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.


63. The Semifinals Part 2

Beheeyem moved. Two Signal Beams of slightly lesser intensity than the one it had used to test Dazed flashed, the rainbow-hued blasts carving a thin fissure into the dirt right where the Hypno had been mere moments before.

Dazed appeared in front of him in a brief flash of light, still with the same air of boredom about her. Her eyes did narrow slightly at Beheeyem as it hummed and teleported again, this time appearing right beside her before releasing a Dark Pulse from its thin, atrophied arm.

Ash frowned as Dazed barely managed to teleport away in time, avoiding the wave of alien power by a hair. Beheeyem shouldn't have been able to react that quickly once it came out of teleportation. There was always a brief moment of confusion when one teleported as one oriented themselves with their surroundings. It could be trained to be miniscule, but that Dark Pulse had been primed the instant Beheeyem had arrived at its new destination.

It looked like the duo were making good use of their psychic link.

As Beheeyem teleported near Dazed again with another Dark Pulse perfectly prepared Ash realized he needed to nip this in the bud. This heralded the beginning of a very annoying game that Dazed would lose. She didn't have the natural propensity for teleportation that Beheeyem did or the psychic link to assist her.

Sooner or later she would slip up. She'd be a shade too slow and then Beheeyem's Dark Pulse would end it for her. Ash doubted that a single Dark Pulse would knock her unconscious but it would be enough to nullify much of her power for a few minutes. Combined with Beheeyem's power and continued ability to teleport meant a quick end for Dazed.

"Multiball. Hold it." Ash commanded as Dazed teleported near the base of his box again. She didn't outwardly react but the grey aura of power that briefly flowed from her eyes was enough. Dazed seemed to have picked up on his idea, as several dozen miniscule Shadow Balls sprung up around her in a sphere. She could attack anywhere.

Grey scowled and Beheeyem finally stopped its constant assaults on Dazed. Even if it could manage to hit Dazed with a Dark Pulse it would almost certainly be struck by one of the Shadow Balls. They were extremely weak, but Beheeyem seemed reliant enough on its psychic powers to move that it would cripple it.

Between a weakened Dazed and an immobile Beheeyem, he'd place his money on his friend.

The Unovan's eyes burned brighter in tandem with Beheeyem's. Ash immediately grew wary. That meant Beheeyem was harnessing quite a bit of its power.

"Get ready." He said just loud enough for Dazed to hear over the dull roar of the crowd. She actually nodded, something that was more than a little surprising. Dazed didn't usually care to acknowledge his words. She preferred to carry them out. "Immobilize it through any means."

Beheeyem finally moved once more. It released a great flash of light before it did so, nearly blinding Ash and his friend. A cheap tactic but very effective.

He squinted down at the battlefield as Beheeyem emerged into existence once more, no Dark Pulse on its arm. Dazed was blinded, but that didn't mean she couldn't feel Beheeyem's powerful presence via her rudimentary psychic "echolocation".

A flurry of Shadow Balls greeted the alien creature, which reacted instantly by teleporting within three feet of Dazed with a Dark Pulse primed. Dazed, still stunned from Beheeyem's flash of light, was struck before she could teleport once more to safety. Ash's face fell into a murderous scowl as his friend fell twitching to the earth, the Dark Pulse more powerful than the last.

His brow furrowed when Beheeyem fell to the ground, covered in grey arcs of energy that danced over its streamlined form. How…?

Realization came quickly when he saw the last of her tiny Shadow Balls dissolve into nothingness after striking the psychic barrier in front of him. Dazed might not have been able to teleport in time, but she did have enough time to release the rest of her Shadow Balls in a directionless blast, one of which had managed to strike Beheeyem as it loomed over the defenseless Hypno.

A small smirk of satisfaction wormed its way onto his face when he saw Grey clutch his temples and grit his teeth in agony as the aftershocks of the ghostly explosion wracked his mind after it was transferred over the psychic link. It seemed like there was a downside after all.

"Focus Blast!" He commanded. Dazed wouldn't be able to access her psychic abilities, but if he was lucky she'd be able to utilize Focus Blast. It relied on the power of the body to form it, not the mind.

Dazed's head rose and her dull eyes out-of-focus as she struggled to raise a single arm that was wracked with spasms as the dark-type energy ravaged her mind. A tiny ball of white-blue energy slowly began to form, but a beam of rainbow energy cut her off before it could be hurled at her target.

Beheeyem twitched and shuddered as it slowly levitated to just a little less than its previous height. It was in bad shape, but it had been able to defeat at least one opponent it was fairly equal to.

Ash just scowled as he recalled his friend. Dazed was one of his primary battlers – one of his strongest. She wasn't on the level of Infernus or Torrent but she could still go toe-to-toe with any of his team for much longer than most pokeon. It was disconcerting that she had been defeated without actually taking down her foe with her, even if she had made the job much easier.

He inwardly sighed. They had been so close. He honestly hadn't expected Beheeyem to teleport inside of Dazed's guard in the split second before the wave of Shadow Balls would have hit. The strange psychic-type was even more skilled than he had anticipated.

"You did well, Dazed." He murmured to the pokeball before he looked up to Beheeyem with a fire in his eyes. Ash let just a hint of his next choice's personality burn through his own as he flashed the groaning Unovan a savage grin.

"Nice feint. Didn't see that coming." Grey moaned as he rubbed his temples in a futile attempt to alleviate the pain. "Beheeyem, get ready. One last attack."

More of Ash's teeth were revealed as the smile tugged at his mouth. Beheeyem wouldn't get another attack.

Infernus would make sure of it.

With that he released his friend, who emerged into the light of day with a burst of dancing fire and a roar that shook the earth. Infernus' eyes burned with malicious interest as he stared at the odd form of Beheeyem that sagged slightly as its power faded. One of his arms molded itself into a cannon, an orange glow easily visible from deep inside the tube.

Grey looked at the Magmortar curiously, a dangerous grin edging its way onto his tanned face. He squinted as Infernus' body heated to a terrible temperature that left the air warped and wavering around him, masking the dim glow that began to emanate from his powerful body.

"That's what I'm talkin' about." Grey drawled, still massaging his head. "Glad to see you ain't pulling any punches, boyo."

Ash just scowled, the sight of Dazed's trembling form still imprinted in his mind. The Feather pulsed in tune with his heart and drove him forward. His blood burned.

"Begin!" The referee shouted, breaking the silence that pervaded since Infernus had been released.

"Finish this quickly." Ash commanded as a bit of his usual calm returned. The water Torrent had sprayed all over the stadium might dampen Infernus' abilities if Beheeyem managed to harness it. He'd prefer to avoid any damage to Infernus. He needed his friend's strength right now to even the odds.

"Miracle Eye!" Grey shouted. It seemed that some of the pain had ebbed. "Keep track of it! Account for refraction."

Beheeyem hummed and raised one of its spindly arms slowly. It aimed it at Infernus, who leered at the psychic-type with a dangerous mockery of a smile.

As Beheeyem's eyes burned brightly, augmented even further by psychic powers. Miracle Eye was a rare technique but very useful. It was incredibly difficult to learn but was a potent weapon in the hands of a powerful psychic. In effect it allowed a psychic to track almost any target by overlapping the psychic's awareness of the minds around it and sight, basically marking a target and allowing for the location of almost any living being.

That was its primary function in this instance, but it was also one of the few psychic techniques of any use against dark-types. Aside from allowing psychics to enhance their sight in order to track their natural enemies more easily, Miracle Eye allowed the user to see a dark-type's "aura" of the alien energy that flowed through their body and the locations of the organs that harnessed it. By knowing the location of those organs it was possible to damage them through another attack that didn't rely on psychic powers, which would in turn leave them vulnerable to direct psychic attacks.

It was more than possible for a psychic to memorize where the organs that made a dark-type what it was were, but only the enhanced tracking abilities and reflexes bestowed by Miracle Eye made it practical to attack them. The organs were well-protected and required incredible precision to temporarily disable, let alone truly damage.

Ash just smiled. Miracle Eye was a waste in this instance. That thought was only confirmed when Beheeyem fired off a flurry of moderately powerful Psybeams, each aimed with precision beyond what it possessed during the psychic bond with Grey.

Beheeyem hummed happily as they reached their target, only to cock its large head when Infernus, who had previously stood absolutely still in the face of the attack, vanished in a crack and flash of light.

The psychic barely had time to raise its head before Infernus dropped down on it from above, his immense bulk more than enough to crush the psychic as his claws carved past its tough exterior and released hundreds of volts of electricity into its sensitive body, just enough to stun.

Beheeyem screamed. Infernus just grinned and casually raised his cannon to the psychic's thrashing body. A fiery glow shone deep within the appendage and a stream of red and orange flame liberally bathed the place Beheeyem had been just moments ago.

Infernus snarled and stood up, flames still trickling out of his cannon at a sedate pace. A cloak of flame settled about him, leaving his intimidating figure nothing more than a blackened silhouette bathed in raging light.

"Yes!" Grey crowed as he gleefully returned Beheeyem. Another pokeball was already in his grip as his gleaming eyes regarded the Magmortar before him. "This is what I've been waiting for! C'mon out, Eelektross!"

Ash glanced at the hulking creature that emerged with interest. It was similar to the picture he had seen. He'd guess that it was around seven feet long, although the way it constantly wound and twisted in midair made it difficult to tell for sure. The creature was essentially one long muscle with teeth and claws. It was probably around a foot thick in most places, disregarding its various fins.

It certainly wouldn't be an easy target, although he doubted Infernus would have too much trouble. The creature's electricity would hardly be a concern to the Magmortar. Eelektross would also be limited by the lack of water to retreat to. It was able to levitate, which Ash hadn't known about, but it had very few advantages over Infernus. Most of the water it could utilize to great effect had been splashed around the battlefield by Torrent.

The creature sparked angrily as it writhed in midair, beady red eyes locked onto Infernus as it awaited the command to begin. Eelektross' tubular mouth contracted slightly, the fangs scraping together.

Infernus just grinned at it. His cannon glowed with heat to the point that it was easily visible within his cloak of flame and his claws sparked with electricity, mocking the Eelektross.

"Your playmate can teleport, so be ready." The Unovan drawled. "Shut it down with Thunder Wave and Zap Cannon and finish it off with Hyper Beam. Don't take any chances, 'kay? This thing is the real deal!"

Ash just grinned and waited. If Grey wanted to waste time by talking then so be it. Infernus wouldn't be running out of fuel anytime soon. His endurance had been insane as a Magmar. Now he could probably fight all day without feeling the drain.


Eelektross wasted no time. The deadly creature dipped slightly as it released two massive charges of electricity, one designed to paralyze and the other to damage. Ash noted that detail. It seemed that part of Eelektross' levitation was a connection to its electric-type abilities. Magnetism didn't sound likely unless it had a strip of metal on its underbelly.

He shrugged it off. That was a question for Professor Oak. Right now he needed to keep an eye on the carnage.

Infernus didn't bother using Air Lens, surprisingly. Ash had told his friend to keep that secret as long as he could but it seemed that Infernus had paid a bit more attention than he thought. He'd have to make sure the Magmortar knew it was fine to use it after this battle. It would be a shame if he lost the final battle of the Conference because Infernus avoided using one of his abilities.

Instead, Infernus teleported once more. He fell onto Eelektross from atop just as he had Beheeyem, instantly enveloped in another cloak of flame and terrible heat as he smashed the powerful water-type into the ground and seared it with an unending stream of fire from his cannon.

Eelektross thrashed helplessly as Infernus speared its thick muscles with his claws, effortlessly bypassing the tough layer of rubbery skin thanks to the terrible heat infused into the claws. He held Eelektross in his grasp without flinching, every attempt by the creature to escape by releasing thousands upon thousands of volts of electricity or spitting water to dampen the flames doing nothing but fuelling his enjoyment of the struggle.

Ash finally felt his spite fade as he watched the helpless creature cook in Infernus' flames. Most pokemon were capable of resisting extreme heat from a distance and had evolved defenses to deal with fire-types – thicker hide, a protective layer of fat, and abilities that could let them rush away from the dangerous pokemon and their attacks – but it was never meant to deal with something like this.

Magmortar were not a fire-type. They were the fire-type.

And Infernus was the pinnacle of their kind.

Water-types could resist flame. Their bodies could shrug bursts and streams of fire and heat off with ease. But Infernus' body was as hot as the flames that he surrounded himself with. Prolonged exposure would kill it.

He eyed Grey worriedly. The Unovan didn't even seem bothered as he watched Infernus slowly kill his pokemon with fire and claw. If anything he seemed entranced by the spectacle, a look that reminded Ash of a giddy child painted across his face as he stared at Infernus.

It matched Infernus' grin perfectly.

Ash felt bile rise in his throat as he realized Eelektross had stopped resisting. It just lay there uselessly, no amount of experience able to save it.

"Back off!" He roared when Infernus showed no signs of letting up. The fires had only brightened and it spelled a quick end for Eelektross if he didn't intervene quickly.

Infernus seemed to awake from a pleasant dream as Ash's words reached him. The inferno that raged around him faded and died as Infernus teleported back to his original position in the middle of the field. Before long there were only embers, although a new conflagration kindled around Infernus as his power flowed into the air and sky.

Eelektross had been unconscious for several seconds now. White burns and blackened hide covered its thick body, the gruesome evidence of the fires that had engulfed it. Ash felt slightly sick as he looked at it.

His friend hadn't even fought the creature. Infernus had just held it down and let the terrible heat that surrounded him finish Eelektross off.

It was eye-opening. Everything else Infernus had fought since his evolution was able to resist his fires. Rhydon was all but immune and Arcanine could survive them without too much difficulty for a short period of time.

Ash wondered just how much longer it would have taken for the League to interfere. They didn't like pokemon being seriously wounded in the Conference, let alone killed. Aside from their obvious moral concerns, it meant that a great deal of talent had just been destroyed.

He found that he couldn't bring his gaze away from the barely living husk of Eelektross.

That was the power of Infernus.

"Huh." Grey muttered as he finally recalled the unconscious creature. "You interested in trading that Magmortar? I'm sure Hydreigon wouldn't mind taking one for the team. If you can control that Magmortar you can whip him into line no problem."

Ash grit his teeth and barely managed to shake his head. His hands shook and the Feather fueled his righteous anger at the Unovan's callousness.

"Too bad." The older teenager sighed. "But, just to be safe, are you sure? I'll even throw another one in to sweeten the –"

A massive Flamethrower from Infernus cut him off. His friend had a sneer on his face as he regarded Grey once the stream of flame had finally cut off and left the badly strained psychic barriers a chance to recover.

Grey blinked and cocked his head. "Offer's still up if you want to talk after the match."

Ash just glared and met the eyes so similar to his own with the steel he had gained during his journey. The last thing he would do was trade one of his family, let alone to someone like Grey.

Not that Infernus would allow it.

"Red Trainer, please select your next pokemon." The announcer said. His voice shook, revealing the feelings that most of the stadium had at the moment. "If you do not proceed you will be disqualified."

"And wouldn't that be a damn shame." Grey muttered. "Alright, let's get this show back on track."

Ash eyed the strange creature he released speculatively. Chandelure was certainly an odd creature, although it radiated an aura of malice that he could feel even from behind the psychic barriers. Most lesser pokemon would balk at the oppressive feeling it released.

Infernus grinned.


Chandelure wasted no time. In an instant the ghostly blue fires that it held roared to life and exploded into massive, twenty foot long tongues of flame that danced erratically under the light of the sun. The ghost seemed to control the pillars perfectly. Each twisted and turned on itself so that they loomed over the Magmortar draped in a cloak of red and orange and gold.

Steam wafted up from the drenched earth as Infernus stepped forward confidently. His heat seared the ground and left it dead and dry. The Magmortar held no fear as he suddenly charged Chandelure, who instantly lashed out with its giant tongues of blue flame. Several stayed back as the blue pillars writhed and entrapped Infernus, who had a brief flash of alarm on his face as he felt the cold bite of the icy flames.

An instant later he teleported, leaving the conflagration that surrounded him to die as another spawned anew. He landed on top of Chandelure, which let out a terrible screech as it realized its prey had somehow escaped its trap. The strange creature wasn't nearly as helpless as Infernus' previous victims, however.

A gout of ghostly flame shot up from its "head", which actually made Infernus flinch as the unworldly fires latched onto him and burned. He did his best to scrape them off with his claws while his cannon frantically blasted Chandelure with an infinite stream of raging fires but it was to no avail. They simply burned into him, the flames of Chandelure something incredibly similar but far different than true fire.

Ash grit his teeth as Infernus roared in agony, his own illusions of Infernus' invincibility cast aside. Infernus could not be matched by an ordinary opponent, but Grey had obviously chosen Chandelure and its unique abilities well. He'd never seen anything like it during his travels. Gengar and other strong ghost-types possessed strange powers but Chandelure was the first he had heard of that had control over flame beyond Will-O-Wisps.

"Fire Blast!" He snapped, raw desperation surging through his mind. Chandelure appeared to be somewhat resistant to normal fire and heat, but it didn't seem to be a true fire-type in that regard. It certainly had fire-type traits, but those seemed to be tied into its ghostly powers. Chandelure used Will-O-Wisp to mimic fire-type abilities, certainly, but Ash wasn't sure if it could be classified as an actual member of the type.

Infernus roared, absolutely livid at the realization that Chandelure was actually burning him, and poured every ounce of his fury into the massive eruption of flame that raced from his mouth and blasted into Chandelure's oddly shaped body before Chandelure could try to further increase the intensity of its unnatural flames.

Grey's arrogant smirk just grew even more obnoxious. "Hey, cool him off a bit. Let's show him how ya beat Hydreigon. Curse!"

Chandelure's flames crackled as if amused. Its whips of blue fire whirled ominously as the specter's luminous yellow eyes flared with delight that fit better on a child's face than that of a deadly ghost-type.

He barely had time to call out a warning to the rampaging Magmortar before Chandelure's primary flame, which had previously been left unused, flared up and rushed into Infernus' mouth as he prepared to unleash another torrent of flame.

Ash grimaced as Infernus roared and clutched his throat in agony, the flames around him spiraling out of control as their master fell victim to Chandelure's ghostly fires. Infernus could barely even breathe as the searing substance rushed down his windpipe into his stomach, leaving only superficial damage but agonizing pain.

Curse was a dangerous technique. It was on the same level of difficulty and held just as much potential for permanent damage as Confuse Ray if used by an unskilled wielder.

It essentially involved a ghost injecting some of its essence into the body of its enemy. That was a difficult, costly process for the ghost but far worse for its victim. The ghost's essence would disrupt natural biological processes and slowly shut down the area of the body it was injected into before slowly spreading throughout its host until it was removed or the host died.

While the ghost suffered the loss of a great deal of its strength for the next few days or so, the victim would either fall unconscious in a matter of minutes or die in less than an hour. Psychics would fall into uncontrollable seizures the instant they were Cursed.

Grey had certainly made the best choice possible. After Infernus had cooked Eelektross alive it was clear that nothing else he possessed could actually fight the Magmortar. Chandelure could both survive his flames, inflict damage with its whips against which Infernus had no true defense, and bring it down in a sacrificial gambit via Curse.

He scowled. Grey had outplayed him. Now Infernus was trapped and locked into place through the ghostly fire that consumed him. Thanks to the specter's power he couldn't hope to teleport. Infernus had become quite adept at the skill but his psychic abilities were far too limited to attempt to teleport while a ghost's essence was mixed into his body. Ash doubted that Sabrina's Alakazam would be up for such a challenge.

Ash watched with a bit of worry as Infernus spat endless streams of blue flame from his mouth in an effort to clear the specter's influence. It had no effect but Infernus was in too much pain to actually realize that. He wasn't sure if his friend had ever suffered this much in a fight. Normally Infernus just raged at the pain and pushed forward. Now he was actually immobilized by it, even if his mere presence was doing significant damage to the trapped Chandelure.

Neither Chandelure nor Grey were bothered by the damage it took. The luminous yellow eyes of Chandelure had begun to fade as its power waned but they still pulsed happily as Infernus' fiery cloak waxed and ebbed erratically under the thrashing of its master.

"Let's throw this thing in for a loop." Grey drawled. He rhythmically tapped his fingers against the edge of the box. Ash bit back a scowl when he realized that the Unovan was actually bored. "Confuse Ray."

Ash froze when Chandelure's slowly dissipating body managed to pull itself just far enough out from under Infernus' shackled foot to meet his friend's erratic gaze. Yellow seared into molten black and chaos was born.

Infernus screamed for the first time Ash could remember.

It was a terrible sound that was accompanied by a vast surge of flames that left a quarter of the battlefield consumed in the crackling of an inferno that bit deep into the cracked earth.

He felt a bit nervous as the fires brushed against the psychic barriers. Infernus' power was dangerous. It was an all-consuming force even when kept under Infernus' leash.

Now, released in full to fight whatever terrors Infernus saw in the alien world of the ghosts, it was unstoppable. Chandelure wilted under the sheer temperature, what little was left of its fiery appendages vanished as Infernus' strength was released in full.

The battlefield was impossible to discern, but the flash of Grey's pokeball was bright enough to show Infernus' vague silhouette. It was completely invisible as his natural camouflage activated, although Ash could still approximate his location fairly easily thanks to the rampaging Magmortar's frequent gouts of flame that shot high into the air and left quite a bit of the crowd unexpectedly blinded.

It was only when the inferno continued to increase and gained a core of white that Ash was struck from his stupor and finally recalled Infernus. He gripped the ball tightly as it shook slightly. Ash wanted to do his best to calm Infernus down until he fell entirely into stasis.

Ash would definitely remember to never try out Confuse Ray on Infernus. He had strong defenses against psychic intrusion but Confuse Ray cut straight through him. It wasn't something he'd planned on doing, but now that he knew the danger of Infernus letting loose he'd go out of his way to avert that.

He shuddered lightly at the thought of Infernus' rampage occurring in an unshielded setting. In just a minute his friend's fires could have consumed the entire battlefield in their conflagration. If it had been at a normal stadium people easily could have died.

"Sorry 'bout that." Grey said unapologetically. His eyes glimmered as he kept that same cheerful smirk up. "I didn' really want to deal with that thing for too much longer. You've got a real monster on your hands there, boyo. Coulda left Chandelure in a bad place if I hadn't acted when I did."

Ash acknowledged the Unovan's complements with a terse nod. He got the feeling that Grey enjoyed his reaction a bit too much.

With that the Unovan released Jellicent. Ash still couldn't find it in himself to be impressed by the large blue creature. He knew it was more than a credible threat if trained by Grey but it just looked so ridiculous.

He resolved to abandon that attitude as he released Oz. She needed his support if she was going to win. Oz was powerful but not quite up to par with his primary battlers yet.

"I hope you don't think I'm messing around if Jellicent isn't too much trouble." Grey called out with a small smile. "He's not really meant for regulated battles, if you know what I mean."

"Be careful." He warned Oz. "He has plenty of tricks. Don't dismiss Jellicent as a threat."

She whirred and set herself in a combat stance. Oz was ready.

"Well ain't I flattered." The Unovan smiled. "Anyway…Confuse Ray."

Oz growled angrily as Jellicent attacked her with the technique she hated the most. She was ready this time, though, and expertly dodged before thrusting her huge fist toward her foe and unleashing a massive Thunderbolt in the same motion.

Jellicent groaned and jiggled as its large body was struck by the blast of electricity but didn't show much outward harm. It suddenly swelled up as Oz prepared to go on the offensive again, forcing her to fall back in case it had an attack to dangerous to dodge.

Ash didn't have to listen to hear her whir of frustration as it turned out Jellicent had simply used Mist, spewing a thick white cloud that covered most of the arena and kept her from seeing it. The creature blended in almost perfectly, rendering it effectively invisible in the thick cloud.

"Stay calm." He called out soothingly. "Just wait."

Oz hummed and slackened a bit as she warily watched the mist. Electricity crackled throughout her thick fur as she awaited an attack.

Ash found it difficult to predict where the battle was headed. Jellicent was obviously trying to evade Oz's powerful electrical attacks and doing its best to lure her into the mist, but with Grey as a trainer Ash wasn't sure if it would attack Oz of its own volition. The huge water-type seemed more like an ambush fighter, but he knew that the Unovan would have trained it to be more aggressive.

He just knew that Oz had to stay out of the rapidly encroaching mist. She could probably inflict serious damage if she just let out her electricity in uncontrolled bursts but it was far too risky. The mist was Jellicent's territory. It was king there.

"Shock Wave. Feel out its position." He commanded. Oz whirred and held out both of her fists. A brief surge of electricity erupted around her before it was channeled into a series of arcs between her hands, which she spread before she shot out the wave of electricity.

Normally Shock Wave would hone in on an opponent's bioelectricity, but Ash didn't want to risk Jellicent being able to avoid it through manipulation of the mist. He knew it was one of the ghost-types that Grey seemed to favor so he didn't want to risk it having some sort of strange ability to travel through the mist.

A single bolt could potentially be avoided, albeit with difficulty. It was most useful up close. But the wide-area version would ensure that Jellicent would have to spend much more energy in order to avoid it. The mist wouldn't be safe for at least a second.

Ash grinned when he heard Jellicent's low groan of pain. The electricity arced about it, marking its location for Oz who quickly took advantage of the situation and sent a series of weak Thunderbolts at it.

Jellicent just groaned and took the hits. Ash frowned. The only water-types he knew that could take Thunderbolts that easily were Gyarados and Kingdra and that was because of their thick armor. Jellicent didn't have anything to shield against the electricity.

What was its secret?

He sorely wished that he'd learned Lightning Bolt from Surge on their mission together. An attack that powerful would certainly negate whatever defense Jellicent possessed.

"Keep hitting it. Overwhelm it with Thunderbolts." Ash called out. He watched closely as Jellicent's position was marked again and again with the Thunderbolts. The mist was briefly illuminated by the bright flashes of light, clearly showing that it was Jellicent being struck and not some sort of psychic clone like the ones he'd encountered when fighting Jessica's Starmie.

Ash scowled as he came up with nothing. Jellicent didn't appear to be doing anything. It just sat in the center of —


He thought he understood. Just to be sure he kept an eye on the thick layer of fog as Oz continued to bombard Jellicent with Thunderbolts.

As expected the mist slowly receded, the rate accelerating whenever Oz upped the number of attacks. Ash felt a small grin work its way onto his face when he realized what Grey was aiming for.

Grey wanted to exhaust Oz. Jellicent was an invaluable fighter thanks to Mist — Bruiser and Tangrowth would be utterly lost in it and unable to fight effectively, even though Tangrowth could use Ancient Power and his vines to locate and attack Jellicent — and it surely had some tricks that would go to waste if it were defeated by Oz.

Jellicent probably didn't have anywhere near the level of defense he had first assumed. It appeared to be a soft target that, judging by how the mist constantly decreased, used the fog to heal itself somehow. That wouldn't be out of line with its appearance or typing.

Now he just had to decide how to beat it. Grey was obviously confident in its regenerative abilities if he wasn't bothering to attack while Jellicent soaked up several dozen Thunderbolts. If he let Oz continue Jellicent would use all of its mist to heal, but Oz would be drained and there was no guarantee Jellicent wouldn't just make more mist until Oz was stuck in the middle of it and at the water-type's mercy.

Just getting rid of the mist wasn't an option but Oz didn't have the firepower to defeat Jellicent in a single attack. He'd have to work around that somehow before Grey decided that Oz was weak enough for Jellicent to go on the offensive.

"Keep hitting it. When the mist thins go after it with Flash Step." He instructed. Oz just whirred as she hurled her spears of electricity faster and faster, the constant use of electricity boosting her reflexes to levels that few pokemon not of the electric-type could match.

Jellicent's supply of readily available water dwindled rapidly under Oz's redoubled assault. It still remained entirely passive, although it gurgled and moaned in pain more frequently now.

"Alright, Will-O-Wisp." Grey said as the last of the mist vanished. Jellicent's eyes glowed with blue power as a large ball of ghostly fire materialized in front of it and quickly split into nearly a dozen smaller Will-O-Wisps. The water-type acted far quicker than he'd expected by launching around half of the fireballs at Oz, but she was fast enough to leap out of the way before they could latch onto her. "Mist. Blast it with Hyper Beam."

Ash's eyes narrowed as Jellicent began to spew another cloud of fog out of its mouth. He didn't have to tell Oz to attack. Aside from two quick Thunderbolts to at least try to stun Jellicent, she used Flash Step to get close.

Flash Step was a relatively simple technique. It simply involved Oz preparing a Thunder Punch and wreathing her body in an aura of electricity before she made contact, which would explode outwards when she made contact and blind the opponent before they could react to her crackling fist.

He eventually planned on working with Oz to make the electricity stirred up in her coat powerful enough to paralyze her opponents for a short time, but as it was Flash Step was a basic, albeit incredibly useful, technique.

Jellicent was helpless to resist as Oz crackled towards it in an arc of lightning and smashed her large fist directly into the space between its eyes. It wasn't built for speed.

That didn't stop it from shaking slightly and spitting out a Hyper Beam that was so compressed it seemed like it was little more than a string of red-gold energy that nevertheless carved a narrow fissure more than ten feet into the earth.

Oz whirred angrily as she narrowly avoided the Hyper Beam and continued to rain blow after blow against Jellicent. The large creature took the hits well, although it wasn't able to fight back. Nothing in its arsenal gave it any sort of skill in close combat. It was obviously designed to attack from afar, preferably from somewhere its prey couldn't detect.

Ash frowned when he saw that Jellicent was healing itself as fast as Oz could deal damage, although the small amount of Mist it had produced before Oz struck had already been drained and it wasn't glowing with the tell-tale light of Recover.

He kept an eye on Jellicent and its surroundings as Oz tore into it with a relentless savagery only Infernus could surpass. The constant flares of lightning were easy enough to adjust to as long as he didn't look directly at them, but even so it took him several seconds longer than he would have liked to realize Jellicent's secret.

"Smart…" He murmured to himself as he saw the water that had been hurled all over the battlefield by Torrent pulled into Jellicent. It was a scarce resource, but the water that had managed to avoid Infernus' wrath was enough to keep Jellicent in the battle for a few more seconds as it futilely tried to find a way to attack the Electabuzz.

Ash stood back and waited as Jellicent finally began to recoil from Oz's blows. It seemed that the creature had finally exhausted the water and couldn't just heal itself to negate whatever damage Oz sent at it.

A smile flickered across his face when Oz smashed a fist into the creature and kept it there, flooding its watery body with thousands of volts of electricity and finally sending the strange water-type to the ground.

Jellicent was certainly the easiest to defeat so far. He was just glad that Torrent had taken almost all of the water out of the battlefield's faux lake. If Jellicent had ready access to that much water it would have been almost impossible for any of his friend's other than Torrent to defeat. Its regenerative abilities were absolutely astounding and the cover of the water would have been more than enough to let it ambush his teammates from the depths.

Torrent and Infernus had done him a greater service than they'd realized in getting rid of Jellicent's water source.

"Fantastic job, Oz." He called out with a grin. She whirred happily and turned to him, her fangs bared in a friendly manner. "Keep it up. There's just one more opponent and we're done here."

She nodded and turned back to Grey. The Unovan gave her a disconcerting grin and dipped his head to the Electabuzz, although Ash couldn't tell if it was sarcastic or not.

"Nice job. Jellicent was a bit out of his element, but that ain't something you need to concern yourself with." Grey said flippantly. "You've got a few monsters on your team, kiddo, but I've been holding one of mine back. Hydreigon's tough, but Scolipede ain't too far behind."

Ash frowned as Scolipede's massive form appeared in a flash. The creature's claws clicked together as its head cocked and analyzed Oz with the cold, calculated intelligence of an apex predator. It hissed and tensed up, the powerful muscles that corded under its malleable exoskeleton ready to spring and propel its massive bulk to the prey.

"Hit it with as many Thunderbolts as you can." Ash warned as the referee called out the order to begin. "When it gets close use Thunder Wave. Stay away from it no matter what."

Oz whirred and bared her fangs at Scolipede. The bug-type didn't react other than rubbing its numerous claws together once more. It wasn't something that should have bothered him, but the motion awakened some sort of primordial fear in his gut that told him to stay far, far away from the deadly creature.

"Rush it." Grey yawned. Scolipede's eyes flickered blue for the briefest of moments before it finally moved, the huge bulk of its body propelled at a speed that such a large creature shouldn't have been able to move at.

The Electabuzz wasted no time in hurling several Thunderbolts at it, although Scolipede proved that it was as nimble as it was fast. Its large primary legs effortlessly forced it far to the side, the leap quick and erratic enough that Oz's followup Thunderbolts missed by a wide margin.

Oz whirred nervously as Scolipede closed the hundred feet between them in a matter of seconds. It was relentless, covering ground even when it dodged and weaved around whatever attacks she sent at it. Scolipede's reflexes were absolutely ridiculous. The years of experience probably didn't hurt either.

He scowled when Oz's Thunder Wave was easily dodged by the bug-type. Scolipede simply leapt to the side the second Oz released the blue bolt of electricity and deftly avoided her wild Thunder Punch before it casually ducked under her guard and stabbed into her with its horns.

Oz screeched in pain and flailed wildly as arcs of electricity jumped and danced around her body, the blast instinctively released in order to stun whatever had hurt her. Scolipede simply cocked its head and watched as she quivered and screamed as the horns cut through her thick fur and hide as easily as it would have carved through paper.

Ash felt a little nauseous as he raised his pokeball to return Oz. Scolipede didn't even have to try to beat Oz. It was absurdly fast — not much could casually surpass an electric-type in speed.

Scolipede was utterly calm as its prey vanished. It simply let the last arcs of electricity fade and vanish from its bloody horns before it made its way back over to its side of the battlefield.

Grey didn't give Scolipede enough credit. It was just as much of a monster as Hydreigon, just of a different variety. Whereas Hydreigon was a slavering juggernaut capable of taking most blows without flinching and unleashing terrible destruction wherever it went, Scolipede was a scalpel. It was coldly efficient and seemed to lack the lust for battle Grey's other pokemon displayed. Scolipede finished its opponent and moved on.

He'd have to be careful. As it was Oz would have to spend at least a day in the Pokemon Center to make sure that wound was completely healed. Scolipede's horns had slid nearly halfway into her before the creature stopped. That kind of injury wasn't easy to heal, although he didn't think its horns would leave very much damage in their wake. They were relatively smooth and designed to kill cleanly and efficiently rather than tear the body apart in the process.

Ash considered his options. Scolipede was one of the members of Grey's team that he didn't have a specialized strategy for. It wasn't like Hydreigon, which specifically needed one of his most powerful friends to neutralize. Tangrowth or Bruiser would be able to fight Scolipede effectively, even if Rampage would probably be necessary for Bruiser to match its speed.

He did feel the first bit of nervousness start to bubble upwards in his stomach. This was the closest he'd come to losing and it wasn't a good feeling. He'd gotten so used to overwhelming the competition with one or two pokemon that he'd almost forgotten what it was like to face an equal.

Torrent, Dazed, Infernus, and Oz had all been defeated. Just Torrent and Infernus would have been enough to handle any of his other battles except for perhaps Gary.

Grey was a formidable opponent. He was as close to an equal as Ash had found so far. Not so far above him as Lance but enough to match him in most instances.

It was too bad that he'd only get to battle him the once. Ash certainly didn't like the Unovan but he hadn't enjoyed a battle this much in a long while.

He shook those thoughts out of the way and turned to glance at Nidoking, who had been almost completely still and silent this entire battle. Ash had almost forgotten that he'd never returned Nidoking after he'd become immersed in the battle.

Nidoking grunted and just lightly tapped him on the shoulder with his blunt claw. Ash smiled and nodded to show his appreciation for the gesture before he looked back to the battlefield.

Scolipede was entirely still. It was perfectly controlled — a weapon. A predator.

"Green Trainer, please release a pokemon or you will be —"

Ash didn't bother letting the referee continue. Tangrowth appeared in a bright flash of light and looked around the battlefield with his cheerful round eyes, vines waving happily as he finally saw Scolipede. That was probably a reaction the fearsome bug-type had never gotten before.

While Bruiser would certainly be able to defeat Scolipede under the influence of Rampage he'd rather avoid that option unless it was absolutely necessary. Rampage was too taxing to use in anything other than a truly desperate situation and he'd rather not worry about Bruiser being able to recover from it by the time of the Finals. He should be fine in the three day rest period but if Scolipede inflicted other wounds he could be out for the count.

Tangrowth was the best choice to go out first. Not only could he neutralize Scolipede's speed and agility thanks to his ability to cover the entire battlefield with his vines, he could also use Stun Spore and Sleep Powder to weaken it for Bruiser in case the grass-type was defeated.

Not that he expected Tangrowth to fall. Scolipede appeared to be a purely close range fighter. It probably had some kind of ranged capabilities but Tangrowth could easily neutralize those with Ancient Power. The bug-type was highly specialized. If it get close it would probably be able to pierce Tangrowht's shell of vines with no problem but he wouldn't have to worry about that.

Scolipede wouldn't get within fifty feet of Tangrowth. Tangrowth was the perfect choice to fight Scolipede. He was completely removed from most of the danger he'd encounter from the giant bug-type.


"No holding back. Finish this quickly." He said to Tangrowth, who gurgled and immediately extended several dozen of his vines in response. They shot out in every direct and splayed out around him, ready to attack Scolipede from every angle.

"Ingrain. Effect Spore. Don't let it get close and keep it at bay with everything you've got."

Tangrowth acted instantly. His vines shot out at Scolipede, who barely managed to leap out of the way before the majority of the appendages slashed into the earth where it had stood a second before. It hissed angrily when several others slammed into it from the side, although its legs hooked into the earth and kept it from being sent sprawling.

The grass-type yanked the vines away before Scolipede could sever them with its sharp horns, although one was hit by a sudden shot of poison that left the vine shriveled and dead. Tangrowth detached the useless appendage moments later. It would just be dead weight.

Scolipede was suddenly smashed into by four other vines that nearly overwhelmed the strength of its legs and sent it to the ground, although the creature barely managed to hold on. It slashed helplessly at the vines and spat some more poison, although it was useless once the appendages pulled away.

"Get out of there, dumbass!" Grey roared frantically. That cheerful facade he'd adopted for the entire fight had finally faded. It was clear that he'd expected Scolipede to have little difficulty in tearing its opponents to shred. A unique foe like Tangrowth perfectly adapted to combatting the powerful bug-type was something he clearly hadn't anticipated. "It's spraying Stun Spore and Sleep Powder everywhere! Get in close and end this."

Ash smiled as Scolipede heeded its trainer's words and rushed forward without hesitation. It fell into Agility again, which gave it just enough speed to avoid some of the vines. Scolipede was still struck, but it was usually able to sever whichever one was fast and lucky enough to hit the incredibly quick creature.

This fight was over. He'd assume that Scolipede just wouldn't breathe while it rushed through the cloud of Stun Spore and Sleep Powder. A good tactic since it probably didn't have anything to clear the air but one that would leave it weaker and fatigued than it would have been otherwise.

"Ancient Power. Get ready to bind it." He called out. Tangrowth gurgled and finally began to use nearly a hundred of his other vines. They didn't extend more than ten feet, but that was all they needed.

A hundred spheres of silvery power formed at the tip of the vines simultaneously. Tangrowth's saucer-like eyes shined cheerfully as he pulled the vines harassing Scolipede up to safety and released the barrage of Ancient Power.

The glow briefly lit up the entire stadium as they impacted, most flashing past Scolipede and leaving dozens of small craters littered around the arena while several managed to hit Scolipede even as it leapt as high into the air as it could, sending the bug falling back down to earth and leaving it exposed on its back.

In less than three seconds Scolipede was wrapped up in dozens of thick vines that curled around its muscular form several times in order to ensure its immobility. The vines glowed with a dim green light as they began to suck energy from the bug-type and leave it helpless to resist as Tangrowth finished it off painlessly.

Ash smiled as he noted that several huge sections of the ground were outlined in silver power. Tangrowth had truly accounted for everything. If Scolipede managed to escape by some miracle it would be smashed back into the ground by large chunks of rock and earth.

"Damn it." Grey snarled. His composure had finally slipped. "Superpower! Finish that Tangrowth no matter what you've gotta do!"

That finally made him worried. He knew personally just how devastating Superpower could be if used properly. Scolipede would be indescribably fast and strong if it managed to cast off its unconscious barriers and reach the true potential of its muscles.

"Finish it." He shouted even as Scolipede erupted from the tomb of vines with a deadly hiss. Its horns moved so quickly that he couldn't catch the movement and several of Tangrowth's vines fell twitching and squirming to the ground.

Scolipede hissed and coiled up before it rushed forward in a blur of movement. The creature was just as fast as Jessica's Persian and much more powerful.

Tangrowth realized the danger and quickly reacted. Around a quarter of his vines liberally littered the battlefield with Ancient Power while the rest lashed out at Scolipede as it blurred around the silvery spheres with perfect energy, although the vines forced it to leap high in order to avoid one of the impromptu nets that Tangrowth had formed.

That spelled its end. Scolipede had fallen right into Tangrowth's trap. As it began to fall back to the ground near Tangrowth, having easily carved through a handful of the vines sent to stop it, an absolutely gigantic rock that had to way around a ton was yanked from the battlefield by one of Tangrowth's previous Ancient Powers and smashed into the descending bug with a ridiculous amount of force.

Ash grinned and called out his congratulations to Tangrowth as Scolipede was sent crashing to the ground. It landed with a sickening crunch, although it seemed relatively fine. He could see that its exoskeleton was cracked and one of its legs was awkwardly bent but that was nothing Nurse Joy couldn't fix up easily. The thick black goop bleeding out of its cracked shell was cause for concern, but it was manageable.

It took a few seconds before what had just happened set in.

"UNBELIEVABLE! ASH KETCHUM WINS in a stunningly close match!" The announcer roared in tune with the crowd. "ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE! I don't think anyone will be forgetting about this magnificent battle anytime soon! For the first time, a rookie is advancing to the Finals! AMAZING!"

Ash felt a little numb. His entire body felt like he'd just been dunked into ice water — he felt like he could go climb to the top of Mt. Silver and still run a marathon.

He'd won. He was going to the Finals. It was something he was aware of intellectually as the battle came to a close but the full magnitude of that statement had only just now struck him.

Ash glanced over to Grey as the Unovan recalled Scolipede. The older teenager appeared to have regained control over himself and sent him a quick grin that held the same dangerous quality as everything else that came from Grey did and nodded with something that seemed like respect.

The rookie nodded back and recalled Tangrowth, who was still happily bouncing around the ravaged battlefield. He tapped the red and white ball affectionately before he hooked it back onto his belt.

Nidoking's claws rested on his shoulder before he could turn around. Ash grinned and looked back at his friend, his own excitement just as obvious as Nidoking's.

Their eyes met and the grin stretched its way even further.

"Nidoking, I hope you're ready. We're going to the Finals. And we're going to win."

The poison-type nodded determinedly and walked at Ash's side as he turned and began to head down from the box, heralded by hundreds of thousands of cheers and roars.

He smiled to himself and went down to the reporters. Ash just wanted to get this over with quickly.

Nidoking's presence would certainly help. He didn't like unfamiliar people or pokemon getting close to Ash anyways. The addition of cameras and intrusive reporters would just raise his ire further, which would scare the reporters away with any luck.

With any luck he'd be out within ten minutes. He needed all the time he could get, after all. Whoever his next opponent was, they would be tough.

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