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Thread: Proving Grounds

  1. #76
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    robinhood: Thanks! Hope you enjoy future chapters!


    Rotomknight:
    Wow...
    PLease don't have reshiram appear as Derak's pokemon. WAY TOO CLICHED!
    I can definitely say that he WILL NOT be acquiring any Pokemon of legendary status. I don't know if I completely agree with you, though. There are some cases (albeit rare ones) where a legendary on a protagonist's team actually DOES work out without being too much of a cliche. I have an idea for a future fic where legendaries would be much more prominent than they are here, and I'm hoping that their involvement won't be too cliched.
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    Proving Grounds

    How far will one boy go to prove something?

  2. #77
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    Wait... did that Marowak just SPEAK? I think I'm missing more than a chapter here...

    That battle was... AMAZING! And the implications of Derak "trading" Brute are falling into place beautifully. Garth seems to pick the worst times to keep his sardonic mouth shut...

    Now the links are starting to close and the plot begins to thin. Though with your promise of Elliot's closet getting aired in the near/not so near future, and the prospect of Derak facing that killer Toxicroak for a gym badge, this fic is definitely not going to let it's readers stay dull, is it?

    Speaking of things never getting dull, the workplace is getting crazy again, so I gotta run. I am following this though, so keep the good stuff coming!

    L@er!

    P.S. Way to bring the P-1 Grand Prix back! Awesome stuff!
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  3. #78
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    Air Dragon:

    Wait... did that Marowak just SPEAK? I think I'm missing more than a chapter here...
    Long story short, the Marowak is a character from a fic series I previously wrote here on Serebii (which, as the first one I ever wrote in my entire life, started off...less-than-fantastic, to say the least).

    That battle was... AMAZING! And the implications of Derak "trading" Brute are falling into place beautifully. Garth seems to pick the worst times to keep his sardonic mouth shut...
    Thanks! I was actually hoping that the "Everyone VS Nobunaga" battle would turn out well.

    As for the trade...heh...this is just the tip of the iceberg. All I'm going to say. XD

    Now the links are starting to close and the plot begins to thin. Though with your promise of Elliot's closet getting aired in the near/not so near future, and the prospect of Derak facing that killer Toxicroak for a gym badge, this fic is definitely not going to let it's readers stay dull, is it?
    I hope not. That was something I was worried about with a fic as long as this one's going to be.

    Speaking of things never getting dull, the workplace is getting crazy again, so I gotta run. I am following this though, so keep the good stuff coming!

    L@er!

    P.S. Way to bring the P-1 Grand Prix back! Awesome stuff!
    That was actually one of my favorite anime episodes back in the day, so I'm glad that my decision to include it has been well-recieved.

    And thanks for reviewing!
    Current fanfics:


    Proving Grounds

    How far will one boy go to prove something?

  4. #79
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    Sorry it took so long for me to get to this. I hope the review makes up for it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Morpher01 View Post
    Chapter 22: Shades of Black and White



    “Derak?” Garth said the next morning, sharply rapping the door to the boy’s room. “Will you stop feeling sorry for yourself and get out here?”

    No response. Garth sighed and tried the knob, finding that—curiously enough—it opened with ease. With the door no longer obstructing his view of the room, Garth soon came upon Derak, albeit in a poor state. The boy was close to falling out of his bunk, and his eyes were somewhat reddened. He looked as if he were barely awake.

    “Did you even get ANY sleep last night?” Garth asked.

    “Not really,” Derak groaned. “I’m worried about Brute.”
    Derak, if you're going to be upset about trading Brute, you shouldn't have done it in the first place.

    “If you are going to whine about a trade-off,” Garth grumbled, “then I have to wonder how you will react when you suffer an actual tragedy.”

    “How is this not—” Derak began.
    Because you did it voluntarily?

    “Be quiet and let me finish,” Garth spat. “I realize that it is difficult to part with a friend…but believe me when I say that a Machoke can only reach its maximum potential after it is traded to someone else. Although I cannot exactly call what you and the bug-obsessed girl did a ‘trade’.”

    “Why’s that?” Derak asked, slipping out of bed and managing to land on his feet.

    “Why do you not simply ask your new Happiny?” Garth snorted. “Your Pokedex can analyze its potential skills, assuming you can figure out how to use that feature.”
    Oh you, Garth. At least this time the attitude is pretty justified.

    Rather than make one of his typical sarcastic remarks, Derak instead wordlessly released Happiny. The small Normal-type squealed cheerfully, having evidently anticipated its arrival into the company of a new trainer. Derak gave it a quick wave before pointing his Pokedex at Happiny.

    “Okay, let’s see,” Derak said. “Normal-type, we already know that…hey, Garth, what does the ability Natural Cure do?”

    “If Happiny is afflicted with a status condition like paralysis, then switching it out will cure its problems,” Garth explained.

    “Okay, then,” Derak shrugged. “All right, moves…sheesh, I haven’t seen many of these…Pound… Sweet Kiss? Aromatherapy? Helping Hand? What do these even do?”

    “Sweet Kiss causes confusion, Aromatherapy heals the status afflictions of other Pokemon, and Helping Hand boosts the power of a partner Pokemon’s attack,” Garth answered. “In other words, it is a poor substitute for your Machoke.”

    “…so, what you’re saying is…I got ripped off?” Derak said slowly.

    “Essentially,” Garth nodded.
    At least Garth is being honest to him here. I can't really blame Derak for making that mistake, given his naive background, but he still made it.

    “Haap?” Happiny whimpered, its expression saddening.

    “Uh…that doesn’t mean you’re not welcome, though!” Derak sputtered. “It’s just…I had to give away a really good friend to get you. And I already miss him.”

    “Ugh, here we go again,” Garth sighed.

    Happiny, however, appeared to understand Derak’s concerns. It nodded, waddled up to him, and hugged his leg.

    “Uh…thanks?” Derak blinked. “Okay, Happiny, I think it’s time for you to go back in the Pokeball, now.”

    “Hap-peeny!” nodded the Playhouse Pokemon, promptly backing away and allowing itself to be recalled. Once it was gone, Derak sighed.
    I'm pleased that Derak actually is having second thoughts. It would be worrying if he was just shrugging this whole thing off.

    “Garth,” he said, “remind me to never trade Pokemon with anyone ever again.”

    “Noted,” the cloaked man nodded. “Now, let us try and determine which Pokemon you will use against the Fuchsia Gym Leader.”

    “Definitely not Happiny,” Derak said as he headed out of the room and into the lobby. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s great for moral support and giving its partners a boost in double battles, but in what’s probably going to be a single battle…not so much.”
    Surprisingly apt analysis on Derak's part. Despite it, though, I have a feeling that Happiny might end up being important after all.

    “Is that really all that matters? How a Pokemon will perform in battle?”

    The source of the new voice was none other than Zekrom’s apparent trainer, who sat with his hat over his eyes as he methodically fiddled with the puzzle cube that typically hung from his belt. Garth’s eyes narrowed at the sight of him, but Derak was merely confused.
    Ooh ****, here we go. I wasn't ready for N.

    “Uh…not really, now that you mention it,” he answered. “Why?”

    The green-haired young man sighed, reattaching the cube to his belt as he stood up.

    “Ever since I was a child, all I have ever seen are Pokemon who were hurt by trainers,” he said. “It hurts me, as well. They’re my friends, you know…Pokemon are the only friends I can really have.”
    Is this after the events of BW, or have B2W2 happened as well? N's character could go one of several ways.

    “Funny how that worked out for you, is it not?” Garth growled, preparing a Pokeball. “Electivire, rise from the ashes!”

    In a flash, Garth’s Electivire appeared on the scene, grinning wickedly as it faced the Zekrom trainer down. Despite the fearsome foe before him, the mysterious young man was completely undaunted, and simply stared at Electivire as if expecting something. Derak, however, was not so calm about the situation.

    “Garth, what the heck are you doing?!” Derak cried.

    “Eliminating a problem,” Garth shot back. “Electivire, use—”
    Obviously Garth knows who N is, but is it just that he knows of Team Plasma, or is there a deeper meaning?

    “Vire?” blinked the Thunderbolt Pokemon, looking down at the green-haired young man. “Electi-vire?”

    “Yes,” the young man smiled. “That is who I am. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Electivire.”

    “Electivire, what are you waiting for?!” Garth cried.

    “Your Electivire…he tells me that you ‘have issues’,” the Zekrom trainer said, “but still speaks highly of you. He says you are his longtime partner, and always will be.”
    Very good depiction of N using his ability.

    “Tell me something I do not already know,” Garth growled.

    “Uh…did he just translate Pokemon language?” Derak blinked. “Hey, wait...can you teach me how to—”

    “Do not bother,” Garth spat. “His organization will only use that ability for their own twisted ends.”

    “I see…so you already know. That makes sense,” the young man said. “Let me introduce myself. My name is N. My…father…a man named Ghetsis, once led a group called Team Plasma.”
    I notice his reluctance to call Ghetsis his father, first of all. I also see that it appears that this indeed takes place between BW and B2W2, but feel free to correct me if that's wrong.

    “Team what?” Derak blinked.

    “A group of medieval-themed gnats who tried to force the trainers of the Unova region into releasing all of their Pokemon solely to make Ghetsis the sole remaining trainer,” Garth growled. “And who also buzzed once too often around me during my travels.”
    And there's the connection between Team Plasma and Garth. I hope we get to hear more about that.

    “That…was their plan?” Derak blinked. “That sounds kinda stupid. Then again, I guess I should expect that from someone who only gave their kid one letter for their name.”
    I admit, I laughed, probably more than I should have.

    “Firstly, Ghetsis is only my foster father…a difficult thing to call him, as well,” N sighed. “Secondly…my full name is actually Natural Harmonia Gropius. But I prefer to go by N.”
    I'm kind of amazed at how forthcoming N is being, but he's coming along nicely still.

    “…I can see why,” Derak blinked.

    “But that is not what I am here to discuss,” N continued, looking over at Derak. “You…your name is Derak? I wish to battle you. I want to hear the voices of your Pokemon. Wait…”

    He closed his eyes for a moment. Derak looked to Garth for an explanation, but neither could answer the questions raised by N’s behavior. Finally, the former king of Team Plasma opened his eyes.

    “I can feel that I have a particular friend who wishes to witness our battle,” N said. “Let us go outside so I can introduce you.”
    Is this going where I think it is?

    N took the two into a rather secluded area outside Fuchsia City, specifically the spot where Zekrom had landed the day before. He stood at one side of the clearing, staring into space for a while. Derak and Garth took their place at the other side, the former wondering what in the world was going on. Electivire stood by the sidelines, arms crossed as it glanced back and forth at each side.

    “Before I introduce you to my friend,” N began, “let me say one thing: many trainers aspire to use its kind for their own benefit. And I will prevent any further attempts by either of you.”

    With a deep preparatory breath, N enlarged a Pokeball and revealed his ownership of Zekrom. The black dragon’s imposing stature alone was enough to cause Derak to fall backwards out of shock. But Garth was the most severely affected: his eyes went wide, his skin paled, and his hands began to shake. Memories flooded into his mind, all of them chronicling horrible times.
    So it IS where I thought it was going.

    I have to admit, I feel like N's revelation of Zekrom was a little underwhelming. I mean, as a reader I already knew he had Zekrom, but in spite of that, it should still be spoken of as a big deal since it's the first time the characters are seeing it with him. Given Garth's reaction, I definitely think more than just "N enlarged a Pokeball and revealed his ownership of Zekrom" followed by a small bit of description would be warranted.

    “No…no, NO!” Garth roared. Without warning, he charged at Zekrom, rage blinding him as he began attacking the dragon’s leg with his bare hands. Zekrom looked down at him with mild surprise on its face, but upon squinting in an attempt to get a closer look at its comparatively tiny attacker, it understood.
    Does Garth have a death wish, or is he really that consumed by a desire for revenge?

    “ELECTIVIRE!” Garth bellowed. “What are you waiting for?! This is what I have been training you for!”

    “Elec?” Electivire blinked, nervously staring up at Zekrom. True, the majority of its training under Garth’s ownership was for the purpose of eventually defeating this colossal beast, hence its being taught the move Ice Punch…but the task now seemed quite intimidating, to say the least.

    “Zekrom?” N looked over to his dragon, which stared at him for a moment. After a short time (in which Garth’s continued attempts at doing harm to Zekrom were met with failure), N nodded. “I see. You…your name was Garth? Zekrom tells me that it knows you.”

    “Of course it knows me!” Garth roared. “It was used to destroy everything I ever cared about!”
    I get the feeling that backstory I've been waiting for is about to arrive...

    “Wait, back up…what the heck is going on?” Derak blinked.

    “I am not Zekrom’s first partner,” N replied. “It was allied with numerous people over the years…a hero who sought ideals and created the Unova region with his brother, and—”

    “And a guy named Nobunaga?” Derak interrupted.

    “Yes,” N blinked. “How did you know?”

    “Long story that you might not even believe,” Derak shrugged.

    “He has no right to any of our business!” Garth spat. “Electivire, use Ice Punch on Zekrom NOW!”

    But Electivire still would not move. The Thunderbolt Pokemon scratched its head for a moment, attempting to weigh its options. Before it could make a decision, N stepped forward.

    “I won’t allow harm to come to Zekrom,” he said. “It wants me to tell you…how sorry it is that it—”

    “I WANT NONE OF ZEKROM’S EXCUSES OR PITY!” Garth roared. He then reduced his voice to a snarl as he continued. “All I want…all I have wanted for the many years that I have wandered…is to take my revenge upon Nobunaga Oda. Zekrom was the Pokemon he used to destroy that which was dear to me…which means that it must pay, as well.”
    And there it is, at least a good part of it. I had actually pieced together that Garth was after Zekrom because it was Nobunaga's weapon in the past, but it's good to have confirmation of that.

    “Uh, Garth, any chance you could just save all your revenge talk for Nobunaga alone?” Derak asked. “Just because he used Zekrom to do bad stuff to you doesn’t mean that it’s to blam—oh, crap…”

    “What?” Garth asked.

    Derak nervously pointed at the sky. The others looked up and saw a storm of comets raining down from above, gaining more power and speed as they gathered momentum.
    It sure hit the fan now, if this means what I think...

    “A Draco Meteor!” Garth cried. “Electivire, shield us with Protect!”

    “Zekrom, destroy it with Thunder!” N cried.

    Electivire rushed to Garth’s side as its trainer pulled a stunned Derak behind the Thunderbolt Pokemon, allowing the Electric-type to form a Protect large enough to defend all three of them. N’s Zekrom, however, took to the skies, its body surging with electricity. A colossal bolt of lightning burst from the dragon’s electrified aura, decimating the first meteor it came into contact with. Other meteors soon followed the first, Zekrom having progressively aimed its Thunder to the right.

    “Magnificent,” a voice praised. “The years have indeed been kind to you, Zekrom.”

    The dragon’s eyes went wide as it recognized the voice, but Derak was filled with a sense of dread. A Hydreigon land in the clearing, and Nobunaga himself dismounted the beast.
    Yep, things just got really, really bad. And I don't think they're going to get better.

    I wasn't expecting Nobunaga to return so soon.

    “Now, then…N, was it?” Nobunaga smirked. “I believe you have something that belongs to me.”

    “What…? You mean Zekrom?” N gasped.

    “Yes,” Nobunaga grinned, his Hydreigon eyeing Derak darkly. “I have come to reclaim the Pokemon that was once a valued partner during the War of Ransei…as Garth over there can attest.”
    I would hope Nobunaga actually has a plan to accomplish that, because I would think Zekrom wouldn't just bond with him again.

    “Indeed it does,” Garth growled. “I have to say that a Pokemon of that description fits you quite well, Oda.”

    “Why, thank you,” Nobunaga smirked.
    You know, I never thought of it until now, but you're completely right about how suited Hydreigon is to Nobunaga.

    “This is…Nobunaga Oda?” N blinked, clearly overwhelmed by the strange information he was presented with. “Ghetsis…told me stories of Ransei’s war…and how Nobunaga’s actions were an inspiration for him.”

    “Is that so?” Nobunaga said. “As flattered as I am to have a fan in your ‘father’, I am afraid that I will have to take Zekrom now.”
    The possibilities for a Ghetsis/Nobunaga connection are playing in my mind, and they could be brilliant.

    He reached out a hand, pointing it directly at Zekrom’s head. The dragon could only stare in shock, wondering how in the world Nobunaga was still alive centuries after the battles of Ransei had concluded. A sudden sensation in its mind made it gasp, however, and its eyes began to glow a bright yellow.

    “NO!” Garth yelled. “Derak, N, we must stop him! He is attempting to Link with Zekrom again!”

    “Link?” Derak repeated.

    “That was how ancient warriors used Pokemon: by establishing a telepathic link!” N cried. “I can’t allow Zekrom to be used for the purpose of conquest!”
    I have to say, I did not expect Linking to depicted, and especially not in such a way.

    He pulled a particular Pokeball off of his belt, knowing that within was the same Pokemon that constantly yearned for release.

    “My friend…you will have your freedom,” N said. “I need your help now!”

    He threw the Pokeball into the air, and released a lizard-like Pokemon with a pale brown body. Its most noticeable feature was the large reptilian skull over its head, and the bone it held in its one-fingered hand. The lizard gave its head a shake, as if relieving itself of some contamination.

    “I promised you exercise, my Marowak friend, and you will have it,” N declared, an unusual resolve in his voice. “Please, stop this man from taking Zekrom!”

    The Pokemon—evidently called “Marowak”—looked over at Nobunaga, observing his attempts to Link with the now-immobile dragon. With a grunt, it slapped it bone into its free hand and charged forth, a dark aura beginning to grow from its body.
    Holy ****, could it be...?! This one is the biggest surprise of all!

    “What?” Garth blinked. “That aura…”

    “Garth, snap out of it, we’ve got Linking to stop!” Derak cried. “Wildfire, let’s go!”

    “You’re right,” Garth grunted. “Electivire, go forth!”

    Joined by Derak’s Chimchar and Garth’s Electivire, N’s Marowak quickly advanced on Nobunaga. The three Pokemon were quickly faced with an obstacle, however, as Nobunaga’s Hydreigon landed between them and let out a terrifying roar. Wildfire stumbled back in fright, but Garth’s Electivire narrowed its eyes as it cracked its knuckles. N’s Marowak, however, simply scoffed.
    That's Skull for you, I know that much.

    That scoff was apparently enough to incite Hydreigon’s wrath, however. Without any order, the Brutal Pokemon rose into the air and exhaled a blast of orange wind that almost seemed to be on fire. Wildfire, being a Fire-type, managed to resist the Heat Wave, but still struggled to advance. Marowak waved its bone about, somehow managing to summon a rocky shield for itself without ever touching the ground. Electivire channeled an Ice Punch into both its fists, pushing them forward in an attempt to reduce the effectiveness of Hydreigon’s attack.

    Eventually, however, Hydreigon began to suffer from lack of oxygen, and thus halted its Heat Wave for a moment. This provided the perfect opportunity for N’s Marowak, which abandoned its shield of rocks and dashed forward. With its aura of shadow in place, it slammed itself into Hydreigon’s stomach with enough force to send the Brutal Pokemon reeling.

    Despite the violence that was dealt to his Pokemon, however, Nobunaga barely seemed to notice. A glow had entered into his own eyes as he continued to Link with Zekrom, his progress increasing with each passing second. This progress, however, appeared to be at the cost of noticing what happened around him, including Derak’s sneaking up behind him. The boy clenched his jaw, pulled back his leg, and aimed a kick towards the area between Nobunaga’s legs.

    Before the kick could connect, however, Nobunaga’s other hand suddenly shot out and wrapped itself around Derak’s throat.

    “Crap,” Derak choked. “Guess you…really were paying attention…”
    Some great combat there. I have to admit, I thought Derak had a shot at Nobunaga, but it doesn't surprise me that he'd somehow be able to see it coming.

    As if to prove its trainer wrong, however, N’s Marowak viciously tackled Hydreigon into a tree, pinning it down and preventing it from stopping Wildfire’s assault. The Chimchar neared Nobunaga, but another Pokeball on the warlord’s belt automatically opened…

    …and released an Infernape.
    I can't imagine how we're ever going to actually stop this guy.

    Wildfire suddenly stopped in its tracks, its rage quickly turning into terror as it remembered the events of Cerulean City, where Nick Spire’s Infernape displayed traumatizing brutality towards Garth’s Cradily. The Infernape standing before it appeared, for all intents and purposes, completely identical to Spire’s Infernape, right down to the sadistic grin plastered across its face.

    “Ferrrn,” Infernape grinned. Wildfire’s Flame Wheel was long gone by this point, the Chimchar now trembling and frozen still.

    “That does it,” Garth growled. “Dewgong, use Aqua Jet on Infernape!”

    The very second that Dewgong appeared, its body became surrounded by a watery shell that made the Sea Lion Pokemon resemble an aquatic missile. Fittingly enough, the missile rocketed towards Infernape, slamming into the evolved Fire-type with devastating force. The Flame Pokemon was sent tumbling back head-first into yet another tree, giving a small fraction of hope. N’s Marowak even charged darkness into its bone and clubbed Hydreigon’s head, knocking out the Dragon-type and preventing further harm from it.
    It would take Skull to defeat Nobunaga's Hydreigon, wouldn't it?

    “Now, Dewgong!” Garth yelled. “Use Aqua Jet again, this time to stop Nobunaga!”

    Realizing that its master was in jeopardy, the still-conscious Infernape sprang back into action by aiming a punch at Dewgong, which—as evidenced by the sudden burst of speed with which Infernape lunged at Dewgong—was soon revealed to be a Mach Punch. The Flame Pokemon managed to knock Dewgong aside, and once the Sea Lion Pokemon was out of the way, Infernape scrambled to Nobunaga’s side and began fiddling with one of his Pokeballs.

    “Oh, for the love of…!” Garth growled, noticing a still-paralyzed Wildfire and a fallen Dewgong. “N, you clearly have some sort of link with Zekrom, try and fight Nobunaga’s control! Electivire, use Thunder on Nobunaga immediately!”
    I notice Garth has little hesitance when it comes to ordering attacks against humans.

    With Hydreigon out of the way, Electivire released a Thunder into the air that bore down on Nobunaga. Meanwhile, N approached Zekrom and stood firm before it, closing his eyes and attempting to access the mind of his friend. He soon found resistance, however, as his facial expression contorted into one of intense effort. Fortunately, Nobunaga’s face wore a similar expression, revealing that their two minds had come into conflict within Zekrom’s mind.
    This conflict of powers is awesome.

    Just as the Thunder seemed to near Nobunaga, however, Infernape pressed a Pokeball’s button and released an avian shape into the sky. The bird-like Pokemon was quickly struck by the Thunder, and only upon falling to the ground in agony was it revealed to have been a Braviary. Infernape bounded over its fallen comrade’s body and spat a whirling tunnel of flame at Electivire, only for the Thunderbolt Pokemon to block the Fire Spin with another Protect.
    Did Infernape just use Braviary as a living shield for Nobunaga?

    N’s Marowak suddenly leapt out of the trees, heading towards Nobunaga with its bone ready to smash. Infernape, however, intercepted the reptilian bone-wielder with another Mach Punch. Rather than be sent sailing away by the force of the blow, however, Marowak grabbed hold of Infernape’s free arm, taking the Flame Pokemon down with it. Realizing his opportunity, Garth rushed forward, roaring madly as he charged towards Nobunaga.

    But then N cried out, falling to the ground as he clutched his head in agony.

    “So…horrible,” N whimpered. “Such…terrible things…”

    And then the glow faded from Nobunaga’s eyes. A smirk grew across his face.

    “Link complete,” he smirked. “Zekrom, come.”

    And, shockingly enough, Zekrom obeyed.
    I don't believe it... this is bad...

    The Legendary Pokemon trudged over to Nobunaga’s side, as if all memory of its true trainer had been wiped away. Nobunaga’s grin grew as he climbed upon Zekrom’s back, recalling the Hydreigon, Infernape, and Braviary that had fought for him.

    “I trust you are familiar with the Pokemon I took from Derak’s lawyer acquaintance?” Nobunaga smirked.

    “You STOLE the man’s Pokemon?” Garth growled. “And here I thought even you would not stoop to such petty deeds.”
    I'm actually not all that surprised Nobunaga would do this.

    “He refused to join my cause, so I took the next best thing,” Nobunaga smirked. “A shame that the honor ingrained in Ransei’s warriors has not made its way into the modern age.”

    “You…you are…a monster,” N said slowly as he rose. “You are no honorable warrior…we have seen each other’s lives when our minds made contact…you have destroyed lives, hopes, and dreams…all in search of your ideal world. Those who kill without remorse…are without any sense of honor.”

    “Is that so?” Nobunaga said, his smirk fading away. “You do realize that I could have easily had Zekrom vaporize the lot of you five times over the course of our conversation? And I can guarantee that I did not do so just so other people could hear the sound of my voice.”

    “Then why…?” N trailed off.

    “To make a request,” Nobunaga said. “When Derak awakes, tell him that I will be waiting for our battle when his strength is sufficient.”

    “Then I hope you do not mind waiting,” Garth growled.

    “Heh…I can wait until the end of this year,” Nobunaga snickered. “After all, I have waited hundreds of years for the opportunity to create my ideal world. What’s another few months? Zekrom, let’s go.”
    Interesting that Nobunaga still thinks in yearly terms, much as he did in Ransei.

    Without a second’s hesitation, Zekrom rose into the air, Nobunaga on its back. N rushed to the place where his partner once stood, but by then it was too late.

    Nobunaga had taken Zekrom.

    “Brilliant,” Garth growled. “Our task just grew three times as difficult.”

    “So it would seem,” N sighed. “Garth…please, let me help you and Derak.”

    “And what can YOU offer us?” Garth spat.

    “Let us carry Derak to the Pokemon Center,” N suggested. “We should wait until he wakes up.”

    “I suppose that makes sense,” Garth agreed as he recalled his Dewgong, making sure to leave Electivire out in case of another attack. “That way I will not have to serve as the middleman.”

    With a nod from N, the two trainers hoisted Derak’s still-unconscious body between them and carried him off. Wildfire nervously followed, but as it began to fall behind, it found itself lifted up by the two tails of Garth’s Electivire. Only N’s Marowak remained behind, and once most of the group had left the clearing, the skull-wearing lizard heaved a sigh.

    “Figures,” the Marowak said in a harsh, gruff voice. “There’s always SOME moron trying to take over the world.”

    With a shake of its head, the Marowak reluctantly followed the group back to the Pokemon Center.

    ****
    And it was indeed Skull. Awesome.

    Now that was one hell of a chapter, that's all I can say. Just perfect. You got together a perfect combination of characters and very dramatic action to create one great ride.

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  5. #80
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    Nov 2005
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    The Great Butler:
    Surprisingly apt analysis on Derak's part. Despite it, though, I have a feeling that Happiny might end up being important after all.
    You might be surprised at just what it is Happiny is important to.

    I have to admit, I feel like N's revelation of Zekrom was a little underwhelming. I mean, as a reader I already knew he had Zekrom, but in spite of that, it should still be spoken of as a big deal since it's the first time the characters are seeing it with him. Given Garth's reaction, I definitely think more than just "N enlarged a Pokeball and revealed his ownership of Zekrom" followed by a small bit of description would be warranted.
    I definitely dropped the ball here, which I think may have been caused by my attempts to not have the Zekrom revelation overshadow the Nobunaga battle.

    Does Garth have a death wish, or is he really that consumed by a desire for revenge?
        Spoiler:- Quick answer:


    And there it is, at least a good part of it. I had actually pieced together that Garth was after Zekrom because it was Nobunaga's weapon in the past, but it's good to have confirmation of that.
    Oh, there's more where this came from...much more.

    Holy ****, could it be...?! This one is the biggest surprise of all!
    I'm still debating as to how much I should use him, to be honest. But, every now and then, it's nice to bring back an old friend for some beatdown distribution. XD

    I notice Garth has little hesitance when it comes to ordering attacks against humans.
    This IS Garth we're talking about, here. XD

    Now that was one hell of a chapter, that's all I can say. Just perfect. You got together a perfect combination of characters and very dramatic action to create one great ride.
    Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it!


    Okay...I'm sorry for the delay in this one, but I've had some difficulties in figuring out how to connect this chapter to the next one. I think I've figured it out, though, so let's finally get the Fuchsia Gym battle on the road.

    Side note: there's going to be a couple of bits and pieces in here that will be setting up a future fic that I'm planning. It may be fairly obvious which sections those are, but I'll leave that for the readers to determine. ON WITH THE GYM BATTLE ALREADY!







    Chapter 23: The Voices of Pokemon




    “Man…how’d Nobunaga do that, anyway?” Derak complained hoarsely, massaging his throat. “People don’t just get tossed around like sports balls.”

    It was a short while after Derak, Garth, and N battled Nobunaga. Derak had since recovered from being knocked unconscious during the fight, much to his Chimchar’s relief. At the moment, however, the three humans—plus N’s Marowak—sat at a table in the Pokemon Center lobby. Garth’s Electivire stood by the table, and Wildfire sat in Derak’s lap.

    “It does not matter how Nobunaga did anything he was able to do,” Garth said. “The fact remains that he has gained a massive advantage because of his Linking with Zekrom.”

    “Yes…and I am partially to blame,” N sighed. His Marowak looked as if it were about to say something, but N subtly shot it a cautionary glance. Remembering the agreement it had with its current trainer, the Marowak reluctantly remained silent.

    “How’s this your fault?” Derak asked. “You didn’t exactly give Zekrom away, and Nobunaga would probably have found it no matter where you went.”

    “Indeed,” Garth nodded. “He most likely saw the same news broadcast that I did.”

    “That must have been when Zekrom and I were flying beneath the cloud cover,” N sighed. “I wish we could have stayed above the clouds for the entire flight…but oxygen is scarce up there.”

    “Regardless, we need to determine a counter-strategy,” Garth said gruffly. “If we can remove Zekrom from the equation, we will have a chance at defeating Nobunaga.”

    “I wish to try and retrieve my friend,” N suggested. “I can’t allow Nobunaga to use Zekrom for his vile plans.”

    “And how do you plan to go about doing that?” Garth asked snidely.

    “I’m pretty sure talking isn’t going to work too well,” Derak added, “since Nobunaga has the Link thing going on.”

    “Believe it or not, Skull here has dealt with Pokemon with greater strength than Zekrom,” N smiled, nodding to his Marowak. “If we have to defeat Zekrom to break the Link, then that is what we must do, as much as I wish otherwise.”

    “Marowak,” Derak’s Pokedex reported upon being pointed at Skull, much to the lizard’s annoyance, “the Bone Keeper Pokemon. Type is Ground. Evolved form of Cubone. From its birth, this savage Pokemon constantly holds bones. It is skilled in using them as weapons.”

    “You may place too much faith in one Pokemon,” Garth snorted.

    “I have other friends who will help us,” N said. “Even so, I can’t deny that it will be difficult…but I will do whatever it takes to bring my friend Zekrom back.”

    “Good luck with that, then,” Derak shrugged, gently petting Wildfire’s head.

    “Derak…may I ask you something?” N said. “You said you were challenging the Fuchsia Gym?”

    “Yeah, why?” Derak asked.

    “I want to hear the voices of your Pokemon,” N said, “but to battle you without Zekrom watching, like I promised it, would be wrong.”

    “Okay, I can understand that,” Derak nodded. “You going somewhere with this?”

    “I wish…to witness your Gym battle,” N said. “This could work out for all of us…I won’t be hindering your progress towards defeating Nobunaga…and I will hear your Pokemon’s voices at their fullest.”

    “Uh…all right, I guess,” Derak shrugged. “I don’t know, do whatever you want. I don’t really care.”

    “Thank you,” N smiled.

    “We may as well go now,” Garth said. “Your Chimchar has been healed, and I trust you know what Pokemon you will be using.”

    “More or less,” Derak shrugged. “Let’s go find the Gym so we can get this over with.”

    Derak and Garth were the first to leave. N and Skull soon left as well, but as they followed the former two, N looked to his Marowak.

    “Skull,” he said in a low voice, “I realize that you have wonderful ideas to contribute, and that you will surely see things we humans will not, but…”

    “I know, I know,” Skull sighed. “If I speak human in front of losers like these, then everyone starts freaking out and going ‘ooh, talking Pokemon, let’s enslave it because we clearly have nothing better to do’. So I have to keep my mouth shut, or else I draw even MORE unnecessary attention than Zekrom’s gotten lately.”

    “…something like that,” N slowly said with a nervous smile. “What do you think of these two?”

    “Derak’s one of the biggest idiots I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen plenty,” Skull snorted. “Garth’s a little smarter, but he’s borderline psycho.”

    “His rage is well-earned, though,” N replied. “I’ve seen what Nobunaga did to him when I made contact with Nobunaga’s mind while we were inside Zekrom’s. No one should have to go through that…no matter how much you might hate them.”

    “I suppose,” Skull grunted. “Honestly, though, I’d rather just beat Nobunaga’s head in and call it a day.”

    “If only it were that simple,” N sighed. “Still, if we can give Nobunaga the battle he wants…then you may be able to get what you want.”

    ****

    The group eventually came upon the dojo Gym, a plain but intricate wooden structure in the southeast portion of Fuchsia City. Derak made to go in, N and Skull following, but stopped for a moment.

    “Sure you’re not going to watch?” Derak asked Garth. “I mean, you helped me prepare…you know, with Brute and all…”

    “I need to redouble Electivire’s training in case N fails to reclaim Zekrom,” Garth said. Electivire nodded, clearly sharing its trainer’s conviction.

    “Okay, then,” Derak shrugged.

    The boy pushed his way inside the Gym, N and Skull in tow. Once they entered, however, it was clear that something was wrong. The entirety of the inner Gym was vacant, and finding the Gym Leader was a task made near-impossible by the network of passages that twisted in every direction.

    “Sheesh,” Derak muttered. “This place looked smaller on the outside.”

    “I have heard that this building was designed by Pokemon trainers who have mastered the art of Ninjutsu,” N said. “We should be wary of hidden traps.”

    “…is there a reason that someone who headed a knight-obsessed group knows so much about ninjas?” Derak blinked.

    “Ghetsis had a small team of ninjas, known as the Shadow Triad, perform delicate operations,” N replied.

    “Hang on, why would there be ninjas in a team that’s supposed to be focused around knights and medieval stuff?” Derak asked. “That just seems really out of nowhere.”

    Suddenly, a dark-garbed figure shot out of the rafters and landed in front of Derak, N, and Skull. Initially in a crouched position, the figure soon stood and revealed itself to be a young woman who appeared to be in her early teens.

    “…speaking of things coming out of nowhere,” Derak sighed, N drifting back a bit for fear of being recognized. Skull remained up front, narrowing his eyes as he regarded the new arrival.

    “You don’t seem too surprised,” the girl said, running a hand through her spiky purple ponytail. “Most challengers jump out of their skins when I do that.”

    “Let’s just say that I’m getting used to crazy surprises at this point,” Derak shrugged. “I take it you’re the Gym Leader?”

    “Yep,” the girl nodded. “Name’s Janine. My father, Koga, was the original Gym Leader before he was promoted to the Elite Four. What about you?”

    “Derak,” the challenger shrugged. Despite his casual demeanor, his name appeared to have piqued Janine’s interest.

    “…hang on, you said your name was Derak?” she asked. “By any chance, your last name isn’t ‘Kadir’, is it?”

    “…uh…how did you know that?” Derak blinked.

    “Oh my Arceus, really?!” Janine cried, her entire body bouncing in sheer elation. “This is so awesome! I actually met one!”

    Derak could only stare, wondering what in the world she was talking about. He took a moment to look at Skull, who merely shrugged.

    “Oh, sorry, let me explain,” Janine said hurriedly. “You know about the warlords of Ransei, right?”

    “Yeah…?”

    “And you know you’re descended from Nobunaga Oda of the Dragnor kingdom, right?”

    N’s eyes went wide for a moment, but Derak failed to notice.

    “Uh…yeah…why?” Derak said slowly.

    “Well, guess what?” Janine smiled, jabbing a thumb at herself. “I’m descended from a Ransei Warlord, too!”

    “Wait, what? Really?” Derak sputtered.

    “Come on, I’ll show you some family history!” Janine smiled.

    N looked at Skull for a moment and nodded.

    “May we go as well?” N asked. “I’m also interested in learning about Ransei’s warlords.”

    “Sure!” Janine nodded, apparently not recognizing N despite Team Plasma’s highly public actions. “Come on, let’s go already!”

    ****

    The young Gym Leader took Derak through several passages, eventually coming to what seemed to be a dead end. Janine, however, placed her hand on a portion of the wall, which then sunk into the wall. Once the hidden panel was pressed, a small door slid open, revealing several scrolls and books inside.

    “Everything here is a chronicle of my ancestry, tracing all the way back to the ancient war over Arceus,” Janine said, pulling out a scroll and unraveling it. On it were numerous ancient characters and pictures, including one of an armored woman who stood alongside a four-winged bat with flat teeth. “This is my ancestor from Ransei, Nene. Next to her is her partner Pokemon, Crobat.”

    “Crobat?” Derak repeated, looking over the image of Nene’s Pokemon.

    “Yeah, don’t you know?” Janine said. “Crobat is the final evolution of Zubat, a Pokemon that’s been in my family ever since Nene’s time.”

    “Can I see that for a sec?” Derak asked.

    “Sorry, ninjas only,” Janine smirked, holding the scroll out of Derak’s grasp.

    “…right,” Derak sighed. “Anyway, you said Crobat evolves from Zubat?”

    “Well, first it has to evolve into Golbat through experience,” Janine corrected, “and then it evolves into Crobat once it forges a strong bond with its trainer. But, yeah, Zubat eventually evolves into Crobat.”

    “Is there anything about Nobunaga in your archives?” N asked.

    “Sorry,” Janine shook her head. “All that’s in my archives are Nene and her husband, Hideyoshi Toyotomi.”

    “Oh…I see,” N sighed, bowing his head slightly.

    “Hey, cheer up! Listen, there’s this hilarious story in here!” Janine said, pulling out the book and flipping through several pages. “One time, before the whole war started, most of the other ninjas were in this argument about who was the best. So Nene made them all battle for it, and even jumped in for the fun of it! Hang on, let me see if I can show you the other ninjas…”

    She flipped through several more pages, and came to an image of an extremely serious-looking man with a red-eyed purple-bodied creature with a giant grin.

    “Next to the Gengar here is Hanzo Hattori, one of the ninjas that Nene roped into battling,” Janine explained. She flipped through several more pages, coming across a young woman with a dark-colored weasel-like Pokemon. “And this is Kunoichi with her Weavile—she’s another one of the ninjas. The last one was…what?!”

    “What’s going on?” Derak asked.

    “There’s pages missing,” Janine replied, and true enough, several pages appeared to have been completely torn out of the book. “But that’s not possible! My family is the only one I know of who knows how to access these archives!”

    “What’s missing?” N asked.

    “Just everything relating to the last of the ninjas Nene forced that battle on,” Janine replied. “If I remember correctly…his name was Kotaro Fuma. He and Nene were the only two involved that were actual Warlords: Nene headed the Poison-type kingdom of Viperia, while Kotaro was in charge of the Dark-type kingdom called Yaksha.”

    “But…why would pages about this Kotaro guy be missing?” Derak asked.

    “No clue,” Janine replied, “but I’ll need to look into this later. My dad’s going to kill me if he finds out about these missing pages.”

    She stuffed the book and scroll back into the compartment, which promptly sealed itself.

    “So, anyway,” Janine said, turning back to Derak. “Sorry about getting a little off-track there, I just got excited about meeting someone else who’s descended from Ransei warlords. I was looking up all their family trees online, and then I found yours under Nobunaga’s, so…yeah.”

    “Yeah,” Derak said slowly. “Listen, I’m glad I’m not the only Ransei kid and all, but can we get on with the Gym battle?”

    “Sure, why not?” Janine smiled. “I mean, that IS probably what you came here for. No more distractions. Let’s go.”

    She put her hand on another part of the wall, which caused the entire wall to rotate, revealing itself to be a hidden revolving door. Janine squeezed through one of the openings created by the door, followed by Derak, N, and Skull. Within moments, the group found themselves on a large battlefield.

    “So, you know how this works, right?” Janine asked. “Three-on-three single battle, only challenger does substitutions?”

    “Yeah, sure,” Derak shrugged. “Let’s just go.”

    “Sounds good to me!” Janine cried, bounding over to her side of the arena as Derak trudged over to his. “Okay, let’s get this started!”

    Derak grimaced. There were four Pokemon in his party, but because of his trade with Sarah yesterday, he only had three that he could use. And one of them was less-than-usable due to both its temperament and condition. Still, due to the process of elimination, he had little other choice, particularly after the incident with Rotom in the Pokemon Center.

    “I’m going to start with the first Pokemon I ever got!” Janine cried. “Venonat, let’s go!”

    A small Pokemon covered in purple fuzz appeared out of Janine’s first Pokeball, landing on small tan feet and twitching its long white antennae. Its large red eyes stared at Derak, clicking its mandibles slightly.

    “Venonat,” Derak’s Pokedex reported, “the Insect Pokemon. Type is Bug and Poison. Its large eyes are actually clusters of tiny eyes. At night, its kind is drawn to light.”

    “Well…might as well get this part over with,” Derak winced, reluctantly removing the Safari Ball from his belt. “Strike, come on out.”

    Strike began glaring the second it materialized on the field. It glanced over at N and Skull, the latter giving it the sort of look that demanded to know what it wanted. N’s face, however, wore a growing unease. This Scyther had heavily bandaged wings, and yet it was being made to battle?

    “Uh, are you sure this is your first choice?” Janine asked, evidently thinking on a similar wavelength as N. “I mean, your Scyther’s wings…”

    “Oh, trust me, if you saw this guy yesterday, you wouldn’t think that injured wings were any kind of hindrance,” Derak said. “Can we get this started?”

    “Well, okay,” Janine blinked. “Venonat, use Poisonpowder!”

    Venonat’s antennae began twitching again, and soon its entire body began to shudder violently. The Insect Pokemon’s fuzz began to release a cloud of purple dust, which drifted lazily towards Strike. The Mantis Pokemon, however, was completely unconcerned, and even went as far as to scoff at the incoming “attack”.

    “Okay, Strike, dodge it and—” Derak began, but a wad of saliva suddenly landed at his feet. Strike managed to wipe its remaining spit off of its lip and turned back to the advancing Poisonpowder, formulating its own strategy.

    The Scyther held out its blades, and began slashing wildly at the air in front of it. Although this unusual tactic initially appeared to be ineffective, this changed when the Poisonpowder began to be blown away. Using the small bursts of wind generated by its slashes, Strike soon cleared the Poisonpowder out of the arena.

    “Whoa, that’s…that’s a smart Scyther!” Janine remarked. “Okay, Venonat, let’s kick it up a notch! Use Psybeam!”

    “Strike, dodge it!”

    Venonat looked straight at Strike and released a rainbow-colored beam from its eyes. The Scyther, however, briefly glared at Derak before a smirk came across its face. Rather than block or dispel the attack, Strike instead side-stepped…

    …and allowed the Psybeam to strike Derak in the chest.

    “Oh, crud!” Janine cried. “Derak, are you all right? Sorry about that!”

    “Yeah, I’m fine,” Derak groaned as he got up, ignoring Skull’s stifled snicker. “Okay, uh, Strike…how about we—”

    Before Derak could finish, Strike leapt straight up and somehow vanished into the rafters.

    “Oh, crud…we might be in trouble,” Janine grimaced, knowing well the advantage that Strike had just attained for itself. “Venonat, track it down with Foresight!”

    A red glow came over Venonat’s eyes as the Insect Pokemon scanned the ceiling for Strike. A cry of rage from above interrupted the search, and before either Derak or Janine could react, Strike plummeted down from the rafters directly above Venonat, its blades wide in preparation for an X-scissor.

    “Vennoh?!” Venonat cried just before Strike slammed it into the hardwood floor. Only a resistance to Bug-type move saved Venonat, but even then the Insect Pokemon struggled to rise.

    “Sccyy,” Strike smirked deviously, its blades elongating and taking on a purple glow.

    “Oh, crud, it’s Night Slash!” Janine cried. “Venonat, get out of there!”

    Venonat quickly rolled out of Strike’s reach, then righted itself and hopped away. It looked behind it just long enough to see if its foe was pursuing it…

    …only to bump into Strike’s foot.

    “Veno-nat!” gasped the Poison-type, stumbling back onto its rear. Strike grinned darkly as it raised its blades up, preparing to bring them down.

    “Strike, NO!” Derak cried. “H-how does that make you any better than whoever broke your wings?!”

    Strike stopped.

    Venonat stared fearfully at the Scyther, the Mantis Pokemon slowly lowering its blades to its sides and deactivating its Night Slash. Strike heaved a ragged sigh, and after giving Venonat a brief glance, punted it back to Janine’s side of the field.

    “Aw, Venonat…you did great, really,” Janine said, taking her unconscious Pokemon in her arms. “Return.”

    “Okay, Strike…going nuts like that isn’t going to get you any fans,” Derak said sternly. Strike, however, barely even acknowledged him. It simply scowled at Janine, awaiting her next Pokemon.

    “Boy…that Scyther sure is something,” Janine grimaced her teeth. “How long ago did you catch it?”

    “Day before yesterday,” Derak said. “Why?”

    “Haven’t had a lot of time to train it, have you?” Janine said. “That would explain why it isn’t listening.”

    “…do I even want to know how training makes Pokemon listen to—” Derak began, but the realization hit him. “Oh, no. No way am I treating my Pokemon like unfeeling drones just to get what I want!”

    “…scy?” Strike blinked. It never expected to hear such words from any trainer, let alone Derak. And, judging by Janine’s expression, neither did she.

    “Uh…that’s not really what I meant, but…whatever,” she shrugged, preparing a second Pokeball. “Time to bust out a ninja’s best friend. Go, Koffing!”

    Janine’s second Pokemon was rather simple in appearance, being a floating purple sphere covered in holes. Its only distinguishing features were a lazy eyes and a cartoonish yellow skull-and-crossbones underneath its widely-grinning mouth.

    “Koffing,” the Dex identified, “the Poison Gas Pokemon. Type is Poison. Toxic gas is held within its thin, balloon-shaped body, so it can cause massive explosions.”

    “Uh…how exactly is a living bomb supposed to be a ninja’s best friend?” Derak asked in utter bewilderment.

    “Let me show you,” Janine smirked. “Koffing, use Smokescreen!”

    Koffing inhaled deeply, somehow bloating itself up in the process. Rather than exhale the air back out, however, it instead caused a thick black smoke to billow out from the various holes on its body. Strike began thrashing about in an attempt to disperse the smoke like it did with Venonat’s Poisonpowder, but Koffing was producing too much smoke at too rapid a rate.

    “Now, Koffing, let’s turn the tables!” Janine cried. “Use Gyro Ball!”

    Koffing began spinning rapidly, a silver line forming across its body. With Strike unable to see where it was coming from, the Poison Gas Pokemon was free to ram its spinning body directly into Strike’s stomach. As if that blow was not enough, Koffing rocketed away from Strike only to come back and slam into the Bug-type’s side, knocking it out of the Smokescreen and onto the floor.

    “Like that?” Janine smirked. “Gyro Ball is a move that gets stronger if the user is slower than the target, and as useful as Koffing can be, it’s pretty slow, too. Koffing, let’s give that Scyther a taste of its own medicine! Use Sludge Bomb!”

    Rather than perform a preparatory inhalation, Koffing simply spat out a wad of slime that exploded upon contact with Strike’s body. The Scyther was sent skidding across the floor, and although its wings were thankfully untouched, the Mantis Pokemon was nonetheless defeated.

    “Strike!” Derak cried, rushing out to his Pokemon’s side. “Hey, you all right?”

    Strike, although beaten, was still conscious. With the last of its strength, it looked over towards Derak.

    “…scy…ther? Scy,” Strike groaned before it passed out.

    “I’ll get you healed as soon as we’re done here, I promise,” Derak said as he recalled Strike. He then returned to his end of the field and, knowing that the score was now even, steeled his resolve. “Okay…Koffing’s got a trick for anything that’s fast, and there’s still a Smokescreen giving sight issues…so…Echo, let’s go!”

    “Oh, cool!” Janine cried upon seeing Derak’s Zubat. “No wonder you were asking so much about Crobat! Okay, Koffing, time to step up our game! Use Gyro Ball!”

    “Echo, Double Team!”

    Koffing began to spin again, but this time Echo created a dozen replica Zubats before the Poison Gas Pokemon could connect its attack. Upon noticing Echo’s tactic, Koffing stopped and began looking around intently, clearly having been trained to try and see through such evasive tactics.

    “Okay, Echo, follow up with Supersonic!” Derak cried.

    Every one of the Zubat clones began emitting a series of sound waves from its mouth. Each sound wave from each Zubat made contact with Koffing, and despite the sphere’s efforts to block out the noise, its senses were nonetheless scrambled. It fell to the ground, rolling about in a daze as Janine could only look on.

    “Koffing, no!” she cried. “Come on, use Gyro Ball!”

    Koffing did attempt to use Gyro Ball, but as it levitated into the air and powered up its attack, its confused state led it to dive into the floor.

    “Okay, I think we might have this!” Derak cried. “Echo, use Zen Headbutt!”

    “Say what?!” Janine cried, recognizing the Psychic-type move Echo was about to use. “Koffing, you have to snap out of it! Use Gyro Ball!”

    Koffing gave itself a shake and prepared its latest Gyro Ball, but before it could execute the attack, the dome of energy produced by Echo’s Zen Headbutt rammed into Koffing’s face. The blow was clearly effective, sending the Poison Gas Pokemon tumbling back to Janine, but it was apparently not enough to fully defeat Koffing.

    “All right, Koffing!” Janine cried. “Okay, let’s try and wrap this up! Use Flamethrower!”

    “Echo, use Shadow Ball!” Derak yelled.

    Rather than spit slime like it did against Strike, Koffing instead exhaled a jet of fire. Echo, however, spat a ball of darkness that sliced through Koffing’s Flamethrower and struck the Poison Gas Pokemon head-on. This last blow was evidently too much for Koffing, and the spherical Poison-type fell to the floor in defeat.

    “Oh…Koffing, return,” Janine sighed. “Hey, Derak, you’re doing really well. I totally didn’t see Zen Headbutt coming!”

    “I noticed,” Derak said. “Can we move on?”

    “Uh…okay, sure,” Janine blinked. “Okay, time for my last Pokemon!”

    Janine threw her Pokeball into the air, and released a completely unexpected Pokemon. Its blue feet landed on the floor, and an intimidating croak was the first noise it made.

    It was the Toxicroak from the P1 Grand Prix.

    “No way,” Derak gasped. “That Toxicroak was YOURS?”

    “Yep!” Janine cried. “See, sometimes I have to go out and train my Pokemon in public, but since I’m the Gym Leader, I’ll just get swarmed if I go out without some kind of disguise.”

    “So you wear a big cloak?” Derak blinked.

    “Hey, a ninja girl’s gotta have her privacy,” Janine shrugged. “Ready to roll?”

    “I guess,” Derak shrugged. “Echo, use Shadow Ball!”

    “Toxicroak, Sucker Punch!” Janine cried.

    Echo prepared another Shadow Ball, but before it could release its attack, Toxicroak rushed up and struck the Bat Pokemon with enough force to send it reeling. Derak grimaced, knowing that Toxicroak could be tricky to beat if it could move that quickly.

    “Nice one, Toxicroak!” Janine cried. “Now, finish it off with Poison Jab!”

    “Echo, quick, use Double Team!” Derak cried.

    Derak’s Flying-type again split into numerous copies, prompting Toxicroak to stop for a moment. The Toxic Mouth Pokemon slowly scanned the Zubats, seeking the true one.

    “Now, hit it with Zen Headbutt!” Derak cried.

    “Oh, no, you don’t!” Janine yelled. “Toxicroak, Protect!”

    The Zubats all lunged forth as one, but their attack was barred by a green energy bubble that surrounded Toxicroak’s body. Every single one of Echo’s duplicates slammed head-first into the Protect, all the false ones disappearing as the real one fluttered about in a daze. Recognizing its target, Toxicroak swiftly thrust its Poison Jab into Echo’s stomach, sending the lightweight Flying-type sailing over Derak’s head and into a wall.

    “Echo!” Derak cried. “Crap…return. Hey, you did your best, we were just taken off-guard.”

    “What do you think of him so far?” N asked Skull, the both of them sitting on the sidelines.

    “Eh,” Skull grunted with a shrug.

    “Indifferent as always?” N smirked.

    “He’s kinda lame,” Skull muttered. “And he’s still a complete moron.”

    “I feel differently about that,” N said. “He seems to genuinely care for his Pokemon. But I wish to speak to his Scyther when this is over…”

    With two Pokemon defeated, Derak held up Wildfire’s orange Pokeball. At this stage, his starter was the only option.

    “Well…here goes everything,” Derak sighed. “Wildfire, let’s go!”

    “A Chimchar?” Janine gulped. Despite its having a neutral type matchup against her Toxicroak, Wildfire’s presence on the field seemed make her uneasy. “Okay, then, Toxicroak, let’s finish this up fast. Use Poison Jab!”

    “Dodge and use Thunderpunch!” Derak cried.

    Toxicroak quickly bounded into the fray, its latest Poison Jab ready to strike. Its intended target, however, performed a backwards somersault that allowed for agile evasion. Before Toxicroak could continue its assault, Wildfire sprang forth and slammed an electrical fist directly into the space between the Poison-type’s eyes. Toxicroak stumbled back, rubbing the spot where it had been struck.

    “Come on, Toxicroak, you can do this!” Janine cried. “Snap out of it!”

    “Wildfire, Flame Wheel!” Derak ordered.

    “Aah! Toxicroak, quick, use Sucker Punch!” Janine cried, her stress apparently reaching a breaking point.

    Toxicroak lunged forth, its attack hitting Wildfire hard enough to send it into the air. Although it began to flail about helplessly, the Chimchar stopped panicking when it noticed a rafter coming into reach. With the dexterity of a true primate, Wildfire snatched a rafter in hand and ducked into the darkness.

    “Ugh, again?!” Janine pouted. “And I thought ninjas were the only ones to make use of the shadows…”

    “Don’t look at me,” Derak shrugged. “Wildfire’s just awesome like that. Go for Flame Wheel again!”

    “Not happening!” Janine yelled. “Toxicroak, use Protect!”

    A faint glow could now be seen in the darkness, something that Toxicroak took to mean that Wildfire’s attack was imminent. It quickly formed a Protect shield around itself, waiting for the blow to come…

    …but nothing came.

    “Huh?” Janine blinked. “Where is it?”

    “Croak?” Toxicroak grunted as it stared intently at the ember in the dark. Another moment passed in which no attack was launched, and thus Toxicroak lowered its Protect shield.

    And then Derak smirked.

    “Wildfire, do it now!” he cried.

    The ember was indeed Wildfire’s flame, and the Chimchar came barreling out of the shadows with a Flame Wheel blazing brightly. Toxicroak hurriedly tried to put up another Protect, but could only produce a fizzle of sparks due to its inability to use Protect twice in a row. With nothing to shield it, Toxicroak was helpless as Wildfire dove straight into it, shoving it across the floor.

    “All right!” Derak cried. “Nice one, Wildfire! See what happens when you think for yourself? Awesome stuff happens!”

    “Char…?” Wildfire blinked. It looked to Derak, then to Toxicroak, and then back to Derak again. It gave him a nod, but tried its best to suppress a smile. “Char, chim-char.”

    N smiled as well, but glanced to Janine’s Toxicroak. The Toxic Mouth Pokemon was struggling to rise, burns covering its body. It managed to stand, but was clearly unwell.

    “Great,” Janine grimaced. “This is why I hate Dry Skin…Toxicroak, we’ve got one last chance! Jump into the rafters!”

    Toxicroak managed to comply with its orders, leaping into the shadows just as Wildfire and Strike had done earlier. With its ninja training taking effect, the Poison-type was now completely obscured by darkness.

    “Crap,” Derak muttered. “We can’t shoot an Ember up there, this place is made completely out of wood…can’t risk a fire hurting anything.”

    “Thanks for your consideration,” Janine smirked. “Toxicroak, let’s wrap this up with Poison Jab!”

    “Wildfire, Flame Wheel!” Derak cried.

    Rather than make the defensive error that Toxicroak had made, Derak instead opted to have Wildfire attack. As such, the Chimchar adopted its blazing somersault as Toxicroak plunged out of the darkness. The two attacks collided fiercely, but Toxicroak began to wince upon coming into contact with Wildfire’s Flame Wheel. Eventually, Flame Wheel won out, and Toxicroak fell to the ground in defeat.

    “So…that’s it, huh?” Janine sighed. “Okay, Toxicroak, return. You did a really great job.”

    “You too, Wildfire,” Derak smiled, affectionately rubbing his starter’s head. “Really proud of that ninja trick you did. That took some real on-the-fly thinking.”

    “Char?” Wildfire blinked.

    “Maybe I really am rubbing off on you,” Derak smirked.

    As Janine approached Derak with congratulations and a vaguely heart-shaped Badge, N allowed a smile to cross his face.

    “This boy…he is different,” N said. “But…that may be a good thing.”

    ****

    “Okay, can someone explain to me why a Poison-type Gym gives out a Badge called the Soul Badge?” Derak asked once his group was reunited in the Pokemon Center. “Because I don’t get it. At all.”

    “I never bother with such competitive garbage,” Garth grunted.

    “Nor do I,” N sighed. “I dislike seeing Pokemon fight one another.”

    “…so why did you watch mine fight Janine’s?” Derak asked. “You could have just held off on the battle until you got Zekrom back.”

    “I could only hear the voices of your Pokemon if they battled at their fullest,” N replied. “Only then, in a stressful situation, would I know if their feelings would true. And I needed to know as soon as possible, given…recent events.”

    “So…what do they say?” Derak asked. “I’d kinda like to know if they hate the food I give them or something like that.”

    N slowly looked over to him.

    “I wish to speak with your Scyther,” N said.

    “Uh…okay?” Derak blinked. With a nagging reluctance, he carefully opened Strike’s Safari Ball. “Strike, come on out.”

    Although clearly healed from the injuries it sustained in its battle against Janine, Strike’s wings remained in a cast. It cast a glare at N, who it assumed was going to either lecture or battle it.

    “Hey…let me ask you something,” N said, leaning forward in what seemed to be a childish sort of excitement. “Your comrades enjoy being with Derak…but I wish to know if you do, as well.”

    “Scy-ther-scy,” Strike spat. “Scy scyther scy therrr.”

    “…there is no need to address me so harshly…or with such choice words,” N said slowly. “Why are you so aggressive in battle? There is nothing to be gained from such bloodlust.”

    “Scy-ther scy scyther,” Strike growled.

    “So…what’s the story?” Derak asked.

    “Your Scyther…does not wish to be with you,” N said.

    “Yeah, I kinda figured that out for myself,” Derak said. “Anything I don’t already know?”

    “Scyther…wishes to be released,” N sighed. “It maintains that, despite the condition of its wings, it can survive without any form of aid.”

    “But…Strike, I’m sorry, I can’t send you back to the Safari Zone yet,” Derak sighed. “Your wings are too badly hurt, and I can’t risk it happening again unless—”

    One blade came quite close to Derak’s throat. Strike growled threateningly, and shockingly enough, Skull actually let out a small snicker at this. He had to admit, he liked this Scyther.

    “I have a better idea,” Garth said, finishing a swig from his canteen, “one that can give both Derak and Scyther what they want.”

    “But how is that possible?” N asked. “Their desires are as conflicting as black and white.”

    “Yet I know something additional about one of those desires,” Garth said. He casually ignored Strike’s warning glare as he continued. “Scyther wants vengeance.”

    “Really?” Derak blinked. “Guess you WOULD be the one to know about that. But who does it want dead? I mean, other than me, anyway.”

    “The creature that injured its wings,” Garth answered.

    “How do you know this?” N asked, eyes wide. “Can you speak with Pokemon, too?”

    “Hardly,” Garth snarled, casting a glare at the former Plasma king. “But I do know how to recognize a look of rage…and I believe that we can work out a deal.”

    “Okay, shoot,” Derak said. Even Strike looked interested, although Skull still remained indifferent.

    “If Scyther remains here in Fuchsia City,” Garth began, “then its chances of finding the monster that injured its wings are severely lessened. By continuing to travel with Derak, Scyther will not only have a greater chance of finding its nemesis, but also of gaining enough strength to take its revenge.”

    “Sounds good to me,” Derak shrugged. “What do you think, Strike?”

    At first, Strike appeared surprised that Derak was considering its opinion. Once it recovered, however, it mulled over its options, weighing each one. Eventually, after a moment, it made a decision…

    …and nodded.

    “Wait, what, you’re agreeing?” Derak sputtered. “I…wow, that’s…that’s awesome, I honestly didn’t expect that.”

    “Scyyy,” Strike sighed.

    “Okay, Strike…glad to have you on the team,” Derak said. “I would do a handshake, but…”

    Strike looked down at its bladed arms, and sighed.

    It already regretted its decision to put up with this imbecile.

    ****

    Back at the Fuchsia Gym, Janine poured over the book from which the pages relating to Kotaro Fuma were missing. She studied the torn areas carefully, attempting to find some clue as to who committed the theft, or how it was done. As time went on, however, she find that her attempts ended in failure. She was simply no detective, and even if she were, the theft was too perfectly calculated to be traceable.

    Little did she know that her questions could be answered by one man. This man was currently standing at a port in Vermillion City, clutching several pieces of torn paper a metallic right hand. In his other hand was a ticket marked “SLATEPORT CITY”, which he flashed at a sailor to inform him of his status as an official passenger.

    The man’s flowing gold-and-purple robe swept across the floor as he made his way toward his seat. He sat down, awaiting the beginning of his journey. As the ship departed, a small blue jellyfish-like Pokemon with a frilled collar began to follow, making sure to keep track of its master.

    “Frilll-iiiiish,” trilled the jellyfish, knowing that its master’s plan was going to be set in motion soon.
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    Proving Grounds

    How far will one boy go to prove something?

  6. #81
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    Great!
    Like how chimchar is FINALLY loosening up. NINJA! NINJA! NINJANINJANINJANINJANINJANINJANINJANINJA!
    Hope we get more info on how Nobunga wronged Garh.
    Last edited by Rotomknight; 31st January 2013 at 12:31 PM.
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    Fanfics I like that are still in production: Author's Run, Pokémon emerald the better version

    This the aquabats song awesome forces:
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    and here is their song shark fighter: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3wchrctxFo

    I NEED A BETA READER!
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  7. #82
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    Did I hear you say "Ninja"?! Where? WHERE?!

    Poor old Derak. Doesn't seem to get any respect. Even if he DID trade off Brute for a Happiny, at least give him a little credit...

    Awesome gym battle. Not to mention interesting way to let him win. Wouldn't have thought of Dry Skin...

    Great chapter, mate! I need to pay more attention to this fic...

    L@er!
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  8. #83
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    Alright, first off with a bit of honesty; I clicked here for the Review Games. Also, though less related, because it is late and I do not have class tomorrow and examining structures of stories is some of my favourite thing to do. I'll be doing just the first chapter, which I apologize for seeing how much you've written, but I just don't really have the time and concentration to give in-depth review to all of it.

    As far as I know, I'll be writing this review as if the first chapter is one thing; that is, I will look at how it does things like explain a character's actions, any symbolism, whether things are interesting and enjoyable, etc. Mostly because I've honestly no idea whether I'll really want to continue reading by the end, and besides basic changes I don't really enjoy re-structuring a review post-reading.

    The very beginning seems very slightly stilted. It's not overt, or even easy to explain; "The owner of the footsteps" and "golden lining fitting of royalty" just seem the slightest bit awkward, as if their average sentence-structure is contrasting their dramatic tone. Not really sure if I get the point across here, but I expect this to change anyway. (Note: it did. Good work (: )

    (Sidenote - this beginning reminds me of The Gunslinger by Stephen King, which is wonderful)

    Elsewhere in Orre, where the winds blew more softly, a young boy of ten years stood outside the sandy brick walls of his native Phenac City, his sapphire eyes radiating a soft but noticeable coldness.
    I think this sentence would sound better if you split it in half. It would better complement the dramatic tone of the piece so far with brevity, and as it is it may be a run-on sentence. Apart from this, I didn't see any sort of sentence structure errors, though that may be attributable to being more interested in reading as it went on. But I love the description here. "Where the winds blew more softly" gave me a perfect mental image of the scene, with so few words.

    The description right after this seems close to the dangerous side of 'show, don't tell', though that's more of a rule of thumb usually. I mostly point this out because I, as a reader, rather dislike the technique of describing characters' physical features all at once, after having seen it so much.

    I rather like how you introduce the concept of Pokemon. Most writers tend to skip over it, since the readers already know about them, but you've used it here as a way to set the tone and style of the piece, subtly.

    Your characters are described with some distance between themselves and their body parts, it looks like. "The owner of the footsteps", "the eyes that peered out from within". This is definitely one of those subtle factors that affects how the story is viewed, and I for one think it works here.

    Krane making a deal out of Anoch Kadir being a 'wealthy businessman' feels sort of like a flimsy excuse to show Derak's heritage. We haven't seen exactly how wealthy he is, in any fashion, so we're simply relying on exposition for the whole thing. This makes the exposition feel blunter than it would otherwise, if we'd seen that his father was rich in some other way before here. Maybe it would feel a little better if Krane hadn't immediately recognized a name that is supposedly fairly common (in our world, at least), but that's not really the main issue.

    Derak spilling his beans to the professor also feels uncharacteristically open for him, considering we've been told he 'barely acknowledged' the professor and whose character is told as 'unusually bitter and resentful'. It explains his motivation and logic, but feels a bit heavy-handed, if you know what I mean.

    If Krane's lack of preparation involves directly leading new trainers to their choice of fifteen Pokemon personally, I've no idea what he could do on a planned day. Throw a party? This is just something that jumped into my head.

    As an on-going compliment, I appreciate your brevity in the overall presentation of the story. Too often a story will drag its slow beginning out too long (sometimes I feel my own writing is this way), but you seem to skip that idea and get straight to people talking, things happening.

    I feel like your battle descriptions are good, but the mechanics of them are too unnatural for it. You have Chimchar being able to (logically) breathe fire at this point, but then you jump into how the Chimchar only knows two moves here, which feels distinctly game-canon. On the flipside, I am curious to know how the stranger knew this, and whether this knowledge is somehow related to him coming for vengeance.

    The antagonist, while an effective driving force, seems cartoonishly evil here. His motivations are unknown and avoided, and his actions seem more to the effect of "How evil can he be before it stops the story", rather than a more realistic goal-based character decision process. This is most apparent to me when I compare the fact that he stopped Sableye from hurting Derak but then hurts the boy himself, making him more personally evil in the process while not really changing anything outcome-wise.

    The change of scenery at the end was a bit jarring, I find. I'd been expecting Derak to be staying in Orre, but with the revelation of heading towards Kanto, I get the feeling that this chapter was just an unsubtle introduction of the main character, the villain, and a way for the main character to have a Pokemon not normally found within his region of choice. I know it's not a very fair assumption to make, but it was my immediate thought when I learned he was switching regions, and there wasn't really anything to persuade me to the opposite. Perhaps the familial conflict, but again - this just gives off a vibe of being an easy way for the main character to angst about family without actually having to interact with them anymore.

    There wasn't really anything hooking me into the next chapter. This seemed more like an appropriate lull to pause the story at, rather than a point made to keep the reader on-edge for the next update. Which, of course, has its own positives, but I feel like a first chapter should try to keep the reader intrigued in the present. Though it feels somewhat hypocritical to say that, considering my own story does something similar.

    I hope you don't take my words harshly. While I tried to only mention each 'catagory' of topic on once, I have too much focus on things I see as errors or problems in stories. Your style, description, and pace are wonderful, and with practice I think you can easily learn a greater degree of subtlety in character and plot.

    I'm unsure of whether I'll be following this, since I've got to catch up on a lot of reading and schoolwork casts a long shadow, but I'll keep it in mind when I have time for reading new stories. Good luck!
    "That poison's only strong enough to kill a dead dog"

    A boy and his frog, venturing across the lands in search of sister and glory.

  9. #84
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    Rotomknight: There will be more of Wildfire loosening up later on. And you'll be getting your wish regarding Nobunaga and Garth very soon. XD

    Air Dragon:
    Poor old Derak. Doesn't seem to get any respect. Even if he DID trade off Brute for a Happiny, at least give him a little credit...
    Why? XD

    Glad you enjoyed the chapter, though. Hopefully you'll enjoy the Saffron arc as well: the crap hits the fan there.


    IJuggler:
    Alright, first off with a bit of honesty; I clicked here for the Review Games. Also, though less related, because it is late and I do not have class tomorrow and examining structures of stories is some of my favourite thing to do. I'll be doing just the first chapter, which I apologize for seeing how much you've written, but I just don't really have the time and concentration to give in-depth review to all of it.
    Don't worry about it: the Review Game is the only way I can get myself to read more fics these days. XD And I would be doing the exact same thing you're doing if I just starting on reading a fic with almost 30 chapters.

    The very beginning seems very slightly stilted. It's not overt, or even easy to explain; "The owner of the footsteps" and "golden lining fitting of royalty" just seem the slightest bit awkward, as if their average sentence-structure is contrasting their dramatic tone. Not really sure if I get the point across here, but I expect this to change anyway. (Note: it did. Good work (: )
    I think the awkwardness of wording came from my attempts to make it sound dramatic. I'm glad it got better later, though. XD

    I think this sentence would sound better if you split it in half. It would better complement the dramatic tone of the piece so far with brevity, and as it is it may be a run-on sentence. Apart from this, I didn't see any sort of sentence structure errors, though that may be attributable to being more interested in reading as it went on. But I love the description here. "Where the winds blew more softly" gave me a perfect mental image of the scene, with so few words.
    You're probably right about the split sentence. Going to need to try and remember that.

    Also, thanks for the praise on description. I actually feel that description is one of my weaker areas, so to hear that I'm improving (to some degree) is always good.

    The description right after this seems close to the dangerous side of 'show, don't tell', though that's more of a rule of thumb usually. I mostly point this out because I, as a reader, rather dislike the technique of describing characters' physical features all at once, after having seen it so much.
    You know, you're right: I should really try to have some gradual description. I think I managed it (to some extent) in my new one-shot Break It Down, but I'm not sure if I actually succeeded just yet.

    Also, I'm assuming the dangerous side of "show, don't tell" is the "tell" part? If so, then I admit that my description does tend to stray into that area at times (which is something I need to work on). Thanks for pointing it out so I can have something to come back to for reminders!

    I rather like how you introduce the concept of Pokemon. Most writers tend to skip over it, since the readers already know about them, but you've used it here as a way to set the tone and style of the piece, subtly.
    Thanks! That intro style has actually become something of my "status quo" of sorts. Back when I first started (and actually read fics more), I found some reviews of fics where description was lacking, some of which said "What's a Pokeball? What does it look like?" or "Okay, you said that there's a yellow Pokemon by his side, and I'm picturing a yellow blob". I tried to take this advice to heart, and even though I don't exactly succeed every time, my "world of Pokemon" intro might be one of the times when I get it right.

    Krane making a deal out of Anoch Kadir being a 'wealthy businessman' feels sort of like a flimsy excuse to show Derak's heritage. We haven't seen exactly how wealthy he is, in any fashion, so we're simply relying on exposition for the whole thing. This makes the exposition feel blunter than it would otherwise, if we'd seen that his father was rich in some other way before here. Maybe it would feel a little better if Krane hadn't immediately recognized a name that is supposedly fairly common (in our world, at least), but that's not really the main issue.

    Derak spilling his beans to the professor also feels uncharacteristically open for him, considering we've been told he 'barely acknowledged' the professor and whose character is told as 'unusually bitter and resentful'. It explains his motivation and logic, but feels a bit heavy-handed, if you know what I mean.
    Definitely know what you mean. That part was fairly exposition-heavy and strayed more into "tell" than "show", so it's another thing that I'll need to keep track of in the future.

    If Krane's lack of preparation involves directly leading new trainers to their choice of fifteen Pokemon personally, I've no idea what he could do on a planned day. Throw a party? This is just something that jumped into my head.
    That...would be interesting. Just imagine the exchange: "Hey, Prof. Krane, let's throw a party!" "Yeah! Wait, crap, trainers coming, get the starters ready!". XD

    I feel like your battle descriptions are good, but the mechanics of them are too unnatural for it. You have Chimchar being able to (logically) breathe fire at this point, but then you jump into how the Chimchar only knows two moves here, which feels distinctly game-canon. On the flipside, I am curious to know how the stranger knew this, and whether this knowledge is somehow related to him coming for vengeance.
    What I was trying to do with Wildfire was mix the anime and games to some degree. In the anime, every starter has a weak same-type attack at their disposal, while the games just start them off with Scratch/Tackle/Pound and a stat-lowering/raising move.

    Also, the stranger knowing about that is partially due to being a trainer himself and partially due to it being generally common knowledge.

    The antagonist, while an effective driving force, seems cartoonishly evil here. His motivations are unknown and avoided, and his actions seem more to the effect of "How evil can he be before it stops the story", rather than a more realistic goal-based character decision process. This is most apparent to me when I compare the fact that he stopped Sableye from hurting Derak but then hurts the boy himself, making him more personally evil in the process while not really changing anything outcome-wise.
    Yeah...cartoonish villains (while generally acceptable in the context of the anime) are kind of a problem for me. Granted, the stranger technically isn't a villain, but still...again, something I'll need to work on (since I'm planning for a new fic's villain who is supposed to be the farthest thing from cartoonish).

    The change of scenery at the end was a bit jarring, I find. I'd been expecting Derak to be staying in Orre, but with the revelation of heading towards Kanto, I get the feeling that this chapter was just an unsubtle introduction of the main character, the villain, and a way for the main character to have a Pokemon not normally found within his region of choice. I know it's not a very fair assumption to make, but it was my immediate thought when I learned he was switching regions, and there wasn't really anything to persuade me to the opposite. Perhaps the familial conflict, but again - this just gives off a vibe of being an easy way for the main character to angst about family without actually having to interact with them anymore.
    Honestly, there wasn't much I could do with Orre journey-wise. There's a colosseum circuit, but it's WAY above the level of a beginning trainer, so I chose to send him to Kanto instead. I could probably have adjusted the strength level of the colosseums for the purposes of this fic, but this had been in the planning stages for a few years...and some plans are a little tricky to go back on.

    There wasn't really anything hooking me into the next chapter. This seemed more like an appropriate lull to pause the story at, rather than a point made to keep the reader on-edge for the next update. Which, of course, has its own positives, but I feel like a first chapter should try to keep the reader intrigued in the present. Though it feels somewhat hypocritical to say that, considering my own story does something similar.
    I actually agree on the subject of a first chapter, and I clearly didn't accomplish that goal with this one. I may have corrected this problem with the first chapter of the fic immediately following this one (release-wise), but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

    I hope you don't take my words harshly. While I tried to only mention each 'catagory' of topic on once, I have too much focus on things I see as errors or problems in stories. Your style, description, and pace are wonderful, and with practice I think you can easily learn a greater degree of subtlety in character and plot.
    No, it's fine. You had a decent balance of praise and criticism (although I am dreading to know what some people will think of later chapters. XD), and you clearly fulfilled the Review Game requirements perfectly. Thanks for the encouragement, too.

    I'm unsure of whether I'll be following this, since I've got to catch up on a lot of reading and schoolwork casts a long shadow, but I'll keep it in mind when I have time for reading new stories. Good luck!
    If you do decide to follow, a quick warning: due to my own schoolwork difficulties, there tends to be a fairly large time gap between chapters these days. Just to let you know. Thanks for the well-wishes, though!
    Current fanfics:


    Proving Grounds

    How far will one boy go to prove something?

  10. #85
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    Quote Originally Posted by Morpher01 View Post
    Chapter 23: The Voices of Pokemon
    I bet I can guess who is going to be an important figure in this chapter.

    “Man…how’d Nobunaga do that, anyway?” Derak complained hoarsely, massaging his throat. “People don’t just get tossed around like sports balls.”

    It was a short while after Derak, Garth, and N battled Nobunaga. Derak had since recovered from being knocked unconscious during the fight, much to his Chimchar’s relief. At the moment, however, the three humans—plus N’s Marowak—sat at a table in the Pokemon Center lobby. Garth’s Electivire stood by the table, and Wildfire sat in Derak’s lap.
    Boy, seeing Skull referred to as "N's Marowak" is a little unsettling for someone like me who's seen his story go on for a long time.

    “It does not matter how Nobunaga did anything he was able to do,” Garth said. “The fact remains that he has gained a massive advantage because of his Linking with Zekrom.”

    “Yes…and I am partially to blame,” N sighed. His Marowak looked as if it were about to say something, but N subtly shot it a cautionary glance. Remembering the agreement it had with its current trainer, the Marowak reluctantly remained silent.

    “How’s this your fault?” Derak asked. “You didn’t exactly give Zekrom away, and Nobunaga would probably have found it no matter where you went.”

    “Indeed,” Garth nodded. “He most likely saw the same news broadcast that I did.”

    “That must have been when Zekrom and I were flying beneath the cloud cover,” N sighed. “I wish we could have stayed above the clouds for the entire flight…but oxygen is scarce up there.”
    Something strikes me as particularly insidious about Nobunaga using modern technology to further his goals. The sheer anachronism of someone from the feudal era using a television gives me a chill when put in this context.

    “Regardless, we need to determine a counter-strategy,” Garth said gruffly. “If we can remove Zekrom from the equation, we will have a chance at defeating Nobunaga.”

    “I wish to try and retrieve my friend,” N suggested. “I can’t allow Nobunaga to use Zekrom for his vile plans.”

    “And how do you plan to go about doing that?” Garth asked snidely.

    “I’m pretty sure talking isn’t going to work too well,” Derak added, “since Nobunaga has the Link thing going on.”

    “Believe it or not, Skull here has dealt with Pokemon with greater strength than Zekrom,” N smiled, nodding to his Marowak. “If we have to defeat Zekrom to break the Link, then that is what we must do, as much as I wish otherwise.”
    Yes, it would take Skull to defeat a Pokemon like Zekrom, wouldn't it? I think you and I both know what he's capable of.

    N will probably need to try to reconnect with Zekrom at the same time, though.

    “Marowak,” Derak’s Pokedex reported upon being pointed at Skull, much to the lizard’s annoyance, “the Bone Keeper Pokemon. Type is Ground. Evolved form of Cubone. From its birth, this savage Pokemon constantly holds bones. It is skilled in using them as weapons.”

    “You may place too much faith in one Pokemon,” Garth snorted.

    “I have other friends who will help us,” N said. “Even so, I can’t deny that it will be difficult…but I will do whatever it takes to bring my friend Zekrom back.”

    “Good luck with that, then,” Derak shrugged, gently petting Wildfire’s head.

    “Derak…may I ask you something?” N said. “You said you were challenging the Fuchsia Gym?”

    “Yeah, why?” Derak asked.

    “I want to hear the voices of your Pokemon,” N said, “but to battle you without Zekrom watching, like I promised it, would be wrong.”

    “Okay, I can understand that,” Derak nodded. “You going somewhere with this?”

    “I wish…to witness your Gym battle,” N said. “This could work out for all of us…I won’t be hindering your progress towards defeating Nobunaga…and I will hear your Pokemon’s voices at their fullest.”
    Hmm... I wonder where this is going. N could be helpful, a hindrance, or something in between.

    “Uh…all right, I guess,” Derak shrugged. “I don’t know, do whatever you want. I don’t really care.”

    “Thank you,” N smiled.

    “We may as well go now,” Garth said. “Your Chimchar has been healed, and I trust you know what Pokemon you will be using.”

    “More or less,” Derak shrugged. “Let’s go find the Gym so we can get this over with.”
    I was about to comment on how unpleasant Derak is being today, but then I remembered what just happened with Nobunaga. Good job keeping his emotions appropriate and consistent.

    Derak and Garth were the first to leave. N and Skull soon left as well, but as they followed the former two, N looked to his Marowak.

    “Skull,” he said in a low voice, “I realize that you have wonderful ideas to contribute, and that you will surely see things we humans will not, but…”

    “I know, I know,” Skull sighed. “If I speak human in front of losers like these, then everyone starts freaking out and going ‘ooh, talking Pokemon, let’s enslave it because we clearly have nothing better to do’. So I have to keep my mouth shut, or else I draw even MORE unnecessary attention than Zekrom’s gotten lately.”
    Now that's a nice bit of character growth that only someone who's followed Skull's travails like me will catch. It's good to see that he finally figured out the 'ooh, talking Pokemon' thing.

    “…something like that,” N slowly said with a nervous smile. “What do you think of these two?”

    “Derak’s one of the biggest idiots I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen plenty,” Skull snorted. “Garth’s a little smarter, but he’s borderline psycho.”

    “His rage is well-earned, though,” N replied. “I’ve seen what Nobunaga did to him when I made contact with Nobunaga’s mind while we were inside Zekrom’s. No one should have to go through that…no matter how much you might hate them.”

    “I suppose,” Skull grunted. “Honestly, though, I’d rather just beat Nobunaga’s head in and call it a day.”

    “If only it were that simple,” N sighed. “Still, if we can give Nobunaga the battle he wants…then you may be able to get what you want.”
    I sincerely hope that's some great foreshadowing.

    The group eventually came upon the dojo Gym, a plain but intricate wooden structure in the southeast portion of Fuchsia City. Derak made to go in, N and Skull following, but stopped for a moment.

    “Sure you’re not going to watch?” Derak asked Garth. “I mean, you helped me prepare…you know, with Brute and all…”

    “I need to redouble Electivire’s training in case N fails to reclaim Zekrom,” Garth said. Electivire nodded, clearly sharing its trainer’s conviction.

    “Okay, then,” Derak shrugged.
    Derak seems strangely detached from things here. I get that his Gym battle is important, but if you think about it, getting Zekrom back is even more urgent.

    The boy pushed his way inside the Gym, N and Skull in tow. Once they entered, however, it was clear that something was wrong. The entirety of the inner Gym was vacant, and finding the Gym Leader was a task made near-impossible by the network of passages that twisted in every direction.
    Interesting that you seem to have gone with regular walls instead of the invisible ones from the games.

    “Sheesh,” Derak muttered. “This place looked smaller on the outside.”

    “I have heard that this building was designed by Pokemon trainers who have mastered the art of Ninjutsu,” N said. “We should be wary of hidden traps.”

    “…is there a reason that someone who headed a knight-obsessed group knows so much about ninjas?” Derak blinked.

    “Ghetsis had a small team of ninjas, known as the Shadow Triad, perform delicate operations,” N replied.
    ...you know, that makes way more sense than I thought it would. N would probably know about ninjas from his extensive education anyway, but that logic is perfect.

    “Hang on, why would there be ninjas in a team that’s supposed to be focused around knights and medieval stuff?” Derak asked. “That just seems really out of nowhere.”

    Suddenly, a dark-garbed figure shot out of the rafters and landed in front of Derak, N, and Skull. Initially in a crouched position, the figure soon stood and revealed itself to be a young woman who appeared to be in her early teens.

    “…speaking of things coming out of nowhere,” Derak sighed, N drifting back a bit for fear of being recognized. Skull remained up front, narrowing his eyes as he regarded the new arrival.

    “You don’t seem too surprised,” the girl said, running a hand through her spiky purple ponytail. “Most challengers jump out of their skins when I do that.”

    “Let’s just say that I’m getting used to crazy surprises at this point,” Derak shrugged. “I take it you’re the Gym Leader?”

    “Yep,” the girl nodded. “Name’s Janine. My father, Koga, was the original Gym Leader before he was promoted to the Elite Four. What about you?”
    Doesn't that kind of defeat the purpose of the maze, if she just jumps out and greets them?

    “Derak,” the challenger shrugged. Despite his casual demeanor, his name appeared to have piqued Janine’s interest.

    “…hang on, you said your name was Derak?” she asked. “By any chance, your last name isn’t ‘Kadir’, is it?”

    “…uh…how did you know that?” Derak blinked.

    “Oh my Arceus, really?!” Janine cried, her entire body bouncing in sheer elation. “This is so awesome! I actually met one!"

    Derak could only stare, wondering what in the world she was talking about. He took a moment to look at Skull, who merely shrugged.
    Derak, Skull, you aren't the only ones wondering about what's going on here.

    “Oh, sorry, let me explain,” Janine said hurriedly. “You know about the warlords of Ransei, right?”

    “Yeah…?”

    “And you know you’re descended from Nobunaga Oda of the Dragnor kingdom, right?”
    Well that's a surprise, that she knows this.

    N’s eyes went wide for a moment, but Derak failed to notice.
    Oh yeah, that's going to be a problem.

    “Uh…yeah…why?” Derak said slowly.

    “Well, guess what?” Janine smiled, jabbing a thumb at herself. “I’m descended from a Ransei Warlord, too!”
    There's another surprise, though once again, it makes good sense.

    “Wait, what? Really?” Derak sputtered.

    “Come on, I’ll show you some family history!” Janine smiled.

    N looked at Skull for a moment and nodded.

    “May we go as well?” N asked. “I’m also interested in learning about Ransei’s warlords.”

    “Sure!” Janine nodded, apparently not recognizing N despite Team Plasma’s highly public actions. “Come on, let’s go already!”
    I think it's believable that Janine doesn't recognize him, personally.

    The young Gym Leader took Derak through several passages, eventually coming to what seemed to be a dead end. Janine, however, placed her hand on a portion of the wall, which then sunk into the wall. Once the hidden panel was pressed, a small door slid open, revealing several scrolls and books inside.
    Now that is a neat bit of detail.

    “Everything here is a chronicle of my ancestry, tracing all the way back to the ancient war over Arceus,” Janine said, pulling out a scroll and unraveling it. On it were numerous ancient characters and pictures, including one of an armored woman who stood alongside a four-winged bat with flat teeth. “This is my ancestor from Ransei, Nene. Next to her is her partner Pokemon, Crobat.”
    Nene as Janine's ancestor is brilliant. You really did your research on this one, and you're better off for it.

    “Crobat?” Derak repeated, looking over the image of Nene’s Pokemon.

    “Yeah, don’t you know?” Janine said. “Crobat is the final evolution of Zubat, a Pokemon that’s been in my family ever since Nene’s time.”

    “Can I see that for a sec?” Derak asked.

    “Sorry, ninjas only,” Janine smirked, holding the scroll out of Derak’s grasp.
    I had to smile at that.

    “…right,” Derak sighed. “Anyway, you said Crobat evolves from Zubat?”

    “Well, first it has to evolve into Golbat through experience,” Janine corrected, “and then it evolves into Crobat once it forges a strong bond with its trainer. But, yeah, Zubat eventually evolves into Crobat.”

    “Is there anything about Nobunaga in your archives?” N asked.

    “Sorry,” Janine shook her head. “All that’s in my archives are Nene and her husband, Hideyoshi Toyotomi.”
    Dare I think that you really enjoyed Conquest? XD;

    It's a good thing, really. You're doing an excellent job merging the story and people of Conquest into the main universe.

    “Oh…I see,” N sighed, bowing his head slightly.

    “Hey, cheer up! Listen, there’s this hilarious story in here!” Janine said, pulling out the book and flipping through several pages. “One time, before the whole war started, most of the other ninjas were in this argument about who was the best. So Nene made them all battle for it, and even jumped in for the fun of it! Hang on, let me see if I can show you the other ninjas…”

    She flipped through several more pages, and came to an image of an extremely serious-looking man with a red-eyed purple-bodied creature with a giant grin.

    “Next to the Gengar here is Hanzo Hattori, one of the ninjas that Nene roped into battling,” Janine explained. She flipped through several more pages, coming across a young woman with a dark-colored weasel-like Pokemon. “And this is Kunoichi with her Weavile—she’s another one of the ninjas. The last one was…what?!”

    “What’s going on?” Derak asked.

    “There’s pages missing,” Janine replied, and true enough, several pages appeared to have been completely torn out of the book. “But that’s not possible! My family is the only one I know of who knows how to access these archives!”
    I was smiling at Janine's eagerness until everything hit this. This has Nobunaga's fingerprints all over it if you ask me.

    “What’s missing?” N asked.

    “Just everything relating to the last of the ninjas Nene forced that battle on,” Janine replied. “If I remember correctly…his name was Kotaro Fuma. He and Nene were the only two involved that were actual Warlords: Nene headed the Poison-type kingdom of Viperia, while Kotaro was in charge of the Dark-type kingdom called Yaksha.”
    I suddenly get a nervous feeling someone else might be behind it now that Kotaro was brought up, but I won't put it out there just yet...

    “But…why would pages about this Kotaro guy be missing?” Derak asked.

    “No clue,” Janine replied, “but I’ll need to look into this later. My dad’s going to kill me if he finds out about these missing pages.”
    It's not going to be much later, I have a feeling.

    She stuffed the book and scroll back into the compartment, which promptly sealed itself.

    “So, anyway,” Janine said, turning back to Derak. “Sorry about getting a little off-track there, I just got excited about meeting someone else who’s descended from Ransei warlords. I was looking up all their family trees online, and then I found yours under Nobunaga’s, so…yeah.”

    “Yeah,” Derak said slowly. “Listen, I’m glad I’m not the only Ransei kid and all, but can we get on with the Gym battle?”

    “Sure, why not?” Janine smiled. “I mean, that IS probably what you came here for. No more distractions. Let’s go.”
    Maybe it's just because I was reading another fic with Janine as a major character recently, but I'm just really liking her here. I wish she was more loved in general.

    She put her hand on another part of the wall, which caused the entire wall to rotate, revealing itself to be a hidden revolving door. Janine squeezed through one of the openings created by the door, followed by Derak, N, and Skull. Within moments, the group found themselves on a large battlefield.

    “So, you know how this works, right?” Janine asked. “Three-on-three single battle, only challenger does substitutions?”

    “Yeah, sure,” Derak shrugged. “Let’s just go.”

    “Sounds good to me!” Janine cried, bounding over to her side of the arena as Derak trudged over to his. “Okay, let’s get this started!”

    Derak grimaced. There were four Pokemon in his party, but because of his trade with Sarah yesterday, he only had three that he could use. And one of them was less-than-usable due to both its temperament and condition. Still, due to the process of elimination, he had little other choice, particularly after the incident with Rotom in the Pokemon Center.

    “I’m going to start with the first Pokemon I ever got!” Janine cried. “Venonat, let’s go!”
    Now there's a Pokemon I don't see often. It feels like Venonat is largely forgotten in this day and age.

    A small Pokemon covered in purple fuzz appeared out of Janine’s first Pokeball, landing on small tan feet and twitching its long white antennae. Its large red eyes stared at Derak, clicking its mandibles slightly.

    “Venonat,” Derak’s Pokedex reported, “the Insect Pokemon. Type is Bug and Poison. Its large eyes are actually clusters of tiny eyes. At night, its kind is drawn to light.”

    “Well…might as well get this part over with,” Derak winced, reluctantly removing the Safari Ball from his belt. “Strike, come on out.”

    Strike began glaring the second it materialized on the field. It glanced over at N and Skull, the latter giving it the sort of look that demanded to know what it wanted. N’s face, however, wore a growing unease. This Scyther had heavily bandaged wings, and yet it was being made to battle?
    There are so many things that could go wrong for Derak here. Strike could snap, N clearly and justifiably doesn't like what's going on...

    “Uh, are you sure this is your first choice?” Janine asked, evidently thinking on a similar wavelength as N. “I mean, your Scyther’s wings…”

    “Oh, trust me, if you saw this guy yesterday, you wouldn’t think that injured wings were any kind of hindrance,” Derak said. “Can we get this started?”

    “Well, okay,” Janine blinked. “Venonat, use Poisonpowder!”

    Venonat’s antennae began twitching again, and soon its entire body began to shudder violently. The Insect Pokemon’s fuzz began to release a cloud of purple dust, which drifted lazily towards Strike. The Mantis Pokemon, however, was completely unconcerned, and even went as far as to scoff at the incoming “attack”.

    “Okay, Strike, dodge it and—” Derak began, but a wad of saliva suddenly landed at his feet. Strike managed to wipe its remaining spit off of its lip and turned back to the advancing Poisonpowder, formulating its own strategy.

    The Scyther held out its blades, and began slashing wildly at the air in front of it. Although this unusual tactic initially appeared to be ineffective, this changed when the Poisonpowder began to be blown away. Using the small bursts of wind generated by its slashes, Strike soon cleared the Poisonpowder out of the arena.
    Derak is going to need to get Strike under control, but this tactic is quite brilliant.

    “Whoa, that’s…that’s a smart Scyther!” Janine remarked. “Okay, Venonat, let’s kick it up a notch! Use Psybeam!”

    “Strike, dodge it!”

    Venonat looked straight at Strike and released a rainbow-colored beam from its eyes. The Scyther, however, briefly glared at Derak before a smirk came across its face. Rather than block or dispel the attack, Strike instead side-stepped…

    …and allowed the Psybeam to strike Derak in the chest.
    Now that was a surprise.

    “Oh, crud!” Janine cried. “Derak, are you all right? Sorry about that!”

    “Yeah, I’m fine,” Derak groaned as he got up, ignoring Skull’s stifled snicker. “Okay, uh, Strike…how about we—”

    Before Derak could finish, Strike leapt straight up and somehow vanished into the rafters.

    “Oh, crud…we might be in trouble,” Janine grimaced, knowing well the advantage that Strike had just attained for itself. “Venonat, track it down with Foresight!”

    A red glow came over Venonat’s eyes as the Insect Pokemon scanned the ceiling for Strike. A cry of rage from above interrupted the search, and before either Derak or Janine could react, Strike plummeted down from the rafters directly above Venonat, its blades wide in preparation for an X-scissor.
    A neat scene, but I must offer one correction: the move is written as "X-Scissor."

    “Vennoh?!” Venonat cried just before Strike slammed it into the hardwood floor. Only a resistance to Bug-type move saved Venonat, but even then the Insect Pokemon struggled to rise.

    “Sccyy,” Strike smirked deviously, its blades elongating and taking on a purple glow.

    “Oh, crud, it’s Night Slash!” Janine cried. “Venonat, get out of there!”
    I think you should tone down how many times Janine says "oh, crud." It is a little noticeable.

    Venonat quickly rolled out of Strike’s reach, then righted itself and hopped away. It looked behind it just long enough to see if its foe was pursuing it…

    …only to bump into Strike’s foot.

    “Veno-nat!” gasped the Poison-type, stumbling back onto its rear. Strike grinned darkly as it raised its blades up, preparing to bring them down.

    “Strike, NO!” Derak cried. “H-how does that make you any better than whoever broke your wings?!”

    Strike stopped.

    Venonat stared fearfully at the Scyther, the Mantis Pokemon slowly lowering its blades to its sides and deactivating its Night Slash. Strike heaved a ragged sigh, and after giving Venonat a brief glance, punted it back to Janine’s side of the field.
    I guess this answers my earlier question, because Strike went berserk again. I'm surprised it led to a good moment between him and Derak, though. That scene really worked.

    “Aw, Venonat…you did great, really,” Janine said, taking her unconscious Pokemon in her arms. “Return.”

    “Okay, Strike…going nuts like that isn’t going to get you any fans,” Derak said sternly. Strike, however, barely even acknowledged him. It simply scowled at Janine, awaiting her next Pokemon.

    “Boy…that Scyther sure is something,” Janine grimaced her teeth. “How long ago did you catch it?”

    “Day before yesterday,” Derak said. “Why?”

    “Haven’t had a lot of time to train it, have you?” Janine said. “That would explain why it isn’t listening.”

    “…do I even want to know how training makes Pokemon listen to—” Derak began, but the realization hit him. “Oh, no. No way am I treating my Pokemon like unfeeling drones just to get what I want!”

    “…scy?” Strike blinked. It never expected to hear such words from any trainer, let alone Derak. And, judging by Janine’s expression, neither did she.
    I can't blame them. I'm a little confused too, but I'm sure it works.

    “Uh…that’s not really what I meant, but…whatever,” she shrugged, preparing a second Pokeball. “Time to bust out a ninja’s best friend. Go, Koffing!”

    Janine’s second Pokemon was rather simple in appearance, being a floating purple sphere covered in holes. Its only distinguishing features were a lazy eyes and a cartoonish yellow skull-and-crossbones underneath its widely-grinning mouth.

    “Koffing,” the Dex identified, “the Poison Gas Pokemon. Type is Poison. Toxic gas is held within its thin, balloon-shaped body, so it can cause massive explosions.”

    “Uh…how exactly is a living bomb supposed to be a ninja’s best friend?” Derak asked in utter bewilderment.

    “Let me show you,” Janine smirked. “Koffing, use Smokescreen!”
    Derak, you have no one to blame but yourself for walking right into that one.

    Koffing inhaled deeply, somehow bloating itself up in the process. Rather than exhale the air back out, however, it instead caused a thick black smoke to billow out from the various holes on its body. Strike began thrashing about in an attempt to disperse the smoke like it did with Venonat’s Poisonpowder, but Koffing was producing too much smoke at too rapid a rate.

    “Now, Koffing, let’s turn the tables!” Janine cried. “Use Gyro Ball!”

    Koffing began spinning rapidly, a silver line forming across its body. With Strike unable to see where it was coming from, the Poison Gas Pokemon was free to ram its spinning body directly into Strike’s stomach. As if that blow was not enough, Koffing rocketed away from Strike only to come back and slam into the Bug-type’s side, knocking it out of the Smokescreen and onto the floor.
    I get what you're going for with the silver line, but I think it could be worded a bit better. Say that the silver line formed a ring around its body instead.

    “Like that?” Janine smirked. “Gyro Ball is a move that gets stronger if the user is slower than the target, and as useful as Koffing can be, it’s pretty slow, too. Koffing, let’s give that Scyther a taste of its own medicine! Use Sludge Bomb!”

    Rather than perform a preparatory inhalation, Koffing simply spat out a wad of slime that exploded upon contact with Strike’s body. The Scyther was sent skidding across the floor, and although its wings were thankfully untouched, the Mantis Pokemon was nonetheless defeated.

    “Strike!” Derak cried, rushing out to his Pokemon’s side. “Hey, you all right?”

    Strike, although beaten, was still conscious. With the last of its strength, it looked over towards Derak.

    “…scy…ther? Scy,” Strike groaned before it passed out.
    I have to admit, I'm kind of surprised that Strike seems to have taken defeat graciously here.

    “I’ll get you healed as soon as we’re done here, I promise,” Derak said as he recalled Strike. He then returned to his end of the field and, knowing that the score was now even, steeled his resolve. “Okay…Koffing’s got a trick for anything that’s fast, and there’s still a Smokescreen giving sight issues…so…Echo, let’s go!”
    Great thinking on Derak's part. Zubat should be able to do the trick against Koffing.

    “Oh, cool!” Janine cried upon seeing Derak’s Zubat. “No wonder you were asking so much about Crobat! Okay, Koffing, time to step up our game! Use Gyro Ball!”

    “Echo, Double Team!”

    Koffing began to spin again, but this time Echo created a dozen replica Zubats before the Poison Gas Pokemon could connect its attack. Upon noticing Echo’s tactic, Koffing stopped and began looking around intently, clearly having been trained to try and see through such evasive tactics.

    “Okay, Echo, follow up with Supersonic!” Derak cried.

    Every one of the Zubat clones began emitting a series of sound waves from its mouth. Each sound wave from each Zubat made contact with Koffing, and despite the sphere’s efforts to block out the noise, its senses were nonetheless scrambled. It fell to the ground, rolling about in a daze as Janine could only look on.

    “Koffing, no!” she cried. “Come on, use Gyro Ball!”

    Koffing did attempt to use Gyro Ball, but as it levitated into the air and powered up its attack, its confused state led it to dive into the floor.
    I think it would have been kind of funny if Koffing just started spinning while still on the ground.

    “Okay, I think we might have this!” Derak cried. “Echo, use Zen Headbutt!”

    “Say what?!” Janine cried, recognizing the Psychic-type move Echo was about to use. “Koffing, you have to snap out of it! Use Gyro Ball!”

    Koffing gave itself a shake and prepared its latest Gyro Ball, but before it could execute the attack, the dome of energy produced by Echo’s Zen Headbutt rammed into Koffing’s face. The blow was clearly effective, sending the Poison Gas Pokemon tumbling back to Janine, but it was apparently not enough to fully defeat Koffing.

    “All right, Koffing!” Janine cried. “Okay, let’s try and wrap this up! Use Flamethrower!”

    “Echo, use Shadow Ball!” Derak yelled.

    Rather than spit slime like it did against Strike, Koffing instead exhaled a jet of fire. Echo, however, spat a ball of darkness that sliced through Koffing’s Flamethrower and struck the Poison Gas Pokemon head-on. This last blow was evidently too much for Koffing, and the spherical Poison-type fell to the floor in defeat.

    “Oh…Koffing, return,” Janine sighed. “Hey, Derak, you’re doing really well. I totally didn’t see Zen Headbutt coming!”
    I wasn't quite ready for it either. That was quite a show on both their parts.

    “I noticed,” Derak said. “Can we move on?”

    “Uh…okay, sure,” Janine blinked. “Okay, time for my last Pokemon!”

    Janine threw her Pokeball into the air, and released a completely unexpected Pokemon. Its blue feet landed on the floor, and an intimidating croak was the first noise it made.

    It was the Toxicroak from the P1 Grand Prix.

    “No way,” Derak gasped. “That Toxicroak was YOURS?”
    My reaction right now is the same as Derak's. That was not what I expected. Great twist.

    “Yep!” Janine cried. “See, sometimes I have to go out and train my Pokemon in public, but since I’m the Gym Leader, I’ll just get swarmed if I go out without some kind of disguise.”

    “So you wear a big cloak?” Derak blinked.

    “Hey, a ninja girl’s gotta have her privacy,” Janine shrugged. “Ready to roll?”

    “I guess,” Derak shrugged. “Echo, use Shadow Ball!”

    “Toxicroak, Sucker Punch!” Janine cried.

    Echo prepared another Shadow Ball, but before it could release its attack, Toxicroak rushed up and struck the Bat Pokemon with enough force to send it reeling. Derak grimaced, knowing that Toxicroak could be tricky to beat if it could move that quickly.
    Too bad he doesn't know that it's only Sucker Punch that gives Toxicroak such speed.

    “Nice one, Toxicroak!” Janine cried. “Now, finish it off with Poison Jab!”

    “Echo, quick, use Double Team!” Derak cried.

    Derak’s Flying-type again split into numerous copies, prompting Toxicroak to stop for a moment. The Toxic Mouth Pokemon slowly scanned the Zubats, seeking the true one.

    “Now, hit it with Zen Headbutt!” Derak cried.

    “Oh, no, you don’t!” Janine yelled. “Toxicroak, Protect!”
    Janine sure came prepared with Toxicroak.

    The Zubats all lunged forth as one, but their attack was barred by a green energy bubble that surrounded Toxicroak’s body. Every single one of Echo’s duplicates slammed head-first into the Protect, all the false ones disappearing as the real one fluttered about in a daze. Recognizing its target, Toxicroak swiftly thrust its Poison Jab into Echo’s stomach, sending the lightweight Flying-type sailing over Derak’s head and into a wall.

    “Echo!” Derak cried. “Crap…return. Hey, you did your best, we were just taken off-guard.”

    “What do you think of him so far?” N asked Skull, the both of them sitting on the sidelines.

    “Eh,” Skull grunted with a shrug.

    “Indifferent as always?” N smirked.

    “He’s kinda lame,” Skull muttered. “And he’s still a complete moron.”
    Good old Skull. Gotta say, though, he's at least talking to a human this time, which is a little surprising.

    “I feel differently about that,” N said. “He seems to genuinely care for his Pokemon. But I wish to speak to his Scyther when this is over…”

    With two Pokemon defeated, Derak held up Wildfire’s orange Pokeball. At this stage, his starter was the only option.

    “Well…here goes everything,” Derak sighed. “Wildfire, let’s go!”
    I'm not so sure about how this will go. Toxicroak's pretty tough...

    “A Chimchar?” Janine gulped. Despite its having a neutral type matchup against her Toxicroak, Wildfire’s presence on the field seemed make her uneasy. “Okay, then, Toxicroak, let’s finish this up fast. Use Poison Jab!”

    “Dodge and use Thunderpunch!” Derak cried.

    Toxicroak quickly bounded into the fray, its latest Poison Jab ready to strike. Its intended target, however, performed a backwards somersault that allowed for agile evasion. Before Toxicroak could continue its assault, Wildfire sprang forth and slammed an electrical fist directly into the space between the Poison-type’s eyes. Toxicroak stumbled back, rubbing the spot where it had been struck.
    Now that was impressive.

    “Come on, Toxicroak, you can do this!” Janine cried. “Snap out of it!”

    “Wildfire, Flame Wheel!” Derak ordered.

    “Aah! Toxicroak, quick, use Sucker Punch!” Janine cried, her stress apparently reaching a breaking point.

    Toxicroak lunged forth, its attack hitting Wildfire hard enough to send it into the air. Although it began to flail about helplessly, the Chimchar stopped panicking when it noticed a rafter coming into reach. With the dexterity of a true primate, Wildfire snatched a rafter in hand and ducked into the darkness.
    I kind of get the feeling Wildfire might evolve soon, given how he's managing to handle himself here.

    “Ugh, again?!” Janine pouted. “And I thought ninjas were the only ones to make use of the shadows…”

    “Don’t look at me,” Derak shrugged. “Wildfire’s just awesome like that. Go for Flame Wheel again!”

    “Not happening!” Janine yelled. “Toxicroak, use Protect!”

    A faint glow could now be seen in the darkness, something that Toxicroak took to mean that Wildfire’s attack was imminent. It quickly formed a Protect shield around itself, waiting for the blow to come…

    …but nothing came.

    “Huh?” Janine blinked. “Where is it?”

    “Croak?” Toxicroak grunted as it stared intently at the ember in the dark. Another moment passed in which no attack was launched, and thus Toxicroak lowered its Protect shield.

    And then Derak smirked.

    “Wildfire, do it now!” he cried.

    The ember was indeed Wildfire’s flame, and the Chimchar came barreling out of the shadows with a Flame Wheel blazing brightly. Toxicroak hurriedly tried to put up another Protect, but could only produce a fizzle of sparks due to its inability to use Protect twice in a row. With nothing to shield it, Toxicroak was helpless as Wildfire dove straight into it, shoving it across the floor.
    Oh wow, that was great. I'm loving every bit of Wildfire's role here.

    “All right!” Derak cried. “Nice one, Wildfire! See what happens when you think for yourself? Awesome stuff happens!”

    “Char…?” Wildfire blinked. It looked to Derak, then to Toxicroak, and then back to Derak again. It gave him a nod, but tried its best to suppress a smile. “Char, chim-char.”

    N smiled as well, but glanced to Janine’s Toxicroak. The Toxic Mouth Pokemon was struggling to rise, burns covering its body. It managed to stand, but was clearly unwell.

    “Great,” Janine grimaced. “This is why I hate Dry Skin…Toxicroak, we’ve got one last chance! Jump into the rafters!”
    Ah, good attentiveness to Toxicroak's ability.

    Toxicroak managed to comply with its orders, leaping into the shadows just as Wildfire and Strike had done earlier. With its ninja training taking effect, the Poison-type was now completely obscured by darkness.

    “Crap,” Derak muttered. “We can’t shoot an Ember up there, this place is made completely out of wood…can’t risk a fire hurting anything.”

    “Thanks for your consideration,” Janine smirked. “Toxicroak, let’s wrap this up with Poison Jab!”

    “Wildfire, Flame Wheel!” Derak cried.

    Rather than make the defensive error that Toxicroak had made, Derak instead opted to have Wildfire attack. As such, the Chimchar adopted its blazing somersault as Toxicroak plunged out of the darkness. The two attacks collided fiercely, but Toxicroak began to wince upon coming into contact with Wildfire’s Flame Wheel. Eventually, Flame Wheel won out, and Toxicroak fell to the ground in defeat.
    Oh wow, he actually pulled it off! I have to say I'm pretty surprised, but pleasantly so.

    “So…that’s it, huh?” Janine sighed. “Okay, Toxicroak, return. You did a really great job.”

    “You too, Wildfire,” Derak smiled, affectionately rubbing his starter’s head. “Really proud of that ninja trick you did. That took some real on-the-fly thinking.”

    “Char?” Wildfire blinked.

    “Maybe I really am rubbing off on you,” Derak smirked.

    As Janine approached Derak with congratulations and a vaguely heart-shaped Badge, N allowed a smile to cross his face.

    “This boy…he is different,” N said. “But…that may be a good thing.”
    That comment of N's intrigues me. Derak may be different, but in what way, exactly?

    “Okay, can someone explain to me why a Poison-type Gym gives out a Badge called the Soul Badge?” Derak asked once his group was reunited in the Pokemon Center. “Because I don’t get it. At all.”
    Thank you! I'd be wondering about this too if it wasn't obviously an error in the games that couldn't ever be reversed.

    “I never bother with such competitive garbage,” Garth grunted.

    “Nor do I,” N sighed. “I dislike seeing Pokemon fight one another.”

    “…so why did you watch mine fight Janine’s?” Derak asked. “You could have just held off on the battle until you got Zekrom back.”

    “I could only hear the voices of your Pokemon if they battled at their fullest,” N replied. “Only then, in a stressful situation, would I know if their feelings would true. And I needed to know as soon as possible, given…recent events.”

    “So…what do they say?” Derak asked. “I’d kinda like to know if they hate the food I give them or something like that.”

    N slowly looked over to him.

    “I wish to speak with your Scyther,” N said.
    Okay, not sure about where this is going...

    “Uh…okay?” Derak blinked. With a nagging reluctance, he carefully opened Strike’s Safari Ball. “Strike, come on out.”

    Although clearly healed from the injuries it sustained in its battle against Janine, Strike’s wings remained in a cast. It cast a glare at N, who it assumed was going to either lecture or battle it.

    “Hey…let me ask you something,” N said, leaning forward in what seemed to be a childish sort of excitement. “Your comrades enjoy being with Derak…but I wish to know if you do, as well.”

    “Scy-ther-scy,” Strike spat. “Scy scyther scy therrr.”

    “…there is no need to address me so harshly…or with such choice words,” N said slowly. “Why are you so aggressive in battle? There is nothing to be gained from such bloodlust.”
    I laughed thinking of what choice words Strike used, I admit.

    “Scy-ther scy scyther,” Strike growled.

    “So…what’s the story?” Derak asked.

    “Your Scyther…does not wish to be with you,” N said.

    “Yeah, I kinda figured that out for myself,” Derak said. “Anything I don’t already know?”

    “Scyther…wishes to be released,” N sighed. “It maintains that, despite the condition of its wings, it can survive without any form of aid.”
    I kind of figured this would be where Strike's plot right now would go. I hope you manage to handle it well, though, because you don't want it to look too much like an easy pass given to Derak for Janine's Gym.

    “But…Strike, I’m sorry, I can’t send you back to the Safari Zone yet,” Derak sighed. “Your wings are too badly hurt, and I can’t risk it happening again unless—”

    One blade came quite close to Derak’s throat. Strike growled threateningly, and shockingly enough, Skull actually let out a small snicker at this. He had to admit, he liked this Scyther.

    “I have a better idea,” Garth said, finishing a swig from his canteen, “one that can give both Derak and Scyther what they want.”

    “But how is that possible?” N asked. “Their desires are as conflicting as black and white.”

    “Yet I know something additional about one of those desires,” Garth said. He casually ignored Strike’s warning glare as he continued. “Scyther wants vengeance.”

    “Really?” Derak blinked. “Guess you WOULD be the one to know about that. But who does it want dead? I mean, other than me, anyway.”

    “The creature that injured its wings,” Garth answered.

    “How do you know this?” N asked, eyes wide. “Can you speak with Pokemon, too?”

    “Hardly,” Garth snarled, casting a glare at the former Plasma king. “But I do know how to recognize a look of rage…and I believe that we can work out a deal.”

    “Okay, shoot,” Derak said. Even Strike looked interested, although Skull still remained indifferent.

    “If Scyther remains here in Fuchsia City,” Garth began, “then its chances of finding the monster that injured its wings are severely lessened. By continuing to travel with Derak, Scyther will not only have a greater chance of finding its nemesis, but also of gaining enough strength to take its revenge.”
    At this point I'd like to know a little bit more about what exactly happened to Strike. I suspect Elliot's involvement.

    “Sounds good to me,” Derak shrugged. “What do you think, Strike?”

    At first, Strike appeared surprised that Derak was considering its opinion. Once it recovered, however, it mulled over its options, weighing each one. Eventually, after a moment, it made a decision…

    …and nodded.

    “Wait, what, you’re agreeing?” Derak sputtered. “I…wow, that’s…that’s awesome, I honestly didn’t expect that.”

    “Scyyy,” Strike sighed.

    “Okay, Strike…glad to have you on the team,” Derak said. “I would do a handshake, but…”

    Strike looked down at its bladed arms, and sighed.

    It already regretted its decision to put up with this imbecile.
    The smile I got from that was a nice relief after a scene of tension.

    Back at the Fuchsia Gym, Janine poured over the book from which the pages relating to Kotaro Fuma were missing. She studied the torn areas carefully, attempting to find some clue as to who committed the theft, or how it was done. As time went on, however, she find that her attempts ended in failure. She was simply no detective, and even if she were, the theft was too perfectly calculated to be traceable.

    Little did she know that her questions could be answered by one man. This man was currently standing at a port in Vermillion City, clutching several pieces of torn paper a metallic right hand. In his other hand was a ticket marked “SLATEPORT CITY”, which he flashed at a sailor to inform him of his status as an official passenger.
    Should that say "clutching several pieces of torn paper in a metallic right hand?

    The man’s flowing gold-and-purple robe swept across the floor as he made his way toward his seat. He sat down, awaiting the beginning of his journey. As the ship departed, a small blue jellyfish-like Pokemon with a frilled collar began to follow, making sure to keep track of its master.

    “Frilll-iiiiish,” trilled the jellyfish, knowing that its master’s plan was going to be set in motion soon.
    And now who might this be? I'm interested to find out.

    This was a big chapter. While Derak's battle with Janine was the main event featured, if you think about it, that was only a small part of a larger whole. I would argue that Derak's relationship with Strike was one of if not the main themes of the chapter. N has made his place well within the cast, particularly in that context, though Garth was less prominent in this chapter than usual. I have to say I really enjoyed Janine's presence in the chapter. She fit well with your adaptation of Conquest material, and she also interacted well with all of the characters.

    Everything was great as usual in this chapter, and I'm looking forward to the next one.
    Last edited by The Great Butler; 18th February 2013 at 10:22 AM.

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  11. #86
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    The Great Butler:
    Hmm... I wonder where this is going. N could be helpful, a hindrance, or something in between.
    One of the reasons that the next chapter is so delayed would be because I'm having quite a bit of difficulty finalizing N's role myself. XD You'll be seeing more of him, though.

    I sincerely hope that's some great foreshadowing.
    Oh, you have no idea... XD

    Derak seems strangely detached from things here. I get that his Gym battle is important, but if you think about it, getting Zekrom back is even more urgent.
    The Gym battle is actually a step towards getting Zekrom back.

    Trust me, you'll see later.

    Dare I think that you really enjoyed Conquest? XD;

    It's a good thing, really. You're doing an excellent job merging the story and people of Conquest into the main universe.
    Let's just say that it's rare that I get so involved with the source material. XD

    I suddenly get a nervous feeling someone else might be behind it now that Kotaro was brought up, but I won't put it out there just yet...
    Honestly, that little bit (and the mysterious guy at the end) are going to serve as a lead-in to my next fic.

    Although, that being said, you will see him again.

    A neat scene, but I must offer one correction: the move is written as "X-Scissor."
    Hmm...I thought that Gen V rewrote it as "X-scissor"...maybe that's just how the move was written in the Serebii Pokedex?

    I think you should tone down how many times Janine says "oh, crud." It is a little noticeable.
    Noted.

    I get what you're going for with the silver line, but I think it could be worded a bit better. Say that the silver line formed a ring around its body instead.
    Again, noted. Really not much else I can say in regards to this.

    I have to admit, I'm kind of surprised that Strike seems to have taken defeat graciously here.
    You might be seeing something later that more clearly shows how Strike isn't a COMPLETE nutcase.

    That comment of N's intrigues me. Derak may be different, but in what way, exactly?
    You'll hopefully see that in the next chapter (assuming I can get enough free time to write it in a timely manner).

    Thank you! I'd be wondering about this too if it wasn't obviously an error in the games that couldn't ever be reversed.
    That's what the deal is? I never really thought about it until I wrote this chapter, to be honest.

    At this point I'd like to know a little bit more about what exactly happened to Strike. I suspect Elliot's involvement.
    If you only knew...XD

    Should that say "clutching several pieces of torn paper in a metallic right hand?
    Yes. Yes it should. XD

    And now who might this be? I'm interested to find out.
    He's not going to be doing too much in this story, but in the next one...let's just say you'll be in for a ride. XD

    This was a big chapter. While Derak's battle with Janine was the main event featured, if you think about it, that was only a small part of a larger whole. I would argue that Derak's relationship with Strike was one of if not the main themes of the chapter. N has made his place well within the cast, particularly in that context, though Garth was less prominent in this chapter than usual. I have to say I really enjoyed Janine's presence in the chapter. She fit well with your adaptation of Conquest material, and she also interacted well with all of the characters.

    Everything was great as usual in this chapter, and I'm looking forward to the next one.
    Glad you enjoyed it. If all goes well, the next chapter should be up by the end of the month (emphasis on "should"). Hopefully things will work out, I'm eager to write up the various events that take place in Saffron. Lots of interesting stuff happens. That's all I'll say. XD
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    Mooore xD!
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    Okay...at long last, I have finally finished the next chapter.




    Chapter 24: Trials





    It had been several days since Derak’s battle with Janine. He and Garth had since moved on to Saffron City, a settlement reputed as Kanto’s largest city, while N and Skull had gone in a different direction in search of Zekrom. Everywhere they looked, shining skyscrapers and dominating office buildings were always in view, with people filing in and out of them. At present, however, the two traveling trainers were not interested in the splendor of Saffron.

    “So, what type was the Gym again?” Derak asked as he and Garth sat in the Pokemon Center lobby.

    “Psychic,” his cloaked companion replied. “Which means that your Zubat will be decimated in an instant. Bug-type attacks, however, are quite effective against Psychic-types.”

    “Like Strike’s X-Scissor,” Derak said.

    “Exactly,” Garth nodded. “We will need to do some training before you can battle the Gym, however. The Leader is reputed as one of Kanto’s strongest.”

    “Might as well get started, then,” Derak shrugged, and with that, he and Garth made their way outside. “Hey, how do you think N’s doing since he went Zekrom-hunting?”

    “I doubt he has had much success yet,” Garth replied. “Nobunaga is no fool. He will be able to evade N until he deems it convenient to be found.”

    “Yeah, I guess—” Derak began.

    “GET DOWN!” Garth suddenly roared, pushing both Derak and himself onto the ground in time to avoid a large Sludge Bomb that was hurtling towards them. The attack exploded on the ground behind them, fortunately leaving the two unharmed.

    “Oh, it’s you dweebs again?”

    Derak looked up with a glare and saw Aiden Takeshi, alongside his mysterious blue-haired companion. Beside Aiden was a Pokemon reminiscent of a small purple rhinoceros with a spiky back and large ears. Clearly more interested in the new Pokemon than he was in Aiden, Derak immediately pointed his Pokedex at the rhinoceros.

    “Nidorino,” the Dex identified, “the Poison Pin Pokemon. Type is Poison. Evolved form of male Nidoran. It has a violent disposition and stabs foes with its horn, which oozes poison upon contact.”

    “Uh, hello?” Aiden called. “Talking here!”

    “Uh, hello, don’t care,” Derak shot back. “C’mon, Garth.”

    He made to brush past Aiden, but the coordinator stepped in front of him.

    “Hold on a sec!” Aiden growled. “I’m not gonna just let you disrespect me and walk off scot-free! I’m gonna—”

    “Yeah, that’s great, are you done yet?” Derak sighed. “I have better things to do than put up with a creep like you.”

    “Oh, it’s ON now!” Aiden snarled. “Double battle, right here and now!”

    “Whatever,” Derak sighed. He and Aiden separated themselves, leaving Garth and Aiden’s blue-haired accomplice on the sidelines. Garth glared warily at the blue-haired teen, remembering how his cloak was burnt during their previous encounter.

    “Okay, got Nidorino out already, so…let’s give the new guy some exercise,” Aiden smirked, preparing a Safari Ball of his own. “Scizor, time to win!”

    Aiden’s Nidorino was soon joined on the field by what appeared to be a humanoid insect, as one could attest by its bulbous abdomen. The insect struck a sleek and intimidating figure, with its thin limbs and spiky head adding to its streamlined appearance. Curiously, as it held its two large pincers up, a sparkle emanated from its green body once the flash of the Safari Ball dissipated.

    “What? How is that possible?!” Garth gasped. “A shiny Pokemon in the hands of a lowlife like yourself?!”

    “What, no congratulations on netting myself a rare Pokemon?” Aiden smirked. “Guess I should expect that from sore losers.”

    “Uh, Garth, you want to fill me in on what a—” Derak began, but before he could finish, the Safari Ball on his belt automatically burst open and released Strike. The Scyther began snarling dangerously at Aiden’s Scizor, which only gave an amused smirk in respone.

    “Oh, hey, that’s the lame Scyther I used as my Scizor’s practice dummy,” Aiden snorted. “You actually caught that lousy thing?”

    “Wait, what…? YOU’RE the one who broke Strike’s wings?” Derak paled. “What—WHAT KIND OF SICK FREAK ARE YOU?!”

    “Hey, that Scyther’s the one with the busted wings, not—” Aiden said, but Derak suddenly charged past his opponent’s Pokemon.

    And then he punched Aiden in the jaw.

    “YOU SICK SON OF A *****!” Derak roared. “YOU THINK IT’S FUNNY THAT THIS SCYTHER ALMOST DIED BECAUSE OF YOU AND YOUR SICK THRILLS?! HUH?! DOES THAT MAKE YOU LAUGH, YOU *******?!”

    “It…wha?” Aiden groaned, massaging his jaw. His blue-haired comrade simply looked on with mild amusement, and shockingly enough, so did Scizor and Nidorino.

    “Derak!” Garth cried, grabbing hold of the boy and restraining him. “Calm down! Calm down NOW!”

    “WHY?!” Derak spat, struggling to get out of Garth’s grasp. “DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MUCH THIS CREEP NEEDS TO GET WHAT’S COMING TO HIM?!”

    “Congratulations,” Garth said. “You now know exactly how I feel about Nobunaga.”

    Derak stopped as the realization dawned upon him. He allowed his body to fall limp as his struggles slowly ceased. Aiden scrambled to his feet, to which his Scizor merely rolled its eyes.

    “Zor,” the shiny Pokemon grunted to Strike. “Sciz, scizor. Zor scizor zor.”

    Strike’s eyes suddenly went wide, and without warning, it leapt at Scizor with a bloodcurdling cry of rage. The evolved Bug-type glanced upward, and with another disinterested roll of its eyes, it charged white energy into both of its pincers. Before Strike could bring down a cutting blow, Scizor leapt up and hit Strike twice: first a jab to the stomach, then an uppercut to the jaw. Strike was utterly decimated by the raw power of the attack, and fell to the ground in a crumpled heap.

    “STRIKE!” Derak cried, tearing himself out of Garth’s grasp and rushing to his Scyther’s side. “Oh, no, Strike!”

    “Uh…what just happened?” Aiden blinked. “You, er…can’t train your Pokemon well…uh, can you? That, uh…you know what, forget it, let’s just go.”

    He brought out his Pokeball and Safari Ball and recalled his Nidorino and Scizor. With a shrug, Aiden’s blue-haired accomplice wandered off, with Aiden himself following. The arrogant trainer did glance back, however, casting what seemed to be a brief look of sorrow before leaving.

    “Stupid creep,” Derak growled. “How many more jerks like that am I going to meet?”

    “Unfortunately, people like him are in endless supply,” Garth sighed. “How is Scyther?”

    “Scyyy…therrrrr,” Strike growled, struggling to get to its feet and pursue its nemesis.

    “Whoa, Strike, take it easy!” Derak cried, holding his Scyther down. “Look, I don’t think we’re strong enough to take on that Scizor yet. Tell you what, how about we take a break to get you healed, then we’ll go for the Gym and get some practice in. What do you say?”

    “Theerr,” Strike growled, glaring in the direction Aiden had gone, but nonetheless turned its gaze to Derak and nodded. “Scy-ther.”

    “Okay,” Derak sighed. “Let’s go. Once you’re healed, we’ll give the Gym a shot.”

    ****

    Elsewhere in Kanto, two pairs of feet—one wearing shoes, the other bare—traversed a forested pathway. With an irritated groan, Skull did his best to keep pace with N, despite the latter’s taller stature.

    “Why are we even bothering to go through here?” the Marowak complained. “It’s not like Nobunaga’s gonna jump out of the bushes or something.”

    “I know,” N replied. “But, as strong as you are, we cannot do this alone. We need to find some friends who would be willing to help us.”

    “Yeah, because Zekrom’s one weakness is obviously the mighty Caterpie,” Skull snorted. “What are we going to do? Find an Aron with the Sturdy ability, teach it Endeavor, slap on a Shell Bell and call it invincible?”

    “I would never condone such a dirty tactic,” N said in disgust. “No, what we need is a friend with earnest strength and a stronger heart. Zekrom’s name alone would frighten away many a Pokemon, let alone a battle with it.”

    A rustling in a nearby bush caught N’s attention, prompting him to stop. Skull narrowed his eyes, readying his bone and preparing to step forth.

    “Wait,” N said. “It could be a friend.”

    “More likely someone wanting to get their face beaten in,” Skull growled.

    What came out, however, was a pink-bodied Pokemon just barely larger than Skull, with yellow markings on its legs and stomach. Its beady black eyes were filled with fear, one that doubled in intensity upon seeing N and Skull. In a panic, the Pokemon opened its mouth and sent forth a massive red tongue, which wrapped around a tree branch and carried it across the path in an instant.

    “Wait, Lickitung! Please!” N pleaded, but the Pokemon was long gone. “That Lickitung…it was so afraid…but of what?”

    Skull’s eyes suddenly went wide, and the Marowak then leapt in front of N. He began spinning his bone just as a jet of fire erupted from between the trees. The spinning bone dispersed the flame, and once the jet subsided, Skull began growling angrily.

    “Take a wild guess,” he snarled.

    Another Pokemon waded out of the bushes, this one larger and more intimidating. Its anteater-like body was dominantly red with yellow streaks, its pointed head as brown as the tube-like protrusions running down its back. A large red pipe emerged from its rear, and upon catching sight of N and Skull, the Pokemon flexed its golden claws in anticipation.

    “Heaaat-morrr,” the Pokemon snarled, a flame-like tongue whipping out of its mouth.

    “But…why?” N blinked. “Heatmors live in mountains in Unova…why is this one—”

    “Probably some guy’s slave,” Skull said bitterly.

    As if to prove it, the Heatmor formed a sphere of energy between its claws. It then threw the Focus Blast directly at Skull, though the Marowak simply knocked it aside with one swipe of his bone.

    “Aw, that’s cute,” he scoffed. “This idiot wants a fight.”

    Had Heatmor’s mouth been bigger, it would have grinned upon hearing Skull speak. The anteater’s flaming tongue slid out of its mouth, and as it did so , the tongue began to glow green. Heatmor reared its head back before lurching forward, whipping its tongue towards Skull. To its shock, however, its attack found a completely different target.

    N’s arm.

    “I have no idea why you’re doing this, Heatmor,” N said slowly. “But whatever your reasons may be…I will not let you hurt my friends.”

    “Mor?” Heatmor blinked. It quickly retracted its tongue, attempting to reassess its options. Skull pounded his free hand with his bone, indicating his readiness to use it against the anteater. With a final glare at its foes, Heatmor dove back into the bushes.

    “Leave it,” N sighed, knowing that Skull would chase after the fleeing Fire-type. “We need to find that Lickitung.”

    “And let that Heatmor terrorize whatever it damn well pleases?” Skull snapped.

    “I believe Heatmor will not trouble anyone for a while,” N said. “We need to make sure Lickitung is okay. Let’s go find it.”

    *****

    Back in Saffron City, Derak and trudged out of the Pokemon Center with Strike’s Safari Ball in hand. He looked down at it with a sigh.

    “Well, we found the creep who broke Strike’s wings,” Derak said. “And I really wish we hadn’t.”

    “It may create problems,” Garth agreed as he emerged from the Center, “but for the moment, we must focus on the task at hand.”

    “Yeah, okay,” Derak said, clipping Strike’s ball back onto his belt. “Any last-minute suggestions?”

    “Keep your mind as blank as possible,” Garth warned. “The Gym Leader is famous for having psychic powers rivaling those of her Pokemon. The ability to read minds could be within her capabilities.”

    “…uh, how do humans get psychic powers in the first place?” Derak blinked.

    “You would be surprised what certain humans are capable of,” Garth replied. “Now, go, and remember what I told you.”

    Derak simply shrugged and left. Garth, meanwhile, gazed down at his canteen.

    Then again, he thought, regardless of what certain humans are capable of…there are some capabilities we may be better off without.

    ****

    “Lickitung must have gone this way,” N said quietly as he weaved by the various tree branches and shrubs that entered his path. “Skull, how are you faring?”

    “Like crap,” the Marowak spat back, using his bone to hack away whatever plant life was unfortunate enough to be in front of him. “Why are we chasing something that has nothing but tongue in its body?”

    “Like I said earlier, we need to make sure that it’s all right,” N replied. “It was attacked by Heatmor, just like we were.”

    “Yeah, yeah, and we need to see if it’ll tag along to fight Zekrom,” Skull groaned. “We’re not setting the bar very high, are we?”

    “That would only be if Lickitung agrees to join us,” N said. “Otherwise, we will leave it be.”

    Eventually, the two came upon a small clearing, where a familiar pink Pokemon was on its back, panting heavily. Lickitung’s tongue laid flat across the grass, clearly sore from its owner’s desperate attempts at using it to escape. The Pokemon itself casually turned its head, and upon spying N and Skull, it went into a panic once again. It scrambled to its feet, but it only took several steps for Lickitung’s tired body to fail it, causing the entire Pokemon to fall onto the grass once more.

    “Please, Lickitung, don’t be afraid,” N said, holding up his hands in a show of peace. “We aren’t with Heatmor. It attacked us, as well.”

    “Licki?” Lickitung blinked, confused at this stranger’s words.

    “Here, let us help you,” N said, kneeling down. “Is your tongue hurt? Can we help you heal it?”

    “Liiiick,” Lickitung moaned, glancing down at its tongue. After a moment of thought, it nodded.

    “Thank you, Lickitung…for giving me a chance,” N smiled. “Skull, could you guard Lickitung for a moment? I need to find some Oran or Sitrus berries.”

    “Eh, at least you’re not having the Pokemon do all the manual labor for you,” Skull shrugged, approaching Lickitung, much to the timid Pokemon’s discomfort. Although irritated by Lickitung’s shrinking back in fear of him, Skull merely rolled his eyes as N left to find some berries.

    ****

    “Geez, look at this thing,” Derak muttered, looking upon the rather outrageous Saffron Gym. The building was quite large, with an even bigger white roof split into many curving structures held up by pointed arches. “Do I even want to know what kind of statement you’re trying to make here?”

    Derak approached the door and grabbed the handle, but his initial pull could not budge the door. He pulled again, but the door remained steadfast. He even propped his foot against the door and pulled with all his might, but the result was the same.

    “Okay, what the heck’s going on here?” Derak sighed. “There’s no sign saying the Gym’s closed, so why won’t the door open?”

    As if to answer him, a freakish purple hand suddenly phased through the door and latched onto Derak’s head. The hand promptly yanked him forward, somehow causing him to pass through the door as if it were not even there. Derak fell onto the other side of the door, where he managed to find a second hand holding the door shut.

    “Okay…now I’m really confused,” Derak grumbled as he got up. The two hands drifted towards each other, and soon a monstrous purple head with a gaping fanged mouth materialized between them.

    “Haaaun-ha-ha-ha-haun-tah!” cackled the creature, apparently finding Derak’s confusion amusing.

    “Haunter,” Derak’s Pokedex reported, “the Gas Pokemon. Type is Ghost and Poison. Evolved form of Gastly. It likes to lurk in the dark and touch shoulders with a gaseous hand. Its touch causes endless shuddering.”

    “Okay, whatever,” Derak sighed, turning away from the Ghost-type and making his way deeper into the Gym. “Let’s see…where’s the Gym Leader going to be?”

    As if responding to his question, the Haunter appeared in front of him, waving its hands in front of Derak’s face.

    “Oh, what do you want?” Derak snapped. “Last I checked, something that deliberately bars a door just to yanks through it isn’t the most trustworthy thing around.”

    “Haun?” Haunter blinked. It then gave what seemed to be an apologetic bow. “Haaauun-ter.”

    “Okay, fine, I’ll forgive you,” Derak sighed. He looked around, finding himself in a hallway filled with numerous doors. “All right, quick question…you live here, right?”

    “Haunt!” nodded Haunter.

    “So, you know where the Gym Leader is?”

    “Haun, haunter!” Haunter nodded again. It pointed down the hall, to a final door at the very end.

    “Okay, thanks,” Derak said. “Hey, listen…I didn’t mean to sound all suspicious of you, okay? It’s just…I get enough crud from a psychotic Rotom that’s apparently been following me around, and I don’t need more than one Pokemon doing that.”

    “Haun-ter,” nodded the Gas Pokemon, one hand patting Derak on the shoulder. A rush of cold suddenly tore through the boy’s body, emanating from the spot that Haunter had touched.

    “O-okay, can you not do that?” Derak shuddered. “It’s…it’s really not comfortable.”

    “Haunt-er,” the Ghost-type bowed again.

    “Great, thanks,” Derak breathed, rubbing his arms in an attempt to force away the cold. He continued to do this as he moved on, eventually pushing his way through the door and finding a large battlefield. At the other end of the field was a green-haired woman seated on a golden throne, eyes closed in meditation. She wore a magenta top with white pants, and around her wrists were two large black-and-green bracelets.

    “Derak Kadir…was it?” the woman said as she stood up. “Welcome to Saffron Gym.”

    “Uh…how did you know my name?” Derak blinked.

    “I am a psychic,” the woman answered. “My name is Sabrina. I foresaw your arrival…and I have also foreseen several different outcomes to our battle. Let us see which one is correct.”

    “Uh…oh…kay,” Derak said slowly. Haunter suddenly reappeared by his side, gaining a small smile from Sabrina. “So, is this Haunter yours?”

    “Not exactly,” Sabrina shook her head. “In truth, Haunter belongs to no one, but it remains with me at the request of a trainer I battled some time ago. It helps me maintain my…mental state, if you will.”

    “I…don’t think I want to know,” Derak blinked. “So…we going to get started?”

    “Yes,” Sabrina nodded. “The standard rules apply…a three-on-three single battle in which only the challenger may make substitutions. I shall begin…with Alakazam.”

    Rather than physically throw a Pokeball, one simply levitated in front of her before bursting open. In a flash, Sabrina’s choice appeared, a yellow-and-brown fox-like Pokemon just under five feet tall with a silver spoon in each hand and a long handlebar mustache. Standing on its two clawed feet, the Pokemon stared intently at Derak, awaiting his first choice.

    “Alakazam,” the Pokedex reported, “the Psi Pokemon. Type is Psychic. Evolved form of Kadabra. The spoons clutched in its hands are said to have been created by its psychic powers. Its brain cells continually multiply until it dies, and as a result, it remembers everything since the day of its birth.”

    “Guess I should have figured a Psychic-type would be all about brains,” Derak shrugged. “Okay, don’t have a lot of options, so…Wildfire, let’s go!”

    Although it lacked true eyebrows, Sabrina’s Alakazam would most likely have raised one upon seeing Derak’s Chimchar. It also, however, knew better than to underestimate an opponent, and thus the Psychic-type narrowed its eyes and gripped its spoons tightly.

    “Then…let us begin,” Sabrina said, moving one hand forward and closing her eyes.

    Despite lacking an order to do so, Alakazam formed a Shadow Ball between its spoons. With a flick, the Psi Pokemon fired the Shadow Ball and watched with satisfaction as it slammed into Wildfire’s body. The force of the attack sent a shocked Wildfire sliding to the edge of the arena, though it managed to push itself to its feet.

    “Hey, wha—”

    “Alakazam may seem to be acting of its own accord,” Sabrina interrupted calmly, “but I had given it an order through telepathy rather than vocally. Did you really think your sixth Gym battle was going to be as easy as the ones before it?”

    Derak gritted his teeth as Sabrina’s words hit home.

    “Great…okay, Wildfire, this isn’t going to be easy, but we need to try,” Derak said, receiving a nod from his Chimchar. “Okay, let’s break out the best that we’ve got. Use Flame Wheel!”

    Wildfire leapt forth in a flaming somersault that barreled towards Alakazam, only to be stopped in mid-air as a blue aura surrounded the Fire-type’s body. Alakazam flicked one of its spoons upward, and Wildfire suddenly rocketed up into the ceiling. The Chimchar remained up there for a moment, suspended by Alakazam’s Psychic, until the Psi Pokemon saw fit to lower the fire monkey halfway to the ground before unceremoniously dropping it onto the floor.

    “Wildfire! Hey, you okay?” Derak called. His Chimchar struggled to rise, the beating it took from Alakazam’s attacks taking its toll. “Okay, this is definitely going to be a lot tougher than we thought…uh…crap, what do we do…?”

    Wildfire clenched its jaw and slammed one fist into the ground. Its trainer had few usable Pokemon, so he had to be depending heavily on every single one that he could use. He was putting so much faith into a Chimchar…even if it was a scared, miserable one like Wildfire. The name was still there, and Derak still used it. It was not just a drone to him…it was a living being.

    And now was the time that it earned its place.

    Wildfire stood up, fists clenched as its flaming tail burned violently. Its eyes narrowed, and with a growl, it took one step forward.

    “Such bravery,” Sabrina gasped. “But I fear we can’t make this too easy. Alakazam!”

    The Psi Pokemon charged up another Shadow Ball, but Wildfire’s fist tightened as it prepared a Thunderpunch. It awaited the coming of the Shadow Ball, and once the dark sphere was close, the Chimchar thrust its electrified fist directly into the center of the sphere. That one punch was enough to decimate the Shadow Ball, sending shadowy sparks scattering everywhere.

    “Haaaauun!” grinned Haunter, clapping its hands. “Haun, haunter!”

    “Whoa…heh, go, Wildfire!” Derak smiled.

    “Char,” Wildfire smirked, looking back at its trainer. It felt a surge of energy rushing through it, and that was how it knew the time to strike was now.

    But everything changed when Wildfire saw that it was glowing.

    “Char?!” the monkey shrieked, stumbling back onto its rear. It slapped at its arms desperately, attempting to swat away the glow of evolution.

    “Oh, crap,” Derak gasped. He quickly formed his hands into a ‘T’-shape. “Time out! Hold on, time out, I need to stop this!”

    “Er…why?” Sabrina blinked, her Alakazam sharing her confusion. “Evolution means—”

    “I know what evolution means!” Derak spat back, rushing to his Chimchar’s aid. “Wildfire, hey, calm down! I’m here, okay? I’m not gonna let you turn into an Infernape, I swear!”

    He held the monkey close to him, believing that his body would help suppress the evolution. Wildfire wrapped its arms around itself, evidently thinking on the same wavelength.

    “Just try and hold it in!” Derak cried. “I know you can do this, pal! You’re fine just the way you are, and if you don’t want to change, then I won’t let it happen! That’s just what friends do, right? Look out for each other?”

    Wildfire clutched its arms even more tightly together, wishing that it would not evolve. It didn’t care how much stronger it would become because of evolution. As long as the memory of Nick Spire’s animalistic Infernape was present in its mind—along with the knowledge that it could turn out the exact same way—Wildfire knew that evolution was too much of a risk. It continued to wish fervently for the evolution to pass away.

    And then it did. The glow subsided, and Wildfire looked down at its hands. They were still yellow, and its arms were still orange. It felt its face, feeling no significant changes. And then it heaved a sigh of relief.

    “Oh, man…thank goodness,” Derak sighed. “Seriously, don’t scare me like that, okay? Just try not to do that again.”

    “Char,” Wildfire nodded with a small smile.

    “If you don’t mind my asking,” Sabrina ventured, “why are you and your Chimchar so afraid of evolution?”

    “Long story short, Infernapes are bad news,” Derak said as he got up. “Listen, we’re going to need to put the Gym battle on hold. You know, until Wildfire and I work out our…issues.”

    “Very well,” Sabrina nodded. “I can sense that you genuinely care about what your Pokemon wants…but I must warn you that what is best for your Pokemon may not always be what they want.”

    Derak nodded, although he barely heard her over the ideas he mulled over in his head. As he turned to leave, he made a mental checklist of subjects to ask Garth or Nurse Joy about, all of which pertained to preventing Wildfire’s evolution.

    “Come on, little guy,” Derak said. “There has to be a way to get you stronger without making you evolve.”

    As they approached the door, however, their means of exit swung open. Another figure entered from the other side, this one narrowing her eyes at the sight of Derak.

    “Oh, great,” groaned Melissa Armare. “You again.”

    “Likewise,” Derak growled. “Makes me so glad I’m leaving.”

    “Why, did you already lose?” Melissa sneered.

    “The battle’s on hold,” Derak shot back.

    “Why would you be so cowardly as to put a battle on hold?”

    “None of your business,” Derak growled. “Now shut your oversized mouth and leave us alone.”

    Even as he left, however, Melissa continued taunting him.

    “Hey, I got an idea!” Melissa smirked. “How about you stop treating your Pokemon like your babies and start actually TRAINING them? Then you might actually win something for once!”

    Derak neglected to respond, instead pushing his way out of the Gym. Melissa huffed as she put her hands on her hips.

    “And he calls me a moron,” she muttered. Haunter suddenly appeared by her side, using its hands to stretch out its face in an attempt to amuse her. “BEAT IT, FREAK SHOW!”

    “Haun?” Haunter blinked. With a disappointed frown, the Ghost-type faded out of sight once more as Sabrina recalled her Alakazam.

    “If you’re done harassing my Haunter,” Sabrina said calmly, though the imposing tone in her voice made even Melissa cringe, “shall we begin?”

    “Oh, uh…of course, Ms. Sabrina!” Melissa stammered. “Standard rules, right?”

    “Yes,” Sabrina said flatly.

    “All right, then. Krabby, report for duty!”

    *****

    As Melissa’s battle with Sabrina went underway, Skull remained next to the fallen Lickitung. The pink Pokemon was still flat on the ground, though it had taken to massaging its colossal tongue every now and then. Skull leaned on his bone, glancing about.

    “The hell’s keeping N?” Skull complained. “Random berries can’t be that hard to find in a frigging forest.”

    “You would be surprised,” came the voice of N as he stepped back into the clearing, a bunch of spherical blue berries in his arms. “I’m very sorry for being so late, but it was hard to find Oran berries that no other Pokemon were going to be eating…”

    “Whatever,” Skull groaned. “Just give tongue-tastic here the berries so we can be on our way.”

    “Of course,” N said, kneeling down in front of Lickitung. “Here, eat some of these. I promise, they’ll make you feel better.”

    Lickitung complied, and as N fed the berries to it, the wounds on the Pokemon’s tongue began to vanish. Soon, the injuries were completely gone, and Lickitung withdrew its massive tongue into its body once more.

    “Lickih!” cried the Pokemon happily. “Licki-tung!”

    “You’re welcome,” N smiled. “Oh…this might sound insensitive, but…we need your help, Lickitung. A friend of mine has been taken from me, and…I need help getting him back. If it’s all right with you…could you help us?”

    “And, if you can’t, point us to who can,” Skull added. “Wandering around aimlessly isn’t gonna get us anywhere.”

    “Licki!” Lickitung nodded. It placed its hand in N’s, giving it a shake of agreement. “Licki, licki-tung!”

    “You’ll…do it? Even if my friend's name is Zekrom?” N asked, receiving a surprisingly quick nod from Lickitung. “Thank you…my friend. Now, before we can go…I’m sorry, but I need to put you in a Pokeball. I know that some Pokemon hate it, like Skull here, but it’s easier to travel with a group of Pokemon that way. Besides…if you’re already in a ball, no selfish trainers could use you without your permission. Okay?”

    Lickitung nodded again, and N reluctantly tapped it with a Pokeball. The pink Pokemon was absorbed inside, causing the ball to shake three times and then ring.

    “Every time I do that…I feel like a portion of me dies inside,” N sighed.

    “Hey, at least you have a conscience about enslaving Pokemon,” Skull shrugged. “I’ve known, what, two or three humans who have that? Out of the millions of them on this planet, you’re one of the few that actually has a sense of decency.”

    “Skull…thank you,” N smiled. “Coming from you, that means a lot…come on…let’s go try and find some more helpers.”

    *****

    Miles away, however, a familiar anteater trudged back to a large cave. The entrance, carved into the side of a mountain, almost beckoned it to enter. But it stood its ground, knowing what would happen if it entered without permission.

    “HEAT-MOR!” the anteater called into the cave. A growl could be heard from within, as well as a shuffle of slow movement.

    “What?” a ragged voice growled. “What is it, Heatmor? Why do you have no food?”

    “Mor, heat…heat-mor, heat, heat-mor-heat-mor-mor,” Heatmor stammered.

    “A talking Marowak and its trainer? That’s your reason for failure?” the voice replied, a slow scraping sound coming closer and closer to the cave entrance. “Never mind. Marowak hides are too tough to be edible, same goes for all those indestructible bones of theirs.”

    “Heat! Heat-mor! Mor, mor-heat!” Heatmor cried.

    “What? Did you…heh, is that so?” the voice replied.

    A figure slowly stepped out of the cave and into the light, revealing itself to be a man wearing a tattered set of clothes covered in leather straps. Each strap was packed with knives, bones, ropes, and other various odds and ends. The man scraped one of his knives—a particularly large one with a serrated edge—against the cave wall, apparently sharpening it.

    “Run that by me again,” the man chuckled, running a hand through his long, messy hair. “You’re saying you saw someone from our old friends at Team Plasma? Someone important, at that?”

    “Mor, heat-mor!” nodded Heatmor.

    “Heh-heh-heh…so, you’ve finally come out into the world…have you, ‘Lord’ N?” the man chuckled. “Heatmor, round up the others. I think it’s time we showed our dear former lord what happens in the real world.”

    *****
    Current fanfics:


    Proving Grounds

    How far will one boy go to prove something?

  14. #89
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    Oh, that can not be a good sign...

    So, Derak and Garth finally found Strike's aggressors, and the former takes a glimpse into Garth's world. Bet that felt uncomfortable... at least Aiden (or part of him) felt some remorse over his actions. Seemed to, anyways.

    I also loved Derak's new attitude. At least our friendly neighbourhood Rotom didn't attack them en route to Saffron, otherwise he'd be the walking avatar of paranoia. However, his lack of reaction to Haunter pulling him through a door out of the blue was a bit awkward to read through. And yay for someone finally giving Derak a bit more respect (thumbs up at Sabrina)

    Skull's as hilarious as ever, and it will be interesting to see how N can hold the peace between his "team".

    However, despite all the coolness that came in this chapter, there was one slight mishap...

    “Oh, what do you want?” Derak snapped. “Last I checked, something that deliberately bars a door just to yanks through it isn’t the most trustworthy thing around.”
    I dunno, but the bold part seems to roll off of the tongue a little weirdly. Maybe it's verb agreement or a missing word (or both), but I'd think that it might require a second glance. Maybe it was meant to be yank people/gym challengers through?

    And as a footnote, great big yay for Melissa getting put down...

    L@er!
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  15. #90
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    Quote Originally Posted by Morpher01 View Post
    Chapter 24: Trials





    It had been several days since Derak’s battle with Janine. He and Garth had since moved on to Saffron City, a settlement reputed as Kanto’s largest city, while N and Skull had gone in a different direction in search of Zekrom. Everywhere they looked, shining skyscrapers and dominating office buildings were always in view, with people filing in and out of them. At present, however, the two traveling trainers were not interested in the splendor of Saffron.
    I have to say right away that I like how you didn't waste time on the travel to Saffron. Getting us there immediately is a much better option.

    “So, what type was the Gym again?” Derak asked as he and Garth sat in the Pokemon Center lobby.

    “Psychic,” his cloaked companion replied. “Which means that your Zubat will be decimated in an instant. Bug-type attacks, however, are quite effective against Psychic-types.”

    “Like Strike’s X-Scissor,” Derak said.

    “Exactly,” Garth nodded. “We will need to do some training before you can battle the Gym, however. The Leader is reputed as one of Kanto’s strongest.”
    Yeah, I really don't think that Derak would stand much of a chance against Sabrina right now.

    “Might as well get started, then,” Derak shrugged, and with that, he and Garth made their way outside. “Hey, how do you think N’s doing since he went Zekrom-hunting?”

    “I doubt he has had much success yet,” Garth replied. “Nobunaga is no fool. He will be able to evade N until he deems it convenient to be found.”

    “Yeah, I guess—” Derak began.

    “GET DOWN!” Garth suddenly roared, pushing both Derak and himself onto the ground in time to avoid a large Sludge Bomb that was hurtling towards them. The attack exploded on the ground behind them, fortunately leaving the two unharmed.

    “Oh, it’s you dweebs again?”

    Derak looked up with a glare and saw Aiden Takeshi, alongside his mysterious blue-haired companion. Beside Aiden was a Pokemon reminiscent of a small purple rhinoceros with a spiky back and large ears. Clearly more interested in the new Pokemon than he was in Aiden, Derak immediately pointed his Pokedex at the rhinoceros.
    I'll be honest, I'm having a little trouble remembering who Aiden is. Please forgive me, it's just not clearly coming to me yet.

    “Nidorino,” the Dex identified, “the Poison Pin Pokemon. Type is Poison. Evolved form of male Nidoran. It has a violent disposition and stabs foes with its horn, which oozes poison upon contact.”

    “Uh, hello?” Aiden called. “Talking here!”

    “Uh, hello, don’t care,” Derak shot back. “C’mon, Garth.”

    He made to brush past Aiden, but the coordinator stepped in front of him.

    “Hold on a sec!” Aiden growled. “I’m not gonna just let you disrespect me and walk off scot-free! I’m gonna—”

    “Yeah, that’s great, are you done yet?” Derak sighed. “I have better things to do than put up with a creep like you.”

    “Oh, it’s ON now!” Aiden snarled. “Double battle, right here and now!”

    “Whatever,” Derak sighed. He and Aiden separated themselves, leaving Garth and Aiden’s blue-haired accomplice on the sidelines. Garth glared warily at the blue-haired teen, remembering how his cloak was burnt during their previous encounter.

    “Okay, got Nidorino out already, so…let’s give the new guy some exercise,” Aiden smirked, preparing a Safari Ball of his own. “Scizor, time to win!”
    Oh yeah, that's bad news. This is not going to end well for Derak.

    Aiden’s Nidorino was soon joined on the field by what appeared to be a humanoid insect, as one could attest by its bulbous abdomen. The insect struck a sleek and intimidating figure, with its thin limbs and spiky head adding to its streamlined appearance. Curiously, as it held its two large pincers up, a sparkle emanated from its green body once the flash of the Safari Ball dissipated.

    “What? How is that possible?!” Garth gasped. “A shiny Pokemon in the hands of a lowlife like yourself?!”

    “What, no congratulations on netting myself a rare Pokemon?” Aiden smirked. “Guess I should expect that from sore losers.”

    “Uh, Garth, you want to fill me in on what a—” Derak began, but before he could finish, the Safari Ball on his belt automatically burst open and released Strike. The Scyther began snarling dangerously at Aiden’s Scizor, which only gave an amused smirk in respone.

    “Oh, hey, that’s the lame Scyther I used as my Scizor’s practice dummy,” Aiden snorted. “You actually caught that lousy thing?”
    Now that sure came out of left field. I might still not remember who Aiden is exactly, but I sure know who he needs to be for the current plot now. I wasn't expecting to learn who injured Strike this soon, if at all.

    “Wait, what…? YOU’RE the one who broke Strike’s wings?” Derak paled. “What—WHAT KIND OF SICK FREAK ARE YOU?!”

    “Hey, that Scyther’s the one with the busted wings, not—” Aiden said, but Derak suddenly charged past his opponent’s Pokemon.

    And then he punched Aiden in the jaw.

    “YOU SICK SON OF A *****!” Derak roared. “YOU THINK IT’S FUNNY THAT THIS SCYTHER ALMOST DIED BECAUSE OF YOU AND YOUR SICK THRILLS?! HUH?! DOES THAT MAKE YOU LAUGH, YOU *******?!”
    Just for what he did to Strike alone, he had it coming. Derak could probably control his temper a little better, but still.

    “It…wha?” Aiden groaned, massaging his jaw. His blue-haired comrade simply looked on with mild amusement, and shockingly enough, so did Scizor and Nidorino.

    “Derak!” Garth cried, grabbing hold of the boy and restraining him. “Calm down! Calm down NOW!”
    I find it a little ironic that it's Garth of all people telling Derak to calm down.

    “WHY?!” Derak spat, struggling to get out of Garth’s grasp. “DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MUCH THIS CREEP NEEDS TO GET WHAT’S COMING TO HIM?!”

    “Congratulations,” Garth said. “You now know exactly how I feel about Nobunaga.”

    Derak stopped as the realization dawned upon him. He allowed his body to fall limp as his struggles slowly ceased. Aiden scrambled to his feet, to which his Scizor merely rolled its eyes.
    I feel like I should be getting hit hard by something here, but I'm not entirely sure what. Could you clarify it just a bit for me, please?

    “Zor,” the shiny Pokemon grunted to Strike. “Sciz, scizor. Zor scizor zor.”

    Strike’s eyes suddenly went wide, and without warning, it leapt at Scizor with a bloodcurdling cry of rage. The evolved Bug-type glanced upward, and with another disinterested roll of its eyes, it charged white energy into both of its pincers. Before Strike could bring down a cutting blow, Scizor leapt up and hit Strike twice: first a jab to the stomach, then an uppercut to the jaw. Strike was utterly decimated by the raw power of the attack, and fell to the ground in a crumpled heap.

    “STRIKE!” Derak cried, tearing himself out of Garth’s grasp and rushing to his Scyther’s side. “Oh, no, Strike!”

    “Uh…what just happened?” Aiden blinked. “You, er…can’t train your Pokemon well…uh, can you? That, uh…you know what, forget it, let’s just go.”
    I figured Derak would get wrecked pretty bad, but I didn't expect it to go like this. Now all I can do is hope Strike didn't get too messed up by Scizor.

    He brought out his Pokeball and Safari Ball and recalled his Nidorino and Scizor. With a shrug, Aiden’s blue-haired accomplice wandered off, with Aiden himself following. The arrogant trainer did glance back, however, casting what seemed to be a brief look of sorrow before leaving.
    So Aiden has a bit more depth than I thought... I'm sure that will lead to something.

    “Stupid creep,” Derak growled. “How many more jerks like that am I going to meet?”

    “Unfortunately, people like him are in endless supply,” Garth sighed. “How is Scyther?”

    “Scyyy…therrrrr,” Strike growled, struggling to get to its feet and pursue its nemesis.

    “Whoa, Strike, take it easy!” Derak cried, holding his Scyther down. “Look, I don’t think we’re strong enough to take on that Scizor yet. Tell you what, how about we take a break to get you healed, then we’ll go for the Gym and get some practice in. What do you say?”

    “Theerr,” Strike growled, glaring in the direction Aiden had gone, but nonetheless turned its gaze to Derak and nodded. “Scy-ther.”

    “Okay,” Derak sighed. “Let’s go. Once you’re healed, we’ll give the Gym a shot.”
    Unfortunately, I doubt the Gym is going to go much better for him right now.

    Elsewhere in Kanto, two pairs of feet—one wearing shoes, the other bare—traversed a forested pathway. With an irritated groan, Skull did his best to keep pace with N, despite the latter’s taller stature.
    Wouldn't Skull's feet be better classified as paws?

    “Why are we even bothering to go through here?” the Marowak complained. “It’s not like Nobunaga’s gonna jump out of the bushes or something.”

    “I know,” N replied. “But, as strong as you are, we cannot do this alone. We need to find some friends who would be willing to help us.”
    Now watch Nobunaga actually do that.

    “Yeah, because Zekrom’s one weakness is obviously the mighty Caterpie,” Skull snorted. “What are we going to do? Find an Aron with the Sturdy ability, teach it Endeavor, slap on a Shell Bell and call it invincible?”
    Well I see Skull picked up some metagame knowledge from his travels. That got me to laugh out loud.

    “I would never condone such a dirty tactic,” N said in disgust. “No, what we need is a friend with earnest strength and a stronger heart. Zekrom’s name alone would frighten away many a Pokemon, let alone a battle with it.”

    A rustling in a nearby bush caught N’s attention, prompting him to stop. Skull narrowed his eyes, readying his bone and preparing to step forth.

    “Wait,” N said. “It could be a friend.”

    “More likely someone wanting to get their face beaten in,” Skull growled.
    Could there be a more perfect contradiction between two characters that just work together so well? They're perfect together.

    What came out, however, was a pink-bodied Pokemon just barely larger than Skull, with yellow markings on its legs and stomach. Its beady black eyes were filled with fear, one that doubled in intensity upon seeing N and Skull. In a panic, the Pokemon opened its mouth and sent forth a massive red tongue, which wrapped around a tree branch and carried it across the path in an instant.

    “Wait, Lickitung! Please!” N pleaded, but the Pokemon was long gone. “That Lickitung…it was so afraid…but of what?”

    Skull’s eyes suddenly went wide, and the Marowak then leapt in front of N. He began spinning his bone just as a jet of fire erupted from between the trees. The spinning bone dispersed the flame, and once the jet subsided, Skull began growling angrily.

    “Take a wild guess,” he snarled.

    Another Pokemon waded out of the bushes, this one larger and more intimidating. Its anteater-like body was dominantly red with yellow streaks, its pointed head as brown as the tube-like protrusions running down its back. A large red pipe emerged from its rear, and upon catching sight of N and Skull, the Pokemon flexed its golden claws in anticipation.
    A Heatmor in Kanto, fighting a Lickitung no less? Interesting development.

    “Heaaat-morrr,” the Pokemon snarled, a flame-like tongue whipping out of its mouth.

    “But…why?” N blinked. “Heatmors live in mountains in Unova…why is this one—”

    “Probably some guy’s slave,” Skull said bitterly.

    As if to prove it, the Heatmor formed a sphere of energy between its claws. It then threw the Focus Blast directly at Skull, though the Marowak simply knocked it aside with one swipe of his bone.

    “Aw, that’s cute,” he scoffed. “This idiot wants a fight.”
    How very Skull of you, Skull.

    Had Heatmor’s mouth been bigger, it would have grinned upon hearing Skull speak. The anteater’s flaming tongue slid out of its mouth, and as it did so , the tongue began to glow green. Heatmor reared its head back before lurching forward, whipping its tongue towards Skull. To its shock, however, its attack found a completely different target.

    N’s arm.

    “I have no idea why you’re doing this, Heatmor,” N said slowly. “But whatever your reasons may be…I will not let you hurt my friends.”

    “Mor?” Heatmor blinked. It quickly retracted its tongue, attempting to reassess its options. Skull pounded his free hand with his bone, indicating his readiness to use it against the anteater. With a final glare at its foes, Heatmor dove back into the bushes.

    “Leave it,” N sighed, knowing that Skull would chase after the fleeing Fire-type. “We need to find that Lickitung.”

    “And let that Heatmor terrorize whatever it damn well pleases?” Skull snapped.

    “I believe Heatmor will not trouble anyone for a while,” N said. “We need to make sure Lickitung is okay. Let’s go find it.”
    Did N use his powers to hear Heatmor's voice without much action? I have to say, that's pretty neat.

    Back in Saffron City, Derak and trudged out of the Pokemon Center with Strike’s Safari Ball in hand. He looked down at it with a sigh.

    “Well, we found the creep who broke Strike’s wings,” Derak said. “And I really wish we hadn’t.”

    “It may create problems,” Garth agreed as he emerged from the Center, “but for the moment, we must focus on the task at hand.”

    “Yeah, okay,” Derak said, clipping Strike’s ball back onto his belt. “Any last-minute suggestions?”
    I still really think this is a bad idea. Derak should be rethinking doing this now.

    [quote]“Keep your mind as blank as possible,” Garth warned. “The Gym Leader is famous for having psychic powers rivaling those of her Pokemon. The ability to read minds could be within her capabilities.”

    “…uh, how do humans get psychic powers in the first place?” Derak blinked.

    “You would be surprised what certain humans are capable of,” Garth replied. “Now, go, and remember what I told you.”

    Derak simply shrugged and left. Garth, meanwhile, gazed down at his canteen.

    Then again, he thought, regardless of what certain humans are capable of…there are some capabilities we may be better off without.{/quote]

    I bet I know what that means. Linking?

    “Lickitung must have gone this way,” N said quietly as he weaved by the various tree branches and shrubs that entered his path. “Skull, how are you faring?”

    “Like crap,” the Marowak spat back, using his bone to hack away whatever plant life was unfortunate enough to be in front of him. “Why are we chasing something that has nothing but tongue in its body?”
    "Nothing but tongue in its body" is a hilarious image.

    “Like I said earlier, we need to make sure that it’s all right,” N replied. “It was attacked by Heatmor, just like we were.”

    “Yeah, yeah, and we need to see if it’ll tag along to fight Zekrom,” Skull groaned. “We’re not setting the bar very high, are we?”

    “That would only be if Lickitung agrees to join us,” N said. “Otherwise, we will leave it be.”

    Eventually, the two came upon a small clearing, where a familiar pink Pokemon was on its back, panting heavily. Lickitung’s tongue laid flat across the grass, clearly sore from its owner’s desperate attempts at using it to escape. The Pokemon itself casually turned its head, and upon spying N and Skull, it went into a panic once again. It scrambled to its feet, but it only took several steps for Lickitung’s tired body to fail it, causing the entire Pokemon to fall onto the grass once more.
    I wonder if N realizes that he just accidentally caused Lickitung to harm itself further, even if by a little bit.

    “Please, Lickitung, don’t be afraid,” N said, holding up his hands in a show of peace. “We aren’t with Heatmor. It attacked us, as well.”

    “Licki?” Lickitung blinked, confused at this stranger’s words.

    “Here, let us help you,” N said, kneeling down. “Is your tongue hurt? Can we help you heal it?”

    “Liiiick,” Lickitung moaned, glancing down at its tongue. After a moment of thought, it nodded.

    “Thank you, Lickitung…for giving me a chance,” N smiled. “Skull, could you guard Lickitung for a moment? I need to find some Oran or Sitrus berries.”
    I have to say, you're doing N's personality very well. He's surprisingly difficult to get right.

    “Geez, look at this thing,” Derak muttered, looking upon the rather outrageous Saffron Gym. The building was quite large, with an even bigger white roof split into many curving structures held up by pointed arches. “Do I even want to know what kind of statement you’re trying to make here?”

    Derak approached the door and grabbed the handle, but his initial pull could not budge the door. He pulled again, but the door remained steadfast. He even propped his foot against the door and pulled with all his might, but the result was the same.

    “Okay, what the heck’s going on here?” Derak sighed. “There’s no sign saying the Gym’s closed, so why won’t the door open?”

    As if to answer him, a freakish purple hand suddenly phased through the door and latched onto Derak’s head. The hand promptly yanked him forward, somehow causing him to pass through the door as if it were not even there. Derak fell onto the other side of the door, where he managed to find a second hand holding the door shut.
    Is...is that hand who I think it is?!

    “Okay…now I’m really confused,” Derak grumbled as he got up. The two hands drifted towards each other, and soon a monstrous purple head with a gaping fanged mouth materialized between them.

    “Haaaun-ha-ha-ha-haun-tah!” cackled the creature, apparently finding Derak’s confusion amusing.

    “Haunter,” Derak’s Pokedex reported, “the Gas Pokemon. Type is Ghost and Poison. Evolved form of Gastly. It likes to lurk in the dark and touch shoulders with a gaseous hand. Its touch causes endless shuddering.”
    OH YES! IT IS! You don't know how much this is making me smile right now.

    By the way, I think you should find some other words for Derak's Pokedex's speech besides "reported."

    “Okay, whatever,” Derak sighed, turning away from the Ghost-type and making his way deeper into the Gym. “Let’s see…where’s the Gym Leader going to be?”

    As if responding to his question, the Haunter appeared in front of him, waving its hands in front of Derak’s face.

    “Oh, what do you want?” Derak snapped. “Last I checked, something that deliberately bars a door just to yanks through it isn’t the most trustworthy thing around.”

    “Haun?” Haunter blinked. It then gave what seemed to be an apologetic bow. “Haaauun-ter.”

    “Okay, fine, I’ll forgive you,” Derak sighed. He looked around, finding himself in a hallway filled with numerous doors. “All right, quick question…you live here, right?”

    “Haunt!” nodded Haunter.

    “So, you know where the Gym Leader is?"
    I have my doubts that Haunter is going to be honest with him.

    “Haun, haunter!” Haunter nodded again. It pointed down the hall, to a final door at the very end.

    “Okay, thanks,” Derak said. “Hey, listen…I didn’t mean to sound all suspicious of you, okay? It’s just…I get enough crud from a psychotic Rotom that’s apparently been following me around, and I don’t need more than one Pokemon doing that.”

    “Haun-ter,” nodded the Gas Pokemon, one hand patting Derak on the shoulder. A rush of cold suddenly tore through the boy’s body, emanating from the spot that Haunter had touched.

    “O-okay, can you not do that?” Derak shuddered. “It’s…it’s really not comfortable.”

    “Haunt-er,” the Ghost-type bowed again.

    “Great, thanks,” Derak breathed, rubbing his arms in an attempt to force away the cold. He continued to do this as he moved on, eventually pushing his way through the door and finding a large battlefield. At the other end of the field was a green-haired woman seated on a golden throne, eyes closed in meditation. She wore a magenta top with white pants, and around her wrists were two large black-and-green bracelets.
    Or not. I'm actually surprised that Haunted didn't play a trick on him.

    “Derak Kadir…was it?” the woman said as she stood up. “Welcome to Saffron Gym.”

    “Uh…how did you know my name?” Derak blinked.

    “I am a psychic,” the woman answered. “My name is Sabrina. I foresaw your arrival…and I have also foreseen several different outcomes to our battle. Let us see which one is correct.”

    “Uh…oh…kay,” Derak said slowly. Haunter suddenly reappeared by his side, gaining a small smile from Sabrina. “So, is this Haunter yours?”

    “Not exactly,” Sabrina shook her head. “In truth, Haunter belongs to no one, but it remains with me at the request of a trainer I battled some time ago. It helps me maintain my…mental state, if you will.”

    “I…don’t think I want to know,” Derak blinked. “So…we going to get started?”
    No, Derak, you probably don't. Heaven help you if Sabrina's old personality becomes a relevant detail to your story.

    “Yes,” Sabrina nodded. “The standard rules apply…a three-on-three single battle in which only the challenger may make substitutions. I shall begin…with Alakazam.”

    Rather than physically throw a Pokeball, one simply levitated in front of her before bursting open. In a flash, Sabrina’s choice appeared, a yellow-and-brown fox-like Pokemon just under five feet tall with a silver spoon in each hand and a long handlebar mustache. Standing on its two clawed feet, the Pokemon stared intently at Derak, awaiting his first choice.
    You're finished, Derak. Go home now.

    “Alakazam,” the Pokedex reported, “the Psi Pokemon. Type is Psychic. Evolved form of Kadabra. The spoons clutched in its hands are said to have been created by its psychic powers. Its brain cells continually multiply until it dies, and as a result, it remembers everything since the day of its birth.”

    “Guess I should have figured a Psychic-type would be all about brains,” Derak shrugged. “Okay, don’t have a lot of options, so…Wildfire, let’s go!”

    Although it lacked true eyebrows, Sabrina’s Alakazam would most likely have raised one upon seeing Derak’s Chimchar. It also, however, knew better than to underestimate an opponent, and thus the Psychic-type narrowed its eyes and gripped its spoons tightly.

    “Then…let us begin,” Sabrina said, moving one hand forward and closing her eyes.

    Despite lacking an order to do so, Alakazam formed a Shadow Ball between its spoons. With a flick, the Psi Pokemon fired the Shadow Ball and watched with satisfaction as it slammed into Wildfire’s body. The force of the attack sent a shocked Wildfire sliding to the edge of the arena, though it managed to push itself to its feet.

    “Hey, wha—”

    “Alakazam may seem to be acting of its own accord,” Sabrina interrupted calmly, “but I had given it an order through telepathy rather than vocally. Did you really think your sixth Gym battle was going to be as easy as the ones before it?”
    I find writing battles without commands being given by one side to be very difficult, so high marks here as well.

    Derak gritted his teeth as Sabrina’s words hit home.

    “Great…okay, Wildfire, this isn’t going to be easy, but we need to try,” Derak said, receiving a nod from his Chimchar. “Okay, let’s break out the best that we’ve got. Use Flame Wheel!”

    Wildfire leapt forth in a flaming somersault that barreled towards Alakazam, only to be stopped in mid-air as a blue aura surrounded the Fire-type’s body. Alakazam flicked one of its spoons upward, and Wildfire suddenly rocketed up into the ceiling. The Chimchar remained up there for a moment, suspended by Alakazam’s Psychic, until the Psi Pokemon saw fit to lower the fire monkey halfway to the ground before unceremoniously dropping it onto the floor.
    And this is exactly why I knew Derak would have trouble here. I just don't think he has what it takes to stop something like Alakazam from doing this.

    “Wildfire! Hey, you okay?” Derak called. His Chimchar struggled to rise, the beating it took from Alakazam’s attacks taking its toll. “Okay, this is definitely going to be a lot tougher than we thought…uh…crap, what do we do…?”

    Wildfire clenched its jaw and slammed one fist into the ground. Its trainer had few usable Pokemon, so he had to be depending heavily on every single one that he could use. He was putting so much faith into a Chimchar…even if it was a scared, miserable one like Wildfire. The name was still there, and Derak still used it. It was not just a drone to him…it was a living being.

    And now was the time that it earned its place.

    Wildfire stood up, fists clenched as its flaming tail burned violently. Its eyes narrowed, and with a growl, it took one step forward.

    “Such bravery,” Sabrina gasped. “But I fear we can’t make this too easy. Alakazam!”

    The Psi Pokemon charged up another Shadow Ball, but Wildfire’s fist tightened as it prepared a Thunderpunch. It awaited the coming of the Shadow Ball, and once the dark sphere was close, the Chimchar thrust its electrified fist directly into the center of the sphere. That one punch was enough to decimate the Shadow Ball, sending shadowy sparks scattering everywhere.

    “Haaaauun!” grinned Haunter, clapping its hands. “Haun, haunter!”

    “Whoa…heh, go, Wildfire!” Derak smiled.

    “Char,” Wildfire smirked, looking back at its trainer. It felt a surge of energy rushing through it, and that was how it knew the time to strike was now.

    But everything changed when Wildfire saw that it was glowing.

    “Char?!” the monkey shrieked, stumbling back onto its rear. It slapped at its arms desperately, attempting to swat away the glow of evolution.

    “Oh, crap,” Derak gasped. He quickly formed his hands into a ‘T’-shape. “Time out! Hold on, time out, I need to stop this!”

    “Er…why?” Sabrina blinked, her Alakazam sharing her confusion. “Evolution means—”

    “I know what evolution means!” Derak spat back, rushing to his Chimchar’s aid. “Wildfire, hey, calm down! I’m here, okay? I’m not gonna let you turn into an Infernape, I swear!”

    He held the monkey close to him, believing that his body would help suppress the evolution. Wildfire wrapped its arms around itself, evidently thinking on the same wavelength.

    “Just try and hold it in!” Derak cried. “I know you can do this, pal! You’re fine just the way you are, and if you don’t want to change, then I won’t let it happen! That’s just what friends do, right? Look out for each other?”

    Wildfire clutched its arms even more tightly together, wishing that it would not evolve. It didn’t care how much stronger it would become because of evolution. As long as the memory of Nick Spire’s animalistic Infernape was present in its mind—along with the knowledge that it could turn out the exact same way—Wildfire knew that evolution was too much of a risk. It continued to wish fervently for the evolution to pass away.

    And then it did. The glow subsided, and Wildfire looked down at its hands. They were still yellow, and its arms were still orange. It felt its face, feeling no significant changes. And then it heaved a sigh of relief.
    Glad you remembered that detail; it presents a humanizing element to Wildfire.

    Also, in a more shortsighted way, there's another benefit - Monferno's Fighting-type would have given him more problems in this Gym.

    “Oh, man…thank goodness,” Derak sighed. “Seriously, don’t scare me like that, okay? Just try not to do that again.”

    “Char,” Wildfire nodded with a small smile.

    “If you don’t mind my asking,” Sabrina ventured, “why are you and your Chimchar so afraid of evolution?”

    “Long story short, Infernapes are bad news,” Derak said as he got up. “Listen, we’re going to need to put the Gym battle on hold. You know, until Wildfire and I work out our…issues.”
    I didn't think the challenge would last for long, so this is fairly expected.

    “Very well,” Sabrina nodded. “I can sense that you genuinely care about what your Pokemon wants…but I must warn you that what is best for your Pokemon may not always be what they want.”

    Derak nodded, although he barely heard her over the ideas he mulled over in his head. As he turned to leave, he made a mental checklist of subjects to ask Garth or Nurse Joy about, all of which pertained to preventing Wildfire’s evolution.

    “Come on, little guy,” Derak said. “There has to be a way to get you stronger without making you evolve.”

    As they approached the door, however, their means of exit swung open. Another figure entered from the other side, this one narrowing her eyes at the sight of Derak.

    “Oh, great,” groaned Melissa Armare. “You again.”

    “Likewise,” Derak growled. “Makes me so glad I’m leaving.”

    “Why, did you already lose?” Melissa sneered.

    “The battle’s on hold,” Derak shot back.

    “Why would you be so cowardly as to put a battle on hold?”

    “None of your business,” Derak growled. “Now shut your oversized mouth and leave us alone.”

    Even as he left, however, Melissa continued taunting him.

    “Hey, I got an idea!” Melissa smirked. “How about you stop treating your Pokemon like your babies and start actually TRAINING them? Then you might actually win something for once!”

    Derak neglected to respond, instead pushing his way out of the Gym. Melissa huffed as she put her hands on her hips.

    “And he calls me a moron,” she muttered. Haunter suddenly appeared by her side, using its hands to stretch out its face in an attempt to amuse her. “BEAT IT, FREAK SHOW!”
    Oh, she's gonna do great with Sabrina, yelling at Haunter like that.

    “Haun?” Haunter blinked. With a disappointed frown, the Ghost-type faded out of sight once more as Sabrina recalled her Alakazam.

    “If you’re done harassing my Haunter,” Sabrina said calmly, though the imposing tone in her voice made even Melissa cringe, “shall we begin?”

    “Oh, uh…of course, Ms. Sabrina!” Melissa stammered. “Standard rules, right?”

    “Yes,” Sabrina said flatly.

    “All right, then. Krabby, report for duty!”

    *****

    As Melissa’s battle with Sabrina went underway, Skull remained next to the fallen Lickitung. The pink Pokemon was still flat on the ground, though it had taken to massaging its colossal tongue every now and then. Skull leaned on his bone, glancing about.

    “The hell’s keeping N?” Skull complained. “Random berries can’t be that hard to find in a frigging forest.”

    “You would be surprised,” came the voice of N as he stepped back into the clearing, a bunch of spherical blue berries in his arms. “I’m very sorry for being so late, but it was hard to find Oran berries that no other Pokemon were going to be eating…”
    That's very in-character of him to keep that concern in mind.

    “Whatever,” Skull groaned. “Just give tongue-tastic here the berries so we can be on our way.”

    “Of course,” N said, kneeling down in front of Lickitung. “Here, eat some of these. I promise, they’ll make you feel better.”

    Lickitung complied, and as N fed the berries to it, the wounds on the Pokemon’s tongue began to vanish. Soon, the injuries were completely gone, and Lickitung withdrew its massive tongue into its body once more.

    “Lickih!” cried the Pokemon happily. “Licki-tung!”

    “You’re welcome,” N smiled. “Oh…this might sound insensitive, but…we need your help, Lickitung. A friend of mine has been taken from me, and…I need help getting him back. If it’s all right with you…could you help us?”

    “And, if you can’t, point us to who can,” Skull added. “Wandering around aimlessly isn’t gonna get us anywhere.”

    “Licki!” Lickitung nodded. It placed its hand in N’s, giving it a shake of agreement. “Licki, licki-tung!”

    “You’ll…do it? Even if my friend's name is Zekrom?” N asked, receiving a surprisingly quick nod from Lickitung. “Thank you…my friend. Now, before we can go…I’m sorry, but I need to put you in a Pokeball. I know that some Pokemon hate it, like Skull here, but it’s easier to travel with a group of Pokemon that way. Besides…if you’re already in a ball, no selfish trainers could use you without your permission. Okay?”
    I don't fully understand the "Even if my friend's name is Zekrom" line.

    Lickitung nodded again, and N reluctantly tapped it with a Pokeball. The pink Pokemon was absorbed inside, causing the ball to shake three times and then ring.

    “Every time I do that…I feel like a portion of me dies inside,” N sighed.
    I'm glad you pointed out that with N. I was almost beginning to wonder about why he was doing it so willingly.

    “Hey, at least you have a conscience about enslaving Pokemon,” Skull shrugged. “I’ve known, what, two or three humans who have that? Out of the millions of them on this planet, you’re one of the few that actually has a sense of decency.”

    “Skull…thank you,” N smiled. “Coming from you, that means a lot…come on…let’s go try and find some more helpers.”

    *****

    Miles away, however, a familiar anteater trudged back to a large cave. The entrance, carved into the side of a mountain, almost beckoned it to enter. But it stood its ground, knowing what would happen if it entered without permission.

    “HEAT-MOR!” the anteater called into the cave. A growl could be heard from within, as well as a shuffle of slow movement.

    “What?” a ragged voice growled. “What is it, Heatmor? Why do you have no food?”

    “Mor, heat…heat-mor, heat, heat-mor-heat-mor-mor,” Heatmor stammered.

    “A talking Marowak and its trainer? That’s your reason for failure?” the voice replied, a slow scraping sound coming closer and closer to the cave entrance. “Never mind. Marowak hides are too tough to be edible, same goes for all those indestructible bones of theirs.”

    “Heat! Heat-mor! Mor, mor-heat!” Heatmor cried.

    “What? Did you…heh, is that so?” the voice replied.

    A figure slowly stepped out of the cave and into the light, revealing itself to be a man wearing a tattered set of clothes covered in leather straps. Each strap was packed with knives, bones, ropes, and other various odds and ends. The man scraped one of his knives—a particularly large one with a serrated edge—against the cave wall, apparently sharpening it.

    “Run that by me again,” the man chuckled, running a hand through his long, messy hair. “You’re saying you saw someone from our old friends at Team Plasma? Someone important, at that?”

    “Mor, heat-mor!” nodded Heatmor.

    “Heh-heh-heh…so, you’ve finally come out into the world…have you, ‘Lord’ N?” the man chuckled. “Heatmor, round up the others. I think it’s time we showed our dear former lord what happens in the real world.”

    *****
    I-Is that who I think it is? If that's him, then the one thing I knew could make this whole situation worse just happened.

    This was a good chapter. You handled the multiple running plotlines well, with none of them stepping on the others. The outcome of Derak's Gym challenge was predictable to a degree, but as far as why he didn't win the Badge, that much was a surprise. N and Skull's story here was a little less important, but it was still nice to see them for a time and get to see Lickitung. And that ending... if that ending is telling me what I think it is, it gives me chills.
    Last edited by The Great Butler; 3rd April 2013 at 10:26 AM.

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  16. #91
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    Well. It has been quite a long time.

    After a long period of losing interest in Pokemon fan-fiction, personal problems, and working through college classes, I have returned to Serebii to breathe life back into this old carcass of a story. My reason? Simply put, I felt like it. I wanted to finish this thing, and writing it has been making me feel good, so I figured "why not". My writing will probably have changed somewhat, maybe even have gotten rusty. It might take me a while to get back into the swing of things, but I imagine I'll get my old momentum back soon enough.

    Now, with the prelude out of the way, I give you the next chapter in this journey.



    Chapter 25: Saffron City Pokemon Contest



    Night had fallen on Saffron City as Derak and Wildfire sat in the Pokemon Center. The Chimchar sat in Derak’s lap, looking down at itself as if still expecting a spontaneous evolution. Nurse Joy soon appeared from behind the counter, prompting Derak to take Wildfire into his arms and approach her.

    “Here you go, sir,” Nurse Joy said cheerfully as she handed Derak a small grey rock. “That Everstone will keep your Chimchar from evolving as long as it holds it.”

    “Thanks,” Derak said, handing Wildfire the Everstone. The monkey gently held it between its hands, wondering how such a small rock could prevent it from evolving. “Don’t lose it, okay? Seeing you go through that once was enough of a scare.”

    “Char,” Wildfire nodded, clutching the stone in one hand.

    “Nice to know you’re finally loosening up a little,” Derak smiled, rubbing his Chimchar’s head. “Okay…Garth’s already in bed, so we might as well get going, too.”

    “I’m sorry it took so long to get you that Everstone,” Nurse Joy said with an apologetic bow, “but, you see, so few trainers actually want them and—”

    “Just forget about it,” Derak sighed.

    “Oh…okay,” Nurse Joy said slowly. “Well, your room’s down the hall. Have a good night!”

    Derak only gave her a brief nod as the nurse went to her own room. He returned Wildfire to its Pokeball and clipped it back onto his belt with a sigh.

    Before we go back into that Gym, we need to figure out how to deal with Sabrina’s Alakazam. Derak thought. That thing was beating the living tar out of Wildfire with no effort at all. But what can we do? I don’t see how training helps, especially since ‘obedience’ isn’t my strong point and shouldn’t be my Pokemon’s either.

    Then Melissa’s taunting words from earlier that day, the words he heard as he left the Saffron Gym, rang through his mind: “How about you stop treating your Pokemon like your babies and start actually TRAINING them? Then you might actually win something for once!”

    “And I’m DEFINITELY not doing anything SHE recommends,” Derak growled as if in reply. “Ugh…what to do?”

    He leaned back in his chair, allowing his eyes to drift across the Pokemon Center. They eventually rested on a poster placed on the side wall, with the words “POKEMON CONTEST” printed on it.

    Pokemon Contest tomorrow, huh? Standard rules apply, held in the Saffron Contest Dome, no prior registration necessary, Derak read. Hmm…maybe I will train my guys. But it won’t be in the way Armare thinks.

    *****

    “You have GOT to be joking,” Garth growled the next morning. “You are entering a Pokemon Contest?”

    “Why not?” Derak shrugged. “Need some training somehow, and there’s no way I’m doing drills with my team or something jerkish like that.”

    “Still, a Contest?” Garth repeated. “I fail to see how dancing and showing off makes anyone stronger, least of all you.”

    “We shall all pursue our goals through our own means,” a familiar voice interjected, and soon an equally-familiar harp-carrying bard approached the two. “Derak, I hear you are entering a Pokemon Contest?”

    “I’d have to wonder how you haven’t, considering that Garth was just blasting it across the whole lobby,” Derak shrugged. “But, yeah, I’m entering. Why?”

    “I wanted to wish you the best of luck if it were the case,” Nando smiled. “After our battle in the P1 Grand Prix, I would be honored to face you on the Contest stage as well.”

    “Yeah…can’t wait,” Derak said, albeit with more dread than enthusiasm. Nando, however, simply chuckled.

    “You really should not sell yourself so short,” Nando said. “If you are nervous, then Teresa and I can help you prepare.”

    “Wait, what? Really?” Derak blinked.

    “But of course,” Nando smiled. “It was my pleasure to help you prepare for the Celadon Gym, and it will also be my pleasure to aid you in your Contest preparations.”

    “Well…okay, then,” Derak shrugged as he got up.

    “Oh, this should be good,” Garth snorted as Nando and Derak left. On the way out, however, they found Timmy Grimm at the door.

    “Oh, hey, Derak,” Timmy said. “What’s up?”

    “Not much,” Derak shrugged. “Decided to try out this Contest thing.”

    “Really? Cool!” Timmy smiled. “Good luck!”

    Derak simply shrugged and left, Nando following with a polite nod to Timmy. The former Phantom Coordinator, however, stopped to put a hand to his chin. He soon released his Dusknoir, which floated beside him.

    “Dussk?” the Ghost-type grunted inquisitively.

    “Hey, you know how I always use you in the battle round?” Timmy asked. “Derak’s entering this Contest, and putting you in a battle with him would just be overkill. So we’ll need to come up with something else, okay?”

    “Dusk,” nodded Dusknoir.

    “Great!” Timmy said. “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do…”

    *****

    “Hello, all you Contest fans!” cried Lillian, her curly orange hair bouncing in time with her enthusiastic movements. “Welcome to the Saffron City Pokemon Contest, where you’ll witness appeals so beautiful that you’ll be left in awe! So, without further ado, let’s get this party started!”

    As Lillian introduced the judges, Derak sat backstage with his Chimchar in a chair, fiddling with his Pokedex. Other coordinators talked amongst each other, paced about, or quickly recited the directions for their respective appeals. Wildfire glanced about at them, nervously hoping that it would not be the first to perform.

    “Uh…excuse me, Derak,” murmured Teresa. “Is…is it all right if I…sit here?”

    “Do whatever you want,” Derak shrugged, not taking his eyes off of the Pokedex.

    “Th-thank you,” Teresa stuttered, carefully sitting next to him. “So…how are you doing?”

    “Well, you and Nando made me feel a little better, so thanks,” Derak said, stuffing his Pokedex back into his pocket. “Just hope I don’t run into—”

    “Well, look who it is!” laughed Aiden Takeshi as he strutted his way past. “Guess I know who we WON’T be seeing in the winner’s circle!”

    “…him,” Derak sighed bitterly.

    “Erm…if-if you don’t mind my ask—” Teresa began.

    “Remember Strike and his broken wings?” Derak asked. “That guy’s Scizor did the breaking.”

    “That’s…that’s horrible!” Teresa gasped. “How could he—”

    “Because he thinks he’s too special to treat anyone else—human or Pokemon—with any decency,” Derak spat hatefully. “People like him make me sick.”

    Teresa, however, kept quiet. This business was too sensitive for her to say any more.

    “Up first is a Contest favorite!” cried Lillian over the plasma television mounted backstage. “Heeere’s Nando!”

    Calm as ever, Nando stepped out onto the stage, giving the audience a brief bow before presenting his Pokeball.

    “Now…Leavanny, let us begin our performance!” Nando cried as he threw his Pokeball of choice.

    From Nando’s Pokeball emerged a yellow-bodied insect that stood on two needle-like legs. It appeared to be wearing an outfit made entirely of leaves, complete with a leafy coattail and two leafy arms.

    “Leavanny,” Derak’s Pokedex reported, “the Nurturing Pokemon. Type is Bug and Grass. Evolved form of Swadloon. It weaves clothing from leaves for small Pokemon by using a sticky secretion from its mouth. It keeps its eggs warm by using heat from fermenting leaves.”

    “Now, Leavanny, begin with Razor Leaf, please,” Nando said as he calmly strummed his harp.

    The Nurturing Pokemon complied with a mighty wave of its arms, scattering a flurry of leaves into the air.

    “Follow up with Sticky Web, if you please.”

    Leavanny spat a plethora of silk strings from its mouth, each of which attached to one of the airborne leaves. The leaf-garbed insect then pulled on the strings, bringing the leaves down to its level. Once all of the leaves were within reach, Leavanny began to quickly but carefully weave something using the silk and leaves.

    “What’s it making?” Derak muttered. Wildfire simply stared, transfixed by Leavanny’s dexterity.

    He soon found out, however, once Leavanny finished. The completed product was a replica of Nando’s harp, complete with silk strings and a small, leafy version of the cat-like Pokemon that was carved into it.

    “Now, let us finish with Grass Whistle, please,” Nando smiled before beginning to play a song on his harp.

    Leavanny followed its trainer’s lead, accompanying Nando’s number with a similar but complimentary piece. The melody was almost unbelievably calming, to the point of making Derak forget his troubles for a moment. He just wanted to relax for a while, just to bask in the melody…

    Eventually, however, the song came to an end.

    “That was a beautiful appeal for both the eyes and the ears!” Lillian cried.

    “I agree,” Mr. Contesta nodded, wearing the same crimson suit that he always did. “Nando’s appeals may all have a similar theme, but he always finds a way to keep them unique. I approve!”

    “Yes!” agreed Mr. Sukizo. “It was remarkable!”

    “Leavanny’s skill with the string and leaves was wonderful to watch,” Nurse Joy added.

    “Yeah,” Derak said, though his voice was somewhat distant. “That was…that was pretty good.”

    “Um…are you…okay?” Teresa asked.

    “Hmm? Oh, don’t worry about it,” Derak replied. He stared at the screen as Nando bowed and took his leave. How am I supposed to compete with that guy? Every time I see him, he blows everyone else out of the water!

    “Next up,” Lillian declared, “is Elliot Trey of Gateon Port!”

    Derak nearly fell out of his seat at the mention of his most hated rival, and even Wildfire was startled out of its trance. Sure enough, Elliot’s smirking face could be seen on stage, smugly waving to the audience.

    Elliot’s entering?! Derak thought. He wasn’t here backstage, so where was he while all the other appeals were going on?

    “Piplup, come out!” Elliot cried as he threw a familiar blue Pokeball into the air.

    Elliot’s starter Pokemon appeared on stage, its wings planted on its hips in its haughtiest possible pose. Derak narrowed his eyes, waiting for their first move.

    “Now, Piplup, begin with Stealth Rock!” Elliot cried.

    Piplup formed several diamonds next to its body before expelling them to the four corners of the stage. A colossal stone rose from each corner, towering over the small penguin.

    “Shall we proceed?” Elliot grinned. “Use Bubble Beam!”

    Piplup fired its signature stream of spheres at one of the rocks. Rather than destroy the stone, however, the Bubble Beam deflected off and traveled over to the next stone. This pattern repeated until the Bubble Beam reached the last stone, the beam ricocheting towards Piplup itself.

    “Now!” Elliot cried. “Use Fury Attack!”

    With its beak alone, Piplup knocked every sphere from the Bubble Beam into the air above it, only stopping when the spheres were balanced on top of one another in a column mounted on Piplup’s beak.

    “For the grand finale…Drill Peck!”

    Piplup’s body began to spin rapidly, and the Water-type shot through each of the bubbles like a rocket. The destruction of each bubble heralded a glistening shower that coated Piplup’s body even as the Penguin Pokemon landed back on the stage.

    “Outstanding!” Mr. Contesta exclaimed. “Elliot and Piplup are in perfect sync, and he knows just how to show off his Pokemon’s power and skill.”

    “It was remarkable!” Mr. Sukizo agreed.

    “Piplup is both adorable and powerful,” Nurse Joy commented, “a combination perfect for Contests!”

    “He did perform quite well,” Nando remarked as he came back into the backstage room. “I imagine that he will be a ferocious contender in the battle round, as well.”

    Derak said nothing, but frowned. This was going to be harder than he thought.

    ****

    “So, let me get this straight,” Skull grunted as he and N traversed another forest path. “We’re going to keep wandering around like this until we miraculously find more cases like Lickitung?”

    “That is more or less the case,” N replied. Skull opened his mouth to continue, but N cut him off. “I understand your concerns, and I agree that this sort of plan is not likely to succeed. But, it is our best option. We cannot simply force Pokemon to help us.”

    “Putting all our hopes in perfect convenience isn’t exactly the best option, either,” Skull countered. “I still say that we can take on Nobunaga the way we—”

    He suddenly stopped.

    “What is it?” N asked, stopping as well.

    Skull didn’t answer, but instead spun around while swinging his bone towards the air behind him. A series of rocks burst from the ground surrounding the two, soaring into the air and striking down a large grey-and-black bird Pokemon.

    “Why did you--?!” N began, but the sight of a familiar red Pokemon cut him off.

    The Heatmor that N and Skull had fought earlier had returned, trudging up beside the fallen bird Pokemon. By Heatmor’s side was what appeared to be a pink bear with a spiky two-eyed hermit crab shell clamped onto its tail.

    “Slooowwww,” droned the bear as it pointed its clawed arms towards the bird, releasing a small wave of pink energy that washed over the bird’s body. Once the energy faded, the bird rose to its feet, displaying the blade-like comb of hair above its boomerang-shaped forehead.

    “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? Derak thought.

    “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, she thought.

    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.

    “Extrasensory!”

    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.

    His own.

    “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.

    “Detect.”

    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.

    “Bullet Seed.”

    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.”

    Crap, 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.
    Last edited by Morpher01; 17th January 2015 at 9:48 PM.
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    Proving Grounds

    How far will one boy go to prove something?

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    We now move on to the next chapter.




    Chapter 26: Looking for the Past



    The newly-evolved Echo spread its wings wide, showing off its larger body for all to see. In the moments immediately following the Saffron City Pokemon Contest, however, its primary audience was Garth, who slouched in one of the Pokemon Center’s chairs and gave the bat little more than a glance.

    “Well?” Derak said as he leaned on the table beside his Pokemon.

    “Hmph. So, your Contest did provide some level of benefit,” Garth grunted. “In spite of that, a Golbat is a rather poor Pokemon to use against a Psychic-type Gym.”

    “Oh, yeah, that reminds me,” Derak said as he pulled out his Pokedex and pointed it at Echo.

    “Golbat,” Derak’s Pokedex reported, “the Bat Pokemon. Type is Poison and Flying. Evolved form of Zubat. Golbat bites down on prey with four large fangs and drinks the victim’s blood until it is full. It becomes active on moonless nights, flying around to attack people and Pokemon.”

    “Uh…something tells me I’ll need to keep an eye on you from now on,” Derak said slowly.

    Echo only put its wings together in a prayer-like manner, smiling as innocently as possible.

    “Uh…hey, are you Derak?”

    The trainer in question casually glanced to the side, finding the red-headed boy named Ozcar standing there. The boy alternated between looking at Derak and Echo, eyes full of pure wonder.

    “Yeah,” Derak sighed. “What about it?”

    “Oh, cool!” Ozcar cried with the widest possible smile. “I saw you in the Contest, and you were really awesome!”

    “Yeah, sure,” Derak said quickly. “Look, I’m really not the autograph-giving type, so—”

    “That’s okay!” Ozcar said, smile never fading. “I just wanted to give you this.”

    He held out two small pieces of paper. Derak took them, finding one to be a ticket labeled “THE LEGEND OF ZELDA—ADMIT ONE”. Underneath the label were the words “7:00 PM CONTEST HALL”. On the other paper was a number and the words “BACKSTAGE PASS”.

    “My mom wanted me to give you that,” Ozcar explained as Derak showed Echo the ticket. “She’s a Pokemon Musical star, and she really wants to meet you!”

    “…why?” Derak asked bluntly.

    “Uh…I dunno,” Ozcar shrugged. “She just said it was important.”

    “Okay…uh, give me a sec, just wait here,” Derak said before pulling Garth aside. Once they were sufficiently away from Ozcar, whom Echo began to entertain by flapping its wings and making faces, Derak hissed to his cloaked companion. “What’s a Pokemon Musical?”

    “A Contest without battles,” Garth explained. “In other words, an event even more worthless than a regular Contest.”

    “Figures,” Derak grunted. He went back over to Ozcar and knelt down to face him. “Okay, so…Ozcar, right? Did your mom tell you why asking me to go to her musical was so important?”

    “She just said she wanted to meet you,” Ozcar shrugged. “She looked really surprised when she saw you in the Contest, like she saw a spooky Ghost Pokemon or something.”

    Garth seemed to consider something for a moment before approaching Ozcar himself. Unlike Deark, however, he did not kneel.

    “What is your mother’s name, boy?” Garth asked.

    “How is knowing that supposed to--?” Derak began, but Ozcar interrupted him.

    “Her name’s Liana. Why?”

    Both trainers froze. Derak looked up at Garth, the latter giving him a solemn nod before allowing the former to look back at Ozcar.

    “Tell your mom that I’ll go,” Derak said. His voice was blank and his voice was somewhat listless, but the enthusiastic Ozcar was oblivious to such minor details.

    “Really? Awesome!” Ozcar cried. “I’ll go and tell her right now! See you there!”

    Ozcar took off, leaving Derak to stare into space for a moment. He eventually sat down at the table and dropped his head into his hands.

    “I would think that you would have a more positive reaction to finally meeting your mother,” Garth said as he sat across from the boy.

    “Garth…do you realize that we were just talking to a little brother I never knew I had?” Derak said flatly.

    “And this changes things for you?” Garth snorted.

    “It’s just…she might have found someone better than my dad,” Derak sighed. “Yeah, it’s a low bar to reach, but…I just wanted to bring my family back together, make it the way it should have been. Having a little brother…I…”

    “Make do with what is given to you,” Garth growled and stood up. “You at least HAVE a family. Stop wishing for the ideal and take what is real.”

    Derak sighed and slumped in his chair for a moment. Echo looked at him curiously, waiting for him to make a decision. Finally, the boy spoke.

    “I’ll give it a shot,” he said.

    “Good,” Garth nodded. “You have a few hours to wait, so you may as well take some time to learn about your Golbat’s new capabilities.”

    “Yeah,” Derak said as he stood up. “C’mon, Echo.”

    Echo put one of its wings to its head in an imitation of a salute before following.

    ****

    Evening came, and the Contest Hall was once again bustling with excitement. This time, Derak sat in the audience and looked down at the stage. The lights were dimmer than they were during the Contest, but Derak could still make out a castle tower-like cardboard cutout on the stage.

    “This is gonna be good!” a man next to him said, grinning with a hint of lecherousness.

    Derak said nothing. He would have preferred to be seated with his Pokemon, but because there was only one ticket and—for reasons he could not fathom—Pokemon were not allowed their own seats, he was nestled beside people he found irritating. Finally, the lights darkened, and a voice echoed through the hall.

    “And now, we present to you our Pokemon Musical production of…the Legend of Zelda!”

    A spotlight illuminated a portion of the stage, accompanied by flute music. Soon, as the tune picked up, more spotlights appeared and revealed a group of Pokemon on the stage. In the tower was a rather feminine humanoid with green hair and arms, crimson eyes, and a flowing white dress. Two smaller versions of this Pokemon, one with a white tutu and one whose green hair resembled a helmet with pink horns, loitered about on the stage below. Derak was able to make out movement in the background as lyrics began to flow through the hall.

    Link! He come to town,
    Come to save the princess Zelda!
    Ganon took her away,
    Now the children don’t play.
    But they will, when Link saves the day!
    Hallelujah!


    As the smaller Pokemon moped at the loss of their princess, a tall white humanoid Pokemon with green arms and a curving blade on its green helmet rushed onto the stage, fists clenched and sharp blades extending from its elbows. This Gallade, evidently playing the character of Link, looked first to his Gardevoir counterpart in the tower and then to the smaller Pokemon. Before Link could save the princess, however, a burst of fire erupted from a spot near the tower, heralding the arrival of a burly pig-like Pokemon with an orange-and-black body and a flaming beard. Once on stage, the newcomer—whom Derak suspected to be portraying the villainous Ganon—snarled at Link the Gallade, determined to thwart its efforts.

    Now, Link, fill up your hearts,
    So you can shoot your sword with power!
    And when you’re feeling all down,
    The fairy will come around,
    So you’ll be brave, and not a sissy coward!


    Link charged pink energy into its blades before swinging one arm, releasing a wave of energy towards its Emboar foe. Unfortunately, the fiery pig simply crossed its arms and blocked the Psycho Cut, though it winced in pain as it did so. Once the Gallade’s attack was finished, Ganon dipped its fist into its flaming beard, setting its fist alight as it charged towards Link and slammed the heroic character to the ground with a mighty Fire Punch. As Link weakly struggled to get up, another Pokemon—a small egg-shaped creature with small limbs and wings with red and blue markings on its body—floated down from above and sprinkled some sort of dust onto the fallen hero’s body. With the blessing of this Togetic, Link triumphantly rose to its feet and challenged Ganon again.

    A short musical interlude followed, during which Link and Ganon traded blows. The Gallade dodged another Fire Punch and countered with a quick series of jabs, each punch keeping in time with the music. Eventually, as the song picked up once more, Link performed what seemed to be a Leaf Blade as it knocked Ganon down, finally defeating the villain.

    Now, Link has saved the day!
    Put Ganon in his grave,
    So now Zelda is free,
    And now our hero shall be…


    Link’s eyes glowed blue as it looked up to Zelda the Gardevoir, a similar aura surrounding the princess as it was levitated down with a Psychic. The smaller Pokemon jumped for joy as they crowded around the hero, who gently caught Zelda in its arms. With that, the Pokemon looked to the audience with a smile.

    Link! I think your name shall go down into history!

    The lights in the Contest Hall went out briefly before coming back on. When they did, all of the Pokemon—including the Emboar that played Ganon—stood alongside one another in a line on the stage. The audience burst into applause as the Pokemon bowed, and once they finished, they all stepped to the side in order to allow a group of trainers through. Several people stood by the Gallade, the Gardevoir, and the smaller Pokemon who made up the heroic or neutral characters in the show, all bowing or curtseying. The Emboar, however, was accompanied by Ozcar’s mother, who bowed alongside her Pokemon.

    Is that…? Derak thought as he saw Emboar’s trainer. Once he saw her face, his eyes widened. Yeah, that has to be her! She has to be my mom!

    As the cast left the stage and the Contest Hall’s doors opened, Derak pushed his way out of his row with backstage pass in hand. Rather than leave with the rest of the crowd, however, he instead made his way past the stage and to a door marked “CAST ONLY”. While Derak had once been behind this door during his time in the Contest, the door was now guarded by a man in a dark suit with matching glasses, who looked down his nose at the approaching boy.

    “Uh, hey,” Derak said as he held out his pass. “So, I have this thing…”

    The guard’s expression softened somewhat as he took the pass.

    “Your name’s Derak?” he asked.

    “…yeah,” Derak said slowly. “How’d you—”

    “You’re expected,” the guard interrupted as he put a finger into a small device in his ear. “The boy’s here.”

    With that, he opened the door and gestured for Derak to enter. With a shrug, the boy went inside, and as the door shut behind him, Derak looked around the room he had sat in just hours earlier. The various Pokemon actors, along with their trainers, were currently cleaning each other up after the rather physical performance on the stage. One of the actors, a man who owned the Link the Gallade, had been spraying Emboar’s wounds with a bottle of liquid—Derak recognized it as a Potion—before turning and seeing the boy.

    “Well, our guest of honor is here!” the man smiled. Emboar managed a smirk. “Lee, darling, he’s here!”

    Emboar’s trainer suddenly burst out of the bathroom, paying no heed to the toilet paper still glued to her shoe. Her eyes bulged at the sight of Derak, who reciprocated the gesture in a more muted fashion.

    “Uh…hi?” Derak said timidly, raising one hand. “So…I mean, this is kind of a personal question, but—”

    Liana charged over to Derak and threw her arms around him while burying her face in his shoulder. Derak stood like a rod for a moment as he recovered from the shock, but eventually put one arm around her as she squeezed him.

    “Yes,” Liana sobbed, refusing to break the hug. “I’m your mother, Derak. I’m so sorry I left you with Anoch, you must have suffered under him…”

    She finally let go of her son and held him at arm’s length.

    “Dear Arceus, you’re as pale as an Absol’s fur,” she gasped. “And what in the world are you wearing?”

    “Yeah, this is what happens when a nine-year-old has to make his own casual wear, since his dad stopped buying him actual casual wear a couple years before,” Derak laughed embarrassedly.

    “Well, I imagine we can talk much more about your unique fashion sense later,” Liana smiled. “Oh! Let me introduce you to everyone! This is Rob, he trains the Gallade you saw, and this is—”

    “Okay, Mom?” Derak interjected, holding up his hands. “Look…can we just, maybe, take this one step at a time? I mean, I haven’t seen you in my whole life, and I’m a little overwhelmed, so…”

    Liana laughed, and even the stodgiest of her fellow cast-mates were unable to hide a smile.

    “Sure, I understand,” Liana said before turning to Rob. “Can we have some time?”

    “Absolutely, darling!” Rob beamed. “Great show, everyone!”

    The cast, sans Liana and her Emboar, left the room while discussing the high points of the show and praising the Pokemon involved. Liana herself sat down with Derak in two of the seats, while Emboar simply stood back near the exit.

    “So,” Liana said as she ran a hand through her hair, “I, uh…imagine you’re bursting with questions, and that you’re much better at hiding it than I would be.”

    “I’ve had practice,” Derak shrugged. “So, question one is…where have you been all this time?”

    “I’ve been in many places,” Liana said with a fond sigh. “I went around Orre’s Colosseum circuit for a while, then I went to Unova…where I found all of the people you saw earlier.”

    “So, how did all this Musical stuff start?” Derak asked.

    “All of my traveling was just…an attempt to find myself, I guess,” Liana began. “I was hooked the moment I saw my first Musical in Nimbasa City. I could finally give my Pokemon, my wonderful partners, the full credit they deserved without getting them hurt. Right, Ganon?” she added over her shoulder.

    “Emb,” the Emboar grunted, crossing its arms and keeping an eye on the door.

    “Wait, that’s actually his name?” Derak blinked. “I thought that was just the character in the show.”

    “A little of both,” Liana said as she got up and began to rummage through a scattered pile of what were presumably her possessions. “Hold on, let me…ugh, where did I leave that dusty old thing? Ah, here we go!”

    She triumphantly held up a rather weathered-looking book titled “MYTHS AND LEGENDS—THE LEGENDARY LAND OF HYRULE”. Liana then sat back down next to Derak and began flipping through pages.

    “I have a habit of naming my Pokemon after characters from all these old legends, some of which the show you saw was based on,” Liana explained as she stopped on a page showing a pig-like figure. “Here’s Ganon’s namesake, a dreaded mystic of great power. His followers were the most bizarre and fascinating creatures, a lot of whom have similarities to many of the Pokemon I’ve met. Oh, that reminds me!” she added as she clapped the book shut.

    “What?”

    “Let’s meet each other’s Pokemon!” Liana suggested excitedly. “I’d love to see what sorts of friends you made on your journey!”

    “Well, okay,” Derak shrugged and picked three Pokeballs and one Safari Ball off of his belt. “Come on out, everyone!”

    The moment Derak’s Pokemon party appeared in the room, Liana immediately went over to them and began fawning over them like a child in a room full of birthday presents. Strike maintained a steady glare, though Happiny and Echo reveled in the attention. Wildfire was simply confused, looking to its trainer but only getting a shrug.

    “Wow, your Zubat evolved so soon after that Contest? That’s amazing!” Liana cried. “Oh, and your Chimchar is just the cutest thing! Its tail fire looks incredibly healthy, too! And how could I not notice the incredible little Happiny that you used in your appeal, it’s so CUUUTE! Um, by the way, what happened to your Scyther’s wings?”

    “Jerk coordinators with Nidokings happened to them,” Derak said bitterly. Strike growled at the memory of Aiden.

    “Aw, you poor thing!” Liana cooed as she held Strike’s blades by the blunt edge, much to the Scyther’s confusion. “There’s always somebody being awful in the world, isn’t there? They actually look pretty close to healing, though, so that’s good news. Do your Pokemon have nicknames, by any chance?”

    “Well…Happiny doesn’t, since I got her through a trade, but the others do,” Derak explained. “Wildfire’s the Chimchar, Echo is the Golbat, and Strike is the Scyther.”

    “All named after their unique characteristics,” Liana nodded. “I like it, it’s simple but effective. Oh, by the way…hang on one moment, I’m certain I have a spare…”

    She rummaged through her things again before pulling out a small egg-shaped stone. Derak raised an eyebrow, but Liana simply handed the stone to Happiny, who accepted it with a smile.

    “What’s that you just gave her?” Derak asked.

    “An Oval Stone,” Liana answered. “In order to evolve, Happiny needs to have a strong bond with its trainer while it holds that stone.”

    “Huh, really?” Derak looked down at Happiny, who was joyfully fitting the stone into the lower half of its body. “Thanks, then.”

    “Don’t mention it,” Liana smiled. “Ah, I wish there was more room in here. Some of my team members have grown so big and strong that they can’t all fit in this little room, I’m afraid. Still, you can meet my first partner! Ganon, come say hello!”

    “Em-booor,” the fiery pig sighed as it lumbered over, giving Derak a nod of greeting.

    “Hey, big guy,” Derak said as he pulled out his Pokedex.

    “Emboar,” Derak’s Pokedex pointed out, “the Mega Fire Pig Pokemon. Type is Fire and Fighting. Emboar is the final evolution of Tepig. It can throw a fire punch using its beard of fire. It has mastered many fast and powerful fighting moves, and cares deeply about its friends.”

    “Seems like a pretty cool guy,” Derak remarked. Ganon responded by snorting a brief fire from its nostrils. “Okay, I take that back! You’re, uh, you’re whatever you want to be!”

    “Don’t worry,” Liana laughed. “Ganon’s a little gruff and rough—a lot like his namesake, actually—but he’s just as much a loyal friend as your Pokedex says he is. Now that I think about it, how did you ever get Anoch to—”

    “I didn’t,” Derak interrupted. “I just left.”

    Liana’s boundless energy seemed to fade by this point. Her face became more solemn as she sat back down. Strike nodded towards Derak’s belt, and after seeing the others follow suit, Derak recalled all of his Pokemon. They clearly understood that this was a private matter.

    “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised,” Liana sighed. “He always was the stubborn type.”

    “Which brings me to question two,” Derak said as he sat down as well. “This might sound like a dumb question, given who we’re talking about, but…why did you leave?”

    “No, that’s not a dumb question, you have a right to know,” Liana shook her head. “You see, Anoch and I…what we had was little more than a brief fling. That’s…that was how you were conceived.”

    “I figured as much,” Derak shrugged. “I never could see Anoch as someone who could keep a marriage.”

    “Yes…that was why I left,” Liana said sadly. “Anoch was simply…unbearable to be around. He was arrogant and cold-hearted, and could only see how things would benefit him. There was really nothing there for me in Phenac, honestly.”

    And then Derak’s heart shattered.

    Tears started to well up in his eyes as he looked away, staring at the wall. He was silent for a moment, but before Liana could ask why, her son finally spoke.

    “Nothing at all…?” he said slowly.

    “Well, I—” Liana began before a realization punched her in the nose. “Oh, Derak, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it that way! I just—”

    “You left me there…in the closest thing to hell in the world of the living…then you tell me that I don’t mean anything to you…and now you’re telling me that you made a mistake? That not caring enough was an ‘accident’?” Derak growled bitterly as he got up and made for the door. “I’ve met enough people to know that that’s not how it works.”

    “Derak, wait!” Liana cried as she grabbed her son’s shoulder. “I would have brought you with me, really!”

    “THEN WHY DIDN’T YOU?!” Derak roared as he whirled on her, tearing her arm off of him in the process. “Why did you leave me with someone whose only way of talking to people is through yelling?! Why did you leave me with someone who only cares about money and power?! Why in the HELL did you leave me with someone who thinks fatherhood is about controlling and manipulating?!”

    “I…I couldn’t,” Liana said as she started to cry as well. “I couldn’t get you out of the house without Anoch knowing…and you were just a baby, you wouldn’t have survived on the road.”

    Derak was about to turn away again, but Liana grabbed his shoulders.

    “Look, I know that I’ve made terrible decisions, but I want to make things right!” Liana pleaded. “You’re wounded, and I know full well that I’m to blame! Just…please, give me a chance to be the mother I should have been!”

    “Don’t you already have a son?” Derak sneered.

    “What?”

    “Ozcar,” Derak clarified with a snarl. “You know, redhead, a little bit younger than me? He’s your replacement for me, right? Who’s his dad, one of your cast-mates?”

    “Replacement?” Liana repeated. “Derak, you’re overreacting, what are you—”

    “All I wanted was my family back!” Derak cried through his tears. “I just…wanted to have a normal family. I wanted a dad who accepted me for who I was. I wanted a mom who was actually there, who cared that I existed. That was why I wanted to do a journey in the first place.”

    “Derak—”

    “Just shut up,” Derak spat. He let out a long sigh before continuing. “I should have known better than to hope for a freaking miracle. I should have figured this out earlier…if a mother is never in her son’s life, then…she’s either dead or better off without him. Sorry for wasting your time.”

    With that, Derak turned and went out the door. Liana tried to follow, but Ganon put out a hand.

    “Em-boar,” the Mega Fire Pig shook its head.

    “Maybe…maybe you’re right, Ganon,” Liana sighed. “Maybe he needs some time before we can talk again. I just hope I can undo the damage I’ve done.”

    *****

    “Viiire!” Garth’s Electivire shouted as it brought a Thunder Punch down onto Torkoal’s shell, the latter withdrawing its body inside while somehow making its shell shine with a metallic glint. The impact from the Thunder Punch was barely more than a tap, however, and Torkoal soon came back out of its shell with a satisfied grin.

    “Koal!” grunted the tortoise.

    “Good,” Garth nodded. He and his Pokemon now stood outside the Pokemon Center, his entire party out of their Pokeballs and awaiting their individual turns. “While Electivire’s physical strength is much less than that of Zekrom, Torkoal’s Iron Defense should at least increase its chances of survival. All right, Sableye, it is your turn. Trade places with Torkoal.”

    “Saaay,” the purple gremlin frowned, though it nonetheless obeyed.

    “Now…Electivire, use Thunder Punch!” Garth ordered. Electivire, however, was eyeing something a short distance away. “What are you looking at?”

    Garth turned and saw Derak running towards Saffron City’s exit. The boy was paying no mind to anything around him, only to whatever was in front of him. He darted around people until he was outside of the city limits, prompting Garth to raise an eyebrow.

    “Where is he off to in such a hurry?” Garth muttered. Without another word, he recalled his team and followed after Derak.

    *****

    By this point, Derak had managed to reach a small forest path. It was here that he stopped to catch his breath, placing one hand against a tree as he panted for air. After a moment, he let out a roar of frustration and anguish as he slammed one fist into the tree. Tears were still pouring from his eyes, even as he picked his Pokeballs off of his belt and brought out his entire Pokemon party.

    “Char…?” Wildfire’s eyes widened when it saw Derak crying. Its expression soon morphed to one of concern, matching Echo’s worried eyes quite well. Even Strike raised a proverbial eyebrow, having never seen its trainer behaving like this. Happiny attempted to walk over and hug its trainer’s leg, but Derak raised a hand.

    “Please…just don’t,” Derak choked through his tears. “I know…not all of you really wanted to be with me…so it’s…it’s time to say good-bye.”

    Most of his Pokemon, including the normally-quiet Wildfire, let out a cry of shock. Strike blinked and gained a more confused expression.

    “You all heard me!” Derak yelled. He buried his eyes into his other hand for a moment, then stopped to wipe away his tears. “You know I found my mom. And what she told me was that…there wasn’t anything in Phenac worth staying for…including me. There’s no damn point in trying to put my stupid family back together! I mean, for crying out loud, my mom is happier this way, with a son who isn’t me and a new husband who’s obviously perfect!”

    He collapsed onto his knees, driving his fist into the dirt underneath him. Derak spent a few moments in this position, sobbing all the while. Wildfire simply stared, mouth hanging open, unsure of what to do. It thought about going over to comfort him—the two were friends, after all—but when Happiny made to do the same, Echo put out a wing and shook its head. Wildfire looked up at Strike for an answer, but the Scyther merely shrugged in confusion.

    Then a hand clamped onto Derak’s shoulder. The boy panicked, grabbing the hand and throwing it off of his shoulder as he spun around and came face-to-face with his assailant, only to find that it was Garth.

    “What?!” Derak snapped, teeth bared and eyes red from tears. Garth was silent for a moment, his face solemn. When Derak’s panting finally began to slow, Garth finally spoke.

    “I heard,” the cloaked man said. “You have my condolences, for what little they are worth. Few deserve to be told that they are worthless by their own mothers.”

    Derak stopped bearing his teeth, but made no other indication that he heard Garth. His tears began to dry, particularly when he wiped his eyes once more, and his once-heavy breathing was almost normal again.

    “As for what you are doing here,” Garth continued, glancing at Derak’s Pokemon, “are you really giving up so easily?”

    “My journey was to find my mom,” Derak said, a tinge of bitterness still in his voice. “Thought I told you that back in Lavender Town.”

    “You did,” Garth nodded. “You also told me that you were inspired to flee from your father by a visiting trainer…what was his name? You told me that he had a Serperior, if I recall correctly.”

    “Uh…Trip?”

    “That was it,” Garth said. “You told me that this Trip gave you advice. What do you think he would say if he saw you as broken and weak as you are now?”

    Derak opened his mouth to reply, but the words would not come. He simply shook his head.

    “Well, I doubt he would be pleased,” Garth continued. “Derak Kadir…do you remember what you told me whenever I criticized your going into a Gym battle with no plan, little to no training, and a mismatched team?”

    “That…I was going to improvise?” Derak answered weakly.

    “Yes,” Garth nodded. “And you did so, every single time. Do so again, right now. A journey does not need only one destination.”

    Derak’s eyes trailed to the ground, prompting Garth to put a hand on the boy’s shoulder again.

    “Make Trip proud to have taken the time to advise you,” the cloaked man said. “You told me that your sarcasm and general demeanor were a result of attempts to copy Trip. Do what you think he would do now, in your shoes.”

    “I…I don’t know,” Derak mumbled. “I don’t know what I want anymore.”

    “Hmm…I see,” Garth said. “Sit with me for a moment.”

    The two sat down on the side of the path, Derak’s Pokemon joining them. Garth sighed before speaking again.

    “So…I believe it is time for me to share my story with you,” Garth said.

    “Wait, what?” Derak said. “Why now?”

    “Because now is when you are most open to a tale of suffering,” Garth said sadly. “Now, then…you know that my story begins centuries ago, in the Ransei region. But the details are different from what you will find in any history book…”

    *****

    The details of Garth’s story were plentiful. The setting was a small village outside the Fire-type kingdom of Ignis, which was ruled by a Warlord named Hideyoshi Toyotomi. The village itself was nestled in an alcove on the side of a volcano, providing living space for quite a few people in spite of the somewhat dangerous environment. It was in the plaza of this village that a young boy with reddish-brown hair and gold-lined crimson robes darted about, chasing after a small brown-and-tan puppy Pokemon.

    “Come on, Lillipup!” the boy laughed happily. “Wait up!”

    Lillipup stopped and turned around, slipping between the boy’s legs and nearly causing him to fall over. The dog stopped for a moment as its apparent owner recovered his balance, and soon the chase was on once again. The beat of drums, however, interrupted the boy’s merriment.

    “Hey, what’s going on?” the boy asked. He picked up his Lillipup, the latter’s wide eyes looking to him in confusion, as he ran over to a man who wore what appeared to be Garth’s current crimson cloak. “Father, what’s happening?”

    The boy’s father looked down at him and smiled.

    “Ah, Garth, just in time,” the man smiled. “Come with me. I will be showing the village something marvelous.”

    Garth’s father guided his son, along with a gathering crowd of villagers, deeper into their cave. Eventually, it reached the point where torchlight was necessary, though several warriors and their Fire-type Pokemon were only too happy to oblige. Eventually, the village came across a strange sight; a giant fountain with glittering water, somehow functioning perfectly in spite of its environment.

    “What is it, Father?” the young Garth asked.

    “This, my son,” his father smiled, “is a source of great power.”

    He turned to the crowd of other villagers.

    “To the sick and injured among you…I ask you to step forward,” Garth’s father said. “A drink of this water will heal you.”

    “Are you serious?” one of the villagers asked.

    “As the high priest of the Shrine of Truth, you have my word,” Garth’s father smiled. “If it makes you more certain, I myself have tested these waters when I found them yesterday. I can assure you that no harm will come to any of you.”

    “Heh.”

    That small chuckle sent a ripple of fear through the villagers. Garth clung to his father’s cloak, Lillipup shivering in his arms. The murmuring crowd parted, revealing a man in purple-and-black armor with a spiky black ponytail. The armored man was flanked by more armored men, each accompanied by a dragon Pokemon.

    “Nobunaga Oda,” Garth’s father said grimly as the Warlord of Dragnor stood smirking before him. “What brings you to our humble village, my Lord?”

    “There is much that brings me here,” Nobunaga replied. “At first, I came only because your humble village was the sole part of Ransei that had information of interest to me…information on Reshiram, the white dragon of truth. It is, after all, dedicated to worship of that particular dragon.”

    “Is that so?” Garth’s father said. “But your use of ‘at first’ means that there is more.”

    “Indeed there is,” Nobunaga grinned. “I want that water.”

    “Then you shall not have it!” Garth’s father declared, standing firmly in front of the fountain. “This village stands for what is true and just! I will not let this healing water be used for your vile conquest!”

    “So be it,” Nobunaga sighed. “Garchomp!”

    Nobunaga’s original partner—a strange dark blue cross between a dinosaur, a praying mantis, and a hammerhead shark—leapt into the sky from behind Nobunaga’s forces. The beast landed in front of its Warlord, growling as it swiped its bladed arms at Garth’s father.

    “Get to safety,” the priest whispered to his son, prompting Garth and Lillipup to take cover behind the fountain. “You will be stopped here and now, Warlord of Dragnor! In honor of Reshiram, the great white dragon whose flame burns away deceit, we shall put an end to your mad quest! Flareon, to me!”

    A red-bodied fox-like Pokemon darted out of a building, its fluffy yellow collar and tail billowing as it charged to its partner’s side. Nobunaga only smirked as his subordinate warriors sent forth their dragon Pokemon, his Garchomp in the lead. Though drastically outnumbered due to the peaceful nature of the village, Garth’s father defiantly stood his ground.

    “Go, Flareon! Use Fire Fang!”

    The fox leapt at Nobunaga’s Garchomp, mouth open and canine teeth catching fire, but the strange dragon was ready. The shark-like beast simply charged pale green energy into its claw before slashing at Flareon, effortlessly knocking the Fire-type aside and cutting a gash into its stomach.

    “Flareon, no!” Garth’s father cried, reaching out to his fallen partner.

    “It’s over,” Nobunaga grinned. “Garchomp, Rock Slide!”

    Garchomp reared its head back and roared at the ceiling. Cracks suddenly began to form, and portions of the ceiling plummeted down towards the villagers. The people scattered, with only some being fortunate enough to escape being crushed. Garth stood up and tried to run deeper into the cave, Lillipup still in his arms, only to stop and fall when a rock crashed down in front of him. Lillipup tumbled out of his arms and onto its side, but before it could reunite with its friend, another rock slammed onto its outstretched legs.

    “NO!” Garth cried. He tried to rush towards his friend, but once again, a falling boulder blocked his path. All he could do was crawl back to the fountain and huddle into a ball, trying to make his body as small as possible.

    After what felt like ages of assault, the Rock Slide finally ceased. With all resistance neutralized, Nobunaga’s soldiers began to collect bucketfuls of the healing water. Garth managed to catch sight of them, and was suddenly filled with rage.

    “Give that back!” he yelled as he ran at a soldier, only for the soldier to quickly backhand the boy and knock him down.

    “Stupid kid,” the soldier growled as he advanced on Garth, fist clenched.

    “Leave the boy,” Nobunaga ordered. “He can do nothing now.”

    “I’ll…I’ll stop you!” Garth cried. “I’m Garth Alburus Cesslon IV, and I’m going to stop you!”

    “Heh…good luck with that,” Nobunaga chuckled. “Men, we are finished here. Let us move on to other kingdoms.”

    With that, Nobunaga and his army left. Garth stared after them with a snarl, but whimpers of agony soon caught his attention. His Lillipup was still trapped under a boulder.

    “Lillipup, hang on!” Garth cried, running over to his friend. He put his hands on the boulder and heaved with all his might, but despite it being one of the smaller boulders, he could not make it move. “Ugh…Lillipup, I’m sorry…I—wait!”

    He looked over to the fountain, pulling a canteen out of his pocket as he ran to it.

    “If it heals sick and hurt people, it has to do something good for healthy ones!” Garth reasoned as he quickly filled his canteen with the water and took a great swig. His body already felt more alive, and soon he rushed back to the boulder that trapped his Lillipup. With a great heave, his newfound strength allowed him to roll the boulder off of his friend.

    Lillipup, however, was worse for wear. All four of its legs were broken beyond repair, and the small Pokemon was barely alive. With his solution in hand, Garth knelt down and lifted Lillipup’s head.

    “Here, drink this,” he said. “It’ll help you heal, I promise.”

    Lillipup gulped the water down, and Garth gently took his Pokemon into his arms. The small dog gritted its teeth in pain, but its legs began to twitch and move again. Soon, its healing was complete.

    And then Lillipup screamed.

    Its body began to whither, flesh wasting away and fur turning a deathly white. Garth’s eyes went wide as his Pokemon aged at the speed of light, leaving only a crumpled mess in his arms. And then, just as quickly as it aged, Lillipup’s body began turning to dust.

    “Lillipup!” Garth cried, but the dust soon blew out of his hands. Lillipup was gone.

    He sat there for a moment, staring into space. And then he broke down and cried.

    *****

    “I spent years in what was left of my village, caring for what was left of my people,” Garth said in the present day. “My father had only survived Garchomp’s Rock Slide because he had drank the fountain’s water beforehand. But his body was so broken…he, too, eventually turned to dust. He was the last one to die…and that was when I realized how Nobunaga had taken everything from me. So I dedicated myself to traveling until I found him, knowing that the water would all but make him immortal. And then…I met you.”

    Up until this point, Derak had been quietly listening to Garth’s tale, leaning back on a tree. When the cloaked man finished, Derak sighed.

    “Man…you really did lose everything,” the boy remarked. “And here I am, whining about how my journey got screwed up.”

    “It took me a long time to harness my sorrow into motivation,” Garth said. “How are your attempts faring?”

    “Well…if you could find a way to move on after losing so much…then I think I can do the same,” Derak said as he finally stood up. He looked over to his Pokemon. “Sorry for worrying you guys.”

    “Char,” Wildfire sighed in relief. A small smile came to the Chimchar’s face. Echo began to cry as well, but with a wide smile of its own. Even Strike managed a smirk. Happiny came up and hugged Derak’s leg tightly.

    “Thanks, Happiny,” Derak smiled as he gently patted his Pokemon’s curl of hair. “Weird as it sounds, I…actually feel better now.”

    “Good,” Garth nodded. “Now, we should go back to the Pokemon Center. It has been a long day for both of us, and you will need to be rested for your Gym battle tomorrow.”

    “Yeah,” Derak nodded. He looked over to his Pokemon. “Forget what I said before, guys. We’re going to keep moving forward.”

    Echo and Happiny cheered, the former spreading its wings wide in a celebratory gesture. Wildfire allowed a smile to spread across its face, something that Derak noticed. He knelt down and held out his hand, and after looking at the offered appendage for a moment, Wildfire put its hand in his.

    “Wildfire…you, me, and the others here?” Derak said. “I’m pretty sure every one of us can do some really great stuff. It’s time we prove it to the world.”

    “Char!” Wildfire nodded, fists clenched. His other Pokemon, even Strike, all nodded as well.

    Derak smiled and stood up, looking back to Saffron.

    “Let’s go,” he said. “We’ve got a long day ahead of us tomorrow.”

    *****

    Used in this chapter is the song "Legend of Zelda" by System of a Down. Because why not.
    Last edited by Morpher01; 25th January 2015 at 3:50 AM. Reason: Giving credit where it's due.
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  18. #93
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    Two chapters? Someone's kicking it into high gear...

    So, Echo evolves and shows a more prominent prankster nature. Derak meets his mother, and we learn of Garth's back story. Two questions, though: if the water pretty much causes hyper accelerated aging, why would Nobunaga want it? And how the heck has either of them lived for so long? They may be odd questions, but I haven't played Pokemon Conquest.

    Used in this chapter is the song "Legend of Zelda" by System of a Down. Because why not.
    Reading those lines made me smile. That song is stupid funny. :P

    Good to see you back. I gotta fix up my laptop screen and get back to business myself.

    L@er!
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  19. #94
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    Air Dragon: Hey! Nice to have you back. To answer your question, the water was never in Conquest, I just made it for the purposes of this story. The water only causes hyper-accelerated aging in Pokemon; in humans, it gives borderline immortality. Hope that clears things up.

    Might be a little while before the next chapter, sadly. School and other things are taking up most of my time, as usual, but the chapter should eventually be finished. Hope you're all still here by then.
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    Proving Grounds

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