It began in cave with a letter and an ancient mural. Perhaps it was an encounter of fate, the perfect prelude of the struggles to come.
The mural was painted across three walls. The far left showed a fiery beast causing massive volcanic eruptions, while the far right depicted a leviathan creating a massive flood. Then, in the center, the two super-ancient pokemon clashed.
Steven stared in awe and a tinge of distant fear at that image. It was a battle that sent the ancient world into chaos and destruction. However, their forms were different than he’d seen in any other reference. They seemed more powerful.
Mega evolution? No. It seemed more… primal.
Footsteps echoed through the cave. He turned around to see a young woman approaching him. A Combusken followed at her side, sternly glaring as if daring any wild pokemon to attack.
“Hm? You are…?”
She stared wide eyed at him for a second. Steven got the feeling that somehow he wasn’t what she expected.
“I’m, um”, she answered once his question finally seemed to register, “May Maple.”
Maple…? Had the new Petalburg gym leader mentioned having a daughter? Or was the same last name a coincidence? Well, it didn’t really matter.
“Ah, I see. It’s a pleasure, May.” He smiled before realizing he’d yet to introduce himself. “My apologies. My name is Steven. I’m interested in rare stones, so I travel here and there. Today my journey brought me here, but what about you?”
“I was, ah, looking for you.” From the blush spreading across her cheeks and her stumbling reply, she was definitely getting flustered. Either she was shy or meeting the Champion made her act shy. “To deliver a letter! I mean…”
“Oh? A letter for me?“
She nodded, reaching into her bag and holding out the letter to him.
“Why, thank you”, he said, taking it. He quickly opened it and scanned through it. It was a warning from his father that some strange organization, Team Aqua, had been targeting Devon’s research. In fact, May had been the one to stop a vital piece of equipment from being stolen.
Steven frowned. That was both incredibly brave and rather reckless for a novice trainer to do. It seemed there was more to this young woman that first appeared.
“It must have been some trouble to track me down. I suppose I must repay you in some way. Let me see…” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a well-used TM. “I’ll give you this. It contains my favorite move, Steel Wing.”
“Thank you”, she replied, staring at it a second before placing the TM in her bag.
Steven turned back to the mural, curious of another person’s interruption of it. “If you don’t mind me asking… Do you feel anything in particular when you look up at this wall?”
May stepped up next to him, her eyes surveying the depiction with quiet contemplation. Almost hesitantly, she reached up and touched the figures of the people and pokemon attempting to escape the calamity.
“It’s…sad and terrible. That they fought… that they brought so much destruction and pain.”
The look in her eyes was unfathomable, like the depths of the ocean or perhaps even space. The atmosphere around them seemed to shift into the surreal. A moment where the past, present, and future all blended together with May as the focal point.
She then turned back to him; and, the moment faded. Her eyes were once again young and unburdened.
Steven’s heart was suddenly racing. He’d felt like he’d caught a glimpse of something greater than he could ever comprehend.
However, one thing was crystal clear to him: May Maple would one day become a force to be reckoned with.
“…Yes. But not all power is terrible”, he managed to shake off his stupor and reply. He then glanced at her Combusken, who had been watching the entire exchange with a silent but palpable aura of protectiveness. “Your pokemon are clearly quite capable as well. Looking at you all together… I think that you have in you what it takes to become a Pokémon League Champion.”
She stared at him, dumbfounded.
“As long as you keep training, that is”, he added. “Good luck to you. I must be going now.”
As Steven left Granite Cave and May behind, he wondered when they’d next meet.
(The idea that they might not meet again never crossed his mind.)
Steven had just finished the day’s training when one of the League staff came up to him.
“Mr. Stone called and wanted you to call back as soon as you could. It sounded important.”
“Thanks”, he replied before changing direction to the Champion’s office. As soon as he settled, he dialed the number. It really must have been important because his father answered right away.
“Steven! Good. I can’t wait until the upgrade for the PokeNav Plus is finished. It’ll make it so much easier to get ahold of you.”
“Hey, dad”, Steven sighed, “What is it?”
“I wanted to update you on that Team Aqua situation. You remember that girl I sent to deliver a letter to you?”
“Yes.” She wasn’t someone he could easily forget, not after her reaction to the mural in Granite Cave. “Did something happen?”
His father made an amused hum. “Yes and no. She delivered some parts to Captain Stern for me but they had another run in with Team Aqua. From what Stern said, she seems to have made herself a thorn in Team Aqua’s side.”
Having her deliver the letter to him was strange enough, but his father had her deliver parts to Slateport too? While his father did come across as genial, it wasn’t like him at all to entrust random trainers with vital Devon technology. Even though she had stopped a thief, the most he’d expect from his father was to reward her and send her on her way.
“Why did you get her involved in this?” He asked.
The line went quiet for a long moment before his father finally responded, “…Son, she’s the one that got herself involved with all this. And I think her involvement runs much deeper than we can know.”
Steven sighed. “If that’s the case, then asking her to stop getting involved isn’t likely to sway her.”
“I expect not.”
“But you want me to try anyway?”
“What you do is up to you, Steven. I just thought you should be aware of the situation.”
The next time they met was by pure chance. Steven had been wandering as he was prone to do on occasion when he caught sight of a familiar face on Route 118. As Steven jogged over to her, he was pleased to see that she seemed well.
“Why, hello! We met in Granite Cave, didn’t we?”
She turned to him, surprise flickering across her face. However, that soon faded into a warm smile.
“We did. I’m-”
“No, I remember it”, he said, “May, right?”
May nodded, her smile becoming a little brighter. At first glance little had changed about her over the past few months but Steven slowly noted that the way she stood was more confident and self-assured. It was a sign that she’d grown as a trainer.
“It’s good to see that your journey is going well.”
Her eyes seemed to glitter at that. “It really is.”
“You know, May, in this vast world, there are many kinds of Pokémon.” He wasn’t sure why he’d started rambling but he did. “They come in many types. Should you raise different types? Or will you only raise Pokémon of a certain type you like? I wonder what you think, as a pokemon trainer…?”
She looked curiously at him, as if she were trying to figure out a puzzle.
“…Not that it’s anything I should be concerning myself with…” Because it wasn’t really any of his business. Even so, he was curious. “…But somehow I find myself wanting to know what you think.”
“I… haven’t really thought about it”, she answered, “My partners are all different types so I guess there’s not a specific type I prefer.”
“Raising all different types is trickier but it does give you many options”, he replied, “Some of the most successful trainers are non-specialists because of that.”
She looked thoughtfully at him. “What about you? Don’t you specialize in Steel types?”
“Yes”, he said with a nod, “Though I’ve raised several Rock types and a Ground type as well.”
“I haven’t caught any pokemon of those types.”
Steven was half-tempted to try to convince her to give his favorite type a try; however, before he could go into the spill, a familiar presence brushed across his mind.
“…Hm?” He turned around to see the Eon pokemon he’d befriend landing on the beach. “Latios!”
Worried by Latios’s unexpected appearance, Steven ran down to it. May followed a couple of steps behind.
“What pokemon is this?” She breathed out in slight awe as she took in the sight of the sleek dragon.
“May, this is Latios – one of the mythical pokemon that live here in Hoenn.”
“That’s…wow. I’ve never met a mythical pokemon before.”
Honestly, Steven was surprised and impressed for a different reason. The Eon pokemon were extremely picky about revealing themselves to humans. For Latios to appear while May was with him… That could only mean Latios thought highly of her.
Latios brushed against his mind again, imparting a sense of urgency.
“Do you…want us to soar somewhere with you?”
The Eon pokemon looked from him to May and then wiggled its wings. Steven nodded in understanding.
“I believe Latios has sought us out for help.” He turned to her, holding out a hand. “May, come with me.”
May hesitated for just a second, her eyes flickering from Steven to Latios. Resolve then settled onto her face as she took his hand and let him help her onto Latios’s back.
Soon they were soaring through the sky. May’s arms clung around his waist, tight enough that he wasn’t worried she’d fall but not so tight that he thought she might be scared. In fact, when Latios went into a dive, May laughed.
“This is amazing!”
Her giddiness was apparently contagious because Steven couldn’t help but to grin.
However, as Latios descended to a small island, the thrill faded into seriousness. He slid off Latios before helping May down. Then they both turned their attention to their surroundings.
The island was thickly forested with streams flowing by. There was a strange atmosphere to the place. The blur of dreaming…? A blending of reality…? It felt vaguely similar to that eerie moment in Granite Cave.
“… I don’t know what it is… Not quite unease, not quite fear… But there is something…unsettling… It is an odd feeling, as though I am walking in a dream— or an illusion.”
He glanced at May to find that the unfathomable depths had returned to her eyes.
“Yeah, there’s something… “ She paused, tilting her head as to listen to something that was beyond his awareness. “…Those whose memories fade… seek to carve in their hearts… What do you mean?… I don’t understand…”
She shook her head, looking confused and a little unsettled.
They followed an overgrown path deep into the forest. May stuck close to his side, still tense from whatever it was that had shaken her. Even though Latios had wanted her to come along as well… After whatever that was, Steven felt bad about dragging her here.
Soon they stepped into a clearing with waterfalls cascading around them. Sitting in the center was a pokemon nearly identical to Latios, except it was glossy red and had brown eyes.
“Latias…” Steven breathed, recognizing it despite having never seen the second Eon pokemon before.
They approached slowly, while Latias watched them a little cautiously.
“It’s beautiful… If I were to describe such beauty in terms of a stone, it would be a Sun Stone. No… It goes beyond that… Isn’t its brilliance like that of a Dawn Stone? It is as fantastic as a Steel-type Pokémon…”
May let out a small laugh. He gave her a questioning look.
“You’re surprisingly nerdy”, was her answer.
“You’re a little intimidating so…”
Oh. He didn’t think he’d done anything that would intimidate her but clearly he’d done something wrong for her to say that.
“I apologize that I’ve-”
“No, not that kind of intimidating.” She scrunched up her face trying to find a way to explain. “You’re, well, the Champion and also really rich and… Yeah.”
Steven sighed. While he was glad he hadn’t accidentally made her uncomfortable, her explanation was a little disappointing. Reasonable, he supposed. It certainly wasn’t the first time someone had been intimidated by either of his positions.
Looking a little guilty – perhaps realizing that her words had stung him – May started to say something else. However, the sound of twigs and leaves snapping as people approached stopped her. They both turned to the noise to see two people walking into the clearing: One was a man that looked like he could give Bruno of the Indigo League a run for his money in terms of sheer muscle. The other was a woman with a striped shirt and bandana.
“Team Aqua”, May said, her icy tone making her enmity toward them clear.
“Hm? So that’s Team Aqua?” Steven frowned. “Latias and Latios must have noticed their coming, and that’s why they called on us.”
For all their power, the Eon pokemon were extremely peaceful and avoided fighting unless there was no other choice.
“Huhn?!” The man shouted once he spotted them, “What’s this?!”
“Mr. Matt sir”, the woman answered, “That pipsqueak over there is the kid that I heard keeps getting in our way!”
May huffed, apparently offended at being called a pipsqueak and kid.
“B-but that rather alluring gentleman with her… I feel like I should know him from somewhere…” For a split second, Steven assumed he’d been recognized. However, then she said, “Maybe he’s a Contest star?”
This time May let out a long frustrated sigh, though Steven had no idea why.
“Oh ho!” The man laughed. “I have no time to worry about that! The name’s Matt! That’s Team Aqua Admin Matt to you! What I want from you is that Latias and its mega stone…”
So that’s what they were after, Steven thought as he narrowed his eyes. Both he and May almost unconsciously shifted in front of Latias.
“We of Team Aqua are definitely gonna need the transcendent power of Mega Evolution to achieve our ambitions. How ‘bout it? If you get out of our way, we won’t rough you up.”
“I won’t move”, May simply replied.
“I’ll take part in this battle as well”, Steven said, reaching for a pokeball. It wouldn’t do to let her fight alone. “Let’s protect Latias and its mega stone together.”
May nodded and reached for one of her pokeballs as well.
“If you’re really that stupid”, the Admin laughed again, “Then I have no choice but to squash you!”
Both Team Aqua members threw out their pokemon: a Sharpedo and Grimer. May sent out the pokemon of hers that he’d met in Granite Cave; only now it was a Blaziken. For his part, Steven sent out his Metagross.
“Swagger!” Admin Matt immediately yelled.
“Torch, High Jump Kick!”
Steven winced as Blaziken’s attack failed. It hit the ground hard, clearly confused after the Sharpedo’s use of Swagger. However, he didn’t have the time to sympathize as the woman then ordered her Grimer.
Metagross brushed off the attack like it was nothing. Steven smirked.
The Grimer didn’t stand a chance and quickly fainted, much to its trainer’s distress.
Steven then turned his attention to lend May a hand. Her Blaziken had stumbled after another attack. Despite the apparent direness of the situation, May’s expression was perfectly calm.
“Come on, Torch”, she coaxed, “You just need to land one High Jump Kick. I know you can do it.”
Her Blaziken unsteadily got back to its feet, determined to succeed.
“Heh, it won’t be so easy. Use Slash!”
“Metagross!” Steven called, knowing full well his pokemon could take another hit.
Metagross managed to shield Blaziken just before the attack struck.
Blaziken seized the opening, jumping high up and then delivering a strong kick to the Sharpedo. It flew backwards and skipped to the ground in front of the Admin.
“Strong, ain'tcha?” Admin Matt chuckled, recalling his pokemon. “You’re an interesting punk, too, I’ll give you that! I admire interesting, strong dudes! That’s why I love my bro, Archie! But next time I see you, I’ll smash you up real good, okay?”
He then turned away, motioning for the other Team Aqua member to follow. “Let’s get outta here, you dull Grunt!”
“Y-yes, sir”, she said, hurrying after.
“Hah…” Steven breathed out a sigh of relief once they’d vanished. He then turned to May, her face carefully blank as she stared in the direction they’d gone. “Good work, May. You were a far greater help than I anticipated.”
She blinked and looked up at him. Her expression once again brightened.
“It was Torch that really pulled through”, she said, reaching up to pet its head. Blaziken beamed from the attention and a battle won.
Steven smiled at that sight before reaching into his pocket and pulling out some medicine.
“Here”, he said, tossing it to her.
She gave her Blaziken the medicine and then returned it to its pokeball, while Steven did the same for Metagross. Once their pokemon were cared for, Latias glided toward them. Steven felt its gratitude brush against his mind.
The Eon pokemon nodded and then turned to May. The two stared at each other, almost as if locked in some sort of trance.
“It looks as though Latias may have also recognized you as a trainer worthy of its trust”, he stated as Latias moved closer to her, “Look. It’s trying to offer you its friendship. Go on, hold out your hand to it.”
There was no hesitance as May reached out to Latias. She placed her hand on its head, sealing the bond that had begun to form between them. A bond just like the one he shared with Latios.
Speaking of Latios, the Eon pokemon returned to the grove and settled by him. It looked at its twin and May, clearly pleased that they’d become friends. Steven suddenly suspected that Latios may have used Team Aqua as an excuse for them to meet.
May patted Latias one more time before turning to him. It was immediately apparent that the newly formed bond had changed her… No, it wasn’t a change. It had been there in Granite Cave but now that part of her was more polished. The steady tranquility and explicit trust that had allowed her to talk her partner through its confusion now blended with the island’s serene atmosphere.
It seemed as if right in front of his eyes, May was growing into an incredible trainer.
“What did they mean by Mega Evolution?” She asked, her smile falling slightly.
A question like that deemed a thorough answer, at least in Steven’s mind. So he took a breath, shaking off his previous thoughts for the moment, and began to explain.
“Mega Evolution is a phenomenon that has long been shrouded in mystery. It requires a keystone, a mega stone, and a strong bond between trainer and pokemon. If all of that is achieved, then the pokemon will temporarily gain a powerful boost unlike any usual form of evolution.”
“Huh, that sounds interesting. But it seems strange I hadn’t at least heard of it before.”
“It’s most common in the Kalos region and is being studied deeply there. However, there are some ancient texts and artifacts that suggest it was once prominent here in Hoenn. It’s so rare in the rest of the world that its existence isn’t well known.”
She nodded. “That would be why…”
Steven happened to glance up at the sky and noted how late in the afternoon it was. “I apologize but I must be going. Latias will take you wherever you wish, though I suspect you’ll be returning to Route 118?”
She nodded. “I want to continue to Route 119 and Fortree Gym on my own two feet.”
“I expect that you and your team will be able to best both. I’m curious to see how much stronger you’ll grow by the next time we meet.” He then hopped onto Latios and waved at her. “Until then, May.”
“The Weather Institute was attacked by Team Aqua earlier today”, the news droned from Steven’s PokeNav Plus, “However, a passing trainer was able to defeat Team Aqua-”
Steven clicked the news off. There was no point in hearing speculation when he would soon be receiving a detailed report from the Weather Institute about what had occurred there.
He’d been trying to find information about Team Aqua ever since receiving the letter from his father. However, tracking their whereabouts and unveiling their goals wasn’t easy. He was also rarely in the right place and the right time to stop their crimes.
Somehow, May was though. There was no doubt in his mind that she was the trainer mentioned. She’d been in that general area; and, with the way May seemed to be making it her personal mission to fight Team Aqua…
“But next time I see you, I’ll smash you up real good, okay?”
The Admin had directed that at May. If she kept getting in their way, how far would Team Aqua go to get rid of the thorn in their side?
Steven sighed deeply. “What should I do…? Try to convince her to back off and let the League or police handle it?”
…But, as he’d told his father months ago, he didn’t think his words would sway her. Even back in Granite Cave, he’d recognized the stubborn glint in her eyes. After teaming up with her to protect Latias, Steven was even more certain of it. May wasn’t the sort of person whose mind could be changed once she’d made a decision.
As he glanced over at his rock collection, in particular the case containing the few mega stones he’d managed to acquire, Steven got an idea. He might not to be able to stop her but he could give her the best tools and increase her chance of success.
The third time they met was intentional on Steven’s part. He was spending time along Route 120 in hopes of running into May again. Not that he was only here for her; Devon’s Research and Development had passed him a new prototype to test in the field. Still it was convenient that he could do that in the same area where May would likely be heading next.
He was in luck because after just a few hours a familiar voice called out to him.
“Hm? May?” Steven turned to see May walking across the bridge. She paused just in front of him; he couldn’t quite put his finger on why but she seemed tenser than normal. “So, we meet again. How have you been?”
“Alright, I guess”, she said with a shrug.
He realized it then. The small smile she’d greeted him with before was absent.
“So you’ve had no more run-ins with Team Aqua?”
“Oh, you heard about the Weather Institute…”
“I have.” He nodded. “You seem less energetic than usual… Is something bothering you?”
“It’s just the Admin I battled there… She seemed disturbed by something she learned.” She looked up at him, worry floating in her eyes. “If even members of Team Aqua are getting nervous, what exactly are the leader’s plans?”
“…That’s troubling news indeed. I wish I had an idea.”
A somber silence fell between them. Then Steven remembered his purpose in wanting to see her in the first place.
“Remember our discussion on Mega Evolution?” When May nodded, he reached in his coat pocket and brought out the bracelets he’d had made. “I want you to have these. One holds a keystone, and the other holds what happens to be one of my top five favorite stones in existence: Blazikenite.”
She looked from the offered bracelets up to him, disbelief dancing across her face. “Why?”
“I believe you’ll make good use of Mega Evolution.”
“Oh, um, thank you…” Her cheeks turned pink when she took the bracelets from him.
Huh, hadn’t she acted more like this when they first met in Granite Cave?
“Are you heading on through Route 120?”
May shook her head. “No, I haven’t been able to challenge Fortree Gym yet. The path was blocked.”
“That isn’t like Winona”, he replied.
“She might not have noticed. It seems to be blocked be something…invisible.” She looked like she wasn’t sure if he’d believe such a story.
“Hmm…” Steven glanced back at what had occupied his attention before her appearance. “Have you noticed? There’s something here you can’t see.”
She squinted her eyes at the spot. “No?”
“Now if I were to use this device on the invisible obstacle”, he continued as he held up the Devon Scope, “No, no… Rather than describing it, I should just show you. That should be more entertaining. May I?”
Steven stepped forward, placing the Devon Scope over her head and adjusting it to fit. “Are you and your pokemon ready for battle?”
“Why would…?” She glanced over at the spot where a Kechlon hid in plain sight. “Oh! So that’s it!”
Startled that it had been seen, the Kechlon attacked. May quickly sent out her Blaziken to deal with it. It was such a short battle that May didn’t even get the chance to think of trying out Mega Evolution. Steven would have liked to see that but it was perhaps for the best he hadn’t. Not yet, at least.
May slid the Devon Scope off her head and held it back out to him.
He held up a hand. “Keep it. It might help you with what’s blocking the gym.”
“A spare prototype that Devon Research and Development wanted me to test out. As long as I tell them how well it worked, they won’t care what I do with it.”
“Okay then. Thanks again.”
As she opened her bag to fit it in, a glint caught Steven’s eye. That shine seemed almost like a rare type of…
“…No, it couldn’t be.”
“What?” She asked, zipping her bag back up and looking curiously at him.
“It’s nothing. I suppose I should be going now.” He walked past her but the stopped and glanced back. “You know, May… I like to see trainers and pokemon who are trying their best. That’s why I like you so much.”
The way her cheeks turned pink again was oddly gratifying. As he turned to leave, Steven tried not to think too hard as to why.
“Let’s meet again someday.”
“Steven!” Liza and Tate greeted in unison as he walked inside their gym.
“It’s unusual for you to-” Tate started but Liza finished. “-Visit in the middle of the week.”
“Good morning”, he replied, “I have a meeting later today so I thought I should stop by on the way to it.”
The twin gym leaders nodded. They then glanced at each other, their expressions brightening as they recalled something exciting.
“Oh! We faced a really strong challenger yesterday!”
“It was Norman’s daughter.”
“Hm? So May’s earned her seventh gym badge…”
Tate tilted her head in question. “You know her?”
“We’ve met a couple of times”, he replied. He wondered if May were still in town or if she’d moved on already.
“She stayed on the island overnight”, Liza said.
Tate then continued, “It’s still early so she might not have left yet.”
“Was my curiosity that obvious…?”
“May’s a unique trainer.”
“We can see why she caught your interest.”
“I’m looking forward to battling her one day”, he admitted. “I think… I’m going to see if I can catch her before she leaves. I’ll check back in later.”
He had barely made it outside and down the road when the sound of an explosion echoed through the air. The ground started to violently shake, while people all around scrambled to keep their balance. As the rumbling lessened and finally came to a still, Steven happened to catch sight of May. She was near the Pokemon Center, helping a lady get back to her feet.
“May!” He called as he ran up to her.
She turned to him, surprise clear across her face. “Steven?”
“I heard from Liza and Tate that you visited their Gym. I was thinking of trying to catch you while you were in the area, but then this happened…” He said, gesturing at the still disoriented crowd. “We should talk. Let’s go to my place.”
Her expression switched to seriousness as she nodded. He quickly led her down the road to his house; and, unlocking the door, they stepped inside. May paused just in the doorway and glanced around, seemingly taking in every detail.
“Ah… Yes… I suppose I should welcome you to my home.” Steven was suddenly aware of how empty and unlived in his house seemed. “Please forgive the rather sparse décor…”
She shrugged at that, keeping her thoughts on the subject a mystery, and walked farther inside.
“Now…” Steven said, shutting the door behind them, “Where to begin…”
May took that as an opening and hurriedly began to explain what she’d done since they’d last met. Some of it Steven knew of – like how she’d attempted to stop Team Aqua from stealing the submarine – but other parts were new information.
“I then tracked them down to their hideout in Lilycove. They had altered the submarine and were planning to go to someplace called the Seafloor Cavern… Do you have any idea why?”
If the Seafloor Cavern was their goal…
“Then the rumbling that shook the earth just now… The eardrum-rupturing explosion we heard…” Steven said, hand on chin in contemplation, “They are proof that a seal, which was long hidden deep undersea, has been undone at last. The super-ancient pokemon that has been sealed deep beneath Route 128 since ancient times… It slept until now in the Seafloor Cavern.”
May’s frown deepened. “One of the pokemon depicted in Granite Cave…?”
“I fear so”, he replied, “There is no doubt that Team Aqua intends to revive the super-ancient pokemon and make its power their own.”
“They need to be stopped before that happens”, May stated, her tone leaving no question that she intended be the one to do so. “…I tried to chase after them when they got away in that submarine but…”
“Submarines are difficult to follow. Hmm…” Steven walked over to a drawer and dug through it. A second a later he found what he was looking for, an extra set of Devon Suba Gear. “This should help. Using it, you’ll be able to dive with your pokemon.”
He handed the breathing apparatus over to her before continuing, “I have a meeting with a representative from the International Police about Team Aqua.”
They’d been throwing all their resources into Kanto’s situation but they’d only just managed to send someone to Hoenn. Steven feared it was a little too late but he’d try to convince them to act quickly at their meeting.
“I take it that you won’t be waiting?” He asked.
May shook her head. “We don’t have the time.”
“I suppose not… If you dive along Route 128, you should be able to reach the entrance to the Seafloor Cavern.” Without thinking, he placed his hands on her shoulders. “Please do what you can to slow Team Aqua down… But promise me you won’t do anything too reckless.”
May stared searchingly into his eyes. After a long, tense moment she nodded. “I’ll try.”
It wasn’t promise but Steven figured it was the best he’d get from her.
“I will come join you as soon as I’m able.”
Steven was distracted all through the meeting. He tried to stress how important it was to act against Team Aqua right that moment but most the International Police’s manpower was too far away, looking into the disappearance of the Indigo League’s most recent Champion or trying to track down the leader of the now disbanded Team Rocket. All and all, it was frustrating; and, the anxiety that he should be elsewhere only grew the longer it went on.
When it suddenly began to downpour, Steven knew he could no longer stay. He made a perhaps biting excuse and dashed off. Once outside, he called for Latios with the Eon Flute. Likely already aware of the potentially dire situation, his friend appeared quickly.
“I need to find May and figure out what’s happening”, he told it.
Latios nodded and allowed Steven to climb on his back. Then they took to the grey skies. Steven wasn’t sure how Latios managed to fly so well in the rain; he certainly couldn’t see past the torrential curtain of water.
However, it wasn’t too long before Latios began to descend toward a sandbar. As they landed, Steven saw May standing listlessly in the deluge.
“May!” He called out to her as he scrambled off Latios’s back. “I’m sorry I could not be here sooner.”
She slowly turned to him. The look in her eyes was one he’d seen many times in the challengers that faced him: defeat and resignation.
“…I failed… I couldn’t stop Team Aqua from awakening Primal Kyogre…”
Team Aqua’s plans, Granite Cave, Kyogre. He felt the blood drain from his face as all the pieces fell in place. Steven glanced up at the dark sky in full understanding.
“Terrible… So this is what was being depicted in that painting in Granite Cave. If this doesn’t stop, all Hoenn—no, the entire world—will drown.”
“If…I had just been faster… but now…”
Steven couldn’t tell if she were crying or if it was the rain streaming down her face. Either way, her expression was heart-wrenching.
“Don’t blame yourself”, he said, placing a hand on her shoulder, “You’ve done more than anyone else to try to prevent this.”
May blinked up at him and then suddenly flung herself forward. Steven was caught off guard by it and stumbled back a few steps as she wrapped her arms around him. Unsure how to handle this situation, he let her cling to him as he patted her head in what he hoped was a comforting manner.
As they stood there with only the sound of rain and waves, Steven stared back up at the darkened sky. That was when he noticed it.
“This huge rain cloud… Is it spreading out from Sootopolis?”
May pulled away and attempted to rub the water off her face. “What does it matter? It’s over…”
“It’s not over yet”, he replied with a faint smile, “We’re still here after all.”
“But what can anyone possibly do to stop this now…?”
She had a point. They needed a plan, more knowledge, something.
“Come on, Steven… Think! What are you going to do?…No.” The clouds were heaviest over Sootopolis, where the one person who may be holding some hidden insight was. “There’s no point in agonizing over the situation from here… I have to go to Sootopolis. There must be answers there.”
Unwilling to leave her in the middle of the storm, he held out a hand. “Come with me.”
May stared at him, almost as if she were seeing him for the first time. Then she reached out and took his hand.
Latios soon landed in Sootopolis. The rain was worse here than out in Route 128. As they got off the Eon pokemon, Steven couldn’t even see the gym through the drenching veil.
“What terrible rain… It feels as though the entire world will be washed away…”
“Steven?!” A familiar voice called as his friend Wallace ran up to them. Despite being a water type specialist, Wallace did not look pleased with the torrent.
“Wallace!” He called, “You’re insight is needed.”
As Steven launched into a quick explanation of what was happening, Wallace’s expression became grim.
“It’s as I thought then”, Wallace said heavily. He then turned to May. “I’m Wallace, the gym leader here. I’ve also been entrusted with the protection of the Cave of Origin. This downpour is being caused by a power emanating from it…”
As he spoke, a red glow began to emanate from May’s bag. Confusion clear across her face, she reached into her bag and pulled out the source of the glow.
“That’s the Red Orb!” Wallace exclaimed. “I see. Follow me.”
Red Orb? Steven tried to recall the legends he’d heard of Kyogre and Groudon as they followed Wallace toward the entrance of the Cave of Origins. As they approached, they saw that three figures where already there.
“Team Aqua… and Team Magma…”
The two Team leaders and Admin turned to them.
“We have been expecting you”, the leader of Team Magma said.
The Admin then turned to her leader. “Archie… I’m going to hand that thing we developed to this kid. Alright?”
To Steven’s surprise, he nodded. “Yes. The Aqua Suit… Take it.”
The Admin drug a case that had been sitting to the side and opened it, revealing what seemed to be a deep sea diving dry suit.
“This super high-performance protective suit was made with the combined technology of the Devon Corporation and Team Aqua”, she explained, “We actually prepared it in anticipation of coming into contact with Kyogre. I’ll just leave it with you.”
May nodded. “I… I’ll do what I can with it.”
Archie spoke up then. “But… Even if you put it on, do you really think you’ll be able to make it all the way down to where Kyogre waits?”
The Admin turned back to the Cave of Origins. “The energy overflowing from this shrine is certainly much more powerful than we had anticipated. Its influence is making the current grow stronger.”
Steven raised a brow at that. He’d been wondering since their appearance; it seemed that even Team Aqua hadn’t wanted to take this plan of theirs so far.
Wallace stepped up then. “There is nothing to fear. The Red Orb she bears… Its ancient powers will protect both her and her pokemon.”
“Hmph! So that’s it!” The Team Magma leader said, “Now that you mention it, I do remember the elderly couple at Mt. Pyre saying such… The Blue Orb is capable of releasing Kyore’s full power, of reverting it to its primal form. While the Red Orb has the power to quell that flood.”
“Yes”, Wallace said as he walked up to the shrine’s entrance, “The energy overflowing the Cave of Origin just now… It is the very energy that gives Kyogre its power. However, the Red Orb contains the power to restrain it. With the Red Orb and that suit, it will become possible to reach Hoenn’s Core and stand up against the forces of nature.”
Steven turned to May and once again placed his hands on her shoulders. The look of defeat that had been in her eyes when he’d found her earlier was gone. However, uncertainty and fear remained.
“May… To think that you had the Red Orb… You’ll be okay. You and your Pokémon can handle it, whatever happens. I believe that.”
He said that, knowing she needed to hear it. He’d honestly believed it too. If anyone could put a stop to Primal Kyogre, it was this trainer whose growth he’s witnessed across a series of meetings. The trainer that never stood by when she came across wrong-doings and that had even earned the trust of the Eon.
His words seemed to work too because the uncertainty faded from her eyes and was replaced with that unfathomable stare he’d caught a glimpse of a few times before. She then pulled away from him with her head held high in resolve.
“No man or woman from Sootopolis is permitted to enter the Cave of Origin”, Wallace as he opened the doors, “But you must go…”
“We will also work to mobilize our team members and offer help to the people and pokemon who are suffering most due to the disaster”, the Team Magma leader stated. He then looked at May. “I’m sorry the greatest burden has fallen to you.”
“….Sorry”, Archie said as well, “I’m begging so…Save us… The world… And Kyogre…”
May glanced at all of them before simply saying, “I will.”
Just as she was about to finally descent into the Cave, a young man about her age ran up.
“May! When I saw the news about Sootopolis on my BuzzNav, and there you were…” His voice trailed off as he looked worried but then quickly brightened again. “Well, anyway, all I could think of was coming to help! You don’t know how glad I am to see that you’re still in one piece.”
She gave him a small smile. “Thanks, Brendan.”
He nodded before finally glancing around at everyone. “Bwuh?! Isn’t that Team Aqua?! And Team Magma?!”
“It’s…” May started.
However, her friend shook his head. “I won’t bother with any questions now. Just do what you have to, and I’ll do what I can to help too.”
“Alright.” May then turned to everyone one last time. “I’m going.”
She then walked straight into the Cave of Origins, soon vanishing in its dark depths.
Steven watched her go firm in the belief she could handle it and stop this disaster. Still he couldn’t help but to worry. Facing the super-ancient pokemon as it had been depicted in Granite Cave… Was it possible come out of such a battle unscathed?
He turned to Wallace, who was looking on in a mix of pity and worry. It was enough to shake Steven out of his anxious stupor.
“Right. We have our own work to do.”
They quickly got to work organizing efforts to rescue all the civilians and trainers who had been caught in the turbulent storm. It was hours and hours of hard work as the rain soaked them down to the bone. Steven welcomed the distraction, pouring himself into the rescue efforts and trying not to think about what was happening far below.
However, he was still the first to notice when the rain began to let up. He finished helping an injured fisherman before rushing back over to the Cave of Origins.
May eventually walked out of the cave, still wearing the Aqua Suit and obviously unsteady on her feet. It was hard to see her face behind the tinted mask but she was clutching a pokeball tight in her hand.
Steven had expected her to defeat the super-ancient pokemon and return it to its dormancy. Instead, he realized in a daze, May had tamed Kyogre.
“May!” Her friend called as he ran up.
Perhaps startled by the yell, she stumbled. Steven was just close enough that he managed to leap forward and catch her. As the others surrounded them, Steven fumbled to get the helmet off her.
The very first thing he noticed was her eyes. They were dull, empty. Like the battle had taken everything from her; and, all that remained was hollow numbness.
The second thing he noticed was that her lips were blue and that she was shivering violently.
“Someone get the nurse!”
“The League has already given a statement about the crisis”, Steven repeated.
The reporter frowned. “We just want a quick interview with May Ma-”
At the strange look the reporter gave him, Steven realized his reaction had been a little too vehement. He took a deep breath to regain his composure.
“There is an ongoing investigation into the situation. Interviews are not an option at this time.”
He then walked away and entered the Sootopolis Pokemon Center. The on-duty nurse looked up at him and smiled brightly.
“Steven, her pokemon have made a full recovery!”
Steven sighed in relief. May’s pokemon had been in rough shape after the battle. Bad enough that it had been near impossible to convince May to leave their sides, even though she had needed medical attention as well.
“I was just about to take them back but I’m assuming you’re going to check in on May”, the nurse continued, grabbing a tray and holding it out to him. “Why don’t you take them to her?”
Steven took it and blinked down at the six pokeballs. May had only taken five pokemon with her to face the super-ancient pokemon, which meant one of those was Kyogre.
That was… humbling.
With that heavy on his mind, he walked down the hall of rooms available for travelers to stay overnight. The door of the room May was in was already cracked open, and voices drifted out. He didn’t intend to eavesdrop but he didn’t want to interrupt either so Steven ended up standing a little awkwardly outside the door.
“Phew! It feels like we can finally relax, huh?”
There was a long, heavy silence before May’s friend started speaking again.
“You know, we set out from Littleroot at the same time, but… It seems like you’re just dashing ahead by yourself and leaving me behind… I feel like we’re not even on the same level anymore, you know? … It’s kinda lonely thinking like that…”
“…Brendan?” May’s voice was a whisper that he almost didn’t hear.
“Or it would be if I really thought that!” Brendan swiftly replied with a small chuckle. His tone then became more serious again. “But… Well, you did do something pretty amazing. So take it easy for a while, okay, friend?”
There were a few more soft mutters that he didn’t quite catch before the door opened all the way and May’s friend walked out. Brendan nearly bumped into Steven before noticing him.
“Um, sorry…” He glanced at May’s pokeballs. “That should cheer her up.”
Brendan then continued down the hall, while Steven entered the room.
May was sitting up in the bed but still cocooned in blankets. Without her friend holding her attention, she stared blankly at the wall.
Steven cleared his throat. “May?”
She blinked and looked up. Seeing him, or more specifically what he was carrying, her expression shifted from a blank mask to clear relief.
“They’re all okay?”
May untangled herself from the blankets just enough to take the pokeballs from him. She then hugged them close. After a few moments, she turned to look at him again.
“Thank you… for everything…”
“I should be the one thanking you”, he replied, “We all owe you great thanks.”
May shrugged half-heartedly. Ever since she’d walked out of the Cave of Origins, her eyes had lacked their bright shine. It was a shine Steven hadn’t truly noticed until it was gone.
He wanted to do something for her but – as many things lately – it seemed out of his power. The best he could do was give her something that might help. Steven reached into his pocket and pulled out a flute. She stared at him in a silent question.
“This is the Eon Flute, one of my favorite items”, he said as he held the flute out, “It is proof of the bond between you and Latias. No matter how far you may be from one another, play that flute and Latias will surely fly straight to you.”
Carefully, she reached out and took it from him.
“I imagine that many changes are happening now all across Hoenn. I hope you will be able to travel this world and see its richness with your own eyes—and revel in its newness in your own heart.”
Maybe if she saw and re-experienced the world she had saved, the light in her eyes would naturally return. That was his hope at least.
May merely nodded, her attention still on the flute.
“…I have to leave Sootopolis. I have duties to attend to.”
She frowned but didn’t say anything. Steven stood there in awkward silence a moment before sighing and walking toward the door. However, he paused right in in the doorway and glanced back.
“I hope we get the chance to meet again”, Steven bid and then walked out. He made in halfway down the hall before her voice called out.
He turned back around. May had followed after him and now stood at the other end of the hall. While it was only a tiny spark, her eyes were no longer empty and dull.
“The next time we meet”, she stated, voice crystal clear, “Will be in Ever Grande.”
Steven’s eyes went wide as his pulse speed up. While he had been assuming her goal was to one day challenge the League, hearing a direct declaration like that was a confirmation he hadn’t realized he’d wanted.
“…I’ll be waiting for you then.”
He then turned to leave with a slight smile on his face. Steven knew that soon he would be in for the most intense and challenging battle he’d yet to experience.
It was a month before he heard any news of May. In a way he was relieved because it meant his efforts to keep the media from hounding her were successful. However, he found her general absence left him wanting to see her again; and, wonderings of how she was doing seemed to constantly plague his mind.
So when Steven next saw Wallace, he couldn’t help but ask, “Has May battled you for the Rain badge yet?”
“She did”, he replied, “The day after you left Sootopolis, in fact.”
“Win?” When Steven nodded, Wallace laughed. “I’ve never had a battle like the one with her. It was like…”
“Battling May was…” Wallace frowned in deep contemplation. “…I think to tame Kyogre, May had to become a force of nature in her own right.”
“Force of nature…?” His brows scrunched up in confusion. “What do you mean by that?”
“You’ll understand when you battle her.”
Steven nodded. There were somethings that could only be properly conveyed in the heat of a pokemon battle. If the enigma that was May Maple was one of them, then that was all the more reason to look forward to their eventual battle.
It was almost two months later – nearly three months after she had tamed Kyogre – before the news that May had arrived at the start of Victory Road reached him.
Steven was caught off guard by the strong desire to just go meet her and see how she doing. However, he held back because it didn’t work like that. He also had a gut feeling that she wouldn’t be happy about it if he did.
When a staff member informed them that she’d made it to the League’s Pokemon Center, Steven let out a small chuckle. It had taken her less than day to make it through Victory Road.
“That’s got to be a new record”, Sidney commented.
Glacia smiled thinly. “Perhaps she’ll give us some thrilling battles.”
“She will”, Steven said as he stood up.
“Where are you going, Steven?”
“To prepare”, he replied, “Now that May’s here, I doubt she’ll wait too long to declare her challenge against us.”
“I get that this girl is the one who stopped Team Aqua and tamed Kyogre”, Drake said, “But you seem certain she’ll make it past all of us.”
“It’s just what my intuition is telling me.”
Sidney snorted. “You and your intuition.”
Steven shook his head and walked out of the room. How could he explain that his certainty lay simply with the fact that May had said she would meet him here?
Steven paced in the Champion’s room as he waited for May to defeat the Elite Four. The signal that Sidney had been defeated came quickly; Steven wasn’t too surprised since May’s Blaziken had the type advantage. Both the battle with Phoebe and Glacia took longer but each time the chime that sounded their loss and the challenger’s win eventually rang out.
To his surprise, the signal of Drake’s defeat came even sooner than Sidney’s. Steven was curious how she had managed that but he didn’t have time to contemplate it.
Soon the large doors of the Champion’s room creaked open. Footsteps echoed on the stone floor before pausing. As Steven turned around, he was hit with a sense of déjà vu. Somehow they had ended up standing in a mirror position of their first meeting.
This time, however, there was no shyness or fluster on her part. May stared up at him with a soft smile and eyes burning in determination.
“Welcome, May”, he greeted, “I’ve been waiting for this day.”
“I took your advice and traveled Hoenn again”, she explained, “It helped. It reminded me of why I was willing to go so far, why I did what I did.”
Steven let out a breath.
“Then tell me…” The questions and curiosities that had been slowly forming began to come forth. “What have you seen on your journey with your pokemon? What have you felt, meeting so many other trainers out there? Traveling this rich land of Hoenn…”
May shifted and settled her stance. Maybe, Steven idly thought, that was perhaps what she had been doing from the moment she began her journey: settling into herself.
“Has it awoken something inside you?” He continued, “I want you to come at me with all that you’ve learned. My pokemon and I will respond in turn with all that we know!”
A series of only about five meetings wasn’t enough to know someone. There was much about each other they had yet to learn. However, here and now, they could finally meet each other as pokemon trainers on a field of battle.
May nodded. That soft smile remained on her lips even as she reached for a pokeball.
Steven sent out his Skarmory. To his slight surprise, May led with her Blaziken; and, immediately the field glowed with the light of mega evolution.
“Spikes!” He called out as his first move.
Skarmory released rock shards and scattered them across the field.
“Flamethrower!” A spiral of flames barreled toward Skarmory.
“Dodge and use Aerial Ace!” Skarmory skirted around the fire and struck. Blaziken stumbled back and lost its footing due to the rocky spikes. However, it quickly regained its balance.
“Blaze Kick!” May called.
Mega Blaziken jumped high with flames igniting around it and struck Skarmory from the air. His pokemon hit the ground. This first match of their battle had been decided.
Steven recalled Skarmory and sent out his next pokemon. The second May saw his Claydol, she switched out her pokemon as well.
So the battle went on with them slowly whittling away at each other’s teams at a fairly even pace. May kept switching her Mega Blaziken in and out. Steven realized why about halfway through the battle: the longer Blaziken stayed mega evolved the faster it became.
Steven raised a brow. Was she trying to build up its speed enough to compete with his mega evolved Metagross?
Eventually May had two pokemon to his one. Steven smiled even as his pulse raced. It had been a good while since any challenger had pushed him into a corner like this. He’d almost forgotten how the thrill of a close battle felt.
Across the field from him, May stood tall with her partner just steps in front of her. Mega Blaziken’s flickering flames reflected in her eyes as she evenly meet his stare. He recalled once comparing that unfathomable look of hers as like the depths of the ocean, but now all he could think of was molten earth.
There was something incredibly fascinating about the shift… About her.
However, before the pause in battle could drag on too long, Steven pushed that distraction from his mind and called out his final pokemon.
The light of mega evolution once again filled the room as he activated his keystone. When it faded, Mega Metagross floated there: both sleek and sturdy, and practically oozing with psychic power.
“So that’s Mega Metagross…” May said from across the room.
Steven smirked. His partner even gave the one who had tamed Kyogre pause.
Her pause didn’t last long though, as she threw out a hand and yelled, “Torch, Fire Blitz!”
A cloak of flames surrounded Mega Blaziken; and, it charged forward in a surge of fire.
It was too late. Mega Metagross didn’t move quick enough to escape the fiery attack. His partner pokemon was flung back by the force, scraped and scuffed.
“Are you alright, Metagross?”
With some struggle, Metagross got back up. “Meta!”
“Okay then”, Steven called, “Zen Headbutt!”
Before Mega Blaziken could attempt to avoid, it was struck. With all the damaged it’d already suffered over the battle and the recoil of its previous attack, Mega Blaziken didn’t stand a chance. It collapsed as its mega evolution shattered.
May frowned and recalled her pokemon to its pokeball. “You did great, Torch.”
Steven wondered if May’s last pokemon was a secret weapon she’d been holding back. However, when she sent it out, it became clear that she’d been holding it back simply because it was the worst type to battle against him: a fairy type. He thought she’d backed him into a corner but it seemed the opposite was true.
“Alright, Pixel”, she told the Sylveon, “Let’s give it our all.”
“Syl!” It replied with a proud huff.
Steven smiled. Like during the battle to protect Latias, the odds were against her yet May looked perfectly calm. In fact, from the glint of thrill in her eyes, it seemed like she was thriving under the pressure.
“Bullet Punch!” He called out.
“Tangle and redirect!” May responded a split second later.
As Mega Metagross charged, Sylveon’s ribbons flew forward and wrapped around its arms. Then – to both Steven and Metagross’ utter surprise – Sylveon used the momentum to swing around, avoiding the attack and landing on top of Metagross’s head.
Steven blinked, suddenly having an idea of what May’s strategy was.
“Shake Sylveon off!”
Mega Metagross shook around and tried to reach its head to pry Sylveon off. However, Sylveon’s ribbons clung tighter to both keep it stable and limit Metagross’s mobility.
“Syl-” Ghostly power began to form “-veon!”
Metagross tried but still ensnared by Sylveon’s ribbons, it couldn’t escape. The Shadow Ball struck true; and, Metagross fell.
There was a moment of quiet as both trainers stared across each other in shock.
“So I, the Champion, fall in defeat…” Steven said as he recalled Metagross to its pokeball.
He was disappointed he lost and yet… As he watched May lavish praise on her Sylveon, he didn’t have a single regret.
“Just as I have come to expect”, Steven said, pulling her attention back to him, “May, you are truly an excellent Pokémon Trainer. Congratulations to you!”
May stared blanking as what her winning meant seemed to slowly sink in.
“And thank you…” Steven continued, “I had wanted to learn how you feel about this world, what kinds of ideals you have developed with your Pokémon… I feel I was able to find the answer in our battle.”
Steven thought he understood May better now: her creative and bold strategies, her impressive teamwork with her pokemon, her willingness to take all or nothing risks, and the unwavering will that stood behind it all.
He could see how she was able to tame Kyogre and why Wallace had liked her to a force of nature.
“The feelings you have for your Pokémon… And the way that your Pokémon gave their all in battle in response to those feelings… Those two together created a great power. That is how you seized victory today.”
He smiled at her, trying to convey that he was happy with this outcome. “I felt a thrill of excitement in my breast when we first met, and now I know for sure that feeling was not misplaced. You are rightfully the Hoenn region’s new-”
“May!” A voice cut him off.
Both Steven and May turned to see Brendan Birch running towards them before stopping in front of May. Steven wondered how he had been allowed back here.
“Before you go to challenge the Champion, I’ve got one last thing you’ve got to…”
“Brendan”, May said clearly and with a touch of amusement, “I don’t need any advice right now.”
He glanced back and forth between the two of them. “May… You didn't… No, you couldn’t have… Did you already beat the Champion?!”
May smiled brightly. “I did!”
Professor Birch entered the room then, out of breath from running after his son. That explained how Brendan had managed to get into the League while a challenge was on-going.
“See? What did I say, Brendan? Didn’t I tell you that May would be just fine?” The professor said and then turned to May, “May, you’ve finally done it. When I heard that you defeated your own father at Petalburg Gym, I thought perhaps you had a chance… But to think you actually became Champion!”
A blush began to spread across her cheeks at the professor’s praise.
“Congratulations on today’s victory!” Birch grinned proudly. “Now go in there with your head held high!”
That was an obvious opening for Steven to continue from before he’d been interrupted.
“May…” He shook his head. “No, I should call you the Hoenn region’s new Pokemon League Champion… Come with me, Champion.”
He began walking toward the very last set of doors: the entrance to Hoenn’s Hall of Fame. May followed after him. However, when he glanced back, he saw that Brendan was trailing after as well.
“I’m very sorry”, Steven said, “But only a trainer who has successfully become the Champion may go beyond this point. You’ll need to wait out here with the Professor.”
“Wha-” Brendan looked like he was considering arguing but then let out a long sigh. “…Can’t be helped, I guess. Them’s the rules, right? That’s awesome, May. Congratulations…really!”
They then entered the Hall of Fame.
“This room is where we maintain the records of pokemon that have prevailed through the harshest of battles. It is here that League Champions are honored.”
“Wow…” May glanced all about the room, taking it in with a sense of awe.
Steven smiled. Truthfully there was little about the room’s appearance that was awe-inspiring. It wasn’t lavish or anything of the sort. However, the room did hold a certain energy that made it feel almost sacred.
“Come”, he said as he motioned her over to the center of the room, “We will use this machine to record your name and the names of the partners who battled along with you to triumph over the Pokemon League.”
One by one May placed each of her pokeballs into the slots. The machine whirled to life as it began recording the information.
With that done, she glanced at him. “Um, Steven…”
“All that stuff you said… Did you really mean it?… This can’t be that easy for you…”
“…I suppose it is bittersweet”, he replied, “But I don’t regret our battle. All Champions lose the title eventually. I’m content with losing it to you.”
She stared up at him and bit her lip. The air felt heavy all of a sudden. Steven gulped, knowing he should look away before he crossed a line that he really shouldn’t cross.
The tension was broken by the jingle that sounded once the machine had finished recording the pokemons’ information. They both glanced over at the machine; and, May began collecting her pokeballs again.
Once done, she turned back to him. “So what now?”
“Generally new Champions are given a few days to a week to celebrate and deal with the media frenzy that follows”, Steven explained, “Then the formal transition will begin.”
“There’s more to being Champion than just defending your title”, he explained, “And now my job is to guide you through that until you’re ready to fully take on the position.”
She nodded. “…I suppose there’s going to be a lot of pressure on this since I’m the first new Champion after the Indigo League’s Champion disappeared.”
“You know about that?”
“I’m originally from Johto”, May said with a shrug, “My parents’ still keep up with the news there.”
“I forget that sometimes”, Steven replied, “…You’re correct. There probably will be a lot of pressure on this transition.”
May moved as if to reach for his hand but then pulled back at the last second. Instead, she smiled warmly at him.
“We’ll make it work! I’ve already learned a lot from you so I know you’ll be a great at teaching me everything.”
When she was smiling like that, Steven couldn’t help but to smile back.
“We will… You should probably get going. I’m sure you want to go celebrate with your friend.”
They left the Hall of Fame to find Brendan Birch still standing in the Champion’s battle room, waiting patiently for them.
“Welcome back, May”, he greeted in a solemn voice, “I just, uh, you know…”
“What is it, Brendan?”
He took a deep breath before replying, “We set out on this journey together, right? So maybe we should finish it together, too.”
Brendan’s face then flushed; and, he was staring at May with such an earnest expression. Seeing that, it became painfully clear to Steven that May’s friend had a huge crush on her.
“D-don’t go trying to read anything into it, though!” Brendan then snapped in a desperate attempt to hide his feelings. “Now, come on! We’re going home! Back to Littleroot Town!”
“Sure, sure. Let’s travel back to Littleroot together”, May replied with a small chuckle, “Though I don’t see what the rush is…”
Apparently she was completely oblivious. Steven felt a little sorry for her friend and yet… His chest also felt strangely light.
She turned to look back at him with eyes still glittering from her victory. “So next week, right?”
“Yes. We’ll begin the formal transition then.” Steven smiled and waved them off. “Go celebrate and take it easy for now.”
“Okay! I’ll see you next week!”
May then followed after her friend and disappeared back down the hall, leaving Steven in a room that was no longer truly his.
“A week until our next meeting, huh…”
Steven was already looking forward to it.