Saylee Pokémon: 0 Deaths: 0
Key Pokémon: 0 Deaths: 1
Saylee fanned herself with a brochure, fuming, as the rickety truck bounced along the road. She tried focusing on not kicking the ribs of the extremely large man that kept leaning on her in his sleep, and not the aching absence of her Pokémon. I'm just going on a research trip, though, and they're needed in Kanto. There's no Team Rocket, no civil warfare, no gangs—not in Hoenn. I'm here to find someone who can tell me about Groudon and Kyogre and maybe even these rocks. I'm not here to fight anyone, not even this giant—
She couldn't help yelping as the truck suddenly jerked to a halt, nor could she suppress a small grin as the jerk woke up the large sleeper and several of the louder snorers. She had been missing her private room on the cruise ship. Some kind of crash in the Slateport docks had forced her ship to dock at a small fishing suburb outside of Slateport, and now a truck was taking them to Rustboro because there wasn't a teleporter that was safe for human use in the tiny cluster of houses that barely passed for a village.
"Oi, what's the holdup?" someone from the front of the truck called, banging on the dividing wall between the "passenger" area and the driver's cab.
"Bit of a breakdown," the driver called. "I'll just get out and fix it, so hold on, alright? We'll get to Rustboro a little later, that's all."
"Where are we, anyway?" someone else asked.
"Littleroot," the driver called, now sounding like he was outside and around the right-hand side of the truck. Saylee grabbed her bag and jumped to her feet, "accidentally" kicking the large man who was now trying to fall asleep on her legs. She straightened her tank top before opening the back door of the truck. Outside was just as swelteringly hot as the inside of the truck, but much brighter and nowhere near as muggy. Hoenn was much warmer than Kanto and Johto, and Saylee had arrived in the early days of a blazing summer.
"The Birch research lab is in Littleroot, isn't it?" she asked, looking around for the driver and spotting his legs sticking out from under the truck.
"Yeah," the driver called. "Just down the road from here…"
"I'll get out here, then," Saylee said, waving as she walked past his feet. "Thanks for the ride."
"We apologise for the inconvenience, please ride with Sea Star Lines again, have a nice summer," the driver called.
"Mom, Petalburg's not that far! I'll be fine!"
"There are wild Pokémon out there, young lady!"
"Yeah, because Wurmple are so dangerous and threatening."
"What if you get found by a pack of Poochyena?!"
"Excuse me," Saylee said, walking up to a tall, blonde middle-aged woman arguing vehemently with a teenage girl. The girl was taller and skinnier, with brighter blonde hair and blue eyes behind her glasses, but her resemblance to her mother came through most in the identical way their eyes and mouths crinkled in anger as they shouted at each other. They seemed too busy arguing to notice Saylee.
"Mom, it takes all of an hour to walk to Petalburg, and I could probably kick out most of the Pokémon between here and there myself!" the girl shouted. "I'm not a baby!"
"Can I just ask...?" Saylee tried, but they ignored her.
"It's not safe!" the woman insisted. "I'm sorry, Key, but you are not going without the Professor!"
"About the Professor," Saylee said loudly. "Would this be Professor Birch?"
The older woman finally seemed to notice that somebody else was there. The girl, Key, just crossed her arms and looked away from her mother in a huff. The woman's eyes widened somewhat as she looked at the newcomer. Saylee glanced down at herself and couldn't entirely blame her; in a green tank top and denim shorts, the various scars that peppered her arms and legs were clearly visible, especially the burns across her shoulders, and her beloved old yellow bag had at least one set of what were obviously stitched-up claw marks. Still, after a moment, the woman smiled politely and said, "Yes, Professor Birch lives here."
"I'm here to see him—do you know where he is?" Saylee asked. The woman nodded, smiling in the friendly fashion that people do when weird-looking strangers walk in on them having a big fight.
"His lab's just south of here," she explained, pointing. "Head down that path and..."
Screaming suddenly split the air, loud and frantic and featuring a not inconsiderable amount of swearing. Key's head snapped up out of her huff.
"That sounds like the Professor," she said. "Something's happening to him!" The girl immediately tore off in the direction of the screaming.
"KEY! GET BACK HERE!" Her mother shouted, darting after her.
Saylee grabbed her arm. "It's alright ma'am, I'm a ranger," she promised, pulling her ID out of the side pocket on her bag and showing it to the woman. "I'll go get them."
"Oh, thank you!" the woman sighed in relief.
Saylee ran off after Key, not mentioning that she didn't have any Pokémon. It didn't seem worth the mention; the tourist brochure that she'd picked up on the ship had indicated that Petalburg was in the centre of some major breeding forests, so most of the Pokémon running wild in the area were young just leaving their nests. It couldn't be that dangerous.
As Key grew closer to the source of the shouter, she could distinguish the angry yapping of Pokémon from the Professor's panicked shouts.
"I'm not! I'm sorry! I didn't know your nests were there!"
"Nest invader! Nest invader!"
"Professor Birch!" Key yelled, spotting the portly older man trying desperately to scale a tall tree with no lower branches. All around the base of the tree were angry, growling Zigzagoon, several large ones jumping high enough to snap at his heels while smaller, baby Zigzagoon yipped enthusiastically behind them. A few of them turned at Key's shout, snarling at her. "Professor, what did you do?"
"Not important right now, HELP!" the Professor yelled. "My bag! There are Pokémon in my bag!"
"Your bag?" Key said, looking around wildly.
"This bag?" Key caught the brown satchel as it was tossed to her by the short, scarred-up woman who'd come out of the refugee truck. The woman's eyes bugged a little as she saw Professor Birch's predicament, causing her to push her glasses up her nose as they went squint. "Whoa. What did you do, stand in a nest?"
"Here they are!" Key said, digging in the Professor's bag and coming up with a pair of pokéballs. "Two, right?"
"Yes, yes, use them, PLEASE!" The Professor howled as a large one latched onto his ankle. "OWWWWW!"
"Go on then, pick one," the woman said, stepping between Key and the growling Zigzagoon, "and I'll have the other." She looked like she was ready to start beating up the Zigzagoon even without Pokémon.
Key stared nervously down at the pokéballs. She hadn't held one for years, let alone… "Fine... this one, then," she said, selecting a pokéball with a leaf emblem on it and then handing the other, the one with a little fireburst, to the woman. The brunette turned it around in her hand before pressing the button on the front. Key tentatively pressed the opening of her pokéball.
Both opened in a flash of light, and two Pokémon appeared between the pair of them and the herd of Zigzagoon. One was a small green lizard with a red belly and a dark green tail almost the size of its own body, and the other was a bright-orange bird of similar size with yellow fluff where older birds had wings.
"Professor, what did you do now?" the green one said, rolling his large yellow eyes and flicking his large dark green tail.
"This don't look fun," the orange bird commented as several Zigzagoon turned on them and started to growl.
The brunette pulled an old-fashioned flip-style pokédex out of her pocket and snapped it open. "Oooh, a Treecko and a Torchic!" the woman gasped, looking far more excited than anyone surrounded by angry Zigzagoon ought to be. "They're rare!" She frowned at the screen on her pokédex. "Oh, but they're young. Have you guys ever fought before?" she asked.
"Fought? Are you kidding me?" the green one scoffed, glaring at the Zigzagoon. Some of whom were starting to heckle him, telling him to get back up a tree or to go suck on a twig.
"Y'all be nice, Thomas," the orange bird admonished, stepping back. "No, we ain't fought afore, not in the wild, leastaways. If y'all got any tips, they'll be good an' welcome."
"Treecko only knows Pound and Leer, and Pound'll knock the smaller ones aside," the woman said to Key, pointing at the green one. She stepped aside as a Zigzagoon snapped at her. Most of them were still focused on Professor Birch. "Torchic can only Scratch and Growl at this age, so it'll be better for taking out the larger ones. Divide and conquer?"
"I can use a Pokémon?" Key asked, looking down at Thomas the Treecko. "Do you want to fight together?"
"Why the hell not?" Thomas growled, crouching. "Just say the word. These Zigzagoon are starting to tick me off."
"Okay... can you skip the babies and attack the smaller adults?" Key said. Thomas gave her a "duh" look before running up the side of a tree and jumping down to smack his tail heavily into a pair of small Zigzagoon. As they fell aside, the Torchic ran through, directed by the strange woman, to enthusiastically scratch at the pack leaders. The Torchic kept attacking the large ones, but it always took him a few seconds to beat them down. He was frequently interrupted by other Zigzagoon attacking him until Key got the hang of sending Thomas in to protect him. Even if he couldn't knock the Zigzagoon out straight away, he could at least knock them away from his friend.
Working in tandem, the pair of them cleared out the pack in just a few minutes. The woman grinned, sweeping up Torchic in her arms as she nudged a straggling baby Zigzagoon aside with her toe. "Good stuff!" she said, reaching into her bag and pulling out a little sachet. "I have a fire-type that loves these. Want one?"
"Sure," the Torchic said, eating the little pellet that she fed him, before jumping in her arms. "Wow! Spicy! Ain't that somethin'!"
"Glad you like it," the woman said with a gentle smile. "I'm Saylee. Nice to meet you," she said, petting the Torchic and looking over Key and the Professor as he dropped awkwardly down to earth.
"Teddy," the Torchic replied, nipping at the back of Saylee's hand. "An' that little ol' mope down there is Thomas."
"I'm not a mope, you're just boring," Thomas replied, scampering up Key's back, causing her to squeak and nearly smack Thomas off with her hair as she looked around to see what it was. "And you're jumpy. Still, you came up with some pretty decent battle suggestions, for a human."
"Pretty good, considering you've never battled before, Key!" Professor Birch said proudly, patting Thomas on the head and then clapping Key on the shoulder hard enough to make her knees buckle. "I guess you've inherited your father's talent! Thank you, so much. And who might you be?" he said, turning to Saylee.
"Good for first-timers, right?" Key muttered to Thomas. "Better than the Professor, evidently."
He grinned. "I think I like you," he chuckled, patting her on the back of the head with his tail.
"The name's Saylee," the woman said, shifting her grip on Teddy so that she could shake hands with the Professor. "I'm from Pallet Town, in Kanto. I'm here in Hoenn for research, and your name came up as an expert on the Pokémon of this region."
"You've come a long way!" Birch said in surprise. "Well, come along to my lab. You too, Key," he said, smiling brightly at her. "Bring Thomas with you."
"Where am I gonna go, the moon?" Thomas muttered. Key hid her giggles behind her hand.
"Thomas seems to have taken to you, Key," Professor Birch commented as they sat down in his lab with cups of sweet tea. Saylee stared at hers in confusion, took a sip, made a face and set it down again. Key slugged hers down in a single gulp. Professor Birch laughed and refilled it. "That doesn't happen often, does it?" he continued, smiling at Thomas.
"Eh, she's alright," Thomas replied casually.
"That's just Thomas-speak for 'she's amazin''," Teddy translated. Saylee smiled and gently stroked the yellow crest on his forehead, which made him hum happily. The calm manner in which he reacted to Thomas' bored rudeness reminded her starkly of the way Red and Blue used to be as kids, making her feel inordinately fond of both of them. Key kept stroking Thomas' head and tail, hardly looking away from the little green Pokémon. Saylee figured that she hadn't had Pokémon before and was excited about being around Thomas.
"You two might as well keep them, if you'd like," Birch continued. "It's better for them to be out of the lab now that my research on them is finished, and Milo's already left anyway."
"I know he did, Silyon was showing off about it," Key commented, stroking Thomas' tail. He closed his eyes and smiled vaguely. She suddenly looked up at Professor Birch. "Wait, I get to keep him? He's mine?"
"Glad to know my new trainer's quick on the uptake," Thomas commented sleepily.
Saylee turned Teddy to face her. "Do you want me to be your trainer while I'm in Hoenn, Teddy?" she asked.
He looked hopefully at her bag. "Can I have more a' them spicy niblets?" he asked. Saylee nodded. "Then I would love for y'all to be my trainer."
"Brilliant!" Key shouted, jumping up and hugging Thomas, making him yell in protest. "If I have a Pokémon, I can go see Dad! And Mom can't stop me! HAH!"
"Thank you very much," Saylee said, hugging Teddy. She dug her pokédex out of her bag. "My Pokédex doesn't have a lot of data on Pokémon of this region… Can I connect it to your database?"
"Be my guest," Professor Birch said, indicating a computer. Saylee jumped onto it, settled Teddy on the desk next to it, and lined up the Pokédex with the infrared link.
Key finally let Thomas go, allowing him to perch on her shoulder again. "Where is Sissi?" she asked. "I want to go show off to him!"
"He went up to Route 103," Professor Birch explained. "You and Thomas be careful, and let your Mom know where you're going!"
"I will!" Key promised, running out of the door, and adding a muttered "not," as soon as the door slammed shut behind her. Thomas laughed aloud.
"So if y'all've trained Pokémon afore, why ain't they with y'all right now?" Teddy asked, watching Saylee download one data file after another. "I bet real trained Pokémon woulda cleared out them Zigzagoon faster than us."
Saylee glanced down at him, then back to the screen, flashing data lines reflecting off of her glasses. "I'm a ranger in Kanto," Saylee explained. "My Pokémon are experienced fighters, but the ship I took doesn't allow registered battling Pokémon, and for some reason this stupid system won't let me import them…" she thumped the computer, but the 'SENDING NOT PERMITTED' error message remained in place. "My boyfriend'll look after the ones that are coming over until he comes over," she continued, typing a quick text to Blue on her Pokegear to let him know what was wrong. "Not all of my Pokémon fight with me, though. Some had other homes to go to, jobs to do, families to raise. And some of the Pokémon I've trained..." she looked back at Teddy again, sadness in her eyes. "Some of my Pokémon have died. More than some."
"Oh..." Teddy clacked his beak nervously. "I'm real sorry."
"Don't worry about it," Saylee said, looking back at the screen. "I feel like you should know, though. I am categorically incapable of keeping out of trouble. When I see conflict, when I see problems, I can't help stepping in and trying to help. It's why I'm a ranger. But as a result, I end up fighting people. Very bad people, sometimes. Major fights, with high stakes. And in fights like those, Pokémon die. I don't have any right to train you, Teddy, unless you know what you're getting into."
Teddy watched her quietly for a few minutes. "Well, I've heard that Kanto's a real mess," he ventured, "but, well... Hoenn's peaceful. Things ain't gonna get nowhere near that bad here. So what's so scary?"
Saylee smiled a little, and reached out to stroke him on the head, without looking away from the computer screen. "Thank you, Teddy. I promise that I'll look after you. I'm good with fire-types."
"Have you found everything alright?" Professor Birch asked, walking in and setting some notebooks down on the desktop next to the computer.
"Well, it doesn't look like I can import my Pokemon, which is a problem," Saylee sighed.
"That's odd… this computer is set up as a transport computer," Professor Birch said, frowning at the error message onscreen. "Maybe it's a system error. Send through an error message to the system manager and it should be fixed soon." He clicked a few buttons to send an automated error report and then smiled at Teddy. "Good thing you're going with her, eh?"
"Thank you for letting me keep Teddy," Saylee said with a smile, petting the Torchic. "Professor Birch, can I ask you something? I don't know if this is really your area, but one of the reasons I came to Hoenn was in the hope of finding out something about these." She dug into her bag, feeling for the flat scale of her dreamcatcher and locating the little cloth bag attached to it. She withdrew the two small, sharp gem fragments within and held them out to Professor Birch. "You wouldn't know what they are, would you?"
"I'm afraid you're right, this isn't really my area," Professor Birch said regretfully, picking up the stones and peering at them. "Hmm. The colours are Groudon and Kyogre's insignia colours…"
"I heard that the last recorded battle between the pair of them took place on the east coast of Hoenn," Saylee mentioned. She'd taken something of an interest in Legendary Pokémon over the previous three years. She felt a pang as she remembered that the archaeologist who'd told her about Groudon and Kyogre was Professor Hawkshaw. She hadn't seen the Professor's body or the crime scene, so it still felt strange to think that the next time she went to the Ruins of Alph, the bubbly woman wouldn't be there to talk for an hour when asked the simplest of questions about legendary Pokémon.
"So they say," Professor Birch said, turning the stones over. "Well, culturally, they're very popular here, no doubt because nearly everyone in the country lives within a day of a volcano or the sea… anyway, I'm afraid I can't help you," he said regretfully, handing the stones back to her. "I'd recommend Steven Stone, but since he left his seat as Champion a few years ago I have no idea how you would contact him."
"Steven Stone…?" Saylee asked looking up from the stones.
Saylee winced as she stepped out into the heat and light outdoors, having gotten used to Professor Birch's air-conditioned laboratory.
She felt her heart skip a beat in surprise, but she showed no outward signs of shock that Key seemed to have teleported behind her. She turned to see the girl leaning against the wall next to Birch's front door, blonde hair over one shoulder and Thomas perched lazily on the other.
"Hi, Key," Saylee said. "Hey, Thomas. What's up?"
"You're going through Petalburg, aren't you?" Key asked. "I need to go there, but my mom still won't let me go on my own. Apparently, Thomas doesn't count. Care to travel together?"
"What happened to your friend Silyon?" Saylee asked. "Or is he your boyfriend?"
"He's staying here and working with the Professor, and no, he has a boyfriend already," Key said, rolling her eyes. "So, can I go with you?"
"Sure, why not," Saylee agreed, letting Teddy out of his pokéball. "I'm sure you guys would like to travel together too, right?"
"Whatever," Thomas muttered.
"That means he'd sure love to," Teddy translated. Saylee grinned, watching him run back and forth. I'm glad he's nippy enough to walk on his own… it's warm enough here without a fire-type's body heat in my arms, Saylee thought.
"Thanks!" Key said, pushing away from the wall and waving at her house. "HEAR THAT, MOM?" She yelled. "I'M NOT GOING ON MY OWN! Right, let's go," she said happily, heading down the road to Oldale.
Saylee paused, looking in the direction of Key's house. Key's mother was leaning out of the window, looking after her daughter in concern, then she spotted Saylee.
"Are you okay with letting her go?" Saylee asked, jogging over to the house.
"Not really, but… maybe she's right, and we have been keeping her from having Pokemon for too long," the woman sighed. "I searched your badge number to make sure you check out… I hope you don't mind."
"Not at all," Saylee said with a shrug. "It's the smart thing to do."
"Yes, well… you're the head ranger in Kanto, so you can keep her safe, can't you?" the woman asked. "Her and her Pokemon? She's not wrong, the path to Petalburg isn't that dangerous, but… she's my daughter. It's my job to worry too much."
"If you're okay with me escorting her, then yes, I promise I'll make sure nothing happens to her," Saylee promised.
"Or her Pokemon," the woman reminded her.
"MOM, YOU'D BETTER NOT BE TELLING HER TO STOP ME!" Key shouted back at them.
"I'll call Norman and let him know you're on your way," Key's mother said, folding her arms.
"I'll make Key call you back when we get there," Saylee promised, waving and heading off after Key.
"That Zigzagoon rush yesterday was weird," Key commented as they waded through the knee-high grass towards the small cluster of houses that passed for a town. Oldale was within sight of Littleroot, but neither town was particularly large or growing, so they remained separate with a wide dirt path between them, surrounded by forests and fields full of wild Pokémon.
"They were calling the Professor a nest invader," Saylee pointed out. "There are a lot of nesting grounds around here. That's why most of the wild Pokémon in this area are young and weak."
"Wild Pokémon," Key said, rolling her eyes. "I've hardly ever seen any dangerous wild—GAAAAAAH!"
As she'd pushed aside a low-hanging branch, something pink had dropped off of the branch and onto her head and was now wrapping itself up in her long blonde hair.
"Oooh, it's soft!" a little voice squealed as Key flailed at her hair. Saylee grabbed the little pink creature by its tail, and the two of them, over several patient minutes, managed to extract it from Key's hair.
"That isn't cocoon silk," Saylee said sternly, dangling the tiny Pokémon by its tail in front of her. Key combed her fingers through her hair a few times in frustration, but the angry look melted on her face when she got a good look at the bug.
"It's a WURMPLE!" She squealed. "Oh, isn't she cute? I've always wanted one! Do you think I can catch her?"
"We can buy pokéballs in Oldale, right?" Saylee said, handing the Wurmple over to Key. "Hold onto her until then, and you can buy her a pokéball. She seems pretty taken with your hair, anyway."
"'Cause it's nice and soft!" the Wurmple said chirpily. "My name's Wanda. Who're you?"
"I'm Key, and this is Thomas," Key introduced herself. "And that's Saylee and Teddy. We're Pokémon trainers... well, Saylee and I are, anyway."
"Nice to meet you!" Wanda said, crawling up onto Key's shoulder opposite from Thomas and immediately beginning to wind herself into Key's hair. Saylee couldn't help grinning—it reminded her of Wendy's habit of wrapping herself up in anything she could reach just before she evolved. Wilma and Cal had done it, too. Must be a bug thing.
Her smile faltered a little as she thought of her lost bugs, but as she had already turned to move on to Oldale and Key was wrapped up in getting to know Wanda, nobody noticed.
So here we go into Hoenn! I did this Nuzlocke run conjointly with my friend and muse Key-chan. If you've read the previous two fics, you've probably occasionally read ranting about how fabulous and inspirational she is. She is the reason most of these fics exist. Most of the earlier half of this fic is written by me, but later on there are large sections written by Key-chan, mostly concerning her character Key and her story. While I'm still not intending to post regularly until the beginning of June because life is still pretty busy just now, but I just had to post something in honour of THE RUBY AND SAPPHIRE REMAKES BEING CONFIRMED. *excited Whismur squealing* HOENN IN 3D. KYOGRE AND GROUDON IN 3D. FORTREE AND SOOTOPOLIS AND LAVARIDGE IN 3D. SECRET BASES AND HOENN CONTESTS AND DIVING AND EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE :D
Name: Teddy. Species: Torchic. Nature: Mild. Ability: Blaze.
Name: Thomas. Species: Treecko. Nature: Calm. Ability: Overgrow.
Name: Wanda. Species: Wurmple. Nature: Quirky. Ability: Shield Dust.