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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50. The Hunt Part 3

Dazed appeared in a flash of scarlet light. She was perfectly calm as she regarded the scorched and weakened Rhydon, although her pendulum fluttered and bounced hypnotically in the air as psychic power flooded through her body.

"Keep moving." He ordered. "Try to tire it out. It has Stone Sense."

His friend nodded stoically and allowed a constant stream of light blue light to flood from her keen eyes. Her mane waved gently as it was carried by the wind that whipped through the air at such heights. The crystal pendulum she had crafted trembled with her great power as she prepared to do battle with the powerful Rhydon.

Although Ash had directed the rest of his friends, he allowed Dazed to remain relatively autonomous. She had to react quickly and knew how to maximize the efficiency of her power. Aside from that, she would have to constantly make split second decisions, which Ash's commands would only slow down.

He'd given her directives. It was up to Dazed to execute them to the best of her ability.

Rhydon didn't wait for her to make the first move. It finally seemed to accept that Ash's pokemon could be significant threats and began to act accordingly. Dazed barely had time to teleport as Rhydon forced its arm lower and yanked huge boulders down from the cliff, all of which crashed down onto Dazed's previous position with teeth rattling force.

Ash coughed and couldn't see through the haze of dust that had been thrown up by the boulders' fall. Every now and then he could see bright flashes of blue as Dazed fired Psybeams and waves of psychic force that likely forced Rhydon back a foot or two, although never to the extent that it would be seriously hampered.

He flinched in surprise when the huge, largely untouched boulders that lay in front him suddenly rose, split into thousands of small, jagged shards of rock, angled themselves at a certain point, and launched with an incredible velocity that would be more than enough for the barrage to penetrate any shield Dazed could create.

The trainer was finally able to make out Dazed through the lingering cloud, although it was mostly from her lantern-like eyes rather than her actual body. She teleported constantly, her increased strength enough to let her transmit herself through time and space far more frequently than before. From the great booms and cracks of stone meeting stone that rang throughout the air such rapid teleportation was entirely necessary.

Rhydon was the only thing he could actually make out. Its gigantic form loomed above even the dust cloud and held itself as a dark shadow. The creature's roars made his ears feel like they were about to bleed and made his footing uncertain. Every quick, precise movement it made allowed him to feel the stone rippling and shifting under the behemoth's silent call.

Finally the dust dispersed enough for him to clearly see the battlefield once more. Dazed was barely visible in the midst of the battle. She was clearly on the defensive as Rhydon was in a constant state of flux, every movement calculated to place danger in every single part of the platform. Every now and then she would manage to blast the Rhydon with a well-placed Psybeam or make it stumble with a wave of force, but for the most part she was helpless.

He grit his teeth. This wasn't working. Rhydon's unnatural strength and stamina meant Dazed would be tired long before it felt the ache of fatigue in its hard bones.

Although it went contrary to the strategy he'd hoped for, Ash had no other choice. "Charm Lock!"

Dazed was forced to teleport around the arena a few more times before she struck another lucky blow and had the opportunity to enact the attack. As Rhydon was knocked off balance, her eyes flashed brighter than they had during the rest of the battle and Rhydon's monstrously powerful form was frozen into place under a glowing, rippling layer of psychic power that shined and strained with the task of keeping Rhydon frozen.

His friend cared little for maintaining the prison, however. She was far more concerned with forcing Rhydon to stare at her pendulum. Her initial telepathically transmitted impulse didn't appear to do anything to sway Rhydon's iron will, so she quickly shuffled to a position that forced the great rock-type to watch her pendulum sway back and forth in its hauntingly hypnotic manner.

Her eyes continued to shine brightly as Rhydon's lids slowly began to fall. Its will was strong but Rhydon weren't known for being resistant to mental attacks. Regardless, Ash kept a close eye on his foe and the layer of psychic energy that kept its powerful form immobilized.

The layer grew dimmer and dimmer as Rhydon ceased its struggles. It looked uncharacteristically peaceful as it layer trapped under Dazed's influence. Ash almost felt guilty for what Dazed was about to do to it.

Dazed quickly extended her hand, which was encased in an aura of red light. Rhydon's body also glowed red, which contrasted sharply with the cold blue of Dazed's Disable, and a tendril of red energy connected the two.

"Be gentle." He said quietly as he regarded Rhydon. It didn't look as though its dreams were being devoured. Rhydon just looked at peace aside from the odd twitch. The legendary creature was almost entirely motionless.

She quickly sapped energy from Rhydon, although it would have been a slightly faster process if she didn't have to restrain herself. Ash had to smile as he saw Dazed's form, exhausted after a mere minute and a half of battling thanks to the constant teleportation she employed in the game, slowly straighten itself. Her posture became erect and some of the bruises she'd gained from unblocked shards lightened and faded from existence.

He was a bit concerned when Rhydon still hadn't been knocked unconscious twenty seconds after it had been placed under Dazed's enchanting spell. Although she was working slowly and carefully Dazed was still draining a huge amount of energy with every passing second. Rhydon had more strength left than he had believed after Tangrowth's own absorption.

Ash's face settled into a worried frown when he suddenly saw Rhydon's arm twitch, although no pillars of stone jutted from the ground in response to the movement. It appeared to be a reflexive action during sleep.

Then its eyes snapped open and regarded Dazed with cold disdain. Rhydon didn't seem to be itself anymore. Its eyes weren't a sharp, intelligent obsidian anymore. In fact, they seemed to be glowing.

A bolt of frozen lightning shot down Ash's spine when the Disable was suddenly broken. Dazed was hurled backward as Rhydon roared and tore its arms free of its imprisonment. The stone platform erupted in a wave around Rhydon and exploded outward, which caught the Hypno completely off guard as their connection was broken.

He stepped back unconsciously when Rhydon's entire body began to glow with the familiar white glow of evolution. Its features were completely obscured as the righteous fury it felt over Dazed's entrapment overwhelmed its rational senses and consumed Rhydon's very soul.

A roar, louder and more terrible than any noise Ash had heard before outside of the Legends' cries, split the stone. Cracks and fissures threaded through the platform in an intricate web even as the mountain shuddered and shed billowing rains of dust and stone from its jagged side.

Ash's breath was caught in his throat even as Dazed teleported next to him. Their eyes held matching fear as they regarded the Rhydon in the midst of evolution.

He watched on with horror as Rhydon roared its frustration and rage into the tumultuous skies of Fuchsia. His stomach churned. The trainer couldn't help but feel sick at what he had caused.

Through his actions he had caused the First's Rhydon to evolve. The Rhydon that had remained in the same form for a millennium. The Rhydon that had actively sought to avoid evolution if the five Everstones embedded into itself were anything to go by.

The Rhydon that should have always remained a Rhydon.

For the first time since the very beginning of the fight Ash felt unsafe. When Rhydon had been interested in testing their strength he had felt confident in his ability to match the ancient, powerful creature of immortal flesh and stone.

It had been horribly powerful but it had been limited. He didn't believe that it had actively sought harm unto him and his team.

Now? Now rage had consumed it enough to overpower the simultaneous influence of five Everstones and force an evolution that would exponentially increase its already legendary power in every way, physical and mental. Its impressive control over the stone would be magnified and Ash would lose any chance of victory.

And so it was that the trainer from Pallet and one of his closest friends watched Rhydon's glowing form with trepidation. Ash held onto Dazed, as she was more than ready to teleport as far as she could to save them both from the rampaging creature.

But Ash noticed something odd: Rhydon wasn't changing. It continued to gnash its large dull teeth and sweep its huge tail as agony incurred from the immense, natural energies it channeled worked to cause a rapid metamorphosis, but its body structure wasn't suddenly changed as sections of genetic code previously left alone were rapidly expressed.

In fact, absolutely nothing had changed other than that the energy was growing even more intense. He could scarcely stand to look at Rhydon's glowing form without Dazed's protective psychic shield filtering the majority of the light radiated from the ancient Rhydon.

His blood chilled as Rhydon suddenly raised its great head to the sky and exploded with a great burst of energy that was released both outward in a wave and upward in a concentrated beam of white light.

Ash felt a psychic weight gather around his shoulders to anchor him to the ground, which proved quite useful when Dazed's shield, focused and powered by her resolute will, was instantly shattered by the immense energy that could not be consciously commanded by any pokemon.

The platform's fissures slowly grew deeper as a seemingly infinite amount of energy was fed into the beam of light fired from Rhydon's void of a maw, although Ash could steadily see Rhydon's body growing duller and lifelike once more as it shot a great column of light into the endless reaches of the atmosphere.

It finally ended and Rhydon's limbs fell back into place. The rock-type looked even more tired, but still faced them with strength beyond what most pokemon could muster, especially after this much punishment.

Rhydon was still merciless, however. It quickly jutted its arm out, which caused a pillar of stone to jut out from the platform several feet in front of Dazed and smash into her frail, unprotected chest. Ash heard a short crunch as the stone impacted.

"Dazed!" Ash cried as his friend was sent flying over the edge. He had already raised his pokeball and recalled the psychic-type by the time he'd noted that her body was limp and that her eyes had ceased glowing, a sure sign that she had been knocked unconscious by the cheap blow.

He silently thanked her and glanced up at Rhydon to analyze it once more. Although the most blatant characteristics it possessed at the moment were the supreme fatigue it showed and the littering of injuries from his friends' attacks, Ash was far more interested in the ultimate display of willpower it had just shown.

Few pokemon were willing to turn down the power and status afforded by evolution and even less were capable of actually stopping the process. It was practically unheard of. The average wild pokemon would gladly accept the increased abilities and respect garnered from their evolution. Evolution was a way to publically announce strength and allowed pokemon to effectively protect themselves and their group. It was dangerous to not evolve when one could suffer terribly at the hands of a more formidable, evolved predator.

Trained pokemon were even more willing of evolution in most cases. Aside from the fact it was an integral component of a species' life cycle, it also allowed them to better fight for their trainer and team. Evolution unlocked doors that would be forever closed if one remained in a lower form. Power came with adulthood and maturity, both physical and mental.

For a pokemon to have actually denied itself evolution for nearly a thousand years as Rhydon had was unthinkable. Rhydon was already one of the most powerful pokemon Ash had ever seen, but to have actually stopped the process of evolution showed that it possessed strength far greater than it did in mere battle.

Rhydon's will must have been absolute to deny itself what its instincts craved: Absolute power. It would be untouchable if it evolved, far beyond even Lance's Dragonite. That sort of strength was what almost every pokemon craved. Power was life in the wild.

Ash figured it must have wanted to preserve itself in the image its partner would have last seen it as. Loyalty was a trait common to Rhydon, and it appeared that this one took the generalization much further than most. It was beautiful, in a way. And rather tragic.

He was yanked from his thoughts by Rhydon's deep growl. It restlessly paced back and forth across the field, angry at the near-evolution. Ash could see it constantly tap its Everstones, as though it were counting them. Its eyes were slightly panicked, although an ancient wisdom seemed to regulate that fear.

Ash closed his eyes as he took Nidoking's pokeball off. It was time for his best friend to match himself against this legendary relic of the past. No matter how it ended, Ash knew Nidoking would make him proud.

Nidoking emerged, a proud opposite of Rhydon. His dark purple hide glistened in the pure light of the sun and shined even more as poison unconsciously secreted from his assortment of venom sacs. He roared and squared himself equal to Rhydon, which snorted and glared at Nidoking with its black eyes, which still glowed slightly with the remaining evolutionary energy.

"Freeze its limbs." Ash said softly. Nidoking's large ears twitched, signifying that he'd heard the command. He immediately reared his head back and formed the small ball of icy blue energy. Jagged streams of white-blue frost exploded from his jagged maw and, displaying the control he had mastered in his time with Lance, separated into four streams that struck Rhydon's shoulders and the joint that connected its powerful legs to its body.

Rhydon roared in annoyance and flexed, but the ice was just thick enough that nothing occurred but a few cracks that shot through the frozen substance. Ash grinned and unconsciously pointed at Rhydon with glee. "Poison it."

Nidoking snorted happily and did what he did best: Charged. His thick, powerful legs pushed him forward and gathered him plenty of momentum even as the weakened Rhydon thrashed and struggled to try to free itself from the ice. At the beginning of the fight it would have torn its way out easily. Now it was weak enough to be badly affected by such measures.

As he observed Nidoking's fearless charge, he noted just how similar the two were. It was a resemblance he'd thought of whenever he'd seen or faced a Rhydon, but it was clearer than ever now. Rhydon and Nidoking were practically equal, although Nidoking was more balanced in its physical and elemental strength while a Rhydon's strength was primarily physical in nature.

It wasn't as if he hadn't known of it. The pokedex had even pointed out their related ancestry. The two species hadn't diverged too far back, geologically speaking. The Rhydon line had undergone standard evolution to survive in rough, mountainous terrain while the Nidoran line evolved to survive in open plains and gentle hills. Two sides of the same coin.

But now he could really see the resemblance. And as Nidoking's horn met Rhydon's thick, armored hide and actually struggled to pierce the carapace it was particularly stark. He couldn't believe that Nidoking's horn hadn't gone straight through the armor with the kind of momentum he'd picked up.

Ash's thoughts returned to the battle. He couldn't afford to lose focus, not when he was close to defeating Rhydon. It still had enormous strength at its disposal, but the numerous injuries and drains it had sustained had left it a shadow of its former power.

Rhydon's eyes suddenly flashed with the white glow of evolutionary energy even as Nidoking struggled to force his long, sharp horn which could easily shatter diamond with the right orientation through the ancient creature's shell. The ice shattered around it and, just as Nidoking pierced into its slightly softer tissues Rhydon snorted and picked Nidoking up with one massive hand.

His eyes widened, but before he could do anything Nidoking had blasted Rhydon in the fact with a particularly powerful Ice Beam. Rhydon didn't let it affect its body, however. Although its head was frozen and it was probably going into shock at the quick temperature shift Rhydon kept its vice grip on the back of Nidoking's neck. Its massive hand was almost large enough to encircle Nidoking's entire body.

Nidoking struggled frantically and layered more and more Ice Beams onto Rhydon. Rhydon's tail suddenly twitched and caused a pillar of stone to smash into the encasing of ice, easily shattering the prison and allowing the Rock to glare at Nidoking.

Rhydon roared and cast Nidoking, who was easily four hundred pounds of armor, muscle, and bone, nearly a quarter of the way across the massive platform. Nidoking grunted in pain as his armor absorbed the shock and sluggishly pulled himself up. He wasn't fast enough to avoid Rhydon, who smashed into the poison-type with earth-shattering force as it rode a wave of stone into Nidoking's front.

"Earth Power!" Ash shouted, fear coursing like the bitterest poison through his veins. Everything was slow as Rhydon circled around on its small wave of loose rock to strike Nidoking again. Nidoking's ears twitched.

Still on his back and almost unconscious from the raw power Rhydon had delivered through the quick blow, Nidoking managed to thrash his thick, muscled tail onto the ground. It didn't transmit quite as effectively through rock as it did through earth, but nevertheless a crevice lined with gold energy opened straight toward Rhydon's form of transportation.

Rhydon caught onto the trick and leapt off as its wave of stone collapsed through the five foot gap in the platform, but it gave Nidoking just enough time to pull himself onto his haunches and prepare himself for Rhydon's ineveitable charge.

For whatever reason Rhydon didn't seem keen to use its power over stone. Perhaps pummeling Nidoking into the rock acted as a form of catharsis after its stressful, barely escaped evolution. Ash silently shuddered as he considered fighting a Rhypherior that was exponentially more powerful than the form it chose to remain in. It would make Lance's brutal training seem like a cakewalk.

"Earthquake, then lock it with Ice Beam!"

Nidoking enacted the combination in tandem. As his large foot smashed onto the stone and released a wave of force through the platform that caused Rhydon to stop its sudden charge in favor of neutralizing the unbalancing attack Nidoking fired an Ice Beam straight into Rhydon's chest.

This time, however, a wheel of stone was pulled smoothly from the platform and casually intercepted the Ice Beam before it could actually strike its intended target. Rhydon snorted at the repeated technique and resumed its charge.

Ash placed his hand on Nidoking's pokeball as it became apparent that Nidoking would have to meet Rhydon's charge head on. Nidoking was strong and tough, but he was barely half of Rhydon's size. Determination and willpower didn't trump the cold equations of physics.

Nidoking barely had time to lower his horn before Rhydon trampled over him. The poison-type was crushed under the weight as Rhydon plowed by as though he weren't even there. Ash winced, but didn't return his friend. Nidoking was trying to pull himself up even as Rhydon used a pillar of rock into its chest to slow its charge and allow it to turn around for another go.

"Earthquake and Ice Beam!" Ash repeated. It was the most effective combination Nidoking could muster against Rhydon. Something like Sludge Bomb wouldn't make it past its armor and if he tried to match it physically in a straight fight he would be defeated in seconds, as the last minute or so had proven.

His friend snorted softly and sluggishly responded to his command, although his body looked as though it wanted to cease moving entirely. Ash barely managed to keep himself upright as the wave of force shot through the platform but had to hold back a groan when Rhydon casually batted the Ice Beam aside with another rotating semicircle of rock. That feint wouldn't work anymore.

Just as Rhydon charged into Nidoking's comparatively tiny form with a nauseating crunch Ash returned his friend. Rhydon growled deeply and rushed its way back to its starting position on its wave of stone. It waited steadily, although Ash could see that Nidoking had done quite a bit of damage to the weakened rock-type.

Rhydon was rather sluggish thanks to the Ice Beam. Like Onix, they didn't respond well to cold temperatures, especially not when the shift was rather abrupt. They didn't evolve to handle cold conditions. It was probably in a minor state of shock, although it had probably recovered by now.

Other than the weakness incurred from Ice Beam, Nidoking had managed to pierce its nigh impenetrable casing of hard rock hide. Ash knew that Nidoking wouldn't have allowed much poison to flow into the wound lest Rhydon be put into mortal danger, but even a bit of the powerful venom would be enough to make Rhydon very, very weak. It would kick in shortly.

What he needed to do now was get Rhydon moving. Its sheer size and natural resistance to toxins would keep Nidoking's powerful venom from taking effect in a reasonable amount of time, but if he got its heart rate up more than Rhydon would be crippled rather quickly.

Ash considered releasing Torrent and finishing Rhydon right here, but opted against it. Torrent would have an easy time of it. Too easy, in fact. There wouldn't be any fun in letting Torrent drill holes through Rhydon's armor with his precise Hydro Pumps.

Out of all his friends, Torrent was the one best suited to fighting an overwhelmingly powerful rock-type like Rhydon. Rock-types tended to have an exceptionally strong hide composed primarily of hard minerals that had very low conductivity, which allowed the pokemon to negate most fire and electric-type attacks. If subjected to focused force, such as a precise blow from a fighting-type or a water-type's high-pressure attacks, it would shatter. Their hide was meant to resist dispersed force, not an intense blast.

Tangrowth was the second best for dealing with Rhydon since grass-type attacks such as Vine Whip or Razor Leaf tended to have focused force as well, but they were also able to weather the hide very quickly and work their way through with intense, steady pressure.

Torrent would likely get a chance to shine in a few minutes, but now he thought it was time for Bruiser to fight. He hadn't been in real combat for quite a while. Ash didn't count the battle at New Island as a battle – that was a slaughter.

Bruiser appeared in a flash of light. He glanced around for a bit, unconcerned, but his flat, reptilian face broken into a pleased smile when his weak, beady eyes focused on Rhydon's hulking form. The Machoke turned to Ash and smashed his powerful fist into his barrel-like chest as a gesture of respect. As was their tradition, Ash returned the greeting and bowed his head in turn.

"This Rhydon's defeated all of the others except for Torrent." Ash told his friend. Bruiser's eyes had a determined glint as he turned and faced Rhydon, who swayed slightly as more and more poison pulsed through its veins. "Do your best. I believe in you."

The Machoke nodded shortly and focused on Rhydon, who met the fighting-type's eyes and sprang into action. Rhydon raised its hand upward and caused the part of the platform it stood on to break off of the main body and levitate ten feet above the stone outcrop. A few small squares of stone broke off from the new platform and shattered into dozens of small fragments, which levitated and oriented themselves to fire at Bruiser.

"Bruiser, this is your game." Ash instructed. He realized that he wouldn't be able to effectively command Bruiser in this situation. While he'd gotten tons of experience instructing his friend during their training with Lance, this was a situation he wasn't ready for. Bruiser had never been the focus of attention during the battles against Lance's dragons. He was a supporting fighter.

Now he had an opportunity to shine. Rhydon wouldn't fly hundreds of feet above him. This was an enemy he could pummel into submission.

But with that intense, up close battle came a lack of oversight on Ash's part. Bruiser would be too busy dodging and counterattacking to risk listening for Ash's orders. It was a problem, but not a major one in most cases. He trusted Bruiser to know his limits and his own skills.

That didn't meant he could help. Ash could make sure that Bruiser didn't get any nasty surprises from the Rhydon.

"It has Stone Sense and can do pretty much anything with rock." Ash said tersely, his voice easy to hear in the utter silence that characterized the battle. "Watch out for boulders and pillars that it can form. Don't stand still."

Bruiser pounded his chest one more time before he moved. Rhydon's small projectiles shot forward at a terrifying speed and struck the earth, their force enough to kick up a small cloud of dust and make a loud crack as they embedded themselves in the platform.

Thankfully none of them struck Bruiser. His speed and agility had improved immensely during their time with Lance and he moved like liquid as he leapt and ducked through every attack Rhydon threw at him. Boulders hurled from the sky, more barrages of stone shards, pillars that shot up unexpectedly: All dodged with serene focus.

And suddenly the fighting-type leapt high into the air, his ridiculously powerful muscles more than enough to propel his comparatively light weight twenty feet into the air and onto the platform. Rhydon snorted and tapped its foot to the stone, which caused the piece of stone Bruiser stood on to shudder and fall away, but Bruiser easily leapt closer to Rhydon and avoided the sluggish swipe the behemoth attacked with.

Ash couldn't see the action very well, but he could see Bruiser's hard fist rear back and snap forward like an Arbok. A roll of thunder shattered the sky and he heard a guttural roar of pain from Rhydon. Its eyes flashed with the pure white of evolutionary energy and it lost all hints of weakness for just a few seconds. Bruiser went flying as Rhydon casually smashed its clawed fist into the fighting-type's chest, although he landed nimbly on one knee.

"Are you alright?" Ash asked calmly as Bruiser slowly pulled himself up and brushed his chest off. Bruiser turned and nodded quickly. He could see that there was a bit of dark red blood leaking from the area Rhydon had struck, although it didn't seem to have done any real damage. "Good. Keep it up, buddy."

The Machoke pulled his face back in a grin and nodded once more. He cracked his knuckles and raised his palm. A small orb of light-blue energy formed above it and was held tightly in place by Bruiser's iron will. It spun and grew slightly larger before Bruiser hurled the Focus Blast at Rhydon's platform.

Ash couldn't see through the resulting explosion of dust and light, but he could hear the results. The platform shuddered as several tons of stone fell out of the air in huge chunks and groaned when its master landed heavily behind its levitated stone.

Bruiser hummed what seemed to be some sort of peaceful tune as he leapt into the fray, excitement gleaming in his beady eyes. The thick, billowing dust obscured the action, but he heard several pained roars from Rhydon before Bruiser was hurled back out of Rhydon's domain.

He was hurt this time. Bruiser's chest rose and fell in shallow breaths, exhausted by the combat. Ash supposed that he was putting everything he had into his battle against Rhydon. Although Machoke had incredible strength and stamina, it was used up quickly if they put all of their power into their blows. Even with their restraining belts on, that much strength was dangerous to use. Flesh and bone weren't meant to use that much energy in a sustained manner.

In this battle, however, that kind of risk was required. Rhydon's armor was likely to thick for anything less. Even a focused, enormously powerful punch wouldn't be enough to shatter it and do real damage to the behemoth. There could be no restraint.

"You're doing good. Just a bit more!" Ash called out reassuringly. Bruiser flashed him a smile before he set himself and prepared for another charge into the battle.

That plan didn't work out.

Rhydon surprised both of them when it suddenly exploded out of the dust, its carapace cracked and dented under the enormous force of Bruiser's strikes. The behemoth's eyes were wild with fury as it charged straight toward Bruiser, who suddenly sprinted to meet it in one last attempt to win.

The inhumanly powerful creatures met with another clap of thunder. There was another huge dent in Rhydon's nigh impenetrable armor and the beast roared in agony, but it made sure Bruiser suffered far more.

Although Bruiser had more than enough raw strength to match Rhydon, he had neither the size nor weight of the ancient paragon of its species. As such, he wasn't nearly as anchored to the ground as it. Super strength didn't mean that he could stay in one place, just that he could hit extremely hard.

Because of that, while the meeting hurt Rhydon and slowed it down even more, Bruiser was absolutely devastated. He was hurled back and landed with a heavy thud near Ash. Bruiser struggled, but could only pull himself up to a sitting position. A small orb of blue energy formed in his hand, his last stand. It almost sputtered out thanks to the heavy injuries he had sustained, but he was able to hurl it into the massive target Rhydon provided before he fell unconscious.

"Thank you, Bruiser." He said softly as he recalled his friend. Ash glanced at the Rhydon, who roared and reset the whole platform with a few quick motions of its arm. It slowly limped back over to its ordinary position, too weakened to use its incredibly powerful stone wave to move around.

Ash glanced at the last pokemon he would use. Oz and Sneasel were capable of battling, but it would be pointless to send them out against Rhydon. Sneasel was still too weak to go against a foe this powerful and Oz's electrical attacks would do little to no damage against its stony hide. Plume was just out of the question. It was too easy for Rhydon to deal her a crippling injury, which simply wouldn't work before the Conference. Besides, she was his ride home.

So it fell to Torrent. If Torrent somehow failed he would admit defeat and leave. Plume would be able to get him out of here in no time at all. She was quick and agile enough to easily avoid whatever attacks Rhydon sent at them.

Rhydon crushed its massive claws together, a motion which sent tremors racing through the hard, yielding stone. Ash felt his bones shake in their cocoon of flesh and his teeth rattle inside of his head.

"Well, buddy, you're up." He muttered as he released Torrent. The monarch reared his head back resplendently as he regarded Rhydon. Recognition flashed through his bright scarlet eyes, which narrowed in distaste as he remembered his wounded pride. Torrent couldn't forgive anything that made him look so weak. "Torrent, it's almost finished. Stun it with Dragon Pulse and take it out."

Torrent's fins flared menacingly as he stared at Rhydon. The rock-type just managed to roar out a challenge when three Dragon Pulses, each compact and intense, shot at it in rapid succession and knocked the behemoth onto its back. Rhydon caught itself with a few blocks of stone, but the diversion bought Torrent time.

Perhaps Rhydon would have been able to handily defeat Torrent at the beginning of the fight, Ash mused. Its armor would have taken several sustained Hydro Pumps to pierce, which simply wouldn't work when Rhydon would have been able to bend stone to its own desire.

Now it had no hope. Torrent was just too fast, too fresh. Rhydon had been worn down over the course of the previous fights and suffered rather debilitating injuries. Its wounded form struggled to stand against the relentless onslaught of high-pressure blasts of water that were more than capable of carving through steel.

It didn't help the ancient creature that Torrent was angry. He had calmed greatly from when he was a tiny Horsea or surly Seadra, but the old fire still smoldered in his spirit. His great pride was the quickest way to rouse the embers and their previous meeting with Rhydon had brought him low.

Torrent had decided to finally pay that insult back. He was merciless. Rhydon had several holes drilled into its hide at this point, but Torrent didn't slow. He wouldn't until Ash called him off or Rhydon fell to him.

Rhydon growled in a disturbingly accurate mimicry of a rock slide as it finally pulled itself together and made one last charge. No waves of stone carried it to Torrent. No barriers absorbed the jets of water. Its body was broken and exhausted, but rage and adrenaline carried it through.

Ash crossed his arms and watched silently as Rhydon absorbed several more Hydro Pumps. It roared in pain but refused to go down. Torrent levitated resolutely in the air as Rhydon drew nearer and nearer. He wouldn't back away, not even to save himself from what would undoubtedly be quite a bit of pain.

A bead of sweat began to work its way down his brow as Rhydon made it halfway across the platform. Even if Torrent knocked it out the momentum would probably carry it into Torrent. Ash doubted that a fall would do much to Rhydon, but he'd prefer not to put the First's legendary partner in that kind of risk.

"Ice Beam its legs." Ash directed. "Keep freezing it until its down."

Torrent rumbled his assent and shot off four precise Ice Beams, two for each leg. The jagged arcs of frost slammed into the giant's powerful legs with perfect precision, just as Ash expected from Torrent. Rhydon stumbled and collapsed painfully onto the platform as it lurched forward unexpectedly.

Ash winced in sympathy as the stone cracked around Rhydon. It fell hard and didn't get up. He dipped his head in respect to the giant. The ancient Rhydon had proved to be far more powerful than even he had expected. It was more than a worthy opponent.

"Stop!" He had to call out sharply to Torrent. His friend had prepared to fire one last Hydro Pump into the rock-type's back. It was easy to see from how his powerful chest had puffed up and his snout had focused sharply. "It's down. Leave it, you paid it back."

Some of the fire in Torrent's eyes dimmed and he bowed his head to Ash in deference. Ash smiled and walked over to his friend, who continued to glare at Rhydon's fallen form.

"You did great!" He laughed as he lightly patted Torrent's smooth, interlocked scales. The dragon-type rumbled happily at the praise and leaned into Ash's touch. "I knew you could do it."

Ash removed his hand from Torrent's side and cautiously approached Rhydon. Its hulking form rose and fell steadily. At least it wasn't badly wounded, just unconscious.

He was a bit leery about getting close to something this powerful, but Ash needed to make sure Rhydon was okay. It had given him one of the best fights he'd had in a long time and deserved far more than to be left on the rocks.

"Are you okay?" The boy asked steadily as he crouched by Rhydon, just out of range of any physical blows. He trusted that it wouldn't be able to manipulate stone at the moment. If it did Torrent would just freeze it.

Rhydon's claws twitched. Ash tensed up, but relaxed when the behemoth raised its head. He dimly noted that it was the size of half his body. Rhydon snorted softly and struggled to pull itself up.

When it failed, Ash slowly reached into his bag and pulled out several potions. Rhydon would need them. "I can help you, if you want. These will heal you."

The rock-type begrudgingly nodded, although its heavy eyelids sagged slightly with fatigue. Ash could feel Torrent's scarlet eyes watching Rhydon carefully. If it tried anything it would know the wrath of a Kingdra – something no Rhydon would ever desire, even if it was of prodigious size and power.

It only took a few minutes to patch Rhydon up. Rhydon's injuries were extensive, but not so bad that potions wouldn't help.

Not that potions really healed anything to begin with. Potions were an anesthetic and a clotting agent, for the most part. They sealed wounds and released transmitters that caused a brief adrenaline surge that would get the subject moving again. Although they had a few Ditto cells to increase the rate of healing, they mostly served as a safeguard against infection and blood loss. Actual medical attention would be needed if the injuries were serious.

Rhydon would be fine, however. Its hide protected it from the worst of the damage. The holes Ash's friends had punched in it would require time to heal. What Rhydon had really needed was a brief surge of energy to let it get up.

"You're good to go." Ash told the behemoth once he had sprayed most of its wounds. The creature snorted and lumbered to its feet. Its weight made the platform around it vibrate a bit, but Ash managed to stay on his feet.

The ancient creature nodded to Ash with grudging respect before it snorted and waved its arm. Ash couldn't help but flinch as a perfectly round hole opened in the platform and Rhydon dropped down hundreds of feet. He looked down and saw it riding down waves of stone that jutted in perfect synchronization with its falls. A few moments later it vanished.

Torrent loomed behind him and watched with annoyed eyes. Ash could tell that his friend would like nothing more than to fire one last parting shot at the Rhydon. He just rolled his eyes when he saw the mad intensity behind the Kingdra's gaze.

He still had trouble believing the events of the last hour. Not only had he found the burial ground of the First, he had battled with the Rhydon that had been immortalized throughout the Indigo League.

Ash stared off at the place he had last seen Rhydon before it escaped back into the sacred grove it had likely created. Rhydon was so much more than just a powerful pokemon. It was beyond Champion level. He thought that it, along with the Moon Stone's guardian Clefable and the two Nidos that served it, were the closest that any ordinary pokemon could come to becoming Legends themselves.

They were something more than pokemon. Clefable had commanded Metronome with ease thought impossible. The Patriarch and Matriarch had reached massive sizes and had the power to match. Rhydon had seemingly become one with the stone. It bowed to Rhydon's will as though it were just an extension of its body.

And he had fought that creature and won. It was not without blood and sweat and pain, but they had won.

A slow grin stretched across his face. They had won.

"Thank you, Torrent. Do you mind if I recall you? We need to get out of here."

Torrent shook his head and kept himself straight in the air as he was engulfed in a field of scarlet energy and sucked back into the pokeball. Ash clipped it back onto his belt and released Plume. She screamed her arrival to the heavens and stared happily at Ash.

"Hey, Plume. We beat it." Ash said tiredly, but not unhappily. He stared off at the high noon sun. It washed over the vast, untamed wilds of Fuchsia like a fiery blanket that no human weaver could ever begin to match. The trainer stroked Plume's crest lightly as his mind raced about what to do next.

There were many things to do before the Conference. He needed to return to Fuchsia to speak with Janine and Koga. He needed to train and make sure he was the best he could be.

But he also needed to speak to his mother. Ash hadn't called her, despite his assurances to Professor Oak nearly two weeks ago. Mewtwo's gleeful words haunted him, no matter what he did to distract himself.

Could Mewtwo have spoken the truth? It could see memories that he would never recall and had no reason to lie. A cruel truth was far more painful than the worst lie. Mewtwo would have preferred tormenting him with a truth. Ash couldn't see it lying, not when it had no reason to. There was little need to lie when one held all the power in the world.

He put it out of his thoughts. Ash would speak with his mother soon enough.

"Let's go, Plume." Ash said softly as he patted the side of her head. She cooed and nuzzled his shoulder for a brief moment before she lowered herself to let him climb on. "We need to get to Fuchsia. There's no rush."

Ash just held on tightly as Plume shot into the high sky. He didn't spare a glance at the expanse of green beneath him. His mind was too busy all of a sudden.

He tried to stop himself from thinking about it. There was nothing he could do about it at the moment.

The future was when the question could be answered.

Who was his father?

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