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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10. Saffron Part 2

Rhydon snorted and turned to the smaller fire-type. Magmar didn't back down, however. Instead he puffed himself up and caused the flames around him to flare up even more. Ash took the time to scramble away to a safer area, despite his exhaustion.

Nidorino was quickly released from his pokeball. Ash could always return him from the battle if the brawl grew closer. His friend was perfectly capable of ranged moves, but Ash had deemed him too sensitive for physical combat.

His friend snorted at him and readied himself. Ash nodded down at him.

"Use ice beam. I don't think that Magmar can take this thing down on his own." Ash said calmly, hiding the fear that he felt. He released Dazed, but didn't give her any orders yet.

Nidorino quickly fired his ice beam, using the hours of practice Ash had put him through since he had recovered to use. As the blue energy beams grew close to Rhydon, however, Magmar casually blasted the beams with a plume of flame. Ash looked on curiously as the ice beam was destroyed. He'd have to remember that.

"Let him do this." Ash muttered to the annoyed Nidorino. "If he needs help, we'll help him."

His friend snorted and sat down, clearly not happy to be helping Magmar. Ash just watched the battle.

Rhydon attacked first, casually launching its massive fist towards Magmar. Magmar easily dodged the attack and spit a flamethrower at Rhydon. The powerful attack washed over Rhydon's stone body, annoying it but causing no real damage.

Magmar roared and stamped its foot, causing the grass around it to be set ablaze. It didn't spread, however, so Ash didn't have to worry about putting it out. The flames did little to annoy Rhydon, who simply launched another powerful punch.

His partner dodged the attack again and used an even more powerful blast of flame, which again did little. Magmar blinked and looked confused when Rhydon remained unharmed. Rhydon seemed to grin before launching another punch, this one too fast for the distracted Magmar to dodge.

Ash winced when Magmar was sent sprawling to the ground by the incredible force of the punch. He still didn't order Nidorino to help. Magmar had endured much worse than that. Unless he really needed help, Ash wouldn't give any. His partner needed to realize that he wasn't the most powerful pokemon in the world.

Magmar dodged the stomp Rhydon aimed at him and pulled himself up. Rhydon roared and shot dozens of small rocks from his mouth, slamming into Magmar and hurling him back even more. His partner remained standing, though, and punched Rhydon with a flaming fist.

The force actually knocked the monstrous Rhydon back, although it didn't do any lasting damage. Magmar continued to launch the punches, using his speed to keep Rhydon off balance. For a while, it worked.

Finally, Rhydon had had enough. It squared itself and took the next fire punch easily before roaring and forcing itself at Magmar. Ash sighed when Rhydon displayed the speed that such a gigantic creature shouldn't have. This wouldn't end well for Magmar.

He was right. The massive force carried by the charge sent Magmar flying into a tree, which ignited due to his flames. Magmar fell heavily to the ground but tried to regain its footing. Rhydon didn't give him a chance. It slammed into Magmar again, crushing him into the ignited tree. Ash could see the tree splintering beneath the immense force.

Magmar still fought, however. He continued to spit powerful streams of flame at the stone beast, no matter how little damage it did. Rhydon roared as it picked Magmar up and threw him to the ground. Ash knew it didn't really hurt the highly durable pokemon that badly, but that was where he drew the line.

Even as he was ordering Nidorino to use ice beam, a large blur came from the sky and slammed into Rhydon. The force was barely enough to knock it off balance, but it distracted the giant pokemon from attacking the fallen Magmar.

Ash looked in awe at Plume, who had been knocked onto the ground from the impact. She was completely fine, if a little bit ruffled. The pidgeotto was already righting herself and preparing to launch into the air again.

The annoyed Rhydon had different ideas. It gave a deep rumbling growl as it casually walked over to the bird with its fist raised. Plume barely managed to fly out of the way of the punch, escaping a serious injury by a hair.

She flew off again, leaving the Rhydon with plenty of rage but only three other targets to use it on. Ash's eyes widened and he quickly ordered Nidorino to use ice beam and Dazed to use psybeam. It was for one simple reason: Rhydon was charging at them.

All three took the time to scramble away. Nidorino's ice beam seemed to do the most damage to Rhydon – the massive creature slowed down immensely as ice crystals froze over its body, although it quickly began to knock them off with its powerful movements.

The psybeam stunned it for a moment, but barely attracted its attention. Rhydon appeared to realize that Ash was giving orders, so Ash was the new target. He scrambled out of the way as it charged him, but Rhydon's hard elbow clipped his shoulder as it charged past.

Ash was thrown to the ground by the impact, and he could feel that he would have a bad bruise later. But he didn't think that his shoulder was dislocated or the muscles and tendons injured. It would just hurt terribly for a few days, although he would have to get it checked out in Saffron.

Then a large tornado slammed into the Rhydon with incredible force and even managed to knock it over for a brief moment. Ash looked up at the source of the attack: a gigantic, majestic bird that looked down on the Rhydon with furious eyes.

It looked like Plume had finally evolved. She hadn't changed much since she had already been half-pidgeot, but it was still noticeable. Plume was larger now – fiercer, prouder, and more impressive in every area.

But Ash realized he had to stop her from attacking the annoyed Rhydon. While she was certainly more powerful, Rhydon was far out of her league. Even if it didn't have a type-advantage, so far Rhydon had proven to be mostly invulnerable to most of their attacks. Flames did nothing to it, physical attacks barely knocked it off balance, and even ice beam had done little other than to slow it down.

"Get back up!" He shouted to Plume before she could try to dive at Rhydon. "Use twister again."

Plume screeched in understanding and forced herself back up into the air, quickly flapping her wings and summoning another twister. Rhydon grunted in annoyance as it was knocked over. Ash took the opportunity to run to the other side of the clearing. Dazed and Nidorino followed him.

He glanced over at Magmar before giving orders to his friends. Magmar looked to be nearly unconscious, although he was still trying to futilely stand up in order to fight again. The creature was still watching the battle with darkened eyes.

Ash quickly made a strategy for the stone behemoth. Physical attacks and some elemental attacks did almost nothing to it. Even ice beam had proved to be little more than a hindrance to Rhydon, although Ash suspected that the effects would eventually add up.

"Ice beam. Confusion." He ordered in a calm voice that belied the fear that he felt. Nidorino grunted and quickly fired the ice beam. All three energy blasts hit Rhydon, causing a thick layer of ice to form on the rock.

Rhydon roared again – a sound that resembled stone grinding together – and quickly shattered the ice before charging at the three again. Another twister from Plume knocked it off balance, however, and it grunted in annoyance.

That's when Dazed's confusion hit. It quickly overwhelmed Rhydon's mind, giving Dazed complete control. She quickly caused the behemoth to hit itself with its own fists – blows that caused more real damage than anything save the ice beam, Ash noticed.

Nidorino followed up with another ice beam. It had a greater effect than the first two, although it still didn't seem to badly hurt Rhydon. The thing was like a mountain that could walk.

Soon enough, despite Dazed's attempts, Rhydon regained control of itself. But now it was done playing with them – its eyes were narrowed and it was panting in anger.

It suddenly stamped on the ground, causing a large earthquake. Ash was slammed to the ground as the earth shook, as was Dazed. Small cracks began to thread throughout the ground, but they were less important than the earthquake.

The earthquake was weaker for Ash – he wasn't sure why, but it didn't carry the incredible force it did for his friends. Magmar was almost unconscious and Nidorino had been knocked to his side.

Rhydon completely ignored the twister that Plume sent at him, apparently using its full power now. It lowered its head and showed that its gigantic, sharp horn was glowing. Ash paled as he identified the technique as megahorn.

That it could use such a powerful and advanced technique spoke volumes to the Rhydon's sheer experience and power. It was the ultimate technique that any Rhydon could learn without the assistance of a TM. The attack inflicted an inordinate amount of damage in the hands of an ordinary Rhydon, so Ash couldn't even imagine what it could do in the hands of this thing.

He quickly returned his pokemon and pulled himself up. There was no way his friends would be able to dodge the attack when they were still on the ground. At least he was able to stand up.

Rhydon was too enraged to realize what the attack would do to Ash. It charged at him, not even noticing when he leapt out of the way. The Rhydon plowed through the forest, apparently ignorant to the fact it was only tearing trees to shred, not its target.

Ash released his friends again and told them to spread out. They were just providing easy targets by remaining clumped together. He anxiously waited for Rhydon to emerge – he could see its huge grey form walking back to them, but none of his friends had a clear shot.

He was considering alternative strategies since it was clear that he wouldn't defeat the Rhydon through force unless he got extremely lucky. It was just too strong.

His first was to release Torrent and let the water-type blast Rhydon with water. Normally he wouldn't release Torrent onto land – he was almost incapable of movement and had difficulty fighting – but desperate times called for desperate measures.

His second was to throw one of the ultra balls he had kept and buy them time to escape. Ash doubted that the ultra ball would hold Rhydon for long, though. Ultra balls were much more powerful than ordinary pokeballs, but they still required the target to be weakened first. In addition, they could still be broken by a sufficiently powerful pokemon. Besides, Ash didn't want to risk the chance of accidently capturing the Rhydon.

For one it was clear that Rhydon was still far too strong for him – he was having trouble getting Magmar to respect him, and Rhydon was exponentially more powerful than Magmar. He wouldn't be able to work on Magmar if he was too busy keeping Rhydon from escaping his pokeball and wreaking havoc.

His third was to fight the Rhydon and tire it out. Not a very good plan since it seemed to be as tireless as Magmar, but hopefully it would realize that it needed to return to its herd.

Ash decided to use the first and third options. The second was still unnecessary.

Torrent looked slightly confused when he was released, but his eyes instantly zeroed onto Rhydon as it walked back into the clearing. His small eyes instantly lit up and he jumped up and shot a powerful water gun at the beast.

Rhydon looked surprised when it was struck by the high-powered jet of water. It was even forced back a bit. A powerful ice beam sent by Nidorino that was amplified by freezing the water already there annoyed it even further.

"Hypnosis." Ash said, never taking his eyes off Rhydon. It looked as though it were preparing for something: its body was tensed up as though it were about to unleash an attack. He didn't like the implications of that – if it put its real power into an attack, all of his friends would be knocked unconscious.

It acted before the pink energy could be unleashed, although it was clearly building up quickly. First, Rhydon used an attack Ash recognized as stone edge. Dozens of large, sharp stones were pulled up from the ground and hurled at his pokemon.

Ash sprawled to the ground, narrowly avoiding three of the stone chunks. His pokemon weathered the assault admirably, although they managed to avoid most of them. Dazed had just released the pink energy that would hopefully put Rhydon to sleep.

Even as the pink energy floated towards it, Rhydon used earthquake again. But this wasn't of the same ilk as the weak earthquake from before. Instead of Rhydon simply stamping its foot to create the powerful tremors, it leapt nearly a foot into the air before slamming into the ground with incredible force.

The shockwave threw Ash backwards. He winced when he slammed into a tree – he landed on his sore, bruised back. It nearly made him cry out in pain, but he gritted his teeth and wearily pulled himself up. As he did so, the trainer glanced around to see what happened to his pokemon.

Nidorino was struggling to pull himself up some twenty feet away. He looked as though he were in pain, but could still fight. Torrent wasn't badly affected by the attack – it seemed that he had flopped upward as the worst of the shockwaves had rolled through the earth. Dazed was in a similar situation to he and Nidorino.

He didn't know where Plume was, and also noticed that Magmar was slowly pulling himself up, although the fire-type looked as though he were about to pass out.

But one good thing did occur – Rhydon was asleep. Ash grinned and wiped some of the dirt off of him before giving his order.

"Torrent, water gun followed by twister. Plume, twister. Nidorino, ice beam. Dazed, psybeam."

All of his pokemon quickly moved to follow his order, realizing that this was their chance to defeat the monstrously powerful Rhydon. Rhydon was quickly struck by water gun, which, when followed by twister, knocked it back.

Plume's twister knocked it back another few steps. Nidorino's ice beam managed to do real damage, though. The energy beams quickly froze over the water, creating a massive layer of ice over Rhydon's body. Dazed's psybeam slammed into its head, causing the Rhdyon to cry out through its deep slumber.

But an unexpected attack managed to do more damage. Magmar first blasted its form with a massive cone of flame, melting the ice and causing the water to cause more damage. His newest partner then used his fire punch to slam into Rhydon's back, causing the behemoth to fall over.

Ash stared at Rhydon. It was still asleep, but looked as though it could awaken at any moment. He didn't want it coming after them again, so he ordered everyone to repeat their attacks.

Rhydon woke up right as Nidorino fired his ice beam. The stone creature took the pale energy to the face, causing a thick layer of ice to form over its skull. Ash smiled a bit as Rhydon fell back down, although it grew wider when Magmar slammed his flaming fist into the back of Rhydon's armored head, forcing it to stay down.

Despite the damage it had just taken, however, Rhydon pulled itself up and launched a lazy punch at the weakened Magmar. Ash stared in shock as Magmar crumpled to the ground, and prepared himself for the rest of a brutal, difficult fight.

But instead of charging them or using an attack, Rhydon just glanced at them for a moment before snorting and walking away. Ash blinked confusedly as Rhydon lumbered away, casually smashing through trees as it left to return to its herd.

Ash supposed that it had had enough for one day, although he hoped that it left because it thought it couldn't have won the fight. But after the ridiculous amount of damage it had taken without so much as slowing down, Ash doubted it. More likely it had just gotten bored and tired of fighting him.

Either way, he was happy. His friends couldn't have taken much more of that, and he was just glad to be escaping with everyone mostly unharmed. Ash stared at the lumbering beast's grey back for a moment longer before making a mental note to find it again one day. He wanted to test his strength against it eventually. Such a powerful pokemon was rare.

But for now he just congratulated his team and pulled his pack off. He barely realized that he still had it on. Ash quickly pulled out a few potions before addressing his tired pokemon.

"Good job, everyone." He announced to his friends. They all looked incredibly pleased with themselves and their efforts, if not incredibly exhausted. "We're going to stay here for the night. I don't think anyone wants to keep on travelling right now."

He gave them more personal congratulations as he tended to their wounds. They all gave him some form of affection as he did so, and he had a grin on his face as he stood up from Dazed. She had taken the least amount of damage aside from Torrent, so she was last.

But his grin faded as he looked at Magmar's unconscious form. He was hoping that he would have won Magmar's respect with this battle, or at least showed Magmar that he needed to work with the trainer to become stronger.

While Magmar had gotten better over the past few days, Ash could tell that he still didn't fully respect him. Instead it was more of a truce – Ash let Magmar battle and display his strength and Magmar behaved. He hoped that Magmar would develop a true relationship with him and the rest of the team.

He walked over to the fire-type with a revive and several potions in hand. Magmar had taken a beating from Rhydon and would need the potions to heal. Although he would heal from it naturally within a few days, Ash didn't want his newest party member to be in pain.

Ash ignored the powerful heat Magmar emitted from his body as he knelt beside him. He sprayed most of Magmar's obvious wounds with hyper potion. The potion would heal any internal damage through being circulated by Magmar's blood.

When he was sure Magmar wouldn't be in too much pain, he used a revive. Magmar seemed to groan as he pulled himself up off the ground before glancing around the clearing. Ash assumed that he was searching for the Rhydon.

"It left." Ash informed the fire-type. Magmar's eyes narrowed at this, and he seemed ready to go chasing after Rhydon. He decided to put that out of Magmar's head. "Don't go chasing after it. It's out of our league."

Magmar snorted in annoyance, sending out small puffs of smoke. Ash frowned.

"You know it's true. That thing beat us without even trying." Ash said. He sighed. "But we managed to fight it off together."

His newest partner stared at him.

"Look, you know you couldn't have beaten it alone. You need to become stronger, and I can help you do that." Ash continued. Magmar seemed to be accepting his words though, which was a good sign. "How about you really become part of the team? When we get strong enough, we'll come back and defeat it."

Magmar looked thoughtful for a few moments before nodding. Ash grinned.

"Do you want a nickname now?"

Magmar froze for a few seconds before nodding. Ash's grin grew wider.

"Well, then. Let's get started."

It took less time to find an acceptable name for Magmar than Dazed, but it still took a while. Magmar was still rather picky, and anything that he didn't consider fitting or fearsome was immediately discarded.

Ash tended to lean towards names that related to fire since Magmar liked those most. After using almost every synonym for fire he could think of, he finally came up with a name that seemed fitting.

"Infernus."

They both thought it was fitting. Considering how bad-tempered and powerful Magmar was, Ash was perfectly happy with it. Magmar also seemed fine with his new name – he apparently liked the connotations.

XX

It was three days later when Ash arrived in Saffron City. Ash had decided to focus all of their time on travelling. There were no battles on the road, and any challenges were politely rejected or ignored. He just wanted to get his friends to a Pokemon Center where they could be healed.

Ash had managed to get a bit of training in at night, however. Dazed had managed to learn zen head butt and was working on psychic again. Plume had finally learned tailwind, and he had gotten Nidorino working on ice beam and thunder. Magmar continued to train with his powerful fire attacks.

He was impressed with Saffron. It was slightly smaller than Celadon, but its majestic buildings and wealthy appearance made it seem even more than the urban sprawl of Celadon. Ash had heard that it was even more impressive after dark, when the massive buildings lit up the area around them for miles around.

Most of the people were rather snooty though – they either completely ignored him or looked at him like he was beneath them.

Ash put up with it. He didn't care about the people. He cared about getting his pokemon healed and fighting Sabrina. Still, he sent a few of his own glares back to particularly obnoxious people.

The trainer arrived at the Pokemon Center soon enough. He quickly checked in and showed his trainer's license. Ash hid a smile when Nurse Joy saw that he was authorized to receive free full restores. She looked as though she were almost in shock.

Although he could have gotten all of his pokemon full restores, he only authorized it for Infernus and Nidorino. Both were still hurting several days after their intense battles, so he was somewhat worried about internal damage. It would take much longer for them to heal naturally than it would to simply fire them up with potions.

The rest only got a basic check-up. He was called from his standard room when the procedure was finished. It was quick – he was only waiting for about thirty minutes.

All of his friends aside from Nidorino and Infernus were returned. Nurse Joy said that Nidorino and Infernus had minor internal damage that would take several hours to repair. Ash just shrugged and accepted it.

He took his friends up to his room and released them before taking a shower. It was still about noon, so Ash had plenty of time to do take a shower and explore the city. There was plenty of time to burn and he'd heard about a second gym in Saffron. Even if it wasn't what he was here for, he would at least challenge it and see if they were any good.

If he recalled correctly, the gym was fighting-type. He knew that it wasn't an official gym – cities could only have one – but it would at least serve to test his skills.

It didn't take long to get directions from one of the other trainers in the Center. Apparently it was just a few minutes away, although the trainer hadn't seemed very impressed when she spoke about it. Ash assumed that it would be a pushover.

Nevertheless, he left for the gym. All of his pokemon needed a workout, and he needed something to do while Nidorino and Infernus recovered.

XX

The gym was barely recognizable as a gym. It was old and run down, although the tall, strong men in martial arts uniforms seemed proud of it. Ash stepped forward, attracting the guards' attention. He was somewhat wary of them – this wasn't in the best district of Saffron.

"Do you seek to challenge the master of this dojo?" One of the fighters asked imperiously. Ash stared at him for a moment before nodding. "Very well, but you must first defeat one of our students in order to show if you are worthy. Do you accept?"

He nodded again. The fighter motioned for Ash to follow him and stepped into the gym. Ash followed suit, noting that the inside was less beat up than the outside. Although hardly gym material, it seemed much more respectable than it first appeared.

Ten people were fighting in the center of the room, which resembled a small, square stadium. Ash noted that they instantly removed themselves from it as he entered.

"Jeremy, we have a challenger!" The guard exclaimed. A teen stepped out from the crowd with a determined expression on his face. "Challenger, the rules are simple. This will be a one-on-one battle. If you lose, you may return tomorrow. If you win, you are given the right to challenge the Karate Master."

Ash frowned at the mention of the so-called Karate Master. It seemed an odd title, although it probably fit the man.

He stepped onto one side of the small stadium while Jeremy stood on the opposite side. Jeremy quickly released a large, angry Primeape. Ash stared at it for a second before releasing Plume.

She didn't have much room to maneuver or use her attacks, but she would still be effective. All she had to do in order to use aerial ace was to fly into the air, and she could easily defeat the fighting-type with gust or quick-attack. Her offensive power had been increased quite a bit.

Plume called out her arrival, doing little other than to annoy Primeape. It was tense, clearly waiting for its trainer to give it to the command to attack. Ash was actually impressed – quite a few Primeape had too short a temper and too little discipline to hold back at anything.

"Primeape, use karate chop!" The fighter shouted, causing Primeape to savagely rush at the serene pidgeot.

"Gust." He ordered. Plume lazily nodded and launched herself a bit into the air before using gust. The resulting blast of air hurled Primeape out of the stadium, although it quickly recovered and rushed at Plume again.

"Gust. Quick wing." He said. The combination was another simple one: Plume would use gust to knock the opponent off balance and then use quick attack to gain the necessary momentum for wing attack. It worked well enough and was one of the few that he could use in such cramped quarters.

The charging Primeape was thrown back again, although it seemed to suffer more damage this time. Plume quickly followed with quick wing, causing massive damage as the fighter was thrown into the wall. It wearily got back up, but another quick wing knocked it out for good.

"Good girl." Ash muttered. Plume used quick attack to quickly return to him, puffing her chest out proudly as he congratulated her.

"Very well, challenger." The guard said as Jeremy slunk off into the rest of the pack. "Karate Master Hamm will be out shortly."

Ash waited patiently for the Master to come out. He hoped that he would receive a better fight out of the dojo's leader. The trainer didn't have to wait too long – the Master walked out from a door at the back of the gym about a minute later.

He was old, but still looked strong. His hair was short, but a rather impressive moustache covered his face. Ash nodded at him, receiving a bow in return.

"Hello there, challenger!" The old man said jovially. "Let's get this started. This will be a two-on-two match. Are you ready?" Ash nodded. "Then let's go!"

Ash started out with Dazed this time. She would be his best bet against the fighting-types. Besides, he wanted to test out her zen head butt.

The old man looked at Dazed for a moment. "Go, Makuhita!"

Ash's brow wrinkled in confusion as he tried to remember the name, but his eyes widened as an unfamiliar, bulky pokemon appeared in front of him. It was fat and yellow, although Ash suspected that it possessed much more muscle than it let on.

"Use vital throw!" The Master shouted. Makuhita moved slowly towards Dazed, but Ash managed to intercept it before it could do anything.

"Psybeam, followed by shadow ball."

Dazed's eyes glowed brightly as she tapped into her power. A psybeam quickly erupted into Makuhita, the colorful beam of energy doing great damage and hurling the fighting-type back. It clutched its head from the psychic energy, allowing Dazed to easily use her second move.

The shadow ball slammed into Makuhita's thick body, exploding and throwing it backwards as it did so. Makuhita was instantly knocked out by the impact with the dojo's wall, although Ash was glad to see that all it had was a couple of bruises.

Hamm didn't look surprised. "He is my newest training partner." He called out. "My next pokemon has been fighting with me for years! Hitmonlee, go!"

Ash frowned when the Hitmonlee erupted onto the battlefield. He'd only fought one of these before, and it hadn't ended well. They were fast, used powerful attacks, and had a strong resistance to psychic and elemental attacks.

Nevertheless, he left Dazed in. Plume wasn't much of a choice either, given her reduced mobility in the gym. He just had to hope that this would be weaker than the one he had fought before.

Hitmonlee leapt at Dazed, not needing an order from its trainer. Ash frowned.

"Psybeam. Shadow ball. End it with zen head butt."

Dazed quickly carried out the attacks. Hitmonlee dodged the psybeam through some very impressive acrobatics, and resisted the shadow ball well. It wasn't even thrown back from the blast, although it clearly took some damage.

It was hit by zen head butt, however. The attack still did little to it, although Hitmonlee clutched its head in pain. Ash took advantage of the Hitmonlee's distress and ordered Dazed to use another psybeam.

This time, the psybeam hit. It blasted Hitmonlee away, although the powerful fighter shook the pain off and charged back at Dazed, easily dodging the attacks that Ash ordered.

"Hi-jump kick!" The Master shouted. Hitmonlee leapt into the air and slammed its foot into Dazed's chest, knocking her to the ground. Ash tried to order her to stand up, but another swift kick from Hitmonlee knocked her out.

He frowned and recalled his fallen friend. Plume was sent out an instant later, crying out to announce her arrival.

"Gust, quick wing." He ordered, hoping that the combo would keep Hitmonlee away from Plume. Plume screeched and blasted a powerful gust towards the surprised Hitmonlee, surprising it and blasting it into the wall. She quickly used quick attack and slammed into Hitmonlee with her wing attack.

Hitmonlee was clearly hurt by the attack, but recovered quickly. By that time, however, Plume had already escaped and was awaiting her next order.

"Gust. Aerial ace!" Ash commanded.

Plume flapped her wings again, repeating the process of Hitmonlee getting slammed into the wall. She then used aerial ace, quickly slamming into Hitmonlee. Although the fighting-type attempted to avoid the attack, it was knocked out by the powerful attack.

The Karate Master was in shock. "Hitmonlee?" Ash watched as Hitmonlee was recalled. Surprisingly, however, the Master seemed pleased. "Very impressive, challenger. You have completed our challenge. Unfortunately, we can't give you a badge. But we can give you this."

Ash watched carefully as the Master pulled a black belt from his pocket and offered the crumpled length of cloth to Ash. He carefully took the proffered garment and looked at it.

"This is a black belt." The Master explained. "It is a sign of your strength, and has been worn by many powerful fighting-types over the years. The belt will not provide any real power to a fighting-type, it will show that they are powerful."

"Thank you."

Ash carefully folded it and held it in his hand. The Master smiled at him.

"Return here one day, should you ever wish to challenge or train a fighting-type you obtain. This is the place that will assist you."

He thanked the old man again and left. While the Hitmonlee wasn't particularly disappointing, overall the experience had been a waste of time. Still, it gave Dazed the opportunity to try out zen head butt. Even though it had done little against Hitmonlee, he expected that it would be far more effective against a weaker pokemon.

Ash quickly returned to the Pokemon Center. He couldn't wait to get Nidorino and Infernus back.

XX

They were both fine. Although all of his pokemon were fine to battle, Ash decided to wait two days before heading to Sabrina's gym. He wanted them all to get a good amount of rest before battling the most difficult gym leader yet.

But, two days later, he found himself standing in front of Sabrina's gym. It was an unusual building, but elegant and beautiful. The gym was a mass of elegant, sculpted curves and was an odd shade of silver.

Ash cautiously stepped in. There weren't many people there, although a few mysterious individuals in light, billowing clothing glanced at him for a moment before returning their focus to whatever it was they were doing before. He assumed that they were psychics training with Sabrina.

Suddenly, a tall, imposing woman manifested in front of him. Ash flinched and leapt back before glancing up at the woman. She had narrow, imperious eyes and black hair that was barely tinted green. Her clothing was similar to the other psychics, although her clothes were tighter and red.

"I apologize for startling you." She said politely. "But I sensed that you were here to battle with me. I am Sabrina, the Gym Leader of Saffron City."

"Hi." Ash said, heart still beating from Sabrina teleporting in front of him. "I'm –"

"Ash Ketchum." She replied. "You arrived in the city two days ago, beat the Dojo, and have been a part of many important events over the past few months."

He looked at her uncomfortably, wondering how she knew all of those things. She smiled warmly, which was far different than the stories Ash had heard about her. Most trainers said that she never seemed to have emotion, a trait that most psychics shared.

"I know those things because I am psychic." Sabrina replied in a tone that Ash couldn't understand. He wondered if she had read his mind or had just guessed what he was thinking. "My powers enable me to watch over my city, protecting it from harm. Of course, I have received some information from my fellow gym leaders. Surge had good things to say about you."

Ash gave a half-grin, still somewhat uncomfortable. Although Sabrina certainly wasn't malicious, she was odd. Not in a bad way, but in a way that made him feel off-balance.

"You are here to battle me, yes?" She asked. Ash noticed that her warm red eyes – something he hadn't heard about before – seemed to be analyzing him.

He nodded. She stared at him for a moment before turning around and walking off.

"Follow me." She stated. "I would prefer to end this soon. A threat is in my city."

Ash blinked, but did as she said. He followed her out of the wide, airy atrium into the stadium. It was a dark room, lit only by torches placed evenly throughout it. But it still had more than enough light to battle. Massive pillars appeared to hold the room up, but Ash figured that they were decorative. No one would risk having pillars in a place where pokemon battled.

But the floor was particularly interesting. While the battlefield in itself was average – bare and flat, with only dirt as a covering – the floor seemed to be made out of some beautiful, thick glass or stone. It was almost distracting.

Then he noticed that Sabrina wasn't leading him anymore. She was in the gym leader's box, apparently having teleported there. Ash frowned and stepped into his own box.

"This will be a three-on-three battle." She called out. Ash saw that a pokeball was hovering in the air next to her, held aloft by glowing psychic energy. "The match shall end prematurely should either of us forfeit. Pick your fighter."

Ash held out Infernus' pokeball. He wanted to see just how useful the fire-type was against Sabrina. Infernus certainly had the raw power to at least hold his own. Nidorino was his next choice, since he would still be an effective fighter against Sabrina's psychics. Dazed would be his last choice.

Sabrina sent out her choice first. Ash was surprised to see a large Venemoth. He had thought she would use her Alakazam or Kadabra first. He shrugged it off, though.

Infernus roared when he was sent out, stamping his foot and causing flames to burst out of his body. Ash grinned at the display of power. It meant that Infernus was more than ready to battle.

"Flamethrower!" He said. Infernus had sharp enough ears that he didn't need to shout. The fire-type quickly reared its head back and spit the long tongue of flame out of his mouth, bathing the entire battlefield in fire. Psychic barriers prevented it from escaping the arena and causing real damage.

Venemoth survived the flamethrower and quickly flew at Infernus. Ash was surprised – Sabrina hadn't said anything.

Then he nearly smacked himself in the face. Of course she didn't give a verbal command – Sabrina was a psychic. She could easily communicate with her pokemon mentally.

"Flamethrower!" He repeated. Infernus quickly obeyed and blasted the approaching Venemoth with flames, quickly taking it out of the battle. Ash shouted out his congratulations, causing Infernus' flames to blare up.

Then Sabrina sent out what he had feared: Alakazam. It was a lanky pokemon with thin muscles. Although it appeared physically frail – it was thin and wiry, with little muscle able to be seen on its furry frame – Ash knew that the body wasn't where the mustached creature's power was.

Alakazam stared at Magmar with amusement for a moment. It glanced at Sabrina for a moment, giving Ash the chance to attack.

"Lava plume!"

Magmar roared his understanding and stamped his foot to the ground. An explosion erupted around him, releasing a wave of smog and flames towards Alakazam. Lava erupted from the ground and flew towards Alakazam as well.

Alakazam casually stared at it with glowing blue eyes. A bright blue shell surrounded it, forcing the mixture of fire and smog to flood around it. It deflected the lava just as easily before using its own attack.

The psychic crossed its spoons before being surrounded by a blue aura. Ash shouted at Infernus to dodge, recognizing the signs of psychic. Infernus quickly heeded his order, dodging as an invisible blast erupted from Alakazam's body.

Unfortunately, Infernus wasn't fast enough. The blast managed to clip him, throwing him back nearly twenty feet. All that kept him from being thrown out of the arena was the psychic barriers.

Infernus grunted as he fell to the ground, but pulled himself up. Ash cheered him on and gave him the order to get in close. Alakazam was immensely powerful, but it couldn't take physical hits nearly as well.

His friend charged towards Alakazam, carefully dodging the psychic blasts that the furred creature constantly sent at him. But when he was almost in striking distance, Alakazam unleashed yet another powerful attack.

It crossed its spoons and prepared what Ash recognized as a psybeam. But instead of being a true beam, Alakazam somehow caused it to be more of an explosion – the bright, colorful energy erupted all over the battlefield.

Infernus was impacted by the energy. He remained standing, but it was clear the psybeam had hurt him. The fire-type continued to sluggishly charge at Alakazam and released several flamethrowers in the process.

Alakazam protected against them just as easily as the first one. When Infernus had finally gotten close enough to get in a good attack, Alakazam used psychic again. The blast of telekinetic force slammed into Magmar and hurled him into the psychic barriers again.

His friend didn't get back up. Ash sighed and recalled Magmar. He expected that the rest of this battle would go by quickly.

Nidorino grunted when he was released. He dodged the powerful wave of force sent by Alakazam and waited for Ash to give him orders.

"Ice beam. Follow with thunderbolt. Poison sting when close, follow with focus attack."

The pokemon growled and quickly released an icebeam. Alakazam blocked it with the psychic shell again before sending a powerful psybeam in return. Nidorino dodged it and sent a thunderbolt as he charged towards Alakazam.

Alakazam's shell broke that time, although the thunderbolt failed to hurt it. Nidorino growled and sent a dozen poison needles towards Alakazam. The shell blocked them again.

Ash frowned in annoyance. He wasn't able to do anything to the powerful Alakazam. It just used that shield to block everything that had a chance of actually hurting it. When something got uncomfortably close to it, it just blasted them away with psychic.

Hopefully Nidorino would prove fast and agile enough to avoid that. It would be incredible if he managed to defeat Sabrina's Alakazam, although he doubted that he would even land a hit on it without shadow ball.

Nidorino made it within a few feet of Alakazam before the psychic grew serious. It crossed its spoons and glowed blue before picking up Nidorino with its mind. Ash watched helplessly as Alakazam hurled Nidorino across the battlefield.

He winced as his best friend slammed into the psychic barriers, instantly knocking Nidorino out. Ash recalled him sadly before sending out Dazed. She lazily stared at her opponent with glazed eyes.

"Shadow ball." He ordered as quickly as he could. Ash wanted to negate Sabrina's advantage as best he could.

Dazed quickly fired the shadow ball at Alakazam. Alakazam prepared its barrier, but the ghost-type move shattered it. Most of the shadow ball's power was drained by the destruction of the barrier, however, and didn't seem to affect Alakazam badly.

Alakazam crossed its spoons. A grey, shadowy aura formed around it as a positively gigantic shadow ball formed. Dazed tried to send another shadow ball at it, but her attack was simply absorbed into the larger, more powerful shadow ball.

"Dodge!" Ash cried, hoping that Dazed would be able to avoid the dangerous attack. As he said it, Alakazam pushed its spoons outward and sent the shadow ball blasting towards Dazed.

Ash watched in horror as the attack slammed into Dazed. It was so fast that he barely realized it had move if there wasn't a long trail of shadow following it. Dazed was blasted backwards, slamming hard into the barrier. There were small arcs of black lightning flashing on her.

He blinked and recalled Dazed, shocked at how easily he had been defeated. Although he knew that he had little chance of winning, Ash had at least thought he would have put up a fight. But that Alakazam defeated his friends as easily as it would have a rattata.

It was the first time he had ever been dealt a truly crushing defeat in an ordinary battle. Gary only won because he had powered Wartortle up with TMs. Even most trainers that defeated him suffered a few unconscious pokemon.

Sabrina had only lost Venemoth, which he almost thought was intentional. It was never even a match between them.

He looked at the gym leader, only to realize that she wasn't there. Ash shrugged and sighed before turning around. The trainer yelped in surprise as he realized Sabrina had been standing directly behind him.

She met his eyes with her cool red ones. "You are not yet strong enough to defeat me. You have potential, Ash Ketchum, but you need more time to develop. Return to me when you are ready."

Ash slowly nodded. Sabrina stared at him for a moment before vanishing into thin air, presumably to get ready for whatever trouble she had sensed.

He just stood there for a moment before shrugging. Ash had known that he wasn't ready for this gym. Now he realized just how much he could improve – he knew that he could beat Sabrina. He would if it was the last thing he did.

A few moments later he left the gym. He took one last lingering gaze at the elegant building before heading back to the Pokemon Center. It was a long walk and he wanted to get his friends checked up.

XX

His friends were fine after a day, so Ash quickly left Saffron City. While it was impressive and fun to explore, it didn't exactly help his journey that much. So he was heading to Fuschia now, where he would hopefully be able to quickly defeat Koga and find somewhere to train, or at least train his pokemon to be powerful enough to beat Sabrina.

He wasn't very anxious to return here, to be honest. Ash had heard what the trouble Sabrina had sensed was – the night of the battle, Team Rocket had invaded the Silph Co. headquarters and attempted to steal some sort of top secret project they were working on. Fortunately, Sabrina, some of the gym trainers, and the police managed to fight the Rockets off.

Sabrina hadn't been particularly gentle in dealing with the Rockets. Most had been put in the hospital, although some were simply knocked out. The reports showed that most had been placed into deep comas and that most had minor brain damage.

Ash was actually somewhat frightened when he saw just what Sabrina was capable of when she wasn't holding back. He had taken down a Rocket base, true, but he mostly did it through stealth. Besides, the Rockets he fought were minor players. The ones Sabrina crushed were hardened agents, if the media was to be believed.

He pushed the thoughts out of his mind as he walked out of Saffron's gates, opening up into the wilderness. Ash just wanted to get on with his journey and be in the nice, quiet forests and plains of Kanto.

Unfortunately, a few minutes later a familiar, annoying, and all-too smug voice decided to interrupt his journey.

"Well, Wartortle, look who it is." The source of the voice laughed. "It's Ashy-boy and the weakling. Think we should show them just how much better we are?"

Ash froze and looked up from the path, clenching his fists as he saw the smirking, smug face of Gary Oak.

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