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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25. The Tournament Part 3

"Everyone, line up!" Nurse Joy called out in a loud, commanding tone that brooked no argument and demanded compliance. All of the twenty two trainers in the Pokemon Center's atrium quickly followed her instructions, eager to begin the battles.

"Alright, here are the rules for the Tournament!" She shouted, making sure to be heard over the murmurs and whispers of the group. Quite a few seemed to have made friends with one another, or at least acquaintances. Since he had only come back to the Pokemon Center five minutes ago, Ash wasn't one of them. "All of you have been grouped into pairs. Once we reach the stadium, a monitor will display the teams. You will be battling other teams until only two teams remain. Then, both partners will battle one another to determine the finalists. The rules are simple: No items or enhancers such as X products are allowed, any form of cheating will get you disqualified, and you must stop when the other pokemon are unconscious or their trainers forfeit."

Ash listened curiously. He wasn't sure how he felt about working with a partner. It might be nice, but he didn't want to have to carry them both if his partner was a weak trainer. That could ruin his chances of victory.

On the other hand, if he had a decent partner they would be able to overpower the enemy quite easily. It might pose problems when he had to battle them, but at least the majority of the tournament would be easy.

"You'd do well to work together." Nurse Joy warned. "You'll be battling together and need to depend on one another. Any discord will weaken your efforts."

He nodded slowly, barely noticing it. Many of the other trainers had similar reactions. Ash glanced at them all closely, taking each of them in. Any of them could be his partner, and he would like to at least recognize them.

Nurse Joy suddenly broke into a large, cheerful smile. "Well, that's it! A few more things will be explained at the tournament, but that's the gist of things. Let's go!"

With that, Nurse Joy and her small, energetic oddish lead them out of the Pokemon Center and to Dandra Stadium. Ash hung in the back, watching the rest of his competitors carefully and trying to analyze them the best he could.

XX

"Welcome, ladies and gentleman of Dandra Town, to the sixth annual Dandra Town Pokemon Tournament!" An announcer boomed over the intercom. The large crowd – probably a thousand people or so, Ash couldn't judge very well – cheered raucously in response. "Thank you, thank you! Now, let's take a look at our competitors. I've been told we have a good group this year!"

Ash gave a faux smile as he walked into the center of the stadium with the rest of the trainers. His nervous expression betrayed the anxiety he felt at being in front of so many people. This stadium only held about a thousand people and he was feeling distinctly uncomfortable. He could only imagine what being in front of tens of thousands of people at the Conference would feel like.

Nurse Joy directed them into a straight line, whispering their instructions to them as she passed by and making sure to give the nervous trainers friendly, encouraging smiles.

"Step forward when your name is called." She whispered to Ash as she passed by, just loud enough to be heard over the roar of the crowd. Ash gave a shaky smile to her, feeling a little better as she continued. "Don't worry, you'll do fine. You'll get used to the crowd in no time."

And then she was gone. Ash glanced after her, but glanced up towards the announcer's box when they began shouting into their microphone. He winced at the noise. The only loud noises he usually heard were explosions and the clash of battle. The constant chanting of the crowd and booming of the announcer felt foreign.

He edited out the names the announcer called out until it reached his own.

"Ash Ketchum, please step forward!" The announcer shouted excitedly, keeping the same boisterous tone he had for the other competitors. Ash adopted a nervous smile, shifting away from his usual frown, and hesitantly waved to the crowd like the other competitors had done.

They shouted and cheered in response, the cacophony assaulting him from all directions.

He was glad when the announcer moved on and called the next competitor out. Ash didn't like being the center of attention for a huge audience like this. That made him frown. He'd have to get over that before the Conference. It would be no good if he wasted all of his hard work by being uncomfortable and freezing up during a battle.

Ash just stood there, a small frown on his face as he thought. He wasn't snapped back to reality until the huge monitor screen underneath the announcer's box suddenly flickered on, showing a massive set of brackets for the tournament. On the very ends of each bracket two names and a picture appeared, showing who their partners would be.

While he quickly found his picture and that of his partner, a teenage girl with long brown hair and blue eyes, he wasn't able to read the names very well. The font was just a bit too small.

"Trainers!" The announcer roared. "I will call out your name and that of your partner. Step out of the line when your name is called and pair up. Further instructions will be given out when everyone has their partner."

Once again, Ash blanked out until he heard his name called out. He snapped back into focus and stepped forward, putting a strained smile onto his face again as the crowd roared for him.

"Ash Ketchum and Jaimie Sezare, please step forward!" The announcer called out excitedly. Ash glanced to his left and saw that his partner had stepped out of the line the same time he had. It looked like there were only three teams left to pair up.

Ash walked over to her quietly, trying to ignore the crowds' gaze and calls. She offered him a friendly wave as he walked over, which he returned with a tight nod. They both walked over to the box that the other teams had entered after being paired up. Most of the trainers were giving each other distrustful glares, fierce and competitive now that they had been differentiated.

"Hi, I'm Jamie!" The girl said in a friendly manner, offering him a hand to shake. Ash took it and used the opportunity to glance over the girl. Jamie looked like a rather experienced trainer. She was fair-skinned, but had a slight tan and enough scars and scrapes to show that she'd travelled a while. Her worn shorts and faded shirt only added to that assessment.

"Ash." He returned. "How long have you been a trainer?"

She adjusted her small, red-framed glasses before she answered. "Four years. How about you?"

"…Four and a half months." He replied, a little embarrassed. Ash knew he was strong, but he knew that most trainers his age weren't, whether it was due to lack of commitment, laziness, or being untalented.

Jaimie didn't seem too bothered, although she frowned a bit. "Huh. How many badges have you got? We can discuss our pokemon later."

"Seven." He said firmly. "I have the Volcano badge and Marsh badge. You don't need to worry about pulling any slack."

"Really?" She asked bemusedly, staring at him from behind her glasses. "I didn't even know there was still a gym in Cinnabar. And how'd you beat Sabrina? I tried her and she tore me apart with her Mr. Mime."

Ash grinned. "It's just a matter of knowing where to look." He said mysteriously. "As for Sabrina, it's just skill."

Jaimie whistled, barely audible over the din of the crowd. "Wow. I have nothing to be worried about then. We can talk strategy later. The announcer's about to come back on."

He nodded and returned his gave to the monitor, which had just shifted from the brackets to a man's face. The man's face was narrow and thin, but not disturbingly so. Ash assumed it was the announcer, an assumption that was validated when the man's lips began moving in conjunction with the audio system.

"I have several announcements to make before we allow the trainers to begin strategizing and working with their partners." He announced grandly, waving his hands in the air for dramatic effect. "First off, the prizes."

The announcer grinned and let the clamor of the crowd die down before continuing. "We have a few more sponsors and a few more competitors than last year, so we have better prizes. Third and fourth place will receive one thousand dollars and five Silph Co. great balls! Second place will receive two thousand dollars and two ultra balls!"

Ash watched intently as the announcer leaned into the camera conspiratorially. He wasn't too impressed with the prizes so far, but he didn't care that much. That wasn't why he'd joined the tournament.

"But we have a very special prize for the first place winner." The announcer grinned. He moved off of the screen for a moment and returned with a small pack. He removed a large, round black object from the bag. Ash's eyes widened when he recognized the sight of a pokemon egg. "Thanks to the kind donation of a local breeder, our first place winner will receive this egg. He wouldn't tell us what it was, but we imagine that it is going to be quite the surprise!"

That determined it. Ash wouldn't just be putting up a great fight, he would be winning this competition. There were similar determined expressions on some of the other trainers, and for good reason. Pokemon eggs weren't exactly common. Anyone could buy them from a breeder, but uncommon pokemon could be extremely expensive and unavailable to the common trainer.

Ash might have plenty of money, but he didn't really want to buy a member of his team. That ruined the whole point of training to him. It was supposed to be an adventure, one where you earned your rewards and companions. He didn't really mind if people bought pokemon from breeders, but it just wasn't for him.

But earning them? That was fair game.

The announcer was suddenly handed a piece of paper from outside of the monitor's screen. He skimmed over it briefly before a wide grin spread over his face.

"I have more news!" He shouted dramatically. The crowd quieted and grew tense. "This tournament only accepts twenty competitors! Right now we have twenty-two. As a result, we are picking two random teams to battle each other for entry into the tournament!"

Ash frowned. He really hoped that he wasn't picked. That would weaken at least some of his friends early on, which might prove dangerous to his future battles in the tournament. Additionally it would allow some of the other trainers to get a feel for his skill level and style.

The tension in the air was palpable as another sheet of paper was handed to the announcer. He read over it once before announcing the unlucky competitors that would have to battle each other.

"Here are the trainers that will be battling for entry." The announcer said, stating the obvious. Every trainer listened intently, privately hoping that they weren't chosen. "Raymonds and Fennex, step forward. James and Minors, step forward."

Raymonds and Fennex stepped out of the box. One had short, spiky hair and a black, no-sleeved shirt. He had a slight grin on his face, apparently not taking this seriously. The other had dark blond hair held out of his eyes by a pair of goggles. His face was empty, clearly not pleased with being picked out.

James and Minors stepped out a moment later. One had long brown hair and glasses. The other looked as though he were too young to have a trainers license. Both were rather nervous, although the older of the two had a faraway look on his face.

"Trainers, your battle will commence in fifteen minutes!" The man in the monitor shouted to them. "Use your time to prepare a strategy. Your future in this tournament depends on it. For the rest of you, follow Nurse Joy. She will take you to rooms where you can prepare yourselves. The preliminary battles begin in one hour."

Both of the unlucky teams were guided to opposite ends of the field by a tired looking official. They were huddled together and hurriedly discussing their tactics by the time Nurse Joy walked over to the competitors in their box, a cheerful smile on her face.

"Follow me!" She chirped. "You need all the time you can get before you battle."

With that the remaining competitors followed her out of the bright, sun-baked stadium, sticking close to their partners and sending suspicious glances at the others.

Ash hung in the back with Jaimie. He didn't care much about getting competitive with the other trainers. He was going to win this. Now was just a chance to get a feel for the others.

XX

"Here's your room!" Nurse Joy said to Ash and Jaimie. She opened the door for them and ushered the two in. They were the last pair to be shown their rooms, but it had only taken three or four minutes away from them.

Ash nodded his thanks before walking in. He glanced it over. It was bare and boring. The only furnishings was a small, round table and several chairs pulled up to it. That was perfectly fine by him. It minimized distractions.

He took a seat. Jaimie followed suit a moment later. They both looked at each other awkwardly for a moment, not really sure where to start. It ended up being the older member of the pair that broke the silence.

"So, what pokemon do you have?" She began, raising her hand and putting a finger up as she listed off her own. "I've got a Venusaur, Kadabra, Charmeleon, Dragonair, Graveler, and Starmie."

The team was well-rounded and held a few of the more common pokemon Kanto trainers used, but Ash started at the mention of a dragonair. All dragon-types were fantastically rare. Dratini and their line were amongst the rarest.

"How did you get a dragonair?" He asked, stunned.

"By spending two months straight in the Safari Zone and getting really, really lucky." She said, scratching the back of her neck embarrassedly. "I spent almost all of my money, but I ended up finding a dratini behind a waterfall. The rest is history."

He nodded. It was plausible. Dragonair were known to nest in the Safari Zone, even if they were incredibly rare. Still, to spend two months of his life in one place in search of one pokemon…it was unthinkable.

Ash shook himself out of his thoughts and answered her original question. "A Nidoking, Kingdra, Hypno, Magmar, Machoke, and Tangela."

Jaimie grinned. "You've got your own dragon? Awesome! No wonder you beat Sabrina."

He nodded stiffly in reply, not bothering to mention that it was Dazed that had really won the battle against Sabrina. It wasn't particularly relevant to the conversation.

"We need to make sure our choices complement each other's." He said, speaking up. Jaimie listened attentively, nodding as he spoke. "So, I'll send out my pokemon first and then you send yours out. Hopefully we'll be second every time…"

And so started a forty-five minute long discussion on strategy. They made tactics for each of the potential pairs of pokemon on the battlefield, even the ones that likely wouldn't happen, such as Charmeleon and Infernus.

Ash didn't give her his full capabilities and neither did she. With teams as powerful as theirs, it was likely that they would end up battling each other eventually. He wasn't about to give her any information that she didn't need to know for them to work well together.

Even if he didn't trust her with everything, he did acknowledge that he liked her. She was friendly enough and was easy to get along with. That could only be a boon on the battlefield.

He was jerked from his thoughts by a knock on the door. Ash glanced over to it as Nurse Joy's head poked inside. "The first battle's starting. Come with me."

Both of them stood up and left with Nurse Joy, waiting until the rest of the line of trainers had passed before joining in. Ash felt just the barest hint of nervousness as Nurse Joy lead them out to the large battlefield.

Ash blinked as the hot sun crashed down on him, glad that his hat shaded his eyes from the worst of the light. He glanced around at the roaring crowd, who were chanting and screaming in excitement. It just made him feel nervous.

"And here are our competitors, folks!" The announcer roared as the trainers walked onto the field. "Twenty strong, fierce battlers just waiting to see who's the strongest. All are strong, but only one will emerge as our victor!"

His fists clenched in determination. That victor would be him, no matter what. The other trainers had similar expressions and reactions.

"First up, Ash Ketchum and Jaimie Sezare versus Harlon Smith and Dan White. Competitors, take your places!"

Nurse Joy pointed him and his partner to the competitors' box nearest to the entrance. She sent Harlon Smith – a tall teen with brown hair and fierce hazel eyes – and Dan White – a trainer of similar age but much shorter – over to the opposite side of the stadium.

Ash and Jaimie stood side-by-side as they walked up into the box, elevated about ten feet over the field with an open view. He clenched his fists nervously as he felt the eyes of hundreds gaze upon him, judging and analyzing him.

"Is this the first time you've been in front of so many people?" Jaimie asked curiously as she leaned onto the railing, smiling and sending friendly waves to the spectators, much to their delight.

Ash nodded. "I've battled in front of a few hundred people before, but nothing like this."

She hummed understandingly. "Don't worry about this. You'll be fine. Just focus on the battle. The crowd doesn't matter."

He smiled at her thankfully and put a hand on his belt. The other trainers had arrived and climbed up their box. Now the announcer had begun to announce the rules.

"This match will be two-on-two for each trainer!" He said, amplified voice booming and echoing throughout the arena. "Pokemon are considered disqualified when they are recalled by their trainer or are knocked unconscious. The losers of this match will be knocked out of the tournament. Smith and White will send out their pokemon first. Now…let the battle begin!"

White and Smith send out their pokemon almost immediately. White sent out a massive marowak, which wielded two large, thick bone clubs. It wasn't uncommon for marowak to adapt to using two bones, but it was something to watch out for in any case. Smith released a nidorina. She slunk over to Marowak's side, prepared to defend the larger pokemon at any cost.

Ash frowned as his mind raced over the possibilities. This match would be made very short with Torrent, but he and Jaimie wanted to keep their dragon-types hidden until they were truly needed. Nidoking didn't need to be worked out yet, and Infernus would be needed later. Dazed would be the best option since she could attack at a distance and avoid their close-range attacks.

When she was released, Dazed met her opponents with an impassive stare, not looking very impressed. Ash hid a grin at that. Jaimie quickly followed suit with her Starmie, which opened its appearance with a loud screech.

The moment Starmie appeared, Nidorina and Marowak suddenly opened up with an ice beam, showing that they'd been exposed to TMs. That meant he'd have to be careful about them. It was just an opening move, meant to distract Dazed and Starmie from the sudden charge both of the opposing pokemon made.

Dazed's eyes flickered a bright blue as a psychic wall of shimmering energy materialized in front of her and Starmie, easily blocking both of the weak ice beams.

"Wave, water gun!" Jaimie shouted. Starmie – or Wave, Ash supposed – screeched again as its back limbs quickly spun, releasing a spiral of water from the tip of its uppermost limb. The jet of high-powered water flashed towards the charging Marowak, which deftly dodged the water gun as it continued its sprint.

As it neared, it suddenly shifted directions towards Dazed. Marowak cried out furiously as it suddenly gained momentum and leapt at Dazed, who stared at the rapidly approaching Marowak with an unimpressed expression.

"Psybeam." He ordered. Dazed's eyes flashed as an intense beam of rainbow light shot out and struck the approaching Marowak in the chest. The ground-type roared angrily as it was sent to the ground, quickly leaping up at the urging of its trainer and approaching again.

"Psychic." Ash said, no longer paying attention to Nidorina. He could see her out of the corner of his eye, leaping and forcing Starmie on the defensive. Ash questioned Smith's intelligence at sending a poison-type onto the field against two psychic-types, but didn't really care. Marowak was his main concern.

Dazed's eyes burned as she sent a wave of telekinetic force towards Marowak as it charged towards her. Marowak showed incredible dexterity and skill by rolling out of the way seamlessly, elegantly regaining its footing before leaping at Dazed again, too close for her to dodge.

So Marowak and White were rather confused when its clubs struck nothing but air. Marowak looked around confusedly, still a little blinded by the flash of light that illuminated the area. It didn't take much longer before an incredibly powerful psybeam slammed into its back and sent it crashing forward.

Marowak snarled and began to follow the shouted commands of its trainer. It reared back and suddenly breathed a stream of flame onto one of its bones before covering the immediate area with it, shrouding the dirt and sand in a cloud of fire. Ash saw the bright blue flash of an ice beam before Dazed swept the cloud of flame out of the air with a psychic.

Dazed teleported again as Marowak fired an ice beam at her. Ash noted that one of its bones was glowing white-hot while the other had been covered in a layer of ice. It wouldn't really simulate the effects of a fire-type attack or ice-type attack, but the burning bone would hurt if it hit anything. The icy bone would be more for discomfort than anything else.

Marowak suddenly found Dazed in the corner of its eye and slammed one of its clubs into the ground. Chunks of earth, glowing in a dull blue outline, rose from the plain battlefield and shot outwards in all directions.

His friend easily caught the chunks and held them in midair with her telekinesis before sending them back at Marowak, who had charged at her the moment she broke her focus to block the attack. It casually batted the hurled chunks of earth out of the way with its ice bone and leapt at her.

"End this." Ash ordered, tired of Marowak's game. Dazed happily obliged, catching Marowak in mid-leap and keeping it frozen in a thin, surging blue aura. Marowak visibly struggled, showing incredible strength and willpower as it managed to actually move through the psychic.

Its struggles ended as Dazed concentrated immense amounts of force onto its body from all directions, instantly knocking it out. Dazed dropped it to the ground and allowed White to call it back, Marowak vanishing into a bright scarlet light.

While White prepared to release his last pokemon, Ash decided to take advantage of the momentary lapse.

"Dazed, hit the Nidorina!" He commanded. Dazed's eyes flickered as she turned to the battle between Wave and Nidorina and used the same trick she'd used on Marowak. Nidorina was helpless to resist as she was battered by psychic force and finally knocked out by a high-powered water gun from Wave.

Ash frowned at that. It was an easy battle. He'd expected more, but when he saw his foes' next choices, he realized that he'd get it.

White had released a vicious looking crobat. It clung to the ground at the moment, but hissed as it saw the battle and flew into the air with incredible speed. Ash stared at it curiously. He'd never battled a crobat. All he knew was that they were fast, impossibly so. This might be a challenge.

Smith released a huge, angry typhlosion. It stood up on its hind legs and roared, causing a mane of fire to blaze up around its neck. Typhlosion landed back on all fours and prepared to charge, the flames rising and wavering with the cheers of the crowd.

"Ares, you're up!" White roared. Crobat flashed through the air at that, baring its needle-like fangs and doing a series of acrobatics to warm up.

Smith was quieter, just calling out a quiet series of commands to Typhlosion. The fire-type roared and flared up again, reminding Ash distinctly of Infernus.

"We'll need both of our pokemon to take on that crobat." Ash muttered to Jaimie. She nodded, having come to that same conclusion. "Take on that Typhlosion. Dazed'll keep the crobat away."

And with that exchange, the battle began. Crobat tore through the air, a blur too indistinct to actually follow. It avoided Dazed entirely, launching itself towards Wave. The starmie quickly fired water gun at Crobat, but the poison-type easily evaded the blast of water and darted in at the psychic-type. It evaded the next water gun as well.

Ash winced as he saw a flash of dull grey covered one of Crobat's wings as it slammed into Wave. The steel wing impacted straight into Wave's bright gem, sending a sharp crack through it and knocking Wave unconscious.

Typhlosion was racing towards Dazed, fangs bared and nothing but a blur of fire. It was now being supported by Crobat, who was darting towards Dazed.

His mind raced. Teleportation would only be a temporary solution. The opponents would be expecting it and Crobat would be too fast to avoid for long.

"Mutliball!"

Dazed's eyes flashed a light grey as a dozen tiny shadow balls formed in a ring around her. They circled the hypno slowly, being aimed and prepared to fire at her foes.

The rest was up to Dazed. Ash couldn't help her, all he'd be doing is distract her. Only she knew when to fire and where.

Crobat suddenly disappeared, a dozen illusory copies appearing in its place. Ash frowned at the double team, knowing that it would complicate things. The illusory Crobat swooped in at Dazed, suddenly disappearing as she locked onto the target with her abilities and fired her shadow balls.

The real Crobat was thrown to the ground by one of the shadow balls, although the shock quickly wore off and it shot back up into the air. It was a bit slower, though, so that was a plus.

Of course, that didn't help it much when it was suddenly consumed by an enormous burst of orange and yellow flame. Ash grinned as the charred form of Crobat fell to the ground, unconscious from being engulfed in the flamethrower but mostly unhurt. It was returned in an instant.

"Great job, Ignis!" Jaimie cheered. Her Charmeleon growled and spat another burst of flame. It shot another stream of fire at the racing form of Typhlosion, but the faster creature easily avoided the flame and spat its own flamethrower at Charmeleon in reply.

"Disable. Dream eater." Ash called out as Typhlosion leapt at Dazed's still form with all the grace of a predator. It was suddenly frozen and outlined in a light blue aura, helpless to resist as Dazed stared it in the eyes and began to sway her stone pendulum in front of its eyes. Typhlosion couldn't help but follow the entrancing motion, ignoring the cries of its trainer in favor of the pendulum.

In just three more seconds the Typhlosion's will had been broken by Dazed's natural hypnosis. She gently lowered the snoozing creature to the ground, making sure not to wake it.

Ash couldn't help but wince at the next part of the process. Dazed's eyes outstretched her hand, which began to glow red. A thin stream of red energy slid through the air until it touched Typhlosion, instantly creating a connection. Both of their bodies were suddenly engulfed in an aura of red energy, leaving the two as black outlines.

Typhlosion began to whimper and claw at the ground as its dreams were roughly torn from it by Dazed, who exhibited none of the care and tenderness she used when devouring Ash's dreams. Before the process could go on any longer Typhlosion was suddenly recalled by Smith, who looked visibly shaken by the technique.

"I forfeit." He shouted with a tremor in his voice. His hands were shaking as he placed Typhlosion's pokeball on the belt. White nodded understandingly and patted Smith on the shoulder.

"And there you have it, folk, a stunning battle!" The announcer shouted, barely audible over the roars of the crowd as victory was realized. "With power like that behind them, who knows how much further Ketchum and Sezare will go in this competition?"

A wide grin suddenly split across Ash's face as he realized he won. The trainer glanced over to Jaimie and saw that she had a similar reaction.

"You did awesome, Ash!" She cried before returning her Charmeleon. "With the two of us, this competition is going to be a breeze!"

He smiled and nodded before recalling Dazed and walking out of the box, whispering his thanks to her as he entered the area where the other competitors were stationed.

"And now for our next match!" The announcer cried. "Amell and Austin versus –"

Ash didn't pay attention to the rest as he took a seat next to Jaimie. They had a prime view of the battlefield from their spot and he needed to watch carefully. He needed to know everyone in the competition. There was no telling who he would battle.

XX

Ash and Jaimie ended up getting a pass for the next round of the competition. They performed the best out of all the competitors, losing only one pokemon during their battle. The other matches were much closer, and he'd seen some pretty tough competition in the other battles.

But now they were up again, facing their opponents, Ryan Dillard and Spencer Kale. Dillard was a young teenager that had a confident smile upon his face. He looked friendly enough, but Ash knew that he had the experience and skill to back up that confidence. He'd obliterated the competition although his partner had been much weaker, although no push-over. Kale was wiry and quiet, looking a bit uncomfortable with being in the center of attention.

"Ketchum and Sezare choose first! Go!"

He quickly sent out Infernus. Kale's team had been mostly weak to fire, and Infernus could easily fight the others. Kale was his priority. They wanted to take out the weaker team so they could focus exclusively on Dillard. If Infernus was defeated, Ash had plenty of other strong options.

Infernus roared and spat a huge column of white flame into the sky before he stamped his foot and caused the earth to explode around him and leak lava around him. The spectators loved it and cheered Infernus on. The fire-type started oddly and glanced at them as though he wanted to shoot a flamethrower into the stands.

Jaimie sent out her Venusaur. It was going to cover the no-man's-land in clouds of stun spore and sleep powder. Even if the opponent pokemon were able to avoid being affected by it, both substances were rather combustible. That would pose quite the nasty surprise.

Dillard grinned and sent out a massive, regal houndoom. It howled and spit a flame of dark flame traced with flecks of black soot inside of it into the air in imitation of Infernus. Infernus' eyes glinted as he took in the other fire-type, clearly ready to take Houndoom on.

Kale nervously released a slowbro, who lazily sat down and yawned before the sudden bite of Kale's voice snapped it out of its laziness. Slowbro stretched and looked at Infernus with a dopey expression. Ash saw the shelder attached to its tail clench a little tighter.

"Flower, cover the field with stun spore and sleep powder!" Jaimie shouted over the crowd. Flower yawned and looked at her in annoyance before he shook his body and sent huge clouds of both dangerous powders floating around the field. They didn't go near Infernus.

"Houndoom, Flash Charge!" Dillard shouted. Ash was surprised that he could hear him above the cheers.

Houndoom tensed up before leaping forwards, strong muscles pushing him at a fast pace. He spat a huge blast of flame into the clouds of powders, igniting them and sending them into a huge fireball. Flower grunted in annoyance and slowly backed away from the inferno, clearly uncomfortable. Infernus simply kept his eyes locked on the approaching fire-type, who was carrying a wave of fire at its heels.

Ash groaned to himself. He knew that strategy would backfire. At least it would just give Infernus more strength.

"Infernus, intercept."

Infernus roared before charging into the flames, his camouflage hiding him from all but the most perceptive of eyes. Houndoom was heedless as it charged through the flames, aiming directly towards the angry Flower, who had begun charging solar energy in direct violation of Jaimie's orders.

"Flower, use razor leaf! C'mon, for me!" Jaimie pleaded to the lumbering grass-type. Ash looked at her oddly, not understanding why her Venusaur wasn't listening to her. She was far too experienced for that.

Flower ignored her and continued charging its energy. Houndoom suddenly leapt from the crackling inferno that covered the majority of the field now, only visible as a black, horned blur as it aimed for Flower.

Unfortunately, Infernus punched it as it jumped outside of the flames. The magmar appeared as if from nowhere, nearly invisible amongst the inferno.

The punch sent Houndoom sprawling, the powerful fire-type not meant for taking hits. It whimpered and snarled as it pulled itself up and prepared to attack Infernus. Infernus simply adopted a fighting stance and prepared for the brutal melee that would follow amongst the flames.

Ash could hear Dillard shouting objections to his Houndoom, even above the roaring flames. Apparently the enraged dark-type was deviating from their plan. That could only be good for him. At least it distracted Houndoom from its real target: Flower.

Houndoom breathed a huge stream of flames at Infernus, heedless to the ineffectual nature of the attack. Ash grinned at that. It was fighting stupidly. While he'd seen the overwhelming power and skill it wielded in previous battles, Houndoom was only really effective when Dillard could command it. At all other times it seemed to be nothing more than a furious, slavering beast that barely understood how to battle other than bite and blast it with flames.

Infernus reacted with blinding speed, the heat pervading the battlefield speeding up his reaction time and lending him strength. He ducked underneath Houndoom's pounce and slammed his fist into the dark-types gut.

Ash could only hear a yelp before the two took their battle to the flames, only visible to him through the leaping pillars of fire and dim roars and cries that penetrated the roaring of the crowd and flames.

He sighed and glanced over at Flower. The venusaur was still staying far back, not contributing anything to the fight. Jaimie was shouting and pleading with it, but it just wouldn't listen. Flower was resolutely avoiding anything to do with fire or the fight.

It went on like that for another minute. He couldn't see the details of Infernus' battle and Flower wasn't doing anything, so it was rather boring. Ash was a bit worried about what Slowbro was getting up to. The water-type could be dangerous if it got a hold of Infernus.

And then he saw the flames explode in a certain area. Ash worriedly glanced over to the destroyed zone and saw that something had pushed the flames back. He was able to see into the battle a bit now.

Infernus was standing over the collapsed form of Houndoom. He was covered in bites, but he didn't seem particularly concerned. Instead, he stepped onto Houndoom and shifted all of his weight to that foot, eliciting a pained yelp from the dark-type.

The fire-type reared his head up and spat another stream of white-hot flame into the air, showing his pride in defeating Houndoom without much trouble. The crowd loved it and jumped out of their seats at the arrogant display of power.

Ash could only say that he was glad that Houndoom had gone into a frenzy at Infernus' first attack. He had been able to see Dillard's despondent expression over the course of the battle. Houndoom was a loose cannon, highly effective and fully capable of destroying most opponents with its fire when controlled by a trainer, but a rampaging mess when angered. It would have been a difficult fight otherwise, but Infernus' own skill had managed to avert disaster.

Even as Infernus roared his victory to the heavens, Slowbro waddled into the exposed area, its psychic powers creating a protected area for it to walk through, and shot a water pulse at Infernus' chest.

Infernus was thrown off of Houndoom, who was promptly returned by Dillard. He quickly pulled himself up and snarled at Slowbro, who blinked dumbly in return. The fire-type snorted a burst of flame and smoke before disappearing into the flames, nothing but an indistinct waver amongst the flickering inferno.

"Water pulse!" Kale shouted again. The shelder on Slowbro's tail clenched hard and Slowbro looked up. A sphere of blue energy formed above his mouth before transforming into a fount of water, which exploded outwards and extinguished most of the flames around him.

Ash winced as Infernus was hurled backwards by the force of the water. His friend was still fighting strong and furiously, but he couldn't take many more water pulses.

None of his techniques would work well against Slowbro. Brick break would hurt, but Slowbro would dampen its effects with its psychic abilities. Fire-type attacks wouldn't do much to the resistant creature. So there was only one venue left.

"Infernus, beat it!" He cried. Infernus tensed up and leapt as soon as the order left Ash's mouth. The fire-type slammed a fist into the back of Slowbro's head, knocking the water-type over. Slowbro tried to get up, but a huge flamethrower from Infernus that left the dirt around them glowing with embers and ash kept it down.

Just as Infernus prepared to deliver a finishing blow, a huge, shaggy form burst up from beneath him. Dirt exploded outwards, covering the entire area with a thin layer of it. An absolutely massive creature, standing at least eight feet high and four feet across, had erupted from the ground and was now standing protectively over Slowbro as the water-type recovered. Two huge, curved tusks of solid ice jutted out from its face. A pig-like snout twitched and snorted as the gigantic Mamoswine that had torn Dillard's previous opponents apart made an appearance.

Ash frowned at the behemoth. It was going to be absolutely brutal, so he couldn't hold anything back.

"Flamethrower!" He shouted. Infernus, who had just recovered from being thrown on his back, quickly followed suit, fearlessly facing Mamoswine and bathing it in flame. Ash had to look away from the inferno it was so bright.

When he looked back, Mamoswine stood strong. It hadn't even moved, but had taken the flamethrower easily. Mamoswine snorted at an order Dillard gave it and it slowly began a charge towards Infernus.

Even as Infernus faced the oncoming monster without flinching, Ash spotted Slowbro preparing a water gun that would ruin any efforts at defense from Infernus. He began to cry out a warning, but a huge beam of pure white energy suddenly flashed across the field and slammed into Slowbro, hurling it into the psychic barriers that enclosed the battlefield and knocking it unconscious.

Ash grinned. It looked like Flower had finally made an appearance now that the flames were gone. The grass-type lumbered over to the battle angrily, its beady eyes furious. Flower gave a deep bellow as it walked over, sending out a steady stream of razor-sharp leaves into Mamoswine's side as it did so.

Mamoswine simply ignored the razor leaf attacks as it charged towards Infernus. It lowered its head and prepared to slam its tusks into Infernus' side as it grew within five feet. Infernus tensed up and leapt out of the way, rolling and spitting a stream of flame at Mamoswine as he did so.

The behemoth snorted and slowed down. Dillard was calling out a constant stream of commands to the monster as it prepared another charge. Ash couldn't make them out, but knew they wouldn't be good.

Ash expected its next move to be an earthquake, or perhaps another charge. Instead, Mamoswine turned its massive head and opened its huge mouth. A stream of freezing air shot out from the lumbering creature's mouth and hit Flower, hurting the venusaur but not knocking it unconscious.

He took advantage of the distraction to strategize. Ash didn't know much about Mamoswine. They weren't from Kanto, for one, and weren't common anywhere. What he did know was from information passed around when the undefeatable creature made its first appearance at the tournament.

Mamoswine were ice and ground-types. They were as powerful as snorlax when charging and were incredibly dangerous. It took a lot to take them down and they had a dangerous move pool.

But he did think he had a strategy. He didn't know if even Infernus could take the Mamoswine down through brute force, but he could try to get it to overheat. The behemoth's thick fur would be baking hot already in this sort of heat, so if he pounded it with fire and got it moving enough it wouldn't be able to fight.

"Change out for Ignis." He said, never taking his eyes away from the battlefield. "We need firepower."

Jaimie nodded and hastily recalled Flower, attracting a bit of attention from the announcer as she did so. She released Ignis, who quickly ran over to the fight.

"Ignis, use flamethrower on Mamoswine!" She shouted, glancing at Ash to see if that was what he wanted. He nodded and turned his focus back to the battle.

"Infernus, take him head on."

Infernus roared and prepared himself as Mamoswine turned towards him. It completely ignored Ignis' flamethrower and focused on Infernus. Mamoswine grunted loudly as it charged towards Infernus with unstoppable force, bulk carrying incredible power behind it.

His friend bathed it in a stream of unrelenting flame as it neared, leaving the Mamoswine nothing but a dark shape hurtling towards him. Ignis lent her own flame, devouring Mamoswine from all directions.

Ash spotted its ice tusks melting as the heat intensified. It just couldn't take the heat. Mamoswine was already slowing, but would still hit Infernus with a good deal of force. The behemoth was too close to avoid.

"Take it!" He shouted, trusting that Infernus was still strong enough and Mamoswine was weakened enough for this to work.

And so Infernus took a stance and lunged at Mamoswine as it met him, grabbing its huge, icy tusks in his burning hands and anchoring himself to the earth as unstoppable force met pure determination and unwillingness to bend to any foe.

The crowd finally went silent as Infernus held the weakened Mamoswine in its tracks, forcing a stalemate. Both foes struggled to win the titanic struggle, Infernus utilizing all of his strength to defeat Mamoswine. Ignis continued to help, forcing all of her power into her flames as they slammed into Mamoswine's side.

It went on for several tense seconds. Ash could barely believe it himself. Perhaps he could believe it of Bruiser and his titanic strength, but for Infernus to hold a rampaging Mamoswine in its tracks…it was simply awe-inspiring.

And then Mamoswine fell, the heat too much for the mammoth. It collapsed behind the force, allowing Infernus to push it over even as the last remnants of its icy tusks melted in his hands. Before Infernus could begin attacking it with his flames again, Dillard recalled Mamoswine.

Ash let go of a breath he hadn't realized he was holding. He stared at Infernus with awe, silent but screaming congratulations at the same time. Infernus just shakily stood there and roared, spitting flame throughout the battlefield to the immense cheers of the crowd.

Infernus collapsed after that, the effort of stopping Mamoswine too much for his powerful body to handle. He stared at Ash proudly before he was recalled.

He blinked and felt a crazy grin spread over his lips. Ash was just too frozen to do anything else as the crowd chanted his name and cheered him on. Jaimie was the one that ended up pulling him from his stupor and leading him to the box, shouting congratulations and squealing over Infernus as she did so.

XX

He and Jaimie stared at each other from opposite ends of the battlefield, partners turned opponents. Both knew each other's skill well enough, but both were confident in their ability to win. The crowd cheered their names, expecting a great battle from the first battle between partners.

"This will be a one-on-one battle." The announcer began solemnly, far from the boisterous attitude he'd claimed so far. "Choose your pokemon wisely. This will determine who enters the finals. Prepare yourselves and fight your former partner with all the ferocity you possess. Sezare chooses first."

Ash wasn't surprised when an immense blue serpent appeared on the field, exuding a calming aura and staring at him intently with large, glossy eyes. It coiled around itself and remained serene even as the crowd froze with awe at the sight of a dragonair.

"C'mon, Serpent, you can do it!" Jaimie cried, pumping her fist in the air. Serpent raised her head and gave out a low, soothing cry.

He just grinned. If Jaimie wanted a competition between dragons, she would get one. Ash trusted that Torrent would come through for him.

Torrent rumbled his arrival onto the field, shaking the earth around him. He levitated several feet above the earth, raising his elegant head in a dignified manner as Serpent's spell over the crowd broke and they began clamoring for the refined kingdra.

"And in a stunning development, we find ourselves watching a clash between dragons!" The announcer cried in a stunned manner. "I can't believe my eyes! Which of these powerful creatures shall find victory today?"

"Ice storm." Ash said quietly. The crowd was quiet now, too enraptured by the battle to cheer and roar. He didn't want to give away anything to Jaimie. She had trouble controlling a few of her pokemon, but she was a strong battler. He couldn't give her an advantage.

Torrent quickly spewed the thick haze of frost from his snout and let it diffuse over the field, an impenetrable barrier for Serpent. Before Jaimie could react he twitched his rear fins and created a gigantic tornado. The kingdra levitated with the twister, which he pushed to greater and greater sizes.

"Thunder wave!" Jaimie shouted. Serpent cried out loudly as the orbs beneath her neck glowed brightly and shot out a huge lance of blue electricity. It flashed towards Torrent and would end the battle immediately if it hit, but Torrent simply maneuvered the twister in front of the bolt of paralyzing electricity.

Torrent suddenly levitated into the twister, which by now engulfed the entire width of the field and rose a hundred feet into the clear blue sky, carrying huge amounts of dirt and dust inside of its spinning winds, and began forcing it forward. From what he could see, Jaimie had blanched when she realized that Torrent was nigh invulnerable inside of the twister.

Ash smiled softly. He needed to save his real energy for the finals. This wasn't a real fight. He knew that Serpent was an incredible force in battle. All dragons were. Even dratini were capable of a good amount of destruction if given reason.

That was why he had to end this quickly and decisively. Serpent couldn't fly above the twister, since at that height she would have run into the psychic barriers, and couldn't find a way around it. The hurricane-force winds would defeat the powerful dragon-type in just a few seconds if she tried to go through it, especially when the blizzard was assimilated into the twister.

So he wasn't worried as Torrent and his twister surged toward Serpent, an indomitable force that could not be stopped by any means.

And then he saw a bright blue glow focus on Serpent, briefly illuminating the entire stadium. Ash's widened and he nearly smacked himself. In his haste, he'd forgotten the most potent of dragonair's abilities: Weather manipulation. The twister might survive her neutralization, but it would be weakened beyond belief.

Jaimie was grinning widely as the blue light exploded outwards from the orbs on Serpents' neck and carved their way through the twister. While it had little effect at first, the blue light hovered in the air and slowly calmed the roaring winds.

Ash had a deep frown on his face as he examined the effects. The twister was dying now, the blizzard that swirled inside of it leaking away and losing its potency as warm air heated it. Even the winds were returning to nothing more than a particularly fierce summer breeze.

Then the light vanished, returning to Serpent's orbs in a single flash. For her part, Serpent looked exhausted. Apparently the effort of neutralizing a massive tornado was quite substantial. She was still able to fight, however, even if at reduced ability.

Torrent seemed fine, if a little tired. He had incredible endurance and creating the ice storm was much simpler than calming it. At least Ash still possessed an advantage.

Still, it was clear that creating another ice storm wasn't a possibility. Jaimie was onto him now. He had to end this decisively.

"Blizzard!" He cried. Torrent reared back and shot a huge blizzard, exponentially larger and more powerful than the one he had used in the ice storm. It swept across the ground, leaving a trail of frost in its wake. Dirt froze over as it passed by and crystals of ice formed on the battlefield's surface.

"Fly out of the way!" Jaimie shouted. Serpent struggled, but managed to levitate upwards. She barely stayed above the surging blizzard, the effort showing in her constant dips and twitches. Her body and mind wasn't meant to take the kind of punishment she had just put herself through.

"Dragon pulse. Follow with another blizzard."

Torrent easily formed the sphere of writhing energy and aimed it at Serpent's weakening form. A week of constant practice had done him good. He quickly released it, the sphere of draconic energy slamming into Serpent and releasing its power in the form of an immense explosion, the light of a sun emanating from the contact for a brief moment.

When Ash could see again, he saw that Serpent was crumpled to the ground. She was strong – she'd proven that by stopping the ice storm – but it was clear that she had no real way of surviving the kind of firepower that Torrent could use with ease. Dragonair didn't have the sheer power or endurance that kingdra did.

All was silent for a moment.

"Ash Ketchum advances to the finals, showing his strength in a brilliant display of power and skill! This battle will be remembered for years!"

Ash just smiled a bit, nodding at Jaimie with respect. She was a good trainer, if a little too soft on her pokemon. But, judging from her dragonair, she was doing well. Nothing else had managed to completely neutralize ice storm.

He recalled Torrent and thanked his friend for his strength before walking off of his box. The crowd was still silent as he went to the competitors' box, which was largely empty except for the last pair remaining.

The eyes of the crowd weren't so intimidating anymore.

XX

"And for the Finals, we have two incredible trainers! Ash Ketchum, who has shown that he has skill far beyond his age, and Jack Conolley, who has dominated each match he has engaged in. This is a one-on-one match. The stakes are high, but you must choose wisely if you wish to win. Conolley will choose first. Begin!"

Ash didn't like that the final match was a one-on-one. It just didn't seem to work well. But he supposed it did work well for the organizers. It gave a dramatic air to the last battle of the tournament and had the side effect of keeping it from dragging on too long. The tournament had been going on for well over seven hours now, which was absolutely brutal in the summer heat.

Conolley was a tall teen who had a constant, good-natured smirk. He was good, that much was evident. Ash had seen the way he defeated his opponents, carrying his much weaker partner's slack.

His opponent waved at him, which Ash hesitantly returned. He felt nervous again, the feeling of invincibility that had stayed with him following his victory over Jaimie practically nonexistent now.

Conolley released the one thing that Ash really didn't want to battle: a huge, roaring gyarados that had nothing in its eyes but pure rage. The creature took up a huge portion of Conolley's side of the battlefield. It was at least forty feet long.

He had nothing against it. Torrent was tired from the battle now that the adrenaline had left his system. Dazed didn't have the power to hurt the monstrous sea serpent that thrashed before him, belching fire as it roared. Bruiser had no chance. Infernus could barely stand, let alone fight. Tangela couldn't face it, not with it being capable of breathing fire.

Nidoking was weak to it, but he had thunderbolt behind him. He wasn't a good choice, but he was a choice. Ash was starting to wish he'd captured one of those electric-types running through Saffron City.

Nidoking roared loudly and pounded his chest as he was released, not intimidated in the least by Gyarados. The great sea serpent roared at him and slowly wound its way closer.

Ash formulated a rough strategy. Gyarados was invincible. Its armor was thicker than Nidoking's, so poison sting and other weak, ranged attacks would be useless. A punch would hurt Gyarados, but wouldn't do enough. Aside from that, there was the sheer problem of attacking a forty foot sea serpent up close.

What he did have was thunderbolt. Gyarados wouldn't be instantly defeated by it, but the sea serpent would be badly hurt if he used enough of them. At the very least it would keep it from attacking. The sea serpent was limited in mobility as it was, and the underside of its body was more vulnerable. It was his only chance.

"Hydro pump." Conolley said with a laugh, thinking that the match would be over quickly. Ash couldn't blame him. Nidoking was strong, but he was fighting against a beast ancient cultures had revered as a minor deity, just underneath the Legends themselves.

Gyarados reared its head back and spat a huge torrent of water at Nidoking, the flow constant and never stopping. Even as he realized that fact, Ash's mind flashed back to his battle against Blaine. The part of him that had accepted defeat was momentarily vanished by his hope.

"Thunderbolt!" He shouted desperately. "Follow with ice beam."

Nidoking resolutely did as he commanded, his increased reflexes allowing him to perform both actions before the incredibly powerful hydro pump that could wash a town away hit him. He lowered his head and shot a lance of bright, burning lightning into the flood of water.

Conolley's eyes widened in fear and shouted for Gyarados to stop, but the Gyarados was too busy blasting water that it couldn't hear. It did understand when the incredibly amplified thunderbolt travelled through the hydro pump and into its body.

Gyarados writhed in agony as the electricity raged through its system. It thrashed and twisted in an attempt to avoid the pain, pushing the psychic barriers protecting the crowd to their absolute limit as its incredibly powerful body slammed into the barriers. Fire surged from its mouth wildly, the inferno tinged a light blue and bathing the battlefield around it in flames.

Nidoking fired the ice beam just as the hydro pump was about to hit him. A small part of the hydro pump was frozen solid, giving Nidoking just enough time to sidestep before the remainder of the hydro pump forced the frozen part forward.

"Thunderbolt! Charge it!" Ash cried, able to see victory, no matter how unlikely it was. Nidoking roared and charged as fast as he could. A bolt of electricity left his horn and slammed into Gyarados' twitching form with perfect precision, sending the beast back into its spasms.

"Gyarados, get up!" Conolley snapped, a bit of worry on his face. Gyarados followed the order as best it could, pulling itself up from its agonized spasms in a display of incredible willpower. "Block the electricity with thunder. Wrap it up."

Gyarados roared furiously, pure hatred in its feral eyes as it regarded Nidoking. Nidoking roared back and shot another lance of lightning at Gyarados. The sea serpent reacted quickly, closing its eyes as a huge surge of electricity left its body and collided with the thin, intense thunderbolt.

Thunderbolt was no match for the power of Gyarados' thunder. The more powerful electric-type attack was simply absorbed by the immense surge of electricity that arced past it and slammed into the psychic barriers just in front of Ash's face.

Ash blinked in surprise before looking back to the battle. Nidoking was still racing towards Gyarados, having abandoned the thunderbolts. Now he shot ice beams at Gyarados, although they were blocked by immense breaths of fire from the powerful sea serpent.

As Nidoking charged closer, Gyarados suddenly snapped towards the poison-type. Nidoking was helpless to resist as Gyarados coiled around him, squeezing Nidoking with crushing force. Nidoking roared in agony, but kept the great sea serpent at bay by pushing outward as hard as he could.

Conolley seemed surprised that Gyarados hadn't knocked Nidoking out instantly, but began to react. Ash was faster, though, seeing another faint glimmer of victory.

"Thunderbolt!" He roared, making sure that he was audible to Nidoking. Nidoking bared his teeth with the efforts as an arc of lightning raced up his long horn and shot straight into Gyarados' mouth as the massive creature tried to breathe fire on him.

Gyarados couldn't even roar as agony raced through it, too powerful for the monster to resist. It writhed in pain and fury and accidentally let Nidoking go. The ground-type struggled to pull himself up, but quickly did so at Ash's command.

"Horn attack!" Ash cried. Gyarados was quieting down, breathing heavily and struggling to get back up. This was their last chance.

Nidoking didn't even roar as he barreled into Gyarados' sensitive underside with his sharp horn. The horn pierced through Gyarados' massive plates of scales, which were still thick even on the underbelly, and injected a huge dose of poison that would be enough to drastically weaken Gyarados into it.

But that wasn't all. Even as the spectators watched in awe and Conolley in horror, Ash shouted one word.

"Thunderbolt!"

Gyarados roared in agony as a huge current of electricity lashed through him, still too strong and overwhelmingly powerful to be knocked unconscious by the blow. Ash felt pity for the sea serpent as its gaping maw opened and closed helplessly, barely conscious but still feeling every bit of the attack.

"I forfeit!" Conolley shouted as he suddenly recalled Gyarados, looking at the pokeball with pity and admiration. He looked at Ash. "Ketchum, you are a magnificent battler. You deserve to win this competition."

Ash smiled and tipped his hat to him, feeling a little guilty for putting Gyarados through that much pain. But then he froze.

He just defeated a massive, furious Gyarados with Nidoking.

The roar of the crowd was a stark contrast to the silence within his own head.

XX

"And here is the Champion of the Annual Dandra Pokemon Tournament, Ash Ketchum!" The announcer roared to the crowd as he placed a heavy medal around Ash's neck. He had three others in his hand, one for Conolley, one for Jaimie, who had defeated Conolley's partner for third place, and Conolley's partner, whose name Ash didn't know.

"The money will be transferred to your trainer account within the hour." The announcer promised Ash quietly. He suddenly pulled out the reward that Ash wanted the most: the egg. The announcer held it out. Ash reverently took it, gazing at the solid black egg curiously. He couldn't wait to see what it hatched into.

The announcer suddenly looked up at the crowd. The winners were in the announcer's box, which had opened up to reveal them to the crowd that had come back to watch the rewards ceremony. It had been a day since Ash had defeated Conolley and won the tournament, and he had never felt better.

He had made sure to give all of his friends full restores. They were still tired, but they were healthy now. Ash couldn't thank them enough. All of them had battled with incredible skill and put everything they had into winning.

He'd also made sure that there were no hard feelings between he and Jaimie. He liked her well enough and didn't want her to hold a grudge. She'd assured him that there was no bitterness and was happy for him, if not disappointed in herself.

"Ladies and gentleman, before we continue with this rewards ceremony, please give our Champion a round of applause!"

Ash grinned and waved up at the crowd as he cradled the ebony egg in one arm. They cheered him on even more.

He didn't like battling in front of them that much, but he thought he could grow to accept the cheers.

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