Traveler

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.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/8466693/1/Traveler

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9. Saffron Part 1

Ash cheerfully strolled around the Celadon Department Store. It was gigantic – larger than any store he had ever seen and with a selection to match. While it held all of the standard supplies and gear for trainers, it also had luxury goods for particularly wealthy trainers. That wasn't even going in to the massive variety of items for the average citizen.

But he was here for very specific things: TMs. On a previous visit he had used some of his hard-earned money to buy more powerful versions of the standard potions, as well as antidotes. There had been a vast migration of poison-types to the areas around Celadon recently, as several new factories had been opened. Ash didn't want any of his friends that weren't immune to poison being hurt in the battles they were sure to have.

He only returned because of a reflection of his friends' attacks and powers. While all of his pokemon were reasonably powerful – in particular Nidorino, although Ash expected the rest to close the gap somewhat when they evolved – their move pool was vastly limited.

Nidorino primarily relied on horn attack and his vast physical power to win battles. It worked well for him, but Ash wanted to expand his strengths. He currently had few attacks that would be able to attack opponents at a distance or in the air. Confusion was one of his more powerful ranged attacks, but was only good at a distance of a few yards. Even though Nidorino knew the move, his psychic abilities were mediocre.

Ash was working on teaching Nidorino fury attack and horn drill. Fury attack would let him use his horn to great effect. His horn was already his greatest weapon and its hardness and sharpness would enable his fury attack to be far more powerful than the norm. While it was normally considered a minor threat, Nidorino could make it a dangerous attack.

As for horn drill, Ash knew that it was amongst the most powerful moves Nidorino had the potential to learn. Although it required so much of its users focus that it could easily miss, the attack had so much sheer power behind it that it could easily knock an opponent out. Unfortunately, Ash didn't think Nidorino had the experience or power to even begin to learn it yet. Every attempt so far had been a miserable failure, which caused irritation for both of them. He was about to give up on it for now.

Torrent was already limited since he could only battle in water. He was incredibly powerful in it, however. Ash thought that he was probably the most balanced member of his team, as he had learned a wide variety of moves since he had evolved. Part of it was because Ash spent an inordinate amount of time training with him to make up for the lack of opportunities Torrent had been given to battle.

His move pool had expanded a bit since his evolution. Ash had managed to teach his friend the move Twister, which was able to amplify the power of the large whirlpools Torrent could create in water sources. He had also been taught agility, allowing him to amplify his exceptional speed in the water already. It made him too fast for most pokemon to catch or defend against in the water.

Plume had the standard problem associated with most flying-types – she was fragile and could only attack with momentum behind her, or with powerful blasts of wind. She was hopeless in close combat, and if knocked down she was an easy target. Ash had been working to make sure she was too fast to be pulled to the ground, but was encountering difficulties. He tried to teach her a move called tailwind, but she just couldn't get it to work correctly.

She was reaching her peak. Ash wasn't sure why she hadn't evolved into a pidgeot yet, considering how many battles she had been involved in, but he knew it was coming soon. Plume resembled a pidgeot as much as a pidgeotto now, but hadn't made the last change that would unlock the rest of her power. He was waiting for it anxiously, since she didn't seem to be able to train effectively anymore.

Dazed had proved to be a valuable member of the team – her hypnosis let him end battles against unwary foes before it could begin, and her ability to inflict great damage against the poison-types so many trainers used was a boon. But she was also slow and lazy. If an opponent got close to her, she was almost helpless. She needed focus to use her power, and it was difficult for her to focus when she was being pummeled. Unfortunately, that wasn't something he could train her in. It was a rare occurrence anyways, so he didn't count it as too bad a problem.

But he had managed to teach her a few new moves. She seemed to have a basic understanding of many of the moves the pokedex said that she could learn, but hadn't mastered any beyond the basic abilities of her species. That let him teach her a move in only a few days, a unique situation he was trying to take full advantage of.

Aside from psybeam, he had managed to teach her future sight and was in the process of teaching her zen headbutt. While he would have preferred spending time on the incredibly powerful psychic, Ash had realized that she needed some way to defend against close enemies. Besides, she already had a head start on both of the moves. Dazed was capable of focusing a bright blue covering of psychic power onto her head, which would amplify the power of the basic head butt several times over, and was working on a reflective shield.

He suspected that she would master it within the next two days. She was making good progress on it, and probably would have mastered it already if he didn't have to split his focus between all of his friends.

But right now he was gearing his friends up for the remainder of their journey. While he wasn't expecting a win against the famously powerful Sabrina, he would at least do his best to give her a good battle. And no matter how powerful his pokemon had become, he knew they couldn't win through pure power. He needed a few tricks up his sleeves.

That was why he was standing in front of a massive array of TMs, proudly displayed in the trainer section of the store. Most were too expensive for the average trainer, but he was willing to blow most of his money on the devices. He had already bought the necessary supplies for his journey and had been given a few thousand dollars the police had recovered from the Rocket hideout. Officer Jenny said that it was a fair enough bonus for stopping their operations in Celadon City.

He glanced over the glass-covered disks. They were all three thousand dollars. Expensive, but by no means as exclusive as some people portrayed them as. It would still be quite a drain on his resources, however. Ash only had enough to buy five without completely emptying his deposit, so he would have to make his selection carefully.

One of the first that he picked was ice beam. He remembered the potent power of the attack when Gary had used it on him, and realized that it would be extremely useful on quite a few types. It would be an easy way to take down any flying-types, grass-types, ground-types, or the extremely rare and powerful dragons. He quickly placed it into the small bag he carried.

Another that caught his eye was blizzard. While he wanted to diversify his team's move pools, he also knew that ice was a rare type that was quite useful for offensive pokemon, considering how many types it was effective against.

It was a bit longer before he picked out his next choice: thunderbolt. Although it lacked the sheer power that the thunder attack possessed, it was much more precise and reliable. Additionally, it still packed a powerful punch. He put it into the bag.

Ash almost took the earthquake and psychic TMs. Both were incredibly powerful and useful moves and would make Nidorino and Dazed much more powerful in many ways. They would make them far more dangerous to the fully evolved forms that could generally survive the attacks they currently had.

He struggled with taking them for a moment before putting them both down. Nidorino still wasn't powerful enough to use the move to its maximum potential and didn't need to worry about using earthquake when he was already training in other areas. It would probably just confuse him for a while, possibly hampering his effectiveness.

Psychic would make Dazed a far more powerful fighter, particularly when she evolved into a hypno – something she was already showing the signs of doing. But since she could learn it without a TM and had already begun practicing the attack, he didn't want to waste the money on it.

Instead he picked out another TM, shadow ball. He would give it to Dazed – she would be able to use it most effectively against Sabrina's psychics and would need it should she ever fight other psychics. It was decently powerful and would harm and cripple psychics. Additionally, it would lower their ability to resist her psychic attacks, at least for a time.

The last was for Plume. She lacked the ability to use the powerful elemental moves that her companions could, but this one was still a useful attack that Ash was sure would be used well by his friend. It was aerial ace – a highly precise attack that would be amplified by Plume's talents.

When he was confident in his selection – he had pondered over many of the disks, and marked a few in the notes section of his PokeNav so that he would remember to get them some other time – he took the TMs to the front desk and bought them.

The clerk was friendly and got him out in just a few minutes and also gave him a TM case that would let him use the TMs more safely. Ash thanked her for the help and left. Officer Jenny said that she had found the best possible pokemon to go with Ash. He couldn't wait – when he had his new friend, he could finally get on with his journey.

Exploring the massive city of Celadon – the largest city in Kanto, even surpassing Saffron – had managed to keep him busy for the last four days, but he was getting bored. He was able to venture into the surrounding areas, but he could never go quite as far as he liked. It would be a relief to escape.

So he practically ran to the police station. He had brought his bag of supplies with him to the Department Store, so he could leave immediately after receiving his new partner.

Officer Jenny was waiting in the lobby for him. Ash's eyes immediately locked onto the small red and white orb that she held. Then he looked at the officer and realized that she looked tired and impatient.

"It's about time you showed up." She scowled. "I was about to leave this with one of the rookies. Where were you?"

"Buying TMs." Ash shrugged, used to Jenny's abrasive personality by now. Unless you were doing something illegal or were part of Team Rocket, she was more bark than bite. He eagerly turned his eyes to the ball. "What's in it?"

Ash wasn't sure what could be in it. He had seen a wide variety of pokemon at the base, although only a few looked to have been in good enough condition to be given to him so quickly.

Jenny glanced down at the pokeball. "A magmar. The records found at the hideout indicate it had arrived just a day before. They didn't have enough time to fill it with those damn drugs. It's just as bad tempered as the rest of its breed, but I think you're strong enough to control it. ."

He grinned as she handed him the ball – magmar was a treacherous and savage pokemon, but he knew how to pacify it. Despite their disagreeable personalities, magmar were just as honorable as most fire-types. Although that honor went out the window during battle, if he could defeat it the magmar would probably respect him enough to take orders and behave reasonably well.

"Thanks. So, what happened to the other pokemon? I remember an eevee in there."

Officer Jenny snorted. "That damn eevee was the most savage thing I've ever encountered. It tried to kill two growlithe and I had to send Arcanine in to knock it out. Nearly bit one of the rookies' fingers off. It's being rehabilitated along with the rest of the pokemon we recovered." She said with a frown. "But I'm not sure how well it will work. We're waiting to see if those drugs wear off – those seem to be the main problem."

He scowled. If Team Rocket had permanently damaged the pokemon's mind, he wasn't sure what would happen to the poor creatures. While the League would do everything it could for them, they could see when something was a lost cause. Ash hoped that the situation didn't come anywhere near that.

But for now he pulled his thoughts away from the depressing situation. He suddenly remembered that he could get on with his journey now and looked at Officer Jenny.

"Thanks for everything."

She gave a rare smile. "No problem, kid. You might not be the smartest trainer I've ever met – attacking a Rocket base alone proves that – but you're a good kid. Try not to get into any trouble."

Ash promised he wouldn't and left the police station. He absorbed as much of the city as he could as he walked to the gates that would let him out into the wild. Celadon really was a beautiful city, although he was slightly embittered towards it due to being cooped up inside of it.

Still, he wouldn't miss it too much. His journey was far more enjoyable than sticking around in a city for who knows how long. Ash also wanted to get his newest partner out and see if he could manage to reach an understanding with it.

As well as things had turned out with Dazed, he didn't want a repeat of the situation. He'd prefer to simply get the magmar to respect him and battle with him willingly without both of them being put into a life-threatening situation.

But for now he needed to focus on his journey. Ash released Plume and Nidorino as soon as he stepped outside of the gates. Dazed preferred to stay in her pokeball unless they were relaxing or she was needed. Since she was unable to move very fast or for long distances, it worked for both of them.

Plume cried out a greeting before taking to the air, scanning for any threats and enjoying the feeling of air beneath her wings. Nidorino grunted and lightly butted his head against Ash's leg, getting an ear scratch in response.

Ash grinned and began to set off. He couldn't wait to get to Saffron.

XX

Aside from a small flock of territorial sparrow that attempted to attack him – they were easily scared away by an angry Plume – he encountered no threats during the first. He managed to travel a good distance, but realized that he had to stop early.

While he had to release the magmar, he also had to give the TMs to his pokemon. On the road he had made the decision as to what pokemon would receive what TM.

Nidorino would receive ice beam – Ash knew that he would need a more focused attack to round him out, since Nidorino mostly focused on overwhelming force. He would also need the precision of ice beam in order to hit flying-types as easily.

Ash wasn't quite sure if this was a wise decision, but he was giving the blizzard to Torrent. It could be used to freeze other water pokemon and the water itself, and could also be used to attack foes that were on the ground. Blizzard would also be a rather unexpected move for a seadra to learn.

But he was also giving it to Torrent for another reason – Ash was hoping that he would build up some sort of resistance to ice in the process of mastering and using the powerful ice-type move. Ash knew that kingdra weren't quite as weak to ice as some other dragon-types, but they still harbored a weakness to it. Any help at all would a boon.

As decided at the store, shadow ball would be given to Dazed. She was clearly the best one to wield it.

Thunderbolt was being given to Nidorino since, according to the pokedex, he was the only one on his team that could use it. It would also prove to be another effective defense against pokemon that could normally evade him by hiding in the water or by flying away.

Aerial ace, of course, would be given to Plume.

He did have a specific problem that required him to walk for another thirty minutes: he couldn't find a pond. Ash would need it in order to let Torrent battle effectively against the magmar should things come to that. Plus, Torrent had been neglected recently. The seadra deserved to be allowed to swim in something larger than the cramped aquariums of the Pokemon Center.

Eventually he got lucky. The pond wasn't as large as he would have liked, but would be sufficient for his needs. Torrent would be given plenty of mobility and would be happy in it.

Ash quickly let out his remaining pokemon. He called out Plume's name, calling his sharp-eared friend back down from wherever she was flying. His friend swooped down quickly and landed on his shoulder. Now that he was more used to such things, it barely fazed him.

Nidorino had gotten a little bit tired two hours ago, so Ash had returned him. Now he growled as he was released before coming to sit by Ash's leg. Ash smiled at him before releasing Torrent into the pond. The seadra made some odd noise that Ash couldn't fully identify, but before Ash could walk over to him Dazed was released.

She glanced at him and snorted, but quickly stared intently at a tree. Ash just smiled and walked over to Torrent, kneeling down and letting his friend lightly – and carefully – nuzzle his hand. He gently patted Torrent's hard scales before standing up and addressing his friends.

"I got a new pokemon from the hideout." He announced. His pokemon listened to him carefully, although they didn't circle around him or give any other indication of that fact aside from twitching ears. Ash thought they looked somewhat interested, however. "It's a magmar: big, strong, and bad-tempered. We're going to fight it if we have to, but first I have to give you all something. They'll give you new attacks."

Ash withdrew each of the disks and carefully removed them from their glass casing. He pulled out both of Nidorino's first, trying to remember how to apply them. The trainer fumbled for a moment with the tiny TM case before inserting both disks into their slots.

He then returned Nidorino and shrunk the pokeball before placing it into a small, spherical slot. Ash pressed a small button on the bottom of the TM case and watched curiously as Nidorino's pokeball slowly began to glow. First it glowed an icy blue, but that light slowly faded until it was replaced by a bright yellow light.

When the pokeball stopped glowing and a small green light briefly flashed, Ash carefully removed Nidorino's pokeball and released his friend.

Nidorino seemed dazed for a moment as he took in his surroundings. Ash waited for him to regain his focus before giving him and order.

"Nidorino, use ice beam on that tree over there." He said, pointing out his target. Nidorino nodded and looked at the small sapling for a moment before opening his fanged mouth. Ash shivered for a moment as intense cold gathered around Nidorino.

A moment later several light, icy blue energy beams erupted from Nidorino's mouth. Out of the three arcs of energy, only one hit the tree. Ash briefly noted that he would have to work on Nidorino's aim, but then he noticed what the attack did to the tree.

The sapling was completely incased in a thick, craggy shell of ice. Large crystals jutted off of it and glittered in what little sunlight remained. Ash just stared at it for a moment before a wide grin.

"Great job, buddy!" He said ecstatically; he couldn't get the glee out of his mind. If just one of those energy beams managed to do that, he couldn't imagine what all three could do. All he had to do was work on his friend's aim. "Now, use thunderbolt on that rock."

Nidorino briefly stared at the gigantic boulder nearly thirty meters away. Ash and the other pokemon watched in interest as Nidorino's body suddenly began to be covered by an aura of bright electricity before a gigantic arc of it flashed off at the stone, leaving Nidorino in his normal state again.

Ash had to cover his eyes before looking at the target. He grinned again. A massive scorch mark covered the rock. So far it looked like his TMs were worth the hefty fee.

Next, he returned Plume. He quickly repeated the process with her pokeball. It was mostly the same, although the pokeball glowed white this time. When the information had been downloaded into Plume's mind, he released her.

"Use aerial ace on the tree." He ordered. Plume nodded and quickly launched herself into the air with her powerful wings. Ash put a hand over his eyes and watched carefully as she suddenly began a dive.

He could barely see her as she launched herself at the second sapling he had chosen. Ash could only see that her dark form was covered in streaks of bright white light. When she was nearing her target, she suddenly disappeared before reappearing right in front of the tree.

The tree snapped in half. A slow grin split Ash's face as he saw the damage Plume could cause – her other attacks were decent, but nothing really outstanding. This would let her do much more damage.

"Good girl." He said. Plume screeched back in return before perching in a tree. Ash turned towards Torrent. "You're up next."

Torrent nodded in response before Ash returned him to his pokeball, quickly repeating the process with the TM case. His ball glowed the same icy blue.

Ash quickly let his friend out again, letting the temporarily stunned Torrent regain himself before asking him to do anything. When Torrent was back to normal, Ash gave his order.

"Use blizzard into the sky." While he wanted to see what it would do to water, Ash figured that it might hurt Torrent. Normally Ash wouldn't be hesitant – Torrent was tough and more than willing to embrace pain if it made him stronger – but he didn't want any of his pokemon being weak for the likely battle against magmar.

Torrent closed his eyes for a moment before aiming his long, tube-like snout into the sky. Ash watched closely as the air around Torrent became frosty for a few moments before gathering into his friend's mouth. An instant later a massive cone of icy wind erupted from his snout, carrying small, hard chunks of ice with it.

Ash looked at the impressive display with glee. While ice beam seemed incredibly powerful to him, blizzard was even more so. It was less focused, but the sheer power the attack possessed more than made up for that unfortunate aspect. Torrent had another powerful weapon at his disposal.

"Great job, Torrent." He said. Torrent proudly puffed his hard, scaled chest out before swimming off. Ash watched him explore the pond for a few moments before turning to Dazed. "You're next, Dazed."

His friend looked at him with her tired eyes before nodding, snorting a little before she was pulled into the pokeball. Ash carefully inserted the shadow ball TM into the case. In just a few moments Dazed had learned the powerful attack.

Ash quickly released his friend again. When she was prepared to attack, he pointed at the same boulder that Nidorino had used thunderbolt on. "Use shadow ball on it."

Dazed's eyes didn't glow in the way he was used to whenever she used her powers. Perhaps it was because it was a ghost-type attack, but her eyes seemed to dull a little, become somewhat more blank. She outstretched her hands and focused her power. A small, black ball with small, odd arcs of blue lightning coursing across its surface formed in her hands. It grew a bit more before Dazed shoved it towards the stone.

He watched in awe as the shadow ball impacted the boulder, exploding upon impact and sending showers of dirt and shards of stone raining throughout the area. He hadn't known that the attack possessed so much raw power.

"Good job." He said with a grin. "Now, everybody get ready. I'm about to release the magmar. Don't attack and try to stay out of its sight unless it attacks."

Ash waited for a moment to allow his pokemon to get ready. He knew that this would be a hard battle if it came to blows, although he dearly hoped the magmar wouldn't try to attack. The trainer hated fighting his own pokemon.

But he also wished that the magmar would be peaceful for a more pragmatic reason – magmar were dangerous. They were vicious fighters and wielded great power. It could use powerful fire attacks, was far quicker than its appearance suggested, and were physically powerfully.

Beyond that, they were prone to changing the battlefield to their favor. They could release massive bursts of flame that would send an entire environment into an inferno, which would then allow them to be perfectly hidden amongst the flames.

So it was with a bit of trepidation that he withdrew the magmar's pokeball off of his belt and enlarged it to full size. He stared at it for a moment before tapping the button that would release the creature.

Ash looked on with awe at the pokemon that emerged. It was tall – not too tall compared to large pokemon such as machamp, but taller than his other pokemon. He suspected it stood at a little above five feet. The magmar looked to be a little taller than the norm and was bulky, just like the rest of its species.

It possessed the standard, mesmerizing flame design upon it, and its arms were covered in red, rigid scales. Black metal shackles clung to its neck and legs, and a row of red spikes ran down its back. A yellow tail that reminded him of a Charmander's proudly raised up into the air. Two small lumps on its forehead burned with two large flames, giving it an intimidating appearance.

Then it attacked. Magmar roared before stamping its foot against the ground. An explosion of flames intermixed with thick smog burst outwards, lashing out towards Ash and setting the area ablaze. The Magmar turned its gaze towards Ash before roaring again.

Ash did the wise thing and ran, narrowly avoiding the searing fire. He still felt as though his face had been scorched off – even if the flames didn't hit him, they still produced horrific heat. The trainer glanced around and quickly found Nidorino.

Nidorino had his horn lowered and was charging towards the enraged Magmar.

"Just try to restrain him!" Ash shouted. Magmar probably still thought it was under Rocket control. He didn't want to hurt his newest partner unless it was absolutely necessary. "Torrent, extinguish the flames!"

Torrent quickly did so, firing massive jets of water into the flames that were slowly spreading. Ash scampered away from the battle, looking for a safer place to command from. He eventually found a spot that was away from the raging battle and was protected by several boulders.

He turned his attention back to the fight. Nidorino was narrowly dodging the streams of flame that Magmar was spitting at him, although Ash could tell that his friend was being pushed to the limit of his endurance. There was no way he could keep this up for long, and attacking wasn't an option.

"Nidorino, back off." Ash shouted, hoping that his friend could hear him over the crackling of the flames. "Let Magmar recover."

Nidorino heeded his command, slowly edging away from the Magmar, who warily glared at him. When Nidorino began to lower his guard, Magmar stood up straighter and released an intense blast of flames out from its body. Ash had to duck his head due to the immense heat.

Magmar seemed more focused now. It began to walk towards Nidorino, every step leaving small, smoldering flames in its wake. Ash shouted at Nidorino to be ready, causing his friend to tense up. He could see that Nidorino was actually nervous – he hadn't fought many fire-types before, and certainly none capable of this amount of destruction. Still, Nidorino would stand his ground no matter what.

Then Magmar let loose a massive stream of flame, all focused on Nidorino. Ash's eyes widened and he quickly shouted for his friend to jump. Nidorino managed to dodge the flame.

"Poison sting!" Ash shouted. While he didn't want to hurt Magmar, the pokemon was far too powerful to simply avoid. It showed no indication of tiring and only seemed to be blasting even more intense flames. He was getting ready to let his other pokemon enter the fray, although he wanted to defeat Magmar "honorably" in a one-on-one battle.

Nidorino quickly adhered to his command, sending several of the small needles into Magmar's hide. The creature growled in annoyance and blasted another stream of flame at Nidorino, which was promptly dodged.

"Ice beam." Ash ordered, more confident now that he knew Magmar would be weakening. While the attack wouldn't do much to the fire-type, Ash figured that the intense cold generated by the beam would weaken Magmar, or at least force it to use more of its power to keep the flames around it hot.

The beam quickly erupted from Nidorino's maw, faster now that he had an idea as to how to use it. Ash grinned when all three of the icy beams impacted Magmar, sending a thick layer of ice into existence where it struck, although Magmar's flames melted them almost instantaneously.

That seemed to do it for Magmar – it no longer simply randomly blasted flames in an attempt to be intimidating or to instantly defeat its foe. Now it roared – a loud, terrifying sound that sent a long stream of flame blasting out of its mouth.

Following that, it began to spew thick, oily smoke from its mouth. It completely obscured the area from Ash's view, and he worriedly looked for his other friends in case something went wrong. He put a hand on Magmar's pokeball, willing to recall it if it proved too dangerous.

Then a massive blast of flame erupted from within the smoke, burning it all away. Ash's eyes widened in fear when he saw that Magmar was fighting Nidorino personally. It still used its blasts of flame – they cooked the area around it, although as a pokemon Nidorino was barely troubled by the secondary effects – but used just as much of its seemingly limitless energy encasing its fists in flame and brutally punching at Nidorino.

Nidorino was holding his own. Although he had patches of his tough hide that had clearly been hit by the powerful attacks – they were blackened, although it was mostly soot – Nidorino continued to fight valiantly. For every blow or blast of flame he took, he jabbed Magmar's similarly tough hide with his sharp horn.

Ash could tell that both were giving it their all. Although they mostly seemed evenly matched, Ash could tell that Magmar would ultimately be the victor. Despite the drain's on its strength – the poison was beginning to cause it pain and slow its movements and the ice beam seemed to have temporarily weakened its flames – it was still fighting as hard as it was in the beginning.

His friend, on the other hand, was tired. Nidorino was burned and beaten from the constant attacks, and the minor wounds that he had given to Magmar were barely hindering it. He decided that he would give Nidorino one last order before recalling him from the dangerous, brutal battle.

"Thunderbolt!" He shouted. Nidorino quickly followed his command and unleashed the massive blast of electricity. It struck Magmar quickly, sending thousands of volts through its tough body and dropping it to the ground for a moment. Even if it wasn't as powerful as thunder, thunderbolt still caused intense pain for a few moments.

"Confusion." Ash ordered, trying to press his advantage as much as he could. Nidorino didn't have much left in him, so the trainer was attempting to use everything that was left to its maximum potential.

Nidorino struggled to use the attack – his psychic powers were weak at best and could prove difficult to use when he was hurt – but ultimately pulled it off before Magmar could recover and begin its relentless assault.

While true master's of psychic attacks – Dazed, for instance – could use confusion to control an opponent's mind or cause great damage, Nidorino was limited in ways that they weren't. For him, the attack functioned more as telekinesis.

Magmar was slowly raised up eight feet above the air before being slammed heavily into the ground. Ash winced but continued watching. He panicked when Magmar slowly pulled itself up, its eyes suddenly ablaze with fury. Still, the durable pokemon had obviously been hurt by the two attacks – it was moving more sluggishly and the flames were flickering and slowly dying.

"Horn attack." He ordered calmly, realizing that Nidorino could pull this off. Magmar only looked to need a single powerful attack to defeat it.

Nidorino tiredly grunted in response and lowered his head before charging. Magmar prepared itself and caused flames to burst up around it before meeting the charge head on. The flames seemed to explode in fury when the two pokemon impacted, obscuring the result from Ash's eyes.

He worriedly waited for the flames – which had been mixed with a healthy bit of smoke and smog – to clear. Plume helpfully launched out of her tree and blew it away with a few beats of her powerful wings. Ash thanked her before warily looking at the result.

Both of the fierce pokemon were unconscious. Magmar's large body had been thrown back a little, and its large fist – now surrounded with thin wisps of smoke instead of flame – was laid on Nidorino's head. Nidorino's entire body was covered with the soot from Magmar's angry blazes, but didn't look to be seriously injured.

Ash quickly recalled Nidorino before releasing his friend right next to him. He hurriedly dug in his pack for a revive. When he found the small, diamond-like container he snapped it in half over Nidorino's mouth after gently opening it.

Nidorino leapt up and jabbed his horn at Ash's face when he first awoke, still confused and under the impression that he was fighting. Ash snapped his head back before the sharp horn could hit him and reminded himself to be more careful when waking up his friends.

His friend quickly realized what was going on and grunted in apology before butting his head against Ash's leg. Ash scratched his ears and withdrew his pokedex. He aimed the small device at Magmar and let it scan the creature.

Magmar. It began. The Spitfire Pokemon. Its body always burns with an orange glow that allows it to hide. It is known as a tireless pokemon prone to unprovoked violence and wily treachery.

This Magmar knows the moves: Smog, ember, smokescreen, fire spin, clear smog, flame burst, fire punch, lava plume, and flamethrower. Its ability is flame body, which may cause burns on contact.

Ash reminded himself to wear resistant gloves if he ever had to touch Magmar. He glanced at Magmar to make sure it was still unconscious before examining the area, hoping that the battle hadn't done too much damage.

His hopes were dashed. The entire clearing was wrecked. What had once been grass was now a barren area covered with a thin layer of ash. Trees had been burnt by the powerful flames, although some had escaped the destruction. Most were blackened and gnarled now, with only a few cinders still burning thanks to Torrent's valiant efforts to end the inferno.

At least it would recover soon enough. Pokemon would clear the damage up and use whatever they could from the aftermath. Vegetation would grow back quickly or repair what damage it could – trees and plants had to be tough to survive the devastation a single pokemon could wreak.

The trainer flipped open his pokedex to examine more information on the Magmar. While he had read quite a bit on the species during his trek, he wanted to know more about this specific specimen.

Magmar was male – unsurprising due to the incredibly high amount of males amongst the breed – and weighed a hundred and ten pounds. It was surprisingly light for its bulk and height. The creature was around the same height he'd guessed – five feet and four inches.

Ash took another revive out of his pocket. He'd stocked up on them in Celadon since they were pretty cheap in the city. Using two wasn't a real drain on his supply.

He hesitantly approached Magmar's body and knelt beside it, taking care to avoid the small trickles of flame still in the area. The heat he produced even when unconscious was incredible – it was making Ash sweat just from being around him, although that could be from the powerful fire-attacks he had used previously.

Luckily for him Magmar's mouth was open, saving him the trouble of finding a stick or something else that would let him open it up. With a hint of trepidation he snapped the revive and let the powder fall into Magmar's mouth.

Ash stood up and backed away a little, although he made sure that Magmar would be able to see him. He wanted to actually speak to Magmar and try to reason with it – battling it should have earned its respect, so he would hopefully not have to have another repeat of last time.

Magmar's eyes snapped open and the powerful pokemon quickly pushed itself back up, keeping wary eyes glancing around the clearing. They normally focused on Ash, however.

"I'm not going to hurt you." Ash said soothingly. Magmar snorted in disbelief, small bursts of smoke erupting from his nostrils. "Really." He said to try and convince his new partner. "I'm not part of Team Rocket."

The pokemon eyed him carefully, small flames erupting around his feet. Ash ignored them.

"I promise that I'm not." He said calmly. "I actually broke into their hideout and beat most of them. The police managed to free you after I called them."

He could tell that Magmar was still unsure – the large creature still stared at him with disbelief, although it didn't seem to consider him dangerous.

"Look," he sighed, "I don't know how to prove to you that I'm not dangerous. All I can promise you is that you're part of my team now and that I'll do my best to make you stronger. Maybe you'll believe me eventually."

Magmar perked up when heard the mention of becoming stronger. Ash grinned when he saw that, like most pokemon, that was one of the things Magmar cared most about.

"In fact, I bet that you'll be able to beat almost anything we come across if you if you train with me." Ash smiled. Magmar narrowed his eyes at Ash before nodding. He grinned widely, glad that he wouldn't have to go through so much trouble this time.

"So, do you want a nickname?" He asked. "Most of my friends do."

Magmar growled when Ash mentioned them being friends and shook his head. Ash accepted it without comment – maybe Magmar would be more accepting of a nickname when he had travelled with them longer. Or else he might just not want a nickname – either way was fine, really.

"We're going to start in the morning. Do you want to go back into your pokeball to sleep?"

The large creature flared up in response, causing small flames to burst out from its body. Ash assumed that meant that he didn't.

He just shrugged and searched for a spot untouched by the flames. When he did he rolled out his sleeping bag. Nidorino walked over to him slowly, obviously still sore and weakened from his fierce battle. Ash smiled comfortingly at him and retrieved another potion from his pack, which he had been carrying with him.

Nidorino was back to normal in no time, although he would need the entire night to fully heal. Ash quickly spotted all of his pokemon, making sure that they were all ready for anything. While Magmar had agreed to travel and train with him, Ash wasn't inclined to immediately trust him. The warning of the pokedex rang all too clearly in his mind.

Magmar was curled up in the midst of the ash, his tail flame near his head. He didn't seem all to inclined to try to attack or escape, but Ash wasn't about to be careless when dealing with such a powerful pokemon.

Plume was up in a tree, nearly invisible to most. Ash could only see her because he knew what to look for – her body had a distinct shape that was able to be identified. He could see that she was keeping a careful eye on Magmar.

Ash couldn't see where Torrent was but knew he was probably at the very bottom of the pond. It wasn't like Torrent would be able to go anywhere else very easily.

Dazed was lurking in the woods. He had seen a glimpse of her glowing purple eyes earlier, showing that she was using some sort of ability. Ash was counting on her to keep an eye on Magmar. Although Plume had sharper senses, Dazed had the advantage of not needing to sleep. In addition, she could stealthily knock Magmar out without resorting to the brutal battle Nidorino had endured.

He was content with his precautions and quickly got into his sleeping bag. It was still somewhat early, but the stress of dealing with Magmar had left him tired. Besides, he wanted to get up early. There was a lot of ground to cover.

Ash fell asleep quickly, barely noticing as Nidorino laid next to him with wary ears and a preparation to fight.

XX

A light kick in the ribs woke Ash up. He knew it wasn't a human – the foot was too wide and blunt and he could feel dull claws – and quickly sat up with bleary eyes. Ash's exhaustion was wiped away by a surge of adrenaline when he felt a surge of heat and saw flames blasting out from a single, angry source – Magmar.

Nidorino growled at him. Ash nodded. "I see. Are the others fighting?"

His friend nodded before tensing up. Ash looked at him curiously for a moment before he felt another severe blast of heat. The trainer snapped his head towards the source and quickly dodged out of the way – Magmar had sent a massive stream of flame straight towards him and Nidorino.

"Ice beam!" Ash ordered, keeping his head as best he could. He remembered the pokedex entry on Magmar saying that they were slowed down by the cold. If he could slow down the powerful pokemon even a bit it would help minimize the damage Magmar could do.

"Torrent!" He shouted, hoping that it would reach his friend's ears. Torrent was probably still sleeping – sounds were dulled through the water and he would already be fighting if he knew what Magmar was doing.

Ash yelped as Magmar spit another stream of flame at him. He dodged the flames and returned to his position between the rocks. He felt Magmar's flames continue to burn around him until his pokemon apparently drew his attention away.

He looked out onto the battle scene, which looked like something from an epic tale. The flames produced by the angry Magmar made all of his pokemon appear black, their individual features unable to be discerned aside from their shape. Flames bathed the background, providing a dangerous feel.

And Magmar itself was fighting off Nidorino and Dazed at once, roaring and blasting flames to keep them at bay. Nidorino had clearly landed a few blows, but nothing that would put Magmar out of action. Dazed looked to be trying to use hypnosis, but her attempts to utilize the pink energy was being thwarted by blasts of flame from Magmar.

Ash hoped that Torrent would show up soon. Nidorino wasn't able to beat Magmar by himself without a bit of luck, and the battle was too intense for Ash to try to help his friends by giving them orders. It was up to them.

He shouted for Torrent again when he realized that his friend hadn't surfaced. Ash smiled when he saw Torrent burst out of the water to get an idea of what was going on.

That's when Torrent realized that they were all in danger. It was also when Torrent finally got a chance to show off his newfound power.

First, Torrent shot a high-powered jet of water from his snout, slamming into Magmar and attracting the beast's attention. Ash could tell that the water gun was nothing but a weapon to test Magmar's power.

Apparently Magmar passed, because Torrent promptly used twister, blasting a huge amount of water into the air and dousing Magmar. Ash saw that it weakened Magmar, although it didn't manage to knock him out. He was actually impressed with the technique – Ash hadn't thought of any use for twister beyond creating whirlpools or pulling flying-types out of the air.

Torrent then fired another water gun, this one much more powerful. Magmar was visibly staggered by the attack, causing his flames to die down and giving Nidorino the opportunity to painfully jab Magmar's tough hide with his horn.

The pain snapped Magmar back into awareness and caused him to roar in anger. Despite being weakened, Magmar roared and smacked Nidorino away with a flaming fist. Nidorino was hurled back a few feet and Magmar menacingly advanced. His flames were no longer as intense, but they produced a huge amount of smoke due to the water covering him.

That gave Ash's mind – panicked over the danger Nidorino in and the brutality Magmar was displaying to his friends – an idea.

"Torrent, twister!"

His friend quickly followed his command, sending another gigantic blast of water towards Magmar, dousing the powerful pokemon and temporarily stunning it. Its power to resist the water was slowly fading with the repeated attacks.

"Thunder!" Ash shouted. Nidorino's ears twitched and he quickly released the massive blast of electricity at Magmar.

Magmar was instantly knocked out as the thunderbolt – which had proven to be powerful enough to stun him before – struck him, amplified by the water he was covered in. While he might have remained standing had he not been a fire-type, the weakening effects of the water upon his power rendered him unable to resist the powerful combination.

Ash returned Magmar, unwilling to let it play anymore tricks. He staggered into the clearing now that it was safe, going to his pack – which had miraculously remained safe from the fire – and removing several super potions and a single revive.

As he walked over to his wounded friend, he looked over in Torrent's direction. "Great job, Torrent. Could you put out the rest of these fires?"

A cry that he took as an affirmative was his answer. Ash nodded his thanks and knelt down next to Nidorino, who had fallen to the ash-covered ground. Dazed slowly stumbled over, clearly exhausted from the battle.

"Good job, Dazed. Are you alright?" He asked while looking at Nidorino's wounds. It was clear that Magmar had held nothing back in his brutal assault. After seeing what the flames had done to Nidorino – they had actually burned him, not just caused him minor damage that would be healed with a good night's rest – he was thankful that he had avoided them. The fire probably would have killed him.

Dazed tiredly nodded. Ash gave a sigh of relief and pulled out the super potion bottle. Nidorino kept his pain hidden as Ash sprayed the healing liquid onto his burnt, injured hide. The outer damage immediately healed, although Ash knew that Nidorino wouldn't be doing any battling for a while. He didn't want his friend to accidently be hurt due to an internal injury.

He would have to send him to the Pokemon Center once they arrived in Saffron. Ash figured that the time he was battling Sabrina would be the best time to do so – Nidorino wouldn't be able to do much thanks to his typing and could use the time to relax.

When Nidorino was healed up, he returned his friend. Leaving him out would just cause Nidorino pain. Ash looked to Dazed.

"How did this start?" He asked angrily, allowing some of the emotion he felt at Nidorino's injury to slip into his voice. "Did Magmar try to escape, or did he actively try to attack?"

Dazed shook her head at the first option and nodded at the second. Ash growled in anger. Magmar was proving to be more than willing to follow the pokedex's description of it. He wouldn't get rid of him yet, but he would do his best to put fear into Magmar if it would keep the powerful beast from trying to harm his friends.

Ash sighed, letting some of the anger fade away. There was nothing to do yet. He could deal with Magmar in the morning – by then Magmar would be conscious, but far too weak to actually do anything. Dazed and Torrent would be more than sufficient for fighting him in such a state if he still resisted.

"I'm going to sleep." He told Dazed, causing her to perk up in interest. "You can eat my dreams, if you're hungry. You probably haven't eaten in a while."

Dazed blinked. She then snorted, causing her trunk-like nose to flutter a bit. Ash hadn't seen her do that many times before, so he couldn't really determine what it meant. It was difficult to discern his friend's emotions at the best of times – she was usually completely neutral about most things, never letting her expression change.

So he didn't have a hope to figure out what that meant. It would take him a lot longer to understand, but hopefully it was something good. Ash shrugged and wished Dazed a good night before walking over to where Torrent was.

Ash knelt down by the pond, which was somewhat shallower thanks to Torrent's manipulation of twister. Torrent looked up at him as he approached and snorted.

"Hey, buddy." Ash said. "You did great. There was no way we could have stopped Magmar without you."

Torrent preened a bit and puffed his chest out in pride. Ash smiled.

"You can go back to sleep now." Ash continued. "We all need to be rested before we face Magmar again. We'll be releasing him in the morning."

The seadra looked rather happy about that – his eyes widened in glee and his chest puffed up even more. Ash knew it was characteristic for his friend. Torrent liked nothing more than fighting powerful opponents – while he enjoyed winning, he enjoyed fighting even more so. It was unfortunate that he didn't get to exercise that love very much.

Torrent looked at Ash for another brief moment before retreating to the bottom of the pond. Ash lingered at the shore for a bit longer before returning to his sleeping bag. It, like his pack, had remained unscathed throughout the battle.

Of course, considering how durable it was built to be Ash wouldn't have been surprised if it had taken the entire flamethrower. They had to be built tough and resistant to many different substances.

Ash quickly wiped as much soot and ash off as he could before slipping back into the sleeping bag. The bag would be easy to clean, but it would be horribly uncomfortable in the morning.

He slept without dreams that night.

XX

When he woke up in the morning, he was greeted to the full devastation that had been wrought. The fire had been put out by Plume and Torrent, but it had destroyed the clearing to a degree that even he hadn't anticipated. It was little more than ash at this point.

Dazed emerged from the woods as he awoke, apparently having waited for him. He let out a loud whistle to attract Plume. She was probably out hunting for any sort of food – she liked the treats and food he provided much less than his other friends – but would quickly heed his call.

Torrent was roused by a loud shout. He was clearly pumped for battle – he was jumping in and out of the water quickly, firing water guns and practicing his techniques. Ash just grinned at the energy his friend displayed.

Soon enough, Plume dived down from the sky. She got rid of most of her speed and managed to land comfortably on Ash's shoulder, although her great mass and the speed she retained nearly bowled him over. Ash managed to keep himself upright, although he staggered a bit.

He clenched Magmar's pokeball, almost putting it back on his belt. Eventually he overcame his nervousness and tapped the button, releasing the pokemon that had nearly killed him.

Magmar was conscious. He glared at Ash in annoyance, but made no move. It was clear that he was still too waek to battle. All he could do was glare and growl.

Ash had no time for this. Magmar had hurt Nidorino and had tried to hurt his other friends.

He stepped forward until he was only a foot or so from the violent pokemon. Plume was silent and met Magmar's glare with her own predatory one. Ash ignored the waves of heat that radiated from Magmar, his own anger more than matching it.

"Listen here." He snarled, ignoring the part of his brain that screamed at him to get away from Magmar. "You went too far. I forgave you the first time – you were angry and afraid. But you tried to kill my friends. Nidorino is hurt."

Magmar snorted in amusement with that. Ash scowled.

"You seem awfully cocky for something that got beaten so badly that you can't even attack me." Ash growled, daring Magmar to attack. "Now listen. I am your trainer. I have beaten you twice. You will listen to me."

The pokemon glanced away.

"I think I've proved that you aren't too strong for me to handle." Ash said, calmer this time. "And also that I'm not going to hurt you. If I wanted to hurt you I could have thrown your pokeball into the grass or dug a hole and left you in it."

Magmar looked uncomfortable at that suggestion, and some smoke erupted from its body. Ash continued, hoping that he could avert any more danger.

"If I have to I will repeat this every day. You attack, I beat you. I'm not going to let you hurt my pokemon, but I won't give up on you either. Or else you can just stop being disagreeable and join me. I'll make you stronger than you could ever be on your own."

His foe bowed his head before slowly nodding. Ash thought that it was genuine this time – Magmar had to realize that he couldn't keep on fighting. Not when Ash and his friends had proven to be inventive and powerful enough to get around his overwhelming power.

Magmar walked away before motioning at his pokeball, which was still in Ash's hand. Ash glanced at it.

"Do you want back in?"

A nod. Ash shrugged. "I'll give you a super potion later, I guess. By the way, if you're just going to try and attack us again, I suggest you don't. I won't be so lenient with you again."

Another nod. Ash returned Magmar and walked back to his sleeping bag. He quickly rolled it up and forced it into his pack. When everything was ready he returned Dazed and Torrent and set off on the road.

It was time to move on.

XX

He didn't challenge as many trainers as he usually did. For one, his pokemon were all tired from the battles with Magmar. In addition, he didn't feel as though he needed to tire them out even more by putting them into so many battles.

Plume did get a few in. She hadn't been capable of attacking Magmar – the flames were too fierce for her to get in close – so she was still ready for battle. He didn't get to use her as much recently, so it was nice testing her out.

She proved to be more than capable of defeating most opponents, although anything too experienced or powerful easily defeated her. Ash noticed that she had far more difficulty in combat than his other friends, although she excelled at other areas. He figured that she would fix that after she evolved.

Still, nothing of interest happened until he had been walking for around two hours. He hadn't encountered anyone on the road for a while, so wasn't surprised when he heard the familiar sounds of a very intense battle between pokemon far in the distance. Ash had been expecting to meet someone for a while now.

Ash continued walking until the sounds were much closer. He could hear more than the familiar roars and screeches now – he could hear the crackling of flames and the painful screech of metal grinding against metal.

He curiously walked off the path a little, wondering if this would be a battle worth using his tired pokemon for. They were still in fighting shape, after all. Only Plume could use her maximum potential, though, so he wasn't quite sure.

The sounds grew louder and louder, and he was able to see intense flashes of light and flame. He could also tell that something huge was moving nearby – he could see something gigantic, bright, and shiny through the trees that hid the battle from him.

Ash carefully pushed his way through the light trees – he suddenly realized he was off the trail. It didn't matter, though. Plume would be able to guide him back easily.

Eventually he reached the edge of the clearing where the massive battle was taking place. He couldn't see anything through the suddenly thick vegetation and pushed his way through it. Before he could see anything, however, something massive slammed into him from behind. Ash was thrown forward and couldn't even cry out before a hot, heavy paw was carefully placed on his back.

He didn't dare to move as an oddly hot nose carefully sniffed him. Ash was completely frozen, too busy wondering what had just attacked him to be worried about trying to escape.

From the size and heat of its body, he assumed it was an Arcanine. He had developed a great appreciation for the breed during his stay in Celadon. Officer Jenny's was a prime example of the breed and had guarded him for the first day.

But this one wasn't as friendly. Its heavy paw pressed a little harder on his back, making him fear that the weight would bruise him if it didn't end up breaking one of his bones.

Suddenly someone rescued him from the massive dog.

"Let him go." The voice said firmly. He heard Arcanine whine before quickly stepping off of Ash. Ash stayed in place for a moment before pulling himself back up, gladly accepting the proffered hand from his rescuer.

"Sorry about that." The voice said as Ash was pulled up. "There have been a few people following me lately. Arcanine's just a bit paranoid."

Ash nodded his understanding before raising his head. His back was hurting a bit, but he would probably be fine in a few days. It wouldn't even bruise that badly.

He glanced over his rescuer's face. It was almost completely nondescript, not someone that most people would remember. The only distinctive things about the trainer were his dark red hair and warm brown eyes. His eyes burned brightly in some way that Ash couldn't quite describe.

That's when he realized who this was, although the Jolteon that had approached them helped to jog his memory.

"Michael?" He asked incredulously, amazed that he had actually encountered the trainer again. Ash barely remembered him.

Michael stared at him for a moment before grinning. "I remember you! You're Ash, right?"

He nodded. "What are you doing here?"

The trainer frowned. "I'm training for the Indigo Conference. I've already gathered all of my badges, so I'm getting a head start."

Ash blinked. "You already have your badges? It's only been two months since trainers were authorized to receive badges again!"

"What can I say?" Michael shrugged. "It's a lot easier when you've already trekked all over Kanto and have a flying type. I just flew – much faster than walking."

He shrugged in return, not saying anything. Michael took the opportunity to ask his own question.

"So what are you doing?" He asked as he scratched Jolteon's spiky, charged fur. The small arcs of electricity didn't appear to affect him. Before Ash could respond, he recalled all of his pokemon. Ash was somewhat disappointed that he never got a chance to actually see them.

Ash thought for a moment. "I'm heading to Saffron to challenge Sabrina. After that I'm going to Fuschia."

Michael nodded. "Glad to see you're challenging yourself. Most trainers avoid Sabrina like the plague and find one of the minor gym leaders to battle instead."

He wasn't sure what to say, so remained silent. Michael continued. "You've been travelling on the road, right?"

Ash slowly nodded. Michael seemed relieved by this.

"Good. Have you seen two people in white Team Rocket uniforms walking on the path? They've somehow managed to follow me since Viridian City." Michael growled in annoyance. "I'm hoping I managed to shake them off."

Although his fists clenched tightly at the mention of Team Rocket, Ash shook his head. Michael gave a relieved sigh. "That's the best news I've had all day. Anyways, did you come back here for something? I'm afraid I got a little distracted."

"I was just trying to figure out who was battling." Ash said. "I was hoping to see if you would battle me."

Jonathan looked thoughtful for a moment. "How many badges do you have?"

"Four."

"Find me again when you have eight and have trained up a bit more." Jonathan said with a shake of his head. "You don't stand a chance right now, and I don't want to accidently hurt one of your pokemon. Do you –"

He was suddenly distracted by a surprisingly deep growl from Jolteon. Michael quickly turned around and groaned. Ash, despite feeling a bit disappointed at the rejection, curiously followed his gaze.

Two people in white Team Rocket uniforms were standing in some sort of odd pose. A meowth stood between them with its claws raised. Ash assumed that these were the Rockets that had been following Michael.

They kept their pose, completely ignoring the fact that Jolteon was absentmindedly firing powerful arcs of electricity off of its body in annoyance. Michael was tensed up and had a hand on his pokeball.

Ash examined the Rockets carefully. One was clearly a man, although he appeared to be very feminine. His hair looked to be died a light shade of blue and hung in a curtain around his face. He wore the standard Team Rocket uniform, differentiated from the rest only in that his uniform was white.

The other was a woman, although he couldn't make out her features from so far away. What he did notice, however, was the obnoxious, physics-defying, magenta monstrosity that was her hair. It looked to be several feet long and appeared to require copious amounts of hair product to keep in place. He was almost impressed at her ability to keep it that way in the wilderness. She wore the standard female uniform, although it had had the midriff cut out.

He barely paid attention to the meowth. It had kept its pose with the others, apparently not ashamed of its trainers.

The female suddenly began some sort of recitation or speech. "Prepare for trouble!" She cried, thrusting her arms into the air. Ash blinked. Michael groaned in annoyance and reached for his pokeball.

"Now make it double!" The man said flamboyantly, waving his arms around. Ash blinked again. Michael tapped the release button on the pokeball.

"To protect the world –"The female began again, before being interrupted by a massive, thirty-five foot long Steelix bursting out of its pokeball. Steelix instantly zeroed in on the Rockets and didn't seem to need any orders.

It reared its head back and blasted a massive, thick green beam of air from its mouth towards the Rockets, firing the attack so quickly that the Rockets had no chance to avoid the attack. All three were hurled into the thick bunches of trees behind them, apparently knocked out by the blow. Ash had to wince at the sound of the impact – it sounded like they hit with incredible force.

Michael turned to Ash. "You should head to Saffron. I have to fly these idiots to Celadon." He snorted. "Then they can be arrested and I'll be free to train. By the way, a herd of rhydon are moving through the area. Be careful, and good luck with Sabrina."

"Thanks." Ash replied before heading off, a little disturbed by the surreal events. He certainly hadn't anticipated to meet Michael again – he'd actually forgotten about his encounter with the teen, or at least put it out of mind.

Still, he was impressed and a little fearful of how powerful his pokemon appeared to be. He had known that Jolteon was powerful – its highly accurate and powerful hyper beam was proof of that – but hadn't really thought much of his other pokemon. Ash couldn't recall what other pokemon Michael had, but if they were all about as powerful as Steelix he would have to train much more.

Ash shrugged it off and looked for Plume as he stepped onto the road. He was surprised that she hadn't come to try to fight Arcanine off. He supposed that she was hunting or had gotten distracted or something – he could see her form high up in the sky, almost too high to make out.

He looked up at his friend for a moment before continuing down the path, hoping that the rest of the journey to Saffron would be smooth.

XX

Ash encountered the rhydon herd three days later. The rest of his journey had been smooth – Nidorino had healed up nicely and was currently plodding along beside him, although he wouldn't be battling. His other friends had fully recovered and were getting quite a workout. Trainers had become more abundant along the road and he was more than happy to defeat most of them. Three or four proved too strong for him, but they were the exceptions.

But now he was standing completely still, staring at the large group of rhydon that were standing in the large plain dangerously close to the road. There were only ten or twelve, but they were each surrounded by two or three rhyhorn, making the herd seem almost innumerable.

He was paying more attention to the gigantic creature that led them. While it wasn't a rhypherior – they were too far from the mountains, and rhypherior tended to be too territorial to leave their homes – he couldn't say that it was much better.

While all of the rhydon were gigantic – all but the youngest stood at six feet – the rhydon that led them was a monster. It appeared to be one of the giants that occasionally sprung up amongst pokemon. The rhydon stood at what had to have been at least nine feet and looked to be a time and a half again as wide and bulky as the others.

And it was currently staring straight at him. Ash froze and hoped that it wouldn't detect him as a threat, but discreetly got ready to return Nidorino and run away as fast as he could. Rhydon wouldn't intentionally hurt or kill humans, but they were too strong and too ignorant as to how fragile humans were in comparison.

He wasn't that lucky, however. The beast roared and charged at Ash as fast as its legs could carry the massive bulk. Ash quickly followed through with his plan and took off into the nearby forest, hoping that the rhydon would be willing to end the chase there. It would have trouble navigating through the woods.

Ash ran a few feet into the trees before looking back, hoping to see Rhydon standing at the edge or walking away. Instead the creature continued to charge at him, not bothering to go around or dodge the trees. Apparently such a powerful creature could charge through them with little trouble.

The trainer yelped and took off again, only a few feet ahead of the charging monster. He wasn't sure how long his adrenaline pulled him through the run, but eventually his body began to tire and his lungs began to burn.

While he was certainly much faster than the stone behemoth, he was slowed down. For one, he hadto carefully watch his steps lest he trip. He also had to dodge around the numerous obstacles the forest threw at him, while Rhydon simply charged through anything that got in its way.

Just when Ash thought that he would pass out from exhaustion, he tripped over a root and stumbled into a small clearing. He sprawled to the ground and turned to look at his chaser. Rhydon was standing over him, its massive body making him look positively tiny in comparison.

Ash glared at the pokemon before quickly releasing his own. Plume was somewhere above, hopefully getting ready to launch an attack. Magmar – who had behaved himself quite well, although he was still less friendly than the others – erupted from a pokeball and roared at Rhydon, menacingly flaring up.

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