“Looks like our old pal brought a party,” Skull remarked as he eyed the Slowbro and Staraptor. “And one of them needs some serious fashion advice.”
“Hea, heat-mor!” the fiery anteater declared, pointing one clawed hand at the duo of N and Skull.
Something rustled in the bushes, and before anyone could react, a canine with long black fur rushed into the fray with mouth wide open. The Mightyena clamped its fangs onto Skull’s bone-wielding arm, prompting a cry of pain from the Marowak as he was dragged across the path.
“Skull!” N cried, but his companion was already being pulled through more bushes and out of sight. He turned to the remaining Pokemon. “Why are you doing this? You are organized and capable of planning…what would you have to gain by attacking us?”
“They gain what every creature gains,” a hoarse voice replied.
Heatmor and Slowbro stepped aside as Staraptor took to the air, and the Pokemon’s evident master—the leather-wearing man from the cave—casually strode between them. He licked saliva off of his lips and smiled, showing some rather large teeth.
“It’s been a long time, ‘Lord’ N,” the man grinned.
“You…who are you?” N asked. “I have only told my name to a few select people outside of—”
“Team Plasma?” the man interrupted, pulling a knife out of the leather straps and examining it. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that you don’t know me. Name’s Damon. I was just a rank-and-file grunt under your rule in Unova, up until those stupid kids all ruined Ghetsis’ plan—as admittedly stupid as it was.”
“You served Ghetsis?” N gasped. “Why are you here in Kanto?”
“Times have changed,” Damon sighed. “Ghetsis is gone, and what’s left of Team Plasma is all about hugging the trees and whatever happens to live in them. They’re all following your example, as if that’ll get you to lord over them again.”
“And what about you?” N asked, slowly balling his hand into a fist.
“Me?” Damon smirked. “I’m leading a simpler life; kill or be killed…eat or be eaten.”
“Eat?” N blinked. “What do you mean by…?”
His eyes went wide as the truth dawned on him.
“That’s right,” Damon grinned, aiming the knife at his former lord. “Now, hold still, or the meat will get tough.”
“Now, Meowth, use Fury Swipes!”
Back in Saffron City’s Contest Hall, Aiden Takeshi had taken the stage alongside a small beige cat with a gold coin on its forehead. The cat, evidently called Meowth, leapt into the air and brandished a set of sharp claws once it saw a small group of rubber balls that Aiden had rather haphazardly tossed into the air. Despite their steadily-growing distance, Meowth was able to slice every single ball in the bunch to ribbons.
“Okay, let’s wrap this up with Pay Day!” Aiden cried.
Meowth somersaulted in mid-air, landing on Aiden’s head with its back to the audience. It then whipped itself around, scattering a series of shining golden coins across the edge of the stage.
“They’re all yours, folks!” Aiden declared as both he and his cat Pokemon swept their arms wide. “Enjoy, and thank you all for your time!”
In the audience, Aiden’s blue-haired accomplice leaned back with a satisfied smirk. The crowd members closest to the stage each picked up the coin nearest to them, leaving all of the shining medallions gone in a matter of seconds.
“Well done!” Mr. Contesta announced. “Not only did it keep things nice and simple, it also rewarded the audience for paying attention to Meowth’s speed and skill.”
“It was quite remarkable!” agreed Mr. Sukizo.
“I love how Meowth balanced on its trainer’s head at the end,” Nurse Joy smiled.
Aiden bowed dramatically as he left. Backstage, Derak’s frown had grown substantially and his head was now resting in his hands. He was set to perform last, an unenviable position given the strength of the appeals before him.
“And your winner has returned!” Aiden exclaimed as he burst through the doors. “Might as well just pack it in, folks—unless, of course, you’re sticking around to see me in the battle round!”
“Don’t count your Torchics before they hatch,” Timmy Grimm smirked. “I’m up next.”
Timmy left, but not before looking back towards Derak. Seeing his old friend still staring blankly at the screen made Timmy frown with concern, but he reminded himself of his plan and went on to the stage.
“Now…go, Dusknoir!” Timmy cried.
The former Phantom Coordinator’s ace Pokemon materialized over its trainer’s head, levitating ominously with arms crossed.
“Right!” Timmy declared, planting his feet firmly on the floor. “Let’s kick this off with Will-o-Wisp!”
Dusknoir unfolded its arms and threw them outward, forming a vertical ring of blue fireballs in front of it. The Will-o-Wisp circled its creator for a moment, but then the jagged yellow line on Dusknoir’s stomach split open. Something inside the makeshift mouth sucked the fireballs inside, and soon the mouth clamped shut after all of the Will-o-Wisp was consumed. Having a supernatural fire inside it, however, caused Dusknoir’s body to glow and ominous blue as it levitated further up the stage.
“Whoa, that’s pretty…I don’t know, something,” Derak stammered as he watched Timmy’s appeal on the screen.
“Yes, it is quite marvelous,” Nando agreed, “but it also gives me pause for thought.”
“How so?” Derak asked.
“I have had the pleasure of seeing, and sometimes witnessing, Mr. Grimm’s performances in other Contests,” Nando said. “In those, he almost always saves his mighty Dusknoir for the battle round. Seeing him use it for the appeals is, I must confess, rather unusual.”
“Hmm,” Derak muttered, staring intently at the screen. “He must be up to something.”
“Now, Dusknoir, finish this up!”
Dusknoir complied by opening its stomach-mouth again, this time spraying a jet of blue fire into the air. The jet fanned out into a wave before dissipating, allowing Dusknoir to drift back down to its trainer’s side.
“Very impressive!” Mr. Contesta smiled. “I greatly enjoyed how you focused more on Dusknoir’s natural talents than on its moves!”
“Yes, remarkable!” Mr. Sukizo agreed.
Okay, seriously, does that guy not know any other words?
“Dusknoir has a lot of raw power inside it,” Nurse Joy added, “and that appeal really shows its strength!”
“I think…I’m up next,” Teresa gulped.
“Good luck, my friend,” Nando smiled. “You will be fantastic on this stage.”
Teresa nodded, though her hurried walk out the door and clutching of her jacket betrayed whatever confidence she tried to exert. Once on stage, she took a deep breath and held up a single Pokeball.
“Vulpix…let’s show w-what we can do,” Teresa said as she opened the ball.
A small red fox appeared on the stage, sporting a set of six tails and a tuft of crimson fur on its head. The moment its brown paws touched the floor, the fox smiled and let out a joyful cry.
“Vulpix,” Derak’s Pokedex reported, “the Fox Pokemon. Type is Fire. Inside Vulpix’s body is a flame that never goes out. During the daytime, when temperatures rise, Vulpix releases fire from its mouth to prevent its body from growing too hot.”
“Vulpix, um…” Teresa gulped. She took another breath. Remember what Mr. Nando taught you,
Closing her eyes, Teresa then lifted one hand to the sky.
“Vulpix, use Flame Burst!” she cried.
The small Fire-type balanced itself on its tails and spat a single fireball straight up. Just as the ball began to fall back down, Teresa gave out another order with a surprisingly firm voice.
Vulpix’s eyes flashed briefly, just before a continuous cyclone of rainbow energy erupted from the Fox Pokemon’s eyes. The Extrasensory met the airborne fireball and held it aloft, with Vulpix occasionally tilting its head from side to side and carrying the combined attack with it. Despite its movements, however, the Flame Burst stayed within the grasp of the Extrasensory.
“Now…finish this…with Energy Ball!” Teresa cried.
Vulpix stopped emitting light from its eyes long enough to open its mouth and fire out a ball of green light. The Energy Ball tore through Vulpix’s other attacks, scattering embers and sparks across the stage as Vulpix itself spread its forelimbs out in its cutest possible pose.
“Now, that was beautiful!” Lillian announced. “Let’s turn to our panel of judges!”
Teresa paled at the thought of criticism, but when she timidly looked over to the trio of judges, she was greeted with a warm smile and encouraging nod from Mr. Contestsa.
“Good show!” Mr. Contesta said. “I remember from Pewter City’s Contest that you had some trouble with nerves, but I’m pleased to see that you’ve been able to work through them.”
“I, uh…I had some help,” Teresa said slowly, rubbing the back of her head.
“Your performance today was remarkable!” Mr. Sukizo cried.
“Vulpix’s pose at the end was just adorable!” Nurse Joy fawned.
Backstage, Nando was smiling widely.
“Teresa has come such a long way since we met her at Pewter City, has she not?” he asked.
“Yeah…sure,” Derak murmured. The end of Teresa’s appeal, however, meant only one thing for him.
He was next.
Derak stood up and left the moment Teresa came back in, barely hearing the wishes of good luck from the other contestants. He knew what he had to do, and he knew what Pokemon he was going to use, and the two of them had—with Nando’s guidance—gone over their appeal several times. This had to work.
“Break a leg, as they say.”
As Derak got into the hallway leading to the stage, the smug voice of Elliot Trey greeted him. The boy with split personalities was casually leaning on the wall, smirking as he watched Derak approach.
“Aren’t most contestants hanging out in one room?” Derak asked.
“Most of them, yes,” Elliot nodded. “But, in all honesty, I prefer to be closer to the stage. It makes observing my competition much easier.”
Derak simply grunted and brushed past his rival. Elliot only chuckled and turned around to watch.
“And observing your appeal,” Elliot muttered, “should be particularly amusing.”
“And now, our final competitor!” Lillian’s voice cut through all other noises as Derak approached the stage. “From Phenac City in Orre, making his Contest debut…introducing, Derak!”
The boy carefully walked onto the stage, gripping the chosen Pokeball unusually tightly. He looked out at the audience, finding dozens—if not hundreds—of eyes peering down at him. Derak’s teeth clenched together as he held up his Pokeball.
“Well…here goes everything,” Derak sighed. “Happiny, let’s go!”
Once the ball was airborne, the pink egg-shaped Pokemon that Sarah had traded him appeared on stage. The moment its feet touched the floor, Happiny did a quick pirouette, a pleasant scent emitting from the curl of hair on its head.
“Okay, just like we practiced. Ready?” Derak asked, and Happiny nodded. “Okay, use Sweet Kiss!”
Happiny blew a kiss to the audience, somehow emitting a small group of pink hearts from its mouth in the process. The hearts then floated up into the air and curved above their creator.
“And…next is Helping Hand!” Derak cried.
The tiny arms on Happiny’s sides pointed outward, and electricity began to crackle around them. Soon, the small Normal-type released a weak arc of lightning from each of its arms, directing each bolt into the air and blasting them through each of the hearts. Once all the hearts were destroyed, the lightning dove down and struck Happiny, though the pink Pokemon’s happiness seemed to only be invigorated by the surge. From a distance, one could see the lightning form the shape of a large heart, with Happiny at its base.
“Haaap…PEENY!” cried the Normal-type, breaking off the lightning and allowing the residual sparks to scatter across the stage.
“Whew,” Derak sighed in relief. “Nice work, Happiny.”
“Hap!” Happiny nodded.
“That was quite good,” Mr. Contesta nodded. “While I feel like it was lacking something, I loved how Happiny kept smiling the whole way through.”
“Happiny was quite remarkable!” Mr. Sukizo agreed.
“That little Pokemon is so cute,” Nurse Joy smiled. “I can’t wait to see it when it evolves into a Chansey!”
“Thank you for your participation, Derak!” Lillian cried. “This concludes our appeals round! Our judges will take a brief break to figure out who goes through, but their decision is sure to be a tough one!”
Derak took Happiny in his arms and left, shooting a glare at Elliot as he passed by. Once his rival was out of earshot, Derak spoke to Happiny.
“So…you think we’ll move on?” he asked in a low voice. “I mean, sure, what we’re really shooting for is the Badges and the League, but I’d still like to do well in this, you know?”
“Hap, hap-peeny!” Happiny nodded with a smile.
“Always the optimist, huh?” Derak commented, though he found it hard to hide a smile.
Once Derak entered the backstage room, he immediately went back to his seat. Wildfire, whose gaze had originally been transfixed on the television screen, looked over to him.
“Char…?” it said slowly.
“Hey,” Derak said with a small smile. “I’ll be all right, thanks. Happiny’s the one who did most of the work, though.”
“And what a wonderful job it did,” Nando smiled.
“Yes,” Teresa nodded. “Your…first time on stage was, uh…it was better than mine.”
“I guess,” Derak sighed. He pulled his Pokedex out of his pocket and began to fiddle with it once more. Now all he could do was wait.
Damon’s knife plunged into a tree as N rolled across the ground. The former king of Team Plasma then jumped aside to avoid a lashing from Heatmor’s flaming tongue, though once he came to a stop, he saw Staraptor taking to the sky. Damon grinned, having also seen his avian Pokemon’s position.
“Let’s see how well you dodge this,” the feral man said darkly. “Staraptor, use Aerial Ace!”
The bird quickly dove towards N, streaks of white energy trailing from in front of it. N frowned, but did not move. He instead stood tall, and held out his arms.
“Star?” the attacking Pokemon blinked, stopping its attack. Why was its target not running?
“What are you waiting for, bird?!” Damon yelled as he yanked his knife out of the tree. “You want to be next?!”
Staraptor’s eyes widened, and with a flap of its wings it quickly resumed its attack. As before, however, N stood his ground.
“Staraptor,” he said, but the avian Pokemon shut its eyes and did its best to block him out.
And then it rammed into him.
N’s body was tossed across the ground, tumbling into a tree with a sickening thud. Damon only chuckled as he walked over to the fallen green-haired man.
“The great N, Lord of Team Plasma…reduced to THIS!” he laughed, punctuating his last work with a kick to N’s side. “It’d be funny if it weren’t so pathetic.”
“Whuh…why?” N groaned weakly. “If you were part of Team Plasma…why are you doing such terrible things to the Pokemon you swore to protect?”
“Give me a break,” Damon snorted. “I was desperate for money, so I took the first paying job I could find. I never cared about your ‘save-the-Pokemon’ crap. They’re animals, pure and simple…and so are humans.”
He knelt down, dragging the edge of his knife across N’s hat.
“Like animals, humans kill and climb over each other to get ahead,” Damon continued. “Pokemon have the capacity for this, as well. There’s no point in pretending otherwise. Studies prove it, so why hide it?”
A sudden explosion came from nearby. Damon whirled about to find the source of the noise, only to find his Mightyena being thrown unceremoniously through the trees and skidding to his feet.
“Mightyena?!” he cried. “What the hell did that?!”
“Someone,” N smiled as he struggled to his feet, “who spits in the face of all that humans think they know about Pokemon.”
With a mighty roar, Skull bolted through the trees and slammed his body into Heatmor, using his amplified dark aura to knock the fiery anteater into a tree. Though he gritted his teeth as recoil rocked his body, Skull turned towards Damon and growled.
“You make me sick,” the Marowak snarled. “You think a species as arrogant and self-serving as humans is anything like a Pokemon? Don’t make me laugh!”
Damon said nothing, but prepared his knife. Skull responded by waving his bone, sending a group of large rocks out of the ground and hurtling towards Damon. The former Plasma grunt ducked to avoid most of them, but once he got back up, he found himself knocked back to the ground by the force of Skull’s body.
“Stay down,” the Marowak snarled, pinning his bone to Damon’s neck. “Those studies you and your Mightyena keep yammering on about? Tauros crap, all of them. Humans will make up anything if it means getting recognition.”
“And the time I’ve spent with Pokemon growing up has proven to me that they are just as sentient as humans, if not more so,” N added.
“I won’t let you get the better of me—” Damon began as he tried to stab Skull, only for the bone-wielding lizard to knock his knife out of his hand.
“You were saying?” Skull said. Before Damon could speak further, Skull swiftly struck the man in the head with his bone. “Yeah, didn’t think so.”
“Skull, are you all right?” N asked.
“Fine,” the Ground-type replied. “You look a little worse for wear, though.”
“I will live,” N said as he sadly looked over to Damon. “But…”
“What, did he say things that bothered you?” Skull snorted as he stepped off of Damon’s body. “Forget about it. The guy’s a damn loon. We’ll need to stash him some place where he won’t cause trouble, though.”
“Yes,” N said. He looked over to Damon’s Pokemon. “And what of you all?”
Despite the apparent defeat of their trainer, most of the Pokemon looked rather unsure. Staraptor sheepishly approached N and looked up at him.
“Star…star-raptor, star,” the bird said.
“You…wish to come with me?” N said, looking surprised for a moment. “I…thank you, Staraptor. Let me take away your suffering by—”
“No Pokeballs on this guy. I checked,” Skull interrupted bitterly. “Must have controlled all of them with those cheerful words of his.”
N’s hand clenched into a fist again, but relaxed as he approached the other Pokemon.
“What about the rest of you?” he asked. “There will be terrible battles ahead…but I can promise you all sanctuary, at least temporarily.”
“Heat!” Heatmor cried, immediately rushing to N’s side.
“Sloooooowwww,” droned Slowbro, following suit in a manner befitting its species’ name.
“Thank you…all of you,” N smiled. “I promise to earn your trust and friendship. Let us start by helping Mightyena heal.”
The results were in.
Derak’s grip on his Pokedex tightened as the images of the coordinators came up on screen. Nando’s image, as he expected, could be seen, as were the faces of Teresa, Aiden, and Elliot. Timmy Grimm’s image was also there, but Derak’s eyes widened at the final face.
“I…we made it?” Derak blinked. “Holy…guys, we made it!”
“Hap-peeny!” the small Normal-type cried, bouncing about joyfully. “Hap, hap, hap, hap!”
Wildfire said nothing, but turned to its trainer and gave him a faint smile. Derak responded by gently petting his Chimchar’s head, his own smile much wider.
“Congratulations, my friend,” Nando smiled widely. “You have passed your first appeal. I am proud to have helped you reach this milestone.”
“Yeah…thanks for that, by the way,” Derak said. “Honestly, the appeal was the hardest part. Battles shouldn’t be too different from normal.”
“Yes, although you will have a time limit of five minutes,” Nando advised. “But let us focus not on the details, and instead turn our attention to the first of the battles.”
Derak did so, and grimaced at the sight of the first two trainers on stage; Elliot and Aiden. Both looked rather confident, but Elliot’s grin had a hint of malice to it.
“As you know, our coordinators must continue to show off their Pokemon, and will either gain or lose points for doing so!” Lillian announced, gesturing to the circular point meters underneath the combatants’ pictures. “With five minutes on the clock…begin!”
The first second ticked away. Without any trace of hesitation, Elliot chose a green Pokeball from his belt.
“Grovyle, fight!” he cried.
Derak raised an eyebrow at Elliot’s choice of Pokemon. It looked similar to the Treecko favored by the Jason persona, but was roughly twice as large and had a darker shade of green on most of its body. Its red underbelly and lower jaw remained, but its bulbous tail had been replaced by a pair of large leaves. More leaves sprouted from the Pokemon’s wrists, and a long single leaf emerged from the top of the creature’s head.
“Grovyle,” the Pokedex stated, “the Wood Gecko Pokemon. Type is Grass. Evolved form of Treecko. The leaves growing out of Grovyle’s body are convenient for camouflaging it from enemies in the forest. This Pokemon is a master of climbing trees in jungles.”
Treecko evolved…but Piplup didn’t? Derak thought. What’s Elliot up to with his starter Pokemon?
“Grass-type? Heh, piece of cake,” Aiden chuckled. “Nidoking, time to win!”
Aiden’s Pokeball released a large purple dinosaur-like Pokemon, sporting a large horn and spiky mouse-like ears. Its burly arms ended in claws, and its colossal tail slammed the ground in anticipation of a fight.
“Nidoking,” Derak’s Pokedex reported, “the Drill Pokemon. Type is Poison and Ground. Evolved form of Nidorino. Nidoking’s thick tail packs enormous destructive power. With one swing, it can topple a transmission tower. Once this Pokemon goes on a rampage, there is no stopping it.”
“Wasn’t that thing a Nidorino just yesterday?” Derak asked his Pokemon.
“If that is the case, then this Aiden must have prepared well for this Contest,” Nando said.
Nidoking’s fanged mouth smirked at the sight of Grovyle. It, like its trainer, assumed this battle to be an easy win.
“Let’s make this quick!” Aiden cried. “Nidoking, Sludge Bomb!”
The Drill Pokemon opened its mouth and spat a wad of slime at its Grass-type foe. Grovyle tensed its muscles, awaiting an order. Then, when the Sludge Bomb was within a few feet of his Pokemon, Elliot grinned.
Grovyle’s eyes gleamed, and in one fluid movement, the Wood Gecko Pokemon leapt into the air and twirled around, landing gracefully back on the stage.
“What?” Aiden sputtered as some of his points were detracted. “Okay, no more messing around! Drop a Rock Slide on it!”
Nidoking raised one fist into the air and let out a guttural bellow. Several feet above Grovyle, a slew of stones materialized seemingly out of nowhere, each barreling down towards the Grass-type.
“Counter with Leaf Blade!” Elliot ordered.
The leaves on Grovyle’s wrists merged together and grew into long glowing scythe-like blades, which proved useful as the reptile leapt into the air and sliced through the Rock Slide with little difficulty. While more of Aiden’s points were lost, the distraction gave time for Nidoking to rush in towards Grovyle, one fist drawn back and ready to strike.
“That’s it, Nidoking!” Aiden cried. “Use Brick Break!”
The Poison-type abruptly brought its arm down on Grovyle, who managed to catch the attack using one Leaf Blade. Unfortunately, Nidoking’s superior size and strength forced Grovyle down into one knee, the latter Pokemon struggling to hold the former back.
“Now we’re getting somewhere!” Aiden laughed as a portion of Elliot’s points were lost. “Sludge Bomb again, point blank!”
“That slimy little…!” Derak snarled. “He could really hurt Grovyle at that range!”
Nidoking opened its mouth, and Grovyle could see another wad of sludge forming in the back of the dinosaur’s throat. The Grass-type glanced back towards Elliot, who simply smirked and said two words.
With a smirk on its own face, Grovyle spat a small yellow sphere of energy directly into Nidoking’s mouth. The collision of this attack with Nidoking’s Sludge Bomb created enough force to knock the purple beast onto its back.
“Nidoking!” Aiden cried. Though he looked concerned, this expression quickly faded when he saw that only a small sliver of his points were left. “Come on, get up!”
The Drill Pokemon, however, was on all fours, coughing into the floor. Once it heard its trainer’s voice, however, it gave its head a shake and stood back up on its feet.
“There we go!” Aiden cried. “Now, let’s finish this!”
“Let’s,” Elliot smirked. “Grovyle, begin.”
Grovyle spread its legs apart as a light gust stirred around it. Soon, the gust grew into a small tornado surrounding the Grass-type, whipping about the leaves on its body.
“I don’t like the look of that,” Aiden growled. “Nidoking, stop it with Echoed Voice!”
Nidoking let out another bellow, generating a series of sound waves from its mouth, but partway through the Drill Pokemon broke into another coughing fit. Grovyle winced as the sound waves came over it, but quickly shrugged it off.
“I think we’ve done enough charging, don’t you?” Elliot smirked, and Grovyle’s eyes gleamed again in response. Elliot’s smirk grew into a sinister grin, his brown eye twitching to herald the arrival of Jason. “Now…use Razor Wind!”
Grovyle began to repeatedly swipe its arms at Nidoking, each swipe sending a blade-like blast of wind at the Poison-type. Despite being composed of air, each blade created physical bruises and cuts on its target’s body, and soon Nidoking was riddled with countless wounds. With a glare, Grovyle gave one last swing of its arm, and launched a final blast of wind that knocked its opponent onto the floor once again.
“Nidoking is down and out!” Lillian cried as Aiden’s points dropped to zero. “Our winner for this match…is Elliot!”
Elliot’s image appeared on the screen, and the boy’s blue eye twitched again. With the dominant persona back in control, the boy simply chuckled at the applause he received.
“How trifling,” he said before looking over to his Grass-type. “Well done, Grovyle.”
“Gro,” the Pokemon grunted, still glaring at Aiden and Nidoking even as the latter was reabsorbed into its Pokeball.
“And a big thank you to both coordinators for a well-fought battle!” Lillian cried, though Nurse Joy could not help but glanced worriedly at Elliot. “Next up in our list of battles is veteran coordinator Timmy Grimm versus newcomer Derak!”
“Of course,” Derak sighed.
“Hey, don’t worry about it,” Timmy said. “I figured this would happen, so I picked a Pokemon that’s perfect for our battle.”
“Oh, perfect,” Derak groaned as he recalled Wildfire and Happiny. “I’ll be sure to say ‘thank you’ for being so considerate as your Pokemon rips me to pieces.”
“We’ll see about that,” Timmy smirked.
A rather luxurious hotel room in Saffron City was just one of the many locations to which the Contest was broadcasted. A woman with a ponytail of multicolored hair—sporting orange, blue, and green colors—sat beside a red-haired boy of about nine years on a large couch as they watched Elliot and Aiden’s battle.
“This is so cool!” the boy cried. “It’s like your musicals, Mom!”
“It certainly is,” the boy’s mother chuckled. “Let’s see who’s up next, shall we?”
“To my right is the former Phantom Coordinator from Verdanturf Town, Timmy Grimm!” Lillian declared as the camera focused on Timmy. “And to my left is the mysterious boy from Orre, Derak!”
When the camera focused on Derak, the mother’s eyes widened.
It…it can’t be
, she thought.
“Mom? What is it?” the red-haired boy asked.
“Ozcar…could I ask you to do something for me?” his mother asked.
“Sure!” Ozcar nodded.
“When this Contest is over,” his mother said, “I need you to run an errand for me.”
Soon, the two childhood friends had taken their places on stage. Timmy bore a smile, eager for this long-awaited battle. Derak, however, kept his expression neutral, attempting to hide his dread. This, he believed, was a match that would most certainly end badly.
“With five minutes on the clock…begin!” Lillian cried.
Derak reached for Wildfire’s orange Pokeball, but Timmy was quicker. His Pokeball was already in the air, and once it split open, a rather strange Pokemon came out. It appeared to be a floating brown insect shell, with a round head that played host to two narrow eyes. Above its head was a white halo, which contrasted against the Pokemon’s small skeletal wings.
“Sheeeddd-INJAAAAA!” the Pokemon cried in a surprisingly lively voice, though its face remained blank and motionless.
“What the heck is that?” Derak asked.
“This is Shedinja, a unique Ghost-type Pokemon,” Timmy smirked. “If you can land one hit on it, Shedinja’s out like a light. On the other hand, its ability prevents any move that isn’t super-effective from doing any damage.”
“…and you’re going where with this?” Derak blinked. “Hang on, is this what you meant when you said...?”
“Least I can do for an old friend,” Timmy shrugged. “Might want to hurry and pick your Pokemon, though. Time’s running out.”
, Derak thought with a wince, realizing that a minute had already passed. Okay, it’s a Ghost-type…uh…hang on, I know!
He quickly grabbed Echo’s Pokeball and threw it into the sky, allowing his Zubat to do a loop-de-loop before hovering in front of its trainer.
“A Zubat? Uh…interesting choice,” Timmy remarked, though he was clearly surprised at such a weak-looking Pokemon being in the possession of a trainer with five badges. Echo seemed to notice this as well, letting out a series of irritated screeches. “Uh, anyway! Shedinja, use Phantom Force!”
A swirling mass of darkness appeared underneath Shedinja, and the insect-like ghost quietly floated down into it. The portal soon closed, but another one opened underneath Echo. Before either Derak or his Pokemon could react, Shedinja rocketed upwards and rammed headfirst into Echo’s stomach, knocking the Bat Pokemon to the floor and subtracting some of Derak’s points.
“Echo, you okay?” Derak cried. His Zubat quickly flapped back into the air, giving him a nod as it did so. “All right…use Shadow Ball!”
“Shedinja, Double Team!”
Echo shot a ball of darkness out of its mouth, but one Shedinja soon became many. The duplicate Ghost-types quickly surrounded Echo, though the Poison-type could only tell due to the noise they made.
“Just because I’m giving you a fair shot doesn’t mean I’m making it easy for you,” Timmy smirked.
“I noticed,” Derak growled. His mind raced as he desperately looked through the illusions for the real Shedinja. “Ugh, where are you? Echo, any ideas?”
Echo, however, pointed its head upward and let out another series of screeches. After a moment, it quickly turned towards the Shedinja duplicate to its right and screeched again.
“Okay, use Shadow Ball on that one!” Derak cried.
“How did it—” Timmy gasped. “Shedinja, Protect, quick!”
Shedinja’s illusion clones vanished, revealing the one to Echo’s right as the true one. Though Echo managed to fire off another Shadow Ball, a green bubble shielded the floating shell from the attack. This caused Derak’s points to drop even further.
“Now, counter with Bug Bite!” Timmy cried.
“Use your own Double Team!” Derak cried.
A pair of large fangs grew from the lower half of Shedinja’s head, but just as it lunged towards Echo, the Bat Pokemon gave it a taste of its own medicine by splitting into a series of illusions. Rather than surround its opponent, however, Echo instead opted to scatter its duplicates around the arena, some hovering closer to Shedinja and some remaining higher in the air.
“Aw, no!” Timmy cried as some of his points finally fell. “Shedinja, try to find the real one with Aerial Ace!”
Shedinja rose into the air, ascending above all of Echo’s duplicates, and began to charge through each of the illusory clones. The shell’s body darted in every direction, changing paths in the blink of an eye as it raced through all of the Zubat copies. Eventually, it slammed into the real Echo, sending both it and some of Derak’s points downward.
“Echo, no!” Derak cried.
“Don’t let it recover, Shedinja!” Timmy cried. “Use Phantom Force again!”
Shedinja vanished into another dark portal, the exit to this one opening underneath a falling Echo. Though the Zubat was able to right itself and fly again, it could not stop its ghostly opponent from striking it once more. This time, as Derak’s Poison-type fell to the floor, the rest of Derak’s points went with it.
“The results are in!” Lillian cried. “The winner of this match…is Timmy Grimm! Congratulations to both competitors!”
Neither trainer seemed to hear Lillian as Derak rushed to Echo’s side. He gently scooped the Zubat into his arms as he sat down.
“Hey…you okay?” Derak asked. “You did your best, pal. We were pretty outmatched there.”
Echo gave a weak screech in response.
“Hey, Derak?” Timmy said as he approached. “Sorry about that. I didn’t mean to be that rough.”
“Whatever,” Derak grunted as he left the stage, Echo still in his arms. Timmy frowned sadly for a moment before following.
“To be honest, I thought you would pick something stronger than a Zubat,” Timmy said to Derak’s back. “Like your Chimchar or—”
Echo suddenly shot out of Derak’s arms and flew up to Timmy’s face, screeching irritably all the while.
“Hey, whoa, easy there Ech—” Derak said as he reached for his Pokemon, but was cut off by something he had seen once before.
His Pokemon’s body started glowing white.
Echo grew from a tiny bat to a larger creature that was roughly Derak’s size. Its pointy legs developed true feet, albeit small ones, and its wings grew massively. The bat’s body also adopted a more humanoid structure, allowing it to stand on two legs with ease. Once the glow faded, Echo was revealed to have gained a pair of rather evil-looking eyes as well as a colossal mouth.
“Echo, this…this is great!” Derak cried. “Guess we got something good out of this Contest after all, huh?”
Echo smiled widely with a nod and a somewhat monstrous-sounding screech.
“I’ll look up the new you later,” Derak said as he recalled Echo. “Right now, it’s time for me to get going.”
“Wait, you’re not staying to watch the rest of the battles?” Timmy asked.
“Not much point, seeing as Echo and I lost,” Derak shrugged. “Besides, I still need to deal with the Gym.”
“Well…the next time we meet in a Contest, I bet you’ll have gotten a lot stronger,” Timmy smiled.
“If you say so,” Derak sighed. “Later.”
And with a limp wave of his hand, Derak left. Timmy waved after him, then went back to rejoin his fellow coordinators backstage.
“Derak…left already?” Teresa asked.
“Yeah,” Timmy nodded. “But I have a feeling we’ll see him in another Contest down the road. And once we do, he won’t lose.”
“I am certain of that as well,” Nando nodded. He looked over to the door, his smile fading somewhat. “Still…I find his refusal to interact with other humans for longer than he feels necessary to be somewhat worrying. Perhaps, when we see him next, we can encourage him to be more open.”
“Mr. Nando, he…he might not like that,” Teresa said timidly.
“True,” Nando nodded. “But, let us cross that bridge when it comes. For now, let us focus on our endeavors in this Contest.”
Like I said, not quite back up to snuff yet. Things should improve after this chapter, though.