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.


59. The Top 8 Part 2

"I present to you Gary Oak, ladies and gentleman!" The man shouted gleefully. "Grandson of the renowned Professor Oak, well-known for his crushing victory over Fergus Saler, and the amazing skills he has displayed over the course of this Conference! How will he fare against a competitor with as much talent as himself? Let's find out!"

The referee met both of their eyes. "Begin! Red Trainer, release first!"

Ash doubted that Gary was surprised when Nidoking appeared on the field, his thick purple armor a stark contrast to the dull sands of the Indigo Stadium. He let loose a great bellow as he appeared in a flash of light and his tail smashed heavily into the ground as he announced his presence to the jubilant onlookers.

"This is how you want it go down, eh?" Gary smirked as he raised his own pokeball. A great flash of light released Blastoise onto the field, the hulking water-type's eyes narrowed as he recognized the first foe he ever battled. "Don't you love nostalgia?"

A quick grin flickered across Ash's face and he swept an errant lock of black hair out of his eyes – it really way strange to not have his hat on – as he gave a short nod. "It's something, isn't it? Thunderbolt!"

With that, battle was joined.

Gary just rolled his eyes as Blastoise retreated within its hard shell and allowed the bolt of electricity to strike uselessly against the thick carapace. "How creative. It's not like you've pulled that one before. Blastoise, let's show him what a real trainer can do!"

Blastoise's head and limbs came out from the shell and fell onto all fours as it roared furiously and snapped its mighty jaw. Its cannons extended and twitched slightly as Blastoise focused on Nidoking, who barely managed to fall into an Earth Power pit before two blasts of pressurized water shot through the empty air with deadly precision.

Ash frowned as Blastoise retreated into its nigh impenetrable shell. It was prepared for Nidoking's most common techniques. Gary had gotten his team ready for this battle and most likely had a counter for all of Nidoking's revealed abilities. The rest of his team hadn't been used enough to create a wide variety of defenses.

"Get up!" He shouted as he realized what Blastoise must be capable of. Gary's smirk slipped slightly as Ash saw through his plan, but it grew again once Blastoise reared up and let all of its weight fall on the earth, the force sufficient to amplify the Earthquake that rocked and shifted the tightly-packed ground.

"Hydro Cannon!" Gary grinned as Nidoking surfaced, teeth bared as he narrowly escaped being trapped beneath the earth. The Earthquake would have been more than enough to rupture his poison sacs and cause enough internal damage to put him out of the fight. Blastoise was obviously experienced with the technique.

A hundred different possible reactions flashed through his mind. None of them were good. Nidoking wasn't defensive. He was meant to take hits and, if necessary, hide beneath the earth to stalk his prey from below.

His ability to create gaps in the earth was compromised via Blastoise's powerful Earthquakes. Nidoking wasn't at the level where he could take control of the attack and "bend" it around his position. That required years upon years of mastery over ground.

He couldn't simply electrocute the blasts of water to inflict devastating internal damage. Blastoise was smart and used quick, precise blasts rather than the sustained torrents of Jonathan's Gyarados.

There were no good options. Nidoking wasn't agile enough to avoid the terribly powerful blast of water that would easily bowl him over and likely tear straight through his hide. He couldn't hide and even his vaunted defenses were no match for the trap Gary had lead him into.

So he attacked. "Thunderbolt! Take the hit!"

"This again? I'm not an idiot like Jon—" Gary began, although he scowled when Nidoking simply released an overpowered blast of electricity that left the entire stadium blind even as Blastoise's Hydro Cannon slammed into his hulking form and sent him tumbling twenty feet back.

Blastoise roared in agony as lightning rushed through every cell, nerves painfully stimulated and muscles left twitching helplessly. The attack had been far more powerful than the standard Thunderbolt. Nidoking had realized that this could be his last chance to inflict damage. He'd made the most of it.

Ash grinned when both of the dueling pokemon were left on the ground, although his mind winced in sympathy for his friend. All sympathy vanished in the face of mad glee as Nidoking, who had managed to partially turn around before the Hydro Cannon had ripped the hide and thick plates of armor off of his back, slowly pulled himself up.

"Good job!" Ash encouraged. "Get in close and finish this!"

Nidoking barely registered the command. Ash could see blood dripping down his back, oozing steadily from the stripped flesh. A sustained burst of anger raged through his system at the gruesome sight, but it was nothing at all capable of what the vengeful Nidoking possessed.

His eyes had slipped into the dull haze of his berserker state. His horn leaked potent venom and the ground rippled with his every step as he suddenly let loose and charged towards his fallen foe, whom had managed to begin its own recovery.

"C'mon, Blastoise!" Gary pleaded as his starter slowly realized the danger it was in. "Get up and fight! You've got this fight in the bag."

Ash winced as Nidoking, blind to all pain and lost in the red haze, slammed into the weakened Blastoise with a thunderous crash. The audience cringed as both of the fighters were sent to the ground. Nidoking's horn stabbed into the hard shell but even its renowned sharpness failed to penetrate more than an inch into the thick layer of bone.

Blastoise roared furiously and smashed its arm into Nidoking's jaw, sending his head snapping back and giving the water-type time to recover.

"After him!" Ash barked. Nidoking needed a firm hand right now. He was lost in his rage. It would take more than simple directions to get through to his rationality.

Nidoking, heeding only his rage and Ash's single command, rushed after Blastoise after he had regained his senses. He ignored the pain and blood and savagely slammed into Blastoise with teeth-rattling force, knocking Blastoise down for the second time.

Ash knew that he had to stay close. Blastoise was practically immune to everything Nidoking would be capable of utilizing against it at range except for Thunderbolt – and Blastoise could retreat into its protective shell if it was given a second of notice.

Fighting at a distance wasn't an option. There was no running. No hiding. Just raw, brutal melee combat.

And it was working. Nidoking and Blastoise engaged in a fierce series of blows, neither trainer willing to break their concentration. Even Nidoking was cognizant enough to avoid killing at the moment, but Ash and Gary would not risk a defeat.

As it was, Ash just had a finger on Nidoking's pokeball. His friend was in pain. If it looked like it would seriously hurt him to continue fighting he would recall him. The same held if it looked like Blastoise would suffer a truly dangerous or lethal blow. This battle wasn't worth lasting damage.

Gary was the one that broke first. After Blastoise, who couldn't compete with Nidoking in such close quarters, was hurled to the ground and suffered another crack in its heavy shell thanks to Nidoking's deadly horn he called out an order.

"Shell Slide!" He shouted, a little hint of concern in his voice. It was clear that he hadn't expected Nidoking to be capable of fighting after taking the Hydro Cannon at such a close range. Most pokemon wouldn't be able to stand, let alone match his exceptionally powerful Blastoise.

Blastoise retreated into the shell just as Nidoking blasted him with another arc of lightning that bathed the area in scorch marks and little sparks of electricity. It was wild and uncontrolled, a clear indicator of Nidoking's primal mental state at the moment.

"Tail!" Ash urged wildly as he saw Blastoise's cannons extend from its shell. This was a fairly common technique for Blastoise. Their shells were hundreds of pounds and practically impenetrable. Normally it greatly reduced their mobility. But, if powered by a sufficient force – say, their cannons – it allowed the water-types to turn their heavy shell into an unstoppable attack. Very little could stand against the power behind a propelled Blastoise.

Gary's Blastoise was weakened but more than capable of using the technique to great effect. Nidoking couldn't stand against it, even in his adrenaline-fueled berserker rage.

Nidoking roared and turned as fast as he could, his bloodlust weakened and rationality restored. Just as Blastoise shot forward with a sharp crack as the expelled water broke the sound barrier Nidoking smashed his bloody tail straight into the massive creature.

Ash winced as the pained Nidoking stumbled and screamed in agony as Blastoise's shell still managed to clip his unprotected back, all the blunt force pushed into the exposed skin and muscle, but wasn't knocked unconscious thanks to his tail knocking the Blastoise off course.

"Nidoking, it's almost over!" Ash called out comfortingly. Nidoking slowed his deep breaths as Blastoise's shell landed, skidded a few dozen feet, and spun until its cannons faced the opposite direction of Nidoking. There was only a few more seconds before it attacked again. "I know it hurts, but take the hit! You can finish this."

Nidoking grunted softly – it was almost a whimper – but stood his ground. He squared himself and ignored the screaming pain undoubtedly exuding itself from his stripped back. As Blastoise launched itself forward again with unnerving accuracy Nidoking roared and charged forward, head lowered and horn pointed directly in the path of Blastoise's shell. Lightning jumped up the horn but wasn't released.

Ash watched with a lump in his throat as his first friend met Gary's in a clash of titans. Both roared in pain as they smashed into the other and suffered from their counterpart's attack. Nidoking met the heavy propelled shell head on, Blastoise essentially impaling itself on his sharp horn but also hurling Nidoking to the ground.

Blastoise screamed as the horn splintered its nigh indestructible shell and penetrated deep into the soft flesh below, pumping a terrible mixture of debilitating venom and crackling electricity directly into the water-type's unprotected insides. It laid pitifully on the ground, unable to keep itself in its shell as painful spasms wracked the creature's body before it finally remained limp.

"No!" Gary roared for his partner as Blastoise's eyes closed and blood oozed from the gaping hole in its shell. He instantly returned the powerful water-type and stared furiously at Ash as the other boy simply frowned with weary eyes.

Ash regarded Nidoking with horror, his own pain at seeing his friend in such a state nothing compared to what Nidoking must actually feel. Blastoise had suffered terribly at Nidoking's defense but it had not left his friend unscathed.

Far from it. His hide was able to absorb the worst of the damage, but his face was slightly disfigured. It looked as though a few of his fangs had been knocked out and even more of his blood dripped from his open maw. His armored plates had been cracked and most bent inward under the immense force they had endured. They did not bleed, fortunately. That would have indicated a terrible amount of internal damage.

Nidoking slowly got up to the cheers of the crowd, uncertain and bleary-eyed as he was lost in pain. He had suffered to the point that a berserker rage was no longer an option. He was forced to accept the pain, although he did not drown in it.

Gary sneered darkly as he released Alakazam. The psychic-type lazily glanced over the terribly wounded Nidoking with its keen eyes. It levitated itself just a few inches off of the ground and activated the dual layered protection of Reflect and Light Screen, which left the potent creature illuminated in a blue and gold hue.

Ash knew his friend would not win this fight. He would only hurt himself further.

He raised the pokeball.

Nidoking suddenly snapped his head back to him with frenzied eyes, lost in fanatical devotion to Ash and the fight. He opened his bleeding mouth wide and roared as he never had before, the sound powerful enough to cause the psychic barriers in front of Ash to shimmer into existence. His tail, slightly broken and deformed from the painful impact with Blastoise's shell, whipped through the air.

The meaning was clear. Loath as he was to follow his friend's desires in this case he knew he had to let Nidoking be finished off. This was a matter of honor for his friend – he knew he could not defeat Alakazam. But he could contribute to its defeat.

"And you said I was arrogant!" Gary shouted at him from across the battlefield. He crossed his arms as Alakazam and Nidoking awaited the referee's signal. "At least I'm not going to try and force a half-dead pokemon to battle. Freakin' hypocrite."

Ash's eyes flashed dangerously but he didn't bother replying. He knew Gary's game. Gary was exceptionally arrogant, true, but he liked to inflate it. He liked to inspire anger and annoyance to cause his opponents to slip up and make foolish mistakes.

He was very, very good at it.

But he wouldn't give in that easily. He had a battle to win and a friend to avenge.

"Nidoking, give it everything you've got." He called out to his rapidly fading friend just as the referee announced the battle's beginning. Nidoking knew how to fight psychics.

"Psychic." Gary sneered, still angry at Blastoise's loss. "Let's knock this thing out for good, eh?"

Alakazam's eyes and spoons glowed in response. The foci crumpled and bent under the psychic's terrible power, a conduit for the energy that flowed out from its body and surrounded Nidoking in a shell of deep azure.

The layer of energy that imprisoned Nidoking and subjected him to Alakazam's will shattered an instant later. Alakazam flinched in surprise as it lost control and several full-sized Shadow Balls formed and shot out from Nidoking's horn, the ghostly spheres leaving ripples in the air as each struck Alakazam's glowing body.

Ash's mouth curled up into a grin as Alakazam's glowing armor was penetrated easily by Nidoking's sacrificial attack. The Shadow Balls phased right through the layered Barrier and Light Screen, the alien energy unaffected by the worldly protections.

Alakazam's shining eyes were snuffed out for just a moment as murky grey energy rushed through its form, eliminating its aura and sending shocks and spasms through its atrophied muscle. It twitched helplessly as it lost control of the psychic energy keeping it aloft and collapsed to the ground.

"Alakazam!" Gary cried, distraught at the creature's pain. It wasn't enough to defeat it but Alakazam would have difficulty using its full abilities for the next few minutes. Ghostly energy naturally disrupted psychics and the manifestations of their power. Three Shadow Balls of the kind that had just struck the psychic-type would be enough to leave it relatively defenseless for the next minute or so, although much of that would be burned up in switching out.

"Thank you, my friend." Ash murmured to Nidoking as he raised the pokeball. Nidoking had used the last vestiges of his energy to cripple Alakazam even after he had been broken far past the point of pain. Few pokemon could have done what he just did.

Nidoking's body had been broken by his short, fierce battle with Blastoise but he had never been beaten.

"Sleep well." He smiled as his friend was recalled in a brilliant flash of light, safe and secure in the pokeball's stasis.

He was just glad that Gary had never bothered to fix that glaring flaw in his strategy. The Reflect and Light Screen combination was incredibly useful and left Alakazam nigh untouchable to most attacks, but a sufficiently powerful ghost-type attack would tear right through it and leave Alakazam a sputtering mess – as Ash had just proven.

The shield was certainly powerful but he found the versatility Teleport provided to be far more efficient. Shields took quite a bit of energy and the double-layered protection used by Alakazam was a stellar example of that. It was a good technique on its own, but the way the layer of psychic power blocked teleportation was intolerable in Ash's eyes.

Ash supposed he couldn't blame Gary too much, however. There was little reason to assume that Nidoking knew ghost-type techniques. It wasn't certainly wasn't a standard component of a Nidoking's arsenal.

His expression immediately turned serious as he released Tangrowth. He wanted to end this quickly and decisively. Alakazam wouldn't be able to teleport in its state but if it tried to pull any tricks he would rather have a fighter who could easily manage the entire battlefield without much difficulty.

Tangrowth bounced up and down excitedly as he felt the chilly night air wash over his form. His vines extended slightly, waving around as his bright saucer-like eyes took in the world. He gurgled cheerfully as he saw Alakazam, not particularly serious yet. At the moment he saw it as a game.

"It's weakened." He called out. Tangrowth didn't seem to register his words, but he trusted his friend to act on them. "Beat it quickly. It can cut your vines, so be careful."

His friend hopped up once more and stared intently at Alakazam, who had finally pulled itself up. Its weak muscles trembled as it sat cross-legged. The psychic's eyes were filled with dull grey energy that pulsed in tune with the spasms that wracked its frame, although a hint of fiery blue burned within.


The two combatants reacted almost instantaneously. Alakazam's eyes flared and for a brief few moments its eyes banished the ghostly power that continued to wrack its body. A shield materialized in front of it, the bright blue membrane barely able to maintain itself under the sudden strikes of dozens of Tangrowth's vines, the prehensile appendages doing their utmost to wear down the barrier.

"Psyblade!" His rival roared as the shield cracked and wavered under the immense force Tangrowth wielded. Alakazam's flickering eyes alit once more as it demonstrated the control and power its kind was famed for.

Its fading shield was split into two suddenly, which allowed some of Tangrowth's vines to lash forward and wrap around its weak limbs. Alakazam's mustache bristled in annoyance as it cut Tangrowth's victory short.

The split shield suddenly compressed into two blades of psychic energy, both of whom instantly slashed through all of Tangrowth's extended vines seamlessly and left naught but cauterized stumps. Tangrowth gurgled at the loss of sensation and reflexively yanked his vines back in an attempt to save his most valuable tools.

"Finish it." Gary smirked, confident in his success now that Alakazam had recovered some of its power.

Ash smiled slightly as Alakazam's spoons were consumed with psychic power. Gary and Alakazam were arrogant. It wouldn't be a stretch to assume that Gary knew little of Tangrowth or their physiology, but he had sorely underestimated his friend.

"Ancient Power." He said calmly as Alakazam's blades swept toward Tangrowth in tandem, flickering energy bright as Alakazam slowly regained control over its psychic abilities. It was a very powerful technique, Ash knew. It must have required a lot of training for Alakazam to be able to so easily manipulate its power.

Unfortunately he didn't plan on seeing what such a potent technique could do. The blades had burned through dozens of Tangrowth's thick vines without slowing. It would be best to keep his friend far away from the psychic manifestations.

Tangrowth was illuminated briefly as he created countless orbs of white energy, each held at the very tip of his vines. Even those that had been severed by Alakazam's Psyblade channeled Tangrowth's great power.

Alakazam's eyes widened noticeably and it instantly allowed the blades of power to meld together in order to form a shield as a massive explosion wracked the earth, Tangrowth's control over the battlefield enough to disperse the flickering shield.

"No!" Gary raged as Alakazam was hurled nearly twenty feet away by the resulting explosion that kicked up earth and left deep craters and gouges in the flat plane of the battlefield. Alakazam landed with a fleshy thump and barely managed to pull itself up and reactivate the Psyblade technique before Tangrowth's vines lashed towards it once more. "Don't give up yet, Alakazam! Release it all!"

The psychic shut its eyes as it strained to maintain the shield. It was incredible that it was still able to use its power so effectively. Alakazam still had ghostly energy interfering with its abilities and was also undoubtedly scatterbrained from the explosion. The creature's focus and willpower were immense.

"Raise a barrier." He called out with nothing but icy calm. No weakness was evident in his voice. Just focus. "Prepare yourself."

Tangrowth hopped up and stayed on his large red boot-like feet as he easily used Ancient Power once more to mold some of the ravaged earth into a fortress. Ash was aware that Gary could feel that Alakazam was ruined. Nidoking hadn't managed to finish the battle but he'd made it a hundred times easier for Tangrowth by crippling the exceptionally powerful psychic.

So Gary would most likely attempt to cripple or defeat Tangrowth along the same vein as what Nidoking had done. Alakazam was certainly one of his most potent fighters. Even weakened it could wreak havoc if it managed to access more of its strength.

He squinted as Alakazam intensified the power that flowed into its Psyblades until they shined with the intensity of the sun veiled by clouds. The entire arena was drowned in their light, the candles of the spotlights nothing in comparison.

This was it. Alakazam's last attack. A taste of the true power Ash had made sure he wouldn't have to face.

Alakazam's eyes were closed, but they gave the impression of being wide open thanks to the brutally intense light that poured from them. It easily shined through the thin membrane of Alakazam's eyelids and matched that of the Psyblades as they grew more compact and were honed into truly dangerous weapons.

They did not flicker. They did not give any hint of the weakness present in Alakazam's abilities before. It had poured all of its remaining energy and focus into the Psyblades.

Ash watched with a frown. Gary had created an impressive technique in Psyblade. It was very advanced and very versatile. Perhaps this was why he had specialized in the Barrier and Light Screen combination rather than teleportation. Alakazam was meant to be an invulnerable juggernaut as it used its Psyblades to corner and cut down its foes. It didn't use the hit and run tactics most Alakazam were known for.

There was nothing he could do to stop it as Alakazam once more slashed all of Tangrowth's vines apart, well aware of Tangrowth's greatest strength. The psychic's eyes glowed ever brighter as the Psyblades suddenly stabbed toward Tangrowth and his fort with incredible speed and precision.

Tangrowth was quick, however. He sensed the rising temperature as the compressed blades of energy swept closer and raised several more layers of earthen walls.

Ash sighed when the Psyblades, powered by all that remained of Alakazam's blocked and dwindling power, carved straight through them as though they were nothing. The walls collapsed in shambles, clumps of earth spraying across the area. Some was blackened from the heat of the blades, but he couldn't find it in him to care.

Rather, he was more concerned with Tangrowth. The psychic barriers dampened sound, but he was more than capable of hearing the pained gurgle that left his friend's throat as the blades smashed into him, although they didn't cut into him as deeply as they could have.

Alakazam's body shuddered as the lights in its eyes were snuffed out. Its spoons clattered to the ground as it fell back onto the battlefield, completely exhausted.

Ash was glad that Nidoking had been able to strike it with the Shadow Balls. Otherwise it would have taken Tangrowth down with little difficulty. His friend wasn't able to protect himself from the Psyblades as Dazed could. As it was he had performed admirably and finished off one of the greatest threats on Gary's team.

Not that Tangrowth hadn't suffered for his victory. He wasn't quite as well-prepared to face an opponent with Alakazam's skillset as Ash had thought, as he could see from his friend's pained grunts as he slowly pulled his huge body up.

Both of Tangrowth's rubbery arms had been severed at the based along with almost all of his vines. His arms and vines wriggled disturbingly on the ground, very much resembling small green Ekans. Tangrowth was hunched over in shock, having actually felt his arms cut off. There wasn't much pain, Ash knew, but unlike his vines the limbs were uncomfortable to lose.

When he lost his vines he lost his greatest tools and some of the sensation that came with them. When he lost his arms he lost a part of himself that would take several days to grow back. It left him crippled in a way that his easily replaceable vines did not.

What was left of Tangrowth's vines wriggled uselessly. There were barely enough left to cover his massive frame. Tangrowth whined and hopped up and down, confused and afraid of the lack of sensation. His vines let him feel and interact in the world. He was almost as blind as if he'd lost his eyes.

"Tangrowth, you did great!" Ash said soothingly, trying to keep a cheerful note in his voice so that Tangrowth wouldn't panick. His friend looked up at him and gurgled again as he slowly stumbled over to his box, unbalanced from his lack of vines. He nearly tripped several times. "I couldn't have asked for better. I'm going to recall you now, alright?"

His friend gurgled and looked up at him with his bright, saucer-like eyes. Tangrowth was confused and shifted more of his vines again, silently trying to force them to grow back. Ash just smiled softly at his dazed friend and raised the pokeball.

The grass-type vanished. Ash could have left him out to try and weaken whatever Gary's next choice was but it wouldn't have truly accomplished anything. Tangrowth was practically defenseless without his vines to feel out for the enemy. His eyes weren't very strong. Touch was his primary sense.

"The Green Trainer, Gary Oak, will release the next pokemon!" The announcer roared after he finished some inane commentary Ash didn't bother listening to. "I don't know about you folks, but I'm shivering in anticipation! I can't wait to see where this epic clash is heading!"

Ash snorted and put his hand on Torrent's pokeball. This was a tad closer than he intended, but that would be fixed soon. Nidoking was one of his strongest and certainly the most versatile of his friends, but Torrent was on another level. He had no doubt that Torrent could match one of the Elite Four's teammates.

Gary just glared at him as he raised a pokeball and released a very large Scizor. It wasn't one of those that Ash had faced before, but he was confident that Torrent would be more than a match. Infernus would tear it apart with little difficulty but he didn't want to let Infernus out until there was an opponent worthy of him.

Scizor clicked its huge metal claws together impatiently as it regarded Ash with fierce eyes. It looked as though it would happily attack him if he didn't hurry up and release an opponent for it to face.

Ash grinned back at the powerful bug-type. It would get its wish, but not in the way it desired.

Torrent appeared in front of his box, the proud Kingdra resplendent under the light of the Stadium. His thick scales shined and his scarlet eyes seemed to burn as they stared at Scizor. It was a worthy opponent for him, strong and as unyielding as the material it was made of.

He saw his friend's head turn longingly to the water for a moment, but he righted himself almost immediately. Torrent was far too prideful to allow such a weakness to be seen by the hundreds of thousands of onlookers.

"Finish this quickly." He told his friend, who rumbled happily at the sound of his voice. Torrent held his head high and regarded Scizor, who was tensed and ready to move at a moment's notice.

It didn't wait long.


"Storm Dash!" Gary commanded with a voice as hard as steel. Scizor's eyes narrowed and its eyes flashed blue as a thin layer of energy surrounded it and cut the air resistance it would charge through to almost nothing. The powerful steel-type wasn't as fast as its previous form but it was still dangerously fast with the proper techniques.

Torrent responded reflexively as Scizor, enhanced by the Agility, suddenly dashed forward at an insane speed. Its body was little more than a blur as one of its claws, glowing a harsh white, snapped open and prepared to crush Torrent's huge body between the pincers. Its wings flapped quickly in tandem with its second claw, which was held out at the side and helped to produce a piercing whirlwind that surrounded Scizor in a veil of scythes of white energy carried by the Razor Wind.

As Scizor neared, Torrent's eyes narrowed and he instantly formed a gigantic Dragon Pulse at the tip of his snout. He held it in place effortlessly as Scizor, heedless to the danger was in, prepared to land a hit. Its speed had blinded it – not literally, but figuratively. It was arrogant.

"Pull back!" His rival screamed, far more aware of how easily Scizor could be defeated. Torrent wasn't able to hit an opponent that moved that quickly at range, but when it landed its hit Torrent would have an opening.

Just as the Bullet Punch – Ash knew it was too fast to be Quick Attack even without the glowing claw – smashed into Torrent and latched around his midsection, Torrent grunted and released the full power of his Dragon Pulse straight into Scizor.

"You idiot!" Gary roared as Scizor was hurled back nearly thirty feet. It landed agonizingly on its relatively unprotect wings, which snapped underneath its heavy body. Ash winced in sympathy as it screamed, well aware that Scizor were not meant to be knocked down. Their weight was enough to weather almost any blow. "Get up. Double Team and Sandstorm, now!"

Scizor responded almost instantly, instinct drilled into it over the course of many long months of training driving it. Its eyes were glazed over as it fell into its most primal state. It knew nothing but Gary's commands and the pumping blood underneath its steel carapace.

Ash just smiled. Scizor was dangerous now – a surety as it managed to whip up a Sandstorm with whatever rudimentary psychic abilities Gary had beaten into it. He seemed to favor psychic powers. Everything but dark-types had some sort of psychic potential, although ghosts tended to have a perverted style that was very distinct from standard forms. It usually just wasn't worth it to unleash.

It wasn't going to make stupid mistakes like the first one again and neither was Gary. Scizor seemed to be very difficult to control when it wasn't in its current state but now it was guided solely by Gary's will.

No matter how skilled Scizor was, however, he knew that this battle would be over soon. Scizor's wings were remnants from its time as a Scyther, but they weren't meant for flying. Its armored body was far too heavy for flight.

Its wings served to regulate its body heat. If Scizor was active it would essentially cook inside of its very conductive armor. The issue would only become worse if it was struck with a fire-type attack or some other technique that relied on heat. The bug-type would overheat very quickly.

He suspected that the Sandstorm was meant to alleviate the issue. Gary was intelligent. He knew what would happen if Scizor's body wasn't cooled by its wings. The Sandstorm was very good cover and made Scizor almost impossible to touch when used in conjunction with Double Team, but the wind and cooling dirt would help to pull some of the heat produced by combat away and let Scizor continue on for a bit longer.

"Blizzard." He called out, hoping that Torrent could hear him above the din of the raging Sandstorm. It would be fun to simply let Scizor defeat itself, but he wanted this to end quickly. Like most steel-types, Scizor wasn't able to adapt to rapid shifts in temperature. Considering the fact that its armor was very hot right now thanks to the energy of Torrent's Dragon Pulse, freezing it would deliver a shock to Scizor's system and also make the armor conform to a much more uncomfortable position.

The howling whirlwind of sand and dust continued unhindered for several moments. Ash watched carefully, wary of Scizor's ability to ambush Torrent in such conditions. It was practically immune to the harsh wind and grains of earth.

He had nothing to worry about.

A great chill swept through the Indigo Stadium as Torrent harnessed his great power, the freeze bypassing the psychic barriers with ease. They shimmered slightly as frost spread throughout the battlefield and the Sandstorm collapsed upon itself as Torrent imposed his own will.

Ash could see Torrent's form in the midst of the frost, snout pointed to the sky as an orb of swirling, icy air condensed at the tip. The air shifted to grey and blue as he poured more and more energy into the Blizzard.

The illusory images of Scizor slowed as the original was buffeted by the freezing air. Ash couldn't tell which it was, but he could see each close their claws together and rush as far away from Torrent and his raging veil of ice and frost as he could possibly get.

"Hyper Beam!" Gary cried out desperately. His face was wrenched into fear. He knew that Scizor could not weather the Blizzard. Torrent would simply blast the spray of icy air throughout the battlefield so that Scizor could not escape via his Double Team. "This is it. Do what you can!"

Scizor moved slowly, its ordinarily quick reflexes reduced to practically nothing as it fell into a state of minor shock. It was all it could do to follow Gary's sacrificial orders.

Torrent's perceptive eyes instantly found the true Scizor as its clones faded away from the energy required for a Hyper Beam of the power Gary demanded. Scizor was well aware that Gary expected it to sacrifice itself to stop the most formidable member of Ash's team that he knew of.

The stadium roared in excitement as an orb of white and orange energy formed rapidly between Scizor's huge scarlet pincers, which were heavily disfigured from the heat behind Dragon Pulse and their subsequent freezing. They appeared to have droplets of cold metal falling down each, although the heat of the Hyper Beam slowly caused the metal to heat up once more.

Ash grinned as his friend released his Blizzard just as Scizor let its Hyper Beam fire free. The two attacks, fiery gold and frozen white, met in a cataclysmic explosion that sent cracks threading throughout the battlefield and left a small crater above where they met.

The explosion, a great flash of white and sound, forced him to glance away. He felt the box underneath him shake as the psychic barriers became completely visible in most areas as they did their best to weather the combined power released by the attacks.

He finally looked up. Ash kept a confident smile on the whole time, even before he saw the results of the clash with his own eyes.

Torrent levitated in the middle of the arena, completely unscathed. Frost layered over the earth around him, completely untouched by the release of energy. He stared over at the unconscious Scizor, who was covered in thick chunks of ice and completely incapable of movement with a haughty expression.

Ash smiled slightly. Torrent had done his part well.

Gary scowled, a bit of fear slipping onto his face as he stared at Torrent. Ash assumed that he realized that he had no counters. Alakazam would have been the best option to face Torrent, given its ability to teleport away from his ridiculously powerful attacks and distract him with Psyblade and hit-and-run tactics. Even Blastoise would have been able to do some damage.

This battle was over and Gary had realized it. Now it was all he could do to make his loss acceptable to his bruised ego. He'd fight as hard as he could to take down some of Ash's team, he was certain. Gary was predictable that way.

He recalled Torrent.

Gary's eyes narrowed. Ash just smiled at the confused sneer that split his rival's face. He couldn't blame him for being surprised at his choice to recall Torrent. Torrent would very easily hand him the rest of the battle on a silver platter.

Ash simply wanted to let some of his other friends have some fun. Oz hadn't gotten to battle yet and she had certainly earned the right. She wasn't quite up to standards with the rest of his main battlers, who had benefited from his training long before Lance had taken them to the next level, but she was more than powerful enough to hold her own.

The other boy idly played with his medallion as he pondered the situation with a frown. Ash would still be able to release after him no matter what. He would be ready for anything Gary could throw at him. If Torrent came out Ash knew Gary would be finished.

"Umbreon, get ready! Stick to the shadows." Gary shouted to the dark-type as it appeared on the field. Its ebony fur melded into the shadows of the rock spires as it slunk away from the bright lights, the only hints to its presence the haunting golden lights that pulsed periodically and its blood-red eyes.

Oz appeared on the field. She looked around interestedly at the spectacle. Her eyes greedily locked onto the huge electrical lights and electricity coursed throughout her thick coat of fur as she saw a source that would feed her for months.

Gary's face twisted in annoyance as he saw the electric-type. Ash knew he had done quite well in countering his rival's team so far. Gary's primary flaw was that he allowed his teammates to be incapacitated too easily. Stun Spore and Sleep Powder weren't the only ways to debilitate a pokemon.

Ash analyzed Umbreon quickly before it dimmed its brilliant markings and became invisible, the haunting specter of the night that had earned it infamy in more superstitious times. Umbreon were some of the most docile of dark-types, but when angered they were known to stalk and kill their unfortunate victim in spectacularly gory and reviled manners. They would abandon their ordinarily peaceful personalities and give into all of their repressed urges and desires.

They were always formidable opponents, especially in the dark. His fists clenched as he remembered Pierce's mad, slavering beast of an Umbreon. Nidoking's wounds flashed to the forefront of his mind but he forced the memory away. He needed to remain calm.

"Dark Pulse!" Gary snarled. "Keep it on the defensive!"

Ash crossed his arms and waited patiently as Oz reacted with the lightning-quick reflexes her type was known for. Her tail whipped back and forth as she whirred menacingly and danced out of the way out of Umbreon's Dark Pulse, a bit of electricity crackling after her as the beam of ethereal purple and black circles whipped past her.

Her large fist was consumed in a vibrant aura of lightning as her eyes narrowed and did her best to lock onto Umbreon. This wasn't a technique, just raw manipulation of electricity.

She punched toward the shadows Umbreon slunk about in, the electricity wreathed about her form released in a single blast that banished the shadows as it shot past at the speed of light before finally impacting into one of the stone pillars. It splintered and blackened under the thermal and kinetic energy carried by the bolt of lightning but didn't collapse.

Ash was barely able to catch a glimpse of maliciously glowing eyes from the shadows before Oz was caught in the power of Umbreon's Confuse Ray. The ray of unnatural light, paradoxically black as the void, struck Dazed as she turned to send another blast of electricity towards the threat.

He despised Confuse Ray. It was a very useful technique, but it was absolutely terrible to have it used on his friends. Confuse Ray essentially channeled a bit of whatever alien dimension ghosts crossed over from into a ray of energy that would fry most pokemon's brains and send them into a temporary berserk state.

Psychic-types were particularly vulnerable thanks to their increased vulnerability to ghostly techniques. Their minds were very sensitive and whatever it was they saw in that foreign light was not meant for creatures of this universe to know.

It was less the stunning effect that left a pokemon dizzy and off-balance that some techniques caused or the use of bizarre behavior or aftershocks from psychic attacks and more of a mental violation. Confuse Ray was accepted because it only left very temporary damage, but while pokemon were under its effects they suffered from terrible hallucinations, phantom pains, and other disturbing side-effects.

They normally forgot whatever it was the alien ray of energy showed them, but attempts by psychics to unblock the memories could lead to permanent mental damage and bizarre physiological changes in the victims.

And Oz was subject to it. He could see the fear in her eyes even now. The powerful electric-type's fists were consumed in blinding lightning as she swung madly at nonexistent figures of terror, specters unveiled by the foreign energy.

Umbreon slunk out of the shadows now, although it cautiously stayed far away from the berserk Electabuzz. It was capable of taking far more damage than its slender frame would lead one to believe but it was still wary of Oz's overpowered arcs of electricity.

He scowled. It was useless to try and give Oz any orders. The auditory stimulation would likely lead her to try and attack him through the psychic barriers, lost as she was in her hallucinations.

Ash had to admit that it was a very good move on Gary's part. Umbreon was one of the few pokemon capable of using Confuse Ray effectively and even then it must have required some time devoted to developing the mental fortitude to channel it efficiently before it was able to use it in combat.

As useful as Confuse Ray was, it was just as dangerous to the user. Many pokemon were theoretically capable of learning it via TM since it wasn't a particularly complicated process – it was a basic ghost-type technique. Despite that, few did.

Confuse Ray required the channeling of energies from another universe or dimension. It required the wielder to touch and grasp the power as it focused it into the Confuse Ray which could oftentimes be just as bad as having it used against the wielder.

Dark-types and ghost-types were the most adept at drawing out the power without frying their brains in the process since dark-types possessed some of the foreign energy in their bodies and ghost-types could access their dimension more easily than most.

Even then it was risky. Dark-types didn't actually have to channel their energy from the alien universe – they could use the energy in their bodies to safely mold the technique into being. Ghost-types could use it easily, but doing so weakened their corporeal form dramatically unless they had truly mastered Confuse Ray.

In other words, most of the time Confuse Ray just wasn't worth the effort. Otherwise it would be one of the most commonly used tactics considering its potent abilities. Only the truly elite could use it to its true potential – Agatha was the foremost example Ash knew of.

"How does it feel to be helpless?" Gary taunted as he motioned for Umbreon to continue its assault. Several Dark Pulses slammed into Oz as she flailed wildly, sending her even deeper into the psychotic frenzy. "Not so tough when you can't even fight back, eh?"

Ash grit his teeth as Oz was sent to the ground by an additional Dark Pulse, which exploded into a miasma of shadowy energy before it faded away. A flurry of Shadow Balls followed, each drawing Oz closer and closer to defeat.

He had to do something. Umbreon would most likely win this, but it would pay dearly for its victory.

"Double Team!" He shouted, hoping against hope that Oz would be able to comprehend his command through the veil of hallucinations and rage that drowned her.

Oz twitched uselessly as Umbreon slowly stalked closer, its rings glowing dangerously as it prepared to leap upon its prey and end the battle.

He clenched his fists as Oz failed to understand him. She wasn't even twitching any more, the numerous attacks and the mental stress of Confuse Ray having exhausted her. It was over.

This must have been what Gary felt when Ash debilitated most of his team via attacks meant to disrupt their physiology and capabilities. He could sympathize with the fierce scowl that had stretched across his rival's face countless times over the past few minutes. It was rather annoying.

Umbreon pounced. Its rings shined brightly as it landed atop Oz's limp form, jaws wide open to reveal sharp, pointed teeth. The dark-type moved quickly as it snapped at Oz's neck, trained to perfection as it targeted a spot that would instantly knock an Electabuzz unconscious.

As its teeth sliced through Oz's thick coat of coarse fur and into muscle, tendon, and sinew Umbreon's eyes shot open. Its body twitched as Oz's fur raised up from the thousands of volts of electricity sent through the conductive material, although the dedicated creature refused to let go of Oz's neck.

Oz shrieked and flailed about wildly. She was still in the throes of Confuse Ray, although she finally had a real target to take out her rage and fear on. Her fists were consumed with arcs of electricity as she slammed them into Umbreon's sides, heedless of the poisonous sweat that suffused the dark-type's fur.

Umbreon's red eyes narrowed to slits as it remained clamped on, despite the terrible pain it had to be going through. Creatures of flesh and blood weren't meant to weather that much electricity. The nurses would have to observe it for several hours if Oz continued to pour all of her electrical reserves into the fearless dark-type.

Both shuddered as Umbreon's teeth finally cut their way into its target. Oz screamed, entire body utterly suffused by an aura of dancing sparks and electricity as she released the last of her power. Umbreon flailed wildly and was wracked with shudders as its nervous system was overwhelmed.

It did not let go until Oz stilled.

Umbreon finally allowed its jaws to relax and stumbled awkwardly to its side of the field, pausing every few seconds as it collapsed helplessly to the hard, rent ground. It stared up at Gary with gleeful eyes, which his rival returned with a wide smile. It was the first time Ash had seen Gary look genuinely happy in a long time.

"Good job, Umbreon." He said, voice shivering with pent up excitement. "Can you hang in for one more? I think Ashy-boy needs to see another sample of your work."

The dark-type slowly nodded and turned around to face Ash as the frowning boy recalled Oz. She hadn't even had a chance. He honestly hadn't expected Confuse Ray, although he could certainly see why Gary prided himself on Umbreon. He'd done a good job with it.

"You did wonderfully, Oz." He murmured to the pokeball as it sealed his friend inside. There was no response. She had fallen fully into stasis. "Just a stroke of bad luck."

He ran a hand through his hair as he released Plume. She was the ideal choice to defeat Umbreon. Weakened as it was, it could still use Confuse Ray. He'd prefer not to see what a berserk Torrent would do to the battlefield, and Plume could evade it easily.

Plume shrieked happily as she was released to the skies, the first time in nearly a week. Her magnificent plumage gleamed underneath the bright lights as she circled the battlefield in a blur of motion that few of the onlookers could catch and she screamed her arrival one last time before she settled onto their side of the Indigo Stadium.

"Begin!" The referee announced. Barely a second had passed before Umbreon's eyes gleamed and a ray of black light shot towards Plume, Gary's desperate bid for success completely useless as she effortlessly flapped her wings and shot high into the air.

She screamed as she shot toward Umbreon, who shot a feeble Dark Pulse at Plume, which was effortlessly dodged. As Plume prepared to defeat the weakened dark-type with a single swipe of her powerful wings Gary recalled the creature.

"Umbreon is defeated." Gary called out tonelessly. His face was pinched as he raised his next pokemon. "We haven't compared Pidgeot in a while. Yours is tough, but let's see how it measures up! Go, Pidgeot!"

Gary's monster of a Pidgeot appeared in a flash of light. It stood nearly nine feet high and, as it spread its massive wings, Ash could see that they stretched nearly twelve feet in either direction. Although miniscule compared to the Birds, Gary's Pidgeot was by far one of the largest flying-types he had ever seen. It was very nearly the size of a Dragonite, if slower thanks to its unbelievable size.

"Quick Attack!" Gary snapped out. His Pidgeot shot up from the ground in a blur, although it was much easier to see than Plume. It would be able to take her down with one good hit, although her speed techniques would allow her to evade the huge creature without too much difficulty.

"Super Speed." He smiled. Plume was hardly even a blur as she moved and shattered the sound barrier with a sharp crack, propelled to speeds that would leave most creatures reduced to pulp under the immense shifts in gravity they suffered. If she was not able to manipulate the air to form her bubble of air resistance and Tail Wind to carry her to ever greater speeds she would likely suffer enough backlash to leave her hurtling to the ground.

Plume vanished away from Pidgeot as Super Speed activated, allowing her to escape the surprisingly quick flying-type's rapid dashes. The Pidgeot shrieked and used Quick Attack once more, relying on its bulk to carry it through this fight.

Ash wasn't certain it would be capable of using Agility efficiently. The sustained version of Quick Attack, which relied on rudimentary psychic abilities to enhance the body and minimize air resistance, would most likely be too draining when combined with its massive frame. It took a lot of energy to maintain those speeds. Tailwind would be a less draining method that would allow it to catch up to Plume without splitting its focus.

He supposed he would have to wait. Gary's Pidgeot had lost to Plume the last time they'd battled. Its raw power was spectacular but its relatively inferior speed put it at a tremendous disadvantage when placed against another Pidgoet. It would be able to rush past most anything else's ability to perceive but an opponent with equal reflexes and senses meant it had to be creative.

Gary had a plan. He just needed to draw it out first.

Ash needed to frustrate Gary. He knew Plume's complete mastery of flight - gained from more than a hundred hard hours of training with Dragonite, Saph, and Dov – would allow her to easily outpace her foe. Plume would have to make a terrible mistake for the slower Pidgeot to land a hit.

"Double Team." He murmured, ensuring that Gary would not be able to catch his words. "Frustrate him. I want to see his tricks."

Plume's blurred form split into dozens of illusory after-images as she rushed through the air. Her true body was impossible to find thanks to the impossibility of tracking each of the clones. Pidgeot sped up as well, the sound barrier cracked as it pushed its speed to new heights…heights that Plume had scaled long ago.

"Air Raze!" Gary roared. His mouth twisted furiously as his keen eyes assessed the situation and realized that he had been outplayed. Pidgeot screamed its understanding, its cry piercing the air several seconds after it had already blurred by. If Ash hadn't spent so much time with Plume and other insanely fast pokemon such as Lance's Dragonite trio he would have found tracing its movements almost impossible.

Even now his eyes weren't able to follow it. He'd simply grown accustomed to tracing the patterns Plume favored. Pidgeot possessed nearly identical flight styles. Some had more skill and experience than others, but they thought the same way.

Pidgeot's body was suddenly much easier to trace. It was consumed in roaring red flame that left long streaks of cinders and sparks in the air as it raced by. The trail slowly fizzled out, but the entire sky had been painted red and orange as Pidgeot prolonged the activation phase of Brave Bird, although it appeared to have finally been forced to give up its blazing appearance in exchange for an aura of flickering blue energy.

It screeched as it maintained the primary form of Brave Bird, a highly advanced technique that was perfect for something as reliant on raw power as Gary's Pidgeot, and whipped up a Whirlwind using its adrenaline-fuelled muscles and control over air currents.

The Whirlwind took the dying embers created by Brave Bird's initial flare and stirred them into a firestorm that raged everywhere it could, sparks morphed into twisting plumes of flame. Ash could barely see into the arena as the psychic barriers flared up in an effort to contain the inferno, shimmering blue walls constantly refocusing their attention as the Air Raze refused to end.

Plume swept by a moment later, protected from the conflagration by her bubble of air. She was moving so fast that the fire was swept away before her anyways, although the protective air currents maintained by Tailwind managed to nullify the raw heat released by the flames.

A small smile crawled onto his face as he understood. Plume wasn't hurt by Air Raze – which was, in effect, no more than a glorified elongation of the Brave Bird technique with a Whirlwind thrown in – but it distinguished her true form from the dozens of copies created by Double Team. It would have been damaging to a weaker flying-type, but it still fulfilled its purpose against Plume.

She was blinded and relatively exposed. Pidgeot was prepared to attack with one of the strongest flying-type techniques in existence.

Gary had prepared well for this. A shame that he had to end it now.

"Hurricane." He shouted above the din of the roaring inferno. "Finish this with Razor Wing!"

An instant later a cacophony of wailing wind rang throughout the air. Plume's wings shined white as she commanded another of the most powerful flying-type techniques ever created, the complete control she had gained via extensive training from the Dragonite Trio and Magnus exposed as she released a tremendous gale of wind that swept across the entire field.

Everything was whipped away by its power. Hundreds of pounds of dirt were scooped up and thrown into the mix, fire was carried and extinguished, the pond rippled and lost more and more of its contents as the Hurricane blew by and slammed into the psychic barriers with terrible force that left an entire side of the Indigo Stadium blinded from the light.

Gary's Pidgeot showed its own strength, however, and refused to be carried away by a single technique. It dived at Plume from a hundred feet above, aim perfect as its talons, covered in the blue aura that suffused the rest of its body, opened and prepared to sink into Plume's vulnerable body as she flapped her wings one last time.

It caught nothing but air. In a blink of an eye Plume had sensed the attack, ended the Hurricane, activated Super Speed, and slammed into it with a Steel Wing backed by Plume's incredible speed.

Ash heard nothing but a garbled cry as it was sent flying, blood trailing from its massive chest as it slammed into the earth with a sickening snap. It certainly had a few broken bones, although it was tough enough to take the hit without worry of potentially lethal wounds.

Pidgeot disappeared from view an instant later as Gary recalled it with a scowl. He didn't bother saying anything to Ash as he released his last pokemon: Arcanine.

He couldn't stop the grin that came to his face at the cheerful Arcanine. Its tongue lolled happily from its mouth as it panted in anticipation. The fire-type's eyes gleamed gleefully as it realized it had been released for battle and it pranced about in a silly manner before it finally came to a stop at Gary's words.

"Arcanine, you're the last." Gary said grimly. "You're going to finish this one way or another."

The massive canine barked its understanding and stared up at Ash as a puff of smoke escaped its nostrils. Its thick fur seemed to spark with tension as it prepared to fight to the best of its ability.

His hand twitched for Infernus' pokeball.

"Thank you, Plume." He shouted to his friend before he recalled her. "You did magnificently."

Gary deserved a good fight, one last testament to their rivalry before Ash cemented his superiority over the prodigious Oak. Ash wouldn't say it would be fair – few battles with Infernus were – but it would be a good one.

There was no shame in losing to Infernus.

The Magmortar appeared in a blaze of light and flame as he was released. His eyes gleamed dangerously as he measured Arcanine with a mocking grin, one cannon shifting into a rough approximation of a hand. Infernus' claws clenched together as he set himself ready for battle.

"Begin!" The referee cried to the delight of the crowd, who seemed absolutely awestruck by the two fire-types.

"Extreme Speed." Gary said tersely, eyes locked on Infernus. Ash crossed his arms and grinned madly as the realization set in. Gary knew quite a bit about Magmortar, evidently. Enough to know that they were dangerous, at any rate. "Hit it as hard as you can, Arcanine. You won't get many chances."

Arcanine woofed before it blurred into the ultimate speed technique. Whereas Quick Attack and Agility were simply variations of one another, Extreme Speed was something else entirely. Quick Attack and Agility were essentially the use of psychic energy to minimize air resistance and empower the user's body for quick movement with relatively little side effects aside from exhaustion after prolonged use.

Extreme Speed, on the other hand, was in essence similar to Super Power. It cut loose the limits on its user and allowed them to use far more of their muscle power at once, which enabled them to move ridiculously fast. Most of the time it was exhausting for pokemon and was rarely used as a result. The speed was useless if a fighter could only use it once before collapsing in a twitching wreck.

But Arcanine were different. Their bodies were almost unnaturally tough as a result of the strange physiological development induced by their evolution from a Fire Stone. The muscles of an Arcanine were nearly as dense as that of a Machoke and their bones, tendons, and other supporting structures were just as durable. The difference was that they used only a fraction of the power that a Machoke did.

Extreme Speed cut those barriers down and enabled them to use more of their true potential. Arcanine possessed incredible endurance anyway, so they could easily maintain the harsh effects of Extreme Speed for hours if they had trained enough.

Arcanine had actually begun to select for the traits that allowed Extreme Speed to be used as effectively as possible. It was their greatest defense against poachers and other unsavory humans in the old days, before they had been protected by the League and other human groups. If they could not move at speeds beyond almost anything other than a Pidgeot they were captured and potentially killed. Those that survived passed on their own genes, which promoted more and more specialization in regards to Extreme Speed.

It was that kind of power he faced. It was that kind of power he planned to cast aside and crush under his heel.

From the way Infernus roared and spat huge torrents of fire that illuminated the night in a way that the artificial lights of the stadium never could suggested that his friend agreed with him.

He let Infernus take the lead. His friend had been cooped up in his pokeball most of the time they were in Indigo Plateau. He'd released him a few times for some fresh air, but he was too dangerous to release often in such a densely populated area.

Infernus had reacted even as Arcanine rush at him in a blur of orange, black, and tan fur. The Magmortar smirked gleefully and smashed his foot into the ground, releasing immense waves of force that wracked the earth and tore the battlefield around him apart into a craggy mess of upturned soil.

Arcanine yelped and was forced to leap over the obstructions as it struck at Infernus. The pause in focus caused Extreme Speed to slow slightly, which left Infernus quite aware of where it was.

Ash winced as Infernus sprayed the area with flames hot enough to burn lesser fire-types, although he wasn't quick enough to keep Arcanine from biting at him with a mouthful of electricity and blurring away in another rush of Extreme Speed.

Infernus' eyes widened in rage as he felt hundreds of volts of electricity flow into him, although he didn't even seem to be harmed by the attack. It seemed to wound his pride more than anything. Ash knew that Infernus hadn't expected to feel another electrical attack after he mastered Air Lens.

If he had actually been using Air Lens he wouldn't have had to worry about it. Unfortunately, Arcanine's enhanced speed didn't give him the time to react like that.

Strangely enough, Infernus didn't move. He just stood there with one cannon ready and his eyes narrowed. Flames spouted periodically from the cannon, a sure sign of his agitated state.

Ash sighed. Arcanine wouldn't get in another free attack. It would pay in blood for the blow to Infernus' ego.

"Ultimate Slam!" Gary shouted. He watched with shifty eyes as he nervously threw a pokeball up in the air and caught it. "Finish it!"

Now that he knew the full extent of Arcanine's speed, Infernus reacted instantly. He used Earthquake again, ruining the wrecked battlefield even further as cracks threaded throughout and spires of stone toppled as the earth itself shifted beneath them.

Arcanine howled as it stumbled thanks to the shifting earth, giving just enough time for Infernus to rear his opened "hand" and snatch at Arcanine as it continued its frantic dash and exploded into Infernus with a blast of purple energy and all of the force that a Giga Impact backed with Extreme Speed would suggest.

Dust was kicked up as Infernus let out a pained groan and skidded back into the dirt, although Ash could see his dark form through the veil thanks to the immense heat produced by his body.

He only managed to hear a few loud yips before one last pitiful whine was cut off.

When the dust cleared, the end of the battle was revealed. Infernus, looking no worse for the wear other than a bit of dust and a heavily bruised chest, stood tall and strong as he held the gigantic Arcanine aloft by its throat. His claws sank into the furry flesh ruthlessly as the weaker fire-type twitched and flailed silently, Infernus' Thunder Punch having robbed its control over its nervous system.

Infernus' psychotic smirk only grew wider when Arcanine opened its mouth and tried to blast his face with flame. After the pitiful puff of embers had died, Infernus raised his cannon up to Arcanine's twitching head. Terrible fires burned within the limb and he prepared to show the defeated canine what the ultimate fire-type was capable of.

And then Gary recalled Arcanine. His face was frozen as Infernus roared furiously as his victim disappeared, utterly apathetic to the raging Magmortar.

Infernus sneered up at Gary before he turned to Ash with a wide mockery of a grin. His eyes glimmered with amusement as Ash smiled and gave him a thumbs up, although it twisted into a frown when Ash recalled him.

"—Ash Ketchum of Pallet Town, the superior trainer of Pallet Town, relative unknown, defeats Gary Oak, the skilled trainer who has been hailed as a crowd favorite during the Indigo Conference in a stunning battle! How much farther will he go, ladies and –"

Ash tuned out the meaningless words. He stared at Gary, whose face was locked into an expression of resigned disbelief before he gave one short nod to Ash and stepped out of his box. The trainer stared after his rival as he disappeared into the tunnel that would take him far away from the cheering crowds and explosive cries of the announcer.

He silently put his hat on, ignoring his surroundings. Ash reached down to his pocket and withdrew one half of a shattered pokeball. It was dirty and cracked, but it was one of the possessions he had come to value, despite his rough history with the owner of its other half.

"Smell you later, Gary." He whispered before he turned and left to face the madness.

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