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.


22. GMFO Part 2

Torrent had proven to be perfectly capable of battling on land. His strength with the moves he did know was simply incredible, but Ash wanted to see what he could do with dragon pulse. Dragon-type moves were exceptionally powerful and would give his friend an additional bit of variety. While he had learned hydro pump a few weeks ago, Torrent still had some difficulty. All he needed was practice.

Tangela needed to learn ancient power. He needed to get a bit of variety in his move pool, in particular variety that would let him crush any flying-types that tried to battle him. While Tangela could easily take down slower flying-types by ensnaring them in their vines and sucking out all of their energy, Ash knew that a fast opponent like Plume would be too swift for Tangela to catch.

But Dazed was the one that needed his personal attention. The others would be fine working on their own. She was the one that would be carrying them during this battle.

The others walked off. Only Plume was left, cocking her head at him oddly, confused as to why she hadn't been given a duty.

"Hey, girl." Ash said with a slight smile. Plume cooed at him gently, lightly pecking him and sending him staggering backwards. "I've got an important job for you. I want you practicing air slash, but every now and then go check on Infernus. Blow out any fires that he doesn't extinguish and keep the others on their toes."

Plume chirped happily and took off, whipping up powerful winds as she tore into the air. Ash was sure that she would enjoy practicing air slash against the others. Hopefully they would get a chance to try their moves out for real, although Plume might be too fast for them to easily hit.

Now it was only Ash, Nidorino and Dazed. Nidorino didn't seem too happy about being unable to train, but loyally followed Ash as he and Dazed walked over to a large field less than a quarter mile from their location. Ash had discovered this place when he had been stuck at Celadon for a few days after the Game Corner incident. It was ideal for training any of his friends.

But the massive, open field was absolutely perfect for training Dazed with her newest technique. It was large enough to pose a challenge yet small enough to mimic the conditions they would find inside a gym.

"Alright, Dazed, you see that tree over there?" Ash asked, pointing to a massive, gnarled tree that dominated the center of the field. It was isolated from all other trees, ancient but alive. "Teleport."

Dazed's eyes flashed briefly before she vanished with a brief flash of light. She appeared about three-quarters of the way to the tree about two seconds later. Her yellow body and white mane were easily visible against the dull green of the grasses that dominated the field.

Ash frowned. Teleportation was instantaneous if used properly and at such a short distance should be perfectly exact. He shrugged it off, however. Dazed was probably just having trouble grasping it. She was a beginner, after all.

"Dazed, come back." He called out. Dazed appeared about twenty feet away from him, her expressive eyes showing herself to be as confused as Ash was. "Are you all right?"

Dazed nodded. She shuffled over to him, a brief flicker of annoyance passing through her. Ash barely managed to catch it before she shut it down, returning to her normal state.

"Again." He ordered. Dazed nodded slowly and gazed at the tree for a mere moment before her eyes flickered and she disappeared. Ash grinned when she appeared less than ten feet away from the tree, although it still wasn't precise enough for his tastes. An instant later she appeared about six feet from Ash.

"Good job." Ash congratulated. Dazed didn't respond, but her eyes did become less narrow. "Again. We need to keep doing this until you can do it perfectly."

Dazed nodded and began the drill again. Ash was rather pleased when she pulled it off almost perfectly this time, although it was clear that the repeated teleportation was beginning to take its toll on her. He had heard that drowzee and hypno didn't have the raw power or specialization to use teleportation as effectively.

Judging from the weakness Dazed was displaying after about ten of the drills, Ash believed it. The abra line had evolved to naturally utilize teleport. Their brains and bodies were specialized for it, as were a few other psychic-type families. Drowzee and hypno were built more for physical and mental manipulation, not tearing holes through space and time.

So this would have to be a last resort strategy. Dazed was getting better and he was sure that her endurance and the ease in which she teleported would improve with time, but as of now she would have to end battles quickly.

He frowned at that. It wasn't completely unexpected, but it seemed that he would have to develop a strategy aside from teleport and shadow ball.

Ash glanced over at Dazed, who had just appeared beside him again. Her eyes were drooping and her body was beginning to tremble. He frowned and walked over to his friend. "That's enough, Dazed. You're doing great. Take a break."

Dazed stared at him thankfully, her pendulum slowly coming to a rest. The flickers of blue energy that encompassed her entire body slowly died down and she closed her eyes.

"We'll start training again in an hour." Ash told her. "Are you just going to rest here?"

The psychic-type nodded stiffly, her body clearly weakened by the strenuous exercises. She slowly sat down and closed her eyes as she began to meditate. It would help to heal her body and prepare her for another bout of training, although Ash would make sure that he was much easier on her this time. He didn't want her overexerting herself.

With that he walked away. He needed to make sure that the others' training was going along well. Nidorino slowly plodded along behind him, still annoyed if his little huffs of annoyance were anything to go by but too loyal to be obstinate.


Over the next five days, his friends' training progressed nicely. Dazed was able to teleport up to ten times before the drain was too much and was still able to fight well. He'd gotten her to perfect using two shadow balls at a single time. She finally had the focus and power to utilize the advanced technique, although it drained her rapidly. Ash would try not to use it very much.

Infernus had grown bored after five days of relentless training. Ash ended up leaving the rest of his friends to train by themselves for a while on the last day while he took Infernus out for battles.

His friend hadn't improved much in respects to power or endurance, but Ash could tell that he'd mastered the Haze technique. It wasn't very difficult, but Infernus didn't like using it. He liked mauling his enemies until they were defeated, although Ash knew from personal experience that Infernus wasn't entirely above using underhanded tricks.

Despite his newfound power, Torrent still hadn't mastered dragon pulse. Ash suspected that he would have to find some method of help. Dragon-type moves were notoriously difficult to learn for those inexperienced with them and Ash knew that it would take at least another few weeks for Torrent to master the attack. As of now he could only form a small sphere of green energy before it fizzled out.

Tangela had mastered ancient power in two days. He went from barely being able to pull pebbles from the earth with his mind to ripping huge chunks of earth and stone from their static prison with ease. Ash was absolutely stunned at Tangela's astounding growth rate. The grass-type had an incredible move pool and was quite powerful when he actually battled, but Ash hadn't expected him to learn a completely new move so quickly. Tangela were hardly known for their intelligence, after all.

Plume didn't do much except heckle the others, swooping out of nowhere to practice her air slash. She'd almost mastered it. The pidgeot was capable of launching several powerful, spinning blades of air with a single flap of her wings, but they were never quite strong enough to make it to her target. Ash suspected she would have it down within a week.

But Ash was as pleased with Nidorino as he was with the others. Nidorino had reigned in his uneasiness from being unable to let out his aggression and hadn't become bad-tempered or dangerous. His friend was always shifting around and looking uncomfortable, but Ash knew that he would be fine.

He'd actually begun to let Nidorino fight in minor battles. When Infernus would have been overkill – some trainers he battled had nothing more than a rattata or spearow – Ash let Nidorino get a workout in. While the poison-type hadn't lost his abilities, he had lost quite a bit of his endurance from his mauling at the hands of Pierce's Umbreon.

Nidorino was getting better though. He was able to fight half-way decent opponents and Ash was going to give him his TMs soon. He wouldn't be strong enough to safely evolve for a while, but it wasn't too far off. Two weeks at the most.

But Ash was done with training. He knew he was ready for Sabrina now. Ash knew what he was getting into now. He'd fought her before knowing of her immense power, but never experiencing it.

Now he knew what to expect. Sabrina was unlike any opponent he'd ever faced before, but he'd defeat her. Dazed was ready, Infernus was frothing at the mouth to repair the wound his pride had sustained against the gym leader and Torrent was eager to show off his strength.

Sabrina was waiting for his challenge, and he was ready to deliver.


He typed in Professor Oak's number into the video phone. Ash needed Alakazam to take him to Saffron. He'd hoped that Dazed would be capable of teleporting him to Saffron after her training was complete, but she couldn't teleport long distances. The most she could do was a couple of hundred feet before the strain would become too much for her. Dazed just didn't have the talent for teleporting.

"Hello?" Oak asked as he appeared on the screen. He wasn't looking at Ash. Instead he was tinkering with a pokeball. Ash could make out an odd purple covering on top of the ball, although Oak quickly hid the ball and looked at the screen. "Oh, Ash! How are you? Did your training go well?"

"I'm doing fine." Ash replied with a friendly grin. "I think I'm ready to take on Sabrina. Dazed can't teleport long distances, but she knows enough. Could you send over Alakazam?"

Oak nodded and smiled. "Of course, of course. Give me a moment. She's meditating."

Ash dipped his head in understanding. He knew how psychic-types liked to meditate, even if he couldn't understand it personally. His body was far too restless to sit still of rmore than a few minutes.

The Professor rose out of his chair slowly, showing the strain age had put on him. He paused to stretch out a few kinks before walking out of Ash's view.

He patiently waited for about two minutes before the Professor came back onto the screen.

"She's waiting outside of the Pokemon Center." Oak informed him as he sat down, sighing in relief as he got into the cushioned chair. "Try not to keep her waiting. She's been oddly temperamental the last few weeks."

"I won't." Ash promised. "Thanks, Professor."

Oak waved his thanks away and pulled out the pokeball again, although Ash noticed that he took care to keep the purple casing away from Ash's eyes. While he was curious about the mysterious pokeball, Ash didn't bother asking about it. The Professor would have told him if he wanted Ash to know.

With that the screen cut off. Ash stared blankly at it before pulling himself out of his seat. He left the room in a hurry. Alakazam was waiting and he really didn't want to annoy her.

Ash found himself outside of the Pokemon Center in just a minute. He'd already checked out and gathered his belongings from his room. His pack was slung tightly around his shoulder and his pokeballs were on his belt.

Alakazam waited just a few feet out of the Pokemon Center. Oddly enough, she didn't seem to be attracting attention. Ash noticed that every now and then someone would send a curious glance her way, but it seemed that most people didn't realize she was there at all.

She motioned for him to come near, pulling her spoon closer to herself. Ash complied and walked closer, apologizing to one of the pedestrians that walked into his path. The man just ignored him and went on.

"Can you take me to the Pokemon Center in Saffron?" Ash asked.

Alakazam nodded and crossed her spoons. Ash only saw her eyes flash a bright blue for a moment before they appeared in a similarly large but radically different city.

He blinked at the sudden change in lighting and scenery and looked over at Alakazam. She glared at his attention and stood back up, refusing to allow wariness to show. A moment later she crossed her spoons again and vanished, leaving nothing but thin air behind.

Ash took a moment to glance around. He would be lying if Saffron was his favorite city. It was too big and dirty and full of people that could be quite snooty at times. But none of that changed the fact that Saffron was an incredible city. While it didn't possess the sheer size that Celadon possessed, Saffron compacted more into less. What Celadon had in sprawling suburbs Saffron had in immense skyscrapers, just low enough to not anger wild pokemon.

He took a moment to appreciate the sight before a well-dressed gentleman brushed past him, sending the trainer stumbling. Ash glared at the man that had ruined his little bout of thoughtfulness, annoyed at the fact the man didn't even glance back. After he'd checked his pockets and belt to make sure nothing had been taken, Ash walked into the Pokemon Center.

It only took about five minutes to get a room. Ash didn't actually go to it, though. He was much too worked up over challenging Sabrina again to bother. Everything was passing in a blur as he focused on every possible strategy he knew that Sabrina might employ and did his best to create a counter.

After all of that was over and done with, he made his way to the gym. While it was easy to get lost in Saffron's intricate network of roads and alleys, Ash managed to remember this area well enough. He'd spent enough time in this section of the city during his last visit to recognize the areas he needed to, although Ash was still a bit fuzzy on the details.

Nevertheless, he found the elegant gym after about fifteen minutes. He'd taken a few wrong turns, but a few signs and locals had managed to get him back on the right track.

He took a moment to take in the unusual building. It was just as he remembered: A smooth, silvery surface with gentle curves and lines. While the gym was much different than the dull gray buildings around it, the contrast only made it more beautiful by highlighting its refinement and the skill that had been put into creating it. It embodied what Sabrina and the psychic-type were about: Strength through skill.

Ash took a deep breath before walking towards it, patiently waiting for some of the small crowds to pass by. A few other trainers that stuck out like a sore thumb in the city waited outside as well, some leaving the gym with despondent looks on their faces and others looking at the gym with a hopeful smile.

The trainer ignored the others as he gently slid the large, sculpted door to the side. He glanced around and saw that practically nothing had changed. Psychics drifted around, accompanied by psychic-types and others training with their order. A few paused to give him a cursory glance. They flinched almost instantaneously and hurried along their way.

He frowned at that, not liking what that said about him. But he wandered further in, feeling quite out of place amongst the cool decorations and simple designs. It just felt above him in a way, as though it belonged to an exclusive club to which he did not belong.

And then Sabrina appeared a mere foot in front of him, her cool crimson eyes gazing at him dispassionately. Her dark hair that held just the barest hint of a murky green floated upwards for a moment as the psychic energy accompanying her arrival dispersed before it collapsed back into place, not a hair out of line.

"Hello, Ash." The woman intoned in her eerily calm tone. It looked out of place next to her warm smile. Despite the chill it sent racing down Ash's spine, he found it relaxing. Such a lack of emotion kept him focused and calm. "You have returned to face me. Do you believe yourself to be of sufficient strength?"

"Yes." He replied honestly. "I've gone through a lot since I last battled you. I'm ready."

Sabrina closed her eyes. When she opened them they were glowing brightly with a deep purple energy. "Indeed. You have seen much, Ash. Things that few have ever seen. I have seen your progress. While I feared for you when the Ice obscured my vision, I should not have. You have been honed through cruel environments and great threats."

Ash felt uncomfortable as she mentioned watching him. He just didn't like knowing that someone had access to his life like that.

"Do not worry." She said in her monotone voice. "I can sense you only in times of great emotion, as I can every strong trainer. My powers are limited to this city, which I watch over and protect from forces that would do it harm. It is difficult to know the mind of another when they are in Fuschia or the Seafoam Islands."

For some reason that didn't make Ash any more comfortable.

Sabrina's smile grew, her cool eyes in direct contrast with the show of happiness. Ash somehow knew that her smile was genuine. Perhaps it was her own mind's immense power overshadowing his own, juxtaposing his thoughts and feelings with her own.

It continued to grow at that, a secret smile that he didn't know the meaning of.

"Come." She told him, eyes growing less narrow and shifting to a warm scarlet. "You remember the way, yes?"

Ash nodded and followed the powerful psychic as they walked through the silent halls of the gym. Several of the robed psychics patrolling the area flinched away from Ash as he passed by but nevertheless bowed and showed great reverence towards Sabrina.

She seemed above it all. Sabrina gave cool nods to the psychics, but no other acknowledgement.

"Why do –" He began.

"They can sense the events you have shaped and survived." Sabrina replied tonelessly. She never slowed down. "Ice has touched you, its presence born from mere contact. It hurts us, the source more than we can bear."


"I am strong." She replied, once again speaking before the words could leave his lips. Sabrina paused only as she raised her hand to the massive doors that locked them out of the stadium. A faint glow suffused her hand and the immense, silvery doors smoothly opened. "The Ice will leave you soon. It is a mere memory of the source, one that you have been forgetting since you gained it. I can ignore it."

Ash nodded slowly, unsure of what she was speaking of. Articuno, obviously. But how could a mere memory of something hurt a psychic?

"I have said too much." Sabrina told him as they entered the large, dark stadium. As she stepped in, dozens of torches suddenly alit with a bright fire. The familiar battlefield was illuminated, perfectly smooth.

He admired the sight of the floor around the immense battlefield. It was made of an ambiguous stone or glass, shining but not clear. Ash wanted to look at it some more to discover just what it was, but he realized that the gym battle was more important.

When he looked up, Sabrina had already teleported to the gym leader's box. Ash had expected it this time, but he was still a little shocked at the ease in which she used her powers. Sabrina waited calmly for him, four pokeballs levitating around her. They swirled around her at a slow speed, carelessly floating through the air in a blatant violation of physics.

Ash stepped up to his own box. He glanced over at Sabrina.

"This will be a four-on-four battle." She called out. One of the pokeballs hovered in front of her, likely containing the pokemon she would use first. "The match shall end prematurely should either of us forfeit. Pick your fighter."

He blinked in surprise. A four-on-four? He'd expected a three-on-three like she'd chosen last time. Ash frowned and took one of the pokeballs off his belt.

Sabrina's voice suddenly met his ears from across the battlefield. "I have had a vision of our battle. Let us see if it will come to pass."

Ash grinned and released his pokemon. Tangela appeared on the field. He gurgled happily and hopped up and down, although Ash noticed that he looked around for a bit in search of the trainer.

"Tangela, you're in a gym battle!" Ash called out. Tangela gurgled even louder and jumped up higher. His vines unwrapped themselves and wriggled around in the air due to the grass-type's happiness. "We're battling psychics. I know you'll do great!"

Tangela made an odd mixture of noises in understanding and tensed up, waiting for Sabrina to send her pokemon onto the field. He tensed up and prepared to fight as she released a small, slender espeon. Its scarlet forehead crystal glinted brightly as it sauntered up to the middle of the field.

Ash quickly noted the power it seemed to wield. Just from being relatively near it he could feel the barely controlled strength. Espeon would be a powerful opponent.

While he hadn't planned on using Tangela in a gym battle yet, Sabrina had forced his hand. With a four-on-four battle he would have to either use Plume or Tangela. Nidorino was healing well, but he wasn't up for a battle against Sabrina. With his weakness to psychics it would be stupid to send him out anyways.

Plume couldn't fight in these enclosed quarters. They were high up, but nowhere large enough for a bird much larger than Ash was to comfortable fly around and maneuver. It would automatically put her at a disadvantage. She was invaluable everywhere else, but she just couldn't work well in a gym.

Tangela, however, would be fine. He was powerful, showed great skill at battling, and didn't have a disadvantage. While his real strength rested in physical fighting, he also had ranged attacks. When it came to battling indoors, he was by far the best choice.

"Begin." Sabrina's voice announced, echoing throughout the vast chamber.

Within moments Espeon attacked. A powerful psybeam shot out of its gem and slammed into Tangela without warning. Tangela didn't seem to notice, however. He was knocked back a bit, but the psybeam failed to actually hurt him. His shell of vines dampened any effect the psybeam might have had.

"Leaf storm, trap it with stun spore!" Ash ordered. He stayed quiet. Sabrina seemed far too honorable to read minds during a gym battle, so it wouldn't do to throw caution to the wind.

Tangela happily carried out his orders. He fired dozens of razor-sharp leaves from inside of his vines, each glowing and glinting as they flew towards Espeon with incredible force. An intensely bright layer of psychic energy stopped the worst of the attack, but quite a few leaves managed to slice through the barrier and hit Espeon.

The lapse in concentration caused the shield to collapse, leaving Tangela free to shake his spherical, vine-covered body and release the golden powder that would paralyze Espeon.

Even as the stun spore cloud descended over the battlefield, Espeon's eyes and gem flashed brightly for a moment before a bubble of psychic energy covered Espeon, the swirling purple energy keeping the stun spores from getting to the psychic-type. A moment later the psychic barrier exploded, carrying an immense amount of force behind it.

Tangela gurgled unhappily as he was thrown back several feet but leapt to his feet and awaited more orders from Ash. The cloud of stun spores had been dispersed by the wave of force, diffused throughout the battlefield.

Espeon was in the center of it all. Its eyes grew brighter and brighter as the power it wielded intensified. A ghostly, unnatural wind whipped around the lavender psychic-type, forming a shell that dragged and pulled dirt up from the battlefield at an incredible speed. In just a few seconds Espeon had completely vanished, the only thing hinting about its presence the bright, glowing eyes.

Ash frowned. Tangela was stumbling around from the force of the wind, although he wasn't being harmed. If Tangela wasn't able to keep his footing, there was no point in even trying to battle. So he'd have to solve that first.

"Ingrain!" He shouted, struggling to be heard over the howling wind. Tangela managed to catch his voice, though. Several of his vines at the bottom of his body snuck into the ground and rooted Tangela in place. Aside from a small influx of energy, it kept Tangela from being knocked around. It limited his mobility, but Ash could have him snap off the vines if needed.

Now it was time to use Tangela's vines' insusceptibility to pain to use. But first he'd have to get rid of that sandstorm. Tangela couldn't breach the shell. His vines would be shredded and battered before they could penetrate it.

"Ancient power, second." He commanded. Tangela quickly obeyed him.

Tangela could use two variations on ancient power. The first and most common was to simply form a silver energy ball in front of its body and fire it. The second was a bit rarer since not many pokemon had an affinity for it. It involved using the energy normally used to produce the ball to tear great chunks of earth from the ground and throw them at the opponent.

A small ball of energy formed in front of Tangela's body. It spun rapidly, casting a great silvery glow about the field that managed to penetrate the dense layer of sand swirling through the shifting air, before it separated into small beams that carved into the dirt around Tangela.

Four chunks of earth were quickly ripped from the battlefield, leaving Tangela surrounded by a crater. He stood on an island of earth whose only entrance and exit without entering the crater was a narrow strip of land, almost too thin for Tangela to walk on.

The chunks of earth levitated around Tangela for a brief few seconds before they were hurled into the sand shell that Espeon had erected. They were barely visible once they were thrown at Espeon aside from the narrow outlines of silver energy that surrounded them.

Espeon's sandstorm abruptly halted, the particles of dirt and sand collapsing to the ground as one. Ash heard a high-pitched cry, but he knew Espeon hadn't been knocked out by the attack. The furiously glowing eyes and tense lavender body told him that much.

"Vine whip and absorb!" He commanded quickly, hoping to take advantage of Espeon's distraction while he could. Tangela complied happily, sending eight of his extendable vines lashing towards Espeon, who was finally visible again. Two of the vines moved to strike from the sides, an attempt to attack even if Espeon destroyed the vines closest to it.

It proved to be a good strategy. Espeon quickly erected a layer of interlocking, golden pentagons that stopped the six vines attacking from the front from hitting Espeon. Several blobs of psychic energy, most blue but with intense, purple hearts, struck through brief holes in the barrier to sever the vines.

But the two vines that attacked from the sides remained unscathed. They struck into Espeon with incredible force, sending the fragile creature to the ground. Tangela quickly took advantage of Espeon's stunned state and wrapped his vines around its lavender body before yanking it towards him.

Espeon struggled for a bit, but when Tangela began to suck its energy through the vines. It slackened a bit, although a thin layer of psychic energy overlaying its fur helped to prevent as great a loss of its strength.

When Tangela brought it closer as gently as he could, seeking to not cause unnecessary harm, and released four more of his vines to speed up the process of draining its energy Espeon's eyes suddenly flashed.

Ash called out a brief warning to Tangela, but he was too late. A small barrier of psychic energy blasted out from Espeon's body, taking almost all of its remaining strength but severing Tangela's vines. Espeon's eyes suddenly glowed a harsh, vibrant red and Tangela became surrounded in a scarlet aura.

Tangela gurgled in pain as the psychic assault began, immense force battering him from all sides, but he determinedly stared at Espeon. The pale lavender psychic-type had fallen into the crater, unable to escape without exposing itself to harm for several seconds. With the degree of exhaustion it was suffering, Espeon would be unable to escape.

He grinned. "Use your ingrain to wrap it up."

The grass-type focused for a brief moment, doing his best to ignore the intense pain and pressure that pounded down on him. Even as the roots that kept him firmly stuck to the ground erupted out from his island, Espeon's split tail quivered. Espeon tried to leap out of the way as three small vines erupted from the earth Tangela stood on, but was rendered too slow by tiredness.

Tangela quickly ensnared the Espeon, two of the vines firmly pressing it to the ground. When it paused in its struggles and prepared to intensify the psychic assault on Tangela, the grass-type used the third vine to painfully jab it in its forehead gem.

Espeon gave out a high, piercing cry of pain but it was quickly cut off. Tangela had shot off eight more of his vines once Espeon's psychic had been disrupted and wrapped them around Espeon. Once he'd gotten his vines around enough surface area, Tangela sucked just enough energy from Espeon for the psychic-type to be rendered unconscious.

The grass-type stood up with a new vigor and hopped up and down in excitement. He used his vines to pull him away from his island as Espeon was returned by Sabrina.

"Good job, Tangela!" Ash congratulated, hands shaking in excitement. Tangela had performed better than he'd hoped. He hadn't been sure how Tangela would work against a powerful psychic-type like Espeon, but Tangela did great. "Keep it up!"

Tangela gurgled happily and waved some of his vines around.

Sabrina smiled and released her next pokemon. Ash looked curiously at the Mr. Mime that emerged onto the field. He'd only battled two before. Both had been effective, but very unorthodox. This would be a difficult fight.

Mr. Mime had a round, white body with a red spot in the center. Spindly, light pink arms and legs were connected to its round body by red spheres, much like the one on its chest. It had red cheeks and a pair of blue horns.

Ash gazed at it analytically, taking in as much as he could in the brief few seconds before the match resumed.

Mr. Mime didn't look like much, but Ash knew that they were powerful. It was masterful at erecting defensive barriers and attacked with power one wouldn't suspect from such an odd looking creature. He would have trouble getting close to it, but once he had gotten Tangela or his other pokemon close it would be a quick battle. Like many psychic-types, Mr. Mime were extremely fragile physically.

And then it began.

"Leaf storm." Ash ordered. Tangela quickly followed through on the command. He pulled his vines away from his face and shot dozens of sharp, glowing leaves towards Mr. Mime. The psychic-type brightened when it saw the attack and waved its odd hands, which had a faint glow of power about them.

Ash wasn't surprised when the leaves bent and fell to the ground as they slammed into an invisible barrier. Mr. Mime had powerful defenses against ranged attacks.

"Get close. Break through its defenses with vine whip when you can."

Tangela charged towards Mr. Mime as fast as he could. Unfortunately, that was still extremely slow.

Mr. Mime's permanent smile grew wider as Tangela waddled over, vines whipping towards the psychic-type. It waved its hands through the air, creating a barrier infused with enough power that Ash could actually see it. He didn't like what Mr. Mime was doing and called out a warning.

"Get ready to swing yourself away!" He called out. Tangela didn't acknowledge the order aside from extending some of his vines.

The psychic-type's smile didn't change as it awkwardly jutted out its thin arm. Tangela did his best to push himself away with his vines, but he couldn't escape as the barely visible barrier sped towards him. Ash winced as Tangela was slammed backwards at an incredible rate, carried forcefully by the barrier as it continued flying forward.

"Use ancient power!" Ash cried as Tangela was crushed against the psychic barriers that prevented attacks from escaping the arena. Tangela tiredly pulled himself up, his armor of vines not enough to prevent an injury from that attack.

Tangela determinedly formed the swirling, silver ball of energy in front of him as yet another wall of psychic energy was sent towards him. As it neared, Tangela fired the ancient power. It carved straight through the barrier, although it weakened and diffused into the air a few moments later.

The grass-type continued on with the first strategy. He pulled himself up on his vines and began to "walk" on them at an impressive speed.

But then Mr. Mime spread his hands apart, still unscathed from the battle. Two small, compact barriers formed about twenty feet away from Tangela on each side of him. Mr. Mime clapped his hands together, causing the two barriers to fly towards each other, crushing Tangela in between them.

Ash cried out in worry, but just frowned when he saw Tangela's form lying crumpled and unconscious. He returned the grass-type with narrowed eyes. That wasn't something he'd expected. It was clear that Sabrina had trained her Mr. Mime far beyond the others he'd met.

But if she and Mr. Mime were going to be brutal with his pokemon, he'd return the favor.

Infernus stamped his foot and roared in fury when he was released. Flames and lava erupted around him, leaving him nothing more than an intimidating, shimmering figure. He kept the aura of flames wreathed around his form, ready to crush all opposition.

"It took down Tangela!" Ash shouted to his friend. The flames around Infernus intensified, burning white-hot. Infernus didn't like Tangela and took malicious glee in sending sparks his way, but Tangela was part of the team. Besides, Infernus would want to prove just how much stronger he was than the grass-type.

Sabrina smiled softly and the battle began again.

Mr. Mime created another barrier and send it crashing towards Infernus at an incredible speed. It would crush him to the psychic walls and put an immense amount of strain on his body. The barrier was brighter and more intense than the ones that had defeated Tangela.

Infernus didn't even roar as it came closer. He simply reared back his fist and crushed the barrier with his burning hand. The psychic energy dispersed in a brilliant flash of blue light that lit up the entire battlefield for a brief instant.

Ash blinked, stunned. Infernus didn't even bother using brick break on the barrier. He just punched it.

A wide grin split his face. "Infernus, flamethrower! Get close and beat him."

Infernus roared and charged, rearing back his head and spitting a brilliantly intense white stream of flame towards Mr. Mime, whose perpetual smile had vanished. The psychic erected a barrier just in time for the flames to wash harmlessly over the invisible wall.

Mr. Mime's face showed its strain as it worked to keep the barrier working against the constantly growing flames that streamed around it. Infernus was growing closer and closer, an inferno of fire and smoke carried in his wake.

When the flames suddenly cleared, Mr. Mime put down the barrier, which had several cracks in it, only to see Infernus mere feet away. Ash was more than a hundred feet away, but he could see the awe and fear that flashed across Mr. Mime's normally stoic face.

The psychic-type erected another barrier, this one glowing brightly thanks to the immense amount of energy poured into it. Infernus's aura of fire crashed against the barrier even as Infernus reared his fist back and brutally chopped his hand into the aura.

For a moment nothing happened. Infernus and Mr. Mime were locked into a stalemate, both of the powerful pokemon putting all of their power into winning this confrontation.

And then the barrier shattered, a great burst of blue light flashing throughout the room as Infernus' brick break slammed into Mr. Mime and sent the spindly creature to the floor.

Ash hissed as the massive blast of energy swept throughout the battlefield, carrying dust and smoke in its wake. The psychic barriers around the arena were visible for a few brief seconds as they struggled to keep the immense amount of power within the arena's bounds.

He staggered backward as just a tiny bit of the energy managed to slip through the barriers. Every hair on his body stood on end and floating as the psychic power washed over him and his nerves screamed for just a moment.

It was over as fast as it began. Ash breathed deeply for a moment and secured his cap back into place before looking back on the battlefield.

Infernus had a shackled foot firmly planted on Mr. Mime's thin chest, flames curling down on it. The psychic blast had dispelled Infernus' fiery aura, but Infernus' entire body was still covered in flames. He picked up his foot and slammed it into Mr. Mime's chest, knocking the troublesome psychic-type out for good.

"Good job, Infernus!" Ash called out with a silly grin on his face. Infernus had once again proved his strength. "I'll probably bring you back out soon."

The fire-type roared in return and stamped his foot in victory, causing the earth around him to churn and explode upward, lava pouring from the gouges in the battlefield. Ash grinned at the display before returning his friend. If Alakazam was as powerful as before, Infernus could be a deciding factor.

As it was, he wanted to save Infernus' vast strength. Torrent might not be sufficient against Alakazam, and Ash wanted to weaken the powerful psychic as much as he could before sending Dazed out.

Both trainers sent their next pokemon out.

Torrent rumbled his arrival, glancing around the ruined battlefield with great distaste. The earth had been ravaged by Infernus' lava plumes and torn apart by Tangela's vines. It would be difficult for anything to navigate unless they could levitate or fly.

Sabrina's smile never faded. She sent out an odd creature. Ash had seen it before on TV, but it must have been a foreign pokemon since he didn't know almost everything about it. He knew that most of the gym leaders had received at least one foreign pokemon to diversify their teams and force trainers to adapt, but he really wished that they hadn't. It was difficult to battle when he didn't know something's capabilities.

The pokemon she sent out was about his height. It was primarily a light green and white, although a red spike erupted from its chest and back. Its forearms were thick, supported by thin yet extremely muscular arms. Bold, rounded hips and strong legs made up its lower body.

What made Ash jerk in surprise was when sharp blades extended out of its elbows. Its large, red eyes were fierce and determined, although they held great intelligence and respect as they surveyed Torrent.

The pokemon bowed to Torrent and waited. It was perfectly still, albeit tense and ready to strike at any moment.

"Gallade would prefer for you to strike first." Sabrina said softly, although her voice echoed throughout the gym. "It is against his code to be the aggressor."

Ash shrugged. "Torrent, blizzard. Spread it across the battlefield and then use ice storm."

Torrent rumbled as he released a huge amount of freezing air and shards of ice from his snout. The icy air quickly spread across the battlefield, creating a cold zone that would greatly hinder Gallade. A moment later he levitated backwards, far away from Gallade.

The moment Torrent acted, Gallade began a smooth, graceful sprint. It was obviously a fighting-type judging from its strong and efficient movements.

It leapt high above the ice field, although it had no chance of jumping all the way across the swirling, icy mist. Ash blinked in surprise when it suddenly vanished just a moment before it would have landed. Gallade suddenly appeared directly behind Torrent and sliced down his back with his sharp blade.

Torrent roared in surprise, although the blade failed to do real damage. He quickly levitated away and shot a powerful water gun at Gallade. The psychic-type immediately teleported away and appeared next to Torrent, although the powerful water-type was ready this time.

The moment Gallade appeared, Torrent shot a water gun straight at the psychic-type. Gallade wasn't fast enough to avoid the powerful jet of water and was flipped backwards, although it gracefully landed on its feet and teleported away a second later.

Ash frowned. Gallade was much more dangerous than he'd expected. It hadn't showed anything that would really harm something as powerful and resilient as Torrent yet, but it was highly maneuverable and could take a hit. He needed to crush it quickly.

"Ice storm!" He shouted to Torrent. "Focus it on you."

Torrent quickly did as Ash commanded. His fins waved a bit and he spun, causing an immense twister of churning air to form, carrying with it dirt torn from the ravaged floor. The twister ripped through the battlefield, dominating and whipping the entire area with harsh wind.

When it reached the ice field, which had only just begun to fade as the heat from the surrounding area diffused into it, Torrent guided the icy air into it with his own power, turning the formidable twister into a storm of wintery air and sharp chunks of ice.

Gallade appeared in front of Ash's box. It was tense and prepared to sprint, but obviously didn't have a way to attack Torrent while he was in the eye of the storm. The psychic-type sent a few testing psycho cutters, but the brutally powerful wind destroyed them the moment the psychic crescents grew near.

It vanished an instant later. Ash looked around the destroyed battlefield in an attempt to find Gallade again, but there was nothing. He frowned, but his attention was dragged to Torrent's ice storm when the huge column of twisting air suddenly narrowed and intensified.

A moment later Gallade appeared in front of Ash again, sporting several wounds and a thin layer of frost over its body. It was obviously worse for wear and wouldn't be as effective.

Ash couldn't help Torrent right now. His friend couldn't even hear him, let alone act on his commands. Remaining in the ice storm was the best possible strategy for Torrent at the moment. Gallade couldn't penetrate it without suffering great harm himself and Torrent could do whatever he wished.

The column of ice and air suddenly surged towards Gallade, kicking up air and leaving a deep gouge in the earth as it moved along. Torrent's huge form was barely visible inside, a shadow inside the light blue air.

Gallade tensed up. An aura of blue energy suffused its form and it suddenly began a long, loping sprint into the ice storm. Ash couldn't help but admire its courage. Not many fighting-types would willingly attack something like that, even if they had a strategy to deal with it.

And Gallade did have a strategy to deal with the ice storm. As it neared it, Gallade leapt upward and did a sort of spin. When it entered the storm, its body flashed a bright blue before huge amounts of energy erupted from its lithe body.

The effect was dampened enough by the ice storm to allow Ash to actually watch it. Energy exploded outward, carving through the heart of the storm. Ice shards and the air itself was carried outward by the burst of energy, dispersing the ice storm aside from a few remaining swirls of air.

Torrent was revealed. He looked surprised, but he quickly regained control of himself. Gallade was obviously exhausted, but it quickly teleported behind Torrent and elegantly spun around, slicing into Torrent's back with his glowing blade.

Unfortunately for Gallade, that didn't actually weaken Torrent. It simply made him angry. Torrent promptly spun behind and delivered a powerful hydro pump into Gallade, the incredibly powerful blast of water slamming into the psychic-type, who was too tired to teleport away in time.

Gallade was slammed into the torn ground by the powerful attack and was helpless as Torrent shot another hydro pump into its body with unstoppable power. The psychic-type struggled to get up again, but Torrent rumbled loudly and blasted him with one last hydro pump.

The powerful pokemon tried to pull itself up one last time, but collapsed.

Ash was grinning ear to ear. He wasn't sure if Infernus could have taken down Gallade that easily. Torrent had taken a few hits, but his armored hide and typing made them mostly ineffective. Infernus would have had more trouble defending against the maneuverable Gallade.

Sabrina recalled Gallade. Her smile was still there, but it grew a little as she released her last pokemon.

He sighed when he saw the old, powerful Alakazam appear. It was sitting down on air, its power keeping it levitating.

Alakazam glanced at Torrent and landed to the ground. Its spoons began to glow brightly, trembling violently as power surged through them.

"Hydro pump!" Ash called out. "Get close."

Torrent rumbled and flew towards Alakazam. As he shot a powerful hydro pump at the psychic-type, Alakazam casually erected a barrier. It grew slightly brighter as the blast of pressurized water impacted, but it held up without any noticeable strain.

Alakazam stared at Torrent for a moment as the water-type grew nearer. The psychic seemed to smile and crossed its spoons. A blue aura surrounded it and a matching aura encompassed Torrent's form.

Torrent froze, locked in place by Alakazam's psychic. Ash frowned and felt worry gnaw at his stomach, but it was completely wiped away when Torrent rumbled loudly – the ground shook – and suddenly broke Alakazam's mental control.

Alakazam look shocked for a moment as Torrent surged toward him, furious and ready to do battle with the powerful psychic-type.

But as Ash's friend neared, Alakazam casually teleported to the side. As Torrent went ramming past him, Alakazam closed its eyes. The aura around it grew brighter and shifted hue, becoming a dark, rich orange.

It sent a psybeam towards Torrent, perfectly aimed. The powerful, intense beam radiated light and sent Torrent hurtling backwards when it impacted. Torrent survived the attack, but it had done a good bit of damage on him.

Ash clenched his teeth. He'd known that Alakazam was powerful from their last bout, but he realized that Sabrina was holding back. This time he would meet Sabrina's full strength.

"Hydro pump, follow with twister and blizzard!" He shouted. Torrent quickly followed through. Alakazam teleported just inches away from hydro pump, but simply crossed its spoons as the twister neared. A column of light appeared within the swirling mass of air and exploded outwards, destroying the twister with it.

As the blizzard lanced towards Alakazam in a focused column, the psychic-type simply flashed energy through its eyes and conjured a shimmering wall of psychic energy. The blizzard struck it, a howling current of ice and air.

Alakazam was visible from Ash's angle, so he could see its surprised expression at the powerful attack. It raised both spoons and crossed them, causing the barrier to grow in power until it lit the entire room like a miniature orange sun.

Ash shielded his eyes the best he could, but the light still blinded him. He closed his eyes and opened them a few seconds later. Stars still juxtaposed with his vision, but he could at least see some of the battle.

The psychic-type had teleported away from its previous position, allowing the rest of the blizzard to go roaring past it. Torrent tried to shoot a hydro pump at it, but Alakazam simply crossed its spoons and conjured a wall of light mere inches from Torrent's snout.

Torrent's hydro pump was quickly stopped when the barrier slammed into his snout, stopping up the hydro pump and shooting Torrent backwards. The water-type was forced into the psychic barriers surrounding the arena as the light screen continued to ram him, relentlessly slamming into his friend over and over again.

When Torrent finally shattered the light screen and roared towards Alakazam, the psychic-type simply crossed its spoons again. Vibrant orange-white particles of energy coalesced into a ball in front of its mouth. When Torrent grew closer, Alakazam fired the devastating hyper beam straight into Torrent's chest.

The resulting explosion forced Ash to look away again. When he looked back, his heart sank.

Torrent lay in the middle of a shallow crater, the powerful water-type crumpled and unconscious. Smoke trickled from his body, which was covered in soot and dust.

Ash sighed and recalled Torrent. He thanked his friend for his efforts before sending out Infernus.

Infernus' eyes narrowed in fury when he saw Alakazam. Flames swirled around him, leaving him an indistinct shadow in their midst.

"Haze!" Ash commanded. Infernus complied, using fire spin to surround the entire arena in a writhing mass of flames. Alakazam and the area directly around it was the only thing left untouched, its powers preventing the flames from encroaching upon it.

Alakazam looked around with calculating eyes. Infernus was nowhere to be found, but Ash expected Alakazam to find him shortly. Psychic-types could usually detect the minds of others, or at least their emotions. The powerful magmar's emotions were probably no more subtle than he was.

And Infernus emerged from behind Alakazam with murderous eyes, the crackling, roaring flames disguising his entrance. He leapt towards Alakazam with a glowing fist, the other at his side and writhed in flames.

The psychic-type snapped towards Infernus with its spoons crossed. A barrier was quickly erected in front of it, but Infernus' fist shattered it thanks to the greatly enhanced power brick break lent him.

But Alakazam vanished in that instance, finding a new safe harbor amongst the inferno. Ash scowled in anger and annoyance. Infernus vented his fury by letting loose a brutally powerful flamethrower, glowing white hot and intensifying the flames even more.

Infernus vanished into the fire the next instant, his anger helping to display his location. Where he walked the flames surged and intensified, the only obvious indicator of his location.

Ash could see Alakazam. It had appeared in the same spot Gallade like to teleport to: right in front of Ash. The psychic was wary, its spoons crossed and its body shrouded by a light screen and barrier.

He grinned. He could take advantage of this just like he had with Gary. Ash wouldn't even have to tell Infernus what to do.

It was a tense few seconds as they waited for Infernus. His friend had calmed his anger. Flames no longer exploded wherever he walked. Alakazam stood with its back to Ash's box.

Infernus suddenly erupted from beside Alakazam, a single leap placing allowing it to be close enough to attack. His flaming fist smashed into Alakazam's side, the force of his fire punch diffused across the entirety of Alakazam's fragile body. The attack didn't really hurt Alakazam thanks to its protection, but it rattled it.

Alakazam couldn't avoid the next brick break. Infernus' fury fuelled the attack and, despite the immense power Alakazam had entombed in the light screen and barrier that hugged its form, it shattered both of them. The psychic went staggering back, no longer protected and lightly injured, but it no longer played with Infernus.

Ash almost closed his eyes as Alakazam's eyes glinted a bright orange. Cracks formed in its spoons, only to be mended mere moments later. An immense wave of power erupted from Alakazam, sweeping everything in its path away.

His jaw nearly dropped in awe as the pale energy extinguished the flames that covered the entirety of the battlefield, snuffing them out in one fell swoop. Infernus was affected as well. His fledgling psychic abilities allowed him to weather the brunt of the assault without too much trouble, but when he leapt at Alakazam with a furious glare Alakazam simply shot him with a psybeam.

Infernus dispelled the worst of the psybeam, but it still hurt him. He sailed through the air towards Alakazam, however, and slammed his fist into the psychic's chest. Ash grinned widely, although his smile vanished when Alakazam crossed its spoons.

A lance of psychic force, far more refined than Dazed's massive blasts, sliced through the air. Infernus' eyes widened in fear, knowing the power behind it would knock him unconscious.

So he did what he did best: fight. Infernus reared back his head and let loose the most powerful flamethrower Ash had ever seen. It was not particularly large or ostentatious, but narrow, refined, and burned hot enough for Ash to feel it past the barriers.

In short, it was the perfect match for Alakazam's lance.

The two attacks met midway between the two pokemon. They swirled around each other and formed a ball for just a brief instant. The next it exploded, smoke obscuring the view. A wave of concussive force erupted from the explosion, rattling Ash's teeth and sending him stumbling back even through the psychic barriers.

He gasped and pulled himself upright before gazing onto the field. As the smoke cleared, he saw Infernus' body lying unconscious. Ash groaned in despair but looked at Alakazam. It was struggling to stand as well, supported only by its psychic power.

Ash slowly grinned. He had a chance. Alakazam had shown itself to be more powerful than he could have imagined in the last few minutes. It had almost effortlessly defeated Torrent and would have defeated Infernus without taking more than a few bruises had it not been for that explosion.

So he released Dazed. She locked on to the Alakazam instantly, her pendulum quivering and flapping in an invisible wind as she saw the being that had so effortlessly defeated her before.

"Shadow ball!" He shouted.

Both Dazed and Alakazam began creating their shadow ball, the powerful psychics gazing at each other with intense, gray eyes.

Ash noticed that, despite its weakened state, Alakazam's ball grew much larger than Dazed's in a much shorter amount of time. By the time that Dazed hurled her ball, Alakazam's had grown nearly twice as large.

Alakazam clearly meant to allow its immense shadow ball to absorb Dazed's, just like their last battle. Unfortunately for it, that strategy didn't work. Dazed wasn't a mere drowzee anymore. Her evolution had given her strength.

The gargantuan shadow ball Alakazam had formed exploded, not powerful enough to absorb Dazed's attack. Alakazam vanished into an explosion of shadowy energy.

Ash held still with bated breath, mind furiously hoping that Alakazam had been taken out by its own arrogance.

When the smoke cleared, he realized that he wasn't so lucky. Alakazam was clearly weakened, but it took the attack well. It was shuddering and twitching as arcs of grey electricity jumped across its frail body, but it could fight.

Alakazam almost immediately teleported away, disappearing just as Dazed's psybeam sliced through the air. It appeared at the other end of the battlefield, next to its mistress. The psychic-type's eyes shimmered a bright, angry orange as it crossed its spoons.

Ash frowned as Alakazam was enshrouded within a psychic bubble, its aura extending and swelling. He had no idea what this technique was.

Sabrina's smile and eyes grew happy, no longer simply amused.

Alakazam rose into the air slowly, its eyes closed as it focused all of its energy into maintaining the strange technique. Dazed took a wary position, all of her power ready to be used to fight Alakazam.

Dazed's foe floated high into the air within its psychic bubble. Ash noticed that it was a little hazy around the edges, as though Alakazam was having difficulty keeping it up. That made him hope that the energy intensive technique couldn't be maintained for long.

But the next few seconds made him realize that the bubble didn't need to be maintained for long.

The bubble moved. It soared towards Dazed at an incredible speed, crossing the entirety of the immense battlefield in less than two seconds. Dazed promptly teleported away, just a second away from being slammed by Alakazam.

Ash flinched as it slammed into the psychic barrier mere inches from his face. He caught a glimpse of Alakazam serenely sitting inside of the bubble before it pulled away from the barrier – which was shining as brightly as it could under the immense strain it was placed under – and blasted towards Dazed.

Dazed was ready this time. She hurled a shadow ball at the bubble an instant before teleporting back to the area in front of Ash. Unfortunately, Alakazam destroyed the shadow ball. Ash didn't understand how, but a lance of psychic energy sliced into the shadow ball and caused it to disperse into nothingness.

He didn't even understand how this technique was possible. Ash hadn't even heard of it before, and he'd spent weeks poring over Alakazam's entry in his pokedex in an attempt to know their abilities inside out. There were some incredible things mentioned, but this? Creating a bubble of psychic energy that let Alakazam move quickly and be completely invulnerable? This was just unreal.

Sabrina honestly should have a position on the Elite Four if she created this technique. This was simply incredible.

But Alakazam's bubble was failing. It was darting as fast as it could by Dazed, sending tendrils of psychic lances that caused immense explosions wherever they hit. Even as it forced Dazed to teleport more and more to escape the sure defeat the bubble would impart on her, Alakazam's energy was failing.

Ash was sure that it would be able to keep up the technique for at least a few minutes if it were at full strength, but in its exhausted state Alakazam was fading fast. He didn't think that it could survive more than another twenty seconds of this at the rate the bubble was fading.

Of course, Dazed was weakening as well. She couldn't keep up with the amount of teleports required of her. Her reaction time was slowing by just a hair each time. Soon she wouldn't be able to escape quickly enough.

It was a battle of attrition.

Fortunately, it was a battle Dazed would win. After three more of the little cycles, Alakazam flashed towards her one last time, the last of its energy poured into the move.

Dazed's eyes burned with pain, but she managed to teleport one last time. Alakazam's bubble failed a moment before it would have slammed into Dazed and knocked her out. The psychic-type's bubble finally broke and dispersed, sending Alakazam flying towards the barriers.

It was returned before it could actually hit. Sabrina had a wide smile on her face. Ash blinked.

Then it hit him.

He'd done it. He'd defeated Sabrina, one of the most powerful and feared gym leaders in Kanto. He'd won!

Ash grinned so widely it felt as though his face would tear. But he paid his burning facial muscles no mind. He shouted congratulations to Dazed, his voice almost cracking with the sheer joy he felt.

This wasn't just a victory. This showed that he was really worthy to be a pokemon trainer. He'd done great things in his short time as a trainer, but this meant he really had skill. Ash had what it took to be in the Conference.

"You did well." A warm voice said to him. Ash snapped his focus to Sabrina. "Few trainers are capable of defeating me. You are one of them."

"Thanks!" Ash said happily, the silly grin never fading. "It was an awesome battle!"

"It was." Sabrina agreed with a dip of her head. "You have proven your strength. I am honored to present you with the Marsh Badge. You have earned it."

Ash reverently took the small, polished badge from Sabrina. He eyed the simple circle that meant so much with glee. The Marsh Badge was simple. All it was were two concentric golden circles, far less ornate than most others he'd received.

"The battle went as I foresaw." He heard. Ash glanced up at Sabrina. "Your victory was always assured."

He cocked his head. "It was?"

"Yes." Sabrina replied, her eyes drifting past him to see the universe. "You had the skill and power to defeat me. Had you chosen another strategy, perhaps you would have failed. But I believe you would have found a way. The future is never set, but it is probable."

Ash frowned. The adrenaline still coursing through his veins addled his thoughts. That was a bit too complex for him to decipher right now.

"It will come in time." Sabrina said with a smile. "Before you leave, however, I would like to request a rematch in the future. I would like to test my skills again."

"Of course!" Ash happily agreed. This battle was one of the best he'd ever had. He'd love to have a similar experience, especially if it didn't have so much riding on it. "I'll come by when I can."

Dazed shuffled next to him then. She looked exhausted, the bags under her eyes greatly intensified. Ash smiled softly at her, temporarily ignoring Sabrina.

"You did great, Dazed. I couldn't have expected better." He murmured. Dazed smiled at him with her eyes, the bags vanishing for a brief moment. "Do you want to go in your pokeball?"

The hypno sleepily nodded. Ash quickly followed her request. She deserved everything he could possibly give. All of his friends had earned it.

"I have faith that you will meet the challenges ahead." Sabrina said as she motioned for him to follow. As they made their way to the entrance of the gym, she continued speaking. "The gym leaders see great things in your future. I have confidence that you will achieve them."

Ash was silent for several moments. They had just arrived in the wide, airy atrium. Several psychics nodded reverently to Sabrina, although they continued to shy away and flinch at the sight of him.

"Thank you." He said politely. "I hope I can meet your expectations."

Sabrina just nodded at him before vanishing. Ash blinked in surprise before he opened the elegant door and left.

He'd had a long day.

But he'd achieved a lot. Sabrina was defeated. Only one more gym leader remained.

Giovanni awaited him.

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