandon's command was advancing towards Arcanine as it did so. Arcanine's pupils glowed orange and a fiery aura engulfed its whole body. Regice raised both its ice prism-shaped arms, preparing to use a Hammer Arm attack on the flaming-bodied Arcanine. Just before Regice managed to land the attack, Arcanine's fire aura burst out into five directions, shooting out in large streams of flame.

The whole arena of the Battle Pyramid's top level was suddenly heated to an extreme point. Both Trainers shielded their faces with their arms but it turns out that they were not in the way of the flames; narrowly missing them by standing exactly in the gaps that were formed by the five-directional fire. Billows of thick grey smoke and the cries of both Arcanine and Regice filled the arena.

"Arcanine!" Brendan called out worriedly.

He was just about to run towards the center of the arena, where the two Pokémon were battling, to check up on his partner, but the wiser Frontier Brain Brandon stopped him.

"Don't! Stay where you are! There's no telling what could happen with this thick smoke around!" he yelled, then coughed several times.

After what seemed forever, due to the tension and suspense in the air, the smoke finally cleared out. Brendan strained his eyes to see his prized Arcanine still standing proudly in the middle of the arena, though panting heavily. Regice had not managed to hit Arcanine with Hammer Arm, but instead had received the worst of the Fire Blast and had fallen.

Brendan posed triumphantly and gleefully called out, "Yes!"

The Pyramid King looked calm and in control of himself. Regice was slowly rising again. Once it was back on its cone-like feet, it moved forwards, in a motion that seemed like skating, heading for Arcanine.

"No, not yet," he said.

Brendan was still smiling. "No, of course not," he said and pointed a finger at the Iceberg Pokémon.

It had not melted or showed any signs of it, but deep-black charred marks were all over its ancient ice body. Brendan was pointing at its 'face'; the seven yellow dots that formed a cross. Two of the dots were blackened by Arcanine's strong Fire Blast, altering the pattern.

"What? No way!" Brandon remarked, obviously shocked.

The 16-year-old Trainer uttered his command, "Arcanine, Take Down."

Arcanine barked once and charged towards Regice, who was weakened due to the pattern on its face being altered. It took the hit directly and was thrown backwards into the wall of the Pyramid. The yellow dots stopped glowing, indicating that it had been defeated.

The referee of the match, Samuel, announced, "Brendan, the young challenger has won!"

Brandon looked at his Regice, and then at his challenger. He closed his eyes and nodded in approval. "Grand victory, it was, young adventurer. Congratulations, you are worthy of this Brave Symbol, thus completing your Battle Frontier challenge," he said with a smile.

Brendan went to accept the little badge-like symbol and fitted it in his Frontier Pass. It was the seventh and last of the Symbols that could be earned. Brendan clenched the Frontier Pass in his hand tightly.

"Thank you..." he said to Brandon. "I've learned a lot with each of the battles that I had here. They're all definitely memorable. I believe I could move on to reaching my goal again now."

"You're a brave one, young Brendan. I wish you luck in your upcoming challenges in life!"

Brendan nodded and turned to leave. "I can go back to Hoenn, now..." he whispered to himself.


-3rd August 2007-

He was leaning his arms against the metal railings on the upper deck of the S.S. Tidal, feeling the cold, biting wind that slapped him across the face. Even though it was bitterly cold outside, Brendan went up to the deck because the hall of the ferry was just too full of noisy people. He was trying to decide whether to see Nicolas yet or not. He admitted that he had grown tremendously in power, but he wondered if his skills now were enough to convince Nicolas of his worth to becoming his apprentice.

"No... I'll give him a greater proof of worthiness. I'll risk it all and return to the Pokémon League," he decided. "This time, though, I'm going to win against that old man Drake!"

He clenched his fists tightly. Just as he did so, the S.S. Tidal began slowing down, and he could finally see the port to Littleroot Town, along with several buildings on land. He began to smile again and his mind was filled with thoughts of home. He ran down the deck and back into his own cabin. It was in a sort of a mess, so he picked up all of his clothes and items and stuffed them into his backpack. He checked everywhere, just in case he forgot anything, and then he heard the sound of the ferry's bell. They had stopped and finally arrived.

He, along with a small group of people who had wanted to stop in Littleroot lined up and got off the water vehicle at the small port. Excited, he ran towards his house immediately, shouting his thanks to Captain Briney as he did so.

He knocked on the door and it was his mother who answered it. She was so delighted to see her son again; she hugged him so tight he could hardly breathe.

"Mom! You're choking me!" he wheezed, trying to laugh.

She let him go quickly. "Oh, I'm sorry, Brendan, dear! I'm just so happy to see you! What a surprise, this is!" she said.

"You know me; I'm full of surprises!" he said. "I've conquered all the facilities of the Battle Frontier in Kanto! And now I'm home, just in time before the Ever Grande Conference could begin, too!"

"Oh? Are you planning to..." his mother began.

"Yep! I'm going to give it another go!" he announced proudly.

His mother, though, was not too excited about it. She hid her slight disapproval by putting on a fake smile on her face, saying, "That's nice, son."

Hoenn's Ever Grande Conference was to be held in a week, and Brendan took that time to rest, mostly doing nothing but lounged around the house or walked in the forest with his Pokémon. He had a lot of his mind; thinking up strategies to use in the League. He already knew what to do. He only wanted to organize his thoughts.

"I have to start being wary of things from now on..." he told himself. He was intent on keeping his composure right when battling this time. He was not going to act rashly and proudly anymore.

During the whole week, his parents decided to leave him alone to his own affairs, so they did not talk much, even at home. His father is always busy, anyway, and his mother seemed to let Brendan do his own thing, without asking too much this time. It was probably because they understood how meaningful Brendan's loss during his last League challenge was to him, and did not want to distract him now, knowing that he's taking the challenge yet again.

-10th August 2007-

The first day of the tournament finally arrived, and Brendan was already in Ever Grande City. He had just finished signing up for it at the main counter. He ignored the stares of other Trainers, who recognized him as the previous League challenger who lost to the last of the Elite Four.

"I'll win against him this time," he thought to himself.

He passed the qualifying, preliminary and final rounds with ease, making full use of his newfound strength and knowledge that he earned in Kanto. He was extremely confident in himself and his Pokémon, but controlled his pride, determined not to let it take over him again. So, he won the tournament and became the one Trainer who was exclusively invited to challenge the Elite Four. He already knew the process, as he had been through it before. He accepted the invitation immediately.

He won against the first three of the Elite Four, just like before, but not without careful planning of strategies. He had realized that even if he made one small mistake, it could change the whole flow of a battle. He, after all, had set his mind to ultimately defeat Drake.

-19th August 2007-

They were in a semi-closed stadium with crimson flooring, where, in the center of the spacious arena, a large Poké Ball design was situated. Lots of spotlights lined the whole room, lighting the space brightly. It seemed that the arena was built over a large pool of purple acid, with big, menacing spikes protruding out of it all over. There were two openings on either sides of the stadium floor, so that one could see the deadly threat down below. The audience to the Pokémon League's Elite Four challenge was to witness the whole battle behind a protective barrier that surrounded the whole stadium.

Brendan was told by the officials that ever since his first Elite Four challenge, a batch of special guests was invited to watch his battles. If he was to win the final showdown, he would finally be able to meet the special guests and enjoy an exclusive victory celebration with them. He lost the last time, so he was never given the honor to meet them.

As he stood in the middle of the Poké Ball ring, facing Drake, he thought in his mind, "I won't disappoint my special guests anymore. I'll give them an impressive battle, since that's what they want from me."

The referee stood between them, and instructed them to shake hands; an official procedure that was to symbolize both Trainers' pledge to loyalty to the rules.

"So, Brendan, my boy, we meet again," Drake spoke to him as they gripped each other's hands. "I do hope you are prepared this time. Have you and your Pokémon grown stronger?"

"We'll answer that by just showing you," Brendan replied.

They let go when the referee nodded, and they stepped back. The referee raised a flag and swung it down as he blew on a whistle, indicating the start of the battle. Both Drake and Brendan flung out one of their Poké Balls, jumping backwards as they did so.

"Swampert, start by summoning Hail!" Brendan ordered quickly.

Swampert raised both its strong arms and started to call out to the sky in a strange noise. The clouds, partly visible from the half-closed ceilings of the stadium, began to turn dark and spout lumps of ice. Even though the hail only swirled in the center of the arena, affecting only within a minimum of a few meters in radius, both Trainers could already feel the slight chill in the air, and shivered.

"Shelgon, Protect yourself!" Drake quickly reacted.

A light green sphere-shaped barrier formed and surrounded Drake's Shelgon, leaving it unharmed by the fast-falling ice balls. The hailstones simply bounced off Protect's barrier.

"Using type-advantage moves, are you? Clever," Drake retorted. "But your little Hail won't penetrate my Shelgon's Protect."

"Hmph, that's what you say," Brendan replied. "Quickly, Swampert! Blizzard!"

Swampert now swung its blue arms forwards, pointing at Shelgon, who was still snugly protected under the light green barrier. The same clouds that produced the Hail attack transformed into a more vicious appearance and whipped up a harsh storm of ice. The blizzard tore open the stadium's roof and entered the arena with full might. It was directed and revolved around Shelgon alone, who looked unfazed by Swampert's attempt to hit it with ice-cold attacks.

Suddenly, as it was about to gloat, a large crack formed on its protective barrier. This surprised both Drake and Shelgon.

"Impossible..." Drake uttered slowly.

Just then, Shelgon's Protect move shattered and failed to block Swampert's Blizzard attack. A blast of cold wind, ice and snow struck Shelgon in full force, knocking it out of its consciousness. He waited for the blizzard to subside and then the official referee went to the middle of the arena, announcing Shelgon's unavailability to battle. Drake returned it to its Poké Ball and looked at Brendan at the other end of the arena.

"That was a lucky hit, really. Blizzard has a 30% chance of breaking through a Protect with Hail in play," Brendan explained with a smile.

"You're not going to achieve such a coincidental strike anymore this time, boy! Come, Altaria!"

Drake's Altaria was summoned out of its Poké Ball and it stood on the ground gracefully, fluffing out its cottony wings. Then, it began to waddle from side to side and around in a circular formation, over and over, seeming to dance.

"That's the Dragon Dance..." Brendan whispered in realization. "Swampert, return for now! Shiftry, your turn!" he called out. "Pound it hard!"

Swampert slowly retreated out of the arena's compound and allowed Shiftry, who had been called out of its Poké Ball, to take over the current battle. As soon as it was out, it ran straight towards the dancing Altaria with a raised leafy hand. Once it was closed enough, it struck the Altaria hard in the face. The bird-like Pokémon got up again and growled at it.

"Fury Attack!" Drake commanded.

Altaria glided towards Shifty and began to peck on its body repeatedly, in quick, successive moves. As it ended the assault, Shiftry looked up to show its confident face to Altaria, who began to look pale and weakened.

"Good one, Shiftry! That was Toxic!" Brendan praised his partner. "You know what to do now," he added softly.

While the two were in contact, Shiftry had secretly left a toxic liquid onto Altaria's body, weakening it greatly.

"That's fine," Drake said calmly. "My Altaria can handle this easily. Use Refresh!"

Hearing its Trainer's command, the Altaria closed its eyes and its body emitted a greenish glow for a couple of seconds. When it opened its eyes again, it had completely healed from its badly poisoned state.

"Shiftry, move in and land a Cut!"

Shiftry rushed towards Altaria again, preparing to slice it with its razor sharp leaf. Before it could reach its opponent, though, Altaria opened its beak and started singing beautifully. The enchanting melody rang throughout the stadium and entered Shiftry's ears. Immediately, it stopped moving and its eyes began to droop down. Finally, it fell down on the floor, fast asleep.

"Altaria, prepare your Sky Attack!"

Altaria flapped its wings in response and stretched out its long neck to seek out Shiftry's main point of weakness. While it was searching, Shiftry suddenly woke up, due to its Early Bird ability. Realizing Altaria's preparation, it quickly rolled up into a ball of shaggy white hair that had the appearance of a big mass of tangling spider web. Despite Shiftry's conservational action, Altaria had already found its point of weakness. It took off into the air and flew around the stadium for a while, beginning to be engulfed in red flames, before turning sharply and dived down towards the hunched down Shiftry.

Altaria hit Shiftry hard with its beak and wings, hoping to completely defeat it. Shiftry remained still and unmoving. The referee had begun to approach Shiftry, to confirm if it had lost consciousness, when all of a sudden, Shiftry stirred slightly. The referee noticed it and quickly backed away again, which was a smart move because he barely managed to avoid Shiftry's oncoming attack.

"Unleash your Bide attack now!" Brendan yelled.

Shiftry rose in a quick motion, swung its arms up and created a blast of air using its leafy fans, directing it towards Altaria, calling out an eerie cackling noise at the same time. Altaria was caught in the attack and fell backwards due to the strong force of the wind. That was not enough to defeat it, though it was heavily weakened. In fact, both Pokémon were already in their worst conditions, struggling to stay in the battle. Shiftry staggered down on its knees after unleashing its powerful attack.

"Last one... Aerial Ace," Drake said to his Altaria.

With a soft hum, it disappears in a flash of a second, and appears again behind the tired Shiftry, slamming hard into it. Shiftry finally fainted on the floor and the referee announced its loss. Brendan called it back inside its Poké Ball.

"It's okay, Shiftry. You've done enough," Brendan said to it kindly. He took out another one of his Poké Balls and summoned his third Pokémon. "Aggron, get ready to battle!"

The Iron Armor Pokémon gave out a proud roar in reply. It lifted its heavy legs and started to run towards Altaria, who was vulnerable and weak on the ground. Aggron rammed into it with its steel head, knocking it out, and Drake was forced to use his third and last Pokémon, Salamence, also his powerhouse.

"You don't stand a chance now," said Drake.

Aggron stiffened up for a while when it saw Salamence in front of it. The same one had been its opponent the last time, and it lost to the big Dragon Pokémon. It felt intimidated by it and took a step back.

Brendan cheered for it and urged it to go on, calling out, "Aggron! Please don't back out now! You can do this! You have friends to back you up! Shiftry, Swampert and I will be rooting for you! We know you can do it!"

Swampert, who had been watching the battle next to Brendan all this while, nodded and flung its arms around, cheering for Aggron, as well. Aggron looked at them and felt a surge of newfound strength in it. It turned to face Salamence again and growled menacingly.

"Interesting... Such a strong bond," Drake noted. "Very well, Salamence, use Dragon Claw."

"Use your own Dragon Claw, Aggron!"

Both Pokémon's claws glowed white and were locked against each other's when they hit. They struggled to push their claws towards their opponent. After a long tense moment, the two of them skidded backwards, failing to land a hit on either one.

"Hm, I see. Use Flamethrower then," ordered Drake.

Salamence opened its mouth and a stream of fire shot out of it. Aggron, too slow to evade it, was hit and sustained a good deal of damage.

"Iron Tail!" Brendan told his Aggron.

Aggron rushed towards Salamence, with a steely shine covering its tail, and pounded it with the hardened tail.

"Ram into it with Headbutt!"

Salamence lowered its head. Aggron quickly strengthened its body with Iron Defense. Salamence butted Aggron in the stomach region, and though it did not feel the pain as much, the force was enough to send it skidding backwards. Without realizing it, Aggron lost its footing and fell backwards, down into the pool of acid down below the arena.

Brendan called out to it in concern, "No! Aggron!"

Even Drake and his Salamence themselves looked surprised. They had not meant to send it into the acid at all. Everyone in the stadium was silent and is at a loss for words. Just when all hope seemed lost, Aggron was seen to be climbing onto one of the giant metal spikes protruding out of the pool, with traces of purple acid slipping off its Sturdy body. It smiled at Brendan and jumped onto the arena platform again, ready to resume its battle. Everyone sighed in relief.

"Ah... That's right, Steel-types are immune to Poison..." Brendan muttered, scratching his cheek with one finger. "Okay, then, Aggron! You still up for it? Go for it and use Double-Edge!"

Salamence, still shaken from its accidental murder attempt just now, was not quick enough to avoid Aggron's Double Edge attack. It roared loudly when it was hit. It fired a large fireball at Aggron, which was its Dragonbreath. By this time, Aggron was already weakened enough to faint after another hit, Brendan realized. So, he ordered it use Double-Edge again and let Swampert do the rest from there. As predicted, Aggron fainted after ramming into Salamence one more time, and the two Trainers were down to their last Pokémon.

"Good job, Aggron. Rest for now. You have done your part well," Brendan said to it before sending Swampert out into the arena once again.

"Salamence, are you doing fine?" Drake asked his Pokémon.

Salamence replied by flapping its big red wings, anxious to win the battle for his master. It charged at Swampert and landed a Crunch attack on its left arm. Swampert retaliated by using Hammer Arm with its other one, slamming it hard onto Salamence's neck.

"Swampert, that's great! Now use Mud Bomb!"

Swampert shot out a ball of mud from its mouth and got it in Salamence's face. The mud had entered its eyes, and it was shaking its head, trying to lessen the irritation in its eyes to no avail. Swampert looked at Brendan, and they both nodded at the same time.

"Ice Beam!" Brendan said out loud, with Swampert shrilling its call at the same time.

It stood with its legs apart and took aim at the flailing Salamence. It opened its mouth and a light blue-colored glowing ball of energy formed in it. A similarly colored beam shot out of it and went straight into Salamence, who froze in the attack and was unable to battle anymore. The referee held Brendan's and Swampert's hands up, announcing them as the winner; Hoenn's new Champion. Brendan jumped up high and punched a fist into the air. He then hugged his Swampert in his joy.

The audience cheered loudly and clapped their hands like thunder. Horns and celebration music were sounded and Brendan could almost feel the numerous camera flashes from all around him. The walls behind Drake opened up and out came a group of people. They were his very own parents, the President of the Pokémon League, the previous Champions, all the Gym Leaders of the Hoenn region, and May, along with several other people he could not name. He realized that these people were his said special guests.

"May..." he softly whispered her name, before being bombarded by his congratulating guests.

His parents hugged him tightly, while the others would either pat him on the back or shake hands with him, congratulating him loudly. He responded to each of them, and noticed that May was patiently waiting for him to finish. Once he did, he calmly approached her with a lop-sided smile on his face.

"So..." he began. "You're the current holder of the Ribbon Cup now."

"And you're the Hoenn Champion now," she replied.


He closed the door to his suite and sighed heavily. He felt good and bad at the same time. He had just experienced his first kiss that night, with May, the one he knew he loved. Though that was the case, he never verbally admitted his love for her, and even stopped their kiss abruptly. He had to do it and control himself. He remembered that he was supposed to begin training with Nicolas after defeating Drake. He made a promise. He had to uphold a commitment. He realized his responsibility. But he hated seeing the look of confusion and disappointment on May's face earlier.

"I'm sorry for what I did..." he admitted to himself. "But it was necessary. I just couldn't put you in danger, May. I love you. And there's something I must do alone. I'm sorry..."

He spoke these words out in a breathy whisper, planning to present his apology to her the next morning.

But he never did.

He figured that even if he told her, she would try to look for him, and that would only risk her life. No, he thought. He must not give her or anyone he knows any idea where he is going. He will undergo special training under Nicolas the Dragon Tamer's guidance in the deep parts of Meteor Falls alone. Nicolas is a stranger, nevertheless, and Brendan knew he could not fully trust him yet. Who knows what his real intentions are? By not informing anyone, he hopes to keep Nicolas away from them; keeping potential danger away from his loved ones.

Then suddenly, he thought of his own safety. He clenched his jaws tight. What if anything happens to him? No one will be able to contact or find him. His mind juggled several thoughts and suggestions, until he finally decided that he would tell only one person he could trust the secret training with; his father. So, in the morning, he awoke extra early and went to see his father.

Coincidentally, Professor Birch was up early, too, and planned to take a short stroll around Ever Grande City's beautiful flower gardens. Not wanting to disturb his wife in her peaceful sleep, he quietly left her in the room, leaving a note for her, in case she wakes up later. When he opened the door, he was surprised to see his son in front of it.

"Why, Brendan, my boy! You're early!" he exclaimed, quietly, as he shut the door.

"Yeah, Dad. So are you. You're going out for a walk?" he asked.

"Yep! Join me, son. We'll have a father-son moment!" he said cheerfully.

"Exactly my thoughts..." Brendan said slowly.

From that point, Professor Birch could sense that there was something serious going on in Brendan's mind. He wondered what it could be, now that his son had won the Pokémon League's Elite Four challenge. They finally entered the large garden. It was filled with all sorts of flower species. Some are commonly found anywhere, while some are rare and never seen. The two of them were amazed by the flower arrangements that matched in harmony and perfection. Some small Pokémon were found there too; Beautifly fluttering about and Zigzagoon bounding around. The morning was so peaceful and wonderful that Brendan almost forgot to talk to his father about his intention to train further.

"Oh... Dad, I need to talk to you about something. Something..." Brendan started.

"...important?" Professor Birch finished.

"Yes," he replied, a bit surprised. "Did you guess?"

"You could say that. Your look said it all. So, what's on your mind?"

"I'm not sure if you'll support me on this one, Dad..." Brendan said, unsure. "But, here goes..."

He explained, as best as he could, to his father about how Nicolas first approached him and offered him extensive training and everything else. The Pokémon Professor listened intently, but his face had a blank expression on it, so it was hard for Brendan to read his father's reaction. When he finally concluded his story, he received a real reaction.

Professor Birch smacked the back of his head hard.

"Brendan, you stupid boy," he sighed. "Why did you wait so long to tell me? You could've told me when you got back home after your first League challenge. I thought everything was fine even when you suddenly asked to help me with my research."

Brendan said nothing.

His father placed his hands akimbo and said, "Well, a promise is a promise. I admire you for your strong passion in Pokémon and strength, and for wanting to keep a promise you made based on your own decision. Therefore, I give you full permission to begin your training with this Dragon Tamer, Nicolas."

That caught him by surprise. Brendan looked up in disbelief and asked, "What? You... agree?"

"Didn't you hear me, boy? Do you need to be smacked in the head again? Or did I hit you too hard?"

"Err... No, I..."

"I have a condition though," Professor Birch continued.

"Name it, Dad. I'll follow it."

"I have to come along with you," he said.

Brendan thought about it for a second and agreed. "Okay, we can tell Mom we're extending our research. Go on a road trip. We shouldn't let her worry about us."

"I might feel bad about it, but it's the best thing to do, I suppose," Professor Birch said uncomfortably. "Alright. When are we leaving?"

Brendan turned back to look at his father. "In three days..." he said. "...we're going to the Meteor Falls."


At the entrance of the Meteor Falls, Nicolas stood like a grand statue. Beside him, a blue bird-like Pokémon with cottony wings wrapped around its body sat perched still, too. He knew about Brendan's winning battle with the Dragon-type user Drake of the Elite Four. Now, he is waiting for him to show himself, as the said victory was enough to prove him worthy of his special training. He turned his head to the direction of the setting orange sun.

"I will be waiting for my student to arrive now..." he told his Altaria, who hummed in return.
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Chapter 3

Chapter 3 – Sandstone Castle

It slept soundly, with its neck tucked in near its chest and its broad, red wings folded on its back. Its round, full stomach heaved up and down in a steady rhythm, feeling satisfied after a hearty meal. Splatters of blood were still visible around its strong jowls. It slept easily and undisturbed, as it knew that it was the strongest around its area. Nothing could beat it. Nothing.

Brendan went inside the Meteor Falls through its cave opening, with some firewood in his arms, which he held up to his shoulders. Inside, the whole structure of the cavern was made of mostly quartzarenite sandstone, giving the cave a faint gold glow, despite the darkness. The sandstone formed highly visible cliffs and some parts on the walls looked smooth and melted, but hardened in place. The floor itself was often uneven, making it hard to walk on. About a year ago; that was the time when he had only begun training with Nicolas, he would always fall into some holes, big and small, that were actually meteor craters. Now that he had gotten used to the whole cave, he managed to avoid such accidents.

Large pools of water were formed in the cave long ago, perhaps by rainwater that seeped through the stone ceiling, enriching the water with natural minerals and vitamins. There was an old wooden bridge that was made to let people cross the stream of water beneath it safely. When Brendan looked down, he could see the surface of the water glittering. The water was so clear, he could see the bottom of it, in daytime, of course. After the bridge, a gargantuan waterfall on his right crashed like thunder and spattered Brendan with sprays of water droplets.

Collected rainwater is always pouring down from the top of the mountain of the Meteor Falls, thus creating many waterfalls inside the cave. Some were small and simply trickled harmlessly down, but most were menacing and full of force. Brendan reached the edge of a pool and stopped. Brendan was wearing a ragged-looking pair of long black pants, a yellow belt that hung on his waist and nothing across his bare chest. From his belt, one of his Poké Balls glowed and his Swampert came out of it. It nodded at its Trainer in acknowledgement and stepped inside the water. Brendan gave his Swampert some of the firewood to be held in its mouth, while he tightly held onto the rest under one arm. He used his other arm to grab onto Swampert's neck and they swam off towards the big waterfall.

With a burst of speed, Swampert swam upwards and scaled the waterfall quickly. Brendan endured with much effort, trying to hold on. Once they reached the upper level, Brendan relaxed his grip from Swampert, who began to swim slowly and carefully towards land. Brendan took the firewood from Swampert's mouth and carried them by himself again. The two of them got out of the water and walked through an opening in the wall, which led them into the deeper, hidden parts of the Meteor Falls. They were met with another pool, albeit shallow, of water.

They waded through the still, clear water that was only up until Brendan's waist, and slid in between a few large rocks that shielded their view of the other side of the pool. An old couple sat near the water's edge, waiting for Brendan and his Pokémon to return.

"Oh," Brendan exclaimed softly when he saw them. "Good evening, Masters John and Jay."

The Experts duo smiled at him and said, "Good evening, young Brendan. Back from gathering firewood?"

Brendan nodded and huffed as he hoisted the stack of firewood onto his shoulders again. He politely walked past the old couple and went on his way. The two of them were the previous masters to Nicolas, and occasionally oversee Brendan's training and help him. Their house was situated near the top of the mountain of Meteor Falls. Sometimes, they venture into the cave and battle alongside their Pokémon. It is wise to say that the two of them are like the guardians of the Meteor Falls, as well.

Further up front, Brendan had to climb a flight of naturally-formed stairs to get to his destination; where Nicolas is waiting. It was a flat clearing on top of a high sandstone platform. In the middle, a black, charred area, lined with a circle of rocks, marked the spot for a living fire. A high stack of previously collected firewood was neatly organized against a wall. He placed his newly collected ones along with the rest.

With trained reflexes, he suddenly jerked his head to one side, avoiding a flying stone that would have bled the back of his head if he had not avoided it. He turned around with a swish and swung his leg up, but was stopped by a person's blocking arm. Nicolas pushed his arm forward, trying to imbalance Brendan off. Brendan held on with his leg, pushing against him, too, but eventually stumbled backwards when Nicolas pushed him off with both arms. He quickly regained balance and moved in to strike.

Both men battled with hand-to-hand combat and both of them showed high skills in handling it. One who had not met Brendan in the past duration of one year would immediately notice something entirely different about him. Other than his fighting skills, his build had improved. Lean but firm muscles made up his torso and arms, a result of his constant physical training with Nicolas.

Speaking of whom, he stopped from defending against Brendan's attacks. Brendan, himself, was confused. They would usually stop once a winner is decided, or until Brendan had run out of breath. He was still pumped about the battle and was not even tired yet. He looked at his higher-up with questioning eyes, but kept his guard up, in case he tried a sneaky tactic.

"Your stamina has improved greatly," Nicolas said casually. "A year ago, you would have dropped down on your knees by this time. Your endurance has gotten better, too," he continued. "You did not flinch when I landed a hard hit, and treated it as though I had merely lightly slapped you. And of course, your strength is worthy of praise, as well. You have become stronger, Brendan."

Brendan looked at Nicolas intently and finally bowed down, humbled. "Thank you for bestowing upon me all your knowledge, Master."


They were both seated around a comfortable fire and had only finished a roasted dinner. Brendan was lying on his back, his head rested on his arms, while Nicolas was drinking warm tea in a cup from a small thermos. The sound of crackling fire was the only noise in the cave. Nicolas put down his cup and motioned for Brendan to sit up.

He looked at his student and said, "Have the day off tomorrow."

"The whole day?" Brendan asked sharply.

"The whole day," Nicolas repeated.

Brendan knew how unpredictable, yet straightforward Nicolas can be, and only nodded dumbly in reply. He had not had a break from intensive training before, and he was sure that he was going to enjoy a relaxing day of lazing around tomorrow. Finally, they said goodnight to each other, with Brendan bowing slightly to his teacher. Nicolas put on his black cape and left on his Altaria, flying off to a higher part of the cave. Brendan put out the fire by pouring a bucket of water over it and watched the steam rise out of it. Then, he walked over to a corner of the clearing and slipped into his sleeping bag, planning to sleep in until later in the morning.

-28th August 2008-

In the wee hours of dawn, Brendan had already woken up. He tried to go back to sleep, but found that he could not.

He scratched the back of his head and sighed, "I suppose I'm too used to my daily routine now... Oh well, might as well get up and take a bath under the waterfall now."

He went to one of the smaller pools in the cave, the one he always used to clean himself up. It had a fairly-sized waterfall that showered down from a height of 40 feet. He stood under it and let the water drop down on his head with full force, closing his eyes. The water was ice cold and Brendan actually struggled to withstand it.

Once he had freshened up completely, he wondered what he was going to do next. He never had a chance to think about what he wanted to do during his free time. After going over the thought a few times, he finally decided to visit Fallarbor Town. Jogging in the morning had always been part of his daily routine, so he could not help but jog all the way to town.

Normally, he was forced to run with heavy weights tied around his wrists and ankles, but not this time, because today was not meant for training. As a result, Brendan felt his jog had been too breezy, with no weights to hold him down. Gradually, he broke off into a full-force run and was passing by in front of the local Pokémon Contest Hall. He was enjoying the speed he was in and did not see the person stepping out of the Hall. Brendan felt his arm hit the other person's small shoulder, and they both fell back.

Brendan's headband fell out of place by accident and flopped over his left eye. He was about to apologize and continue his run, when his eye caught sight of the person he had bumped into. He blinked twice and looked again. It was May!

"Brendan..? What in the world are you doing here?" May asked him, looking just as shocked as he is.

As he adjusted his headband back in place again, he held out a hand to help her up. He quickly thought out his answer and said that he was here under the reason of helping out with his father's research. When May began to bring up the topic of him leaving without her knowledge, he quickly cut in and asked for her reason of being in Fallarbor, instead. May looked slightly annoyed when she answered, turning her head sideways.

Brendan hated doing it, but he knew he had to. He acknowledged her answer as simply as possible and cut the conversation short by saying that he had to leave. She would have asked many more questions if he had let her speak. Though, before running off again, he patted her shoulder carefully and gently, in hopes of letting her know that he still cared for her.

It was a shame that she did not. Brendan had not seen the look on her face when he ran on ahead. She was on the verge of tears, biting her lower lip furiously.

Brendan was still running, and so was his mind; running with thoughts. He disappeared behind a thick forest of trees, and slowed to a stop. He bent down and placed his hands on his knees, panting furiously. He did not know what to feel or what to do. He was ecstatic inside, when he saw May right in front of him, but he knew he could not get carried away and resorted to act in ignorance, hurting her pride. He must not let her know the truth, in fear for her safety. Besides, he did not think he would want to see her reaction if he had spoken the truth; she might think he was lying and making up a pathetic excuse for not wanting to be around her. He sighed loudly.

He exited town and took on Route 113. Several yards in front of him, he could see black volcanic ash falling down from the sky, which blocked most of the sunlight. He did not feel like going through the shower of volcanic ash at the moment. The reason he came to Route 113 was solely to see his father, whom he spotted was on top of a hardy tree. He trotted over to the tree and looked up.

"Hey, Dad," he called out.

Professor Birch noticed his son and jumped down. "Hi, son! You got a chance to come out today," he stated.


From the very beginning, Brendan had not told Nicolas that his father came along. As he thought it out before, in case anything happens to himself, he would have his father around to back him up. Therefore, he had to meet up with his father only when he was alone, and whenever he had the chance to go out to town.

"So, what's up?" asked the Pokémon professor.

Brendan told him how he was doing well in his training, and said that Nicolas gave him a day off from training. Then, he slowed down and said, "Dad... Did you know May was in town?"

Professor Birch smiled at the mention of his good friend's daughter. "Oh, really? Did you meet her? She must have been here for the Contest."

"Yeah, I suppose so," Brendan said. Suddenly, he laughed, "Can you believe we met by total accident? I bumped into her during my run."

Father and son spent their time chatting and catching up on things, sitting under the shade of the tree. When they noticed that the sun was already high in the sky, the two of them went to find a restaurant in town to eat lunch. After that, they used the video phones in the Pokémon Center to call Brendan's mother and let her know how well the two of them were doing.

"It's really nice to see you two still healthy. And it's wonderful news that your research is going on so successfully, honey!" said Mrs Birch over the phone.

"Oh, honey-bunny!" Professor Birch said suddenly in a frisky tone. "Guess what? My research is not only going successfully; it's actually finished! I'm planning to get back home tonight! Isn't it great? You won't have to miss me everyday anymore!"

"Oh, darling! That's terrific! I can't wait to see you again!" she replied just as friskily.

Brendan inched away from his father and was feeling rather awkward hearing his father speak to his mother like that; just like a flirting young couple.

"T-this is... very embarrassing," he muttered to no one in particular, covering his eyes with his hand.

Finally, they finished talking amorously, and Professor Birch walked over to his son with a wide grin plastered on his face.

"Sorry you had to see that, but I just miss her too much! And besides, you're old enough to-"

Brendan quickly stopped him, by holding both his hands up in front of his face. "I-It's okay, Dad. I get it. It was just... too much to comprehend..."

Professor Birch laughed loudly and slapped Brendan's back.

"What was that for?" Brendan asked, even though it did not really hurt him or bother him.

"Nothing. I just felt like hitting you," the Professor answered unusually cheerfully. "Come on, boy! Let's go fishing! We haven't done that in a long while!"

Brendan decided to put up with his father's annoyingly happy mood, just because he knew how excited his father is to be back at home tonight. So, he smiled back and agreed.

Out on Route 114, Brendan let his Pokémon out of their Poké Balls. He watched them as they sat together in a group, probably conversing in their own language. He smiled, remembering how he had obtained each one. He turned his attention back to his Super Rod, which had been casted into the large lake that spread out in front of him. His father was also waiting for a tug at the end of his line.

Their quiet afternoon was soon disrupted when Professor Birch's fishing hook caught a Gyarados by the lip. The enraged Gyarados broke the water surface and roared loudly.

Brendan slapped his hand to his forehead, muttering jokingly, "Damn it, Dad, you had always been the better fisherman than I am..."

Acting quickly, he called out to his Rhyperior and instructed it to use Thunderpunch. Despite its weight and size, it managed to jump up and deliver an electrical punch on the Gyarados's face. The Water-type Pokémon shook violently as pulses of electricity ran through its body. Rhyperior then used its short, stocky legs to kick against the falling Gyarados's neck, landing back on the ground, instead of falling into the water. The Gyarados, on the other hand, lost consciousness and fell back into the water with a big splash. A few moments later, the Professor's own Super Rod floated back up on to the surface of the lake, with the hook no longer attached.

Brendan went to the edge of the water and reached out to the Rod. He was able to retrieve it and handed it back to his father.

"Thanks..." he said as he checked the end of his line. "Really, that was a splendid display of power, Brendan."

Brendan threw back his head and laughed. "And that, Dad, was a splendid display of good fishing! I barely just caught the smallest Magikarp I have ever seen in my life, and look what you got!"

Both father and son had a good time and a good laugh that afternoon.


Nighttime soon arrived and Professor Birch was already in his jeep, ready to depart for Littleroot Town. Brendan wanted to go home too, but he knew better than to bail on Nicolas. He had not been let off the leash completely yet and thought that he needed more training himself. The Professor started the engine and let it warm up for a bit.

"Are you sure you could manage on your own from now on?" his father asked, with one hand on the steering wheel.

Brendan balled a fist to show his determination, and said, "Of course! You've seen how much stronger my Pokemon and I have become! You should go on home and accompany Mom. I promise you, Dad... I'll come back home, alive, once I've finished my training."

Professor Birch leaned towards Brendan and punched his head.


"Don't say something like that!" Professor Birch scolded. "...But still, don't you go planning on getting yourself killed with this whole dangerous training."

Brendan smirked as he rubbed where he had been hit with one hand. Professor Birch said a quick bye and drove off, quite speedily.

"I'll call!" Brendan shouted after him.

Once his father's jeep was out of his sight, Brendan stretched his arms out and yawned loudly.

"Wow, today's been an exciting day. I don't feel like going back to the Falls yet, though... I hope this is okay with Nicolas..." he said to himself as he searched for a grassy spot on the ground to sleep on. "I'll take a nap out here, under the stars, for a while."

Without much difficulty, the teenage boy slowly drifted to a peaceful sleep. A few hours later, he woke up in abruption, and he realized that he had slept longer than he intended to. He had planned to be back in the Meteor Falls before midnight, but he could see that it was probably around three or four o'clock in the morning already. He sat up and scratched his head, wondering what to do. Suddenly, a face flashed through his mind.

"May... I want to see her before I return," he thought.

He made his way to Fallarbor Town's Pokémon Center. When the automatic doors slid open, Brendan stepped in to see a girl on the couch, sound asleep. He saw that it was May.

He walked over to her and looked at her. "Poor May... She must have been training and tired herself out..." he thought. "I'll leave her to her slumber... but..."

He leaned his face close to hers, moving in to land a silent kiss on her lips. Before he could kiss her, though, May woke up in a sudden and her face immediately contorted into a look of surprise. She opened her mouth to scream, but Brendan knew better than to let her do that, so he clamped his hand over her mouth quickly. Once she had realized who he was, he released his hand and was scolded by May.

"Brendan! What were you thinking?" she whispered.

He told her that he only wanted to see her and asked her why she was sleeping in the Pokémon Center's main hall, instead of a real room. She answered that she was too tired. At that point, Brendan could not hold himself any longer. He moved his face forwards and locked his lips with hers. He kissed her hungrily and viciously. After a few minutes, he stopped and asked her if she had missed him. When she said she did, he smiled and leaned in to kiss her again, but May pressed both her hands against his chest, pushing him back. Confused, he questioned her action.

Who knew that exact moment was the beginning of the downfall of their relationship? Surely, Brendan did not.

May suddenly got mad at him and accused him of playing with her emotions. After letting him know how she hated him for it, she stalked off and left him. Brendan, totally caught off guard by her outburst, stared blankly after her, and did not even try to give chase to her. He knew he would only make things worst since he could not offer the truthful explanation to her.

After a long moment of doing nothing but feel guilt, Brendan was finally able to tell himself to get up and return to Meteor Falls before dawn arrives. But even on the way there, he was still thinking about May's words. They stung him worse than the Beedrill stings he received when he was smaller.

He travelled through the Meteor Falls slowly. His feet were submerged in a small pool of water, and made loud splashing sounds as he dragged himself through it, but he did not care. He did not take the usual way back to his camp, where he would expect to meet Nicolas, but took a totally different way instead. He was not sure what compelled him to do so; his depressed feelings that brought him to a random place, or the thought of meeting a very angry Nicolas.

Either way, he finally snapped out of his thoughts and realized that he was in a different part of the deeper Meteor Falls. He knew that the Falls consisted of many more caverns inside it, and were always told that some had mazes inside it. The wise Masters John and Jay once told him a story of a special cave found in the very deepest part of the Meteor Falls. They described it to him as a large cavern looking especially shiny in the dark, with beautifully shaped sandstone formations all around it, almost looking like statues, and the water that ran through it was clearer and healthier. They called it the Sandstone Castle. It was said to be a precious place where every living thing thrived flawlessly here.

Brendan thought the story over. He figured that he must have somehow found a way to the Sandstone Castle area. The place was just as he had heard about it. The floor, the walls and the ceiling were sparkling and smooth. The quartzarenite sandstone formations that lined the area looked as if they had been carved by hand. Brendan took a look at them and could make out several types of Pokémon, posing grandly. Some, though, were broken off here and there or had crumbled entirely to pieces. A rather healthy stream of water on one side of the walkway eventually led to a big pool.

He furthered his exploration of the Sandstone Castle, and found a wide, raised platform, that looked almost like a stage. A couple of smooth rocks that looked like royal thrones made the name Sandstone Castle sound complete. Brendan suspected that this used to be someone's lair, or even home.

"But..." Brendan contemplated. "I expected to see content and healthy wildlife here. There wasn't a single Barboach swimming around in that body of water I saw earlier."

He assumed that this must have been a legendary place, swathed in glory in its old times, but ruined and deserted now. A second later, his thoughts returned to May and was reminded of his previous depression. He shouted in anger and kicked a loose stone at his feet. He banged his fists onto a flat wall and kicked it in anger too, as if it would make things better. But of course that did not help. He leaned his forehead onto the wall and shut his eyes, gritting his teeth.

"Why am I such a fool...?" he whispered, sadness dwelling up in him.

Before anything else could happen, a loud rumbling sound was heard, followed by a gruesome roar and heavy footsteps. Brendan instinctively whirled around and looked for danger. From behind a wall appeared the largest Salamence he had ever seen; even larger than he thought most Salamence would ever grow to.

"Dad would be amazed at this large specimen... Wait! What the hell? I'm supposed to be concentrating!" he thought in his mind. "Swampert! Go! Use Hydro Pump!"

He summoned his partner, who immediately blasted a strong stream of water from its mouth at its Dragon-type opponent. The Salamence was hit hard in its face and even stopped in its tracks. But once Swampert stopped to catch its breath, it retaliated straight away with a powerful Flamethrower. Both Trainer and Pokémon jumped out of the way, feeling the uncomfortable heat from the behind their backs. Brendan fell down on a sharp stone and bled the palm of his hand. He cursed in annoyance as he plucked out the stone from his hand. Swampert saw the blood and gave its Trainer a concerned look, leaving it vulnerable to Salamence's oncoming Crunch attack.

"No! Swampert, look out!" he yelled.

Reacting too late, the Salamence chomped down on Swampert's smooth body, lifted it up and shook it like a rag doll. It then threw Swampert away, who hit its head on a rock and fainted. Wasting no time, Salamence changed its target to Brendan and used its tail to whip down on Brendan's leg. A deafening crack sounded; the sound of a breaking bone. Immense pain shot up his leg and he screamed in pain. Angered and scared, he threw out all his other Poké Balls. His Shiftry, Aggron and Rhyperior readied themselves to attack, but Brendan stopped them.

"Everyone, don't! Take Swampert to safety! All of you go to Nicolas and save yourselves!"

Shiftry chattered an instruction to the other two, telling them to protect their Trainer. Then, it went towards the unconscious and bleeding Swampert, carried it on its back and exited the cave as fast as it could. Rhyperior and Aggron nodded in understanding and moved in to attack. Aggron used Iron Head and rammed into the Salamence's side, piercing it with the sharp horns on its head. Rhyperior picked up a large boulder and threw it at the Salamence's head with its incredible Strength. The Salamence roared in agony and flailed its strong tail, hitting Aggron and sent it flying into a wall. At first, it stayed there, unmoving, but it soon got back up on its feet, albeit trembling nonstop. It gave out a cry of berserk and rammed into the Salamence again. Rhyperior rotated the main horn on the bridge of its nose and used Drill Horn on the enemy.

"Aggron... Rhyperior... It's too dangerous..." Brendan huffed tiredly.

Salamence took quite a lot of hit from them, but it still managed to fend them off with its long tail and neck. Both Rhyperior and Aggron were slammed into walls too many times until they were too tired to get back up. Even if they tried, they would only fall down again. Severe panic filled them up, as they felt useless to protect their Trainer now. The Salamence was approaching Brendan, a brutal look on its face. Brendan backed away slowly, but he could not move fast because of his injured leg.

Everything seemed to slow down. Salamence used one of its front legs to step down on him. A terrible weight and feeling pressed against his chest. Brendan saw Salamence lifting up its other claw and brought it down to him. He could hear the wails of his Pokémon, warning him to get away quickly. He thought he heard a brief sound of something crash against something; he did not know what. But then he felt his skull opening up and thick, crimson blood rushing down from his forehead to his eyes. And he heard other voices and many Pokémon cries. After that, everything else was blank.


Hushed whispers were heard all around him. They sounded frustrated, as if they were arguing. Brendan slowly opened his eyes and blinked several times. He saw a big, bright light in the middle of darkness and three faces in the shadows. He blinked again and shook his head.

"Am I... dead?" he thought, before opening his eyes again.

This time, he could see clearer. He recognized the place. He was back at camp, with his three Masters huddling around a big fire. Master Jay shot a look at him and said something to the others.

"Shush now! Look, he's woken up!" she had said.

They all came to sit near him. Everyone looked tense and waited for Brendan to say something.

"Masters... Is my... Pokémon team doing fine...?" he struggled to speak.

The three of them looked at each other, looking relieved. They looked back at him and smiled. They moved out of the way so that he could see his all his Pokémon sitting across him. Swampert had bandages wrapped around its arm and body. Aggron sustained many dents and scratches in its steel armor. Rhyperior looked worn out and some parts of its rock body were chipped off. Shiftry sat along with them, looking after them. They saw their Trainer awake, and waved at him with happy smiles carved on their mouths.

Brendan smiled back at them, holding back tears of both happiness and sadness. He had not hoped they would get hurt because of his own foolishness, but he knew that there was nothing anyone could do now. Suddenly, he remembered. His hand flew to his forehead, and felt bandages covering his head. Master Jay looked at him in alarm.

"Brendan, wait..." she started.

He was already unravelling the bandages. He looked at his reflection on his PokéNav's screen, using light from the fire to see. He barely saw it in the dark reflection, but he saw it, nevertheless. There were two visible scars from when Salamence's claws struck him on his right temple.

Nicolas offered an explanation. "Shiftry reached me and motioned for me to follow it. When I arrived, I had quickly ordered my Altaria to stop Salamence in mid-attack, as I saw it about to kill you. But apparently..." he said with regret, "...not quick enough. The very end of its claws had already hit you."

"But still, we made it in time," said Master John. "If Altaria had not struck its forepaw with Aerial Ace, Brendan would have received the Salamence's attack in full force, thus resulting in... death," he said the last word with a shiver.

"You had a big cut on your left palm. Luckily, no major veins were severed, so you could still move your fingers. Your right leg is broken but it should heal if you give it time. The wounds on your temple will close up and heal on its own but... those scars will remain, I'm afraid..." Master Jay told Brendan carefully.

Brendan was at a loss for words. He had to bear these scars that served as a reminder of his foolishness; his foolishness that had left May and his Pokémon hurt. A trickle of blood fell over his eye and dripped further down his cheek.

"Oh, dear, you," the kind Master Jay said. "Here, let me cover that wound back up with fresh bandages. They could catch an infection if you leave them exposed any longer."


"Brendan, I cannot teach you while you are lame. It's not only because your body is incapable of enduring hard training right now, but also because I feel guilty for not being able to protect you from that raged Salamence. It is still within Sandstone Castle, running amok all over the place, killing and scaring away other Pokémon. I cannot risk having you in Meteor Falls anymore. If I had not invited you to train with me many years ago, this whole series of events would not have happened, and you would not have gotten hurt. So, our training is complete. You may go home now... I am sorry."

- Nicolas


-26th December 2008-

Brendan had been away from Meteor Falls for almost four months now. When he left, he had not returned to his house at Littleroot Town, but instead had taken a ferry all the way to another region, Sinnoh. He had been secluding himself in a town called Celestic Town, living on his own in a small house he bought himself with some of the prize money he earned from being Hoenn's Pokémon Champion. He told no one of his trip to Sinnoh and avoided the people in Celestic Town most of the time. He lived quietly and alone, attracting no one's attention.

He used to wear a cast over his leg and walk with crutches, but now he could walk unassisted, with only a mild limp. To exercise his legs, he would take walks on Route 211 with his Pokémon every single day, provided that it didn't rain. In the later afternoons, he would ride on his Rhyperior's back up to a high rocky cliff face with Rock Climb. Climbing up there had become part of Brendan's everyday routine, because it was the only place where he could relax and think clearly. It also provided him a good view of the sky-reaching Mount Coronet and the small Celestic Town itself.

As usual, today, Brendan was standing at the edge of the cliff again, contemplating his surroundings silently. He was wearing a simple white T-shirt and black pants. A snow cap covered the top of his head, hiding the scar that had closed up a long time ago. His silver-white hair had grown long and fell a little below his shoulders. His Rhyperior was sitting behind him, looking bored playing with a small rock in its claws.

"You know what, Rhyperior? In a few days, the coming of a new year will come," he said. "I think... I should go home." The Drill Pokémon did not say anything in reply. "I really miss Hoenn," Brendan noted.

-29th December 2008-

Arriving on the doorstep in front of his house after going missing for nearly four months really made Brendan nervous. He took a deep breath and knocked on the door. A few seconds later, the door was opened by his mother, who gave him a smile and a hug.

"Welcome back, Brendan. Just in time for New Year," she said as she released him from the hug. "My, you've gotten much taller."

"Uh... Thanks, Mom. Good to be home again," Brendan said with a little uncertainty. "Dad...?"

"Oh, as usual, he's at the lab by now, I suppose," his mother answered casually. "Would you like some dinner? I just prepared some wheat noodles."


Brendan was confused. He was not sure if his mother simply tolerated the fact that he just disappeared for months without telling anyone anything, or that she did not know at all. Either way, he tried his best to hide his limp from her, in case she questioned further.

He helped his mother in the kitchen for a bit after freshening up, and had dinner with her, listening to her talk about The Name Rater Show where a Trainer named his Slowpoke 'Quickfeet'. Once they were done, Mrs Birch looked at the wall clock.

She clicked her tongue. "He forgot again." She turned to Brendan and said, "Would you send some of these leftovers to your father over at the lab? He must be hungry right now..."

Brendan pushed his chair back as he stood up. "Of course, Mom."

"Wonderful! Thank you, son! Here, let me wrap this up for you... Be careful so as not to let the soup spill," she warned.

Brendan gave her an OK sign and walked out through the front door. The Pokémon laboratory was just a short walk away. Several dim streetlights dotted the small town, but Brendan knew he could find the way to the lab even if it was pitch black. He smiled as he reminisced about his childhood memories, especially the day he first obtained his very own Mudkip. He was grinning widely to himself as he knocked on the lab's grey-white door, not expecting his father's welcoming greet.

Professor Birch opened the door, saw his grown son smiling to himself, and gave him a big punch in the face. Brendan winced at the hit, but took it pretty well.

"Dad..." he started.

"You..." Professor Birch seemed to fume in anger. "You came back! After not hearing from you for four months! I should have known better than to let you train there alone! You never called! Not even once, since I left for home! Now, what are you waiting for? Come here and let me give you a welcome back hug, you fool!"

Brendan was still smiling sheepishly and went to give his father a strong hug. "Sorry, Dad. I guess I have a lot to explain, huh?"

"You sure do, son," Professor Birch replied, eyeing how Brendan had been limping slightly when he walked in. "You sure do..."

Brendan sat down on a chair and began explaining to his father about everything that happened, starting from the day the wild Salamence attacked him and his Pokemon. Professor Birch listened intently and did not interrupt, though occasionally asking a question. Once Brendan had finished with his explanation, he expected another punch in the head, but none came.

"I'm disappointed that all of this happened to you," Professor Birch said with his arms crossed. "But I understand why you ran away to Sinnoh. I hope that you have learned something valuable by now."

"Yes, I have," Brendan nodded. "I have learnt that I need to become stronger. Now that I know how far strength can stretch, I can continue to pursue it further. After New Year's Day, I will go back to Meteor Falls to see Master Nicolas. He can train me until I become strong enough to bring that Salamence down!"

Professor Birch said nothing. He balled a fist and barely touched Brendan's cheek with it. Brendan actually thought he was going to hit him again.

"I guess not even a punch or two would make you change your mind now, huh?" he said with a small smile.

"It's going to be my New Year resolution," Brendan replied with determination written all over his face.

The Professor laughed. "New Year resolution... Sure, go crazy. Know what you want and go for it, boy."

"I know what I want," he said. "And who I want..." he added slowly to himself.


Over at the Petalburg Gym, Norman and his whole family were sitting together in front of the television. The programme featured normal people from various towns and cities who were preparing for the upcoming New Year Festival.

Max spoke up excitedly, "I can't believe it! It's actually almost New Year! Time really does go by fast!"

"Have you decided on a New Year resolution yet, dear?" asked his mother, Caroline.

"You bet I have! I'm going to defeat you, Dad!" Max said, obviously pumped up.

Norman, the Gym Leader specializing in Normal-types, laughed and ruffled his son's hair. "That would be a hard goal to achieve, Max!"

"I can try!" the 13-year-old teenager replied back to him. "Ralts have been training so hard!"

Caroline chuckled and turned to her daughter. "What about you, May?"

"My New Year resolution?" asked May, who was caught by surprise with the said question. "Hmm... I've never really thought about it yet."

"You should hurry and think something up then!" Max urged. "The new year will come in 3 days!"

"Don't worry, I'll figure something out," she said. She turned to face the television again, and thought in her mind, "What else can I look forward to now...? Brendan, you jerk..."
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Chapter 4

Chapter 4 - Heroic Quest

The sky is deep midnight blue, and white stars sparkled all across the endless canvas. Everyone's clock ticked until their needles pointed to twelve. At that exact moment, loud but charming-sounding bells rang all across Petalburg City, a total of one hundred and eight times in all. All the citizens stopped what they were doing to embrace the calming effect of the ringing bells that is said to wash away the sins of the previous year.

Indeed, it is definitely a New Year worth celebrating.

-1st January 2009-

It is after the bell chimes that all soba noodles restaurants are most packed, and noisy, with people cheering and rejoicing. In one of the biggest restaurants in the vicinity, Petalburg's Gym Leader and his whole family had just finished dining on their New Year soba noodles. Norman, the strong Normal-type user got up, and everyone fell silent to listen to what he has to say. He is greatly revered by the people of Petalburg and has their utmost respect.

"First and foremost, I thank the cook for bestowing upon us these wonderful soba. Next, I would like to express my gratefulness for allowing me to celebrate another year with my dear family here," he said as he looked at his wife Caroline and his children, May and Max. "…as well as all of Petalburg! Everyone, do enjoy your meals and happy New Year!" he ended with a louder voice.

Everyone clapped their hands and half of them whooped cheers for their favourite Gym Leader. Some of the men came forward to clasp hands with Norman personally. A lot of the others even approached Max and May to give them the traditional pocket money, who accepted them awkwardly and half-reluctantly. Their mother thanked them on her children's behalf and asked them to come to their house later on in the day before ushering her husband and kids out of the restaurant.

"Come now, don't get distracted by the attention. We can't be late…" she whispered to them as they walked out. Father, daughter and son grinned sheepishly.

Once outside, they saw a large crowd of people moving towards their local shrine to pay their respects as of custom. Most of them were dressed quite nicely in kimono while the rest wore their best winter clothes. May, herself was wearing a cream-white long woolly coat with soft brown leggings and similarly coloured fur-lined ankle-high boots. Around her neck, she fashioned a beautiful red scarf in a trendy style.

"It's always amazing to see so many happy faces even on a cold night like this, huh?" she said to her brother.

"You bet!" the young teenager replied, his eyes gleaming in amusement behind his thick glasses.

After visiting the shrine, the crowd moved towards the city's main lake next. Every year, the city's best pyrotechnics gather at the lake to set off their creative works into the night sky. May always looked forward to the fireworks show the most, where she likes to marvel at the shapes of her favourite Pokémon. Just as she was engrossed in an animated conversation with her parents, Max nudged her with his elbow.

"Heads up, sis. It's your fan club," he said to her.

She turned her head to see a group of boys pushing their way through the sea of people just to reach her. All of them wore eager faces as they saw her. Turning back to her family, she buried her face in her hands in exasperation. Norman and his wife chuckled. Max grinned from ear to ear.

"May! Oh, May! Our precious pearl of the seas! Merry New Year!" the boys cried.

She turned back to face them and gave them a smile. "Good evening, boys," she said sweetly.

Her fan boys seemed to melt at her greeting and began showering her with more flattering nicknames and compliments.

"Are you heading for the lake now?" the guy at the front asked her.

"Let us accompany you! We'll be with you all the way!" the others chimed together.

"Uh... Umm, you see... I'm going with my family..." May began.

"But May," a boy who looked too young to have a crush on her spoke up. "They already left!"

"Huh?" She wheeled around to find out that her family have truly left her.

"I saw them leave! They were snickering, too. I wonder why?" the young boy said again.

May slapped her forehead with her palm and tried to think of another excuse. However, before she could come up with anything, a male voice from the furthest back of the group declared, "May has actually made an appointment to go to the lake with me."

The other guys split up to make way for the bold speaker as he walked forwards to May. He was tall and extremely fit, looking very elegant in an all-black outfit that consisted of a military-style trench coat, trousers, stylish boots and a snow cap. They were the perfect contrast for his smooth pale skin and silver-white hair that fell a little below his shoulders. His piercing red eyes garnered the most attention; not even May could resist from gazing away.

"It... It's the Champion..."

"Who's that? Wait, is that Brendan Birch...?"

"I didn't think her boyfriend would appear!"

He stopped directly in front of May, easily towering over her. With a soft grin carved on his chapped lips, he took his hand out of his coat's pocket to grab hold of hers. They were surprisingly warm to the touch. She could not help but flinch at his sudden action, though.

"Happy New Year, my darling May," he said to her in a whispery voice.

Remembering what she was supposed to do, she allowed everyone to see their adjoined hands and announced quickly, "Yes, that's right! I actually have a date with my boyfriend! Sorry, everyone. Brendan, let's get a move on."

Abruptly leaving her fan boys shocked and devastated, she tugged Brendan along, asking him to hurry up and flee with her. They blended in with the rest of the crowd, May walking very quickly without saying anything. The two of them finally reached the side of the lake, close to the edge of the forest. A lot of people around that area looked slightly distressed. May approached them and asked what the matter was.

"Oh, Miss!" cried a young woman in orange kimono. "Word just got around; the pyrotechnics are having quite a bit of a problem, so the fireworks display will be delayed by a bit. They are working to get everything done, though, just so we won't be fully disappointed! Let's have faith and wait for them," she ended with a cheerful smile.

"Ah, I see... Thank you for telling me. We'll wait, then," May replied politely.

Behind her, Brendan waited patiently, with both his hands in his pockets. May explained to him again what she just heard, without really looking at him. She then turned away and pretended stare across the lake.

"Hmm... So, the show is delayed?" Brendan wondered out loud. "Well, it's no use hanging around here doing nothing. Let's go for a forest stroll, my dear," he said, holding out his arm for May.

May faced him to glare at him, but noticed her fan boys arriving nearby, and quickly played along.

She swallowed back a curse and taking Brendan's arm, said, "Of course, love. Let's."

They moved into the forest, arm-in-arm, quietly. Once they were deep inside, May released herself from Brendan as if he was a boiling cauldron of poison, clearly expressive.

"Did I not make it clear that I hate you?" she said harshly.

"Yes, my dear, you did," Brendan answered calmly.

"Then, why the hell are you still showing your face here?" she snapped.

Brendan grabbed her shoulders with both hands and pushed her back to a tree, without hurting her. "Because I love you!" he admitted truthfully.

That definitely made her shut up, and a little bit intimidated. There was deadly silence. Both of them looked down at their own feet, though Brendan was still firmly holding May by the shoulders.

"Um... Y-you kept your hair long..." she stuttered awkwardly, hoping to break the silence between them.

Brendan, head still down, laughed.

"Yeah, that's right." He looked at her, and May saw playfulness in his eyes. "I thought it was a bother to get them cut. Besides, don't you think it looks cool?" he smirked.

May closed her eyes, and gave a little smile. She rested her head on Brendan's chest and wrapped her arms around his body. Brendan did not expect it, but returned the embrace gladly. Then, slowly, he broke the hug and stopped to stare at May's flushed face, which turned away slightly in embarrassment. Hesitant and careful at first, he moved in closer for a kiss. Seeing that May did not do anything to indicate her refusal, he went on ahead and locked lips with her. It took her a while to invite him in, but once she did, things heated up between the two. May began to run her hands up and down Brendan's back as he cupped her face with both his hands.

In the midst of the excitement, May did not realise that Brendan had slid her neck scarf off. He broke their passionate kiss and quickly moved down to her neck, sinking his teeth in ever so slightly, but sucking on the skin violently. May let out a sharp gasp as he did so, and he quickly released her. Chuckling slowly, he whispered, "Sorry." Looking at her face, it had turned even redder, but she brushed away her hair and tucked it behind one ear, beckoning him for another go. Softly kissing her lips at first, Brendan proceeded to make another love bite on her neck, determined to finish it this time. May simply breathed in the fragrant smell of his hair, which seemed to give her a sort of uncontrollable pleasure, almost euphoria-like. She sighed heavily, breathing near his ear, arousing him even more. Placing her hands at the back of his head, she also began to smother his neck with kisses. Caught up in ecstasy, she ran her fingers through his hair and tugged at his snow cap, wanting to take it off.

Panicked, Brendan backed away from her and cleared his throat. May, panting heavily, was caught off guard by the sudden retreat.

"May… There's something I have to tell you," Brendan declared.

"What could it be?" May wondered.

Brendan cleared his throat again. "I came here today… to see you and to tell you that I have to go away again for a long time…"

"…So, you're leaving me again."

Brendan tried to explain, "I…"

"Then, go!" she shouted at him. "You think giving me a warning would have made this any better? It's no different from before! You're going away, and that's it! Go! You probably have other girls' hearts to break anyway!"

With that, she stormed off out of the forest. As she walked quickly through the mass of people at the lake, she was fighting back tears. By the time she reached the wide streets of Petalburg, tears had already leaked out of her eyes. She was still speeding by a lot of people, hoping no one would notice her crying. She heard some of them call out to her, but she kept on walking, pretending not to hear them. She stopped for a moment to catch her breath, hiding in a small alley in between two buildings, and to cry her heart out.

After she had done sobbing uncontrollably, she sniffed and realised that it was very cold. When she tried to adjust the scarf around her neck, she found out that it was not there. In its place, she saw the love bites she received from Brendan had bruised terribly and looked obvious in purple. Blood rushed back to her face as she tried to cover them up by holding her coat's collar high and rushed back home immediately.


Brendan was lying in his bed back home in Littleroot Town. He was twiddling with May's red scarf, which she forgot when she ran away from him, angry. He held it up in front of him, stared at it, and let it fall down onto his face. May's floral scent filled his nose, and he thought about their time in the forest earlier.

Later, someone knocked on his door. Quickly, he stuffed the scarf under his pillow and sat up. His parents opened the door and walked in.

"Whoa, what's this?" Brendan exclaimed, surprised.

Professor Birch glanced around the room, and his eyes stopped under his son's bed. There it was, Brendan's backpack, bulging with contents.

"I presume those are travelling items, inside there?" he said, pointing that the bag.

Brendan followed his finger and saw his backpack. He forgot to cover it with his blanket.

"Er… Yeah," he said slowly. "Dad… I'm leaving," he added with more confidence in his voice.

"Well then, you shouldn't let your Master Nicolas down now, Brendan," said his mother. "I just want to tell you to be careful and good luck on your training."

"Huh? What? Mom, how did you…" Brendan shot a look at his father. "You told her?"

"I shouldn't keep secrets from my wife," Professor Birch stated simply, shrugging. "That aside, your mother's right. Please be careful. Anyway, how's your leg?"

Brendan rubbed his right leg. "Yeah, it's alright. I only have the mildest of limps. I figured they'd go away in a couple more days."

"Here." His mother handed him a small container of balm. "It warms up when you apply it. It should help with those mild pains, especially during cold nights like this."

"Gee, thanks, Mom. Really," Brendan said, in all honesty. He stood up and hugged her.

"Right. Go get some sleep now; you should rest before you leave, at least. You've been up all night, you must be exhausted," she said.

He nodded, and then turned to his father with arms outstretched. "Come on, Dad. A big hug, just because we're in the mood," he said playfully.

Professor Birch laughed heartily and said, "Oh, what the heck!"

Their little family of three hugged altogether, filling the air with love. When they released each other, Brendan was the first to speak up, saying, "On a random note, I seriously need to get a haircut."


Come next afternoon, Brendan was sitting at the front door, his hair freshly cut back to its normal length. He was putting on his prized Running Shoes when Professor Birch suddenly called out, "Son! Heads up!"

With trained reflexes, Brendan twisted his upper body around, and with one arm outstretched, caught a set of keys with his hand. He looked at the car keys in his palm, and then at his father.

"Travelling on foot would just take you days. Take the jeep. I've gotten it fixed up and everything. It's yours now," said the Professor.

"Whoa... This is... I-I don't even know what else to say..." Brendan stammered. "Thanks, Dad."

"Now go finish up what you left off and come back home safe and sound! You don't have to try to make me proud; you already have," the Professor finished with a smile.

Brendan nodded in gratitude. He got up and rushed to the side of their house where his jeep was parked. Jumping into the driver's seat eagerly, he then started up the engine with a roar.

As if the Professor had second thoughts, he yelled, "W-wait! Be nice to her!" referring, of course, to the jeep that had once been his.

Smirking, Brendan got into first gear, then, releasing the clutch, shifted into second gear and stepped on the gas pedal. Driving off into the woods, he shouted, "See you when I see you, Dad!" leaving behind his father pondering over whether he had made the right choice giving his son a jeep.

Brendan's journey took almost 8 hours, which was tiring, but surely not as tiring as travelling on foot, which would have been more of a drag. Nearing Meteor Falls, he parked the jeep where it would be hidden from sight; behind trees and bushes. He also covered the whole vehicle with a blanket of leaves in courtesy of his Shiftry, who helped put them together.

Done with that, Brendan turned around to look at the huge cave that had been his training grounds. The Meteor Falls looked as daunting as ever, even inside, with its thundering waterfalls and mysterious golden-brown walls. He climbed to a more obscure part of the cave, where he knew he would have a better chance of finding Nicolas or Masters John and Jay. He came to a clearing, very high off the ground, with its trademark charred spot in the middle for a fireplace. This used to be where he slept and ate.

At first he just stood there, deciding what to do. He looked to his left and saw a small pile of firewood. He went over to them and checked how dry they were. He found that they were recently harvested, and all ready for use. He brought some of them to the middle of the clearing, arranging them practically. Taking out a handful of dry leaves and grass from his pocket, which he swiped from the woods earlier, he carefully placed them in the middle of the fireplace as tinder. Then, from his bag, he used a piece of flint and steel to try at get a spark of fire. He had been adept at using this technique since he first went on his Pokémon journey.

He was still striking flint with steel when a familiar voice rang out.

"What do you think you're doing?"

Brendan turned around to see Nicolas, with his Altaria preening itself behind him. He had a disapproving look on his face as he stared at Brendan.

Concentrating back on his fire-making, Brendan replied, "Obviously, I am starting a fire."

"You dare to speak to your Master as such?" Nicolas fumed angrily and threw a punch at Brendan, who reacted quickly by evading it.

Another strike was thrown at him, but Brendan remembered his training well, and managed to block it with his arm.

"Master... You just referred to yourself as my Master, still..." Brendan stated.

Nicolas stopped his attempts of hitting Brendan, and looked away.

"Oh, stop dilly-dallying, Nicolas!" came a creaky female voice, which was the Expert Jay's. She was holding a torch lit with blue fire.

Her husband, John, also joined in, carrying the same type of torch, saying, "You should just take him in again and finish what you aimed to give the boy."

"Give me… what?" Brendan questioned.

The two old Experts looked at Nicolas in silence, waiting for him to give his answer. After furiously giving it a consideration, Nicolas finally gave in with a heavy sigh.

"Alright…" he said, to which Brendan perked up. He was very curious to know what the rest of his training involved. "Brendan… when I first saw you, I knew you had the potential. You have the potential of learning the arts of Aura," Nicolas explained.

"Do you know of this sacred ability, boy?" asked Master John, as he came closer.

It was only then did Brendan realise that Masters John and Jay had not been carrying torches of blue flames, but were lighting the area with their bare hands. John held out his hand towards Brendan so he could see the Aura better.

"Whoa!" Brendan instinctively jerked back.

"It's alright," the old man coaxed.

Brendan moved closer and confirmed what he was seeing. A light blue glow enveloped Master John's hand, appearing out of no device or anything of the like.

"I… I'm going to learn… how to master this?" Brendan wanted to make sure.

"That's right," Nicolas answered. With a swish of his cape, he continued, "With the power of Aura, you are able to reach into the thoughts of others; humans and Pokémon alike. With it being the essence of life in every creature, it can be sensed with your mind, if not your eyes. You can conjure them up for offence and defence, as well. As a user of Aura, you are expected to uphold a strong sense of justice, helping others when they need you. Brendan," he paused. "You are destined to be the Aura Guardian of Hoenn."

"The Aura Guardian of Hoenn?" Brendan repeated. "Why me, specifically? You three have Aura, too, right?"

"Indeed, but you are the beginning of a new generation of Aura Guardians. The Guardians of the past have unfortunately been depleted, and only some of us remain. Those peace-bringers of the old used to travel the world, doing good deeds while raising apprentices. As time moved forward, we begin to lack people with pure hearts," Master Jay told him. "I am unable to bear children, and during my younger days of travelling with John, we have not passed a single person with the right potentials."

"I, too, have no children to pass this ability on to, so I decided to wait patiently in one spot, for an apprentice to come by, unwilling to fruit the same results as John and Jay," said Nicolas.

"So it is up to me to continue the legacy of the Aura Guardians…" Brendan's voice trailed off.

Nicolas waited for an actual response, and when he got none, he said, "Of course… This is a heavy responsibility. If you wish not to be burdened by it…"

"I will do it," Brendan said confidently. "I understand now. I must continue my training and fulfil my destiny. I won't falter, Master."

Masters John and Jay smiled. Nicolas eyed his determined student, and said, "Then your training starts now."


-31st December 2009-

May and Brendan were in a small room, rented from the local Pokémon Center, to get away from the shenanigans of the festive people in the streets outside, and to escape the cold. Brendan had just finished pouring hot tea into two cups while May sat on the single bed, rubbing her hands together to warm them up. Her red parka was laid on her lap, since the room heater was turned on. Brendan took off his snow cap, leaving it on the small television provided. He took the two cups of tea and brought it over to the bed.

"You're saying you are an Aura Guardian of the modern day?" May asked, accepting the cup of tea gratefully.

"Yes. However, before I am able to take up that legacy, I have a bone to pick with the one who gave me this," he said, pointing to the two scars on his right temple. "That wretched lizard hadn't been seen again since the day it did. I am to go look for it, now that my training is complete."

In silence, the two stopped talking and began sipping on their tea. Whenever one of them shifted their weight, the bed creaked uncomfortably. Outside, they could still hear loud voices of other people and occasionally, a few blasts of fireworks here and there. Brendan finished his tea first and set down the cup on the bedside table near him. A few moments later, May did the same.

Breaking the silence, she said, "Might I remind you that you could get yourself killed?"

"You too, so I suggest you don't come after me." Brendan stuffed his hands into his pockets. "And by the way, that reminder was totally unnecessary."

"Brendan! You said it yourself; that Salamence is huge and it's highly experienced! How do you expect to bring it down?" May snapped. "When you fight fire with fire, you're going to get a burn!"

"That's why I took Swampert as my starter Pokémon," Brendan's voice sounded in May's mind.

She blinked at him in surprise. Before she could say anything about it, Brendan pulled her face closer to his, catching her with a kiss on the mouth. They savoured the moment while their souls romantically met through their lips.

"I wish time would freeze right here, right now..." whispered May.

"Me too..." Brendan whispered back in reply. "May... in case I don't come back after this... I want to make tonight fit for my last."

Shaking her head, and at the same time fighting back tears, she said, "Please don't say that... Don't do this to me..."

Seeing she was on the verge of crying, he gently shushed her and embraced her into his arms. She shed a few tears but controlled her sobs.

"I love you, May. I really do," he said softly to her. "I just want to have you for myself tonight; just this one night."

As he uttered the words, his fingers trailed slowly from May's cheeks to her neck to her collarbone. He stopped there, uncertain, and hesitant to go further. May also held an unsure expression but stayed unmoving. Just as Brendan was about to lower his hands to her chest, she stood up and left the room abruptly. She did not even say a word and Brendan could only watch her leave. He placed both his hands at the back of his head and fell back on the mattress of the bed, letting out a long sigh.

A good ten minutes later, someone knocked on his door. Brendan thought it was Nurse Joy, and went to answer the door.

"I'm scared." It was May. "But I love you."

"I'm scared, too," Brendan admitted. "But at least we can be scared together."

He let her in and closed the door behind them, locking it.


Brendan awoke in the morning to see May's angelic face in front of him. She was sleeping so peacefully, Brendan would not dare move an inch. He blinked away the sleep left in him.

"Brendan?" May's pleasant voice called out to him.

"Yes, my love," he immediately answered, wrapping an arm around her.

"Don't leave…" she said, her voice filling up in sadness.

Brendan kissed the tip of her small nose. "You know I can't do that."

"Mm…" she replied, almost like a whine.

Smiling, Brendan sat up and stretched out his arms. May rolled over to face the other side of the bed, pulling up the blankets over her bare chest as she did so.

Brendan patted her hip, saying, "Get up, little doll."

"I'm so tired," she complained.

To that phrase, Brendan laughed out loud in amusement. Then, he moved in to surprise her with a tickle attack, to which she giggled uncontrollably. Just when they were having fun, Brendan's PokéNav beeped repeatedly. Brendan picked it up, still tickling May with one hand, and smiling.

However, once he heard the news over the phone, his smile faded and his expression turned to that of a grim one. May sensed something was wrong and kept quiet. After a few nods and "I understand", Brendan clicked the PokéNav off and set it aside. He buried his face in one hand immediately after. May hugged him carefully, asking what was wrong.

"She's dead… my senior Master Jay… The kind old woman I told you about…" Brendan said with difficulty. "The raging Salamence came back… and destroyed her house… with her still in it."

May gasped. "I… I'm so sorry…" she stuttered.

Brendan looked at her with sadness and nodded gratefully. "I have to go, May. I must confront the Salamence before it takes a single life ever again!"

"I understand…" May replied slowly, knowing now that her lover's life will be put on the line, as well. "Please… be careful."

Brendan replied with a kiss for her.


The old couple had had their house built on a remote area high in the cliffs of the mountains in Meteor Falls' area. Brendan had to climb atop to reach the place. Soon, Nicolas came into view, with his back turned on him. In front of him lay the remains of the burnt down house, and somewhere inside there, the remains of Master Jay. All around him, Brendan could see huge cracks and holes on the ground, made by the trampling Salamence. Over on the horizon, the orange sun was slowly setting down, turning the sky bloody red. Brendan went to stand beside Nicolas. The two men nodded to each other to acknowledge their respective presence.

"How is Master John? Where is he?" Brendan asked, after a moment of silence for the deceased.

Nicolas turned to face him, placed a hand on his shoulder, and hung his head down. "He… had just passed away, as well. I just finished burying him a little before you arrived. His heart couldn't accept the fact that his wife was dead, and weakened him greatly."

"No…" Brendan whispered.

"As a Dragon Tamer, I feel it is my responsibility to deal with the Salamence. But you, Brendan," he turned to watch the sunset as he spoke. "As an Aura Guardian, I'm afraid you are dragged into this, as well."

"That's okay, Mast-"

"No. From now on, refer to me by Nicolas. You should know that your skills already surpass my own. I must not hold on to the title 'Master' for you anymore."

"Understood. Nicolas. Don't worry; I am with you in this matter. I want to confront the Salamence in battle, too."

"Then let us go search for that wretched lizard!" Nicolas said through clenched teeth.


Dusk had arrived, and the streetlamps were beginning to light up. May watched them, from outside her window, light up; one by one. She could still see that Petalburg City was bustling with life and activity everywhere. She looked at people coming in and out of restaurants, or people doing their shopping. Men, women, boys, girls and babies; they were all out and about the city.

"They are completely unaware of Brendan's truly heroic quest…" May thought to herself as she looked on. "Can't blame them; I was, too."

She turned away from her window and sat on her bed, staring at her collection of Pokémon plush dolls, which she arranged neatly, in a stack, in the middle of her room. She took one of the dolls, a Mudkip, and hugged it close to her heart.

"I wonder if he and Swampert are battling that awful Salamence right at this moment?" she thought.


-5th January 2010

A human-sized chunk of rock flew towards Brendan, small, compared to the other rocks he had evaded. The Salamence kept unleashing its terrible Outrage at him and his Pokémon, which resulted in destruction upon their surroundings. Walls had been smashed, and so was the ground. He was completely drenched in sweat, and his Pokémon looked no better. Their battle had been ongoing for several days, retreating at times to recuperate as much as they could, but they were running out of stamina and supplies. Everyone panted heavily as they tried their best to evade Salamence's oncoming attacks. That said, Salamence itself looked downright exhausted. Brendan knew they had one last shot at it to finish it off.

Nicolas was riding on one of his Altaria, ordering it to use Dragonbreath on the Salamence. His other Altaria repeatedly used Peck on its eye, successfully half-blinding it. The Dragon Pokémon roared in pain and lashed out with its neck, hitting the Altaria Nicolas was on. As they both rocketed down to the ground, the other Altaria sped up to try and break their fall. All three of them crashed into each other on the ground, leaving them all covered in more scrapes and bruises.

"You okay, Nicolas?" Brendan called out to him.

Nicolas held his head with one hand but gave him a thumbs-up with the other. Both his Altaria were already using Roost on his either sides. Brendan turned his attention back to the battle just in time to see the Salamence use its Dragon Claw on Shiftry. It brushed Shiftry away just as if it was a piece of light paper.

"Shiftry! Use Payback!" Brendan commanded.

It got back up on its feet with surprising balance and struck back at the Salamence. It was caught off guard and received maximum damage from it. Immediately after, seemingly out of nowhere, Nicolas's two Altaria appeared to deal a double Aerial Ace on it. The Salamence was forced to take one step back due to that, but before it could advance forwards again, it was pushed back again by Swampert's powerful Hydro Pump; back into the trap set up by Rhyperior and Aggron.

Earlier, Rhyperior had dug out a hollow space in the underground right behind the Salamence, weakening the ground within that radius. Naturally, the ground collapsed under Salamence's tremendous weight and it fell inside the pitfall trap. On cue, Aggron rammed into the limestone wall and created a Rock Slide to bury the dragon alive. Rhyperior then continued to help Aggron by adding more rubble onto the Salamence to ensure it would not be able to get back up.

All of a sudden, everyone thought they had gone deaf because of the extreme silence. There were no more angry growls or the sounds of bodies crashing onto the bumpy ground. After a long wait, Brendan and Nicolas finally could sense the life in the Salamence slipping away as it suffocated beneath the ground.

Brendan slumped down on the ground tiredly. He was a bit regretful that he had to take a wild Pokémon's life, but he was told that it was necessary, so he had to accept it.

He looked at Nicolas, and asked him, "Well, Nicolas… What now?"

Nicolas stared into the distance for a moment before answering, "There's really nothing left for me here. My job is done. Perhaps I will travel in search of new knowledge? I don't know… What of you, Brendan?"

"I think I…" Brendan started, but was interrupted by someone else.

"Is anybody here? Hello?" the voice called.

The two of them quickly became alert and waited for the person in appear in sight. Brendan recognized him as Steven Stone, the former Hoenn Champion. He was present during Brendan's Elite Four challenge and the celebration party after it. Now he was covered in dirt from head to toe, and holding digging tools in his hands.

"Say… Aren't you that young boy Champion, Brendan Birch?" he exclaimed.

Brendan bowed slightly to him and said, "Ah, yes, Mr Stone, sir."

Steven laughed. "Oh, don't call me that! Mr Stone is my father! Just Steven is fine."

Brendan grinned at him. "Okay, Steven. I must say it's quite a surprise to see you here… like this."

Steven looked down at his dirtied clothes. "I've been digging for rare rocks to add to my collection. I'd go anywhere for them, even up waterfalls. And what about you and your friends here? All of you look worse than me!"

Brendan looked back to Nicolas and the Pokémon. Steven was right; they all looked pretty badly smashed up.

"We've been at some very intense Pokémon training," Nicolas answered for him.

"I'll say!" Steven said, inspecting their surroundings. "But that's good, Brendan! Keeping your skills sharp! And you must be quite a Trainer yourself, to be able to spar with Brendan and his Pokémon! What is your name?" he referred to Nicolas.

"Forgive me, I forgot to introduce myself. I am Nicolas, an old friend of Brendan's," he replied.

"I see. Well, I'm planning to explore Meteor Falls and it'll take me quite a while, so if any of you would like to challenge me and my team, we'll be here," Steven offered. "I personally wish to see both of your skills firsthand," he added.

Both Brendan and Nicolas nodded at him. They talked for a little bit more and exchanged PokéNav numbers before Steven left to continue his hunt for rare rocks.

Just then, Brendan thought of something and called Steven back. "Oh, wait, Steven! On second thought, I think I would like to join you on your hunt. I was hoping you could give me battling tips along the way, too."

"Oh? Sure, you can join me! Are you sure you won't be bored searching for rocks?" Steven asked with a laugh.

Brendan smiled. "I'm actually looking for a type of rock, too."

Steven and Nicolas raised an eyebrow at him.

"Really? You don't seem like the kind who could be a rock enthusiast, to tell you the truth," Nicolas stated. "Well, anyway, happy hunting. I'm going back to rest. Actually, Steven, I know this one good spot where you could use as a base. Brendan knows where it is. Farewell, the two of you."

He mounted on one of his Altaria and they flew away.

"Right then," Steven said. "We could go and search for some rare rocks now and then we can go to this base location to stay for the night later. Again, might I remind you that this search will probably take more than simply one day?"

Brendan laughed and said, "That is fine. I want to find this rock no matter what."

"So be it. Let's be off then!" Steven said happily; glad to have a new friend of the same interest. After a while of walking, there was silence between them, so he asked Brendan, "What type of rock is it you're looking for anyway?"

Chapter 5 - Forever And After

Brendan and his Pokemon were battling a giant Salamence in a dark void. Everywhere around them was filled with deep blackness and their surrounding atmosphere reeked of death and anger. It was a very uncomfortable feeling. Even though everyone gave their all, they were all thinking the same thing; that they were fighting a losing battle. Salamence was gaining the upper hand when it managed to heavily injure all of Brendan’s Pokemon. Then, it turned slowly towards Brendan, raised its huge paw and slashed at his head, tearing it open.

May woke up from her terrible nightmare, and could have sworn she could feel the pain on her head, just as Brendan did in the dream. Her breathing was quick, and tears were forming in her eyes for some reason. She buried her face in her hands and let out a sob. She was extremely worried of Brendan. She has not heard from him for months now and feared the worst had befallen upon him. Her Blaziken came to sit beside her, offering a shoulder to cry on. May accepted without hesitation and cried even harder. Blaziken crooned slowly to its Trainer. Eventually, May simply fell asleep again, her head resting against Blaziken’s soft red feathers.


-12th April 2010-

The next morning, May woke up as usual and checked her PokéNav for messages. She was disappointed to see that there was none from Brendan. She forced herself out of bed anyway and went to bathe. As she put on fresh clothes, she noticed that the morning seemed awfully quiet. Then she thought of Blaziken, who was not with her.

“Didn’t I fall asleep on Blaziken last night?” she thought. “Maybe she tucked me in and left earlier in the morning to practice in the greenhouse…”

May thought nothing more of it and proceeded to brush her hair. Once she was done, she went downstairs for breakfast. Again, she felt the eerie quietness of the house. She looked at the wall clock to confirm the current time. It was fifteen past eight in the morning, and her parents should already be awake and in the kitchen just like normal, except they were nowhere to be found this time. May found it very odd that they were not in their room either. She looked for her brother in his room, and he too was missing. No one was in the house, not even a single Pokémon.

She returned to her room and checked her belt for her Pokémon, but all she saw was empty PokéBalls. Now she was really beginning to panic. She went to the greenhouse where she would find the family’s Pokémon, and hopefully, at least, her Blaziken there. Again, the whole area was empty. May took a moment to assess the situation and guess what could have happened. If there had been a kidnap, it definitely was a strange one, as there were no signs of breaking in or struggle anywhere inside the house. The house looked exactly as it should be, minus the inhabitants. She decided to go out to the city and ask people around. She was confused and really did not know what to think.

Just then, she heard her Blaziken crowing just outside the house. She looked out a window to confirm it, and there it was; her trusty Fire starter Pokemon.

“Blaziken! What are you doing out there? Where is everybody?” she asked her Pokémon.

Blaziken only crowed louder at her, its wrists blazing with strong fire. It continued to do this until May had to go outside and check out what was wrong with it. She opened the door just in time to see her Blaziken take off straight in the direction of the city.

“What the… Blaziken, wait!” she shouted after it.

Even more confused, but left with no choice, May had to chase it down. She quickly grabbed her keys, locked the door and ran. Instinctively, her hand reached for her belt to call out Arcanine, but then stupidly remembered that all her Pokemon were missing. She felt even more stupid running through Petalburg City chasing after her own Blaziken, who was attracting massive attention with its shrilling cry. Naturally, everyone’s heads turned to see what the ruckus was all about.

Out of nowhere, May’s fan boys appeared by her side, running along with her.

“Good morning, May! Are you training with your Blaziken?” one of the boys asked cheerfully.

Panting, May replied, “Um, no… It’s a long story… Listen, boys. Could you do me a favour and try to catch up to my Blaziken? I have no idea what’s wrong with her.”

The boy saluted at her and gave command to the others, “Alright, guys, you heard May! Let’s catch that Blaziken!”

The boys roared as if they were entering battle and sped off ahead. Blaziken turned back its head to see a group of teenaged male humans charging at it. With ease, it used its strong legs to jump forwards, covering a great deal of distance with only one jump. The guys sent out each of their Pokémon to try to hinder Blaziken down, but they were no match for May’s strong Pokemon. In the end, May’s fan boys were too tired to go on, and slumped right in the middle of the street, along with their tired Pokémon. A while later, May caught up to them and saw them lying on the ground. She then saw her Blaziken nearby, cackling with victory.

“Blaziken! What in the world are you doing?” May scolded it.

With another jump, her Blaziken escaped out of sight, but May knew where it was headed, so she went to the direction of the lake.

When she reached the area, she expected to see her Blaziken, but she saw Brendan instead, standing calmly as if waiting for her. She started to shake her head slowly, wondering if this was a dream again.

“Brendan…? Is that… really you…?” her voice came out as a squeak.

He only nodded at her without saying anything. Then, her family and Brendan’s own revealed themselves from hiding. Even all the Pokémon that was missing from the house appeared from everywhere around the area.

“What is the meaning of this?” May asked them. “All of you weren’t home, I thought something had happened! Then, Blaziken… Just what are you all doing here anyway?”

“Allow me to answer that,” Brendan spoke up. “They’re all here to watch.”

“Watch what?” she asked again.

“This,” Brendan said and took a small box out of his pocket. He got down on one knee and showed her the content of the little box. It was a beautiful sapphire ring.

May drew a sharp gasp and clasped her hands to her mouth. Unable to control herself, her eyes began to water.

“Brendan,” she began to stutter. “What… what is going on?”

“Sorry I took so long to come back. I’ve been hunting for this rare sapphire gem just so I could customise it into your engagement ring,” Brendan explained. He was smiling at her softly, and said the words, “So, May, will you marry me?”

Laughing and crying at the same time, May gave her answer, “Yes!”

She could hardly keep her hand from trembling as Brendan held it and inserted the ring through her finger. Their families clapped and cheered for them, their mothers sobbing uncontrollably. All the Pokémon also cried out in joy for their Trainers. May immediately hugged Brendan so fiercely he almost fell down.

“You know, I’m glad you were still waiting for me even though you had no news from me. You’re really just that in love with me, are you?” Brendan said to her.

“I don’t know why I still believed my knight in shining armour would return even as each day passed,” May admitted. “I knew chances were slim, but then again, here you are, holding me in your arms. Oh, Brendan, I love you so much!”

“I love you too, May. No one could ever replace you in my life, my lovely lady,” he said, wiping away the tears on her face. Then, he kissed her.


-25th November 2013-

It was a fair day in Lilycove City, a fact both locals and travellers alike were glad of. A hired chauffeur was driving his black car towards a big two-storey house that was built on a flat piece of land on one lone cliff facing the sea. There was also a small lighthouse situated right next to the house and a water pond, as well. Fences lined the compound to prevent accidental falls down the steep cliffs.

The car stopped right in front of where the residents’ mailbox was. Brendan, the Aura Guardian and Champion of Hoenn stepped out of the car with a couple of bags and held the door open for his wife, May. She was carrying a small bundle in her arms. They both thanked the chauffeur and bid him off. Together they walked to their front door and were greeted by Lucifer and Lucifer, their Luxray and Houndoom, who guard their house.

“Good boys! Thanks for taking care of the house while I was the hospital,” May talked to them. “And look, we have a new member of the family. Meet our little Michaelangelo,” she said, showing them the sleeping baby she was holding in her arms.

The two Pokémon sniffed the baby in curiosity. May giggled and went inside the house, Brendan opening the door for her. The husband and wife went upstairs to their bedroom to set their son down in his new cot. May and Brendan looked at him adoringly, arm in arm. Then, they both lied down on their four-poster bed to talk.

May sighed in relief. “It feels good to be back home after staying in the hospital for a week, really.”

Brendan wrapped his arm around her shoulder, and said, “And I love having you back. It’s been different here without you.” He kissed her forehead.

“It’s still going to be different with Michael around,” she stated.

“I almost can’t believe it; marriage and first baby in the same year,” Brendan said softly. “Ha! Now I can’t wait until he grows up!” he laughed.

May laughed along with him. “I think you’re so much cuter when you’re a father.”

“Oh, I am, am I? Do you want to know what I think now that you’re a mother?” he said teasingly.

May placed one hand on his chest and stroked it down to the base of his belly. “Hmm, I wonder what is it that you’re thinking?” she replied just as playfully, angling her face towards his even more.

Brendan closed in the distance between their lips and stopped when they were just half an inch away. He whispered amorously, “I think you’re so much sexier…”

May made the move of kissing him first, not being able to stand it with him being so close. Brendan teased her a bit more, luring her into craving for more each time, until she finally became fiercer with her kisses. Brendan enjoyed it while she took over and dominated him, but their little session was cut short when Michael started bawling. Both their heads turned to their baby boy and they got out of bed together, rushing to his side.

May lifted him up and cradled him in her arms, but he would not stop crying.

“Oh dear, Brendan, get his pacifier in the green bag, will you please?” she asked him.

“Pacifier! Right!” Brendan said, flustered. He fished out a lot of baby things in the green bag; all, but the pacifier. “I can’t find it!” he shouted over his son’s loud crying.

“Why are you so panicked? Look for it properly!” May shouted back at him.