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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34. The Storm Part 1

It was a good day. The sun was bright but not hot, the air wasn't bitter with cold, and there were plenty of wild pokemon playing in the area. Ash had a smile on his face as he watched Sneasel run off into the woods after some unfortunate pokemon. Plume would stop him if he tried to take it too far, but Ash trusted Sneasel to restrain himself from slipping into a blood rage now.

This was his fourth day of travelling. Ash estimated that he had three days left. He'd made good progress so far, and the weather had been in his favor. Sneasel had done quite well in all of his matches so far, so overall everything had worked out wonderfully.

He didn't have any of his other friends out. Plume lazily drifted high above him, but he didn't have Nidoking or Torrent travelling beside him. Ash wanted to give Sneasel the chance to battle more, and that turned into a surprisingly difficult task when other trainers saw that he had a Nidoking or Kingdra.

Ash figured he would stop to take a lunch break soon. He'd been walking for hours now, and he'd only had a light breakfast. The food he'd bought from Vermillion had run out yesterday, so he was stuck eating ordinary, dull trainer meals. That was unpleasant, but it wasn't a nightmare. After a few days he'd get used to trainer meals again.

But for now he was keeping an eye on the road. He'd heard from a few other trainers that there was a vast, ongoing migration of electric-types to the northeast. They were probably searching for that freak storm that had been going on for the past few weeks. It would be nice to catch one. His battle with Surge had given him a desire to train one of his own.

As he stepped down the worn dirt road, he wondered just what was fuelling that storm. His mind immediately jumped to the Creature, but he shot that down. It would have taken too much power to fuel the storm for around two months, especially when the Creature was needed for Team Rocket's missions.

There were several pokemon that could manipulate the weather, but only one that had any reason to be in Kanto: Dragonair. It would take a large group of them to fuel a storm like that, which was unheard of, and Ash couldn't even begin to guess at their reason. But it was the only logical explanation.

Ash remembered Professor Oak being really excited about some other pokemon that could manipulate the weather on an impressive scale, although he couldn't remember its name. It was an artificial pokemon that had been created a few months before he had started his journey by some scientists in Hoenn, and his mother had been just as ecstatic as the Professor.

He shook himself out of those thoughts. Ash needed to focus. If he was lucky he would be able to get an electric-type before he hit Celadon City. That would be nice.

But for now he decided he would stop for lunch. Sneasel growled as he voiced that thought. He was a growing pokemon, and he looked forward to eating just as much as Ash did.

XX

The suburbs of Celadon were exactly as he remembered them. A few pikachu and rattata sniffed around and ran whenever they saw a human presence, but for the most part it was clean. Children played everywhere, and watchful growlithe and other easygoing pokemon kept vigilance over their charges dutifully.

Sneasel got a few odd looks, although a few children came up to pet him. Ash managed to warn them off before an accident happened. His friend was still too unstable to risk letting him around children, or any foreign human, really.

He got a few wary glances from the police that wandered around. Ash couldn't say he blamed them. They didn't like unfamiliar pokemon out anyways, and dark-types tended to cause more trouble than they were worth. Sneasel was rather comfortably hooked to Ash's back, however, and Ash knew he could control his friend should anything go wrong.

Not that Sneasel would need it. He'd calmed down a bit, even as he grew more independent. Nidoking and Torrent's stern eyes and lessons had kept him from doing anything dangerous.

It took him about half an hour to reach the Pokemon Center. The sprawling surburbs took a while to navigate, even with his prior experience.

"Hello! How can I help you?" Nurse Joy asked brightly. Ash smiled and dipped his hat to her before he replied.

"I just need a key." He said politely. Nurse Joy smiled and handed him one. Ash gave a nod of thanks before he walked off. The trainer glanced around the atrium, not surprised in the least by how many people were hanging around. Erika might not be at the top of many trainer's battle lists, but Celadon was a major hub. The presence of the Department Store didn't hurt at all.

He checked the news before he left. It was important to stay informed now.

"Tensions remain high in Kanto as Pokemon League forces continue to raid Team Rocket bases. Raids in Pewter City led to clashes in the streets between Rockets and Pewter City gym trainers." A pretty anchor said sadly. "As more and more reports of civilian and League casualties come in, there has been a public outcry for the League to ramp up its efforts. In a speech last night, Champion Lance urged civilians to stay calm. He has assured us that the League is doing everything within its power and that Team Rocket is on the precipice of destruction."

Ash smiled as he turned away. That was all he needed to hear. He couldn't hold his annoyance at the people trying to get the League to do more – they were already devoting an immense amount of resources to stopping the terrorist organization. When Lance was forced to rise off of his throne in Indigo Plateau, things were going to get serious.

Hopefully the League would be able to finish Team Rocket off soon. It had lost several Executives over the past few months, so they couldn't be as stable as they were before. Plus they had been prevented from expanding into the Sevii Islands. Team Rocket was still dangerous, but it seemed reliant on the Creature to protect itself.

He shook himself out of his thoughts. The League was handling everything. Right now he just needed to let go for a bit and get ready for the Conference. Things were looking good for him so far, and he was confident that he could at least reach the Finals if he put some more effort in.

The trainer suddenly smiled as he walked out of the Pokemon Center. He might not get the most fulfilling of battles when he challenged Erika in a few hours, but he would give Plume a chance to get her payback. Infernus would probably have fun as well, especially if Erika sent out her Tangela. Plume would easily overpower it, but there just wasn't enough room in the gym for her to maneuver effectively. Plus, Ash knew just how fast Tangela were, at least in regard to their reflexes. It wouldn't be too difficult for it to snatch the handicapped Plume out of the sky.

But that would come later. For now, he had two very important stops to make.

XX

"Can you tell the Chief that Ash Ketchum would like to see her, please?" Ash requested politely to the young Jenny at the front desk. He supposed that the other attendant was off today, or perhaps had a different shift.

He'd made sure to recall Sneasel before entering. Pokemon generally weren't allowed to be released in important League buildings. They were way too big of a security risk.

She glanced up and narrowed her eyes at him. "What business do you have with the Chief? She's pretty busy, you know. Team Rocket's been pretty active as of late." The teenager paled. "Oops. I'm not supposed to mention that. Do you mind keeping quiet about it?"

Ash smiled. He wasn't sure why, but he felt oddly cheerful today. It was as though something had been taken off of his shoulders. The lightheartedness was probably thanks to the good news about Team Rocket. They couldn't hold out much more, even with the Creature's assistance.

"I won't say a word." He promised. Ash's smile grew wider. "Of course, I might be more inclined to keep that promise if you sent a message up to the Chief. I might be able to help her with her Rocket problem if she really needs it."

Jenny raised an eyebrow at him. "Uh huh. Sure you could. A newbie trainer will have the Rockets quaking in their boots." Nevertheless, she called up the Porygon and had it transfer itself to the Chief's room. After about a minute, it returned. "Well, that's a surprise. Head on up. I'm guessing you know the way."

Ash nodded before he walked over to the elevator and took it up to Chief Jenny's office. It was rather fast, so he didn't get too bored before it came to a stop with a soft beep. He stepped out, only to hear Chief Jenny's mid-rant.

"—damn it, I don't care!" She snapped. Jenny was glaring at her computer screen, where she was presumably on a call with someone. The Chief had earphones in, so he couldn't make out the other side of the conversation. It seemed that she hadn't noticed his presence yet. "Tell Erika to get off her ass and do something! We're the only city with a major Team Rocket presence now. We need more resources."

Jenny's eyes twitched as whoever was on the other end of the line replied. Ash was rather glad that she hadn't seen him yet. It looked like she wasn't in the best mood.

"I don't care about the damn perfume line." She hissed. She was squeezing something that Ash recognized as a stress ball. Jonathan had to have one back in school after his Murkrow incident. "We have more important problems…yes, yes. Again: I don't care." Jenny suddenly looked up and saw Ash. She gave a sigh of relief. "You know what? We can continue this later."

She scowled as she cut the call. "Kid, if you ever go into law enforcement, make sure you're under a gym leader like Surge or Koga."

"I'll make sure to remember that." Ash said carefully. "What was all that about?"

"Erika." Jenny grunted. She leaned forward against her desk and rubbed her temples. "She's good enough at maintaining order in the city and keeping things steady, but she's awful at fighting the Rockets. For some reason, she thinks that just because they aren't doing much in the open they aren't a threat. I think she's been around the fumes in her gym for too long."

Ash snorted. "Didn't she get a visit from Bruno?"

"How do you know –," Jenny began before she sighed. "Never mind. You seem to get into everything. Like the incident at Viridian, for example." She said knowingly. Ash frowned. "Anyways, she did. Erika actually stepped up efforts, but she's not doing enough. We're still waiting on the requisition of dark-types in case that thing appears here."

He nodded. "Is she fighting them herself?"

"Some. I have to admit, she's pretty powerful. A stronger trainer than I am, anyways." Jenny said through grit teeth. "I doubt she compares to someone like Lt. Surge or Sabrina, but she can hold her own quite well. When she's awake, at least." She scowled, although her expression softened. "Well, enough about my troubles. What are you here for?"

"Just wanted to drop by." He shrugged. "I'm going to the Department Store after this, and then I'm going to challenge Erika to a rematch."

The Chief gave him a smile. "Make sure to crush her, alright? She needs a shock to her system. It'll keep her from dozing off. In fact, you should use that magmar I gave you." Jenny grinned. "From the way you talked about it last time, it's a pretty strong fighter. It could cut Erika down to size."

Ash laughed. "He'd have fun doing it. I'll make sure to use him at least once. I don't think my Pidgeot will work too well against her Tangela."

"That Tangela is a monster." Jenny said with an expression rife with distaste. "I don't know how it hasn't evolved yet. She took down two Rocket Elites with that thing. It's fast."

Chief Jenny's position on Erika was strange, Ash noted. On one hand she strongly disliked Erika for her weak leadership abilities and apparent dismissal of Team Rocket as a serious threat to the safety of Celadon. On the other she respected Erika as a powerful trainer. Her conflicting opinions probably made her a bit more annoyed with Erika than she normally would be.

"I've got a Tangrowth." Ash replied. He lightly tapped Tangrowth's pokeball. "Nobody really appreciates how powerful they can be. He's only lost a few battles since I got him."

The Chief was about to say something when her computer started beeping. Ash assumed that she had a call waiting for her.

"Sorry, but I've got to cut this short." The Chief apologized. "Erika's calling me personally. It looks like I offended the gym representative worse than I thought." She said with a dangerous smile. "Good luck on your journey, and make sure to beat Erika senseless."

Ash nodded with a grin and started walking out. As he opened up the elevator, the Chief said something else. "And Kid, try not to get into too much danger. I saw the video of Viridian. That was enough danger for a lifetime."

"No promises." He said tightly. The memories of Viridian had made him tense and tired. "Bye, Chief."

She just nodded at him before she sighed and answered the call. Ash couldn't hear anything she said before the elevator took him back down to the base floor.

XX

As he walked up the long flights of stairs to the floor with TMs, Ash looked out at the selection of items on each level. The store was bursting with customers today, so he didn't want to get caught up in the elevator lines.

He suddenly stopped. Had he really just seen that?

Ash walked back down the stairs and went out to examine the very odd product he'd just seen. He couldn't believe his eyes when he saw a large rack filled with capes – capes that were exactly like Lance's.

"Have you ever wanted to feel like the Champion?" A tall, grinning man that bore a disturbing similarity to Lance said in the small screen beside the cape rack. His hair was a bit off, and he wasn't quite as muscular as Lance, but he looked the part. He even had the same outfit Lance wore during League matches. "Well, here's your chance. Celadon Department Store offers genuine replicas of Champion Lance's cape, great for any trainer with the right amount of flair. With its fire and lightning retardant material, you'll be training dragons in no time!"

He snorted in amusement and wished that he could download the video. Ash didn't know if he would see Lance or Steven before the Conference, but he'd definitely be telling them about this. At least Steven would think it was funny.

Ash just laughed again before he headed off. Genuine replica? What had the advertisers been thinking? That wasn't exactly going to convince him to buy their product, not that he would buy it anyway.

The trainer shook off his amusement and walked away from the cape rack. While it was a good laugh, he needed to focus and get his TMs. It would be nice to give them to his friends today and get them acclimated to the new abilities.

He began his ascent again. It was a long way to the TM floor.

XX

The Department Store had as good of a selection as ever. There were dozens of TMs to examine, but Ash had already glanced at his friends' move pools to know what he needed. So he quickly skimmed over the selection and picked the TMs he wanted out, although he kept a keen eye out for any that might prove particularly useful in the future.

Ash had more money than he knew what to do with, so he didn't pay too much attention to the cost of the TMs. He'd spent quite a bit since Lance added forty thousand to his account, but he'd earned even more through his constant battles. Now that he tended to only battle stronger trainers he got much more for winning.

He glanced down at his selection. Each of the disks shimmered slightly in the light as he spread them out.

For Nidoking, he'd gotten Poison Jab. He released a thin layer of toxins from his thick armor during battle, in addition to the poison he produced in his spikes and horn, but Poison Jab would allow him to temporarily release poison from his claws. That would be an incredible boon during battle, especially since it involved a much smaller risk of severely hurting his opponent than if he stabbed them with his horn and pumped them full of poison.

Ash bought Plume the TM for Steel Wing. She had much more firepower now that she knew Air Slash, and she could easily dominate most opponents with her incredible speed and the sheer force her speed gave her physical attacks, but this would let her have a fighting chance against rock-types. When she managed to master Hurricane, Plume would have enough offensive power to contend with the rest of the team.

He frowned at that. Plume was more than capable of fighting off average and strong pokemon, but she just wasn't able to match the kind of opponents he faced now. The gym leaders' pokemon were just too powerful. Hurricane would even the odds, but he needed to start investing more time into perfecting Plume. Ash knew that she had the strength and willpower to match any opponent, he just needed to hone her and teach her more powerful attacks.

Torrent didn't need any TMs. There weren't any that he could really use. Ash knew there were quite a few moves that he could still learn, and most of them were extremely powerful, but they hadn't been made into TMs yet. Some moves were guarded jealously thanks to their extreme difficulty to learn, and some were just too rare for a TM of them to be profitable. Others just didn't translate well from the data in the TM to pokemon's brains.

Dazed would be getting Focus Blast. While it was a fighting-type move, it wasn't based on actually fighting. It was used by focusing the energy within a pokemon's body and unleashing it. He supposed that it harnessed the energy that Bruno and his pokemon manipulated so well. It would give her a strong defense against dark-types and give Sneasel something to think about.

There wasn't much he could buy for Infernus or teach him. He knew all of the moves he really needed and would learn the attacks that would give him a real edge in battle from Blaine when they went to train with the fire-type Master in a few weeks. Ash grinned at the thought of that. Once he beat Koga, he would return to Cinnabar and give Infernus the tools to become even stronger.

Just because there wasn't much, it didn't meant there wasn't anything. The magmar entry on the pokedex mentioned that they had limited psychic abilities. Ash had noticed it before, particularly in the gym battle with Sabrina. Infernus had proved to have a moderate resistance to psychic abilities, although he couldn't harness the potential very well. It was more like a passive resistance.

But there was one vitally important move that could make Infernus much more adaptable. And the best thing was that Ash didn't have to buy it. It might be possible for Dazed to teach it to him, although the path would likely be difficult.

Ash was torn about what to get for Bruiser. The only TMs his friend needed were the ones Ash had already bought. He was hesitant to buy a copy of the TM. He'd kept the ones he'd already used in his TM case, so he figured he could just see if he could trade them in. It was annoying that Silph Co. had engineered them to be good for one use only.

Tangrowth would be getting Solar Beam. It was just too powerful of a move for Ash to ignore, and he could only imagine the kind of devastation Tangrowth could wreak with it. Tangrowth were amongst the most powerful of grass-types, and even a weak grass-type could use Solar Beam to great effect.

"Sorry, buddy, but you don't get any yet." Ash said apologetically. Sneasel hissed and leapt down from his shoulder to peer at the shiny disks. He knew better than to touch them, but his predator instincts were drawn to the bright objects. "Nidoking and Torrent can teach you what you need to know."

He had a small smile on his face as he took his purchases up to the counter. Ash had his TM case out already so that he could just go ahead and put them in.

"Hey, how's it going?" The man at the counter said as he took the TMs and began scanning them.

"Good. You?" Ash replied as he was handed back the first of his new TMs.

"Well enough." The man shrugged. He glanced at the TM case. "Say, do you have any other TMs in there?"

Ash nodded slowly, not really sure why it was relevant. "I was going to trade some of them back in. I've already used them."

"I've got good news for you, then." The man said with a grin as he handed the last of Ash's TMs back and deducted the charge from his trainer account. Ash narrowed his eyes and listened attentively. "Silph Co. made a deal with us. For a fee, we can reactivate TMs permanently. It's pretty awesome, right?"

He grinned and nodded. As long as the fee wasn't too exorbitant, this might save him quite a bit of money. "Why haven't I heard about this? I would think that everyone would be pretty excited."

"It's exclusive." The man whispered conspiratorially. "How many badges do you have? I'm only supposed to do it for trainers with six or more."

"Eight." Ash said proudly. He pulled out his pokedex and showed his I.D. to the man, which proved the validity of his claim. Trainer Cards were the real way badges were tracked. The physical badges worked as well and served as a back-up, but they were mostly a formality and tradition nowadays.

"Great! This is actually my first time to do this." The man admitted. "Anyways, the price is two thousand for each TM you want reactivated. A bit expensive, but it's worth it. Especially for the more useful ones."

Ash nodded. That was definitely true. It was still cheaper than buying them all over again. He opened up the TM case and glanced at the ones he already had: Ice Beam, Thunderbolt, Blizzard, Aerial Ace, Shadow Ball, Earthquake, Shadow Claw, Double Team, Teleport, Brick Break, and Sludge Wave.

He couldn't afford to reactivate all of them. That would just be too expensive. It would completely drain his funds since he'd already bought the new TMs.

So he just picked out the ones he saw being the most useful. Ice Beam, Blizzard, Thunderbolt, Shadow Ball, Earthquake, Teleport, and Brick Break. After he'd set the selected disks on the counter, he placed Solar Beam and Focus Blast with them. The rest he carefully slid into the TM case before Sneasel could try and play with them.

"This'll take just a moment." The man told him. Ash nodded and the man went over to an odd machine. He placed them in one at a time. After they were all in, a small light inside of the machine flashed several times. When it stopped, the man removed the TMs and handed them back to Ash. "There you are."

"Thank you." Ash nodded as he slid them into the TM case. Sneasel playfully tried to bat at the disks, but Ash was too fast for him.

"Do you mind keeping quiet about this?" The man asked. "Silph doesn't want to be mobbed about this. It's experimental. I've heard that it won't be available to the common public for another two years."

"Of course." Ash replied before he placed the TM case into a storage compartment. He shared another nod with the helpful man before he walked away. Now he had everything he came for.

Ash grinned as he took the elevator down to the first floor. It was time to make good on the promise he'd made to the Chief.

Erika was waiting for him.

XX

He gagged as he entered the gym. The stench of dozens of gloom made him want to rush out and abandon the rematch altogether. It was hard to believe that anyone was capable of making perfume out of it. Nevertheless, he stayed strong. As he knew from prior experience, the smell would dull after a few minutes.

A young woman glanced up at him from the receptionist table. "Oh, hello. You don't look like you'd be interested in trying any of our perfumes. I'm guessing you're here for a battle?"

Ash nodded. He didn't trust himself to speak quite yet. In fact, he was fairly certain that he would be able to taste the smell of the gloom if he opened his mouth. Erika probably wouldn't be too happy with him if he got sick in her gym.

"Name?" She glanced at the screen.

"Ash Ketchum." He coughed out. The smell was starting to grow dull, so he began to breathe in through his mouth. His tongue felt as though it were coated in the stench.

"It says you've already been here before." The girl said in confusion. She looked up at him. "Are you looking for a rematch?"

He nodded.

"Huh. Don't get too many of those." She muttered. "Most people don't come back to this gym, for some reason." The girl said sarcastically. "Well, the last challenger just left a few minutes ago. I don't see us getting another one, so head on in. Erika's waiting. I assume you know the way?"

He nodded again. She waved him away and he walked through the same hallway as last time. In just about thirty seconds he'd reached Erika's gardens.

Ash vaguely remembered where he'd found her last time and mentally traced his steps. He smiled at the grass-types that gathered around him and even leaned down to pat some of them, although he made sure to avoid any of the pokemon that could release poison.

Erika was asleep when he found her. She was laid back against a rather large Venusaur, who rumbled at Ash menacingly. It gently prodded Erika awake with a vine, and its manner suggested that it was very close to the gym leader.

"What is it, Venusaur?" She yawned. Erika stretched before she looked up at Ash with bleary eyes. "Oh, hello. I'm sorry, I must have dozed off." The gym leader examined Ash carefully. A spark of recognition flashed in her tired green eyes. "I remember you. Are you here for a rematch?"

Ash nodded. Erika sighed and stood up gracefully. She glanced at the hulking Venusaur she had been resting on. "Come now, Venusaur. You need a good workout."

Venusaur grunted and lumbered behind the two as they began their walk towards the battlefield. It seemed to have a few battle scars from a previous battle, so Ash assumed it hadn't been cleaned up yet. Erika probably hadn't expected another battle.

"Thank you for defeating the Rockets in the Game Corner." She said demurely. "They were a great threat to the security of Celadon. Organized crime dropped sharply. I hope to see the same skill you displayed against them in our battle."

"You will." Ash promised. He wondered if she knew about his other encounters with Team Rocket. She hadn't given him any sort of indication that she did. "Three-on-three?"

She considered briefly as they stepped onto the torn dirt of the battlefield. "That is acceptable." Erika replied. "Take your position. Challenger, choose your pokemon."

Ash smiled softly as he strode over to his box. Psychic barriers flared up around the field as a bright, shimmering wall before fading into transparency. Erika took her own position, and whistled. Venusaur roared at Ash as it lumbered onto the battlefield, untouched by the barrier. It was meant to keep things in, not out.

He released Plume without hesitation. She shrieked her arrival as she materialized in a flash of scarlet light. Her massive wings spread outward and she cried out again before taking to the sky. There was no ceiling over the battlefield, thankfully. As long as Plume stayed within bounds there would be no issue.

Still, he knew that Plume might not have the easiest time here. Back when she was a pidgeotto she was able to easily maneuver through such a tight battlefield. Now, her massive wings and body would be somewhat of a hindrance. It wouldn't be such a problem in the Conference, where the battlefields were almost ridiculously large, but here it was an issue.

It was only a minor problem. He had planned for it.

"Venusaur, Vine Whip." Erika said softly. Venusaur grunted and launched two massive, thick green vines toward Plume. She easily evaded them by flying higher, and even then she took a moment to use Air Slash in order to slice the vines into pieces.

"Good job." Ash shouted encouragingly. Venusaur roared in pain as it withdrew its vines. Unlike Tangrowth, Venusaur could actually feel them. It only took a few days for them to regrow, but it wasn't as smooth as Tangrowth's recovery. "Air Slash! Follow with Aerial Ace."

Plume screeched before barreling toward the pained Venusaur. Mid-dive, she flapped her powerful wings and sent another blade of air into Venusaur. It grunted and glared up at her with red eyes.

"Solar Beam." Erika smiled, a bit colder than what Ash remembered. She underwent a marked change during battle. "Then you need to use Sleep Powder."

Venusaur wasn't very impressive compared to Gyarados or Surge's team, but it was well trained, at least in regards to harnessing energy. Ash would admit that much. Certainly capable of crushing Team Rocket. It proved that assessment by firing a Solar Beam after taking only a second to gather up the required solar energy.

Still, Ash didn't know what Erika was thinking. All Solar Beam did was force Plume to veer to the side. Venusaur apparently wasn't capable of maintaining the Solar Beam for very long. It couldn't even try to trace Plume with it. The behemoth simply fired a single blast of energy toward the maneuverable Plume, who dodged it without even trying.

"Leaf Storm." Erika ordered. She appeared to have stopped bothering with Sleep Powder. At the same time, Ash called out, "Aerial Ace!"

Venusaur sluggishly responded to the command, probably still in pain from its vines being severed. It shook its body, causing dozens of large, razor-sharp leaves to fall out. They were caught by a summoned wind and glowed brightly as they began to swirl in a tornado-like fashion. Ash noted that it was weaker than Tangrowth's Leaf Storm.

Unfortunately, by the time that had happened Plume had appeared behind it in a blur of motion and slammed into the thick creature. Venusaur grunted and followed Plume's blurred form as best as it could. Particles of bright white energy slowly collected around its massive flower and were drawn in to the plant, providing it with all the energy it needed to fire another Solar Beam.

The Leaf Storm collapsed as Venusaur focused on using Solar Beam instead. A white beam of bright energy shot towards Plume, but she swerved out of the air again. Ash frowned. Venusaur was skilled at harnessing the energy, but it was only a somewhat strong pokemon, like the ones Erika had used for his first gym battle.

Did Erika not take him seriously, or did she just not care?

"Plume, Air Slash again. Finish it off." Ash scowled. Even the soothing aroma of Venusaur's flower didn't keep his annoyance at bay. "Hit it with Whirlwind if it survives."

"Sludge Bomb." Erika sighed. Ash stared at her in confusion. She wasn't even watching the battle. His fists curled in annoyance, but he didn't say anything.

Venusaur roared as it closed its eyes. It reared up on its hind legs and shot a huge glob of murky sludge into the sky. Plume casually ducked underneath it and flapped her powerful wings. A blade of air slammed into Venusaur's exposed stomach and threw it backwards.

Ash was actually quite impressed. Venusaur might not be the best fighter, but it was heavy. He hadn't expected Plume to be able to throw it nearly five feet with a single attack, although Venusaur's stance had certainly helped her.

Before Venusaur could even try to retaliate or pick itself up, it vanished in a burst of red light. Erika frowned at the pokeball and placed it into a fold of her robes.

"That was rather rude. Venusaur needed some practice. He just evolved yesterday." She frowned. Her verdant green eyes flashed. "I suppose you want a real battle, then? You have improved quite a bit, but I have as well. Vileplume, go!"

A massive Vileplume appeared on the battlefield. The large flower on its head released a powerful aroma that made Ash feel as if he were floating on a cloud. Ash knew that he should have identified it as completely disgusting since it smelled just as bad as the flower of a gloom, but there was something addictive about it.

He suddenly scowled and shook himself out of it. Erika wouldn't beat him by releasing a drug into the air.

It smiled and waved at Plume as the massive bird landed. Plume shrieked back and prepared to take to the skies again.

"Dear Gloom evolved, you see." Erika said with a bright smile as she gestured to the smiling Vileplume with an elegant gesture. "She has become much stronger. Let us see if your bird is able to match her."

"Take to the skies." Ash commanded. "Play it safe."

Plume shrieked before she took off. Vileplume frowned and shook its stubby arm at her. The powerful grass-type shook its body and sent a massive cloud of toxic pollen wafting into the air. Ash scowled. While Plume could easily blow it away, the pollen would make it difficult for Plume to get close.

"Sunny Beam!" Erika shouted. It seemed that she was dropping her ordinary veneer of perpetual calmness. "Wide Leaf and Petal Dance."

Vileplume cried out and squeezed its tiny black eyes shut. Ash had to shield his eyes as the sunlight intensified to an almost painful degree. If it weren't for his cap he wouldn't be able to see at all. That would be brutal for Plume. She relied on her keen vision quite a bit. Being blinded would throw her off guard.

"Plume, end this! Air Slash." Ash shouted. "After that, Whirlwind!"

Plume shrieked and struggled in the air. She was still moving far too fast for Vileplume to keep track of her, but Ash could see that she was having difficulty. They needed to end this fast.

Despite her discomfort, Plume managed to find Vileplume. She shrieked and sent a blade of air flying toward Vileplume. The grass-type squealed and leapt out of the way, but it wasn't able to avoid the Whirlwind. Vileplume was sent helplessly careening thanks to the powerful gale of wind. It just didn't have the mass to resist the Whirlwind.

But it was still able to fight. Vileplume expertly shook its petals in midair and sent dozens of sharp leaves spinning through the air. Ash assumed it was what Erika had called Wide Leaf. The leaves covered an immense amount of space, and he saw Plume slow for a moment as one sliced into her hard body.

"Keep it up!" He shouted, eager to finish this. "Air Slash, finish it off with Whirlwind."

Plume screeched as she sent yet another blade of air slashing through the air. Vileplume cried out as the blade slammed into its fragile body and hurled it roughly into the ground. Nevertheless, the Vileplume continued to follow Erika's order. It still had some fight in it.

Vileplume growled in a starkly unthreatening manner as the opening on its flower stretched widely toward the sky and hundreds of small pink petals spiraled out at an incredibly high velocity. Plume was moving too quickly for Vileplume to get good aim, but Ash knew that Petal Dance was dangerous. At the speed they were going, the iron-hard petals would easily knock Plume around.

The grass-type seemed capable of keeping the Petal Dance up forever. It never seemed to tire as it slowly rotated its body in an attempt to keep up with Plume's erratic patterns. Vileplume wasn't able to trace Plume accurately thanks to its massive flower blocking its vision at most angles, but the swirling petal covered an extremely large area.

"Stick to its blind spot." Ash commanded softly. He trusted in Plume's hearing, and, judging from her sudden adjustment to stay behind Vileplume, it was well placed. "One last Whirlwind. Finish it with Quick Wing."

Plume shrieked and paused just a moment to send a huge blast of air towards Vileplume, which picked up the tiny grass-type and caused it to fly backwards. It gently fell to the ground thanks to its flower, and took Plume's brief moment of vulnerability to aim its Petal Dance at her with perfect accuracy.

Ash frowned when several of the petals that continually streamed from Vileplume's flower slammed into Plume. His friend managed to recover from the speeding projectiles, but it looked like several small patches of her feathers had been stripped. He had to hide a smile. The wound to Plume's vanity was far worse to her than the pain itself. It would rile her up much worse than any attack.

When Vileplume suddenly launched a Solar Beam at her, Plume casually vanished out of the way with Quick Attack and appeared briefly before flickering toward Vileplume. All Ash could make of her during the Quick Attack were two bright wings, shimmering with energy born of her Wing Attack.

Vileplume cried out as Plume slammed one of her wings straight into the grass-type's fragile body. While it would be devastating if Plume had used it conjunction at her normal speeds, the sheer force the velocity given to her by the Quick Attack imparted upon Vileplume was enough to instantly hurl the grass-type into one of the psychic barriers surrounding the field.

A smile spread across Plume's face. "Good job, girl! I couldn't have asked for better."

Plume shrieked and landed onto the rugged battlefield as Erika sighed and recalled Vileplume. She puffed her chest out proudly and cooed at him as they awaited Erika's next pokemon. Ash was fairly certain of what it would be, and wasn't too certain about Plume's capabilities in defeating it.

Tangela tended to be one of the exceptions in regards to grass-types' weakness to flying-types. Normally, the weakness was borne of grass-types being unable to effectively fight back against flying-types. They tended to fight with close range attacks, or at least ground based ones. Not many grass-type moves were capable of reaching high enough to actually hit a flying-type. Flying-types were able to stay far away from most grass-type's attacks and abilities and could strike without fear of repercussion.

But the tangela family was different. Even a tangela's vines could extend to fifty feet, although they began to lose most of their effectiveness at about thirty, and Ash wasn't even sure how far Tangrowth's could stretch. They were ideal for snatching flying-types out of the sky and had access to Ancient Power to neutralize most flying-types' effectiveness.

In other words, Erika's Tangela was capable of fighting Plume quite well. Physical attacks were too dangerous for Plume to risk lest she be torn out of the air, and it could pull its light body out of the way rather easily with vines. Ash actually noticed several odd indents throughout the field that would be ideal for vines to grip around. Tangela's reflexes were just too fast for Plume to come near, even at the incredible speeds she could reach.

Perhaps she would be more effective if she was actually capable of using her speed to its full potential, but the tight space forced upon her by the gym's limits worked against them in that respect. Plume was handicapped.

His fear was confirmed when Erika's large Tangela appeared. It gurgled in a manner markedly different from the noises Tangrowth had made before he had evolved and stared at Plume. Now that he had possessed a tangela of his own, Ash was well aware that the creature in front of him was a rather impressive specimen of the breed. It looked to have been blessed with incredible natural strength.

"It's the bird again." Erika said distastefully. "Snatch it out of the sky before it can get up. Slam and absorb."

"Plume, are you ready?" He asked tersely. Ash received a determined shriek in response. Despite his trepidation, Ash grinned. Even if Plume didn't win this, she would do her very best. That was all he could ever ask for. But he would do his best as well. This fight would require unconventional tactics. "Air Slash."

She didn't even hesitate to follow his command. Tangela gurgled in that distinctly foreign voice as the blade of air slammed into it and knocked it over. Plume immediately took to the air and blasted Tangela with a powerful gust as she did so.

"Whirlwind." Ash muttered. "Hit it with Air Slash when it's distracted."

Plume deftly avoided the grasping vines Tangela managed to send after her and flapped her massive wings once toward the spherical grass-type. Tangela made an odd sneezing noise as it fell over, although its vines managed to push it up quickly.

It wasn't able to recover before the Air Slice cut into its form. The condensed blade of air sent the small grass-type flying backward, although it used its vines to deftly catch itself. Tangela growled and shot a powerful Solar Beam at Plume.

Ash frowned when Tangela managed to keep the Solar Beam up for more than twenty seconds. He didn't bother giving any commands during that time. Plume didn't need to be distracted by him when she was avoiding an attack as powerful as that Solar Beam.

Tangela certainly had power. Solar Beam was less intensive than Hyper Beam, but still incredibly powerful. To keep it up for that long meant Tangela had exceptional strength in its small form. The intensive training Erika had probably put it through only helped in that regard.

"Ancient Power." Erika snapped. Her bright green eyes seemed annoyed. "Solar Beam before you catch it."

The grass-type hissed back at her. Glowing spheres of light formed on dozens of its vines. It hurled half of the spheres into the air, but the other half were thrown at various spots around the battlefield.

"Agility." Ash called out. There was no point in trying to hide what he was doing at the moment. It would be what Erika expected, anyway.

Plume vanished. She wasn't left as a blur of motion as she was when she used Quick Attack, she was almost invisible. His eyes simply weren't capable of easily tracking her enhanced speed. Agility had propelled her to almost ridiculous levels of speed, although the strain using the technique for extended periods of time would be almost as dangerous to her as getting hit by Tangela's Ancient Power.

Well, maybe. The giant chunks of stone Tangela was telekinetically hurling toward her were probably more dangerous than burnout. They'd easily knock her out of the sky.

But the massive projectiles were a greater threat than he had anticipated. Tangela had gotten rid of the uneven stone and earth and had just closed its large, saucer-like eyes. It used Ancient Power again, but this time it shot every single one of the energy balls into the ground.

Ash was aware that his jaw had dropped as Tangela ripped more than half the battle field up and hurled it into the sky. He could tell that Plume would have difficulty avoiding the earthen projectiles, so he figured that it was time to try something out. It was dangerous, but so was getting hit by Tangela's attack.

"Quick Attack." He shouted. His fists clenched as Plume's flickering form simply vanished, too fast for the eye to catch. In the next instant, her large, proud form slammed into Tangela. Ash's grin showed a bit more teeth. Tangela might have almost absurdly fast reflexes, but Plume, enhanced by Agility and Quick Attack, was unstoppable. The grass-type gurgled in surprise as it was hurled into a psychic barrier.

Plume slowed when Tangela was temporarily incapacitated. Ash shouted out a congratulations before she hurtled up into the bright blue sky. He really was proud of her. That technique had to be incredibly draining, but she still managed to keep it up. Maybe he'd have to train her more extensively with it. Her lack of offensive power would be completely offset by the sheer speed she would gain.

Erika's pale face was twisted into a scowl. Ash was actually surprised by how much annoyance was held within the expression. "Hyper Wave."

"Agility." Ash called out. He assumed Erika was about to use some variant of Hyper Beam. Plume was obviously exhausted, but he would like to see if she could take Tangela out as well. It would have to be done quickly, however. She couldn't keep an assault up for long.

As Tangela looked up into the sky and gurgled, which elicited particles of brilliant white energy to slowly collect in front of its mouth, Ash considered ways to defeat it. Normally he would rely on powerful elemental or psychic attacks, but that course of action wasn't an option with Plume.

Blunt force did little to Tangela's protected body. It could slow it down, but it didn't do much damage to the spongy creature. He'd have to rely on Air Slice or Plume's rarely utilized talons to take Tangela down.

He turned away when a tremendous blast of energy lit up the battlefield like a second sun. Ash hissed in pain as his eyes were blinded with twinkling stars. The ground shook slightly, as though a great roll of thunder had split the atmosphere.

But the energy Tangela utilized was still bright enough for him to make it out through the stars, even if he couldn't make out anything else. It was obviously a Hyper Beam, but it was as though Tangela had poured a dangerous amount of energy into it. The beam didn't simply travel forward, but sizzled through the air in the form of a cone, which allowed the powerful attack to cover the entire sky in the hot energy.

Ash glanced up at the sky worriedly when he heard Plume shriek in pain, even if he couldn't hope to make her form out. Her lustrous plumage was hidden from him by the slowly fading light that dominated his vision. The trainer did his best not to stumble from the effects.

"Air Slash!" He cried, hoping that his friend hadn't been knocked unconscious by the attack. Ash couldn't even see her, so there was no way he'd be able to recall her if she fell. As a pokemon, Plume was extremely durable, but a fall like that could very well break her wing or cause other serious damage.

The trainer gave a sigh of relief as he heard Plume weakly shriek an affirmative. Now that his sight was slowly being restored to him, he glanced at Tangela. It had at least a dozen vines out, all in a last hope to defeat Plume. Ash noted that it was sagging slightly, which gave his suspicions about Hyper Wave's energy cost more merit.

He managed to make out Tangela's form suddenly flying backward as a blade of compressed air slammed into it, but he also caught its dexterous vines snap toward a large, dark shape and drag it to the ground. His fists clenched and a scowl marred his face as he heard Plume screech out in pain before she went silent.

"Recall your Pidgeot." Erika said in cool amusement. "Tangela has it wrapped up. She won't mind slamming it."

Ash bit back a venomous retort as he did what she said. Had Plume made any sort of noise, he would have tried to have her fight back. There might not have been any truth to Erika's words had the flying-type been capable of responding.

"You did wonderful." He whispered to the pokeball. Ash placed it back onto his belt before he unclipped his next choice. It was time to follow through on the promise he'd made to the Chief.

He didn't say anything as Infernus appeared on the field. There was nothing to say. Infernus' furious roar and the heat he could feel from his friend's summoned explosion of lava was all he needed.

"Oh dear." He heard Erika mutter. There was trepidation in her normally gentle voice. "Tangela, Ancient Power."

"Fire Blast." He growled, a good bit of cold anger leaking its way into his tone. Ash wouldn't deny that he was feeling a bit vindictive toward Tangela. With how weak it was, Infernus probably only needed to get near it to cause it to faint. A Fire Blast would give him a measure of revenge for Plume, however.

His vision was clear enough for him to make out the bright light that suffused Infernus' front as he spat a roaring fire ball out of his mouth. It crackled angrily as it ignited through the air before it hit Tangela's tired form and exploded in a loud roar. Ash grinned as he felt the intense heat even through the psychic barriers. Tangela's form simply fell over, its body full of glowing embers.

"It seems that you have improved more than I have." Erika remarked drily as she recalled her smoldering Tangela. She stepped out of the Gym Leader's box and gracefully walked over to him. Ash wiped the scowl off of his face. It was always best to be polite. "I suppose there wouldn't be much use for you coming back in the future, would there?"

"I doubt it." Ash replied tersely as he silently recalled Infernus. Erika ignored the tension in his voice and simply smiled, although it was difficult to discern thanks to the stars still twinkling in his vision. They had mostly faded, but there were quite a few hanging on.

Erika folded her hands together. They disappeared underneath the sleeves of her kimono. "You are quite the trainer, I admit. Your pokemon are powerful, but they lack grace. That Pidgeot of yours needs training. It was powerful, but now that I've seen your Magmar I expect more."

Ash was silent. He took a deep breath at the slight to Plume and clenched his jaw. There was nothing to be gained from being acidic and rude. "I'll take that into consideration. But I should go. There's a lot to do."

"Be on your way, then." Erika said dismissively. "I should return to my nap."

He nodded and bid her farewell before walking out of the gym. Ash needed to drop Plume off at the Pokemon Center. In the meantime he needed to consider which of his pokemon could use which of the rebooted TMs. They could each gain quite a bit of diversity if he used them.

XX

Plume was fine. They just gave her a revive before releasing her to Ash. She had a few bruises, but nothing that would inhibit her fighting. He'd just make sure to be gentle with her for a few days.

"Sneasel, calm down." Ash chided as the dark-type growled and chased after a rattata poking around in the grass. Sneasel hissed quietly and sadly returned to Ash's side. He stared off at his prey and silently retracted his claws, although his fangs were still bared. "Good. If you keep on behaving, I'll let you get your TMs soon."

That excited Sneasel more, and he immediately clambered up onto Ash's back so he could lick the trainer's cheek. Ash laughed and lightly scratched underneath Sneasel's feather. "Calm down, buddy. I need you to stay away from these attacks, alright? I'm not sure how good of control they'll have for the first few attempts."

Sneasel hissed his understanding before he deftly leapt down from Ash's back and raced off toward a pond. Ash grinned, both in amusement over Sneasel's antics and at the fact that they had reached his favored training spot near Celadon.

He glanced over to his left and saw the massive field he had trained Dazed in teleportation at about a quarter of a mile away. Ash smiled fondly at the memories before he checked on Sneasel. The dark-type was entranced by his reflection in the clear, smooth surface of the pond. Sneasel would gently poke his reflection with his claw and jump away when the water shook.

Ash snickered before he began to release his friends. Nidoking appeared first and took his place by Ash's side. The trainer patted his friend's thick shoulder and received a light tap on the chest in return. He smiled before he continued.

Plume cooed at him and hopped over. He gently stroked her glossy crest before she nipped his hat and fluttered up to a branch, one of the few that was capable of supporting her weight. Nidoking's steadying hand kept him from stumbling backward from the intense winds she kicked up.

"Thanks." He told Nidoking before he released Torrent. The gigantic dragon-type bowed his great head to Ash before he levitated to the left of the human. Ash grinned and dipped his own head in return, which brought out a low rumble from Torrent's chest.

Dazed appeared next. Her eyes smiled at Ash before she shuffled over to the shade of a large tree about ten feet away. Ash gave her a friendly nod. That was all she needed as a greeting.

Infernus snorted as he was released and curled up on the ground when he realized there was no opponent to fight. He only took the time to blow a tiny stream of flame at Sneasel, who leapt up in surprise from his staring contest with the water and hissed at Infernus, before he became completely lost to everything save Ash's voice.

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