Not sure where this came from. I just had a strong desire to write Paul's side of the story for once and give him something of a basis for his crappy attitude. Those of you in the fandom who have mused about possibilities of Paul's backstory due to certain episodes that (as of this writing) have yet to air in the United States - this should be a familiar theory for you. Those who aren't following Japan should be warned that there are spoilers in this fanfic, which follows soon after DP100. I haven't seen anyone else really build on it, so I decided to give it a try. I'm considering this a placeholder for now. I might or might not update it with future adventures. Bear in mind I'm trying to keep this English consistent, so I can't delve into things like Sinnoh's Battle Frontier (if it'll even be in Sinnoh for the anime) until Platinum's ready to come out in English. Still, this is a fun little project and I'm enjoying it. Paul's going to be the primary focus of this story, so don't expect too much of Ash & Co. appearances until the canon dictates it. Later on the focus may even shift away from Paul a bit, who knows!
Anyway, I hope you guys enjoy the story, and... I hope I stuck close enough to the canon as possible. Feel free to share your thoughts! )
"Oh, Paul! I didn't expect a call from you so soon, bro."
Paul averted his gaze, giving no prompt response.
"It's not like you to call more than once a month," remarked the young man on the video-enhanced phone system; obviously the elder brother, Reggie. He'd come to expect these avoidant gestures from Paul, so he simply continued to extend his salutation. After all, it was a pleasant surprise to be able to speak with him not long after the previous call. "But three times?" Reggie smirked. "Are you trying to break a record or what?"
Paul huffed at the idea of such an endeavor. It couldn't be helped, in his mind. Originally, having recently won a Relic Badge from Fantina of Hearthome City, Paul was en route to Canalave City, where he planned to cross back into Eterna City first (traveling to Canalave required quite a bit of backtracking) and finally face its Gym Leader, Gardenia, whom he passed over when he originally traversed through the town. Ash and his friends happened to be right there in the same place with the same intent as he, and after a sufferable encounter with them from the then-recent visit to Oreburgh City, Paul wished to spare himself the agony and save the gym battle for a later time. Being native to Sinnoh, Paul knew he would eventually return to Eterna City. If it meant sparing him from Ash's insufferable nature, Paul figured it was worth it to put his plans on hold.
"Spare me," Paul spat. "I only called you again that time because I changed my mind about my team formation just before my gym battle was scheduled. I was going to give Electabuzz a workout in a Gym where the typing was not to his advantage, but after actually meeting that psycho they call a Gym Leader, I decided to wipe the floor with her. That's why I asked you to send Magmar to me instead."
Reggie gave his younger brother a tired smile. "What, did she look at you the wrong way? You really should find better ways to vent your frustrations, bro."
Paul's eyebrow twitched, remembering his recent encounter with Eterna City's Gym Leader. "She's a complete nutjob. I'm not exaggerating. The second she laid eyes on Torterra, she wouldn't let go. She was borderline enamored, Reggie. Apparently she acts like this around all Grass-type Pokémon."
"Heh, yeah," Reggie chuckled. "That's what they say about her. She's really got a strong devotion to Grass Pokémon."
"It would've been nice if you warned me about that before I decided to bring Torterra out," Paul said; his tone scathing. "That's not the kind of behavior I want to expose my Starter to. Anyway, like I said, she needed to be taught a lesson. And there's no better way to teach that lesson than to bring about fire to her precious grass."
The way Paul worded that last sentence concerned Reggie a bit, but he put it aside for the moment. "So, how did you do?"
Paul responded by holding up the Forest Badge for his brother to see. "Need you ask?"
Reggie simply smiled and shook his head. "You weren't too brutal on her, were you?"
"You know I don't concern myself with holding back," Paul answered with a shrug. "After the battle, I only ended up burning maybe a quarter of her gym field. Maybe I would have burned the rest of it, but I was eager to get out of that city as soon as possible, if only to get her out of my hair."
"Still undisciplined as always," Reggie said with a sigh. "You really need to stop abusing the power you have in your reputation. If Dad were here, he'd—"
"He's not here," Paul interrupted. "Don't waste my time with your What-Ifs, Reggie. Deal with your anguish over him on your own time; I'm calling you now because I'm on my way to Canalave City; the one with the Steel-typed Gym. I want Electabuzz back, and I'm sending you Magmar in exchange again."
Reggie frowned briefly at being cut off, but nodded. "No problem. So you're using Electabuzz against Byron, huh?"
"Doubtful," replied Paul. "There isn't much of a challenge to be had in a Steel-type Gym for Electabuzz. But I'll likely use him by the time I reach Snowpoint City, and that Gym would be far too simple for Magmar, and the same goes for Canalave. Might as well get this exchange over with; then I can make up for the high volume of calls this month by not contacting you at all for the next three months." A wicked smirk formed on his face briefly as he said that.
"Not funny," Reggie said, looking serious. "You know how dangerous the route to Snowpoint can be. If I don't hear from you, I'll start worrying."
Paul rolled his eyes as he took out his Pokéball containing Magmar, and began the transfer process; his brother had done the same for Electabuzz. "If I had known her at all before she died, I'd say you're an exact duplicate of mother, Reggie. At least… you're acting like one, I guess. Point is, stop your worrying and nagging. I have three regions' worth of experience under my belt; I'll be fine."
Reggie smiled sadly, looking down. "Dad did say that to me once…"
"I don't care what he has to say," Paul snapped. "Drop it."
The elder brother blinked, looking confused. "You were the one who brought it up… anyway, it's not because I'm like Mom that I worry, Paul. It's because you're my little brother, like it or not. And you'll never admit it, but you've got a lot of growing up to do, and with Dad not being around, it's my job to look out for you. Even if it's only through monthly telephone calls," he said with a small laugh.
Paul merely grunted in response as they waited for the transfer to complete. After a period of awkward silence, the young trainer decided to change the subject. "Just to be safe, Byron isn't a Steel-obsessed freak, is he?"
"Nah, he's pretty level-headed," Reggie assured him. "He's Roark's father, after all. Even so, you don't have any Steel-type Pokémon for him to obsess over anyway, right?"
"Good point," Paul conceded. "Gardenia may or may not have left mental scars from our encounter, so don't be surprised if I ask you about the rest of the Gym Leaders I've yet to face."
"Poor guy," Reggie chided. "All of that exposure to love might've been good for you, Paul."
Paul glared at the screen. "Don't make me nauseous." A Pokéball popped out of the transfer slot just in with a chime, confirming the exchange had been completed. "Finally," Paul growled, snatching the ball and putting it in his bag with the others.
"So, just out of curiosity, which Pokémon are you planning to use against Byron?" Reggie asked. "If I'm not going to hear from you again in a while, at least let me imagine how your future battles are going to play out."
"You must be bored out of your mind in that little petting zoo of yours," Paul said, purely in a tone of mockery. "If you must know, I'm planning to use Ursaring, Weavile, and Honchkrow."
Reggie's eyes widened. "You're really serious about this intensive training. All of them have type disadvantages!"
"Oh, really? I had no idea," Paul said sarcastically. "The true path to strength has no easy twists and turns. But this has carried on long enough. I need to get going. I'll call again… when I feel like it; understood?"
"That's how it's always been with you," Reggie said with a sigh, looking conflicted as Paul was loading on his gear and getting ready to set out.
This phone call was already way too long and drawn-out for Paul's liking; the added delays were beginning to aggravate him. "What is it? Make it quick."
Reggie looked worried; unsure that he should be telling his brother this. But he didn't have much time to debate the best course of action in his head, for he knew how impatient Paul tended to be. "I've… been bringing up Dad for a reason, Paul."
"Should I care?" Paul asked, cold as stone.
"Yes, you should," Reggie sternly responded. "He sent a letter to me and it arrived just the other day ago. I'm sending you a copy right now." And just as he said it, lights were blinking all about the machine as another transfer began.
Paul was taken aback by this, truth be told. It had been ages since Paul's father last made contact with his sons, but Paul was quick to replace the shock with anger. "What do you think you're doing?! I have no interest in what the old man has to say!"
"He mentions you," Reggie said with a smile. "I think you should read it. He's on the hunt for another Legendary Pokémon; one much stronger than the last few he acquired. He says he's getting close, and… when he captures it, he's inviting me to come over and battle with him."
The words struck Paul like a bolt of lightning. "You mean an…"
"… official battle?" Reggie finished for him. "Yes. He's giving me another chance to earn the last piece to my puzzle. Though it won't be the final piece for long," he said with a laugh.
Paul blinked a few times, looking very disgruntled. "What are you talking about?"
"According to him, a new Battle Frontier is due to open up soon. So whether or not you win the Sinnoh League, you should consider giving the Battle Frontier a shot afterwards. Dad says if you earn all of the Medals there, he just might consider giving you a shot at his Symbol." Reggie smirked. "Now think about that, if you will. What if we could both finally defeat our old man, bro?"
Paul's face was blank for a moment, as if he was seriously thinking about that hypothetical outcome. But soon after, he frowned. "And you think you actually have a shot at beating him this time?"
"Not really," Reggie said, feeling humbled when he thought realistically about his chances. "The Pokémon he's after will be anything but a pushover. I'll have to bring my A-Game on when I see him, so… I'll have to dedicate some of my time to train, meaning I might not be available the next time you call me."
"Because… by that time, you'll probably be in Kanto, right?"
Reggie nodded. "Right. I'll have to leave the Pokémon under the care of someone trustworthy while I'm gone… probably Maylene."
"Maylene?" Paul echoed, raising an eyebrow. "Honestly, she barely qualifies as a Gym Leader, let alone a—"
"I'm sure she'll do a good job," Reggie assured. "And as you know, Dad is never in the same place twice, so…"
"… I'll have to await your calls, then," Paul finished. "Since there's no way of knowing where you'll be. At the very least, you'll know I'll primarily be at Canalave, Snowpoint, Pastoria, or Sunyshore City."
Reggie pondered for a moment. "Think we should invest in a set of PokéGears? "
"I'm not that desperate for your calls," Paul grumbled. "I'll stick close by the Pokémon Centers, then, but really, don't feel obligated to call me. I'm not as fond of these conversations as you seem to believe. I can well live without them."
"Well, I could use that extra time to train," Reggie said, letting out a chuckle. "We'll see how it all turns out. Now, you're taking that letter, right?" By this point, the copy of the letter had fully transferred over to Paul's end.
"Fine," Paul conceded, roughly grabbing the paper, crunching it up, and tossing it in his bag. "I'll read it when I find a place to settle down for tonight. Happy?"
"Very," Reggie replied cheerfully, as if he meant to sound annoying to his little brother. "But… in all seriousness, best of luck in the League, Paul. I'll do everything I can to be there to support you when the Conference commences."
Paul looked away again, feeling uncomfortable for reasons unknown to him. "The next time you call, I'd better see a Brave Symbol in your hand. I don't care if that means you have to miss seeing me in the Conference; you need intensive training more than I need moral support."
"Gee, bro. That almost sounded like a threat," Reggie commented, smiling uncomfortably.
"I meant it," Paul clarified. "If you lose to him again, it'll be a lose-lose situation for me no matter what happens when I face the old man. Because even if I win and get his Symbol, I'll still have to be related to you – a loser – after the fact. That's too embarrassing to stomach, frankly. I'll even bite the bullet and talk with him myself to get you disowned if it comes to that. That's something that would benefit everyone."
"You really need to think about what you're saying before you actually say it sometimes," Reggie scolded. He tried not to look offended (as it wasn't the first time he's heard this sentiment from Paul), but Paul's cocky expression on the other end was telling enough that Reggie didn't hold back on his emotions very well, either. "Mm… whatever. I'd better sign off. I'm going to start my training tonight if I can finish up my tasks quickly enough. Promise me you'll be careful, Paul."
For Paul, it was a victory to him when his words were scathing enough to affect his own older brother. Especially when it led to him actually working to strengthen his team as a result.
"I'll be fine. You just worry yourself with trying to make up for seven years' worth of failure to the old man," Paul instructed, acting as if he were the elder brother for a moment. "And if you don't win his Symbol, don't bother trying to contact me again. Alright? If I don't see a Brave Symbol in your hand the next time you call me, I'm hanging up. Goodnight."
It was hard for Reggie to keep a smile up at this point. "Goodni—"
Paul switched off the video phone before Reggie finished his farewell. He turned around, reloaded his gear, and began to set off again. "What a waste of time," Paul growled under his breath to himself. "I could've reached Jubilife City by now."
He exited Floaroma Town's Pokémon Center and looked to the skies, seeing that the sun had not yet begun to set… but it was getting close to that time. Traversing through the caves at this hour that would eventually lead him to Jubilife City would be difficult and time-consuming, and Paul felt he had wasted too much time on the video phone with his brother as it was. Paul sighed, deciding for once to opt for convenience in order to stay on schedule. He dug into his bag and brought out a Pokéball, pressed the button and tossed it out.
Out of the Pokéball came Paul's Honchkrow, instinctively posing for battle, but seeming surprised when it saw there was no battle for it to participate in. "Honch?" it squawked questioningly at its trainer.
"No, I didn't call you out for battle," Paul confirmed, sharp in tone. "You should know by now that I don't do this unless there's a serious emergency or we're running behind schedule; in this case, it's the latter. I planned to reach Jubilife City by sundown, but unforeseen circumstances now make this impossible to accomplish on foot. So you know what you need to do, right?"
Honchkrow nodded. "Krow, krow."
Paul nodded back to his Pokémon. "Since you've evolved, you should be able to handle my weight now. There's no excuse for you if you screw up. So, Honchkrow… use Fly!"
"Krooooowww!" Honchkrow called out as it indeed began to fly, and after getting adjusted to it, hovered at a level where Paul could reach his Pokémon, in order to hitch a ride by clinging to its leg.
After Paul securely latched on to Honchkrow's leg, he sternly looked at his hovering Pokémon. "We're set. Fly, Honchkrow! To Jubilife City!"
Honchkrow willingly obeyed its trainer, and despite having initial difficulty in managing Paul's added weight, it was able to take flight and stabilize at a reasonable altitude. Eventually, both Pokémon and trainer made it to Jubilife City just before the sun had fully set.
Instead of a compliment or a thank-you, Paul merely looked at Honchkrow with a studious expression before huffing out a "Return!"… Bringing Honchkrow back into its Pokéball. After revitalizing his team at Jubilife's Pokémon Center, Paul took up shelter in a nearby hotel for the night. He took a ground-level room and settled in his bed. Before going to sleep, Paul left the side-table lamp on amidst the darkness throughout the rest of the room. Paul dug into his bag and pulled out two things; a Pokéball and the crumpled-up letter Reggie sent to him.
Quiet and subtly, Paul released the Pokémon inside. "Torterra, standby."
This was the reason for getting a ground-level hotel room. At nearly seven-hundred pounds, Torterra would be hazardous on upper floors. Noticing the atmosphere, Torterra was quick to realize he was not called out for battle. He stared at Paul, wondering why he was called out at this time of night in such a peaceful atmosphere. "Torr…"
"Correct," said Paul. "We aren't training or battling. But since you're my Starter, Torterra, it's important you listen to what I'm about to say. I know you're concerned about Ash Ketchum's Grotle at present, but you have bigger things to worry about; believe me."
"Tor, Tor…" Torterra muttered as it inched closer towards Paul.
Paul showed Torterra the crumpled letter that he attempted to smoothen out a little. "Remember a long time ago, when I said I you were going to be part of a significant turning point in my life one day? This is it, Torterra. It's a letter from the old man himself."
"Terraaaah…" Torterra growled, apparently not fond of Paul's father itself. "Torterra!"
Paul glared at the letter, just imagining the scathing words he was about to read. "Normally I wouldn't care to read what he has to say, but Reggie said this is a special occasion." He looked up sharply at Torterra. "Don't interrupt me."
Torterra silently nodded, understanding the order.
"Let's see," Paul murmured, gazing at the letter and letting out a deep breath before reciting what was written before him:
Salutations, boys. Both of you.
It's been a while since I've last written to you, mainly because I finally accomplished my latest task: collecting the Regi trio – Regirock, Registeel, and Regice. At least, I thought I had accomplished the mission until I learned of a legend of the leader of the Regis, rumored to go by the name of "Regigigas". Upon my capture of this Pokémon, I would like the elder boy to join me at the Battle Pyramid for another chance to win my Brave Symbol. However, I have only a few clues as to where to find this Pokémon. Rest assured, I will contact you when the time comes. Consider this a generous offer, as I doubt my first kid has gotten any stronger since the last time we crossed paths. Nonetheless, a celebration will commence when I capture Regigigas, and there's no better celebration than to test the skills of my own flesh and blood. I wish for both of you to one day earn the right to be my sons, but that does not mean I will go easy on either of you.
As for the little boy, I'm wishing you the best of luck in your pursuit of your own native region's championship. Show them no mercy; show them no trace of the weakling that I saw in you the last time we battled. You should know that I have been battling many trainers as of late in order to recruit new Frontier Brains for the nearly-completed Battle Frontier, Mk. II. Whether or not you win the League, boy, I urge you to conquer this new Battle Frontier and earn all five Medals after you are finished with your League competition. Should you succeed in conquering the new Frontier, I will grant you permission to battle me for your own Brave Symbol to have. But like your brother, you will have to defeat me cleanly in battle in order to earn the Symbol and my respect. Continue to show no mercy in every battle you have, but never forget about the importance of bonding with your Pokémon. Based on what the older boy's told me, you've been more than a little cruel in your tactics with raising Pokémon. Perhaps defeating you again will prove you wrong; we'll see. Irregardless, I look forward to battling with you again, boy. I want to see how you've progressed in your training, and hopefully I'll see that you've been doing it right.
Should either of you stumble upon information regarding Regigigas, send it to me immediately. The sooner I capture this Pokémon, the sooner the two of you shall have the battle of your lives. Boys, continue working your way to victory. Make our inevitable reunion count this time.
Pyramid King Brandon
"Nothing out of the ordinary," Paul commented, glaring. "Just an extended version of what Reggie told me. I see he still has trouble with using our names… big surprise."
"Torrr," Torterra grumbled, sharing the same sentiments as its trainer.
Paul crumpled the paper up into a ball and attempted to carelessly toss it aside as pure rubbish, only it rebounded off the table and back into his bag. This led to further agitated grumbling by the scorned trainer. "It would be satisfactory to stick a fork in the old man and claim his Symbol." Both he and Torterra realized something at the same time: Paul was as bad about referring to Brandon as his father as Brandon was to referring to Paul and Reggie as his sons, or even by their given names.
"Terra, tor…" Torterra mumbled, looking concerned. It was a pity that he was so big that he couldn't get any closer to Paul, and would definitely break the bed should he try to climb upon it.
"You understand why I brought you out to hear this, right?" Paul asked his Starter Pokémon. Said Pokémon nodded quickly. "Right. You're going to be part of this battle when the time comes. You're the only one who knows just how insufferable the old man is. You're going to remember this letter, and you will play a part in earning me the victory I deserve. I won't accept failure from you. Is that clear?"
Torterra nodded again, this time looking somewhat fearful.
Paul seemed disgusted that his own Starter, the one he considered the most ruthless on his team, has been oddly sentimental as of late. First for Grotle, now this… it was beginning to disturb him. "Even if you are my first Pokémon, you aren't getting special treatment, Torterra. Fail me this time, and you just might wind up like Chimchar in the near future."
Torterra's eyes widened at the thought of such a thing. It hadn't occurred to it that even it was as disposable as its comrades. "T-Tor…!"
"And since Ash already has a Grotle, I doubt he's going to get you on the rebound like he did for Chimchar," Paul reminded him. "Keep that in mind when we're able to fight the old man. And don't forget you're going to be participating in Snowpoint City's Gym Battle. You know what type that Gym will be, and you have your work cut out for you. Work hard and prove to me that you're going to take these future battles seriously so I know I can count on you when we face the old man."
Torterra resumed his 'business' look. "Torterra!"
Paul nodded. "That's the attitude you need. So stop worrying about everyone else's problems from now on and focus on our goal. You're my strongest Pokémon, Torterra. Set a positive example for the rest of the team."
Though doubtful, Torterra refused to show that in his gestures. "Terra!"
Paul looked down and closed his eyes. "So we're understood." Holding up the Pokéball, Paul proceeded to call his Pokémon back. "Torterra, return."
After putting Torterra away, Paul settled under the sheets of his bed and turned off the light. Though he lay still in the bed, his eyes were wide open. What was coming to him in the future was so overwhelming that he couldn't sleep… not that he would admit it.
He almost wanted to skip the Conference entirely and move straight on to the Battle Frontier, so he would be ready when his father was ready. … Almost. Paul knew not to leave any business unfinished, and he had spent years preparing for a return to his native region to take the championship after failing to do so in Kanto, Johto, and Hoenn. And in a way, he wanted to break Ash Ketchum's spirit as well. He wanted to outdo his older brother, and he wanted to completely emasculate his father.
Imagining the success did well enough to eventually lull Paul to sleep. But even in his sleep, real life continued to dominate his mind.
For all that Paul had to look forward to, he almost completely forgot about the Mine Badge; his next short-term goal. How this would affect Paul the next day… only time will tell.
( TBC? )