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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65. The Final Part 2

"I just did." He pointed out. Ash couldn't hold back another smile when Gary's eye twitched. "But, no. You're actually the first person I've told. I'm going to talk to my mom and your grandfather about it, but it's not something I want spread around."

Gary caught the hint and groaned before he glanced up at Ash with a nasty grin. "I don't know, I'm sure your fans would simply love to hear about that. I might even be able to get some good money for that little secret."

He knew that Gary was just teasing so he didn't bother dignifying that statement with a remark.

"You're going to take it, right?" Gary said seriously, playfulness thrown aside for once. "I mean, being in the Elite Four after one year would make you a legend, man. You've already got obsessed admirers proclaiming you as the next Lance. If they heard about this…"

"They won't." Ash said firmly. "Not until after I've made my decision."

"What decision?" Gary threw his arms up in the air exasperatedly. "You've got the chance to join the Elite Four before you're even twelve! If you don't take it then you're a dumbass. Lance is the youngest Champion ever and he didn't make it until he was sixteen. If you get to train with the Elite Four you might even be able to beat his record!"

Ash blinked, a bit surprised at just how vehement Gary was. He'd rarely seen his former rival so passionate about anything, let alone Ash's future.

Gary stopped and relaxed, having realized just how loud he'd been. He fell back into the cocky posture that came second nature to him and sent Ash an arrogant smirk.

"C'mon, man. You're my rival — or at least used to be. If you don't do something spectacular then it's gonna reflect pretty badly on me." Gary smirked. Ash just inwardly sighed. It seemed that Gary had decided to redirect the conversation to his favorite thing: himself.

"Our rivalry as trainers might be over, but I'm still going to surpass you one day. Maybe not in battle, but I'll find a way to leave a mark on this world bigger than anything you've ever dreamed of, Ashy-boy. I'm just trying to get you to take a head start." Gary flashed him another arrogant smirk. "You're gonna need it."

Ash smiled and nodded and didn't bother to say that the only reason Gary still had a world to mark was because of him.

The door suddenly opened and Oak and his mother walked in. Ash looked at his mother carefully. She looked like she was about to scream in joy — it had been a long time since he'd seen her like this. His mother was always cheerful, but he knew that didn't equate to happiness.

"So…" Gary trailed off. "Anyone gonna tell us what all that was about?"

"Not yet!" His mother chirped. "There are just a few more things to get ready before I can say anything!"

Ash raised an eyebrow, his curiosity raised even higher. He honestly couldn't think of anything that would make his mother act like this.

His former rival shrugged it off and laid back against the couch carelessly, not particularly interested in saying anything now that he'd spoken with Ash.

"Ah, yes. Gary, Daisy found what she was looking for in Mt. Coronet." Oak said happily. "She obtained an additional Feebas for you as well, if you want it."

"Seriously?" Gary's eyes lit up and his ever-present smirk slipped into a genuine smile. "Yeah, I'll take it. Maybe we can start breeding them or something. They're worth enough to go to the trouble."

Oak shook his head. "Neither Feebas nor Milotic breed well in captivity at the moment. Daisy said that she was going to try and get around that issue, but it will be a long time coming."

"Whatever." The younger Oak sighed. "Is she coming home now?"

The Professor shrugged. "I'm afraid she didn't mention that. Give her time."

Gary scowled and leaned back further against the couch. "I think she's had enough time."

Oak frowned reproachfully at Gary but didn't say anything. Ash just watched the conversation interestedly. Since his friendship with Gary had twisted into their rivalry he hadn't been privy to the Oak family's relations. He barely remembered Daisy — she'd left Pallet to travel several years ago and only been back for short amounts of time since.

He kept an ear on the conversation as he lightly picked up Sneasel and focused on scratching around his feather. Ash grimaced when he felt the slimy texture of Sneasel's thick black fur. It seemed that the dark-type had been grooming not too long ago.

Ash wiped his hand off on a napkin as he focused on keeping Sneasel happy and content. He'd rather not have to return his friend to his pokeball if he started becoming unruly.

He winced slightly when Sneasel contentedly unsheathed his claws and let them dig into the trainer's leg slightly. That was somewhat painful, although there wasn't enough force behind it to draw blood.

"How are Jonathan and Amelia doing?" His mother suddenly spoke up. Ash got the feeling it was to distract him from the conversation between the Professor and Gary.

Ash inwardly sighed. This might take a while. "Well…"

XX

Around an hour later he stood by the door of the Oak House with his mother. The Professor had pulled Gary up to his office to discuss something privately. He assumed it was something to do with the Oak family. It seemed like there was a lot going on between the three.

Ash needed to leave. He was tired and needed to be ready for tomorrow. Aside from the last bit of his training with Surge he would have to prepare further for Michael. He couldn't underestimate the older trainer or consider him as anything other than an incredible threat.

"I haven't gotten a chance to say it yet, but I'm so proud of you." His mother said quietly and embraced him in a warm hug. It wasn't one of her ordinary bone breakers either. It was just comfortable and he was able to return it without worrying about oxygen deprivation. "That won't change if you lose, just know that."

"…Thank you." He said gratefully, not really having expected it. His mother was always open with her praise, but it was different this time. He could practically feel the emotion in her voice. "Don't worry, though. I'm going to win."

"I know." His mother smiled tearfully. "Don't worry about me doubting you. I'd never do that — you've gotten so strong. When you came running into the house with that little Nidoran…well, I knew you would go far. But this —"

"I know." Ash mimicked when it seemed that his mother wasn't able to force the words out. "You don't have to say anything."

"I don't have to, but I want to." She said quietly before she stood up and pulled out of the hug. Her eyes were wet, just as they had been when he'd left Pallet Town for the first time. "I know I haven't always approved of some of the things you've gotten up to as a trainer, but I am so, so proud of you for doing them. You've grown up so fast."

Ash wasn't sure what to say, so he just nodded. It was hard for him to force any words out of his mind in situations like these. He didn't feel like there was anything to say.

"Just try not to grow up too much more. I don't know what I'll do when my boy doesn't need me anymore" His mother smiled and patted him on the cheek.

He nodded again, a lump in his throat. His mother didn't seem to need any sort of verbal response, however. She just pulled him into another quick hug.

"Go to your house and get a good night's rest." She told him after she let him go. "I know you still have another day before you'll battle, but…"

"I will." He replied and turned to leave. "Bye."

"I love you, Ashy!" She called out cheerfully, to which he replied in kind. "Oh, and don't forget to change your —"

He was gone.

XX

"Good luck, Ash!" Jonathan grinned at him as he and Amelia left to go get lunch right before the Final. "I like Michael, but kick his ass for me, will ya?"

Ash rolled his eyes but didn't bother holding back his smile at the two. "I'll be sure to do that. Thanks, you two."

"Bye, Ash." Amelia said quietly as she followed Jonathan to the door. "We're rooting for you!"

He just nodded again and looked at his own lunch silently. It was almost an hour old and he'd barely eaten any of it. Ash knew he needed to eat to keep his mind focused but his stomach was turning slightly as the realization of just what he was about to do hit him.

He, Ash Ketchum, rookie trainer from Pallet Town, was about to go and battle in the Indigo Conference Final.

It was surreal and left him with a heavy weight on him. He'd never really felt nervous before a Conference match but the feeling hit him full force right now.

Nidoking just grunted and laid his great head onto the couch cushion beside Ash to comfort him. Ash smiled as he carefully scratched around Nidoking's sensitive ears, deftly avoiding the poisonous spines as though it were second-nature.

"We've come a long way, haven't we?" He asked his friend, who opened one narrow black eye in response as he snorted gently. Ash smiled as the warm air danced across his arm and pulled his hand away. "You want any more food?"

The poison-type shook his head and closed his eyes again, seemingly unaffected by any kind of stress. He was calm and serene — everything Ash wanted to be at this moment.

"Woah! What are you doing here?" He heard as the door opened. Ash slightly turned his head and saw a shock of dark red hair standing above Jonathan with a light grin. Apparently the figure said something, because Jonathan stammered out, "Oh, yeah. He's in there, on the couch. Well…see ya!"

With that Jonathan and Amelia practically scurried out as Michael stepped in and met Ash's questioning stare with a bright smile.

"Hey there, Ash!" The trainer from Orre said cheerfully. It looked like he was as affected by the coming battle as much as Nidoking.

"Hello, Michael." He said, a questioning look on his face. "What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be getting ready?"

Michael plopped down in one of the chairs that was pulled up in front of the couch and shrugged. "I just figured I'd drop by, see how you were doing. All that stuff. It's been a while since we've met and I wanted to make sure you were handling things alright."

"I'm fine." Ash said tersely.

"Doesn't seem like it." Michael said and nodded at the uneaten plate of food. "You should probably eat that."

"I know."

"Look, I just want to talk." Michael smiled. "I don't know about you, but I was pretty surprised when I realized the kid I met a few days into the League was going to be my opponent in the Finals. Funny how these things happen, right?"

"Yes."

"I just wanted to tell you to not treat this as any other battle or you're going to get sick from worrying." Michael warned. "Just come at me with everything you've got and I'll return the favor. I don't care which of us wins or loses as long as this is a great battle."

Ash looked up, surprised at that. He'd thought Michael would be a bit more serious about this match.

"Oh, don't get me wrong. I'd love to win and I plan on doing so." Michael said when he correctly interpreted Ash's surprise. "But aside from a fancy title this is the same as any other match. Throw aside any concerns you have and put everything you have into it. You've come a long way. Getting locked up in fear and nervousness is no way to finish this journey."

"Thanks." Ash said finally, some of his worries assuaged. He could still feel the pit of nervousness nestled in his gut but Michael's words had calmed it a bit. "I hope you're ready."

"I am." His opponent smiled. "I've had a lot of pretty important battles in my career but the public hasn't seen too many of them. Let's make this one for the world to remember us by, alright?"

Ash nodded back, fiery determination crackling in his eyes. "Agreed."

He frowned and glanced to the pokeballs on Michael's belt. "When I was researching you I found a video of you in Orre. You were fighting some sort of criminal."

"Did you?" Michael stiffened. "And?"

"And you caught one of his pokemon." Ash said stonily. "How?"

"A nifty little gadget that will hopefully never see the light of day again." Michael sighed. "Look, it's a complicated story but I just want you to know that everything I did was legal in the eyes of Orre and the League — approved, even. It was something that had to be done and I was the only one in place to do it."

Ash hummed. He didn't look at Michael suspiciously or with anything resembling hostility. While Ash wasn't entirely sure about Michael's actions, especially since he hadn't explained the circumstances behind them, he knew that Lance wouldn't have let Michael into the Conference if he wasn't telling the truth.

"But I think I should let you know that the things I did led to my moniker of 'The Champion of Orre' and that I will come at you with everything that title implies." Michael grinned. "I might not even be an annoyance to someone like your Champion Lance, but I am pretty powerful in my own right."

"Don't get too cocky." Ash warned with a small smile. He'd faced a true Champion and, while Michael was correct in saying that he was very powerful, Ash saw nothing that he could not defeat. Lance was a force of nature in battle, overwhelmed only by manifestations of nature itself. Michael was just a trainer, albeit a strong one.

Michael grinned. "Hey, just make sure that my arrogance isn't deserved. I would love for you to beat me, but don't expect me to help you in that regard."

"Never." He snorted. "What kind of show would that be for the crowd?"

"Exactly." Michael agreed. His eyes flitted over to the living room clock. "We've got two hours before the battle starts. I actually do have something to take care of myself beforehand, but I just wanted to let you know that I'm looking forward to facing you. This'll be one for the books."

Ash inclined his head to the older trainer as Michael stood up and prepared to leave, casually throwing a pokeball up and down in his hand.

"Don't forget to eat!" The Champion of Orre called out before he left in a flash of red hair.

He just stared at the door as it slammed shut for a few moments before.

Once he'd finally yanked himself from his daze he looked at the food, ignored the queasiness in his stomach, and picked at the meal.

If Michael was right about one thing, it was that he needed his energy. Ash didn't want to go into the Final at anything less than his absolute best.

XX

"Ladies and gentlemen, I am glad to welcome you to the Indigo Conference Final! Our favorite rookie, Green Trainer Ash Ketchum, will face the powerful Red Trainer Michael Braeden, who has proven his ability many times over in this Conference!"

Ash let a smile flit across his face as he heard the crowd erupt into cheers, many chanting his name or Michael's. It appeared that he had amassed quite a few followers throughout the Conference. More than he had expected, at any rate.

"The Red Trainer Michael Braeden will release first in this battle!" The announcer crowed. "Everyone, get ready for an amazing battle!"

Michael had all the focus truly great trainers possessed revealed on his face as he released Dragonite, which snarled and tensed on the ground as its great wings unfurled in a rush of wind. The dragon stared at Ash unflinchingly as he released Plume.

"It looks like this'll be a battle of speed, folks!" The announcer cried. "I don't even know if we'll be able to follow this matchup!"

That comment brought a smirk to Ash's face. With any luck he could bring this Dragonite down before the match truly began. Plume was fast enough to dance around the Dragonite that couldn't even compare to Lance's.

"Begin!"

The word had just left the referee's mouth when both Dragonite and Plume shot into the air as blurs. It was evident that both trainers had coached their teammates on this matchup.

Dragonite was somewhat easier to follow than Plume, who had yet to slip into Super Speed. It chased his friend as a massive golden blur, arcs of lightning splaying around it as the dragon ceaselessly attempted to entrap and crush the Pidgeot.

He was glad to see that Plume dodged every burst of lightning with contemptuous ease, the Pidgeot's brutal training against Lance's Dragonite trio paying off in spades. She'd encountered every trick a Dragonite could throw at her and knew how they flew better than most Dragonite did.

"Twister!" Michael barked. Dragonite, who was barely able to keep up with Plume as she led him on a chase through the sky, snarled and spat a huge vortex of swirling wind that engulfed a good portion of the direction he aimed in.

A second later Plume came around and smashed into it with a Steel Wing that sent the creature straight into the earth, although the dragon was barely stunned by the attack. It was enough for Plume to fire off several Air Slashes at it, although the Dragonite merely growled and summoned a sphere of glowing green energy to absorb the blades of air.

Ash frowned at the use of Protect. It appeared that Michael had managed to hammer in the use of defensive techniques.

Michael suddenly grinned as the blur he could perceive as Plume circled back for another attack. "Extreme Speed!"

His eyes widened in surprise at the use of the technique — so far as Lance had told him only Dragonite descended from the Wataru line could use the Extreme Speed technique — but adapted quickly.

"Super Speed!" He commanded, although Plume had already slipped into her most powerful technique by the time the words had left his mouth. She was faster than Dragonite in their base states, but Extreme Speed would easily give it the edge to catch her. Even Super Speed might not have been fast enough.

He scowled when Dragonite still managed to keep up, if only just. It couldn't actually catch Plume but it had her on the run and the absurd amount of electricity it was blasting everywhere would hit her eventually.

Plume had to do her assigned job quickly. Dragonite would get lucky eventually and Plume was the only one that could actually cripple it at those speeds.

"Razor Wing!" Ash called out as he struggled to keep up with the two blurs that were almost indistinguishable from one another aside from the eruptions of electricity that arced from Dragonite's horn.

"Hurricane!"

Ash clutched the bars of the trainer box as Dragonite flapped its massive wings and created a huge tornado of wind that carried dust and water in an endless vortex as it ripped through the air. The Hurricane was centered around Dragonite, the effects enough to hurl any lesser flying-type into the psychic barriers if they approached.

Fortunately, Plume wasn't subject to that weakness. Her speed carried her through the flurry of whipping winds with a minimum of trouble and her Steel Wing smashed into Dragonite with a loud cracking sound that echoed throughout the stadium as the dragon was hurled once more to the earth.

"Finish this!" Michael shouted as Dragonite wearily pulled itself up and barely managed to use Protect in time to block another flurry of Air Slashes that were stopped dead on the incredibly powerful barrier. Those that missed carved foot-deep gouges into the packed earth. "Dragon Dance-Extreme Speed!"

Ash frowned as Dragonite's body was suddenly suffused by the dark green glow of draconic energy. Dragon Dance was essentially focusing the power it could have ordinarily used for attacks like Dragon Pulse or Draco Meteor and pouring it into the body, strengthening it to a far greater extent than it could ordinarily withstand. It limited the dragon's ranged abilities in regards to the reliable Dragon Pulse or similar attacks but performed a similar function as Superpower in releasing the limits on the body, although it was much less stressful to maintain than Superpower thanks to the draconic energy that engulfed the body.

Normally Dragon Dance was a somewhat risky move for Dragonite and similar dragons. The tremendous physical power it granted was offset by an inability to use any but the weakest of dragon-type techniques. But on top of Extreme Speed it would stress Dragonite's body terribly. It couldn't maintain it for more than a minute or so.

Michael obviously expected this to be over quickly, so he had to hurry. If the Champion of Orre was that confident then it was something to be feared.

"Cripple it!" He said quietly. Judging by how the blur that was Plume instantly dived at the Dragonite she heard it.

Dragonite barely managed to push itself off the ground when Plume's talons slashed into the sensitive membrane of its wings and tore deep gouges into the thin flesh that heralded a scream of pain from Dragonite and the green glow of murder in its eyes as it struggled to stay aloft.

A small, steady stream of blood bled from Dragonite as it managed to launch itself forward, albeit at a slower pace than it would have normally. It was obviously in a great deal of pain and relied heavily on its other wing, which reduced its maneuverability greatly.

More blasts of electricity arced from Dragonite's horn but Plume was agile enough to deftly avoid all of them as she circled around for another attack. Dragonite roared furiously as she sped at it once more, wings outstretched and glowing with power that would slash into even the hide of a Dragonite with ease.

Ash's grin faded to a wince when it somehow managed to erect yet another barrier of green energy thanks to the increased reflexes granted to it by Dragon Dance. He had one moment of horror before Plume, who had been too close to pull away, slammed into the barrier with a sickening crunch.

He had a brief moment of pride as the Protect shattered with enough force left over to send Dragonite flying to the ground once more with its bleeding wing and bruised body.

That gleeful flash ended as Plume struggled to recover, only to be met with a precise Thunderbolt from Dragonite as she fell that left her in a helpless spiral to the earth. She couldn't maintain Super Speed in such a dazed state, the focus required for Agility and Tailwind shattered. Ash froze as he watched her land at an awkward angle that surely broke one of her wings.

Dragonite, who was still relatively unharmed thanks to its armored hide and legendary endurance, slowly pulled itself up and launched itself into the air until it was right above Plume. The dragon grimaced in pain as it landed heavily onto the downed Pidgeot and crushed her to the ground so that she couldn't use her remaining wing to blow it off. A current of electricity ran down its horn as it prepared to finish Plume.

Just as Ash fumbled with his pokeball to return the badly injured Pidgeot he was distracted by an enormous flash of light as Plume, in great pain but still conscious, opened her beak and managed to fire a Hyper Beam straight into Dragonite's other wing.

It roared in fury, a deafening sound even from behind the psychic barriers of the Indigo Stadium, and moved to gore her with its small, electrified horn in revenge for its singed wing. Plume was too inexperienced with Hyper Beam to do any real damage to something like Dragonite and was too blinded by pain to legitimately cripple it, but she had accomplished her final act of defiance and allowed her body to slacken in weakness.

Dragonite struck air as dozens of small, intense bolts of electricity erupted and fizzled uselessly into the ground. It snarled and stamped the ground petulantly, an act that left a slight indentation in the rent earth.

Ash scowled as he returned his friend, angry at the pain she had just suffered. He had to admit that Michael and Dragonite had outplayed him, though. He'd never considered that Protect could be used as a weapon of any sorts — the technique consumed an enormous amount of energy to erect a barrier that could absorb truly immense blasts of force and energy. It could only be maintained for a split-second at the most, but Michael seemed to have trained Dragonite well in its timing, although it never would have worked without the enhanced reflexes granted by the layered Extreme Speed and Dragon Dance.

Still, Plume had met her main objective. While she was undoubtedly superior to Dragonite in the air she couldn't match the sheer variety of elemental attacks and other techniques it could learn to give it an advantage. Not to mention even the weakest Dragonite could shrug off Hyper Beams from almost any pokemon. That would have been her main method of ranged attack against anything without the speed and maneuverability of a Dragonite.

He'd told her to cripple it and she had. It was the only way she'd be able to get a Dragonite out of a stalemate. Speed was a Dragonite's greatest defensive asset and removing that would give her an incredible advantage, although she hadn't been able to capitalize it before Michael somehow managed to weaponize Protect of all things.

Judging from the amount of blood it had lost in one wing and the subtle trauma Plume had inflicted on it the Dragonite could only fly at a fraction of its true speed, which cut it down to a manageable level for any of his other pokemon to take down at their leisure.

There was only one option of course, and the crowd seemed to like Torrent if their deafening roar was anything to go by.

Ash smiled as Torrent looked around with the regal air he had possessed since his evolution at the lake all those months ago. His scarlet eyes were utterly unimpressed as he took in the burned and bloodied Dragonite, who snarled at him with rage-filled eyes.

The Kingdra turned to look at Ash as if he couldn't believe his talents were being wasted on such an opponent. Ash supposed that after seeing Lance's legendary Dragonite in action this one paled in comparison.

For his part he simply shrugged. Torrent deigned to look at the Dragonite once more as the referee finally ordered the battle to begin.

"Thunder Wave!" Michael snapped, obviously wanting to get as much out of Dragonite as he could before it inevitably fell unconscious. It was already weak from its wounds. "Then Dragon Rush!"

Torrent casually shot a series of weak Dragon Pulses at Dragonite as the flyer took off, although it didn't actually strike the other dragon. It did absorb the Thunder Wave, however, and ruined Michael's initial distraction.

Dragonite took off at a speed faster than Ash would have expected given its torn wing, but it wasn't much of a problem. It was barely going fast enough to avoid the barrage of Ice Beams that Torrent fired off with his ordinary precision. The dragon was nowhere near secure enough in its speed to actually attack Torrent and soon it would have to slow down due to the pain and blood loss.

For now, however, that led to a very boring interplay between the two mighty dragons. Dragonite was constantly on the run, barely fast enough to avoid Torrent's relentless attacks as it slowed more and more, and definitely nowhere near able to fire off a few attacks itself.

But Ash was patient. He just had to wait a bit longer — and there. Dragonite had just been struck by an overpowered Ice Beam, which stunned it and left it reeling in the sky. Torrent was quick to take advantage of his foe's distraction and struck the Dragonite with a second Ice Beam, although the flyer managed to weave to the side so that it only clipped its bloodied wing.

Dragonite couldn't run anymore. It's time was coming to an end.

"Dragon Dance!" Michael shouted. It appeared that he'd come to the same realization as Ash. He was just going to make sure that Dragonite could at the least damage the formidable Kingdra. "Hit it with Draco Burst!"

The Dragonite was consumed in an aura of green power almost instantly as draconic energy flooded every cell. It snarled and launched forward with renewed vigor, flapping its torn wing despite the thin layer of frost that coated it and irritated the wounds left by Plume's razor talons.

"Ice Storm!" He ordered. Dragonite was going in for a sacrificial attack that would likely leave Torrent injured and exhausted at best and unconscious at worst. Torrent needed something that could alter the Dragonite's course and keep it at bay.

Torrent was instantly surrounded in raging winds that were soon cooled to below freezing temperatures and filled with innumerable shards of sharp ice as he spewed immense amounts of frost from his regal snout. As Ice Storm came to completion he was nothing more than a dim, dark figure amongst a raging pale blue storm that kicked up dirt as it swirled with winds strong enough to tear apart lesser pokemon.

Dragonite snarled as it shot straight into the Ice Storm and instantly suffered dozens of minor cuts and bruises as chunks and blades of ice slashed into its thick hide and shredded both of its wings this time. The winds were strong enough to send the powerful flyer hurtling through the air as it struggled to adjust its course

Ash grinned as Torrent's most powerful technique worked perfectly. Dragonite had been moving too fast to actually swerve away from the Ice Storm and had paid the price. It was a trap that Torrent commonly used against Lance's Dragonite, one that turned their own incredible speed against them as they darted through the air.

"Now!" Michael yelled to the Dragonite as it was trapped in the vortex, barely staying above the ground as it was hurled ceaselessly throughout the air.

Dragonite's body glowed a light, soft green the instant before it slammed into the ground that had been torn apart by Torrent's raging storm. Torrent just barely had time to levitate a bit farther away before the other dragon-type released an absolutely devastating amount of power on par with a Hyper Beam that sent Torrent flying away and broke the Ice Storm along with the Kingdra's focus, although the regal dragon easily recovered.

"Hyper Beam!" Michael shouted. Dragonite, who laid bloody and beaten in the frozen earth, struggled to raise its head and do one last service for its trainer. A sphere of molten gold materialized in front of its maw and —

A single Dragon Pulse to the head cut Dragonite's attack short. The barely formed Hyper Beam exploded as well, although the release of power barely singed its tough hide.

Ash smiled at Torrent as Michael recalled Dragonite. He'd finished that cleanly and efficiently. It also seemed that he was well aware of how dangerous Michael was. Torrent had already begun to move closer to the large pool of water in the corner, where his powers would be at their strongest.

Michael was silent as he released Jolteon. The electric-type eyed Torrent speculatively and bared its fangs as its golden coat of fur surged with lightning and stood on end. Electricity danced away from its body and onto the packed earth around it as the Jolteon prepared to go to battle, its muscles ready to launch into action at any moment.

He frowned. Jolteon was sure to be one of his strongest given just how long he'd been training the electric-type. Normally he wouldn't doubt Torrent's ability to cleanly shut down a Jolteon, but he felt that he had a right to be wary if Michael trusted the electric-type to face the mighty dragon.

In the moments before the referee called for action Ash analyzed Jolteon and what Torrent could do to fight it.

Ice Storm would be ineffective. He doubted Jolteon would get anywhere near Torrent, let alone within Ice Storm's limited radius. Torrent could easily expand the technique, but it would be weaker and consume more energy as a result. Besides, Jolteon could easily maneuver out of the Ice Storm's way.

None of Torrent's other techniques would be effective at long range either. Precision attacks would be useless against something as quick and agile as a Jolteon, so Ice Beam, Hydro Pump, and Dragon Pulse were out of the question. Blizzard wouldn't hit at that range — Jolteon could dash out of its radius.

Draco Meteor was a possibility if Torrent was able to use it to trap Jolteon into a small area, but a trick like that working against such an experienced opponent was unlikely, to say the least. Jolteon was probably fast enough to escape, regardless.

Smokescreen would normally be useful to obscure a long-distance fighter's view, but he had no doubt that Jolteon would be able to get around it with Shock Wave or dash around to attack from another angle while the smoke dispersed. Not to mention that it would obscure Torrent's sight as well, which would cripple his attempts to attack Jolteon and give the electric-type time to prepare.

Lastly, the choice of Jolteon meant that Torrent couldn't retreat into the water. While electric attacks didn't do too much damage to Torrent thanks to his thick plates of armor, going into the water would just make him a sitting target. Jolteon wouldn't even have to aim to attack him.

He grit his teeth. This was a terrible matchup for Torrent. The Kingdra's weakness to fast, agile opponents was something he'd have to correct in the future. It wasn't a problem usually, but in the Conference there were enough high-level foes to make it a major inconvenience.

Torrent had gotten much better at tracking and anticipating fast foes but there was a limit to what he could do. Even Dragonite had to be slowed down before he could reliably hit them. While not quite as fast, the smaller target Jolteon gave was just as difficult to hit.

This would not be fun.

"Begin!"

"Shut it in." Ash ordered to Torrent, who had ceased moving toward the water once he saw Jolteon. The Kingdra rumbled and instantly fired a quick barrage of Ice Beams that were meant to box Jolteon in so that he could attempt to strike it with a Dragon Pulse or similarly quick attack.

Jolteon didn't bother letting such a thing happen. The creature was impossibly fast as it shot away in a golden blur, its position only given away by the bright lightning that shot out from its body with every step. It looked like a shooting star as it playfully dashed past another series of attacks from Torrent.

"Finish this quickly. That Kingdra is too dangerous to toy with." Michael called out sternly. Jolteon seemed to take its trainer's words to heart and instantly shot several bolts of electricity at Torrent to test the dragon. When Torrent barely recoiled from the blasts Jolteon immediately retreated slightly and slowed as it stared at the Kingdra speculatively.

Its ears flattened to its skull as it easily leapt away from yet another Dragon Pulse from Torrent, far too experienced to let the resulting explosion shatter its focus. Jolteon's fur seemed to surge with electricity yet again and it blurred into motion for a second time, even faster now.

Ash watched it warily as it dashed around like a landlocked comet. He couldn't think of a way to actually hit it. Jolteon was even faster than he'd feared — the electric-type put Jessica's incredibly quick Persian to shame. It was barely visible at this point as anything other than the arcs of electricity that flared behind it.

Still, his eyes were used to following impossibly fast pokemon. He had trouble tracking Jolteon but he did see the small arcs of electricity that suddenly jumped off of its crackling fur and slammed into Torrent's armor where they unleashed the electricity held within.

He frowned when he saw that it wasn't electricity at all, but small locks of Jolteon's fur that had been shot off like needles. They weren't sharp enough to actually penetrate Torrent's defense but they could be a dangerous weapon against some of his other friends. It was something to keep in mind.

"Thunder-5!" Michael commanded once it was evident that Jolteon's electric needles bore no effect against Torrent. "Finish it."

Ash frowned and didn't need to tell Torrent to fire an overpowered Dragon Pulse in response when Jolteon's body absolutely exploded with harnessed electricity that instantly leapt at Torrent's stationary body in the form of a jagged bolt of lightning.

He actually had to cover his eyes for a moment as the grossly overpowered Thunder carved through Torrent's Dragon Pulse as though it weren't even there and slammed into Torrent and consumed his friend in a supernova of light and heat.

By the time his eyes had recovered Torrent was defenseless. His proud scarlet eyes struggled to remain open and his body lurched in midair as the levitation imparted by his draconic abilities began to fail.

Jolteon didn't draw closer, however. It stayed far back and fired off another blast of electricity, although it was far smaller than the last. Torrent barely had time to fire off a Draco Meteor in response and his body fell to the earth as the last of his strength left him.

He scowled when Jolteon blurred out of the way, although it was slower than before as the spheres of golden draconic power, bereft of any kind of aim thanks to Torrent's unconsciousness, aimlessly collapsed to the earth and left small craters in their wake.

That was unexpected. He'd known that Jolteon was powerful but he'd sorely underestimated it. He'd expected Torrent to struggle against Jolteon, but he hadn't thought his friend could possibly be brought so low by a single attack. It was mindboggling.

Ash returned Torrent quickly and thanked his friend as he stared at Jolteon, who had come to a stop and was currently happily staring up at the hundreds of thousands of spectators. The electric-type was truly powerful, certainly stronger than Surge's Electivire and much faster. That overpowered Thunder it had used was a good bit more dangerous than Oz's Lightning Bolt. He inwardly shuddered at the thought of the canine gaining the ability to use Surge's ultimate technique.

Fortunately enough he had the perfect counter for Jolteon. It would probably take him two or three of his friends to defeat it otherwise, but Infernus shouldn't have too much trouble considering that Air Lens rendered him practically immune to Jolteon's attacks.

Nidoking would be just as effective at negating Jolteon's electrical attacks and his ground-type abilities would certainly come in handy, but he wanted to save Nidoking's versatility for later. Not to mention Infernus' ability to teleport would let him put Jolteon on the run if he could slow the electric-type down.

Michael seemed to realize this as well considering the frown on his face when Infernus appeared on the battlefield. It seemed that he knew of Air Lens, although Ash doubted that he was aware of Infernus' knowledge of the technique.

Infernus grinned savagely and stamped one of his feet heavily into the earth as he regarded Jolteon. Flames billowed around him like a cloak as he steadily fed them his seemingly limitless power. The Magmortar looked invincible in that moment, ready to do what he loved best.

The audience became silent as they looked at Infernus. Ash was sure that they remembered his friend's raw power and brutality rather well considering that he had very nearly killed one of his opponents.

"Thunderbolt." Michael frowned, eyes rapt as Jolteon launched the arcs of electricity that fizzled uselessly as Infernus gleefully raised a cannon slightly and neutralized the Thunderbolt without any sort of noticeable strain.

Michael blanched as the realization that Infernus actually possessed Air Lens dawned on him. He frowned slightly. "Thunder-5."

Infernus' mouth twisted into a smirk as Jolteon's body exploded with electricity once more, although his eyes actually widened in surprise as the jagged bolts of lightning actually managed to make their way through Air Lens even if it barely held enough power to annoy Infernus at that point.

Ash smiled at that. He was honestly impressed with Jolteon's power and satisfied at the fact that the electric-type's immense strength was useless against his friend.

He mentally thanked Blaine before he began to give his own orders.

"It's too fast for teleport." Ash instructed. Infernus snorted at that, obviously unwilling to believe that anything could escape one of his favorite abilities. "Earthquake, high power. You need to slow it down first."

Infernus snorted but prepared himself. The flames that raged around him heightened in intensity, burning with traces of blue in the red and orange. One of his cannons shifted into a clawed hand and electric sparked across the sharp blades out of habit.

Jolteon just flared with electricity once again, ready and willing to fight an impossible battle.

"Begin!"

The electric-type instantly flickered away from Infernus. It did so just in time to avoid the wave of force that rippled throughout the ground and tore vicious fissures into the earth that left Infernus in the center of ravaged land.

Infernus sneered and teleported in front of Jolteon as the electric-type raced throughout the battle field, firing off little needles of its fur in Infernus' general direction in an attempt to strike the Magmortar while he was still stationary.

Jolteon growled and barely jumped out of the way as Infernus liberally bathed the battlefield in flame, although it couldn't move quickly enough to avoid an Earthquake that ripped the earth out from under it and sent Jolteon sprawling.

Before it could recover and dash away in a bolt of electricity, Infernus snarled and teleported right on top of it to pin Jolteon to the ground with his shackled foot. Jolteon squirmed and writhed as Infernus' heat seared past its fur, but it wasn't nearly enough to get away from the Magmortar.

Infernus' mouth was curled up into another savage smirk as he placed his cannon right above Jolteon. Just as it glowed with light and prepared to blast Jolteon with flames the electric-type vanished in a flash of scarlet.

Michael bit his lip as he pulled another pokeball off of his belt and raised it high. Ash scowled when Salamence erupted out of the sphere and appeared on an unscathed part of the battlefield.

This was the first time he'd ever seen one in person and also the first time he could truly understand why Lance wanted a Salamence so badly. It was everything a Dragon Master could want in a pokemon.

Salamence was raw power embodied. Its huge body was around fifteen feet from head to tail and its blood-red wings stretched out that same length in either direction. The beast's claws were five inches long and gouged deeply into the earth without any real effort, ready to rip and tear into its opponent's flesh. The dragon's fangs were nearly four inches long and two inches thickaround , sharp and durable enough to tear into the dense muscle of a Tauros without difficulty.

It was the apex predator of the Hoenn region, the ruler of the skies for untold millennia. It was the scourge of humanity, worshipped and feared for the raw destruction in left in its wake as it killed and burned for sport.

Every bit of its intelligence and cunning was reflected in its sharp black eyes that took in everything around it with the single-minded focus that only a true predator possessed. It met Infernus' gleeful expression with the same dignity as Torrent. Salamence's pride was that possessed only amongst dragons, the masters of sky and sea.

Both flared with power as they gazed upon their formidable foe. Infernus cloaked himself in blue flames and allowed his power to flow unchecked, the heat intense enough to sear the rocky hide of a Golem. Salamence flared its bloody wings and snarled, eyes locked onto Infernus' fiery form without fear.

"Begin!"

"Earth Burn!" Ash snapped, just a slight note of hesitance audible in his voice as he commanded Infernus to use his most destructive technique. Earth Burn was legal only when it posed no risk of actually killing the pokemon. Only other Magmar and Magmortar, Onix, and Steelix could survive the attack on the ground without suffering horrific injuries, but Salamence's ability to fly meant that it was permissable.

The world watched with bated breath as Infernus leered at Salamence, who instantly took off to the skies. Infernus didn't care and leapt several feet into the air before he landed and released the truly astounding amount of energy he'd amassed into the earth, which carved vast fissures and winding cracks throughout the entire battlefield. Stone spires toppled and the pool of water trembled as his power wrecked its way through the scorched wasteland, but that was only a small signal of the devastation to come.

Infernus' cloak of flames flared to twice its usual height, dissuading any attacks from Salamence as the powerful dragon watched warily. It couldn't get close with his fires raging as they were and most elemental attacks would be drastically weakened by the time they pierced the cloak. Hyper Beam would be too dangerous at this point to Salamence.

Ash could barely make out a wild grin on the Magmortar's face as his body burned with the power he harnessed, the heat intense enough to warp the air around him to the point that only a dim shadow could be seen within his flames.

Infernus roared with delight as he stamped his foot once more and allowed the power he had conjured to enact itself on the world.

For a moment there was nothing but thick, billowing smoke that leaked from the crevasses. The world was still as the crowd looked on with interest and, in some cases, worry.

Then the world burned.

Magma leapt out of the fissures in massive plumes that left the air filled with nothing but ash and heat, pooling and rushing to fill every available surface. Huge amounts slid sluggishly into the pool, which filled the sky with boiling steam that blinded Salamence and forced the dragon to greater and greater heights to avoid the extreme heat. The center of the battlefield was covered in a thin layer of the magma in no time, glowing brightly as the molten stone smoldered and oozed.

The psychic barriers around the battlefield flashed brightly, the amount of power they consumed having increased exponentially as terrible heat rushed to disperse out into the crowd. Droplets of magma landed heavily and did their best to burn through, but they were eventually repelled and seared uselessly at the outermost edges of the arena.

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