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.


66. The Final Part 3

For his part, Ash had a manic grin as he saw the raw destructive power Infernus wielded so casually. As powerful as Infernus had been back when he'd first used the technique in the shadow of Mt. Ember it paled against his terrible strength now. Evolution had elevated him past even what the presence of Moltres could accomplish.

Infernus sagged for just a moment until he regained his strength. The Magmortar bore a fierce mockery of a grin as he stared up at Salamence, whose black shadow was just barely visible through the billowing clouds of steam and smoke.

Salamence was utterly unharmed by Earth Burn despite the incredibly destructive power behind the attack. But that was fine. Infernus had done what he wanted. Salamence couldn't hope to land on such dangerous terrain and Infernus now had complete control of the battlefield.

Michael had a frustrated look on his face as he took in the raw destruction Infernus had wreaked. The older trainer sighed before he began to call commands up to Salamence, although they were impossible for Ash to make out over the hissing of the magma.

He scowled when he saw a massive sphere of molten gold form in Salamence's toothy maw as the dragon flapped its wings to blow away the roiling smoke and steam, which opened the battlefield to its gaze once more.

"Haze!" Ash snapped as the Hyper Beam was released. The blast carved several feet into the magma-covered ground before it stopped. It hadn't even come close to Infernus thanks to his camouflage and the distorted air, but the power behind it proved that Salamence was just as powerful as Ash had expected.

"Hydro Pump!" Michael ordered just as Infernus blasted flames everywhere from both of his cannons and his mouth, covering the battlefield in fires that refused to die. He vanished into the flames effortlessly and didn't even bother to teleport in order to evade the Hydro Pump that only managed to temporarily douse a small portion of the fires before Infernus effortlessly restored them.

Ash sighed as he realized that the battle had just reached a stalemate. Salamence fired off attack after attack — Hydro Pumps that extinguished flames for a few seconds, massive streams of blue draconic fires that blended with Infernus' mundane flames until they vanished into nothingness, and a Twister that did nothing but fan the flames — but none of them managed to scratch Infernus thanks to his natural camouflage and the fact that he could easily teleport out of the way since Salamence was so high in the air.

Infernus faced the same problem with Salamence. It was too fast for his massive blasts of flame to strike thanks to the distance between them and even if he did hit it they wouldn't be enough to burn past its hide. Salamence's skin was about as thick as a Dragonite's, although thinner in a number of places to accommodate Salamence's different body structure. Its bony underside was practically immune to damage.

This called for a desperate measure.

As Salamence flew slightly lower than usual to fire a less concentrated Hydro Pump that would cover most of the battlefield, he saw his chance.


Salamence roared in surprise and pain as Infernus, having gotten the gist of Ash's command, teleported right in front of Salamence as it shot above him at a hundred feet high and smashed his burning claws into its neck. Thin dribbles of blood bubbled from the shallow slashes on Salamence's blue neck, but the real value of the attack was in the surprise and slowed flight as it struggled to comprehend the Magmortar that had just teleported into its high domain.

Infernus grinned and teleported once more as he fell to the inferno beneath him and instantly appeared in front of Salamence again. The dragon was ready for it this time and swerved out of the way as it spat a Dragon Breath at Infernus, but the Magmortar teleported again before the blue-green flames could touch him, this time appearing just above Salamence.

The dragon roared in fury and disbelief as Infernus' weight settled onto the massive creature's back, the heat powerful enough to sear through Salamence's hide.

Ash had a grin of pure amazement on his face as Infernus raised his claws and stabbed them into Salamence's side, which elicited a pained roar and a second burst of draconic fire from its maw as Infernus hooked into its side and delivered hundreds of volts into its body thanks to the current that continuously ran down his claws.

Even the normally vocal audience was silent as they watched Infernus ride Salamence as the massive dragon bucked frantically in an attempt to throw the Magmortar off. Salamence tried to throw its head back and snap at Infernus with its powerful jaws, but that just got it a face full of fire from one of Infernus' cannons as he channeled a steady stream of electricity into the dragon's resilient body.

Michael shouted constantly but Ash couldn't make any of it out. He just watched Infernus brutalize Salamence, although the creature's natural toughness and instinctual pride enabled it to hold on far longer than any other opponent could. It was constantly snapping and snarling and doing its best to hurl the Magmortar off through any means necessary, even blasting its own body with dragon fire to let it fly freely.

Infernus just grinned and looked like he was having the best time of his life as he barely managed to hang on with his claws that had hooked into Salamence's thick hide and liberally bathed the dragon's body with blue fire from his free cannon. Even his flames barely managed to hurt Salamence, but they were more of a distraction than anything as he pumped the proud dragon full of electricity.

It finally ended when Infernus was nearly thrown off into the empty embrace of the sky, although he just barely managed to hang on by shifting his other cannon into a second set of claws and digging into Salamence's other, relatively unharmed side. With a second source of electricity Salamence twitched and spun frantically, but nothing could be done.

The Magmortar finally showed a bit of discomfort as Salamence performed aerial acrobatics that would leave Plume in awe simply opened his mouth and a sphere of molten gold energy slowly formed.

He smiled when Infernus fired the Hyper Beam directly into the back of Salamence's head, disorienting it and finally dazing the creature enough to get it to stop flying.

Unfortunately, Salamence was still conscious enough to fly toward the ground as fast as it could in the hopes of injuring Infernus in the process. The increased spin and the sudden corkscrews that Salamence pulled finally managed to throw Infernus off of his mount. His claws ripped out of Salamence's flesh with a small splash of blood and torn skin along with an agonized roar from his victim.

Before Infernus could teleport, Salamence formed a Dragon Pulse in its maw and managed to fire it directly into the Magmortar as they spun towards the earth. Infernus was sent flying backward, although he just barely managed to teleport to the earth in a way that minimized the force of impact. It left him bruised and in worse condition than any of his other battles since his evolution, but he was still conscious and more than ready to finish the fight.

Infernus roared when he stood up amidst the cooling magma. It had lost most of its heat from the constant blasts of water Salamence had shot at it and was barely hot enough to hurt most pokemon, but Infernus picked up some of it and slathered it over the wounds he'd taken from his fall.

The magma quickly returned to a more viscous state thanks to the fires that once again consumed his body and melted into his flesh, the superheated stone already incorporated in order to heal the cuts and bruises.

It wouldn't heal the damage incurred from the Dragon Pulse by the time this battle would be over, but at the very least the magma would heal the minor injuries that distracted him.

With his wounds tended to, Infernus glared over at Salamence. The dragon had landed awkwardly on its side and was just beginning to rise. It had managed to tuck its wings in before it impacted the hardening magma so it hadn't suffered a broken wing.

That said, Salamence was quite nearly finished. Its sides bled steadily and the rest of its hide was obviously burnt, although not to a dangerous extent. It twitched almost imperceptibly as a result of the electricity that had wracked its nerves and small spasms ran down its body every few seconds.

The dragon roared furiously at Infernus as it locked eyes with him, but it lacked the deafening quality it had possessed earlier in the fight. Now it was much weaker, almost dull.

Infernus just smirked and teleported once more. He appeared by Salamence's side in an explosion of flame as he smashed his claws into the creature's thick hide and blasted it constantly with his blue fire.

Salamence was ready this time. It lunged at Infernus immediately and ignored the flames that bathed its face. Infernus roared in pain and let his cloak of fire grow in intensity as Salamence's fearsome jaws closed around his midsection and blasted him with its Dragon Breath.

He struggled for a few moments and frantically beat Salamence's head with his frenzied cannon and claws, but suddenly teleported to Salamence's other side. The powerful dragon instantly detected his presence and lashed at him for a second time, but a quick Hyper Beam from one of Infernus' cannons cut it off.

Infernus sneered at Salamence as the first foe to have truly harmed him in the Conference collapsed to the ground. He allowed his cloak to dampen to almost nothing as he stalked over to Ash's box, a dangerous grin on his face that perfectly matched that of his trainer.

"Fantastic!" Ash congratulated him, although he kept one eye on Michael as the Champion of Orre recalled Salamence and considered Infernus with a frown. He glanced over his friend as well. Infernus hadn't emerged from that battle unscathed, despite his exemplary performance.

Aside from the obvious injuries from Salamence's Dragon Pulse his side oozed a steady stream of blood from the dragon's wickedly sharp fangs and he probably had some damaged bones from the force behind the bite. It didn't seem to affect him too much but in real combat he'd suffer from it.

He also noted that Infernus was almost tired, something he'd only seen a few times from the Magmortar. It seemed that teleporting so frequently had taken a lot out of him. While he'd practiced constantly with the psychic technique, it was still draining for him to perform.

But he had faith that his friend could take down at least one more of Michael's team. He'd fought through much worse injuries than these before.

That opinion died when Michael released the titanic Snorlax he'd noted previously onto one of the sections of cooled magma. The huge creature yawned and slowly pulled itself to its feet before it patted its massive belly hungrily. Even that small effort on Snorlax's part made the earth around it tremble slightly.

He'd never actually fought a Snorlax. They were fantastically rare, as elusive as the scarce dragons. But he, like all trainers in Indigo and Sinnoh, knew to fear them.

Snorlax were lazy, bad-tempered when hungry or tired, and the personification of gluttony. They could be gentle and friendly, but their moods were unpredictable and if they decided that something looked tasty they would do their best to sample it.

Their personality flaws meant that they were dangerous in the wild if not perfectly content, but they also made them into some of the most fearsome opponents one could face outside of the most powerful of dragons.

They were juggernauts. Snorlax hit hard, barely felt anything but the most powerful of attacks, and could move at speeds such huge creatures had no right to reach.

If they got up close the battle was finished.

If they were sent into a rampage the battle had already ended.

Snorlax were feared for a reason, and he felt that one trained by a trainer of Michael's caliber would exemplify that.

He grit his teeth. Even Infernus' heat would take several minutes of constant exposure before Snorlax would actually be injured thanks to its huge fat reserves that blocked heat, cold, and every other sort of attack imaginable. Flamethrowers would just wash off and Infernus' electrified claws might tickle Snorlax.

It wasn't often that he faced a foe Infernus couldn't defeat with a bare minimum effort, but it seemed that Michael had risen to that challenge. With Infernus drained as he was the battle would be a hard one.


"Earthquake!" Michael shouted. Snorlax pondered the command for a moment before its chubby face pulled up into a smile and it stamped one of its feet.

Infernus growled as he teleported just a few inches above the ground he was standing on as the immense force released by Snorlax tore through the new layer of cooled magma and sent the remaining fissures crumbling.

The strain was evident, although Infernus did his best not to show it by firing massive blasts of flame from his cannons. Snorlax frowned when the fires bathed him and smacked at them angrily as if that would extinguish the flames.

"Your flames won't hurt it." Ash said calmly to Infernus. "You're going to need to do something drastic — you know what. No holding back."

Infernus nodded and teleported just as Snorlax finally decided to fire a Hyper Beam at him. The blast of energy shot right through the spot Infernus had been moments ago and carved a long fissure across the battlefield that caused the crevasses from Earth Burn to collapse in on themselves and create a trench near Ash's box.

Snorlax frowned again and had just a second to look around confusedly before it felt a heavy weight drop onto its shoulders. The massive normal-type shrugged at the uncomfortable heat, but actually growled and twisted to try and throw Infernus off when he began to slowly increase the intensity of his own body temperature.

"Now!" He ordered at the same time Michael yelled, "Rollout!"

Infernus used his powerful legs to jump off of Snorlax's back, which was mostly untouched from his fiery body. But that soon changed when he raised both of his cannons and opened his manically grinning mouth as wide as he could.

Time seemed to slow as three massive spheres of bright orange-gold energy formed, two in the core of both of his cannons and one in front of his mouth. There was a flash as the Hyper Beams that held all of Infernus' remaining strength fired and shot directly into the back of Snorlax's fat neck with enough force to send the behemoth to the ground.

Infernus crumpled to the ground an instant later, exhausted from his triple Hyper Beam that had only compounded the fatigue incurred during his earlier battle against Salamence. Snorlax roared in fury as the back of its neck exploded and its eyes finally opened from the pain and rage it felt.

By the time Infernus had pulled himself to his feet Snorlax was on him. The furious creature charged at the Magmortar and slammed into him, the force behind the blow enough to send Infernus sprawling nearly twenty feet away. He exhibited the incredible stamina and endurance he was known for, however, and pulled himself up once again only to be hit by another absurdly powerful blow.

This time he didn't get up. Ash quickly recalled his friend before Snorlax could try to attack him again. The rampaging creature wasn't exactly in control of itself.

He frowned at the Snorlax. It had been ages since Infernus had been so soundly beaten. He'd just defeated a Salamence in single combat, to be fair, but Ash had gotten so used to Infernus' incredible combat ability that it was actually disturbing to see his friend smacked around as though he were just a helpless Magby.

"Thank you." He said to Infernus' pokeball. The Feather soldered to his chest sent a pulse of heat through his blood that wiped away the slight distraction. Ash had to focus if he wanted to win this. He owed that to Infernus and the rest of his family.

Snorlax's eyes closed to slits once more as the lazy creature sat down. It was still around eight feet tall in a sitting position, although that wasn't comparable to its height of around seventeen feet when it stood up. The creature's bulk still left it a very intimidating figure, however.

He grit his teeth. There was no way to cleanly defeat a Snorlax. It would require sweat and blood. The giant normal-type was just too powerful to take down easily via conventional means. Throwing attacks at it would be useless — it was clear that Infernus' triple Hyper Beams had hurt the Snorlax, but he didn't know how much.

Ash had to weaken it. While Snorlax were so massive that only the most potent of toxins could affect them even in large doses, it was the one way that he could try to wear it down. Flames barely singed the creature and he didn't trust Nidoking's Ice Beam to do anything other than slow it down for a few seconds.

Nidoking was the only choice. His horn was long enough to penetrate into Snorlax's thick layer of fat and his venom was strong enough to badly hurt the normal-type. Normally Snorlax's huge body, massive amount of fat, and hardy constitution were enough to weather any amount of toxins but Nidoking's venom was different.

While Nidoking were generally not as dangerous with their venom as a Nidoran since they had the experience to control the amount of toxins they injected into their foe their venom was no less potent.

It would probably take all of Nidoking's venom — enough to kill most pokemon many, many times over — to have a serious effect on Snorlax in anything less than an hour, but it was his only shot. At the very least he could try and damage it in some other way or trap it in one of the gaping trenches.

Nidoking grunted softly as he appeared on the battlefield. He lowered his horn fiercely when he saw Snorlax and tapped his huge foot lightly against the ground. The earth around him melded together and solidified somewhat, although there were still noticeable cracks in it.

"Get close and get as much poison into it as you can. Approach from the ground but be careful; it can use Earthquake." He said shortly. Nidoking nodded and rumbled determinately as he prepared for battle.


"Stay at range and hit it with Hyper Beam." Michael shouted to Snorlax. The behemoth frowned and nodded. Its gaping mouth opened wide before a Hyper Beam shot out, the vibrant energy enough to hurt Ash's eyes as it shot at Nidoking.

Nidoking just stamped his foot to the ground, twisted it, and fell into the chasm he'd created. Ash couldn't see him anymore but he knew what his friend was doing. He was controlling the earth and moving it out of the way as he made his way to Snorlax, who looked dumbly at the spot Nidoking had vacated and scratched its head.

"Earthquake!" Michael ordered. "It's underground so keep them up!"

Ash winced as Snorlax nodded and stamped its huge foot into the ground. Force raged out from it and tore apart earth and sent entire sections of the arena crumbling to the ground — everywhere but a single portion of the battlefield had been affected.

Snorlax frowned and squeezed its eyes shut as it jumped up and down, sending a stronger wave of force outward as it infused its power into the earth.

This time Ash caught how Nidoking protected himself. An imperceptible wave surged throughout the ground around the area he had tunneled into, which rushed into Snorlax's Earthquake and neutralized it by Snorlax's feet, which tore the earth underneath the massive normal-type asunder and caused that entire section of the battlefield to collapse in on itself.

Even if he could have seen into the chasm created by the meeting of the two Earthquakes it would have been useless as dust exploded upward and swirled around the arena in the form of a billowing cloud that dimmed the humans' vision.

He frowned and adjusted his hat as he waited for the battle to commence. Snorlax would only be stunned for a few seconds at best from that fall. Ash hoped that Nidoking would be able to make those brief moments of confusion count.

Ash got his answer moments later when he heard a terrible, rage-filled howl reverberate throughout air. Several seconds later Nidoking was hurled out of the fifteen-foot deep chasm and sailed through the air until he landed with a heavy thud several feet away from the edge, although he was able to get up relatively quickly thanks to his shock-absorbing hide.

That wouldn't be enough to save him, however, as Snorlax scrambled out of the chasm with open, bloodshot eyes. Its huge teeth were exposed as it roared again and smashed its claws into the spot Nidoking had just charged away from and got a quick Thunderbolt to the face for its troubles.

His perceptive eyes quickly caught the source of Snorlax's rage: a thick hole right under the center of its stomach. It oozed a small trickle of scarlet blood, but it seemed that Snorlax hadn't been too badly affected by the wound. Blood loss wasn't a way to take it down, regardless.

No, what mattered was that Nidoking had managed to draw blood. It meant that his horn had penetrated past the layer of fat into the massive muscles and thick tissues concealed beneath Snorlax's chubby exterior. Nidoking's potent venom was already at work.

"Hyper Beam!" Michael ordered without reservation. He seemed to want to keep Snorlax as far from Nidoking as possible, something that Ash appreciated. Even Nidoking wouldn't fare well against an enraged Snorlax. It probably didn't hurt that Snorlax could fire off Hyper Beams at a pace few other pokemon could handle thanks to its immense endurance.

Snorlax's furious eyes seemed to glow a deadly red as an absolutely massive sphere of power appeared in front of its gaping maw. The source of the Hyper Beam expanded to dangerous levels as the normal-type poured more and more energy into it.

Nidoking frantically did his best to shatter the earth underneath Snorlax with Earth Power in order to ruin the creature's focus and footing, but Snorlax just stepped forward while charging the Hyper Beam until an enormous blast of white energy rushed out of its mouth and consumed an area of around fifteen feet around Nidoking, which caused even more of the ravaged battlefield to crumble underneath the injured poison-type.

That wasn't enough for Snorlax, however, and as Nidoking barely managed to pull himself to safety from the collapsed earth the behemoth rushed forward with surprising speed and smashed its hand straight into Nidoking's back.

He winced as his friend flew through the air until he smashed into the psychic barrier nearly thirty feet away. That had to have hurt both of them. Nidoking was obviously unconscious now. Not even he could withstand that kind of abuse.

But Snorlax's hand was a bloody mess. Nidoking's spines had shredded it as the appendage had smashed into his back, an action that had also left the behemoth with even more venom inside of its body.

Ash quickly returned his friend before he could be further injured by the fall. Nidoking had accomplished everything he'd needed to. Snorlax was going to fall now. Now was just the matter of putting it down for good while the poison sapped its strength.

He paused for a moment as he considered his options. Dazed would be able to easily avoid most of Snorlax's attacks with teleportation but her attacks were based around waves of force and beams of psychic energy. Those wouldn't even annoy Snorlax, especially in its enraged state.

Dazed also didn't have the endurance to teleport for several minutes with little rest, even without actually attacking. Doing so would leave her too drained for another fight after Snorlax succumbed to Nidoking's parting gift.

Tangrowth was the only option. He could control the battlefield with the precision to stun and confuse Snorlax and could get away by utilizing his vines if necessary. Besides, even Snorlax would suffer some injuries and waste time if Tangrowth used Ancient Power to tear the unstable battlefield out from under it.

He smiled as Tangrowth appeared and bounced cheerfully up and down on his red feet as he looked at Snorlax. His vines twitched and snaked out to run over Snorlax's huge body curiously, although they hadn't quite made it over when the referee announced, "Begin!"

Snorlax seemed to have calmed somewhat and simply batted the seeking vines away with one of its hands. Tangrowth pulled them back at that, obviously disappointed.

"You're in a battle, Tangrowth." He reminded his friend, who suddenly extended several dozen of his vines to array around his body and give him the ability to control everything around him. "Don't face it head-on. Open up some chasms with Ancient Power and block Hyper Beam with anything you've got."

Tangrowth gurgled loudly and finally ceased his bouncing. The grass-type snaked several of his vines past Snorlax, who had just begun to charge at Tangrowth across the wrecked battlefield of crumbled earth and cooled magma, and hurled several orbs of Ancient Power at some of the rock spires that were still intact.

Meanwhile, his other vines lashed at Snorlax, who barely noticed the appendages as they wrapped around its arms and legs in an effort to drain its energy and restrict the behemoth's mobility. The normal-type just kept on moving as an unstoppable force.

That stopped when Tangrowth followed Ash's suggestion and opened up a gigantic chasm between him and Snorlax with judicious use of Ancient Power in order to control the fragmented stone that Snorlax and Nidoking had wrecked with their Earthquakes.

Snorlax had built up too much momentum to stop, however, and charged directly into the trench without a second thought. The earth shuddered as it landed heavily, although all was quiet for a few moments until an enormous Hyper Beam carved through the earth near Tangrowth, powerful enough to have burned through nearly thirty feet of dirt and solidifying stone in order to reach its target.

Tangrowth gurgled in concern and used some of his vines to carry him to a safer location. That turned out to be a good decision as Snorlax suddenly erupted out of the ground in an explosion of earth and stone. Dust settled around the arena as the unstoppable creature looked around confusedly for its target.

Four spears of crumbling stone to its back alerted the slowing Snorlax to Tangrowth's location, although it took several moments to get back up and turn around after it stumbled and nearly fell to its knees. It seemed that Nidoking's venom was finally taking effect.

Snorlax frowned and charged at Tangrowth, although it somehow gathered enough strength to leap across the second small chasm the grass-type had just created with Ancient Power. It landed heavily and stumbled, obviously weaker now.

Tangrowth didn't give the hulking normal-type a chance to recover. All of his vines held a small orb of Ancient Power, barely enough to scratch Snorlax on their lonesome. With nearly a hundred, however, they were a force to be reckoned with.

The normal-type had just looked up when all one hundred of the Ancient Powers smashed into him in an explosion of silvery energy that sent even more cracks threading around the area. Ash doubted there would be a battlefield left at this rate.

Snorlax stumbled backward, not particularly hurt by the barrage, and fell into the chasm. Tangrowth gurgled happily and bounced up on its feet as his saucer-like eyes watched the normal-type disappear.

He wasn't done, however. Tangrowth's giant eyes shut as groups of his vines — up to ten — worked together and formed huge orbs of silvery power between them. The grass-type hurled the orbs at the scarce few areas of the battlefield that hadn't been torn to pieces by the fierce battle and lifted up several boulders that weighed around a thousand pounds each.

Tangrowth carefully pulled them over to the chasm and unceremoniously hurled them down onto the stunned Snorlax, who went silent as it was buried underneath thousands of pounds of stone and earth.

His friend sagged slightly and pulled all but five of his vines back to himself. Tangrowth blinked several times before he went back to staring at the chasm with his curious eyes.

Ash smiled and shouted out a congratulations to his friend when Michael raised a pokeball, but paused when a deep rumbling shook the earth. He had only a few seconds to stare at the dusty tomb in disbelief before Snorlax erupted out of it, bruised, bleeding, and obviously near unconsciousness but with the will to smash Tangrowth into the ground behind it.

Its huge head snarled at Tangrowth as it slowly climbed out of the chasm on trembling limbs and a Hyper Beam formed in its mouth, but a single flash of white energy later the Snorlax collapsed back into its tomb.

Tangrowth gurgled cheerfully and ran a few vines over Snorlax's unconscious form after his impromptu Solar Beam had done its work. He only had a few moments to inspect the strange creature he had just defeated before Michael recalled it with a strange look in his eyes.

His foe was silent as he released the massive Arcanine that Ash had watched several times throughout the Conference. It yipped happily and stared at Tangrowth as if he were a new toy as its coat rippled from its sudden movement.


"Comet." Michael called out to Arcanine. The canine was instantly consumed in flames that spewed from its mouth as it suddenly slipped into Extreme Speed, even faster than Jolteon. It was only identifiable as a blur of flames as it danced its way over to Tangrowth, easily leaping across the ravaged battlefield with the grace of a Persian.

Tangrowth just barely had time to erect walls of stone to protect himself from Arcanine's fires before the canine was upon him. Arcanine slammed into the barrier with explosive force that shattered the walls as thought they were made of glass and exposed Tangrowth to the intense flames that billowed around it.

The grass-type gurgled in pain as Arcanine blasted him with a Flamethrower that almost instantaneously crippled Tangrowth by burning his vines beyond use, although it wasn't enough to keep Tangrowth from jumping up and releasing an Earthquake as he landed.

Arcanine stumbled and momentarily let up on the Flamethrower that had very nearly ended Tangrowth, which was just enough time for Tangrowth to create an orb of Ancient Power on the tip of one of his arms and slam it into Arcanine.

Tangrowth tried to attack once more against the injured Arcanine that now leaned heavily on its right side thanks to the bruised ribs Tangrowth had just given it, but Arcanine slipped into Extreme Speed and slammed into Tangrowth in a burst of flame.

As his friend struggled to pull himself to his feet without the aid of his shriveled vines Arcanine appeared behind him and blasted him with a stream of fire that left Tangrowth unconscious in mere moments.

Ash frowned at Arcanine as he recalled his friend. He didn't have Infernus to ambush it with teleport this time, but Dazed would do the job.

His eyes widened as he realized that Dazed was the last of his friends left. Michael was the first to have brought him this low since Lance himself. Even Grey hadn't pushed him to this point.

That pit of anxiety returned, but he did his best to ignore it. He had to keep a calm mind. Things weren't looking fantastic, but he was confident in Dazed's abilities. If he lost composure then this battle was as good as over.

"Dazed, you're the last one left." He called out to her as she appeared. Dazed tensed up for a moment as she heard that, but simply polished her gem-like pendulum as she glanced at Arcanine silently. She did take in the sight of the utterly destroyed battlefield with an air of boredom, but Ash knew her well enough to see that she was actually impressed.

One last time into the fray, Friend-Trainer Ash.

Ash smiled and nodded as her mind brushed against his, the smooth voice serene in the face of danger. It was dim since she had to slip through the psychic barrier in order to speak with him, but it was enough.

He calmed and felt the Feather's powerful heat pulse through his blood, burning away the last of his worry and soothing his trembling hands. "There's only one left after Arcanine. Its left side and front-left leg is injured and it has trouble entering Extreme Speed."

Silence for a few moments.

I will not fail.

Ash nodded and the Feather, which had been calm until just now, pulsed once more. "I never considered it."

He felt a brief hint of amusement from Dazed at his quiet words before she pulled away from his mind. Perhaps his sight would have given her an advantage, but he knew that communicating past the psychic barrier would split her focus — something she couldn't afford.


Arcanine didn't need a command from Michael to shoot into action. Although it was noticeably slower in Extreme Speed thanks to the single blow Tangrowth had managed to land, it was still much too fast for Dazed to hit with her standard attacks. She'd have to get close for any of her abilities to be effective.

Dazed simply stood silently. Her eyes traced Arcanine's movements with some degree of difficulty as the fire-type raced around the field in order to confuse her, although the simple trick didn't affect Dazed's keen focus.

It wasn't until the Arcanine dashed close to spew an endless torrent of flames at her that she acted. Dazed allowed Arcanine to get close and erected a shield just barely strong enough to protect against the intense flames and the heat that would sear her flesh.

As Arcanine strafed to her side, Dazed's eyes flashed. A wave of psychic power erupted from her body and blasted out in every direction for about twenty feet, when it dispersed into nothingness. Arcanine deftly avoided the blow, but in mid jump, when Arcanine was at its slowest and least maneuverable, Dazed teleported just slightly ahead of its position and seamlessly hurled a Focus Blast into the air before she disappeared several feet to the right.

Arcanine yipped helplessly as it landed heavily on its feet, although it stumbled slightly thanks to the bruised bone the Focus Blast had hit. The fire-type moved quickly, however, and leapt at Dazed with a mouthful of flames that crackled and roared their way to her, strong enough to force her to teleport away rather than erect a psychic shield.

Dazed quickly shot Arcanine's injured side with a Psybeam, the result of which was a furious Arcanine that blurred over to her position and snapped its powerful jaws right where her shoulder would have been.

As she appeared beside Arcanine, who stumbled again thanks to its hurt leg, her eyes flashed and she caught the fire-type in a Disable. The massively powerful canine struggled and even managed to move slightly while under the influence of the psychic prison, but Dazed's eyes burned brighter and more and more force was impressed upon Arcanine until it was locked into place.

She shuffled over to its front and slowly rocked her pendulum back and forth in front of Arcanine's eyes. The fire-type unwillingly followed the entrancing motion and psychic power released by Dazed quickly lulled the Arcanine to sleep.

Dazed's eyes turned up in the expression that Ash easily read as satisfaction as she outstretched her free hand toward Arcanine until she almost touched the sleeping creature. Red power flared up around the appendage and shot over to Arcanine and extended all over the canine's body. Both Dazed and her victim were consumed in the scarlet energy, although as the technique ran its course Dazed's red aura grew larger and more vivid while Arcanine's slowly whittled down to nothing.

Finally, when the energy around Arcanine vanished, Dazed freed it from Disable and allowed the fire-type to collapse to the earth like a puppet whose strings had just been cut. She idly polished her pendulum as Michael sighed and recalled the powerful fire-type.

Ash was just glad that Tangrowth had managed to hit it in its side and leg. If it were able to remain in Extreme Speed constantly there was no way that Dazed could have shut it down like she had. He'd seen Arcanine's power firsthand and had no desire for any of his other friends to experience its strength like Tangrowth had.

Michael just had a smile on his face as he raised his pokeball and released his last fighter.

The reason was clear when he released a strange shadowy pokemon that Ash vaguely remembered seeing under Agatha's command when the Elite Four attempted to arrest Giovanni.

It was a strange creature, even for a ghost. The creature appeared to be far more solid than a Gengar in some ways, but its head and limbs were practically nonexistent. They were corporeal shadows given form and substance by the power from another universe, living shadow that filled a dark cloak with a golden design that resembled a scowling face.

The eeriest part of the creature, however, was its single eye. It was a scarlet flame that burned silently within its mask-like head. It was terribly alien yet somehow very familiar, as if it called instinctually to all those who saw it.

Dusknoir, the Reaper.

Guardians of ancient monuments and tombs that crumbled from the ravages of time. Renowned collectors of the dead that appeared in times of great strife and ruin to take corpses far from the place they fell, gathering them within their shadowy cloak to never be seen again.

They were feared and respected beyond measure, practically sacred in Sinnoh and Johto where they were most prevalent. As much terror as they inspired, for death was what they followed and left in their wake, they never harmed those who had not earned it or attacked them first. They were benevolent specters that took their tithe in the form of the dead.

He frowned as the scarlet eye locked onto Dazed and burned brighter. It was interested.


"Dusknoir, finish this quickly." Michael said quietly. Dusknoir's eye burned and its shadowed form shuddered in response. The scowling face on its robes animated itself and gnashed its teeth, the golden markings revealing an empty abyss as they opened wide. Ash felt a shiver run down his spine just looking at it. "Killing Field."

"Psybeam." He commanded. As far as he knew Dusknoir couldn't teleport, although they could jump through shadows.

Dazed silently focused. Her eyes burned blue as her power flooded through her body and channeled itself through her pendulum, the energy focused into a rainbow-hued beam that shot at Dusknoir's unmoving form.

Ash frowned as he realized Dusknoir hadn't even made an attempt to dodge. It just raised its shadowy hands and began to summon gusts of purple-tinged wind that revealed the attack's true nature of being infused with ghostly power. He recognized the Ominous Wind technique when he saw it.

His frown shifted into a full scowl when the Psybeam reached Dusknoir only for the golden mouth on its body to open up and reveal the abyss within that the rainbow-hued blast was instantly sucked into. It didn't appear that Dusknoir had even felt the attack.

"What?" Ash muttered to himself. He'd researched Dusknoir extensively just as he had all of Michael's available pokemon. There was very little information available on the mysterious ghost-type other than assorted myths and legends, but he felt that an ability like that should have been mentioned. It was like nothing he'd ever seen before.

Dazed cocked her head and tried again, this time with a stronger Psybeam. She met with the same result.

Meanwhile, Dusknoir had finally gathered a sufficient amount of the purple wind. It swirled around him like a miniature tornado, although it was tightly bound by the ghost's strange power.

Dusknoir's eye flashed as it finally lowered its shadowed hands and allowed the Ominous Wind to saturate the arena. The ghostly air settled into every conceivable nook and cranny and left a purple miasma that slowly crept its way across the battlefield.

"Don't!" He barked out as he recognized Dazed's preparations. She froze and was obviously confused, although that didn't stop her from blasting the purple wind away with blasts of psychic force. When it began to encroach upon her from every direction Dazed erected a shield that, although it flared constantly from the act of repelling the ghostly energy, managed to hold the Ominous Wind back.

His scowl grew uglier. Michael had obviously been wary of Dazed. Dusknoir had just made the field impossible for Dazed to safely teleport in with that Ominous Wind. It wasn't a particularly powerful technique in of itself, but in spreading so much of it around Dusknoir had saturated the battlefield with its power and Ash had been too confused by its ability to absorb Dazed's Psybeam to consider a way to stop it.

Not that there was a way to stop it. Dazed's psychic force didn't react well with the ghostly winds considering that they essentially neutralized each other. The ghostly energy naturally disrupted psychic power. They couldn't coexist.

Now that the entire battlefield had been filled with the miasma Dazed was practically helpless. Any long-distance attacks like a Psybeam would fizzle out by the time they reached Dusknoir and if she waited until it was closer the ghostly figure would be able to grab her and finish her off.

He'd been outplayed. Dazed was trapped. She had to maintain a psychic shield just to avoid her strength being sapped by the Ominous Wind.

Ash's mind ran through dozens of potential strategies as Dusknoir finally began to move through the miasma, its burning eye the only clue to the Reaper's deathly presence as it stalked its prey.

It was in its home. The mists were an extension of itself, the Reaper's essence released outside its body. Ash wouldn't doubt that it could simply appear anywhere in the miasma, considering how intimately it was linked to the Ominous Wind.

"Teleport into the crevasse." He finally called out. It was unlikely, but Dusknoir might not have had its mist travel into the trenches that dotted the battlefield. As far as the specter knew she had no ability to teleport. Ash hadn't seen Michael giving it any commands since the first few seconds of the battle, either, so he couldn't have told it.

Ash knew that Dazed would have to pull off a miracle here. Dusknoir ruled the battlefield and could somehow absorb psychic attacks like they were nothing. It was obvious that a frontal assault would do nothing. Dazed needed to somehow hit it from the back or the sides if she wanted to finish the creature.

She'd also need to do it with a Shadow Ball. Dusknoir weren't immune to psychic attacks, but their formidable physical and mental powers rendered them somewhat resistant. Their corporeal forms were notably tougher than most other ghosts.

A Shadow Ball wouldn't attack its physical body. The addition of the alien energy held within a Shadow Ball would be added to the ghost's own energy, destabilizing their ability to hold onto and manifest a physical form. It would take a particularly strong ghost-type technique to actually destabilize the Dusknoir to the point that it would be rendered catatonic as it attempted to sift through and regain control of its power and body, but if she could ruin its focus and cause it to lose control over the Ominous Wind then she would have a chance.

He watched with concern as Dazed teleported. The air imbued with ghostly power rushed to fill in the void left by the absence of her shield and Dusknoir appeared where she had been seconds ago, its dark hands alit with ghostly power as it prepared to grapple her.

Dusknoir's unblinking eye swiveled over to the trench Dazed had just teleported to, obviously aware of her presence. The Reaper stalked her through the miasma. It was supremely confident in its invincibility.

It vanished into the mist.

Ash felt his hands tremble nervously as the Reaper disappeared. The end of the battle was here. Dazed couldn't keep fighting under the conditions Dusknoir had created. She had to either finish it now or be finished herself.

The seconds ticked by at an agonizingly slow pace. Ash's fingers tapped erratically against the railing and even with the Feather's comforting warmth, only amplified by the proximity of the Flame of Moltres, did nothing to heal the stress that weighed down on him like a heavy weight.

He watched and waited.





A flash of dim grey energy emanated from the crevasse but Ash had no idea who it belonged to. The mist had already begun to fill into the trench a few seconds before so it could have been either of the fighters.

Ash grit his teeth as a shadow rushed out of the pit with Dazed held firmly between its ghostly hands. The shadow wrapped over Dazed and sucked out her power even as she furiously blasted it with psychic powers that had already begun to fail. He saw her begin to draw upon the power necessary for a Shadow Ball, but the Reaper's red eye caught it as well and flooded her defenseless body with its energy.

The Reaper dropped Dazed's drained body in the mist and coalesced into the form of Dusknoir. It was silent and slowly recalled the ghostly miasma back into its body. In just a few seconds the field appeared as it had before the Dusknoir had been released.

Dazed laid there unmoving except for the gentle rise and fall of her chest. Her eyes were shut. She had fallen into the closest thing to sleep that she could ever experience.

Ash recalled her with a bitter taste in his mouth and considered the small red and white orb for a few moments.

"Thank you, Dazed. I'm proud of you." He murmured before he placed her back onto his belt. Ash gently ran the pads of his fingers across each of his other pokeballs, which warmed and twitched slightly at his touch. "The same goes for all of you. I couldn't have made it nearly this far without all of your help."

He looked up finally and met Michael's eyes. The Champion of Orre gave him a smile and respectful nod that Ash returned. Ash tipped his cap to him and tried to ignore the ashen taste in his mouth as it finally hit him that he'd lost.

Ash squeezed his eyes shut for a brief moment and just breathed.

"AND AFTER A STUNNINGLY INTENSE MATCH, MICHAEL BRAEDEN WINS THE CONFERENCE!" The announcer screamed to the audience, who happily roared back in return. Ash glanced around at the hundreds of thousands of faces around him. Quite a few were watching him, as though they expected something.

He just smiled wearily and dipped his head to the crowd, who roared again.

"THIS IS A MATCH THAT NO ONE'S GOING TO FORGET FOR YEARS TO COME!" The announcer shouted again, utterly ecstatic. As he turned to head out of the trainer's box he silently wondered how the man's vocal cords had held up this long. "EVERYONE SAY GOODBYE TO OUR FAVORITE ROOKIE, ASH KETCHUM, AND THE INDIGO CONFERENCE CHAMPION, MICHAEL BRAEDEN AND THANK THEM FOR A GREAT MATCH!"

The crowd roared again, but this time Ash ignored them and the announcer as the man continued to ramble. He seemed more excited about this than Michael did.

Ash sighed when he saw the legions of reporters waiting for him. If there was a downside to competing in the Conference, this was it.

Still, he adopted a smile on his face even as he wiped the realization of his defeat away.

He might not have won, but he had come far. Farther than any other rookie had gone before or likely go again. He'd made history, even if his true goal had been left unmet.

Despite his loss, the legend of Ash Ketchum had been forged this day.

In the Indigo Stadium he had fought a renowned trainer with many years of experience on him to a standstill.

In the Indigo Stadium his team's blood had mixed with the battlefield that had seen Champions and Masters rise and fall.

He had been given the honor to compete with the best of the best and he had held his own.

He had made his mother, Professor Oak, and Lance proud.

So he smiled.

Besides, that was a fantastic battle.

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