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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62. The Semifinals Part 1

He yawned as he his eyes cracked open, irritated by the light of dawn. Following the pattern that had developed since the Conference began, Ash gently pulled Seeker and Sneasel off of his chest and looked around the room.

Everyone was there except for Infernus, as usual. He absentmindedly allowed a rough fingertip to run over the scratched surface of the Magmortar's pokeball, marveling at how he could almost feel his friend's heat.

Ash suddenly scanned the room again. Oz was missing.

The trainer got out of the comfortable bed quietly. Seeker had already woken up and dully fluttered over to Bruiser's silent form but Sneasel had already slipped back into the abyss of sleep and was curled up into a small black ball of fur and fang.

He'd rather not wake up any of his friends. They'd earned their rest. He wouldn't begrudge them an extra hour or two of sleep.

What was important was that he find Oz. He needed to talk to her. She wasn't too happy about her lackluster performance in the battle against Gary and had been rather sullen since then. Oz was never the most social member of the team, but she'd usually allow Tangrowth to poke her or sit in silent contemplation with Dazed.

Speaking of Dazed…

The Electabuzz is feeding.

He nodded at her as she appeared from the shadowed corner of his room, wise eyes narrowed as she idly polished her faceted pendulum in her white mane. "Do you think she would mind if I spoke to her?"

The Hypno's eyes shut. A faint blue glow escaped from behind the furred lids as she concentrated, only for the lights to be unveiled as the shining orbs snapped open.

Do so. She is not at peak efficiency. We will need her strength should our next opponent be a true threat. The Nidoking's temporary loss leaves us at a distinct disadvantage.

"I know." Ash murmured. "I think it's time to let Infernus out to play."

Dazed's expressive eyes conveyed her distaste for that idea.

I would not suggest you encourage the brute. He takes unnecessary joy in battle without realizing the full extent of his new power.

"He's one of our strongest." He shrugged. "I'd rather him focus his energy on something productive."

Very well.

Dazed said no more, simply giving Ash a parting nod before she shuffled away. Ash smiled at her retreating form, grateful for the privacy she offered. He doubted Oz would want the others around for this conversation.

He headed downstairs quietly. He didn't want to wake his roommates or their teams, although he didn't think that their pokemon slept outside their pokeballs very often.

"Oz?" He called out quietly as he reached the outside of the room where the small generator was. Oz could feed easily from the modified electrical sockets but she preferred to make her "meals" quick. The generator's ability to feed her reserves in a few minutes rather than nearly an hour made it a far more appealing option.

A subtle whir was his only reply. Ash stepped into the room, taking the noise as an invitation.

The Electabuzz pulled up from the generator as soon as he entered, currents of electricity arcing erratically across her yellow and black fur. She cocked her head quizzically at him, obviously curious at what drew his presence.

"Hey." He smiled. Oz gave a tentative whir back, still a bit wary of him. She'd been acting as though she were about to revert to her behavior when he'd first caught her since the battle. This conversation should have occurred sooner. "I just wanted to talk before the others got up."

She nodded, large fists clenched reflexively. It was clear that she knew what he was here for.

"I'm entering you in the next battle." He said after a moment of silence. "You didn't get a good chance to show off last battle, but don't worry about anyone thinking you're weak. You had a spot of bad luck. That's it. None of the others on the team would have fared any better against Confuse Ray."

Oz whirred and crossed her arms, a sullen look on her face as she bared her fangs. Electricity arced through her thick fur as she thought of her battle against Umbreon. It was clear that she hadn't even come close to getting over it.

"You ran into an unfavorable matchup." Ash repeated. "It happens to everyone at some point. Move on. You have another chance and I know you'll make the most of it. It's not in you to just give up."

The Electabuzz nodded. A few sparks arced off of her fuelled body, although they fizzled out before they could strike anything.

He smiled at his friend, satisfied. She didn't need a long talk. She just needed to know that he still had faith in her abilities. The rest of her confidence would be regained when she fought against her opponent and won – and he was certain that she would win. Oz was strong.

"I'll let you finish feeding." The trainer told Oz as he heard a few muffled thuds upstairs. He wasn't sure if it was from his roommates or his friends, but either way he'd keep them from disturbing the Electabuzz. "I'll buy you a bit of time, alright?"

Oz whirred happily. Her striped tail swished about hesitantly for a few moments, prompting him to remain. Finally, after several seconds of deliberation, she raised her fist and looked at him expectantly.

Ash's eyes lit up. He curled his calloused fingers into a fist and met the electric-type's charged hand with his own. A shock rushed through his system, a minor jolt just weak enough to avoid being uncomfortable but strong enough to be noticeable.

The Electabuzz pulled away after a moment, leaving Ash to tremble slightly as the electrical current arcing through his body twitched and died. She whirred softly and spared no time in turning back to the generator she had been feeding on.

"I know this is unnecessary, but make sure you're at peak condition." Ash said, turning away from the door. Oz just nodded from where she sat, intelligent black eyes locked onto the trainer. "I'm not sure who we'll be facing, but I do know that they'll be tough. Very tough. You'll need all the power you can get."

Oz whirred quietly as she turned to her energy source. Her fist was placed squarely on it, sucking up the electricity as quickly as the generator produced it. Ash hadn't quite worked out all of her expressions and mannerisms since they hadn't spent much time together – training with Lance had divided his attention and the last few weeks had been so hectic that he just hadn't had many chances – but he thought she seemed rather pensive. He silently resolved to fix that situation.

With that he left to head off his awakening housemates – or, more specifically, Sneasel. All of the others were content to leave Oz in her solitude.

He supposed that he'd take Sneasel with him to find out their next opponent. The little dark-type enjoyed the outings and it would be a convenient way to give his friends a break from his pranks. Sneasel had managed to forget his loss to Ursaring and latched onto his inborn arrogance once more.

Besides, his battle with Gary had given Ash an idea that only Sneasel could pull off…

XX

"I'm here for my battle." He smiled to the friendly woman operating the desk. She nodded cheerfully and typed his name into the computer.

He felt a short burst of pride for both himself and his team for making it so far when he saw only himself, the trainer from Unova, Michael, and Neesha left in the brackets. Ash was the youngest by at least eight years and still competing with these elite trainers.

Ash frowned slightly when it struck him that he'd be battling the Unovan trainer, Grey. He'd hoped for Neesha.

Not to say that Neesha was weak. Far from it. She'd made it to the Top 4, after all. That required true talent and dedication.

But he knew Neesha. He knew her style and her team. She used fairly mundane pokemon in extravagant ways but he didn't have to worry about exotic fighters like those that Grey would possess. He'd have to study the Unovan's team further.

Hydreigon was known threat. It had demolished Amelia's team with little effort, utterly immune to her attacks. That kind of power required cunning to subvert effectively, even though he had faith in Torrent's ability to match the fearsome dragon blow-for-blow.

He had picked up on a weakness, however. Hydreigon wasn't too bright. It fell into its battle-rage too easily, susceptible to traps and feints unless its trainer guided it away from them. The dragon relied on its terrible power to rampage over foes. Ash wasn't sure if it would adopt a more intelligent style if it faced an equal, but he did know that he'd have at least a few moments to surprise it with Torrent's own incredible strength.

It was a shame that Nidoking wouldn't be able to battle. He'd be the best choice to put down the Hydreigon if Torrent proved insufficient. Dazed would probably be most efficient at defeating the weakened Hydreigon in Nidoking's absence. Her ability to teleport would be invaluable in avoiding the beast's incredibly powerful attacks.

"Good luck on your battle, Mr. Ketchum!" The woman smiled at him. Ash nodded gratefully, still caught up in his thoughts and strategies as he wheeled about and left the building. He didn't have time to waste.

Gary had begun to test his strength, but he hoped that Grey would be an equal. Until proved otherwise he would give the Unovan the credit that honor deserved. He wouldn't wing this battle. He'd prepare.

And after that he'd have to do some research. He thought he had a way to turn the sleeping dark-type curled around his shoulders into a fighter to be feared and he didn't want to lose any time in accomplishing that goal.

He had a slight grin on his face as he lightly scratched around Sneasel's sole feather. It would take some time to prepare and teach, but it would be utterly fantastic when his youngest friend truly mastered this technique.

XX

"I thought you'd like to know I'm facing the Unovan in the Semifinals." He said quietly as he, Jonathan, and Amelia ate at their table. Sneasel was down by his feet begging for scraps and doing his utmost to climb up to the table, although Tangrowth was kind enough to pull him away and wrap him up in a friendly hug whenever the dark-type got too bold.

"Beat him." Amelia growled, an unusual fire behind her eyes. It seemed that she hadn't gotten over her utter defeat at Grey's hands. "I don't care how you do it, but smash that dragon of his into the dirt."

Ash raised an eyebrow at the uncharacteristic aggressiveness, but just let a faint smirk play over his features. That was certainly new.

"Yeah!" Jonathan cheered with his mouth full. Ash shot him a look of distaste, which was just obvious enough for the older boy to pick up on. "Sorry, sorry. But come on, aren't you even a little excited about this? You're going to get to fight that jerk and humiliate him in front of a million people."

Jonathan snorted and glanced over to Amelia. "I mean, can you even imagine how that must feel?"

She scowled at him and began to say something to Ivysaur, but Ash just raised a hand and calmed the situation down. "I can't, but I could always ask you if the mood struck me."

The other boy just rolled his eyes as Amelia sat down and glared at him. She was in a touchy mood today. "Ha. Very funny."

Ash smiled slightly before his expression shifted to be slightly more serious. "I doubt it's going to be that easy. He made it to the Semifinals and all of his other battles have been over before they began. I'm just going to take out Hydreigon and work from there."

"You'll be fine." Amelia assured him. "You beat Gary with no trouble and he's really strong!"

"I wouldn't say that I didn't have any trouble." Ash muttered quietly, mind flashing to Nidoking. His first friend was still recovering from the brutal injuries Blastoise had left him with. He'd barely done anything but sleep for the last two days as his body slowly healed what the Pokemon Center couldn't.

"Nidoking got banged up a little, so what?" Jonathan commented airily. "He's fine now, isn't he?"

Ash nodded tightly, annoyed at Jonathan's attitude. Nidoking's skin had been ripped off from the power of Blastoise's Hydro Cannon. He had not been "banged up a little".

"So take this punk down." The other boy gave him a manic grin and pumped his fist. "How are often are you gonna get to beat down one of those guys, eh? Make the most of it!"

He rolled his eyes at Jonathan's exuberance and slouched in his chair a little, idly toying with the few clumps of noodles he hadn't devoured. Ash kept one eye on Sneasel as potential strategies ran throughout his mind, each tailored with Hydreigon as the main focus.

The Indigo trainer had already looked up Grey's team while Jonathan and Amelia were out training. He had no illusions that going up against the Unovan's exotic team without preparation was a very bad idea. Grey had at least a year to get used to Kanto's pokemon and their basic abilities. Ash had a day to come up to speed with Unova's.

He didn't have access to Unovan pokemon on his pokedex yet, but he was confident that there would be sufficient information in the databases to fill him in. There were usually one or two Unovan competitors in the Conference every year. If worst came to worst he would just check their battles to see if they had any of the same pokemon. He'd certainly find the recordings of Grey's battles.

Ash already had a good idea of the roles each of Grey's team performed. He might not know specifics or what kind of abilities they possessed, but it was simple enough to analyze their physiological attributes and divine their purpose.

Hydreigon was a juggernaut of raw power and unstoppable force with a hide thick enough to easily absorb and deflect all but the strongest of attacks. Torrent would be a necessity in Nidoking's absence. Infernus would be the ideal backup, along with Dazed when it was weakened. He would have to fight fire with fire to fell the beast.

Scolipede, a strange, massive bug-type that was somewhat similar to what he imagined the mix of a Weedle and Arbok would look like, was obviously meant for speed. It was heavily built and little more than a heavily armored exoskeleton and dense muscle. It wouldn't be slow. Everything about its form was devoted to speed and deadly power – its horns looked sharp enough to tear into to anything weaker than a Nidorino's hide with ease and probably deliver a nasty dose of poison in the process.

Eelektross was an odd water-type that appeared to have electric-type traits. He wasn't sure if it was enough to be classified as an electric-type, but it would be a threat to watch out for. It vaguely reminded Ash of a pokemon he had seen in the Hoenn section of his pokedex called Huntail, although the resemblance was most likely purely superficial.

He doubted he would have trouble with it. It looked like one of the water-types restricted to the pool in Indigo Stadium. He'd check up on it more thoroughly just to be sure. Its muscular "arms" were either meant for entangling prey while it injected electricity into them or dragging itself along the surface, neither of which he would allow the creature an opportunity to take advantage of.

Beeheyem was one of three pokemon that he had been forced to use in the Conference so far. It was obviously a psychic-type considering it appeared to be levitating in the image on Grey's profile, but other than that he had little knowledge of its abilities. He expected it would have some form of shields or the ability to teleport in order to make up for its physical infirmity, but he'd definitely look it up. Ash hated fighting the unknown.

Ash frowned as he recalled his foe's last two pokemon: Jellicent and Chandelure. Both were rather odd, to say the least. The blue Jellicent looked absolutely harmless and fairly ridiculous, but it must have some sort of unseen power to be used by Grey. It just struck him as spectacularly unintimidating, like Tentacruel without any of the terror the water-type inspired.

Chandelure appeared far less innocent than Jellicent but lacked the imposing nature of Hydreigon or Scolipede. It was obviously a fire-type, although he suspected it also possessed ghostly or psychic abilities as well. Otherwise it wouldn't be able to survive with its odd body structure. The suspected abilities made it a threat to be reckoned with. Ghosts that made it this far were often the trickiest of opponents, phasing out of reality at will and manipulating forces similar to that which made Confuse Ray so potent.

That type of power mixed with fire only invited caution on his part. It wasn't nearly as intimidating in appearance as Hydreigon but he suspected that its use of ghostly or psychic power would render it a tricky opponent. Dazed would be his best chance. Perhaps she'd be able to lock it into this universe with Disable.

"I'll see you later." He said, yanked from his thoughts as he realized he'd been staring at an empty plate for the last minute or so. Ash shook his head lightly and nudged Sneasel off of his foot.

"Where're you going?" Amelia looked up from her loud conversation with Jonathan curiously as Ash put his dishes in the sink to be washed later.

"I have homework." He said shortly, turning out of the kitchen with Sneasel hot on his heels. It was a small blessing that Grey didn't have a variety of pokemon to choose from. He wouldn't have to memorize too many completely new pokemon and their abilities, but it did mean that they'd be incredibly well-trained and honed into fighters with more experience than most any other trainer could boast.

Amelia and Jonathan nodded, unsurprised. Ash gave them one last parting nod before he left for his room. He'd be able to focus much better in the peaceful setting, surrounded by his family.

His mouth quirked up slightly as he heard a muttered comment from Jonathan.

"I guess I get to make sure he remembers to eat this time…"

XX

He was ready.

Perhaps not to the degree he would have preferred, but he was prepared for this. He would face the Unovan and show him the strength held by his friends.

He would win.

"It's a shame that you aren't able to fight in this one." He murmured to Nidoking, who stood hunched by his side. The poison-type towered above Ash where he sat in the staging area, annoyance in his eyes at the reminder of his fading injuries.

Ash waved his friend's low groan of irritation away. "It's fine, Nidoking. You've more than earned a short break from fighting."

When Nidoking just grunted softly again Ash rolled his eyes. "Look, would you rather be out for this battle or the Finals?"

That shut his friend up. Nidoking snorted quietly and stood silent for a few moments. Ash kept his focus on the poison-type from the corner of his eye as a tiny well of nervousness bubbled up in his stomach, an uninvited irritant in his mind.

He'd learned everything he could about Grey's team and memorized all of their potential abilities in the limited time he had. Ash had designed plan after plan to neutralize his greatest threats with the least cost on his part. He'd laid traps within traps.

But he couldn't hold off the fear that he hadn't done enough. Ash trusted in his friends and his own ability but it was impossible to shake the anxiety. Grey was very powerful, certainly an equal if the strength of his Hydreigon and the rest of his team were any indication.

They might be equals, but Ash would win. His friends had always refused to accept defeat, so he would follow their example. No matter how far he had to go, he would lead them to victory. His family had earned that right and so much more.

A dull claw tapped his shoulder. Ash looked up and saw Nidoking gazing at him with his narrow black eyes, utterly calm. Nidoking grunted, eliciting a smile from the trainer.

"I'm just thinking. This will not be an easy fight." Ash murmured. "Gary was the first to really push us, but even he fell quickly after Blastoise and Alakazam were defeated. I don't think it will be so easy against the Unovan. At least three of his team are strong enough to pose a real challenge. I fully expect the others to be up to par."

Nidoking growled lightly in support and laid his claws against Ash's hat comfortingly, the heavy weight not bothersome in the least to the trainer.

"Thank you." He grinned to his first friend. Ash tapped Nidoking's shoulder familiarly, mimicking the poison-type's movements. "And don't worry if you'll get to battle again or not. I'm not about to lose – not when you're depending on me."

"Infernus has been cooped up for a long time, you know." Ash smiled lightly. Nidoking bared his fangs at him, amused. "I think it's time to let him out to play. How many do you think he'll take down?"

Before Nidoking could do anything to respond the loudspeaker came on. Ash didn't even bother listening to it, knowing the words by heart at this point. He just stood up and headed down the hall that would take him to the Stadium, Nidoking trailing behind him.

He kept a stern expression as he rose into the heavy warm air of the Indigo Stadium accompanied by his friend. The sun had already fallen and his hat was stuffed gingerly into his pocket. Ash would rather not put up with any snarky comments about it like he'd suffered through with Jonathan and Gary.

"And here comes the Green Trainer, Ash Ketchum!" The announcer roared, joined by the chants of hundreds of thousands of voices that made up a chorus of thunder. Ash smiled and gave them a light wave. Nidoking just glared out at the sea of faces, eyes narrowed as he observed so many potential threats to Ash. "This incredible rookie has proven himself time and time again! It's no longer a question of how far he'll go, but whether he will win and become the youngest winner of the Indigo Conference in history!"

"But this match will not be easy!" The announcer boomed. "Whoever wins will have to fight for it! Because here comes George Grey of Unova, who has crushed every opponent he's faced so far! Will he manage to stop our favorite rookie in his tracks? Well, let's see! Green Trainer, release first! Begin!"

Ash didn't hesitate. Torrent appeared on the massive battlefield in a flash of scarlet light, his noble eyes peering at the opposite side curiously as he awaited the appearance of his foe. His body was tense, ready to snap into action at a moment's notice. He had already gone over several potential strategies with Torrent.

Torrent and Infernus would be the key players in this battle. Infernus would probably fare well even against Hydreigon, but his abilities would be put to far better use against the weaker members of Grey's team that he could hunt and destroy with nigh impunity. Torrent's job was to defeat Hydreigon no matter what. The massive dragon was the single greatest threat Grey possessed and the cornerstone of the Unovan's team.

"So that's how you're playin' it." Grey drawled, a feral grin on his lips. "Well count me in. You're pretty tough, kid, and I ain't about to underestimate you. So I'm going to enjoy this. Hydreigon, no holding back!"

With that the beast emerged onto the field, the scarlet eyes on each of its heads glaring with bloody fury as the two "hands" snapped viciously and honed in on Torrent. Hydreigon's main head roared, a gout of blue fire emerging in a crackling roar as the creature locked eyes with the Kingdra, blood and pride burning between them.

"Dragon Pulse." Grey called out lazily, alert eyes belying his false boredom. They were sharp and intelligent, capable of analyzing information and processing it in mere seconds. Ash had seen those eyes in the mirror every day of his life. "Get advancin'. Don't give it a chance to fight back."

Hydreigon responded immediately, charging forth on its powerful hind legs as its two smaller heads' jaws gaped open and a sphere of greenish energy with a core of white formed just outside. Its main head was focused intently on Torrent, who remained perfectly motionless as the crowd looked on with bated breath.

Torrent knew how to counter this. Fighting against multiple dragon-type opponents was one of the most valuable lessons Lance had given them during their training. Even though his friend couldn't match the Dragonite trio, he was well-versed in how to neutralize their attacks.

So, when the two powerful orbs of draconic energy shot out of the two maws Torrent was ready. He reacted almost instantaneously. Two Dragon Pulses, fired one after another, intercepted Hydreigon's midflight, releasing an enormous amount of crackling energy that Hydreigon charged straight through, heedless of the superficial damage it suffered doing so.

"Ice Beam!" He shouted to Torrent, who tipped his snout back just a few inches before he released the cascade of jagged, arcing beams that shot toward Hydreigon with incredible precision. Hydreigon simply leapt above them, finally unfurling its massive wings that kept it safely above the Ice Beam.

Hydreigon roared and unleashed an enormous stream of flame from both of its lesser heads, seemingly out of frustration rather than any serious attempt to defeat his friend. It soared closer to Torrent with speed Ash hadn't expected considering Hydreigon's sheer bulk and dived down to the Kingdra's side, taking advantage of the temporary cover the flames gave it.

He didn't have to tell Torrent to respond with an immediate Ice Beam, far more powerful than the one used when Hydreigon had been at a decent range. Grey was smart to try and get in close. Torrent wasn't able to maneuver very quickly on dry land, even with his levitation. They had to get Hydreigon away now.

Hydreigon roared in pain, but suffered through the Ice Beam and latched onto Torrent's body with one of its heads, the sharp, jagged fangs that filled its maw able to barely crack into the Kingdra's heavy plates of armor. The other recoiled, hissing and reflexively snapping at the other "hand" at the pain of suffering most of the Ice Beam's power.

"Focus!" Grey snapped, a little anger slipping into his tone as Hydreigon began to lose discipline. "Dual Hyper Beam now!"

"Blizzard! You have it trapped!" Ash cried simultaneously, knowing that he had to keep Hydreigon from unleashing its formidable Hyper Beams. Torrent was tough and durable, but he couldn't stay in the battle if he was hit by two Hyper Beams of Hydreigon's caliber.

Both dragons carried out their commands. The difference was that Torrent was just a touch faster – while Hydreigon's savage nature was certainly a great boon in battle, it worked against Grey in this case. By the time Hydreigon's free heads had stopped snapping at each other Torrent had already prepared the Blizzard, which he unleashed straight into the primary head.

"Focus!" Grey raged, his previous command repeated with a snarl as Hydreigon went reeling, all but one head covered with a thin layer of frost. Torrent levitated farther back while he still had the chance, not severely damaged from their brief altercation but obviously in pain from where Hydreigon's third head had bit him. "Go into Outrage! Don't back off."

Ash's eyes widened in fear at the mention of Outrage. It was almost like a dragon-type Rampage, although less strenuous and powerful. Outrage sent the user into a focused rampage, allowing the dragon to access more of its immense physical power and giving it the single-minded focus to weather some attacks, although when the adrenaline rush ended it tended to leave the dragon incapacitated and weak for a brief period of time.

But at this short of a distance Grey wouldn't have to worry about the negative aspects of the technique. Hydreigon would be able to charge Torrent and maul him in just a few seconds if it slipped into Outrage.

"Draco Meteor!" He called frantically as all six of Hydreigon's bloody eyes locked onto Torrent's retreating form. The beast roared furiously and began its charge, the massive dragon's speed far greater than Ash would have anticipated had he not read up on it.

The crowd went wild as Torrent reared his head back and shot the massive sphere of golden draconic energy high into the sky, scarlet eyes intent on the rapidly approaching Hydreigon as the beast tore across the battlefield with great leaps and bounds.

Ash counted down the five seconds it would take for the comets of draconic power coordinated by Torrent's will to reach their target.

Five.

Hydreigon drew nearer, lesser heads snarling and spitting as they strained outwards toward Torrent with a mouthful of knives.

Four.

Torrent was still as his iron will grasped control of the comets that the massive orb had split into, their falls angled at a single point as the golden energy strained for release.

Three.

Hydreigon was close. Another few seconds and he'd be on Torrent in a frenzy of fangs and blood.

Two.

The comets fell.

One.

Hydreigon leapt at its target, just aware enough of Grey's furious commands to realize the danger of the Draco Meteor.

Torrent was hurled back as the Draco Meteors slammed into Hydreigon's hulking form less than ten feet away from him, the stunning release of golden power massive enough to be felt by the crowd. The psychic barriers all around the battlefield flared up and dust whirled through the air above the dim outline of a deep crater.

Ash watched the swirling debris intently once he'd confirmed that Torrent had only sustained minor injuries. They would be uncomfortable if he had to fight another powerful opponent but he should be fine. With the kind of devastation his most powerful technique had wreaked Hydreigon couldn't fight for much longer, if at all.

The dust parted suddenly, revealing the black form of Hydreigon as it stumbled out, bleeding and burned all over but still capable of movement. Its three heads were dazed but still conscious enough to keep a wary eye on Torrent, who still had another few seconds before the strain Draco Meteor placed on him would begin to subside.

He grit his teeth as Hydreigon's bloody eyes burned with hatred and the beast unfurled the massive wings that it often kept behind it. The badly injured dragon wasn't finished yet.

At least Draco Meteor had snapped it out of Outrage. If it had remained in its berserker state then Torrent would have been finished by now.

"That was pretty good. Another hit like that and Hydreigon'll be down for the count." Grey flashed Ash a manic grin full of childlike glee as he leaned onto the edge of his box and rested his chin on a fist. "But that Kingdra of yours isn't fully grown yet, is he? Probably has another few years before he hits his prime, yeah?"

Ash just stared at him stonily. He didn't object to the Unovan's words. The more time he burned before Grey ordered Hydreigon to attack the better. It wasn't as if he was wrong. Torrent still had years to go before he reached his full strength and could use Draco Meteor as leniently as Lance's team could. The same held true for the rest of his team.

"You got a good turn in, but it's my time to shine now, boyo." The Unovan drawled. "Hydreigon, Draco Meteor!"

He bit down a curse, his self-control fading as Grey's words reached him. "To the water!"

Torrent levitated to the massive pool as fast as he could, the strain evident in his eyes as Hydreigon roared its fury. Two smaller spheres of golden power formed in front of its lesser heads, but the one that sprung out of the main head was absolutely gigantic, almost as large as one of Saph's.

The orbs shot up into the sky above the pool, Hydreigon's control over the technique absolutely flawless. It required true mastery of Draco Meteor to direct the orb to that degree. Torrent could place them in the general area of his target but that was as far as they'd gotten before their time with Lance had come to an end.

Ash's teeth were clenched as the comets began to drop, brilliant gold flashes arcing through the air as Hydreigon expertly manipulated them to fall on Torrent's exact location, right next to the pool.

Torrent slipped into the water right as the first of the comets smashed onto the surface and exploded in an impressive display of light and heat, followed quickly by a barrage of the others that vaporized the water it touched, although hundreds of gallons instantly flowed to replace it in a great rush.

He relaxed slightly as the barrage of nearly twenty Draco Meteors finally ended after reducing the water level in the pool by nearly six feet. Torrent was at the very bottom, having recovered just enough after the first volley to sink to the very bottom. His friend looked to be badly wounded, but his thick plates of armor had saved him from being knocked unconscious or worse.

"Well that's disappointing. Your Kingdra was a tad faster than I'd expected." Grey smiled. "This'll be fun. Fly, Hydreigon! Snipe it."

Hydreigon didn't bother trying to stumble its way over to the side of the pool. That would be an easy way to get shot with an Ice Beam or some other ambush by Torrent. Instead it finally took to the air, although the injuries it had suffered made the process slower than it had been before and looked a little tiring.

Ash scowled as one of Hydreigon's smaller heads stretched out from Hydreigon's arm gleefully, its "neck" stretched to the absolute limit as its jaws opened wide. The other was more subdued, although it gnashed its fangs and spat little plumes of blue fire as it impatiently stared at the water's surface.

He couldn't order Torrent from here. His friend had excellent hearing but the water would dampen any commands and the roar of the crowd as the deciding phase of the battle began was far too for Torrent to differentiate sounds.

That realization was all he needed to relax. There was nothing he could do, so there was nothing to worry about. He just had to trust in his friend's judgment. Torrent was hurt badly, but Hydreigon was in a bad position as well. It couldn't possibly fight for much longer.

The sudden flash of a Hyper Beam snatched his attention away from his thoughts. He abruptly felt his body tense as a line of water was vaporized, aimed perfectly to account for the diffraction of water. Hydreigon was brutish and relied more on raw strength than anything, but Grey had trained it extremely well.

Fortunately enough, Torrent was very, very fast in the water. Whatever his slowness on land Torrent was little more than a blur in the water, his expert manipulation of it and his hydrodynamic form enough to make him faster than many other smaller and lighter aquatic pokemon.

It was with that speed that he dodged the first Hyper Beam and the second the head that had previously been tracking him fired. The primary head's Hyper Beam came much closer, however, and managed to send Torrent reeling from the sheer heat and concussive force the beam carried.

Ash frowned as the cycle repeated with another Hyper Beam from the first head, followed by another that barely missed the Kingdra as he sped through the water. Grey certainly made use of Hydreigon's unique physiology. One head fired the Hyper Beam, one tracked the target and accounted for any necessary adjustments to the aim, and one rested. All in all a brilliant strategy with Hyper Beam.

He was certain that it had its weaknesses, however. Hyper Beams, no matter how weak, required a great deal of energy that would leave an inexperienced user or a pokemon without much stamina exhausted for a few brief moments. It was a weakness that could be trained out to a certain degree, but that did not change the fact that Hyper Beam was a very taxing attack.

Perhaps Hydreigon could keep it up almost indefinitely given the ridiculous endurance it had displayed so far, but after being struck by Draco Meteor and returning what amounted to three Draco Meteors at once it had to be drained.

Ash would normally be fine with Torrent simply letting Hydreigon exhaust itself, but that wasn't an option. Torrent was hurt as well and couldn't keep up this kind of speed much longer. If Hydreigon – now on its fourth volley of Hyper Beams – hadn't slowed then Torrent would have been struck already.

He had to attack.

And, when Hydreigon's third head grew frustrated and snapped at the primary head when it missed, Torrent did. As the two heads growled and spat at each other Torrent sank to the bottom of the pool, deep enough so that it was difficult to see him.

Then he closed his scarlet eyes and focused.

"Pay attention!" Grey raged, an ugly sneer across his face as he addressed the petulant Hydreigon. "You're about to get attacked, dumbass! Fly higher."

Hydreigon's primary head snapped out of it and growled once more, forcing the lesser head to submit. With their internal conflict resolve, Hydreigon flapped its wings and tore its way higher to the sky. It looked down at the water, which trembled and jumped as Torrent exerted his control over it, and moved one of its heads into position to fire a Hyper Beam.

Ash doubted it would have done anything, but he never got a chance to find out as Torrent finally began the offensive. An enormous pillar of water a hundred feet high burst from the pool, Torrent's shadowed form barely visible through the whirling column. The psychic barriers flared up as the water brushed against the invisible wall, briefly blinding an entire side of Indigo Stadium with its intensity.

Even his eyes widened as Torrent began to levitate out of the pool and onto the battlefield proper, surrounded by millions of gallons of water that whirled constantly and was maintained only through Torrent's iron will and incredible strength. It moved with him slowly, tearing and soaking the earth and rendering Torrent an unstoppable juggernaut.

"AND what is THIS?!" The announcer screamed, almost sounding as though he were going to wet himself with excitement. Ash's mouth turned upward briefly. "Ash Ketchum's Kingdra REVERSES the course of this battle with an INCREDIBLE technique. How will Hydreigon –"

He stopped listening as the announcer waxed praise. It was unimportant. All that mattered was that Hydreigon had just begun to try to fly away, although Torrent somehow managed to angle the column to catch the massive dragon in the water funnel, sucking it in and rendering it helpless for a few brief seconds.

"Blizzard!" He shouted, knowing that this was their one chance. If Hydreigon wasn't defeated here then it would face an utterly exhausted Torrent. Forming a funnel like this normally wouldn't take him too much effort, but actually carrying it out of the pool and forming it into a controlled weapon was an act that would have strained him at his best.

Torrent's hidden form raised his snout up and released a massive blast of frozen power. The moment the icy blast touched the swirling water it froze, the layer of ice rapidly spreading throughout the entire faux-hurricane at an incredible rate.

In mere seconds the column of water was frozen, an icy tomb for Hydreigon. Torrent was invisible now, silent and tired from his exertion.

"Now that's what I was waiting for!" Grey crowed, a manic grin stretched across his tanned face. "You really haven't been pushed in this Conference, huh?"

Ash silently nodded. His eyes were focused entirely on Hydreigon's form entombed in Torrent's ice. Kingdra were one of the few dragon-types capable of sustaining such low temperatures without much trouble thanks to their habitat in the abyssal trenches. Hydreigon was far more vulnerable. If it wasn't unconscious yet it would be in a few seconds.

"C'mon, boyo, pep up!" The Unovan flashed him another disturbingly cheerful grin. "No more holding back, kiddo. I'm gonna win this, but I ain't gonna let you hand this match to me on a silver platter!"

He scowled at that. Ash didn't particularly like being talked down to, especially when it made a reference to his age.

If Grey wanted his best, he would get it. He'd held back long enough.

His eyes suddenly locked onto the column of ice with a bit of apprehension. He thought he saw – no.

No.

Hydreigon fell out of the ice in a small avalanche of slush. Its hulking body was covered in it and the beast shivered pathetically, barely conscious. It still pulled itself shakily to its feet, however. No matter how far reduced it was from its original fearsome state, Hydreigon's determination kept it from simply giving up.

"C'mon, Hydreigon. This battle's over." Grey drawled. His sharp eyes flashed with something and his mouth quirked up into an odd smile. "But let's leave our friend here with a parting gift, yeah?"

The beast roared and one of its lesser heads thrashed wildly in response to his words, the other limp and unmoving. Ash looked at the single unconscious head with brief fascination before he returned his attention to Torrent. That was an interesting little detail that hadn't been included in the reports on Hydreigon's physiology.

He frowned as Hydreigon's remaining heads focused solely on Torrent, who was a barely visible shadow through the ice. Ash didn't bother calling out. The ice Torrent was surrounded by would leave him deaf to his commands. He'd have to trust Torrent's own awareness and preparation.

Ash clenched his fist as orbs of orange-gold light swirled inside of Hydreigon's mouths, growing more and more as if the beast had put every last bit of energy it had into the attack. Whatever hopes he had of the ice being too thick for Hydreigon's attack to penetrate faded instantly.

The trainer breathed. There was nothing he could do. Torrent had achieved his sole purpose in the battle and had finally been able to reveal his true strength to the world. He could rest easy knowing that he'd managed to succeed.

And with that twin Hyper Beams shot forth from Hydreigon's fearsome maw, the spears of light enough to briefly light up the entire stadium even under the rays of the sun.

But then the column of ice collapsed with a thunderous roar, brief cracks instantly giving way to huge chunks of frozen water that left indentions and small craters in the battlefield as they landed, releasing energy akin to a small earthquake that wracked the ground and left the exhausted Hydreigon crumpled as it was pelted by small daggers of frost.

Torrent's last act of defiance didn't leave him unscathed, however. He left Hydreigon unconscious and terribly wounded – Ash could see the blood running down the dragon's body, although it was little more than a scratch as far as Nurse Joy was concerned – but was struck by the Hyper Beams a second later. They exploded in a brilliant rush of light, which kept Ash from watching directly as Torrent's badly burned body was hurled far back into the bottom of the drained pool, where it landed with a heavy thud.

Ash winced, but still kept a slight smile on his face as he recalled his friend. Torrent had done better than he had hoped. Hydreigon had proved to be a real monster – Torrent hadn't had such an even battle in a very long time and Hydreigon had certainly outclassed his friend in most areas of combat – but he'd won in the end.

That was all he could have asked for.

"Nice one." Grey nodded approvingly as he recalled his own dragon. "I'll have to kick up my idiot of a Hydreigon's training if I wanna keep up with you, kiddo. That Kingdra's gonna be a monster when it grows up."

Ash dipped his head to show his acknowledgement. He eyed the Unovan patiently as the teen made a show of running his fingers across the other five pokeballs on his waist. Grey had a smirk on his face as he finally selected one and raised it just high enough so that the beam would go over the trainer box.

"Here's a hint, boyo: pick somethin' strong." Grey drawled as Beheeyeem appeared in a bright flash. The alien creature vaguely reminded Ash of Giovanni's Claydol, just more streamlined. Its luminescent green eyes burned with malice, the glow fueled by the psychic power wielded by the strange intelligence. "She's not very gentle."

Dazed appeared mere seconds after Ash had realized what Grey released. Beheeyem was noted to have exceptional abilities when it came to the manipulation of others' minds. It could alter memories temporarily, possess weaker pokemon, and layer illusion over illusion upon the victim's mind.

It was widely feared in Unova for that reason. Beheeyem, like Ninetales, were renowned for their abilities to alter perceptions. They could dominate a victim's senses with nary a thought, creating touch and vision and sounds that were impossible to tell apart from reality.

As such, Dazed would be the best choice to counter it. She had the most powerful psychic defenses other than Infernus and would be able to easily dispel any illusions. Not to mention that she could actually keep up with it should the alien psychic begin to teleport.

"Not bad." Grey whistled as he regarded Dazed, who stared back at the Unovan with an utterly bored expression. The tremble of her pendulum was the only hint that she felt anything but serenity in the face of battling the Beheeyem. "Could do worse, for sure. Too bad it won't be able to hypnotize Beheeyem. You're just an amateur in that regard."

Ash's mouth quirked up slightly. If Grey thought that Dazed's true power lay in her hypnosis he would be sorely surprised. Dazed had more than a few tricks waiting for those who failed to realize the true extent of her strength.

"Begin!"

Beheeyem didn't so much as twitch as the announcer's command boomed across the arena. It just continued to levitate, the only hint that it realized there was a battle going on the deadly green eyes locked onto Dazed.

Ash crossed his arms. Dazed simply met Beheeyem's stare, a slight glow emanating from her bored eyes as she resisted whatever it was the alien creature was attempting to do to her. Her pendulum shone brightly under the dying light of day and jumped erratically, but Dazed remained strong.

"Signal Beam." Grey drawled with a lazy wave of his hand. Beheeyem twitched an arm.

He barely caught the formation of a small, multicolored orb of swirling energy between the three prongs on Beheeyem's "hand" before a rainbow-hued beam of energy shot out, distorting the air where it passed before it slammed straight into Dazed.

Or would have.

Dazed blinked as the Signal Beam washed over her shimmering shield of blue light, the construct reinforced many times over with her power in order to survive contact with the bug-type technique. She wanted to stay as far away from the debilitating nature of the Signal Beam as she could lest this battle come to a quick close. Beheeyem would prey upon any weakness with ruthless efficiency.

"Not too shabby!" Grey cackled. The unnerving grin on his face was back in full force as his eyes glittered with that same intensity Ash knew so well. With a snap of his fingers the battle began in earnest.

Beheeyem appeared roughly twenty feet behind Dazed, its teleportation so perfect that not a single light or sound gave its move away. Its arm raised up again in a blur and released a Dark Pulse straight into Dazed's back with enough power to easily send her into a fit as the foreign energy ravaged her mind.

Or it would have. Beheeyem's eyes had just enough to pulse in surprise before it teleported back to its original position, barely avoiding the flurry of Shadow Balls that casually littered the battlefield. Dazed stared at it with utter disinterest as it avoided the attack.

The two powerful psychics didn't move for several more seconds, each assessing the other. That initial flurry of blows had been nothing but a test to determine whether their respective opponent was worthy of anything resembling effort.

Considering the power that pulsed beneath their skin and filled the air thickly enough to be cut by a knife, each had found the other acceptable.

"Multiball." Ash said quietly. Dazed was a defensive fighter but he didn't want Grey to dictate the terms of their match. Beheeyem was exceptionally powerful, even if its potent illusory abilities were nullified by Dazed's defenses.

This was another test, one which Beheeyem passed perfectly. It teleported even as the words left his mouth, the alien creature appearing at the very back of the arena, close to Grey's box.

He frowned when he saw that Beheeyem's eyes began to shine brighter. It appeared that its previous glow was simply a latent effect of levitation. Right now it was actually doing something.

But what?

Ash glanced around the battlefield and took it in with a sweeping stare. Nothing was out of place. There was no obvious psychic interference – no glowing stone or sand.

There was nothing.

But, as Beheeyem's eyes burned with power that was easily equal to what Dazed could muster, he continued to search. He knew it had to be doing something.

His eyes finally glanced up to Grey's, which shone with the same green fire as Beheeyem's. The Unovan smirked and sent him a cocky wave as realization dawned on him.

A psychic link. His opponent was more formidable than he'd expected. The link would be an erratic one considering Grey didn't seem to have any sort of psychic potential, but even just a series of images and erratic thoughts could greatly increase Beheeyem's combat efficiency if the duo were experienced in its use.

Ash doubted that Grey would be able to interpret or send signals as clearly as Sabrina could – she was the strongest human psychic in the world, after all – but just being able to get directions to the psychic without having to vocalize his commands was a tremendous advantage.

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