Stepping Back by Leto

Lance, the dragon trainer, is behind me. It looks like all my training paid off. I'm the first across the finish line and the Pokemon Master.

But it's strange, you know? Because it doesn't feel as great as I thought it would. For over a year I've been travelling, collecting badges and Pokemon and getting them stronger... for over a year, working towards this goal that I've had my whole life.

And now I've reached it. I'm the strongest, by far the strongest. The best trainer in the world! But it doesn't feel all that great, because now I have no goal left to reach. I'm the Pokemon Master like I always dreamed but that also means that I've reached a dead end.

Still, victory tastes sweet. I've certainly come a long way from when I left home.

I move towards the computer and begin typing in my Pokemon's names. They are the strongest Pokemon team around, so it's about time they became hall of famers. And then I type my own name.

"G-a-r-y O-a-"


I turn in surprise. I didn't get to finish. Who's this interrupting me...?

Seeing who it is, I can't help but gasp. "ASH?!"

How could HE get here? The worst Pokemon trainer to leave Pallet... he only caught a handful of Pokemon and spent ages getting his badges. How, how could he possibly best the Elite Four?

He's pathetic. He can't possibly beat me, I'm the strongest Pokemon trainer in the world! But I can't help feeling uneasy... even though I've always been several steps ahead of Ash, even though he's seemingly no rival at all for me, I've still felt that he could be a threat... I don't know what it is about him...

Fortunately, I recover my composure.

"Well, Ash, imagine seeing you here! How'd you get in, sneak in past the Elite Four? I know you definately couldn't have beaten them yourself!"

Ash glares at me. "Gary, to become a Pokemon Master... I challenge you to fight!"

I smirk. "Sure Ash, I always love winning! It surprises me to see you still haven't learnt I'm better than you! But I guess some things never change."

I wonder if he realises I'm not entirely sure about this... Of course, I have to seem confident. The less certain he feels, the more chance I've got.

What am I talking about? More chance I've got? I don't need more chance! I'm the Pokemon Master, of course I'll win!

I hope so, anyway...

Ash nods slightly at me, so I pull out a Pokeball.

"Now Ash, see the team that beat the Elite! The Pokemon team that'll be your undoing!"

Ash looks a bit uncertain, which is good, but then his expression hardens and he just nods slightly again.

Ash's two friends, one of whom looks familiar - didn't I beat the guy for a badge once, a long time back? - stand behind him and don't say anything either, but they give him looks of quiet encouragement. He smiles at them and then pulls out a Pokeball of his own.

At the same time, we both throw out Pokeballs down. It starts.


All down to the last Pokemon... Ash is a good Pokemon trainer. I never imagined that! All his bumbling and he turns out to be a good trainer. Maybe I underestimated him.

Still, the Pokemon I'm using is my starter Pokemon and the strongest, my Venusaur. Unfortunately, Ash chose his starter and strongest Pokemon also. Even though Venusaur is fairly shock resistant, Pikachu seems really strong... I didn't know it was that strong!

With a battlecry of "Chuuuuuuu!", Pikachu launches itself at Venusaur and bites it hard on the bulb on its back. Venusaur groans but does nothing.

"Vine Whip!" I order, and it uses its whips to slash the Pikachu away from it.

"My Venusaur is so well trained it won't do anything unless I order it to!" I boast to Ash.

Ash retorts "Being a Pokemon trainer isn't about controlling your Pokemon! It's much better to have a Pokemon who follows your orders because it wants to!"

"Because it wants to?" I ask scornfully. "So you're saying it's good to have your Pokemon want to follow your orders? Like it's not usual for them to follow them?"

Ash gets all flustered. "No, that's not what I meant! I mean, uh, a good Pokemon trainer..."

"How can you say I'm not a good Pokemon trainer? I'm the current champion!" I interrupt.

Ash gets angry. "Stop messing up what I'm saying! I mean that it's best if your Pokemon like you and want to please you by doing their best!"

That surprises me, because I never really thought about that. I always thought about my Pokemon journey in terms of MY journey, and Pokemon were just things I had to use to get there.

That's what they are, after all...?


Ash and I turn in surprise. In our little fight we'd forgotten that our Pokemon were in the middle of battling. His Pikachu had already bitten my Venusaur again and now he was thundershocking it...

Concentrate, Gary! What sort of trainer are you?!

"Venusaur, solar beam!"

The bulb on Venusaur's back glows faintly and then fades.

"Venusaur, solar beam!" I repeat.

It groans slightly.

"Okay then, razor leaf!"

A few half hearted leaves flutter to the ground.

"Pikachu, finish it off with a quick attack!" says Ash quickly.

Pikachu launches itself into the air and Venusaur can't move out of the way in time.....

He's won.

Ash WON.

And I lost.

I lost?!


Ash realises this too... I wondered how he would react, but it's not as bad as I worried. Well, maybe it's worse. He's not gloating, he's just standing with a stunned look on his face, holding the Pikachu which seems to have jumped in his arms since...

A stunned look. He can't believe it. His dream has come true. Meanwhile, mine's gone.

But now - a small smile - he looks overwhelmed but truly happy to have won. Truly happy... he's reached his goal now. When I reached my goal, I wasn't truly happy, I felt like I'd reached a dead end.

"It's not a real goal unless you like your Pokemon," says Ash suddenly. How'd he know what I was thinking? Then I remembered that we used to be good friends. I always forget that, he knows me pretty well really.

Not a real goal...

"I caught so many Pokemon!" I protest, but it sounds weak. "You hardly got any! You couldn't even catch many? How could you win?!"

"Maybe it was a good thing," he suggests, "when I didn't have a lot of Pokemon, I could just concentrate on the few I had, and became friends with them."

Friends... I don't think I'm friends with my Pokemon.

"Pikachu follows my orders but knows when to act on its own. It wanted to win. It wanted me to win. So it tried its hardest and even without me ordering it, fought when it could. Because we're friends and it wanted to help me out."

"Pika pi, pikachu!" it confirms, smiling.

I look at them both and suddenly, the shock of losing fades away almost completely. I've wasted a year of my life but that's okay. At least I've figured something out.

"Being a Pokemon Master... that was always your goal. But maybe it was never really mine."

He looks at me and I think he understands. When we were younger he used to talk all the time about how he couldn't wait to be a Pokemon Master and how wonderful it would be... maybe I convinced myself I shared his excitement. And with my grandfather always encouraging me to become a trainer, I guess... I guess I grabbed hold of someone else's dream.

Even though I feel so disappointed, I think I now realise what's important. Like Ash said; friendship. Ash and I used to be best friends, but that was ruined by my stupid obsession with this mistaken dream. My fanclub... well, they're not going to stick around now that I've lost. They were never real friends. It's not too late to patch things up, is it?

Ash smiles and I realise that things will be alright. I've lost, but this year wasn't a waste of time. I hold out my hand and he shakes it.

"It was your dream all along. You deserved this," I said quietly. "And - you are the first Pokemon Master!"

"But you were the first one... you came here first."

"No." I point to the computer where my name still hangs, incomplete.


"You came just in time, otherwise I really would have been the first!"

His eyes start swimming.

"Hey, don't start crying now, just type your name in!"

Ash nods wordlessly and deletes my name, replacing it with his own. Now it's right.

Ash's two friends come up now. They were keeping their distance before, seeing that we were talking seriously, but now it's okay.

I step away and sneak out the room as the two excitedly congratulate him. Maybe I should feel bad, but instead I'm full of hope.

Now I'll go and find a new dream!

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