Pokémon hated Sung Jin-Woo. Everyone in his town knew this: there was just something off about the boy, something that unsettled every Pokémon that he tried to approach. Not even the most tame and obedient of Professor Go Gun-Hee’s starters, who had been bred for generations for their friendliness, would follow his commands.
It didn't take long for Sung Jin-Woo to earn the title of the World's Weakest Trainer.
But it took many more years for him to realize that Pokémon didn't hate him. In fact, his problem was that one particular Pokémon loved him far too much.
Currently in Kanto, there were only nine trainers known to have registered ownership of a legendary Pokémon. Sung Jin-Woo became the tenth.
Unlike his predecessors, Jin-Woo had no desire to flaunt his accomplishment. He declined all interviews and never entered any tournaments, despite having the qualifications. He rarely stayed long in a town and spoke sparingly to others. In the absence of any direct public relations, the critics quickly took over the discussions about the trainer who had rapidly risen to infamy.
It wasn't hard to find fault with Trainer Sung Jin-Woo. He had a reclusive nature and despite being a Kanto resident, his entire team somehow consisted entirely of foreign Pokémon. Even his legendary partner was not native to Kanto, and the few stories that reporters managed to uncover about the legendary Pokémon Darkrai were not pleasant.
A sinister creature that inflicted a wasting sickness, trapping its victims in never-ending nightmares. And was it really a coincidence that the sickness exactly matched the symptoms of Sung Jin-Woo's own mother? The conspiracy theories practically wrote themselves.
What kind of heartless trainer would partner with such a Pokémon?
"Do you see this bullshit? What do they know!" Yoo Jin-Ho cried out in drunken fury, waving his phone so wildly that Jin-Woo didn't even bother trying to read it. Instead, he used the opportunity to snatch up more pieces of meat from the grill between them.
"It doesn't matter what they think." Sung Jin-Woo murmured.
Whether he was the World's Weakest or the World's Strongest, people would assume the worst of him. This was something he had gotten used to ignoring. After all, Jin-Woo's goal had never been to become famous or popular. There were only a handful of people whose opinions he actually cared about.
Unfortunately, the fact that he was still here and listening to Yoo Jin-Ho’s increasingly drunken rambling confirmed that Yoo Jin-Ho had become one of those people.
Their friendship had been forged in the inky depths of Rock Tunnel under the blessings of a dozen screeching Zubat. It was there that Yoo Jin-Ho first learned the harsh reality that money could never truly buy safety in the world. It was a tough lesson to swallow but he was young and adaptable. Between the two-faced guards who betrayed him and his savior cloaked in shadow, it was an easy choice. Yoo Jin-Ho had clung to Jin-Woo's side, and to his surprise, Jin-Woo had allowed him to stay there.
Jin-Woo's kindness was easy to mistake for cold pragmatism. There was initially only a contract between them: Jin-Woo would protect the Silph Corporation heir in exchange for financial compensation once they reached Saffron City. For most of their journey, Jin-Woo treated Yoo Jin-Ho and his Pikachu as a glorified mobile flashlight and battery pack, basically a convenient appliance, but traveling with the same appliance for weeks would inevitably make one fond of it.
Now that they were in Saffron City, Jin-Woo was reluctant to part from this last shared celebratory meal. Or at least, Jin-Woo was until Yoo Jin-Ho's drunk tirade on public relations planning got a little too ridiculous.
He was not going to market himself as the next version of Golbatman.
The first improvement to Sung Jin-Woo's public image came when his mother awakened from her coma.
No one dared to ask for the specifics, but the circumstantial evidence was pretty damning: Sung Jin-Woo had left the Kanto region for weeks and returned to his hometown exactly one day before the awakening. The miraculous spectacle was something people were used to attributing to the trainers who claimed control over the forces of nature known as legendary Pokémon, and Sung Jin-Woo’s first miracle was undoubtedly positive.
"Darkrai: A Cause or a Cure?"
Jin-Woo could barely stand reading his friend's article filled with vague nonsense and exaggerated anecdotes. He was starting to suspect Yoo Jin-Ho was actually serious about starting that merchandise line.
Meanwhile, the true cause of the miracle, a crescent-shaped feather in Jin-Woo's other hand, slowly crumpled away after fulfilling its purpose.
One Island had the honor of being the most famous out of the Sevii Islands Archipelago. As the birthplace of Kanto's current champion, it was a popular pilgrimage site to trainers who had finished collecting their eight badges.
Jin-Woo hadn’t originally planned to visit it, but a request from the Kanto Pokémon Association's chairman was not something he could simply reject. Woo Jin-Chul had always been helpful on Jin-Woo's atypical trainer journey, and Jin-Woo was someone who paid back the rare amount of goodwill he received.
Helping out was also within his own interests. If the swarm of genetically engineered Genesect clones invading One Island managed to make it further north, his own family would be in danger.
Many trainers were gathering on the island, including the fire-type specialist Choi Jong-In who had an absolute advantage over the reportedly bug and steel type Genesect. The top trainers from both Kanto and Johto were all present. Jin-Woo doubted he would be necessary for the operation.
He was wrong.
No one had anticipated the Genesect swarm to be so fast or so smart. They had learnt to specifically target humans. Between one abnormally speedy black Genesect and the sheer quantity of other Genesect clones coordinating with each other, the attack force had turned into more of a defense force.
Even Choi Jong-In's Moltres was forced back by the water-typed Techno Blasts attacks. The group of Genesect had unbelievably also learned type advantages.
Luckily, riding on his own newly-captured Hydreigon, Jin-Woo had arrived late on the island and was able to catch the whole group by surprise. Jin-Woo's team was really perfectly suited for the job; he had the ultimate trump card against swarms of enemy Pokémon. Not only could Darkrai outspeed any of the Pokémon on the island, it could also put all its enemies to sleep in one fell swoop.
"Dark Void," Jin-Woo commanded confidently.
A dark blur shot forward from Jin-Woo's shadow and rapidly expanded, covering the entire island almost instantaneously before curving upwards to greedily swallow up a section of the sky as well. The ominous dome then abruptly dissipated as quickly as it had appeared, leaving an island full of sleeping figures.
The only Pokémon to escape was the Black Genesect that had given the other trainers so much trouble.
Despite this, Jin-Woo's expression remained just as self-assured. After all, he knew best how much weaker something was without their team supporting them.
Jin-Woo had no such weakness. What his Darkrai missed, the rest of his team would cover.
A vortex of fire enveloped the Genesect just as the tip of its claw came inches away from gouging into Jin-Woo's face, and before it could move again, a precise slash tore off the cannon on its back. Jin-Woo's Houndoom and Bisharp revealed themselves from their hiding places, having been quietly released when Darkrai's attack had stolen everyone's attention.
"What do you think of this one?" Jin-Woo asked his Darkrai while pulling out a Poké Ball.
Darkrai gave an uncharacteristically fussy huff of displeasure.
"It isn't a dark type, I know," Jin-Woo admitted, but he still persisted and held up the abnormally colored Pokémon to his Darkrai's face. He needed more type coverage. "But look! He's dark in color!"
Darkrai turned away, not even wanting to acknowledge his trainer's faulty logic.
(Somehow, Jin-Woo still won his way.)
The attack had been broadcast on television across the different regions and Sung Jin-Woo's popularity soared to new heights. There was a difference between owning one legendary Pokémon and owning a whole army of legendary Pokémon. Sung Jin-Woo had never registered his army of Genesect besides the single black Genesect, but everyone knew where they must have gone.
Jin-Woo had expected the increase in public attention. What he hadn't expected was the increase in attention from the elites in the attack force.
Johto's Goto Ryuji had been especially persistent. He had stayed for Kanto's celebration banquet and even shamelessly dragged the rest of his tired companions to do the same.
"I'll challenge you with my title of champion at stake!" He bargained.
Kanto's champion had to smother a laugh. He had just offered Jin-Woo the same title for saving his life earlier, only to be rejected.
Jin-Woo fought a sigh. Were championship titles so easy to give away? "I don't want your title."
"Then what do you want?"
What Jin-Woo wanted was to take a trip to Johto.
Dark type Pokémon had first been discovered in Johto, and it held far better prospects for potential team members than Kanto. Jin-Woo had grown up longing for Pokémon to call his own, and he wasn't going to let one picky legendary's preferences stop him from adding to his family.
Ironically, it turned out that the easiest way to have full access to all of Johto was to become the region's champion.
It actually wasn't so easy to give away a champion title. The new champion would need the approval of the previous champion and all of the region's Elite Four members. Choi Jong-In had given him that offer on behalf of every Kanto Elite Four member as they had all been part of the attack force. But it just so happened that every single Johto Elite Four member was also present, and they were all willing...for the same price that Goto Ryuji was offering.
In the end, Jin-Woo ended up having to fight not one, but five battles.
The Ultra Wormholes opened up in Johto just a day after its new champion set foot in the region.
After being briefed on the situation, Jin-Woo looked at the Beast Ball in his hand calculatingly.
"Technically, they're called Ultra Beasts not Pokémon..."
The shadow behind him flickered in agitation.