Ash Ketchum has been determined to become the best since he was a toddler. He has his eyes set on a charmander, but a twist of fate led him to the humble Nidoran. Note: Mix between anime and the games.


21. GMFO Part 1

"Hello, Gary." He said tightly. Ash couldn't help but clench his fists. "What do you want?"

Ash turned to face Gary. His rival had his normal smug smirk on his face and was casually throwing a pokeball up and down in the air.

"Nothing much." Gary shrugged, still smirking. "Just a battle. I think it's time I beat you again."

He couldn't help the small smile that crept onto his face. It looked like he wouldn't have to look far for Torrent's first battle after all. Gary had no idea what kind of trouble he was in.

Ash nodded. "Alright, then. But my pokemon are spread out over the ranch."

Gary never lost his smirk and just waved it off. "Go ahead and call them over. They won't make any difference. I've gotten a lot stronger since we last battled. You won't get lucky this time, Ashy-boy."

"Well, I've gotten a lot stronger too." Ash grinned. He whistled and called down Plume. She shrieked loudly as she slammed into the earth in front of him. Plume sent a cursory glance at Gary and looked at Ash skeptically. "Go get Torrent, Infernus and Bruiser."

Plume nodded and took off, the powerful winds her wings produced forcing both of the trainers back. Ash knew to guard his eyes after being in that situation several times before, but Gary wasn't so fortunate.

Ash just smiled as Gary groaned and began to rub at his eyes. The other trainer would be fine by the time Torrent arrived.

"So, four-on-four?" Ash asked in a friendly manner. He almost felt sorry for Gary. Almost.

His rival scowled at him and nodded. "I hope you brought some tissues, because I'm going to destroy you this time. You'll really be a loser."

Ash just kept his small smile on his face and crossed his arms. Torrent would be arriving any minute now. He glanced over at Gary. "I'll use the first pokemon that gets here. Go ahead and send out yours."

Gary rolled his eyes. "Don't tell me what to do, Ashy-boy."

Nevertheless, Gary looked over at the nidoran herd. Ash watched curiously as he whistled, but frowned when he saw the large, powerful Nidoqueen that led the nidoran plod over. She made the ground rumble a little bit as she walked, and Ash glanced at her with a measuring eye.

Nidoqueen was built to take hits. She had thick plates of armor over her, too heavy for weaker physical attacks to penetrate. Even Nidorino and his sharp horn would have difficulty really injuring her without delving into his fledgling psychic abilities or elemental attacks.

But Torrent wouldn't have much trouble. Ash hadn't actually had him use his attacks, but if that display at the lake was any indication his power had grown dramatically. This probably wouldn't even be a battle.

Ash cocked his head curiously when he saw Nidorino staring at Nidoqueen with wide eyes filled with some emotion Ash couldn't quite decipher. He groaned when he actually realized that Nidorino was "interested" in Nidoqueen. Nidorino hadn't been around others of his species, so Ash supposed that he shouldn't be too surprised, but it might cause problems in the future.

Besides, Ash hadn't thought Nidorino would go for Nidoqueen. The matriarchs were completely infertile, after all. Still, he wouldn't talk to Nidorino about it for now. There was nothing important going on yet.

"Your Nidorino won't be able to beat her." Gary sneered, motioning proudly to the massive creature standing next to her. "I've been training her for weeks now. She's crush him."

Nidorino growled deeply, something Ash could hear from where he was standing. Ash smiled softly and heard an odd trumpeting noise from behind him. Torrent had arrived, although he wasn't visible yet.

"Who said I would be using Nidorino." He retorted. "He's injured."

"What?" Gary said, looking shocked. "But you always use it!"

"Not this time." Ash said with a wide grin as he saw a large, blue form from the corner of his eye. He looked at the regal form of Torrent and pointed at the powerful water-type. "Gary, meet Torrent."

Gary paled, but it was replaced by anger a few seconds later. "How did you get a kingdra!?"

"Skill and luck." Ash shrugged. He smiled fiercely. "But enough talk. Let's get this battle going."

His rival scowled and nodded. Both trainers walked far away from each other until they were a safe distance from any attacks. Nidoqueen and Torrent took their places in front of their trainers, staring each other down with determined eyes.

Ash started the match. Torrent was slower outside of the water, but he was still much faster than Nidoqueen.

"Smokescreen." He commanded. "Then use ice storm."

Torrent quickly obeyed, blasting huge quantities of oily black smoke from his snout until it obscured the battlefield. He moved all the while, levitating back and forth to prevent Nidoqueen from attacking.

"Charge it and use superpower!" He heard Gary cry. Ash frowned at that. It would work perfectly into his strategy, but why would Gary have Nidoqueen charge headfirst into a smokescreen?

Meanwhile, Torrent had blasted a huge amount of frozen air around the clearing, causing the air to become thick and hazy. Ash felt the chill from where he was standing, a testament to its strength. Then Torrent levitated backwards with astounding speed and rumbled loudly as he pointed his head up and began to rapidly spin, whipping up powerful winds. About three seconds after he began he was standing within a tornado, barely visible from outside the cocoon of rapidly whipping wind.

Ash saw Nidoqueen burst through the smoke, charging as fast as she could at Torrent. He frowned when he saw her rear her head back as she charged, but didn't think anything else of it as Torrent released the twister, sending it spiraling through the area of frozen air. The twister carried the cold air and thousands of small, sharp chunks of ice with it, becoming far more dangerous.

Nidoqueen continued charging, collecting small particles of brightly glowing orange and white energy before she released them in a powerful hyper beam. It slammed straight into the ice storm and weakened greatly, although it passed through. Ash didn't have to call out a warning. Torrent lazily levitated away from the weakened hyper beam. It flashed off into the distance before it hit a tree, completely destroying it even in its weakened state.

He was actually impressed when Nidoqueen managed to keep on charging. Most pokemon required a period of rest after using a hyper beam. Either Gary had trained her extensively in its use or he had found an incredibly powerful Nidoqueen.

But he wasn't impressed when the tired Nidoqueen heedlessly charged straight into the powerful, freezing winds. She was trapped in the icy vortex, Torrent controlling the twister in order to keep it focused upon his foe.

Ash couldn't see anything of Nidoqueen's large form but a faint shadow. The white, hazy twister obscured his view. All he could make out was the cold, heavy air and the small shards of ice as they were whipped into an ever more powerful storm.

And then the storm dispersed, the cold air diffusing into the atmosphere. Chunks of ice fell to the ground and shattered and the winds died down. Ash glanced over and saw that Nidoqueen was lying unconscious, completely defeated by the powerful combination.

"Good job, Torrent!" He called out with a grin. Torrent gave him a happy rumble in return, not even appearing tired from the effort of controlling the storm. The kingdra seemed more excited than anything else.

He could barely make out Gary's expression from across the field, but he could tell it wasn't a happy one. Gary looked to have a large frown on his face as he recalled Nidoqueen, apparently unnerved at how easily such a powerful pokemon had been defeated.

Perhaps Gary would have done better had Ash not surprised him, but it didn't look like he had any good options. Torrent would only really be damaged by dragon-type attacks, and those were astoundingly rare. Considering that he lacked the weakness to ice that allowed most dragons to be defeated, Torrent might as well be unstoppable in this fight.

Gary had a determined look on his face as he sent out a large, proud looking Blastoise. His rival's starter rumbled deeply at the sight of Torrent and crushed his fists together, clearly not intimidated.

"Watch out, Blastoise!" Gary called out. "This one's dangerous."

Blastoise roared his understanding and slammed a foot into the ground. Gary had a focused look on his face as he stared at Torrent. Ash supposed that he was futilely looking for some sort of weakness he could exploit on the powerful dragon-type.

He would find none, Ash knew. Blastoise were only capable of learning a few dragon-type moves if he remembered the pokedex information correctly, and it was doubtful that Gary had taught him any. Dragons were rare enough that it was pointless to prepare for a battle with one.

Ash was content to let Gary make the first move. He was confident in Torrent's power and figured it wouldn't hurt to give his rival a fighting chance.

"Brine!" Gary suddenly shouted. "Then use hydro pump and use rapid spin with withdraw!"

Blastoise reacted quite fast. It quickly fired two large blasts of saltwater from its hydro cannons, each almost too fast for Torrent to dodge. Almost.

Then, before Torrent could send an attack in return, Blastoise pulled its head, arms and legs into its shell. Ash frowned as it began spinning rapidly. He knew what Gary was about to do.

"Twister!" Ash ordered as Blastoise used its own hydro pump in order to launch its heavy body towards Torrent. The rapid spin would prevent hydro pump from working, but Blastoise's momentum would be at least slowed by twister.

As Blastoise flew closer, Torrent's back fins moved slightly. Ash was surprised when an absolutely massive twister, dwarfing the one that had been used in the ice storm, swirled into existence in front of Torrent. His friend effortlessly sent the twister spiraling into the protected Blastoise.

Ash had to admit that Gary's strategy was a good one. If Torrent hadn't been a kingdra, his twister wouldn't have been nearly powerful enough to catch Blastoise in midair, buffet it with heavy winds and hurl it several dozen feet away. In fact, if it had actually managed to hit it probably would done a decent bit of damage to Torrent. Something as massive as Blastoise carried a good bit of force behind it.

Blastoise groaned and pulled itself up from the ground. It brushed itself off and glared at Torrent, who impassively gazed back with his scarlet eyes. While Gary's pokemon was hurt by the impact, it hadn't done any lasting damage.

Gary looked like he was clenching his teeth. "Blastoise, use ice beam and then use rain dance. Follow that with earthquake and protect."

Ash frowned at the varied combination of moves. It looked like Gary had spent quite a bit of money to beef up Blastoise's moves. Despite the variety, it wouldn't do anything.

Ice beam could easily be dodged by Torrent. Even if it did hit it wouldn't do much more than slow his friend down. Rain dance would actually help Torrent. It would give him more water to use in his attacks and make him faster. Earthquake wouldn't affect Kingdra since he levitated.

"Let it use rain dance." Ash said. Torrent rumbled a reply before easily dodging the ice beam sent at him. The vast distance between the two pokemon made the evasion quite simple.

Blastoise roared as a ball of glowing white energy coalesced into its hands. The water-type awkwardly thrust its stubby arms into the air, sending the energy ball flying into the sky. Ash patiently waited. Mere moments later rain clouds began to form over the area, making it darker.

He frowned when he felt the patter of raindrops against his skin. At least he didn't have to worry about the rain getting his hair wet or hurting his visibility. His hat kept the worst of it off.

If Ash hadn't thought Blastoise was powerful in his own right before now, the rain dance proved it. The rapidly increasing severity of the small storm was something only a powerful pokemon could achieve. Considering that Blastoise had probably spent the last four months in Gary's team, Ash supposed that he shouldn't be surprised. It was probably the only permanent member of the team if Gary had caught as many pokemon as he'd said.

Ash felt the ground lurch beneath him, nearly knocking him off balance. The rumbling only lasted for a few seconds, though, so he managed to keep his feet. He frowned again. All the rain was making the ground soft and muddy.

"Now, use withdraw and hydro pump!" Gary shouted. Ash frowned and glanced over at Torrent. No rapid spin meant that his attacks wouldn't be deflected.

"Hydro pump, then blizzard."

Blastoise's shell blasted off of the ground and flew towards Torrent. His friend carried out his commands and shot an incredibly powerful blast of high-pressure water into Blastoise's rapidly approaching shell. It was powerful enough to spend the large, heavy pokemon a dozen feet in the direction Torrent fired at.

Ash grinned when Blastoise pulled his head out of his shell, confused and dazed from the impact. That shell was tough but it couldn't protect him from everything. He grinned wider when Torrent blasted a massive wave of freezing air at the tired Blastoise.

Blastoise had no chance to avoid the massive column of swirling, icy air. It covered an area of nearly a hundred feet, relentlessly powerful and advancing. The blizzard was focused entirely upon Blastoise, and his soaking wet body was frozen over by the freezing air.

"Torrent, break up the rain." He ordered. While it was a bit convenient, it was getting annoying. The rain was growing heavier and hitting harder. His visibility was beginning to get reduced.

Torrent rumbled as he turned his elegant head into the air and spun, creating another swirling twister around him. It collected much of the rain that impacted, but Ash wouldn't be using it for an attack. The kingdra suddenly blasted the twister up into the air. It went straight into the heart of the clouds and seemed to explode, the powerful blast of air carrying the clouds away with it.

Ash nodded his thanks to Torrent as the rain died down and vanished. Gary looked furious and was clenching his fists tightly.

"You won't beat me!" Gary roared, furious at his Blastoise's defeat. "Go, Alakazam!"

That made Ash frown. Torrent probably wouldn't have much trouble, but he knew Dazed needed some practice fighting Alakazam. She would be his prime battler against Sabrina whenever they went, so she needed to be the one to fight this battle.

"Dazed, you're up." He said to his friend. She seemed to smile with her sleepy eyes as she walked from behind him and onto the battlefield, the soft mud squelching as she walked. "Torrent, you did awesome!"

Torrent rumbled and levitated over to Ash. The powerful pokemon took his position next to Ash and happily butted his head into Ash's shoulder, although Torrent made sure to put the bare minimum of force behind it. Despite Torrent's self-control, Ash was still nearly knocked over. He just laughed, though.

"Torrent, you're amazing!" He said happily, patting his friend on the head as Gary sent out Alakazam. The psychic-type's eyes narrowed when it saw Dazed, apparently recognizing the hypno.

Gary's face was red as he began giving rapid orders to Alakazam. The psychic-type levitated over the mud that would slow it down and stared at Dazed, its spoons crossed and trembling with barely restrained power.

"Shadow ball, teleport, thunder wave, shadow ball, reflect, light screen, teleport, psycho cut!" Gary ordered, breathless by the time he finished the long chain of commands. Ash frowned at that. He wouldn't be able to counter that many attacks easily.

"Poison gas all over the battlefield." He ordered. "Shadow ball when it gets close, then stun it."

Dazed's yellow body grew tense as he gave her orders. Her pendulum swayed back and forth, the focus for her power flapping in an invisible wind as she prepared. The hypno's eyes glowed brightly as she opened her mouth and spewed a thick, dark cloud of smog over the battlefield. It would take about a minute for it to fully take effect, but it had already begun to diffuse through the air.

Alakazam suddenly took action. It crossed its spoons and its eyes glowed a dull gray as a small shadow ball formed between its foci. A moment later the small, intense shadow ball flashed towards Dazed. She easily sidestepped it and threw up a powerful light screen as Alakazam suddenly appeared behind her.

Alakazam's small shock of electricity was absorbed by the light screen, melting into nothingness as it impacted the barrier. The psychic-type didn't hesitate in throwing another shadow ball, although it too failed to penetrate the light screen. Ash could tell that it wouldn't be long, though. Dazed's barrier was already thinning and cracking.

But he didn't give her anymore commands. Dazed wasn't an Alakazam. She couldn't take in long chains of commands effectively. She could take care of herself. Ash would only give an order when necessary when dealing with psychics.

Dazed hurled her own shadow ball back at Alakazam, but it had already teleported away. Ash couldn't help but grin when it appeared in the middle of the battlefield, which had become swamped in the oily, poisonous gas. Alakazam couldn't help but cough and choke for a few moments as the poisonous gas entered its lungs.

"Now!" He shouted. Dazed quickly hurled her own shadow ball at the temporarily weakened Alakazam, but the other psychic managed to catch it at the last moment between its spoons, although it was obviously a struggle.

Alakazam suddenly created two thin shells of blue and yellow light over its body, its eyes glowing brightly as it did so. Ash recognized that it was an advanced form of reflect and light screen, one that provided more protection but expended less energy. He'd read about it in the pokedex, but hadn't expected to see it from Gary.

It looked like he really had been training hard. Ash had noticed that he'd improved greatly, but this was a surprise.

Now that the reflect was filtering the air and preventing more of the poison gas from entering its lungs, Alakazam moved again. Ash noticed that it simply levitated about, staying above the gas. He'd expected it to teleport.

But Alakazam just stared at Dazed with glowing eyes. Ash frowned as both of its spoons began to glow brightly, but a spark of realization entered his eyes when Alakazam began swinging them in Dazed's direction.

"It's psycho cut!" He shouted. "Dodge them, your barriers won't do much."

Dazed nodded and prepared to move as glowing white crescents began to fly from the bright spoons whenever Alakazam swung them. They flew through the air at an incredible speed, leaving ripples of cut air behind them.

Ash winced when Dazed proved too slow. She just didn't have the maneuverability that Alakazam did. There was no way she could really dodge the flurries of crescents. They were too fast and she was too slow.

But he couldn't let Alakazam attack Dazed with impunity. "Psychic, then shadow ball." He ordered as calmly as he could. Ash felt Torrent comfortingly tap his head with his snout.

Normally Ash would have Dazed try to evade the psychic attack, but there was no way she could. In this case, the best defense was a good offense.

Alakazam only increased the rate at which it sent the psycho cutters at Dazed's weakened body. The few that had hit had done a bit of damage, but she could still fight back.

As a new barrage of the spinning crescents flashed towards her, Dazed's eyes glowed with the light of the sun. Her pendulum blasted forward and trembled as she sent her own psychic towards Alakazam, the wave of telekinetic force overwhelming and disintegrating the glowing crescents.

Ash smiled softly when the psychic wave slammed into Alakazam, sending it floating backwards several feet. It was clear that the attack did little to Alakazam thanks to its impressive shell of protective energy, but it exposed one of Alakazam's weaknesses: while covered with the barrier/light screen combination it couldn't teleport.

So when Dazed fired a large, swirling ball of shadowy energy, he was secure in that Alakazam couldn't avoid it. He was right in his assumption. The shadow ball slammed into the psychic-type's frail body, shattering its barriers and sending it crashing into the ground.

"Again!" He ordered as he saw Gary prepare to give more orders. Dazed quickly blasted Alakazam with another psychic, although Alakazam managed to block it with his own impressive abilities. But Alakazam couldn't defend against a second shadow ball, which slammed into its chest and sent it to the ground again.

Gary looked desperate. Apparently he hadn't expected Dazed to stay conscious through the psycho cut, let alone be powerful enough to retaliate.

"Teleport behind it and use hyper beam!" He cried out. Alakazam shakily stood up and teleported. A split second later yet another shadow ball flashed through the place it had once been.

"Light screen." Ash grinned. Alakazam had just appeared behind Dazed in a flash of light, the hyper beam already prepared in the moment it had vanished.

Alakazam's spoons were crossed as it released the swirling ball of white and orange energy in the form of an immense, powerful beam. It slammed into Dazed's hastily prepared light screen, golden barrier meeting multihued energy.

Torrent rushed in front of Ash as the world in front of him exploded, taking the entire force of the blast in order to protect the trainer. Ash coughed and patted Torrent in thanks. That could have been bad.

"Thanks, buddy." He wheezed. Torrent rumbled his reply. Ash noticed that Torrent didn't seem badly affected by the blast, although it did force the powerful pokemon back a foot or so.

Ash waited for the smoke to clear with bated breath. At such a close range, the hyper beam would either shatter the light screen or simply explode upon it. If it destroyed the light screen, Dazed would be unconscious. If it rebounded or exploded, Alakazam would be unable to teleport in time.

When the smoke cleared, a wide grin split Ash's face. Dazed was still standing, although her entire body was trembling and charred from the immense heat and force that resulted from the blast. Alakazam was unconscious, body crumpled against the ash-covered ground. Both spoons were lying a few inches away from its hands.

Unfortunately, Dazed collapsed mere moments later, unable to remain standing after the immense amount of damage she'd taken and the incredible amount of energy she'd put into surviving the hyper beam.

Nevertheless, Ash kept his smile on his face even as he returned Dazed. He held the pokeball to his face and whispered to his unconscious friend.

"Good job, Dazed." He said quietly, uncaring of the destruction around him. The poison gas was already vanishing without Dazed's power fuelling it. "You did wonderful."

He placed the pokeball back on his belt even as Gary recalled Alakazam with a stunned look on his face. Ash couldn't blame him. That Alakazam was powerful, far more so than he'd expected. No Alakazam was weak, but it was clear that Gary had trained it well. Gary must be furious that it had lost to a hypno.

"How –" Gary shouted across the clearing, which had been devastated by the furious battles that had taken place. Long gouges in the soft ground ran from where the psychic crescents had carved their way through and a large crater had been blasted into the ground from the reflected hyper beam. "Nevermind. You're better than I thought, but you won't beat my last pokemon. Go, Umbreon!"

Ash's blood froze as he saw the lithe, ebony form of Gary's Umbreon materialize. Its rings glowed and flashed in the daylight, creating a mesmerizing effect. Umbreon daintily stepped forward, its head held high as it assumed a fighting position.

For an instant he saw a massive, slavering Umbreon in its place, teeth bared and poisonous sweat dripping from its body. Ash shook his head and stared at the sleek Umbreon again, although the image of Pierce's feral beast overlaid it for another brief moment.

He took a moment to calm himself down, making sure to take deep, soothing breaths. Gary sneered at him.

"Hurry up! I don't have all day, you know."

Ash frowned and looked for Tangela. He remembered how easily the grass-type had ensnared Pierce's Umbreon. Hopefully he would be able to do the same thing in a real fight.

Just then a lance of electricity struck Umbreon's side, knocking it down making the dainty creature yelp in pain and surprise. Gary shouted at Ash with an indignant expression. "What do you think you're doing! You can't attack before the battle starts."

He ignored Gary and looked with horror towards Nidorino, who was charging towards Umbreon with his horn lowered and his barbs extended, leaking poison from both of his natural weapons. Nidorino's eyes were wild and frenzied as he slowly charged towards the dark-type. His friend would take another ten seconds or so to reach Umbreon, but that time was vital.

"Nidorino, stop!" Ash cried, running onto the field. He was too slow thanks to the mud, however, and wouldn't be able to get in Nidorino's way. The poison-type was deaf to his pleas, too overcome by rage and fear to realize what was happening.

Desperate, Ash reached towards his pokeball. Gary might count it against him as a loss, but Ash didn't care. He didn't want Umbreon to get hurt.

He paled and stumbled a bit when he realized that it wasn't there. Ash had left most of his pokeballs at home. Right now he only had Tangela's, Dazed's and Infernus'. Tangela and Dazed tended to get tired quickly from too much walking, so he wanted to be able to carry them home easily. Nidorino had needed to get some exercise to get his strength back, so Ash had left his ball with the others.

"Plume, Torrent! Stop him!" He shouted. Ash looked over at Gary, who was watching the whole spectacle with a bemused expression. "Gary, recall Umbreon!"

"What?" The boy exclaimed. "No way! You just want to score an easy win. Umbreon, knock that Nidorino out! Use psychic."

Umbreon growled softly and turned to face Nidorino, who was now mere seconds from crashing into it and goring the dark-type with his horn. Nidorino grunted softly as he was enveloped in psychic energy, but his eyes glowed a bright purple as he used his own weak abilities to dispel it. Ash was beginning to wish he hadn't had Nidorino train with Dazed to nullify weak psychic attacks.

The dark-type barely leapt out of the way as Nidorino went charging by with incredible force, not agile enough to catch Umbreon while in mid-charge.

Ash stopped when he saw Plume suddenly dive out of the sky. Torrent levitated by him at an impressive speed and stayed in front of Umbreon, more than ready to protect the dark-type from Nidorino's berserker rage.

Gary was furious now. Ash's rival was storming over to the battle with a red, splotchy face and clenched fists. "What do you think you're doing, loser? This is a one-on-one battle. Get rid of your other pokemon."

He glanced over at Gary with a scowl. "I'm trying to save your Umbreon's life. Nidorino got mauled by an Umbreon. He's dangerous right now."

The other trainer rolled his eyes. "Uh huh. Sure he did. Umbreon, just knock him out real quick. I've had enough of this loser."

Umbreon looked uncomfortable but growled an affirmative. It dashed around Torrent's huge body and leapt at Nidorino with bared fangs. Nidorino roared and sent a powerful ice beam straight into Umbreon's body. The dark-type yelped in surprise as it fell to the ground, completely vulnerable to Nidorino's next brutal charge.

Just before Nidorino would have slammed into Umbreon with his dangerous horn, Plume knocked him to the side with a weak gust. Ash nodded to her in thanks. She knew that Nidorino was still hurt and had taken care to avoid hurting him even more. Nidorino probably injured himself even more with this attack.

Nidorino grunted in pain and shakily pulled himself up before growling at Plume. He ignored her after that and tried to charge at Umbreon, who was beginning to rise from the ground. Ash dashed towards Nidorino from where he was, but just before Nidorino would have impacted the dark-type Umbreon was recalled in a scarlet flash of light.

"I've had enough of this." Gary sneered. "You might have strong pokemon, but you're weak, Ashy-boy. You can't even control a Nidorino."

Ash scowled but focused on Nidorino, who had stumbled in confusion as Umbreon vanished, his rage too strong for him to realize what had happened. Nidorino's anger began to break without the catalyst that sparked it, and the bloodlust vanished from his eyes as he looked around confusedly.

He walked over and carefully kneeled in front of Nidorino. His friend looked up at him tiredly and grunted in confusion, apparently not remembering what had happened.

"It's alright." He murmured soothingly, lightly running his hand over Nidorino's rough hide. "Just calm down."

Nidorino breathed deeply and sat down, grunting in pain as his old injuries came back with a vengeance. He leaned his face into Ash's hand and closed his small eyes as the loss of his rage left him weak and exhausted.

Gary, however, just looked at them with disgust as he released a clefable. It danced around in excitement when it realized it had been released before it looked up at Gary.

"I'm done with this. Teleport me away." Gary said with a scowl. "I'll battle you again when you can actually control your pokemon. Smell ya later, loser!"

An instant later Gary and Clefable vanished in a flash of light. Ash glared at the spot with silent fury before returning his focus to Nidorino. His friend was clearly in pain. He needed to get Nidorino's pokeball and give him a potion. Unfortunately, both of those things were at his home.

"I'll be right back." He promised Nidorino. "Plume, Torrent, Tangela, take care of him. Make sure he doesn't move."

Torrent rumbled his understanding and levitated over to Nidorino's collapsed form. Plume just shrieked out her response and took off, circling over the poison-type. Tangela, who had wandered over thanks to the excitement, made his happy gurgling noise and contentedly sat down next to Nidorino and ran his vines over the poison-type.

Ash just nodded at them thankfully before taking off, heedless of any lingering pain or soreness in his own limbs. Nidorino was more important.


"He'll be fine." Professor Oak announced as he finished his examination of Nidorino. He sent a stern glance at Ash. "Now, would you care to explain to me why a large portion of my Corral has been torn to pieces? If you wanted to test out your kingdra's abilities, there are much better places to do so."

"Wait, did Gary not stop by?" Ash said in surprise.

Oak frowned, the lines on his face deepening. "No. Why would he?"

"I battled him." Ash revealed. He scratched the back of his neck and stood up out of his chair.

They were in the lab's lobby. It had been about a half hour since Gary teleported away. Ash had run to his house and returned to Nidorino in order to get him to Oak. He'd put a potion on his wounds just to be safe, but Nidorino didn't seem too beat up.

The Professor sighed sadly and rubbed his temples as he collapsed into a chair. Nidorino grunted and pulled himself up once Oak was no longer standing above him.

"No, he didn't stop by. Did he say why he was here?" Oak questioned.

Ash shook his head. He was frowning as well now, feeling a little sorry for Professor Oak. "No. He just showed up and battled me. After Nidorino tried to attack his Umbreon, Gary just got mad and teleported away."

"So that's how all this happened." Oak muttered, sending a cursory glance at Nidorino, who had plodded over to Ash's feet and collapsed to the ground. "How was he?"

"A lot better than I expected." Ash replied honestly. Saying that Gary had been weak would be a lie. He'd have won even without Torrent, but Gary had gotten a lot stronger. "Last time we battled I beat him pretty easy. This time I would have had some trouble if it weren't for Torrent."

Oak smiled. "I'm glad he's improved. This little competition you two have got going is doing wonders. From what I've made out whenever he contacts me he's been training hard. I can't wait to see you two battle in the Conference. Whoever you face will get a nasty surprise."

Ash smiled with the older man. "I can't wait either. Speaking of the Conference, I still need two badges. Sabrina's and Giovanni's."

The Professor frowned deeply at the mention of Giovanni. "Be careful in Viridian, Ash. Giovanni is dangerous. I've heard stories from my contacts in the League about Giovanni using a powerful, unknown pokemon in some of his gym battles. He has no concerns about injuring challengers' pokemon. It's a bit worrying, actually."

"I'll be careful." Ash promised. "But I want to get Sabrina's badge first. I know I'm not ready for Giovanni yet, even with Torrent."

"Good. Don't become too reliant on him or too sure in his strength." Oak warned. "Kingdra are powerful, yes, but not invulnerable. A strong trainer will be able to defeat him without too much difficulty."

He nodded his understanding. Ash knew that Oak offered good advice. He couldn't become too reliant on Torrent, no matter how powerful the dragon-type was.

"I want to challenge Sabrina again soon." Ash revealed to the Professor. He met the older man's eyes. "Could I get Alakazam to teleport me to Celadon and then Saffron?"

"Why Celadon?" Oak asked with a calculating gaze.

Ash grinned. "I've got to pick up a few things before facing Sabrina. Dazed is going to be my main battler and she's strong, but she had trouble with Gary's Alakazam. She needs to get a bit more mobility."

The Professor's eyes widened in understanding. "I see. Yes, that could work. It isn't often that one meets a hypno with that ability. Very well, when would you like to leave?"

"Tomorrow." Ash said without any hesitation. "It's been nice relaxing, but it's time to start my journey again."

"Just call me if you want Alakazam to pick you up." Oak said. "It can take time to develop the skill and power to teleport across long distances."

Ash grinned again. "I will. Thanks, Professor!"

Oak waved his thanks away. "It's no problem. Alakazam needs to get out more anyways. All she does nowadays is lay around and contemplate the universe."

The trainer laughed at that. "I guess Dazed is getting a head start. She just likes to stare into space."

They talked for a few more minutes before Ash left, a mostly fine Nidorino trailing behind him. The rest of his friends had gone to their favorite places. Dazed had gone back to the house, Torrent had sunk to the deepest part of the lake and Tangela was sleeping on the field, which had quickly dried thanks to the sun beating down on it.

Ash couldn't help the little shocks of excitement that went through him as he contemplated resuming his journey. Pallet was nice, but he wanted to seek out challenges and explore the wilderness again. He wanted to get stronger.

But he could wait another day. He needed to tell his mom he was leaving and get ready for a few days of very intense training with his friends.

Sabrina was waiting for him, after all, and he was going to beat her this time.


His mother wasn't too happy about him leaving so soon, although she didn't try to stop him. She had come to terms with what he'd done over the past four months, but had relentlessly drilled into his head that if he ever came across a particularly dangerous situation he was to leave it alone.

Ash would be lying if he said that he would actually do that, but his mom never actually made him say that he would. He wouldn't be seeking it out – he never had – but if he found more of Team Rocket, it was a given that he would take them down.

But aside from all that unpleasantness, their relationship had resumed mostly unchanged. The only thing out of the ordinary Ash could detect was that his mother would sometimes stare at him with sad eyes. Ash just tried to ignore that. It made him uncomfortable.

Of course, part of her willingness to let him leave again so soon was that he'd promised to return after he defeated Sabrina. He liked being able to see and train all of his pokemon at the same time, and he certainly enjoyed spending time with his mother again.

Besides, he would have to return in order to challenge Giovanni. While he could always teleport to Viridian, Ash would prefer to walk. It gave him more of an experience and he would also get to see the familiar sights of his childhood again. The nostalgic value alone would be worth it.

Just before he left the small, clean home and went to Professor Oak's, he remembered something that he'd been meaning to ask for days now. He glanced back at his mother, who was staring at him with a forlorn look in her eyes, although it quickly returned to normal when she realized he was looking at her.

"What happened to Jonathan and Amelia after the…you know." He asked, omitting the St. Anne for both of their sakes. Ash didn't like talking about the tragedy and his mother didn't like hearing about it.

His mother was deep in thought for a few moments. "They were found on the Seafoam Islands." She finally answered. "Amelia's mother told me that they were in Fuschia right now. They were completely fine from what I heard, aside from the obvious."

Ash nodded with a slight smile on his face. He remembered that they washed up on the Seafoam Islands, so his mom hadn't given him too much extra information. It was still nice to know that his former travelling companions were safe, though.

"Thanks, mom." He said gratefully. "I'll be going now. Professor Oak is probably waiting on me."

"Good luck, sweetie!" His mother told him cheerfully, no hint of her previous concern on her face. "Make sure you cha—"

Ash was already out the door, having hurried up when his mother began to say that. In no time at all he was sprinting to the lab, six pokeballs on his belt and fire in his eyes.


"Alakazam is ready to take you." Oak told him. The older man was sitting down behind his desk, hurriedly writing down notes. One of his aides patiently waited next to him. Ash recognized her as the woman that he'd seen on the first day of his journey. She sent him a friendly smile as she waited on Oak. "Just go outside. She'll be finished meditating soon."

"Thanks." Ash replied. Before he stepped out of Professor Oak's office he glanced back at the busy man. "By the way, if I run into Gary I'll tell him to call you."

Oak's head snapped up. He smiled warmly at Ash. "Thank you. Good luck against Sabrina."

"Thanks." Ash repeated, tipping his hat in acknowledgement. "Good luck with your research."

With that Ash left. He didn't want to keep Alakazam waiting.

By the time he got outside, Alakazam had teleported in front of the lab. She glanced up at Ash with sharp eyes when he walked outside, measuring him carefully. Ash just stood still and let her. Alakazam was the only one of Professor Oak's pokemon that he hadn't had much experience with. The psychic-type had always been too aloof to put up with him and Gary playing with her.

Alakazam motioned for him to come closer. Her spoons were trembling violently as he grew closer. She glanced at him again with a questioning look.

"I'm ready to go." He told her. Alakazam nodded and crossed her spoons. Ash blinked and they were suddenly in a bustling metropolitan, surrounded by small throngs of people and the odd crowd that walked through the streets.

Ash turned around and saw that he was right outside of the Pokemon Center, although far enough away to stay out of other trainers' way. He turned back to Alakazam, who looked exhausted from the long trip. He couldn't blame her considering that Pallet and Celadon were several hundred miles apart.

"Thank you. Are you all right?" He asked in concern. Alakazam just rolled her eyes at him before straightening up. She crossed her spoons as her eyes burned a bright blue. An instant later she disappeared, noticeably lacking the bright flash of light that had accompanied the Abra that teleported him at Chronos Island. He guessed that it was a result of Alakazam's decades of experience.

But he figured that he needed to move on. There was a lot to do and he only had a few days to do it. Ash had his schedule for Sabrina planned, and he would like to meet that goal.

So he walked into the Pokemon Center and signed in. Nurse Joy recognized him and gave him a cheery hello, which Ash did his best to return. Once he got his room he left. He didn't need to go there yet.

Ash had two important stops to make: The Celadon Department Store and the police station.


"Is Officer Jenny here?" He inquired politely. The receptionist, a teenage girl wearing a police uniform, rolled her eyes.

"Kid, you're going to have to be way more specific." She replied boredly. "We've got three here. One an ordinary officer, one trains our growlithe and the other's the chief."

"I need to see the chief." Ash told her. He wanted to say hello. She'd helped him a lot during his time in Celadon so he should at least drop by.

The girl squinted at him. "Why would a kid like you need to see the chief? She has more important things to do than talk to you."

He frowned in annoyance. "Trust me, she'll want to see me. Just tell her that Ash Ketchum wants to see her."

"Fine." The girl sighed. She snapped her fingers, causing an odd, blocky pokemon to appear in midair. It made a few high-pitched whistles and looked at the receptionist with blank eyes. "Pory, go tell the Chief that an Ash Ketchum wants to see her."

The porygon whistled again and vanished. Ash looked at it oddly, causing the receptionist to chuckle a bit.

"Erika thought we needed a porygon." The receptionist said as she rolled her eyes. "Don't ask me why. Pory is just going to deliver the message to the chief."

Ash nodded his understanding even as the porygon reappeared. It whistled a few times, causing the teenager to glance at her computer screen with a frown.

"Huh. I guess she does want to see you." The receptionist muttered. She smoothed out some loose strands of hair and pointed to an elevator down the hall. "Just head to the elevator and go to the highest floor. It'll open up into the chief's office."

"Thank you." Ash replied as he walked past her. When the elevator arrived, he punched in the button that would take him to the fourth floor. In about twenty seconds he had been taken up to Jenny's office.

When it opened up, Ash carefully walked into the bare, plain office. He looked around and saw little in the way of decoration. The walls were gray and the only decorations were in the way of awards and medals that dotted the walls.

"What're you doing here?" The familiar voice of Officer Jenny asked bemusedly. Ash turned to the older woman. She was sitting behind her desk, which was covered with papers and files.

"I just wanted to say hi." Ash said easily. He walked over to Officer Jenny's desk and sat down in one of the wooden chairs. "You helped me out a lot when I was here last."

Jenny shook her head. "It wasn't a problem. You found a Rocket cell operating in my city. Anyways, I can't take off work right now. We're still dealing with the aftermath of the raid."

Ash cocked his head quizzically. It had been more than a month. "Why?"

"I've heard about some of the things you've done since leaving Celadon City, so I guess I can tell you." Jenny said with a tight smile. She looked quite stressed out. "The facility we were holding the pokemon we recovered from the lab was raided by Rockets. We don't know how they found it, but they took every single pokemon there before blowing it up somehow."

She suddenly gave him a calculating stare. A smile tugged at her lips. "Actually, quite a few of them were recovered when a few not-to-be-mentioned people attacked a Rocket base in the Sevii Islands. You wouldn't know anything about that, of course."

Ash kept his steady frown and met her eyes. She had a smirk on her face now. "How'd you know I was there? I was told that I was staying classified."

Jenny shrugged and put an innocent look on her face. "I have no idea what you're talking about. Some of the reports I looked at had a certain similarity to a few reports I put in myself a month or two ago. At least in regards to a certain someone."

He shrugged. Jenny's expression grew dour, the lines around her eyes growing deeper and harder.

"I'm not going to bother reprimanding you for going after the Rockets again, even if it's only because you had help. Very, very powerful help." She said sternly, although she softened a few moments later. "Now, I don't have much time, but I want to know how you're doing with that magmar I gave you."

A smile worked its way onto Ash's face. "He's doing great!" He exclaimed. "He's one of the strongest members of my team now."

Jenny nodded with a pleased expression, although Ash noticed that she made a few sudden notes on a piece of paper. "No discipline issues? Magmar can be dangerous."

"Nothing bad." Ash shrugged. "After the first few days I got it into his head that we should work together. Now he just has anger issues."

"Good, good." The officer said. She looked at the mounds of paper on her desk. "I've got to get back to work, but I'd like to wish you good luck. You're a good trainer and you'll go far."

Ash smiled again. "Thanks. Good luck with the city, Officer Jenny."

She nodded distractedly. "With Erika in charge, I'll need it." Ash heard her mutter as he went back into the elevator.

He couldn't help but grin at that, although it quickly vanished. Ash needed to start working on what TMs he was going to buy.


The Department Store's selection was as great as ever. It was extremely busy today, but the trainer's floor was largely empty in comparison. Most trainers opted to shop at the much cheaper Pokemon Marts when they didn't need anything special. Ash didn't mind. He liked it being quieter.

Another trainer was examining the TMs as well – a tall man whose face Ash couldn't make out from the shadows cast by the man's hat – but they ignored each other. Ash pulled out the list he'd made for his pokemon. They were getting strong enough to get more powerful moves now and they needed more variety anyways. In the Conference he would need every advantage that he could think of.

For Nidorino he was getting earthquake and shadow claw. He would probably get more TMs at a later date, but for now he was just getting the most important things. Nidorino would be able to use earthquake to devastating effect once he evolved and he would need shadow claw to have an advantage over any psychics.

For Plume he was getting double team. She didn't need many moves at the moment, so he figured he would just help her out with what she was already great at. Plume could use double team to greater effect than any of his pokemon and it would help to keep electric or rock-type attacks from hitting her.

For Dazed he bought the TM that would give him an edge against Sabrina. Dazed had everything she needed but mobility. This move would solve that.

For Torrent he bought rain dance. While not the most powerful of moves, it would be useful for the powerful water-type and enable him to gain a bit of an advantage. Torrent would be practically unstoppable if he had extra water to draw on.

Infernus' TM was the most difficult to choose. Aside from clear smog and a few other support moves, Infernus only knew fire-type moves. That was something he wanted to remedy now. So he spent several minutes browsing up and down the TM section. Ash knew the TMs Infernus could learn by heart, so it wasn't too hard to eliminate the vast majority of useless machines.

He ended up buying brick break. It would give Infernus an edge against rock-types and hopefully allow Infernus to deal even more physical damage. Ash was sure that he could find a way to augment the brick break with another of Infernus' moves.

Tangela got sludge bomb. It would give the grass-type a bit of variety and the effects of the toxic sludge could be devastating upon an opponent. Sludge bomb could blind and slow down opponents, or just distract them with its foul smell.

After that, Ash headed to the counter. His other pokemon didn't really need any moves. Seeker wasn't a battler and Bruiser wouldn't be fighting until Seeker was healed. Ash doubted he could get Bruiser away from Seeker right now if he wanted to.

Once everything was paid for – he still had just a little under thirty thousand dollars left, despite the amount of expensive TMs he'd bought – Ash hurriedly left the massive building and went out into the fields nearby the city.

He had a lot of training to do.


It only took a few minutes to use the TMs. He withheld Nidorino's, however. His friend wouldn't be able to resist testing out his new moves despite his injuries. While Nidorino would be ready to do some minor battling in three days or so, he just wasn't ready yet.

Ash was more than aware of Nidorino's annoyed gaze on him as he looked out at the rest of his friends. They were all standing or levitating in front of him, most interested. Infernus was curled up on a pile of ash and Dazed was polishing her pendulum with her long white mane, although her keen eyes never left him.

"I've given some of you TMs before, so you know how this works. Infernus, Tangela, I just want you to use the move you learned on whatever I tell you to."

Infernus snorted a great burst of flame as he stood up and stretched, the heat radiating from his body making the air around him waver and shimmer. Ash had to glance away from the disconcerting effect Infernus' camouflage create.

"Infernus, you're up. See that boulder over there?" He asked, pointing towards a large, roughly spherical stone that sat next to the pond they were training next to. Infernus nodded, his heat growing more intense. "Use brick break."

The fire-type lazily walked over to the boulder and cocked his head at it for a few seconds. He stamped his foot and roared before rearing his fist, which was glowing a bright white, and roughly chopping at the boulder with incredible force.

Ash blinked in surprise as Infernus' burning hand carved deep into the boulder before the attack ended. Infernus' hand seemed to be stuck, and the fire-type glanced at it in annoyance before blazing up. He could see smoke curling up from the crack even as the boulder slowly began to soften and melt from the incredibly high temperature. In just a few moments Infernus yanked his hand out of the boulder, sending drops of molten rock flying everywhere.

He nodded his thanks at Dazed when she caught the molten drops of stone and telekinetically placed it back on the boulder, which was now misshapen at the top.

"Good job, Infernus. Can't wait to see you use it in a real battle." Ash said with a grin. It looked like rock-types wouldn't be having much of an advantage over Infernus anymore. He was sure that his friend would put it to good use.

Infernus snorted flame as his eyes lit up with a malevolent gleam. He glanced at his fist again with darkly amused eyes before curling up into a ball on his pile of ash, although he kept one eye exposed in order to watch the others.

"Plume, show me what you can do." Ash said with a grin. Plume let out a piercing shriek before she catapulted herself up into the air, circling around high above them to gain a little speed before she began to use the move.

Ash saw Plume's body grow white as she began to use the move, moving rapidly in order to create multiple illusory copies of herself. They were moving so quickly that Ash had no hope of even telling which one was the real Plume.

He had to glance away after a few moments. The appearance of six different pidgeot rapidly flying and spinning in the air was extremely disconcerting.

A few moments later Plume landed in front of him, looking extremely pleased with herself. Ash grinned and gently stroked her crest, eliciting a bright chirp from the massive bird.

"Good girl." Ash said fondly. He stepped back and looked over at Tangela. The grass-type was sitting down and happily watching the proceedings, although when he noticed Ash looking at him he leapt to his feet.

Tangela gurgled happily at Ash and waited for Ash to give him a target.

Ash looked around for several moments. He didn't want to hurt the environment at all, so there was only one real target. Infernus would get to finish his job later.

"Sludge bomb on the boulder." Ash said as he crossed his arms and eyed Tangela critically. The grass-type gurgled again before turning to the rock. He suddenly spat a huge glob of toxic sludge from his mouth. The disgusting brown mixture completely covered the cooled stone, although a few drops spattered around the boulder as well.

He wrinkled his nose, but congratulated Tangela nonetheless. If it was that bad being next to it he couldn't imagine the sludge actually landing on him. Ash almost felt sorry for his future opponents.

"Good job." He said nasally, trying to only breathe through his mouth. Tangela hopped up and down excitedly before hugging Ash with his vines. Ash returned the hug happily enough, although he had difficulties with breathing. "Infernus, could you burn that? Dazed, get rid of the gas."

Infernus casually pulled his head up and spat a small, intense stream of white flame that completely engulfed the disgusting boulder. He held it for about ten seconds before returning to his nap. Dazed's eyes burned brightly as she gathered the toxic gas resulting from the sludge's burning up and sent it high into the air.

"Thanks." Ash replied, finally smelling again. The air still held a trace of the noxious sludge's scent, but it was diluted now. He got back to business and looked to Torrent. Just as he began talking, he hesitated. Ash really didn't want to cause a small storm, not yet anyways. It would inhibit Infernus' training and cause him no end off annoyance.

"Torrent, you know you can do rain dance?" Ash asked. The regal dragon-type nodded. "Alright, then. Sorry, buddy, but I can't have it raining yet."

Torrent rumbled his understanding. Ash smiled and turned to his friends. "We've got a big battle coming up. Do any of you remember Sabrina?"

Dazed's eyes flashed briefly at the memory. She almost flinched, although Ash saw her reign in the twitch before it was really noticeable. Her pendulum was trembling, barely held in place by her tight control over her emotions.

Nidorino had a grimace plastered over his pointed face. His eyes were narrowed as he recalled the humiliating defeat he had suffered at the hands of Alakazam. Ash was glad that he wouldn't be using Nidorino in this fight. It had been stupid of him to use him against Sabrina the first time, no matter how powerful Nidorino was.

Infernus, however, instantly snapped up. Flames flickered around him as his eyes blazed with anger. Ash sent a warning glare to get him to calm down. Ash would probably be using him in the battle. The fire-type could work out his fury then.

"So, I want everyone to get used to their new moves." Ash announced. His friends drew forward eagerly. They always liked pushing the destructive potential of their power to the absolute limit. "Dazed, you're going to be with me. I need to work with you the most."

Dazed nodded and shuffled over to him. She took her place by his side and absentmindedly continued polishing her pendulum. Ash glanced back at his team. "Torrent, work on dragon pulse and practice hydro pump some more. Tangela, try and get ancient power working. Infernus, just practice your Haze technique. When you're done with that, work on fire blast."

Infernus snorted flame to show he understood. Torrent and Tangela rumbled and gurgled respectively and headed off.

Ash was working on new techniques. Infernus' strategy of incinerating the opponent and beating what was left of them to a pulp worked fine most of the time, but against Sabrina it just wouldn't be enough. He would have to go with his camouflage and fire spin in order to have an edge against her powerful psychics.

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