Trials of a Pokémon Trainer

Author's note: This story fills in part of the one-year gap between Chapter 19 and the Epilogue of my other story, "Variations". As such, this story also assumes you have read it, since I make a lot of references to events that happened in it. If you haven't read it yet, you might want to do so now before reading this one, otherwise you'll probably end up scratching your head a bit. Of course as the author, I would recommended reading my other stories…

Comments and reviews are most definitely welcomed!

Chapter 1: Wanted

"Huh? What the heck are…"

Leo barely resisted smiling. With Blaze, he watched the teenage kid stare before whipping out a Pokédex and scanning them, the computerized voice shortly providing spoken information on swamperts and infernapes.

Being now late summer, it was a nice, warm, clear-sky morning at the nearest park in Jade River City. A slight breeze was just moving a few hairs of Blaze's red and yellow mane while providing just a bit of cooling. He hoped it picked up a little, since today looked like it was going to be hot again.

While waiting for the kid to finish getting his information, he started fingering the two Pokéballs held in the clips of his belt somewhat impatiently. Should he release Wartortle and Pikachu now and let them enjoy the breeze also? Being a Pokémon himself, he certainly sympathized with others about being held inside a small ball after being dimensionally "shrunk" (or as some explained it, converted to energy when passing into a micro dimension). Then again, Wartortle and Pikachu really didn't seem to mind and keeping them as a surprise for the battle, was a sound tactic from what he'd observed.

Truly, they were friends. Not only had Chris been willing to "lend" them, but Wartortle and Pikachu were also willing to take instructions from him since he was just starting out.

Well, not really "just". Years ago in his human days, he was a trainer for a few years. Too bad he couldn't remember much about it.

"Think he'll take us on?" Blaze finally whispered as the brown-haired kid kept looking between his Pokédex and the two of them several times, seemingly perplexed, before craning his neck around in an obvious search of the area. His partner had since folded his arms across his white-haired chest, glaring at the human menacingly with a lowered brow in his best attempt of issuing a challenge with only his expression.

Shrugging, "One way to find out."

But the kid finally decided to speak: "So you two Pokémon, uh, where's your trainer? I assume you're here for a battle, seeing this is one of the practice fields."

"Finally he gets it," Blaze remarked.

Leo nodded, referring to the Pokéballs on his belt. So the kid was definitely here for a battle, if the several pokéballs on his own belt weren't enough of an indication. And seeing as this was the first one to approach them after they waited for at least a half hour on the field, he wasn't about to let this one get away.

The kid, though, continued his perplexed expression in cocking his head on his rather lengthy neck. "But what's with those Pokéballs? Is your trainer having you hold them while he or she is in the bathroom or something?"

He shook his head as did Blaze, again indicating the two Pokéballs, even unclipping one of them in clear intention to use it.

"You can't be wild Pokémon," the kid replied in almost a mumble, still with his brow furrowed. "Two highly evolved and powerful guys like you surely have a trainer, but if he isn't going to show up, then…" Shrugging, the teenager turned and started walking away across the short-grass field.

When he first proposed the idea to Chris of "borrowing" his Pokémon and coming to the park to get started in his own trainer career, he had hopes of getting by without needing to speak, at least in human speech. Apparently that was naive. If he was going to act as a trainer, he was going to have to speak to humans…and obviously sooner rather than later. "I am a trainer."

The boy froze before whipping around, sending his medium-length brown hair flying. After a few seconds of staring around the otherwise empty field: "What?"

"I said, I am a trainer! And yes, I'm also a Pokémon. Is that a problem?" Leo made sure to speak slowly enough so there wouldn't be any question that it was he who was doing it.

Instead of acting surprised, the boy started laughing, even bending over slightly to slap his knee-caps. "Oh, I get it! This is one of those practical jokes; I'm on TV! Of course you're in costumes and there's a hidden camera somewhere. Cool! Where is it?" He started looking around again.

"You might have to prove it," Blaze suggested, his mane puffing slightly.

Leo had to agree with his partner. It only took a second to fill his mouth with water and one more to release a weak water pulse, effectively soaking the boy without too much force.

"That should do it," the infernape commented with a flick of his red tail and a grin that just showed his teeth.

The teenager stood stock still for several moments as the water at first poured off him, then quickly diminishing to trickles and finally drips. After: "Pokémon…can't…talk…"

"Obviously I can," Leo countered. "Now, are we going to battle?"

"Oh…wait a second!"

He flinched as the kid moved forward, placing both his hands on his head fins…before jerking and screaming on them being grasped hard and yanked sideways!

Blaze was at once was huffing up in prep for a flame thrower…

"Wow, you're real!" the kid exclaimed, quickly backing up. "That's no costume and there's no speakers or radio on you either!"

He felt only slightly glad that the kid believed him, while gingerly touching his suddenly throbbing head fins. If the rest of the day was going to go like this…

"How'd the practice go today?" Chris asked almost excitedly. "Did anyone try to capture you two?"

Leo waited for Blaze to wearily stumble into the living room that evening and flop down on the couch before doing likewise on the carpeted floor in front of it. Nearly as an afterthought, he released Wartortle and Pikachu to the spot in front of the patio doors, both of them collapsing to the floor immediately in their own exhaustion.

"Yikes!" the sole human in the room exclaimed, hurrying over to the released Pokémon. "What happened?" Pikachu responded with a sharp gasp as he picked him up, obviously quite sore from the multitude of hits he endured during the day.

"Apparently after our first battle, others noticed us and decided a Pokémon as a trainer was someone who had to be battled," Leo answered. "There was even a line." Moving only his eyes, he watched Chris set Pikachu down and hurry out of the room, then return a moment later after opening some cabinet. "Hold still," the young man said to the small yellow electric type and quickly spray something on him before stuffing a small fruit-like thing in his mouth. After doing the same to Wartortle, he approached him and Blaze. "What is that?"

"Some new skin tonic and energy vitamins for Pokémon to help with recovery. Picked them up on the way home today. Should help you guys feel a little better."

As the blonde-haired young man pulled the handle on the bottle, Leo felt a fine, cooling spray cover him from foot to head, the liquid stinging a little on his head fins and making him gasp.

"Wow, those fins of yours look sore…" Chris commented before holding down one of the vitamins. "Hey, you didn't do any battling yourself, did you?"

"Depends on how you define 'battling'," Leo replied with a sigh after swallowing the vitamin, discovering it to be as soft and tasty as fruit.

"How are your fins doing?" Blaze asked, staring down from the couch with his own chin firmly planted into the cushions. In disarray, his long red and yellow mane was hanging down past his shoulder, nearly touching the floor along with his left arm and hand.

"They're still attached?" he replied, intending humor, though it didn't quite come out that way. Obviously they were still attached; the painful throbbing was proof of that.

"Tell me you didn't…" Chris went on.

"Of course I followed the rules," he snapped, having already endured Chris's numerous reminders about trainers barred from battling themselves over the last several days. "Too many humans wanted proof I wasn't a human in a costume. I didn't know fin-pulling was such a popular form of that." Damned kid and his 'helpful' suggestion to others that pulling on his fins would prove he really was a Pokémon. If he ever saw him again, he'd throttle him!

"That rule sucks," Blaze added in Poké speech as Chris grimaced, using one of the 'new' words they'd both picked up since arriving on Earth a couple months ago. After he got his own spray and vitamin treatment: "Next time they try that, I would just hit them. Oh!" His eyelids suddenly appeared heavy as Chris started massaging his shoulders.

"I'm planning on it," Leo returned after a moment, wondering if he might also get a quick massage. Unfortunately, Chris put the bottle away immediately after in clear indication he was done treating them.

"So how many trainers did you beat?" asking as he came back in with a bag of what looked like Pokéfood. As a telling sign of how exhausted everyone was, none of them made any motions to get up.

"Lost count of how many we battled. Won a few…"

"…mostly lost," Wartortle piped in. "Please, don't put me in against any grass types again, huh?"

Sighing, "Sorry, but Blaze and Pikachu were still wiped from the last..."

"Or me against a nidorina!" Pikachu moaned in his higher-pitched voice.

"What else was I supposed to do?"

"Don't accept the battle?" the electric-type suggested, slowly rolling himself onto his back with arms spread wide as he closed his eyes. "I am so bruised…"

"Yeah," Wartortle added. "I hurt from my tail all the way to the tips of my head hairs! That ivysaur clobbered me!" In an obviously fake tone: "I'm going to be scarred for life…"

Blaze snorted, "You saw that group of humans. They weren't about to let us leave without a fight! Leo had to fight as it was to get us out of there when we did!"

"And we were lucky to get out before the news crews showed up," Leo replied in human speech for Chris's benefit.

"News crews?" Chris repeated with alarm, suddenly sitting up. "Oh…I never thought of that before letting you guys go. Of course, a talking Pokémon acting as a trainer…yeah, I guess that would be a news story…a big one!" At his grin died, he started sniffing. "You know, not to embarrass you guys or anything, but you really need some showers."

"Food first, then a shower," Wartortle declared as he hauled himself up, holding his shell where his stomach was. With the others, Leo did the same, discovering a bit more strength returned than he would have thought. Perhaps that spray and vitamin really were doing something…

Certainly it stimulated the appetite.

But while sharing the barely large-enough shower with Wartortle, the blue turtle-like Pokémon came up with a suggestion he'd given more than a little thought to himself. After vacating the bathroom afterward for Blaze and Pikachu, he approached Chris: "I need to find some more Pokémon for my team."

The human turned away from the television to stare a good moment. "I was wondering when you would want some of your own. Unfortunately, I can only spare the weekends now to go with you to…"

"Blaze and I can travel on our own," he interrupted. Of course, he realized being a Pokémon meant any danger he and Blaze would face wouldn't be from other Pokémon, but from humans. Still, he was sure his ability to talk could keep them out of any trouble.

Chris's expression didn't seem to convey the same confidence. "Um…I'd be really concerned about someone trying to capture you."

"Pokéballs don't work on me, remember?" Leo reminded, almost smiling at his 'immunity'. Of course, he knew enough to not let that make him over confident.

"Yeah, but what about Blaze?"

"I'll protect him."

"Not to sound down on you or anything, but I was able to capture the two of you without much difficulty."

He had a point. A fairly good one, as a matter of fact. "Well, we're stronger now, and if I'm going to be a trainer, we'll need to learn how to survive on this world on our own, right?"

The blonde-haired trainer opened his mouth, then promptly shut it again. "Well…I guess you're right. You know, I would say take Wartortle and Pikachu with you, but I assume you're going to be gone for a while? I'm going to need them myself for this weekend's practice."

Leo shrugged. Truly, he didn't know how long he would be gone. "Maybe a week or two, just long enough to recruit a few other Pokémon. I know you're counting on having Blaze with you for the Tournaments next year and so want to practice with him too."

"I thought for sure they were going to try something," Blaze commented wearily as they stood behind large bushes that were still wet with morning dew, waiting for the two humans who were following them to come around the bend.

Ever since they got on the subway, they garnered more attention than they wanted. Was two fully-evolved Pokémon riding the subway by themselves really that unusual in a world filled with Pokémon? And on a Saturday, no less. But it was just as Chris warned would probably happen. "Maybe we're just being paranoid," Leo replied, rubbing his blue hand over some of the leaves for the refreshing, cool moisture. Still, two young adult humans riding to the very last stop, then seemingly following them for a ways past the last buildings on the hiking path… Either they got tired of following for such a distance, or they really had business in the area.

"Two humans with Pokéballs?" the infernape asked suspiciously. "Remember when Chris tried to capture us?"

"Tried?" He gave Blaze a light slap on his back when he didn't laugh. More soberly: "He did tell us we could run into others who'll try and capture us. We'll just have to be careful while we're out here." After another moment when it became sufficiently evident they weren't being followed, he led the way back onto the path and further into the countryside.

"I refused to be taken by surprise like that again," his friend continued with a quick, angry swish of his tail. "Next human that tries that is the one who's going to be surprised!" With a subdued yell, he raised a purple fist into the air, before adjusting his small backpack.

Despite his bravado, he noticed his partner frequently glancing behind them nervously for at least the next half-mile.

Finally: "So, did you have any particular Pokémon in mind you want to join us? I wouldn't mind having a combusken along for company."

Leo was glad at his partner's choice of words. Being a Pokémon, he really didn't want to 'capture' anyone, instead hoping he could just convince some to join them. Such was the way back on the Poké world, when one became sufficiently known from completing enough jobs successfully. But on Earth, neither he nor Blaze were known and there weren't any jobs for Pokémon to do, at least having to do with rescuing others or exploring new lands. So on Chris's urging, in case he couldn't convince any Pokémon with mere talking, or (and he shuddered at the thought) if said Pokémon actually insisted on being put in one after being defeated in battle… Just to make sure they were still there, he fingered the six brand-new Pokéballs that his custom-made belt was sporting, three to a side. "Basically, whoever will be willing to join us. Got room for five, according to the rules."

Blaze glanced at the belt with slight but obvious distain, even wrinkling his nose. "Not that I think we should use those, but…do you think they'll work for us? Chris said they imprint the owner's identity on Pokémon; he wasn't sure if they would work if the owner was another Pokémon."

"My hand was scanned at the store." Strange device, it was. A flat, translucent black plate that a light went across. Something to do with registering one's DNA and recording the information into the Pokéballs, preventing someone from capturing a Pokémon that 'belonged' to someone else.

He bristled at that terminology. Despite originally being human, his viewpoint was strictly as a Pokémon now and he just couldn't come to grips with thinking he could 'belong' to someone. He knew Blaze felt just as strongly about it. Of course in his case he would never have to worry about it, given one of the distortions around him (thanks to being from a non-existent timeline) prevented Pokéballs from working on him. His partner wasn't so fortunate.

"Let's hope we don't need to use them," Leo added.

Morning was slowly giving way to noon, the air becoming more humid and warm despite the growing clouds. Warm enough that they decided to take an early lunch under a tree some distance off the trail, Blaze slipping out of his backpack to retrieve the prepared lunch Chris packed for them in it. There was enough food for a couple days, then they'd have to forage. Surely there were some fruit trees or berry bushes somewhere, though he really didn't remember seeing any from their trek to Pinnacle Valley a couple months ago.

"Maybe we should go off trail for a while, see about some food and maybe spot some other Pokémon," Blaze suggested between mouthfuls.

Leo nodded while watching a human pass by on the trail, eyeing them with keen interest. Only about the tenth one they'd seen that morning. Maybe they should've moved even further off the trail before lunch…

Blaze sighed loudly between bites, his red tail twitching. "Every time I see a human now, I keep expecting them to throw one of those blasted balls at us."

"Then I'll throw one at them."

"They aren't supposed to work on humans," though the infernape's teeth were showing between his red lips in a grin anyway.

Grabbing a sandwich and one of the strange orange fruit that was unimaginatively called an 'orange', "Maybe I should've gotten that hat." The image of him in the mirror when he tried on the one still struck him as ridiculous; although…perhaps…it might have him appear a little more as a serious trainer. Perhaps.


He was already turning toward the rustling behind them in unison with Blaze before he heard the high-pitched voice. Within seconds, a small light-green Pokémon with a relatively large leaf attached to it's head came walking out of the grass, pale red eyes transfixed on them…or rather, what was in their hands.

She stopped well short of them before looking around, apparently confused. "No humans? But I smell human food…"

"You're a chikorita," Blaze pointed out, cocking his head. "No humans here. Just an infernape and a swampert."

The small creature seemed even more confused in squinting, before suddenly pointing and almost screaming: "You have Pokéballs and a belt!"

Leo put his best smile on his wide face after noting the telling glance from Blaze. They certainly could use a grass-type on their beginning team…

"You really think you can beat human trainers? Humans are smart and all!"

Blaze lowered his head in stifling a laugh.

Being on a flat, straight part of the trail affording a view a good distance ahead, he could see one said human approaching from way off. If they were lucky, he'd get to demonstrate. "I know, and we've already beat a few. We did some training in Jade River City yesterday; Blaze was awesome." His friend grinned as the chikorita widened her eyes. "So, would you like to be part of our team then?"

"Well…" She paused, using a front leg to brush off a piece of moist bread that had stuck to her from the sandwich. "…OK. I've never heard of any of other Pokémon becoming trainers before; this'll be fun!"

Rubbing the base of one of his gills thoughtfully, "But, you really should have a name."

"I already have one. I'm Chikorita."

"So is every other chikorita," Blaze pointed out. "That's your species name, but me and Leo have unique names. Why shouldn't you?"

"Uh…alright, but what should it be?" She didn't sound very sure.

"What do you want it to be?" Leo asked.

The chikorita stared back blankly while Blaze wore a more thoughtful expression on his red face. "It should have something to do with what she is, like mine is."

"In other words: not like mine, because it's more a human name?" Leo needled, getting the expected slight embarrassment from his partner. He started scratching his one head fin, which had been itching like crazy in the past hour; healing from injuries seemed to do that to his fins. "Maybe…" Now, what would be a good name related to a grass-type, and a chikorita in particular, yet also be good for a bayleef and a meganium, which she would evolve into someday? "…Rosy?" In response to the stares: "Yes, it can be a human name, but it also reflects your flowery nature. Especially when you evolve. I mean, you will look more and more like a flower…" Blaze's uncertain look had him immediately question his suggestion.

"I like it!" the chikorita quickly exclaimed, squealing excitedly. "Hello, Blaze and Leo, I'm now Rosy!"

"She really doesn't like it, does she?" his friend teased in a low, doubtful voice, jabbing a purple thumb down at her.

"Apparently not," Leo returned straight-faced as Rosy started protesting. But in looking ahead: "It looks like that human actually might be a trainer."

"I can see the Pokéballs on her belt…" Blaze replied, shading his eyes against the overhead sun as they broke from the cover of several trees lining the trail.

"Him," Leo corrected, once they got a bit closer.

With a furrowed brow and in a perplexed tone: "But it has long hair."

Rosy was now nearly snorting with laughter. "Human males sometimes have long hair! Even I know that!"

Turning with a scowl, "Hey, we're still new around here," Blaze shot back.

"New? What'cha mean?"

"It's a long story," Leo said just as the human stopped many paces before them. It didn't take the man long to whip out what looked like a Pokédex and mutter something like "Holy…" Of course he gave the human a good looking over too. In addition to the long, black hair spilling from under an equally black hat with a sliver band, the man was dressed in a brown shirt and perhaps some faded black soft leather pants and boots. A light-colored belt held several Pokéballs along with a couple small compartments, with more storage in a backpack fully harnessed to him.

"If looks are any indication, this human looks experienced," Blaze mumbled with a scowl, tail twitching.

After returning the Pokédex to its compartment on his belt, the human seemed confused for just an instant before unclipping a Poké ball and quickly stepping forward. Pointing: "You, infernape and swampert! If you don't already belong to a trainer, then I challenge you to a battle! You'll be my next Pokémon!"

Again, Leo felt himself bristle at mention of the word 'belong', but kept his response neutral: "I am a trainer! And I challenge you to a battle!" He fingered his belt to better make the point.

"You…you speak human?" Rosy gasped.

The man blinked, the Poké ball falling out of his hand to the beaten earth and grass path as he stood motionless for several seconds. A slight gust of wind blew through the nearest oak trees before he spoke again: "Say…what?"

"I said I'm a trainer! Yes, I'm a swampert and yes I can speak. Is there a problem with that?" Although it was still usually funny to witness human reactions when he spoke to them for the first time, it was also starting to get old.

Again it was many seconds before the man stammered something. "Well, I…uh… I've…um…never…heard of a Pokémon being a trainer…or talking! You…you're really…talking, right? This isn't some trick?"

With the consternation on the man's face, he really wished he a had a camera. Shaking his head, "No trick! Now, you wanted a battle? I mean, as between trainers, since you're not allowed to capture other trainers. Or my own Pokémon…friends." As he didn't want to belong to a human, so too other Pokémon shouldn't belong to him. Only thing was the terminology of the human world didn't make it easy to refer otherwise.

"Since you can speak, I think I would really like to try now more than ever!" the human retorted with a spreading grin.

"Don't even think about," he growled back, feeling at once weary. "As the trainer, I can't be in the battle anyway."

"Uh…right. That is the rule…" Then in more of a half-mumble: "Though it's meant more to keep Pokémon from battling people directly."

Pointing, he moved them to a wider spot in the path. Still in human speak: "OK Blaze, let's win this." Behind him: "Don't worry Rosy, I'll use you in the next battle…unless we go against a fire or flying type."

Her pupils widening, the chikorita looked back and forth between Blaze and the human before stepping forward to stand behind Leo. "This'll be the first time I'll see a battle without someone trying to capture me."

He noticed she spoke without any hint of animosity; which only provided further proof that many Pokémon truly didn't mind being captured…

"A fire type, huh?" the man said more to himself. "I suppose you can speak too!"

Blaze shook his head as he walked out into the space between them, brushing part of his long mane back over his shoulder. "Not in human." Which of course sounded unintelligible to the man.

"Well, you look like one tough Pokémon there, Infernape. Think I'll need you, Dino!"

Dino? Leo watched the man unclip a different Poké ball and hold it out, glad to hear a human actually give a Pokémon a real name for once. As the red beam shot from the ball, a small form appeared at the end, completely materializing in only a second. He stared at the blue and grey creature that was slightly more than half of Blaze's height, memory finally serving up the species name.

"Ha ha, that's a cranidos," Blaze said, swinging his head around.

"A rock type," Leo furthered. Seeing Rosy looking on curiously, "Have you seen one before?"

Shaking her head, "No. They aren't found here that I know of."

Blaze's expression was worried though, "Rock type? Ah…how much medicine you have in your pack?"

"Enough." He hoped. Rock types of course were quite resistant to fire attacks. Rosy's attacks would be far more effective, but should he use her already? She really needed to observe first to ease her into it… Judging from his partner's glance to her, he was thinking the same thing.

Across the path, the cranidos was narrowing its eyes as its trainer was talking to him quietly…focusing them directly on him…

"Alright, then we're ready!" the man shouted. "Dino, head butt!"

With a glare and a frown, the cranidos scraped the ground once with his right leg before jumping forward in a head-first rush toward Blaze.

Its speed was surprising and Leo immediately felt behind the curve with a dodge command. Blaze was more ready in jumping even before he finished the word…and nearly not ready enough to dodge himself as the small dinosaur-like Pokémon swerved slightly to continue his charge straight at him! "Hey!" shouting as the cranidos braked to a stop just past where he'd been standing.

"Pokémon are not trainers!" the Pokémon snarled in swinging around to face Blaze again.

"Dino!" the man yelled with obvious scolding. "Do not attack trainers! Even if it is a Pokémon! That's illegal and can get us disqualified in real matches!"

The blue and grey Pokémon shrugged, snorting a nonverbal response.

Leo didn't wait for him to finish. "Flamethrower!"

Blaze responded with some of the brightest flames he'd released in a while, running in to fully engulf the rock-type with his fiery breath. Heat waves greatly distorted the view above, further testifying to the intensity of the flames leaving his mouth.

Despite his annoyance at the cranidos's attack and the subsequent satisfaction at a quick counter-attack, he focused on the flames, watching for the first sign of… "Dodge to the right!"

His friend leapt instantly even before all the flames from his mouth had died out, the cranidos just as quickly charging out of the flames...and missing.

"Ha ha!" Blaze shouted in landing behind the rock-type as he slowed to a halt some couple dozen feet away. "That'll teach you to attack Leo! You're supposed to be battling me, remember? Be glad; Leo's a water type and he'd beat you but good!"

Dino moved his head to the side as if spitting. In fact, he did. "Seems I have to teach you manners. A Pokémon commanded by another Pokémon pretending to be a trainer deserves no respect!"

Baring his teeth, Blaze wasn't smiling.

Leo felt his own lips following suit. This Pokémon needed to get it's stubby tail kicked but good.

"He's a nasty Pokémon," a quiet voice said from behind.

Nodding his acknowledgement of Rosy's comment, he didn't dare to take his eyes off the battle. The opposing trainer seemed equally focused, but had seemed content to let his Pokémon make it's own escape without any commands.

All at once though: "Dino, zen headbutt!"

A chill spread through him as he watched the head of the cranidos starting to glow slightly as he began his charge. "Dodge!" At first, his worry was purely for Blaze as the partly psychic energy move had the potential to knock him out in one hit, probably causing a fair amount of real injury in the process. But the cranidos's sneer as Blaze leapt out of the way save for his tail, and kept on charging spoke exactly who he was really going for again.

In the split-second to decide whether to dodge or attack, his mouth filled with water on it's own and by then it was too late to get out of the way… The water pulse left his mouth, impacting the small rock-type just before he crashed into him at full-speed!

He remembered hearing both Blaze and the human scream. Next thing, he was staring up from the ground, his worried partner just arriving over him with the human likewise over the out-cold cranidos.

"How bad are you hurt?" Blaze asked frantically in putting a hand on his shoulder, his red and yellow mane puffed greatly.

"Are you OK?" Rosy added, her vines gently rubbing his forehead and gills.

As the pain from the impact was still setting in, it at least felt confined to his chest and stomach…and it wasn't really all that bad. If it hadn't caught him off-guard so, he probably wouldn't even have ended up in the grass. "I think I'm alright," speaking as he started getting up, Blaze's red-haired arms and Rosy's short vines helping.

Absorbing his Pokémon back into it's ball, the man faced them. "Oh boy, s…sorry about that. Dino usually doesn't behave that way. I don't know what's wrong with him. Even though you're a Pokémon, I told him you're a trainer, so…"

"He didn't like seeing another Pokémon acting as a trainer," Blaze promptly provided.

Leo translated.

"Huh? Oh, I… Well, alright, you have to admit, this is a little unusual. Actually it's unheard of. You are the most unusual Pokémon I've ever met or even heard of!"

"I hear that a lot," starting to brush some of the mud off himself that the water pulse created.

"I mean, a talking Pokémon…without telepathy. And you're a trainer to boot? You should be in the papers and all over the internet!"

He took a step back with the human clearly getting excited. "I'd rather not be." Really, he didn't care for publicity, but when he made the decision to become a trainer (again), he knew he was likely to get a lot of it. Didn't mean he was going to go out of his way for it, though.

"Hopefully the next Pokémon won't be so…"

Leo waited for his partner to come up with the perfect word as the three of them continued down the path after finally breaking away from the human. He certainly had a few 'human' words in mind for the cranidos, none of which he was certain he wanted Blaze to least from him. The language on the Poké world had very few words that could be considered true swearing.

"He was very disrespectful," Rosy finally said. "I don't think there's any problem with you being a trainer since you can speak human. And I thought you were doing good before that cranidos decided to break the rules!"

"Thanks." Looking down, he found her with an infectious smile.

She continued: " do you speak human? Most of us understand the language, but speaking it is very difficult."

"Should we tell her?" Blaze asked, obviously intending for her to hear the question.

Leo gave a shrug. "It's a long story," replying to the chikorita.

"Oh," sounding a little disappointed.

He enjoyed the silence they fell into for a few minutes before hearing Blaze let out a contented-sounding sigh. "What?"

Looking up, then around them, "Was just thinking how much this feels like back when we were taking jobs and going on missions to places. Here we are on our own again, exploring a new world and looking for adventure."

Now that he mentioned it… "You're right. This does feel like those times." He let out a quick chuckle, feeling suddenly more excited then he had for a while. "Ahh…on our own again."

"I wonder if there's any treasure to be found here."

"The treasure is new recruits this time," Leo supplied.

"What are you talking about?" Rosy's high-pitched voice squeaked up from between them. "Treasure? Missions? New world?"

Exchanging a glance with Blaze, "Your turn."

Grinning, "It's a long story," the infernape answered.

"Awww, come on! If it's fun, let me in on it! Please?"

"What do you think, tonight maybe?" Leo asked his partner.

Blaze whipped his tail around, staring thoughtfully overhead. "Maybe as we're staring up at the stars."

Leo liked the sound of that and started thinking of how to put a new spin on their story as a low whump-whump-whump grew louder behind them, quickly reaching near ear-splitting levels before the source revealed itself through the tree branches that swayed under it's wake. "A helicopter?" Along with Blaze and Rosy, he watched the 'chopper fly slowly overhead, stirring up all kinds of dust and dirt around them before it headed off it a different direction, further down the path. Only instead of it's sound completely fading like it was receding, it sounded more like…

"What's it doing?" Blaze asked.

"It sounds like it's landing," he answered, not entirely sure of his memory of such things. "There must be a clearing way down there."

"What's that thing for?" Rosy asked, Blaze's face having the same question.

"Carrying people or cargo. But why would it be landing here?" Should they approach or not? Unfortunately, the helicopter appeared to have landed where they were going anyway, so… "Come on."

"It is safe?" Rosy asked, hesitating.

"One way to find out," Blaze answered, his expression still questioning.

Leo took the lead down the path, it taking a couple minutes to get close enough where they could hear the sound of a human talking quietly, not too far away. He slowed as his instincts started urging caution just as Blaze shouted, suddenly grabbing his arm. Turning, he saw three humans among the trees around them…all pointing what looked like long guns…

Pops…two of them…followed almost instantly by one incredibly painful sting in his leg!

Blaze was just a quickly screaming next to him, jumping up and back several feet.

"What happened?" Rosy screeched, whipping her head all around, wild-eyed.

Looking down first at his leg and then at Blaze, he discovered they were both now sporting what looked like frilly blue darts sticking out of them. Almost relieved they weren't bullets, he pulled the one out of his leg. It looked strange, like it was meant to hold some liquid…

"Wait for it to work!" one of the humans in the trees shouted, apparently stopping the other two from moving.

"It?" Blaze shouted angrily, pulling his own dart out of his shoulder and facing the half-concealed humans. Throwing it down, "What are these?"

Leo stared with his partner, but the fact the humans weren't moving was giving him a bad feeling. "Blaze, Rosy, I think we need to get out of here. Now. Back to Jade River!" Blaze leapt and started running behind him as Rosy kept up in the rear.

"What is it?" Blaze shouted.

"I don't know!" If he had his full human memories, perhaps he would. But he didn't.

"Crap!" Send out the Pokémon and just keep them in sight!"

Huh? Looking behind them, he witnessed several Pokémon taking form at the end of red beams…including a rhydon! They all hit the ground running.

"Ha ha! Faster you two!" Blaze shouted, lowering his head a little. "There's too many of them!"

At first they could keep ahead. But after only a couple moments, he was already feeling tired. He wasn't breathing all that hard, yet his legs were starting to feel weighted, hard to move. In fact, this was about the same feeling he got at the base of Temporal Tower, as his existence was being erased… No, that can't be possible, not again…not now!

"Leo? You have to hurry!" Rosy shouted as she and Blaze passed him.

With the pursuing Pokémon quickly catching up, he tried redoubling his efforts to move, but tripped, fell… No, this was a different sensation now. Not just a weighted down feeling, but fatigue…weariness…no energy…falling asleep...

"What's wrong?" Blaze had stopped, looking prepared to fight as his mane puffed greatly, though he shook his head as if trying to clear his vision.

"Run!" He wanted to shout at the top of his lungs, but the strength wasn't there. "Get back to the city, tell…Chris!" With just standing back up and taking a couple labored steps being all he could manage, he accepted he wasn't going to be able to avoid these people. Finally he realized what was going on: the darts must have injected drugs into them! "I can't run anymore; get out of here! Both of you! Get…help!" Now…even his breathing was labored. "Go!" As best he could, he gave his partner a push.

Blaze's eyes grew even larger before he ran off a few seconds before the other Pokémon arrived, Rosy following him. Of course, his partner had gotten a dart too, but was it just taking larger, or maybe it didn't affect him as much?

Almost startlingly, the rhydon appeared in front of him, but he was too tired to flinch, and even standing became impossible. Breathing heavily in trying to get air from a sudden breathless sensation, he started falling, the rhydon's arms catching him.

Two humans were sitting at a desk, talking, one dressed in what looked like human apparel designed for camouflage. The other quickly took a photo out of his vest pocket, shoving it across. A photo of a swampert. More talking and soon a small wad of cash followed the photo across the smooth surface. They shook hands as everything was fading…