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gotta catch'em all!

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"Come on,” Allen sighs impatiently. "The Ark City cannot surely be that far! We’ve been scouting this route for two days now, I mean, how far can it extend?” he asks, rolling his eyes dramatically at his rival-slash-travel companion.

The thing is, Allen Walker is more than eager to reach the most remote city in the region - Ark City, also known as the location of one of the most prestigious gyms: the Millenium Gym. There is a whole myriad of rumours regarding that mysterious location. There were all kinds of things: from an almost thousand year tradition (hence the name of the Millenium Gym), powerful items the Dark-type-favouring Leader hands out as a reward, to the tales of ancient, mighty Pokemon dormant under the city grounds. Alas, there is only one obstacle in Allen Walker’s brave, adventurous trek to Ark City going as fast and smooth as possible: Kanda Yuu.

Kanda has been Allen’s close (well, as close as they get) childhood friend, with whom he first discovered the wonders of Pokemon fauna. They played with baby Squirtles in Kanda’s home pond, chased Mudkips in the swamp on the edge of their town and nursed a litter of baby Charmanders back to health alongside their third friend, Lavi. However, once childhood had passed and Lavi - with a small group of his trusted fire Pokemon companions - moved to a neighboring city to take over Gym Leader duties from his grandfather, Kanda and Allen’s friendship took on a hint of rivalry. With no fire-centered trainer to practice with Kanda’s water and ground Pokemon on a regular basis, the other grew more and more impatient and sulky. The first time his beloved Marshtomp lost to Allen’s still young Gastly, Kanda packed up and left to travel around Gyms in the region in order to get stronger.

Allen, at first, had stayed in the little town, helping out his father and uncle with their Ghost Pokemon research - the Campbell twins, both renowned Pokemon scientists had gladly welcomed the help from young Allen for a few years. Then, news from Kanda’s journey reached their hometown and as soon as Allen understood that both his old friends have made themselves a name in the region, he decided to set out as well. His father encouraged the idea; the following spring, Allen Walker finally left town with Mana Campbell’s trusty old Mr. Mime as a guide as well as a set of his own ghost Pokemon.

He didn’t bump into Kanda until the fourth-or-so gym city, where the other boy challenged him to a battle that Allen won only by a pinch of pure luck; it took him a good week to nurse his Pokemon friends back to good health before he was able to take on the Gym Leader. After that, the two begrudgingly agreed to travel together, as the rumours of more dangerous wild Pokemon in the area kept growing - and between Kanda’s favoured water and ground types, Allen’s ghosts would be a welcome help - which brings them to the current situation.

"Shut up, beansprout,” Kanda sighs, rubbing at his forehead in annoyance. The day is entirely too hot for his preference: even his Pokemon seem to melt, and for a moment he considers calling them all in - but he sincerely doubts that the narrow, stuffy inside of a pokeball will be that much of a welcome change from the blazing sun.

"Not. Beansprout” Allen hisses, angry like a Meowth with wet fur. "If it weren’t for your stupid preference to walk at night because your precious princess face can’t stand the sun, we wouldn’t be going in damn circles all the time!” 

"Well if it weren’t for your--" Kanda rolls his eyes, fuming, "—your being a fucking stupid beansprout we’d be there already, but no, you decided to believe that damn old Mime instead of the map,” he yells, waving the mentioned paper around. "That thing is so old it doesn’t remember its own name half of the time, much less the road to an ancient city in the middle of who-knows-where!”

"Fine,” Allen turns his nose up in disgust. "We'll follow your stupid map and if we’re still on this route by the evening, I’m getting the next Pidgeotto we find to fly us over there,” he adds with a shrug. So what if Kanda absolutely hates being in the air? The prickly bastard will have to deal with it, Allen thinks bitterly.

Kanda just curses at that, but he takes the lead nonetheless; it's just a stupid forest, he thinks, it can't be that hard to navigate. He checks the map in his dex device - just in case - and sets out north with a determined pace to his steps. A good thing is that it's still a few good hours until sunset, which means the more dangerous species of Pokemon are probably still asleep, so no surprise can catch them until they reach the city - right?

Right my ass, he curses a few minutes into the forest when his dex gives out a feeble beep and the screen goes dark, a small red light in the corner indicating battery dead.

"Whoops," Allen sing-songs next to him, "no map, stupid Kanda, what now?" he asks with a grin way too smug for Kanda's liking.

Fuck you, Kanda mouths at him with the colorful addition of a middle finger thrown in Allen's general direction as he shakes the device angrily with his other hand. 

"Look, maybe you should--" Allen starts but goes quiet as soon as he spots a figure under one of the trees; vaguely humanoid at first but with something that looks like a large, messy and bushy… tail?

He takes a tentative step closer, then a few more, until he can see the figure more clearly: it's a scruffy, unkempt man seemingly in his mid-twenties, a few days' worth of stubble on his face, accompanied by a pair of thick round glasses and a mane of messy dark hair. The tail turns out to be a black-and-white island Zigzagoon, soundly asleep with its muzzle on the man's lap.

Allen clears his throat and walks closer, approaching the dozing man.

"Excuse me, sir," he starts politely, crouching until he's at eye level with the man's face. The other blinks slowly, roused to consciousness; he takes off the glasses to rub at his face, letting Allen spot a mole under one of his eyes, previously obscured by the thick frames.

"Yeah?" the man yawns and sits up cross-legged, palms on his knees. "Whatd'ya need, boy?"

"Which way to the Millenium City?" Allen asks, though the annoyed grumbling behind him - courtesy of Kanda - makes him doubt the man has ever heard of such a place; he went into the forest with a Zigzagoon of all things, so he can't possibly be a strong trainer; Zigzagoons are, at best, good to hunt in trash cans. What surprised Allen, though, was that the man's Pokemon is of the island variety: rather rare to see on the continent, where Zigzagoons are usually of the normal type, not dark. 

Probably a traveler, then, he thinks as he directs his full attention back to the man in front of him.

"Hmm, let's see," the scruffy man taps his chin several times, deep in thought. "It's on the other side of this forest; if you go straight this route and take the second turn left after a clearing in the middle, you might be on the good way," he says finally. "Or wait-- was it the second to the right…?" He lets out a short laugh and shakes his head helplessly. "Right, I think. But what brings you two young chaps to good ol' Millenium town?" he asks, raising one eyebrow to look at Allen first, then at Kanda.

"Not your bus--" the other boy starts, but Allen quickly cuts into his words mid-sentence.

"I'm Allen Walker and my friend is Kanda Yuu," he introduces them quickly with a small bow. "We're collecting gym badges to take on the Elite Four later this year" he explains, his tone carefully polite. "We heard the challenge in Millenium Gym is one of the hardest, so we want to try our luck with taking on the Leader."

"Oh," the man grins knowingly with a soft pat to the Zigzagoon's head. "Well, luck is a good word then, word in town's tha' new Leader's kind of a trickster there," he adds as he gets up to stretch his legs. 

"Oh?" Allen perks up at this. "Have you been there?"

"Everyone's been there at some point, boy," the bespectacled man says in a disinterested tone, patting at his pockets in search of something, until he pulls out a small ball. "Well, it's time for me and this friend here to be on our way," he sighs, calling the Zigzagoon back into the ball. "Don't stay out too long in the forest, boys," he adds, giving Allen's head a pat before the boy can protest. "Heard some of the creatures here get nasty at night."

Kanda sighs but nods his head in acknowledgement as he nudges Allen forward.

"Okay, so-- second to the right, was it?" Allen smiles and asks again just to make sure, but the man is already walking away. "Thank you for your help, mister--" he yells after him, stopping only when he realizes the man never introduced himself back to them. 

"Tyki Mikk," the man gives them a wave, glancing over his shoulder. "Gym Leader at Millenium," he adds with a sly grin. "Pleased to make your acquaintance, boy; I reckon we'll have a lot of fun in the gym tomorrow."