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  1. #31
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    Default Re: Jim: Blaze of Glory

    CHAPTER 31
    The Winter Festival - New Moves


    After Roxie took June away for training, Jim rejoined his companions as they continued to walk around the festival. Jim knew his Snivy was in safe hands, but he still felt uneasy without her at his shoulder. It almost felt she was a part of him, and he felt…oddly exposed without her at her usual spot.

    “I say!” called Oshawott, sitting atop Leanne’s hat. “Look there, Jim, old boy! There’s a combat going on!”

    Jim craned his neck to look where Oshawott was looking. On a stage, two Trainers were facing each other, both with foreign Pokemon. One looked like a large blue beetle with an axe-shaped horn, and the other resembled a big green dragonfly with large clear wings and red eyes.

    “Yanmega, AncientPower!” said the Trainer with the dragonfly Pokemon.

    A glowing white orb formed between the creature’s feet, which launched at the beetle.

    “Heracross, Brick Break!” said the other Trainer.

    The beetle drew its arm back, which began to glow white, and it punched right through the AncientPower, making it explode.

    “Air Slash!” commanded the Yanmega Trainer.

    Yanmega beat its wings rapidly, sending buzz saw-like blasts of winds at Heracross, slicing at it and making it fall onto its back, where it lay and did not get back up. The crowd cheered for the Trainer with the Yanmega, while the one with the Heracross sulkily recalled it.

    “There’s some pretty interesting Pokemon in the other regions, isn’t there, Professor?” asked Jim to Professor Juniper.

    “I think Pokemon of every region are interesting,” she answered, “but yes. I always find it fascinating to observe the Pokemon of lands outside ours. That Heracross was from Johto, and that Yanmega is from Sinnoh, but the Pokemon it evolves from, Yanma, is native to Johto.”

    “What?” asked Cheren, surprised. “Pokemon from one region can evolve into Pokemon from another?”

    “Amazing, isn’t it?” asked Juniper, her face aglow.

    “Very,” said Cheren. “I ought to look into this further…”

    “You can swing by the lab anytime,” said Bianca. “The professor has a bunch of really neat studies on international Pokemon! She corresponds with all of the great Pokemon professors: Professor Oak, Professor Elm, Professor Birch, Professor Rowan-”

    Jim’s attention, however, was diverted to a curtained stand off to the side of the battle stage. It read ‘Tutoring: Move Suggestions and Teachings’. It piqued his interest for more reasons than one. He had often been thinking about how his Pokemon would perform in the League with the moves they currently had. He was already confident in how well they did, but he didn’t think it would hurt to change his strategy up a bit, especially if he was going to face anyone who had already seen how his Pokemon operated.

    “I’ll be right back,” Jim said, and he made his way through the crowd toward the tent, making sure the others saw where he was going. He peered into the tent, cautiously, and was surprised to see that he recognized the woman sitting behind the table.

    “Miss LeClaire!”

    So it was! Katherine LeClaire, the S-Class Connoisseuse he had battled in Nimbasa City!

    “Ah! Mr. Stevens! Wonderful to see you again,” she said, in a stately, genial tone.

    “You’re a move tutor? I thought you were a Connoisseuse.”

    “I am, but often times, we find ourselves in a position where we can make suggestions to moves we feel can bring out the best in a Trainer’s Pokemon. But where is your Snivy? I expected to see her at your shoulder.”

    “She’s undergoing some tutoring,” said Jim, “and that’s why I came to this tent. I thought it would help me prepare for the League.”

    “But of course,” said LeClaire. “Many Trainers reassess their battle strategies, especially when they know they may be facing old rivals. One would not want to keep the same old strategies when their foes have already become used to them.”

    “I should think not,” Jim agreed. “So, do you think you could look at my Pokemon?”

    “Certainly. Unfortunately, I have an appointment coming soon, so if we could make it brief.”

    “Oh! Of course! Let me see…”

    Jim fumbled around his Poke Balls, and clicked two. Luckily, it was Echo and Missy that appeared, standing at LeClaire’s desk.

    “Well, well!” said LeClaire. “The very Swoobat that narrowly conquered my dear Maractus.”

    “I hope it’s doing well,” said Jim.

    “It is, thank you for asking. Now, let me see.”

    She motioned for Echo to step forward, which he did. LeClaire gazed steadily into his eyes, then held his leathery wings open between her delicate fingers. There was an odd twinkle in her eyes.

    “…Extraordinary,” she breathed. “The bond between you and your Swoobat is very much apparent. I can see it in his eyes, though I had only a glimpse of it during the tournament. What moves does he know, currently?”

    “Well, let’s see…” said Jim, thoughtfully. “Confusion, Air Slash, Shadow Ball, and Heart Stamp.”

    “I see…I may know just the move he needs to add spice to his move set, but first, let me see your Emolga.”

    She brought Missy forward, and a kind smile came over her slightly lined face. She softly stroked Missy’s fur between her fingers, gazing intently into her little eyes.

    “…Wonderful,” she said, in the same breathless voice. “This Emolga bears a strong affection towards you. I see it clear as day. You two must have been through much together.”

    Jim smiled.

    “What moves does she now?”

    “Erm…Discharge, Acrobatics, Double Team, and Shock Wave, I believe. She hasn’t seen many battles.”

    “So I see,” said LeClaire, gently prodding Missy’s belly, making her giggle. “With my help, however, she can still be your lovable Emolga while also being a force to be reckoned with. Return tomorrow, and you shall see the results of my professional opinion. Good day, Mr. Stevens.”

    “Er, good day, Miss LeClaire.”

    He exited the tent, the same feeling of nakedness increasing now that two more Pokemon were taken from his team. However, he felt much more confident in leaving them in the hands of a professional like Miss LeClaire; she would look after them, and who knows? He might be genuinely surprised at what she decided for their new abilities.

    “What happened in there?” asked Leanne, as they rejoined each other.

    “Just getting some expert consultation,” Jim said. “Missy and Echo are going to be given some new moves, if all goes well.”

    “Really!” said Cheren, intrigued. “Good for you! It’s always a good idea to keep your more persistent opponents on their toes, make them feel like they’ve got you pegged, and then wham!” He slapped his fist into his palm. “Hit them with a curve ball!”

    “Exactly what I was thinking,” said Jim, smiling. “By the way, you know who was in there?”

    “Who?” asked Leanne.

    “Katherine LeClaire.”

    “LeClaire??” asked Bianca, surprised. “The Connoisseuse you battled in Nimbasa City? The one with the Maractus?”

    “The same,” said Jim.

    “My word,” said Cheren, equally astonished. “I’ve never heard of a Connoisseuse being a tutor as well. Then again, if they base their suggestions on Pokemon-Trainer relationships, then it makes sense.”

    “You should see her, Cheren,” said Jim. “She’s really smart, and I’ll bet you have great relationships with yours.”

    “You know, maybe I will!” said Cheren, brightly. “It wouldn’t hurt to spice up my battle strategy. Thanks, Jim! I’m gonna go scout around for some tutors!”

    And he left the group, passing through the crowd in search of other advertisements for move tutors.

    “Now that’s a very decent thing to do: giving your opposition an equal chance.”

    Jim jumped. He knew that rough, coarse voice from anywhere. He whipped around to see none other than The Guy standing over him, looking quite out of place in his ragged trench coat and with his unshaven face.

    “Guy!” Jim cried. “I didn’t expect to see you here!”

    “Funny how that works out, isn’t it?” said The Guy, with a rough grin. “Feels like wherever I go, I run into you eventually. Ah! Leanne, Bianca. Good to see you two again.”

    He turned his attention to the two girls, who smiled.

    “And are these friends of yours?” he asked, turning to Professor Juniper and his mother, all three of whom looking warily at him. Jim couldn’t blame them; he looked very outlandish.

    “You could say that,” said Jim. “This is my mother and Professor Aurea Juniper from Nuvema Town. Mom, Professor, this is…well, he prefers being called Guy. We’ve met a few times out across Unova, and he’s been a big help.”

    At being told this, Mrs. Stevens relaxed. If this man had helped her son out, he couldn’t be as bad as he looked. She held out her hand, which he shook.

    “Pleased to meet you, ma’am,” said The Guy, gruffly. “Your boy is a remarkable Trainer.”

    “Thank you, sir,” said Mrs. Stevens, not really sure what to say.

    “Professor Juniper, my humblest regards,” The Guy then said, respectfully, to the Professor.

    “Thank you,” said Juniper, still not entirely sure what to make of him.

    The Guy looked back at Jim, and seemed to scrutinize him for a moment or two, then said,

    “Where’s your Snivy? She’s usually perched on your shoulder. Gone to join the excitement of the festival?”

    “She’s undergoing some tutoring, actually,” said Jim. “Someone named Roxie took an interest in her and said she wanted to teach her a move she’d really benefit from.”

    “Roxie, eh? So she’s back in our part of Unova. Ever since she moved to Virbank, the only traces we’ve seen of her are on one of her concert tours.” He gave a slight scoff. “I was never a fan of that rock n’ roll stuff…So she’s teaching June something, is she?”

    “Yes, sir. I’m not sure what it could possibly be, though.”

    “Well, given Roxie’s reputation, you can bet it’ll be something that’ll really add a trump card to June’s arsenal. And unless I’m mistaken,” he added, shading his eyes as he looked over at the tent Jim had just left, “you’ve gone to see Miss LeClaire. I had no idea she was in town.”

    “I know! She’s tutoring Echo and Missy.”

    “Sounds like you’re really taking your League preparations seriously,” said the Guy, approvingly. “So, tell me, who’s left in need of a new move?”

    “The last three Pokemon I have on me,” said Jim. “Torch, Torrent, and Spade.”

    “Spade?” asked the Guy, puzzled.

    “Oh, that’s right, you haven’t met him!” said Jim, realizing, and he briefly explained about trading Croco for Spade back in Driftveil City.

    “Interesting…” murmured the Guy. “You’ve got a good heart, Jim. You put your Pokemon’s needs ahead of your own, something a good many Trainers have yet to fully understand. So you’ve got an Excadrill now?”

    “Yes, sir.”

    “Well…I think I may be able to remedy your dilemma.”

    Jim stared, not sure he understood.

    “How’s that, sir?”

    “If you’ll allow, that is, I think I’ll take it upon myself to spruce up the rest of your team. Roxie’s giving June a new wildcard tactic, LeClaire’s focusing on the Pokemon which have a strong attachment towards you, so I think I can take a crack at your hard-hitters.”

    “You’d really do that, sir?” asked Jim, amazed.

    “I’ll certainly see what I can do,” said the Guy, “if you trust me with them.”

    “Of course, sir!” said Jim. “Of course I trust you! You’ve always known what you were doing, haven’t you? You’ve seen enough of Unova to know every which way to go!”

    The Guy gave a rough bark of a laugh.

    “I’m only human, kid. Everyone makes mistakes. Still, I appreciate the comment, and I’m glad you trust me. Where are you staying during your vacation?”

    “The Undella Villas,” answered Jim. “How long would it take to teach them?”

    “Oh, that all depends. Could be anything from a few hours to a few days.”

    Jim felt a slight twinge of uneasiness within him. Without his Pokemon for what could be a few days? It made him feel as if he was losing his protection. What if something happened, something that necessitated having a Pokemon on him, and he was unable to do anything about it?…Still, he also knew that someone like the Guy, just as much as Roxie or LeClaire, could be trusted, and wouldn’t put Jim in any real danger if they could allow it…

    Slowly, he pulled out the three Poke Balls containing his remaining Pokemon and handed them over into the Guy’s weather-beaten hand.

    “And they will be safe under you?” Jim asked.

    “As secure as gold in a sealed tomb,” said the Guy.

    Jim grimly remembered the fierce protectiveness of the Cofagrigus in the Relic Castle.

    “I’ll be working at the beach anyway,” said the Guy, “so I won’t be far from where you’re staying.”

    “Oh, good,” said Jim, relieved.

    “I’d better be off to get started, then. Good seeing you kids again. Ladies.”

    He gave a polite nod to Mrs. Stevens and Professor Juniper, then swept out of the crowd.

    No one spoke for a moment or so, and then, Mrs. Stevens said,

    “Jim, you’re sure you can trust that man? He seems so…wild.”

    “He’s a little fierce, yeah,” said Jim, “but he’s been around the globe a few times. He’s seen a lot, and knows a lot. He’s saved us once or twice, and has always been helpful. I trust him.”

    “So do I,” said Leanne.

    “And me,” said Bianca.

    He certainly seems friendly with you, Jim,” said Professor Juniper. “Almost reminds me of your father.”

    “I had that same impression, come to think of it,” said Mrs. Stevens, in slight surprise. “In a way, he reminded me much of Luke…”

    She became very quiet, a look of sad remembrance on her face. Jim put a comforting hand on her arm, and Professor Juniper nodded knowingly.

    The tender moment was interrupted, however, by a loud cackle, and several people screamed as loud, cracking smoke bombs went off, flooding the street with a dark haze.
    Everyone coughed and spluttered, and the crowd vanished in a twinkling, leaving a lone figure standing in the smoke. As it cleared, Jim saw that it was a Team Plasma grunt, though he could see by the face within the mesh hood that it was a woman, sneering coldly at him.

    “I’ve been watching you, little bratling,” she jeered, haughtily, “giving away your precious Pokemon and leaving yourself defenseless. Well, now, ‘Plasma’s Bane’, you’re mine! When Lord N hears that I’ve secured you for him, he will be so delighted with me!”

    She said this with a fond, manic zeal, and Jim actually laughed, snapping her out of her reverie.

    “Got a crush on your king, have you?” Jim asked. “Well, I think you’re out of luck. Seems to me he’s more into Pokemon than women. Some people are just married to what they know best.”

    “Watch your mouth, you insolent whelp!” snarled the grunt. “It doesn’t change the fact that you have no Pokemon to protect you!”

    “Horrid woman…” Jim heard his mother breathe, aghast.

    “He’s not defenseless!” said Bianca suddenly, stepping forward. “He has me!”

    “Does he?” asked the grunt, tauntingly. “Well, I suppose I can play around with you, little girl, before I decimate Stevens…”

    “Decimate…” repeated Mrs. Stevens, her face white. Jim felt pained to have to keep her hear to listen to such venomous talk.

    “Mandibuzz, go!” shouted the grunt, and she tossed a Poke Ball, revealing a Pokemon resembling a large, black vulture. It had a ruff of cream-colored feathers around its neck, its bald, pink head topped with a tuft of black feathers decorated with a bone, and a skirt of what also looked like bone around its waist. Jim brought out his Pokedex.

    “Mandibuzz, the Bone Vulture Pokemon. It flies in circles in the sky to find prey, swooping down to snatch it and bring it back to its nest. It protects itself with bone armor, and all Mandibuzz are female.”

    “Dewott, go!” shouted Bianca, and from her Poke Ball came her faithful, stoic Dewott. The grunt sneered.

    “That’s what you’re going with? Very well, then. Mandibuzz, Air Slash!”

    Mandibuzz reared back, its wings glowing blue, and it slashed at the open air, sending a wave of buzz saw-shaped blasts at Dewott.

    “Use Aqua Jet!” commanded Bianca.

    Dewott became enshrouded in a capsule of water and rocketed off the ground, dodging the blasts of air. He soared straight for Mandibuzz and collided against it, knocking it back.

    “So you have some fight in you,” consented the grunt, “big deal. Mandibuzz, Bone Rush!”

    Mandibuzz raised one wing, and what looked like a glowing blue bone appeared in its feathers, gripping it like fingers. It dived at Dewott and swung at him, clubbing him hard across the skull with it. He staggered, dazed.

    “Dewott!” yelled Bianca.

    Mandibuzz raised its bone for another blow, but Bianca, regaining her senses, shouted,

    “Razor Shell!”

    Dewott instinctively grabbed at the scalchop pair at his hips, and as he drew them, the curved glowing blades sprang to life. He crossed them in front of him, catching the glowing bone inches from his own face. Mandibuzz pushed against them, trying to make Dewott yield, but Dewott pushed back so forcefully that the bone dissipated, throwing Mandibuzz backward.

    “Dark Pulse!” commanded the grunt, almost screaming in frustration at the resistance.

    Mandibuzz reared its head back, and spat a blast of what looked like black fire from its beak right at Dewott.

    “Dodge it, Dewott, and use Ice Beam!” commanded Bianca.

    Dewott leaped into the air, dodging the blast of flame as it struck the ground beneath her. Then, he cupped his paws in front of him, an icy blue ball forming between them. He threw his paws forward, and a bolt of icy lightning shot forth, striking Mandibuzz on the spot, and encasing it in a block of sheer ice.

    The grunt looked horrorstruck at what just happened, but Jim and Leanne were cheering for Bianca and Dewott, the latter settling back on the ground and calmly sheathing his scalchops.

    “As you can see,” said Jim, calmly, “I’m far from unprotected, even without my Pokemon. I think it’s time you left. Your king is waiting…”

    The grunt looked as if she wanted to make a bitter retort, but words failed her. She recalled her Mandibuzz and, in another blast of smoke, vanished.

    The crowd began to return, all talking excitedly about what happened, many glancing over at Bianca and her Dewott. Mrs. Stevens, on the other hand, was much less enthusiastic.

    “All of those horrid things she was calling you, Jim,” she said, breathlessly. “It made me want to attack her myself…”

    “It’s all right, Mom,” said Jim, reassuringly. “I’ve endured worse than a few nasty taunts. They’re not worth getting worked up over. They’re practically scared of me these days.”

    “And they ought to be,” said Professor Juniper. “Bianca’s just shown them that your friends are to be feared just as much as your Pokemon.”
    Bianca’s cheeks flushed scarlet.

    “That was an impressive bit of battling, Bianca,” said Jim. “Dewott handled that Mandibuzz like it was nothing.”

    “Thanks, Jim,” said Bianca, humbly. Dewott bowed his head, respectfully.

    “Well!” Jim said, clapping his hands together. “Shall we continue on? I want to see what that guy at that ‘Hoenn’ counter’s selling. Looks like big red chicken statues on two feet!”

    Y Rotation Team

  2. #32
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    Default Re: Jim: Blaze of Glory

    Chapter 32
    Christmas


    It was, coincidentally, Christmas Eve when Jim and his friends first attended the festival, and by the time they returned to the villas, their arms weighed down with bought trinkets and souvenirs, the sun was already sinking toward the sea horizon. However, they were all too excited to want to go to bed, especially after the day they had just had. They were still talking about Jim’s battle with Roxie and Bianca’s battle with the Team Plasma Grunt. Indeed, the latter was even more discussed, as the crowd had been ousted forcibly during that instance, and became the buzz of the festival as they continued their walk through it. Many were worried about a 2nd attack, and wondered where that grunt had come from. Cheren, who had returned to hear all of this after leaving to find a move tutor, was all for trying to pursue the grunt back to the source, but she was long gone by that point, and had to contend that Team Plasma had evaded them again…

    That night, upon an idea by Professor Juniper, they decided to have a cookout on the beach, roasting hot dogs and marshmallows in the heat of flames Leanne’s Larvesta generated himself. Even more, Jim felt oddly deprived without any of his Pokemon at his side, especially June. She had always been that comforting presence by his side. Oshawott, seated between him and Leanne, also looked rather lonely without his love by his side. Hopefully, it wouldn’t be too long, yet.

    “Hey, Mom,” Jim said, after a while, “do you remember that old Christmas story you used to tell me when I was a kid?”

    “Hmm?” asked Mrs. Stevens, looking up.

    “Aw, come on, you can’t have forgotten,” said Jim, grinning. “Right before I went to sleep, you used to tell me about Santa Claus, riding on his sleigh, driven by…what was it again?”

    “Oh, yes!” said Mrs. Stevens, fondly. “‘8 mighty Sawsbuck, their fur as white as snow and as brown as the winter wood.’”

    “And at the head of the team?” asked Jim.

    "A little Winter Deerling to guide the way,’” the two said together, in fond reminiscence.

    Professor Juniper was smiling broadly, while Cheren, Bianca, and Leanne leaned in, interested.

    “And whenever he flew by, people and Pokemon everywhere felt a lot happier. And why was that?”

    “Because of the string of Soothe Bells he hung on his sleigh,” said Mrs. Stevens, with a smile.

    “So that near or far, awake or asleep, everyone felt the joy and peace of Christmas as he soared by on Christmas Eve night,” said Jim. “They’d hear the jingle of the bells, and the clop of hooves on the rooftops, but whenever they looked out the window-”

    “All they saw was the snowy trees, because his team blended in so easily,” Mrs. Stevens finished for him.

    “But they would hear something else, as he took off again.”

    “His merry old voice booming out-”

    And mother and son said together,

    “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

    Both laughed, and Mrs. Stevens wiped at her eye.

    “Oh, I remember how your father used to boom it out right behind us, when we weren’t expecting it.”

    “All those years, and we never grew wiser to his little joke,” said Jim, laughing.

    Mrs. Stevens sighed, and as Jim leaned against her, she put her arm around him.

    “I’m really glad you could come, Mom,” Jim said. “It just wouldn’t have been Christmas without you.”

    “Nor without you, honey.”

    Mrs. Stevens kissed her son’s forehead, and for a moment or two, Jim forgot all about the weight placed on his shoulders, the inevitability of calling Reshiram to his command, the war he had started with Team Plasma. It was Christmas, and everything was right with the world for once…

    The sun had wholly disappeared by now, the beach only lit by the crackling fire. The company had grown too sleepy to talk, and eventually, Jim drifted off to sleep.

    ***


    He had a rather bizarre dream. He dreamed he was back at home, standing outside in the snow as flakes fell all about him. Oddly, he did not feel cold at all, though he did not know why.

    Suddenly, the air was filled with the sound of ringing bells, a sound immediately pleasant and relaxing. Looking up into the sky, he saw an old-fashioned sleigh soaring through the air. An enormous bag was packed into the back, right behind the driver, a little old man dressed in red and white. Pulling the sleigh was a team of 8 Sawsbuck, their antlers bereft of leaves or buds, but their brown coats possessing a ruff of snow-white fur at the chest and hooves. At the head of the team, its tiny legs swinging in the air as it soared, was a little brown Deerling. The ringing was coming from a strand of silver bells hanging near the runners of the sleigh. The notes were sweet, but at the same time, unearthly. They filled Jim with an odd, expanding feeling in his chest.

    As the sleigh swept out of sight, the notes of the bells continued to reverberate, and instead of growing quieter, they seemed to be growing louder. The notes were becoming more unearthly, more spine-tingling, until Jim could feel his heart banging against his ribs.

    There was a sweep of wings, and something enormous and white soared over the treetops. Jim stared, aghast, and saw that it was a gigantic white dragon, hovering in the air with its vast, feathery wings, gazing down with eyes blue and piercing. There was a reddish, fiery glow emanating from its tail. Jim had the distinct impression that he had seen this creature before, in another dream…

    The dragon opened its mouth wide, and from it poured the same string of unearthly notes Jim had heard from the bells, but put into the vocal capacity of its draconic vocal chords. There were no words, only the unexplainable melody. And yet, somehow, Jim felt he could hear lyrics put to it…

    Your journey nears its end

    But your task is not yet done

    At the brink of rising war

    You must end what is begun

    Two that were once one

    Will battle, yet in vain

    They must recollect their past

    Lest history repeat again…


    There was a burst of flame, and the dragon soared upwards, straight into the snow-dropping clouds. Jim wanted to call out to it, to ask what the song meant, but it was too late. The dragon had disappeared.

    Then, all of a sudden, the ground began to shake uncontrollably. The snowy trees parted, falling away, and from the ground rose a massive, towering structure, a castle, made of grim, black stone. At the topmost tower, Jim saw another dragon soaring around it, and recognized it as Zekrom; it was unmistakable. However, there was something else on top of the tower, standing atop its spire. Jim couldn’t tell what it was. It looked vaguely insect-like, but it was oddly hunched, and had something on its back.

    There was a gleam of red eyes from the creature above, and a glowing orb of burning white light. Before Jim could react, before he could back away, before he could even cry out, there was a noise like cannon fire, and a blinding light enveloped everything…

    ***


    With a yell, Jim sat bolt-upright. He had somehow ended up back in his own bed in the villa, and daylight was streaming in through the window.

    “Merry Christmas!”

    Jim jumped. Cheren and Bianca had burst in, beaming, and wearing festive sweaters.

    “Merry Christmas, guys,” said Jim, smiling. “What are you wearing?”

    “Cheren got this for me,” said Bianca.

    “And Bianca got this for me,” said Cheren.

    Bianca’s was blue and had a stitched Dewott on the front, wielding both scalchops. Cheren’s was red and had an Emboar snorting flames.

    “Nice!” said Jim, laughing.

    “And we got this for you,” said Cheren.

    “From both of us!” said Bianca.

    She flopped a lumpy package onto Jim’s lap. Curious, he ripped the paper away, and found his own sweater beneath. It was green, with a Snivy emblazoned on it.

    “Oh, wow!…Thanks, guys. I wish I’d gotten you something as cool as this.”

    “Don’t sweat it,” said Cheren. “We knew you’d like it.”

    “But I do have some things for you guys,” said Jim, getting up. Cheren and Bianca looked at each other, puzzled.

    “I think they might be in this bag…” muttered Jim, rummaging through one of his market shopping bags. “Aha!”

    He drew out a pair of handsomely-carved wooden figurines, a Pikachu and one of the chickens Jim had observed earlier.

    “Pikachu and Blaziken,” Jim explained, handing the first to Bianca, the second to Cheren. “I thought you might like them.”

    “Ohh, Jim, it’s adorable!” cooed Bianca, looking at the little wooden mouse in her hands. Cheren, meanwhile, was examining the Blaziken with interest.

    “Fascinating,” he breathed. “Thanks, Jim! This is wonderful craftsmanship!”

    “Only the best for my besties,” said Jim, pleased to see them enjoying their gifts. He slipped on his new sweater, admiring the Snivy on it.

    “Come on!” said Bianca. “Let’s go meet with your mom and the professor!”

    “Good idea. Let me just grab what I got them, and I’ll join up with you.”

    ***


    They found Mrs. Stevens, Professor Juniper, and Audino waiting for them in the living room of their own villa, the Professor looking quite festive, and even Audino wearing a wreath around her head.

    “Merry Christmas, kids!” said the professor! “Come on in!”

    The three stepped inside, Jim bearing gifts. There was already a pile of wrapped presents sitting at the feet of the two women and Audino.

    “Merry Christmas, Mom,” said Jim, handing one of the ones he was carrying to his mother.

    “Oh, Jim, thank you! What could it be, I wonder?”

    She unwrapped it, revealing a small, velvet-covered box, like a jewelry box. Curious, she opened it, and let out a gasp. Inside was a tiny, glittering fish scale, glimmering like a rainbow, hanging from a silver chain. She took it out for all to see, and everyone but Jim drew in a sharp breath.

    “Jim…” breathed Mrs. Stevens. “What is it?”

    “A Prism Scale,” said Jim. “The saleslady told me it’s used to evolve a ‘Feebas’ into a ‘Milotic’. It’s really rare.”

    “Sweetie, this is so wonderful…Thank you!” said Mrs. Stevens, drawing her son into a tight hug. When she released him, she put the chain around her neck, the Prism Scale glittering on her neck. It looked wonderful.

    “And for you, Professor,” said Jim, handing another gift to Professor Juniper. “This one is from all 3 of us.”

    “Oh, you didn’t have to do this, kids,” said Juniper. She ripped the paper away, and looked in curious interest at what looked like a bound manuscript inside. “What’s this?”

    “A collaboration on the info on Unova Pokemon Cheren, Bianca, and I have found out,” said Jim. “Believe it or not, not every Pokedex entry is the same when you scan the same Pokemon. We put it together between the three of us.”

    “Oh, wow! That’s unbelievable! Thank you, kids!”

    Cheren and Bianca beamed.

    “And now, I’ve got something for each of you,” said Juniper.

    She handed each of them a small, wrapped box. When opened, it turned out to be what looked like a computer chip. It looked vaguely familiar to Jim.

    “They’re upgrades for your Pokedexes” explained Juniper. “I had to pull a few strings with some of the other Pokemon professors in my contacts, but they should allow you to be able to scan Pokemon not from the Unova region.”

    “Awesome!” said Jim.

    “Excellent!” said Cheren.

    “Sweet!” said Bianca.

    “Thanks, Professor!” all three said at the same time. Mrs. Stevens stood up.

    “And this is for you, Jim,” she said, handing a gift to him. “From Audino and me.”

    Interested, Jim opened it to find a little, leather-bound book inside. He flipped it open, and felt his jaw drop.

    It was a photo album, and each page was full of photographs of not just him and his mother, from as young as when he was a baby, but of him and Cheren and Bianca, and…
    Jim felt a moistness in his eyes as he gazed knowingly down at the pictures containing…his dad.

    There he was with him and his mother, when he, Jim, had only been a baby. There he was helping an older Jim to ride a bike. There the two of them were, laughing at something they were watching on television. There they were in front of the TV again, cheering as an old battle was underway, Jim just able to see that it was a Stoutland battling a Krookodile. There he was showing an intrigued Jim a trinket he had brought back from one of his travels. An entire section was devoted to the three Stevens, ending with two more photos: Jim and his mother, before he had set out, and his mother and Audino.

    Jim looked up at his mother, who was watching with an expectant smile.

    “…Mom…how long have you had these?…”

    “Years. I wavered on when the right time would be to give them to you, and I think now is the right time. Do you like it?”

    “Like it?…Mom, I love it…”

    “Merry Christmas, sweetie…”

    Now it was Jim’s turn to pull his mother into a hug, and, from a signal from him, Audino joined in as well. The Professor, Cheren, and Bianca watched on with warm smiles on their faces.

    “Hel-LOOOOOOOO!”

    Everyone jumped. Someone was shouting from outside, in a voice that rang loud and clear even through the closed door. Jim, however, recognized it.

    “Roxie,” he said. “She really knows how to make an entrance. I’ll be right back.”

    He stepped to the door and opened it. There, on the beach, stood Roxie, drumming her fingers on her hips, her Koffing floating beside her.

    “There you are, dude!” she crowed. “Been wondering where I might find ya!”

    “Merry Christmas, Roxie,” said Jim, stepping out to join her.

    “Right back at ya. Didn’t even realize yesterday was Christmas Eve when we battled. Funny how things work out, huh? So, I’ve got a bit of a gift for ya, but I bet you already know what it is.”

    “A solo performance?” Jim asked, in an innocent tone, though he was kidding around.

    “Ha!” laughed Roxie. “Sorry, dude, I don’t take requests. Nah, I’m talkin’ bout your Snivy.”

    And sure enough, from behind Roxie’s leg peered June, beaming.

    “June!”

    The little Snivy leaped into his arms, planting a lick on his cheek.

    “Merry Christmas, partner,” she said.

    “Same to you,” said Jim. “So, what new weapon do you have to throw at the competition?”

    “The most dangerous move a little firebrand like her can learn,” said Roxie. “Toxic!”

    She played a few squealing chords on her guitar, while her Koffing gave a wheezy ‘toot’ from its spouts.

    “Toxic, huh?” asked Jim, intrigued. “Never would’ve thought that of you, June.” Then, with a sudden, unpleasant thought, he asked Roxie, “Er, is it still safe to, you know, handle her?”

    “Of course, dude,” said Roxie. “She knows a Poison move, but that doesn’t mean she’s poisonous to the touch.”

    “Ah, right. Well, thanks a bunch, Roxie.”

    “No biggie, dude. Knock ‘em dead at the tournament!”

    She played another loud, reverberating chord on her guitar, then walked away with her Koffing at her side.

    “June? Is that you, darling?”

    Jim turned. Oshawott was standing in the door to the villa, gazing out.

    “Merry Christmas, darling!” June called, leaping lightly out of Jim’s arms and running towards him. The two embraced, Oshawott planting a kiss on her snout.

    “I can’t wait to see what new daring moves you’ve learned,” he said. “I’ve no doubt you’re going to turn quite a few heads at the tournament.”

    “Oh, stop it,” said June, coyly.

    Jim laughed, but was interrupted by a flutter of wings. He turned, just in time to have something collide with his chest. He was knocked onto his back, and when he looked up, he saw Missy sitting atop him, looking gleeful. The little Emolga nuzzled him deeply, as Echo came flapping down to sit beside Jim’s shoulder.

    “Hey there,” said Jim, pleasantly, stroking Missy’s fur. “I didn’t expect you guys to come alone.”

    “Miss LeClaire said it would be easier this way,” said Echo. “But she sends her regards.”

    “Great. What did she teach you?”

    “Missy actually learned a couple moves,” said Echo, indicating her with his wing. “Miss LeClaire said she’d rarely seen a Pokemon with such force behind a Return attack.”

    “Oh?” asked Jim. “She learned Return?”

    “And Iron Tail!” said Missy, proudly.

    “But it’s her Return that’ll really wow the crowds,” said Echo. “She tested it out on me, and it was devastating…”

    He unconsciously rubbed at a spot on his furry chest, most likely where Missy had struck. Jim stared at Missy. He vaguely remembered seeing LeClaire’s Maractus use Return against him. LeClaire had said that Return was stronger if the attachment between Trainer and Pokemon was strong. He loved Missy, of course, but he was both surprised and touched to think she loved him that much…

    “And how about you, Echo?” Jim asked.

    “Thunder Wave!” said Echo, in a dramatically confident voice.

    “Thunder Wave?” asked Jim, bewildered. “You can learn that?”

    “Guess so,” said Echo, shrugging. “I never knew I could, but Miss LeClaire said it would add the perfect spice to my moveset.”

    “Oho, it definitely will!” said Jim, proudly, ruffling the top of Echo’s head. “They won’t see it coming!”

    Echo beamed.

    “Howdy, Mr. Jim!”

    “Merry Christmas, bro!”

    Jim, Missy, and Echo looked up. Striding up the beach, grinning, were Torch, Torrent, and Spade.

    “Hey there, boys!” called Jim. “Where’s Guy?”

    “He had stuff he had to do,” said Torch, “but he says ‘Merry Christmas’.”

    “Well, good,” said Jim. “I wouldn’t wanna keep him from what he might be busy with. So, how did it go?”

    “He really knows his stuff, Mr. Jim,” said Spade. “Ah don’t think Ah’ve ever met someone so wise. Ah’d always thought mah pappy was the smartest, cuz he knew the world from the underground up.”

    “He is an enigma, that man,” agreed Jim. “So, what did he teach you?”

    “He re-taught me Dig,” said Torch, proudly.

    “Really?” asked Jim. “How did he come to that?”

    “When I showed him what I had, he told me Flame Charge was unnecessary, so he said I’d do good with Dig. I don’t think he knew I used to know it before. I didn’t want to contradict him.”

    “I don’t think he’d have understood anyway,” said Jim. “He may know the world, but I don’t think he can speak Pokemon.”

    “True,” assented Torch.

    “How about you, Torrent?”

    “I’d say I was stoked about what he taught me,” said Torrent, grinning, “but I can’t, cuz I don’t have Scald anymore.”

    “Then what did he teach you?”

    “Hydro Pump, baby. Hydro Pump.”

    “Hydro Pump? Awesome! You’re gonna make some wreckage in the League, pal!”

    “Right on!” said Torrent, giving a double thumbs-up.

    “And Spade?”

    “He figured Rock Smash was a kinda soft option,” said Spade, “and taught me X-Scissor instead.”

    “Neat! That’ll throw them off their guard.”

    “Ah thought so, too,” said Spade, grinning.

    “This is perfect,” Jim said, as June returned to their side. “From what I hear, all 6 of you have got some great new moves under your belts. Now, listen.”

    Everyone drew in close around him.

    “Once the year’s over, we’ve got about 2 whole months to prepare. I’m not saying we need to dedicate every single hour to it, but we need to make a conscious effort to make sure we’re ready when the League rolls around, that we’re all whipped into shape and prepped for action.”

    Missy, who had looked down at her protruding middle, tried to suck it in to look tough, an act that drew amused smiles from all around.

    “Good attitude, Missy,” said Jim, also grinning.

    As he spoke, he became very animated, walking in front of them, gesturing and slapping his fist into his palm.

    “By the time the League rolls around, those who think they know what we’re gonna throw at them are gonna need forklifts to pick their jaws off the ground! They’re not gonna expect a Snivy to throw a Toxic their way, or a Swoobat to blast them with Thunder Wave, or even a Simisear to blow them away with Solarbeam! We’ve made this journey together, and we’re gonna finish it off with flying colors, because I know you guys are the best darned team I could ever ask for! Are you all with me?”

    “Yeah!!” chorused his Pokemon.

    “I can’t hear you!” crowed Jim.

    “YEAH!”

    One more time!

    YEAH!!!

    And far away, on a secluded strip of sandy beach, seated alongside his own team, The Guy raised his head, put a hand to his ear, and smiled.

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  3. #33
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    Default Re: Jim: Blaze of Glory

    CHAPTER 33
    League-Bound At Last


    As the end of the year came and went, Jim was fully ready to carry out his training intentions. Before that, however, Echo, Spade, Torch, Torrent, and Oshawott had decided to celebrate the new year out on the beach, singing and dancing, and Torch had even uncovered, from Jim’s villa, a secret stash of Oran Juice, nicely matured. The air was full of songs Jim recognized, some he’d never even heard of, and much laughing and shouting.

    “Utterly disgusting,’’ grumbled June, watching Oshawott recite poetry in a giddy, tipsy way, a glass of bluish-purple Oran Juice in his paw. Her glare was icy. She wasn’t the only one, however. Bianca’s Dewott was sitting with folded arms, observing the festivities with stern disapproval.

    “Oh, let them have their fun,” said Jim. “You guys are gonna be in for the long haul for the next couple of months. We’re gonna start the day after New Year’s. Best to get it out of your system while you can.”

    “I suppose,” assented June, sourly, and all she could do was watch the boys make goofs of themselves by campfire-light, singing loudly and raucously into the starry night, celebrating another year gone...

    ***


    Jim was wise to set the start of their training for after New Year’s. That day, his partying Pokemon lay around, drowsy and ill-looking, trying to sleep off the Oran Juice. If Jim was surprised at all, it was from the fact that Missy and Echo hadn’t indulged, seeing how lively they were. Echo, however, said he never liked the taste of the stuff, and Missy claimed it gave her gas. All Jim could do was put his poor Pokemon into the shelter of the villa and let them sleep off their partying. Maybe he should have intervened after all...

    If he had had any disquiet about his team showing possible reluctance to the training after such a celebration, they were immediately dispelled the morning after. When he woke up, it was to find them all wide awake,crowded around his bed. It made him feel proud to see them all grouped about, smiling expectantly at him, ready to begin.

    Jim divided their training into segments: each day of the week, from Monday to Saturday, he would train one of them for that day each. Sunday was unanimously agreed upon as a day of rest for all. However, he made it clear that just because one Pokemon was being trained that day, it didn’t mean the rest of them could just slack off. He expected them to exercise on their own time as well. He also impressed upon Torch and Torrent the need to practice their routine for the opening ceremony to perfection, which they wholeheartedly promised to do.

    As the training commenced, the Pokemon Jim saw the most improvement in was Missy, and not merely because of her new moves, though they themselves were impressive. Iron Tail encased her fluffy tail in a coating of glimmering metal, which she then struck at the opponent with. It would give her something to use against not just Rock types, but a useable attack against Ground types as well. Return, as Jim had already known, was a headlong collision attack, empowered by ties of affection between Pokemon and Trainer. When he saw her hurtle along like a missile, it gave Jim a feeling of warm, paternal love towards her to think he mattered that much to her. No, Jim was remembering a time when he had had to yell at Missy to take training seriously. Seeing her take to it so readily really made his heart bound. More than that, Missy was slimming down, gradually losing the large belly she had had, until at last, though she still had a small, cute tummy, she was much slimmer, much fitter, much faster. Jim never stopped expressing how proud she was of her for such progress.

    Echo, for his part, was showing vast improvement as well. Not only were his Air Slashes striking faster and swifter, and his Shadow Balls becoming bigger and more explosive, but Jim noticed something odd happening to his Confusion attack. When he was using it now, it was turning from purplish to blue, and he could grab more at once, from farther away, throw it further, and stop projectiles earlier. One check of his Pokedex solved the mystery: Echo had learned Psychic, one of the strongest Psychic-type attacks out there. Now he had that in his arsenal, plus Thunder Wave, a blast of blue lightning that paralyzed an opponent on the spot, giving them less of a chance to attack. Additionally, whenever Echo went out to train, Tranquill came to watch, and Jim wondered if that was what added the extra ‘oomph’ to the Swoobat’s attacks. He made a mental note to tell Leanne to make sure Tranquill was in the stands whenever Echo was part of the fray.

    With Torch having relearned Dig, his moveset didn’t vary as much as the others, but he made up for it by honing his present skills to their maximum. His Flamethrower became so fierce that, no matter how far back Jim stood, he could still feel its heat from far away. He practiced his Dig in as much terrain as he could: dirt, sand, and mud, to make sure he was ready for any eventuality. His Solarbeam shone like gold, but had the force to splinter palm trees in half, and with his Acrobatics, he could perform a backwards somersault into a tree top 10 feet into the air, and nearly the same distance away. From being one of Jim’s meekest Pokemon, he had become one of his most agile, a huge leap no doubt brought about by the reconciliation between him, his brother, and his friend.

    Torrent, too, showed little change in his moves, though he honed Brick Break until he could smash through boulders, and perfected his Acrobatics like Torch. His new Hydro Pump was a pressurized blast of water, like a Water Gun taken up to 11, but was shot from the palms of his hands rather than from his mouth. His biggest innovation, however, was in his Ice Beam attack. He had worked out a way to change up how he used it. He could either fire it the old-fashioned way, but his new and favorite way was to shoot a double-blast of ice in a way similar to playing cowboy, where he would ‘fire’ from his fingers. He had dead-eye accuracy whenever he pulled this off, shooting a soda can placed on top of a boulder from 50 feet away, all with the ease and coolness he always possessed.

    If Torrent’s moves were strong, though, they were nothing on Spade. Jim, out of a sense of precaution, took him to a more isolated spot where he could practice his moves in peace, a quarry full of stones and boulders. Here, Spade put himself through his paces, honing his skills tenfold. With one swipe of his Metal Claw, he could shred entire boulders to smithereens, the same result as when he came up from underneath with his Dig-Drill Run combo. His new X-Scissor, too, was a force to be reckoned with. He’d charge at his target with his claws crossed in front of him, glowing with purple fire, before uncrossing them with a sharp swipe, creating a flaming purple X where he struck and leaving long gashes in the stone. Jim had every hope that, if power was needed rather than tactic, Spade would pull them through admirably. If only Croco could see him now...

    Invariably, Jim would call in Jolt and Rok, to give them a bit of training as well. Both found the tropical atmosphere agreeable, and both showed themselves well prepared for the occasion. Jolt’s Thunderbolt and Wild Charge Attacks were still forces to be reckoned with, but he had picked up two new moves over at the lab. Like Torch, he had replaced Flame Charge with a new move: Overheat. This blazing, high-octane attack was like Flamethrower turned to full power, and Jim was overwhelmed with stupefaction when he used it for the first time, and not just for the fact that he never expected to see a zebra breathe fire. The only downside was that, if he used it too much, its power would diminish each time, so he had to use it sparingly. The other attack he had learned was Thrash, a wild charging attack that he became locked into when he used it, and though powerful, left him confused by the end. Like he had with Spade, Jim felt that Jolt could be relied on for brute force when nothing else was left. It was almost ludicrous to think that his loyal Zebstrika had started as such a rowdy Blitzle...

    Rok, for his part, hadn’t changed much but for one move. His Dragon Pulse was still fierce, he was still soaring high and fast with Aerial Ace, and his Crunch was still ferocious, but he had swapped AncientPower for the more powerful Rock Slide. This attack sent showers of stones from seemingly nowhere out of the sky down onto the battlefield. It wasn’t always accurate, but the sporadic nature of its projectiles was still to be feared. Otherwise, he remained the same happy-go-lucky Archeops, unaware of his own size and strength every time he pounced on Jim, spending his Sundays asleep on the top of a palm tree, which bent beneath his weight.

    Last, but most certainly not least, was June. She, too, had made minor changes to her movesets, while increasing the ferocity of her old attacks. Her Energy Ball was still as explosive and speedy as ever, and she still soared like an eagle under the force of Aerial Ace. For her new Toxic attack, Jim had assumed that she would spit it like most snakes would, however uncouth that would look. However, June seemed to have found a way to overcome that aesthetic. She instead formed a ball of globby, mud-like purple sludge above her palm, then lobbed it at her target. When she first threw it at a large palm leaf, Jim was excited and a little nervous to see the Toxic eat right through it with a sizzling noise. June’s other new move, however, was one she had picked up naturally, in place of her once signature Leaf Tornado: Leaf Storm. This was a concentrated storm of glowing leaves thrown at the target, as Jim had seen Burgh’s Leavanny use. Like Overheat, if used too much, it would lose strength, so it would have to be used sparingly. However, Jim was proud of how much she had progressed, and felt confident in proving Nigel’s old misconception wrong about Snivy’s available moves.

    ***


    All in all, by the end of two months, Jim felt immensely proud of the progress his Pokemon had made. He had no doubt that Cheren was putting the same kind of effort into his team’s training, but he had never seen him at work. He seemed to be determined to keep his methods a secret, and that’s just what Jim wanted. He felt it would have been wrong to know what Cheren would use against him before the League, if they even were matched up against each other. They were on even ground, just how he felt it should be.

    Professor Juniper had arranged for a ferry to take them from Undella Town, around the peninsula, and up to the Victory Road outpost. That journey would take a week, and they would reach the site of the League in a day or so’s walking. Jim liked this plan, as it would give him more of a chance to make last-minute preparations before they got there. At least, he hoped he would, if they would let him train on the deck.

    On the eve of their departure, he gathered them all together (Jolt and Rok would be returning to the lab).

    “You all should be patting yourselves on the back,” he said. “I’ve never seen such dedication to training. You’re all going to do amazing in the League. They’ll think they’ll know what we’re going to throw at them, but you wanna know something? They don’t know jack!”

    His Pokemon cheered enthusiastically.

    “After tomorrow, we’re going to be on our way to the Pokemon League, but we’re gonna keep reviewing when we can. This is gonna be the big one. It’s not just another Gym Battle. It’s not even another Nimbasa Battle Tournament. This is the Unova League Competition, the biggest thing we’re gonna be a part of. We gotta pull out all the stops on this one. Now let’s go get them!”

    Jim put his hand in, and, one by one, they all piled their paws, claws, hooves, and wings on top. With a shout of a cheer, they thrust them up skyward.

    “Sounds like you’re all ready for the big battles, Jim.”

    Everyone looked up. The Guy was standing over them, his Scrafty at his side.

    “Hey, Guy,” said Jim. “Hey, Scrafty.”

    Scrafty grinned and nodded.

    “Listen,” Jim went on, “I really wanna thank you for all the help you’ve been giving us-”

    The Guy waved his hand dismissively.

    “Don’t go sweating the gratitude. I’ve got a good feeling about you, sport. You remind me a lot of myself when I was your age. I just hope the little I gave you will help out.”

    “Oh, it definitely will,” said Jim. “Are you coming along? You could come with us on the ferry.”

    “I don’t think so, kid. I’d rather get their my own way, but don’t worry, I’ll be there for sure. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

    He roved his eyes around Jim’s group.

    “I’ve caught glimpses of you all training, and I gotta say, íf 110% really did exist, you all exemplified it perfectly over these 2 months. Put it to use in the League, and you’ll do find. Don’t just do me proud, do Jim proud.”

    They all nodded.

    “Good. Well, until then, Jim.”

    “So long, Guy.”

    And the enigmatic traveler turned on his heel and started down the beach, Scrafty following close beside him.

    “Mr. Jim!”

    Jim turned around. Audino was running towards him.

    “There you are! You’d better get inside! Everyone else is packing, and we don’t want anything left behind, now do we?”

    “Definitely not. Thanks, Audino. Let’s go, team.”

    Jim got up and followed Audino back toward the villa, his faithful companions close behind, talking excitedly.

    ***


    Many people taking vacations would say that the end of their respites came much too quickly for their liking. Jim, however, had been anxious for it to be over. He was itching to finally get to the Pokemon League and compete, and the rest of his team felt just as energized as he did.

    So, that next day, with their bags packed, their Pokemon tucked away into their Poke Balls (with the exception of June and Oshawott, of course), and their villas emptied of all the belongings they had brought with them, Jim, Cheren, Bianca, Professor Juniper, Mrs. Stevens, and Audino left the villa compound behind them, making for Undella Bay, where the ferry that would take them to Victory Road would be departing. It was an attractive little boat, sleek and pearly-white, almost like a Swanna. The captain, when they had gotten on board, confirmed Professor Juniper’s estimation that they would reach the Victory Road outpost within one week. He even, to Jim’s delight, allowed him to let his Pokemon practice their attacks on board, as long as they exercised caution and did not damage anything. Jim gave him his solemn word on the subject.

    At a quarter to 11, then, with a blast on its whistle, the boat pulled away from the harbor, and Jim looked out one last time at Undella Town. He really enjoyed the time he had spent there, but the time for rest was past. It was time to finally get to the League, to put everything he had worked and sweated for together to get to the top, or as far as his skills would allow him. He wasn’t even worried about Team Plasma, because now, more than ever, he had a team that was up to any challenge he could conceive of. He was well and truly ready...

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  4. #34
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    Default Re: Jim: Blaze of Glory

    CHAPTER 34
    An Overseas Attack


    During that day, they left Undella Town and Undella Bay behind, and began rounding the peninsula on which the former was situated. After that, it was a fairly straight course north to the outpost. According to Professor Juniper, it was something like a final marker before heading to the mountain path leading to the Pokemon League plateau. It was guarded by strong Pokemon, and thus was a popular spot for Trainers to get in some final battles before the competition. It was also rumored that something even stronger guarded those Pokemon, something like a guardian of the mountains. When Jim heard this, he had a vague suspicion that it might be the missing Sword of Justice, Terrakion, but it was only a hunch.

    Those days on the ferry passed in bliss. Jim spent most of his time out on deck, gazing out at the water and the landscape on the horizon. Occasionally, he would see aquatic Pokemon breaching the surface: the heads of male or female Frillish and Jellicent, gazing with eerily hopeful eyes at the ferry; red and blue Basculin, glaring at the boat and snapping their teeth ferociously; and a new Pokemon Jim hadn’t seen before: a large pink fish with large, wing-like fins on its top and bottom. He turned to his Pokedex for information.

    “Alomomola, the Caring Pokemon. It gently embraces wounded Pokemon its fins. The special membranes covering its fins then heal the Pokemon’s wounds.”

    (Sounds like a seaworthy Audino, thought Jim.)

    Speaking of Audino, even on a boat, she still continued to fuss over him and his mother as if she had been a maid for them for years, offering to fetch food for them or clean their cabins. Jim didn’t want to discourage her enthusiasm, but he wanted her to be able to relax. She was always so kind, and smiled so endearingly at him, that he just didn’t have to heart to say no to her offers.

    As the days went on, the ferry’s pilot, Captain Hugh Lowell, informed Jim that, if the weather held out, they might make the Victory Road outpost ahead of schedule. Indeed, Jim had never seen such obliging conditions. The sky was a perfect blue, spotted with the occasional shade cloud, the sun shone, and the sea was calm and uniform. He didn’t see what could go wrong.

    ***


    5 days after they had left Undella Town, Captain Lowell came onto the bridge and pointed out a spot of land on the horizon to Jim. By shading his eyes, Jim could make out a rising mountain, thickly wooded at its base, and at its peak, barely visible, was what looked like a stadium.

    “There’s the League Plateau!” said Captain Lowell. “And that’s Victory Mountain, which the Road cuts through. We should arrive at the outpost tomorrow.”

    Jim stared up at the colosseum on top of the mountain, amazed and excited. They were so close already...

    Suddenly, he jumped in his skin as a shriek pierced the air. Jim and Captain Lowell whipped around to see Leanne, pointing out to the patch of water behind them, white-faced.

    “What is it?” asked Jim, abruptly. “What did you see?”

    “Team Plasma!” she breathed. “They’re after us!”

    “What??”

    Jim rushed to the stern of the ship and looked out to where Leanne had been pointing. Sure enough, he saw, speeding towards them, a sleek black and silver boat, the Team Plasma insignia embossed on the front.

    A surge of heat surged through his veins at the sight. To think that they would still antagonize him even now, when they were so close to their goal was infuriating!

    “What?! Them here, even now?!”

    Jim turned. Cheren had joined him at his left, no doubt alarmed by Leanne’s scream, and was voicing the exact same thought running through his head.

    “Very inconvenient, isn’t it?” asked Jim, grimly.

    “Oh, I don’t know,” said Cheren, with a slight grin. “Come to think of it, I could always get in a little extra practice.”

    “Guess that’s one way to look at it,” said Jim.

    Bianca came up to Jim’s right, looking shaken at the sight of Team Plasma approaching. However, as she shaded her eyes to look out at them, she frowned in a puzzled way.

    “What’s up, Bianca?” Jim asked.

    ‘It’s weird,” she said. “The boat belongs to Team Plasma, but the people on board don’t look like Team Plasma...”

    Jim and Cheren shaded their eyes as well. As the boat came nearer, they saw that Bianca was right. These people looked nothing like the Team Plasma grunts Jim had been used to. Gone were the armor and mesh hoods. They were now wearing black uniforms and caps with masks over their mouths. They looked laughably like common burglars.

    “At least they’re not wasting time trying to convince us they’re noble,” said Jim. “I have to say I like this change better.”

    “I don’t,” said Cheren. “All it tells me is that they’re not going to bother messing around. What is N playing at?”

    “What’s Ghetsis playing at?” asked Jim. “He’s always been more of a head honcho than N. Do you think he knows about this?”’

    “Maybe they’re rebels,” said Leanne. “They might be acting on their own, against his orders.”

    “Maybe, but it’s a weird thought,” muttered Jim.

    The boat was coming level with theirs.

    “I’m afraid I can’t outspeed them,” said Captain Lowell. “They’re too fast.”

    “Don’t worry about outrunning them,” said Jim. “Let us handle them. We’ve had experience with this. Just keep the boat on course, and make sure my mother, the professor, and Audino are safe.”

    “Of course.”

    Captain Lowell disappeared into the ship, as the four Trainers took their places along the starboard railing. The Team Plasma boat was coming level, and Jim could see four grunts on the deck.

    “There’s no use trying to escape us, Stevens!” called a male grunt. “We have you cornered!”

    “Are you even Team Plasma anymore?” Jim called. “I have to admit, I admire that you’re at least being honest about what you really are: thieves and crooks.”

    “And does your master know what you’re up to?” asked Cheren.

    “What Lord N doesn’t know won’t hurt him!” cackled a female grunt. “Now surrender, Stevens, or we’ll use force!”

    “We already planned to use force,” said Jim, “Because apparently, you people don’t understand the meaning of the words ‘get lost’. June, get ready.”

    June nodded and stood at the railing, glaring icily at the Plasma grunts.

    “Oshawott, you too,” said Leanne, and the stalwart Oshawott joined his love’s side.

    Cheren and Bianca drew their own Poke Balls, while the Plasma grunts did likewise. With four bursts of light, four vicious-looking Liepard appeared on the deck of the Plasma boat, while Cheren and Bianca released a male Unfezant and a Musharna, respectively.

    “Hyper Beam!” commanded two grunts together.

    The two middle Liepard opened their fanged mouths wide, and glowing balls of white-hot light appeared inside them. With a burst like cannonfire, they fired straight at the boat.

    “Musharna, Protect!” commanded Bianca.

    Musharna flew straight in between the two boats, and a massive greenish bubble expanded around it, the Hyper Beams bouncing off of it and ricocheting in different directions.

    “Retaliation time,” said Jim. “June, Energy Ball!””

    “Oshawott, X-Scissor!” said Leanne.

    As June formed a glowing green orb at the tips of her fingers, Oshawott leaped up into the air, scalchop drawn, the blade it formed glowing purple. June lobbed the Energy Ball at one of the Liepard, and at the same time, Oshawott struck two vicious strokes in the air, sending diagonal streaks of purple fire at another Liepard. The one June hit skidded back several inches, but the one Oshawott struck howled in pain as it flew back and slammed into the opposite railing.

    “Of course,” Jim muttered. “Liepard are Dark types. Bug and Fighting are gonna be the most useful...I can’t risk using Spade, though, not over water.”

    “We’ve got that covered,” said Cheren. “Unfezant, U-Turn!”

    “Musharna, use Signal Beam!” said Bianca.

    Unfezant swooped upwards, spreading its great wings, its body becoming surrounded by a greenish glow. Musharna, meanwhile, was raising itself up, a rainbow of colors glimmering in the hole on its trunk that usually emitted Dream Smoke. Unfezant dove for one of the Liepard that had fired a Hyper Beam, seeing as it needed to recharge, while Musharna shot a brilliant beam of multi-colored light at its companion. Both were thrown back, yowling with pain, as Unfezant rammed one and Musharna blasted the other. In another burst of green light, Unfezant suddenly vanished and returned to its Poke Ball.

    “Part of the move,” said Cheren, in answer to Jim’s bewildered expression. “Once U-Turn strikes, the Pokemon that uses it returns to be swapped for another.”

    “Pretty neat,” admitted Jim.

    “Shadow Ball!” commanded one of the grunts to a Liepard still standing. It began charging a ball of purple and black electricity.

    “June, Leaf Storm!” Jim shouted.

    June rose up, her arms lifted skyward, as a mass of glowing leaves surrounded her. With a swift motion, she sent the leaves blazing at Liepard, overcoming it and throwing it backward, the Shadow Ball vanishing.

    “Why are we losing to these brats?!” snarled the female grunt. “Always the same!”

    “Their luck will not hold out,” said a male grunt. “We will dominate them in the end. Our lord shall see to that...”

    “We must contact him!” said another grunt. “We need his guidance!”

    “Are you mad??” asked the first male grunt. “He will punish us for being out here against his will! It is now or never!”

    “What are you complaining about now?” asked Jim. “Afraid to go any further without your king’s permission? I should have known you cowards didn’t have that much backbone.”

    “Silence!” barked another male grunt. “You will not speak to us that way! We will sink you to the depths if we have to! Team, all of you! Hyper Beam, full power!”

    The four Liepard, though shaky and buffeted, regained their positions, and again began charging up their blasts.

    “You had to antagonize them, didn’t you, Jim?” asked Cheren. “And you wonder why they never leave you alone?”

    Jim ignored this. He was already calling June back and pulling out another Poke Ball.

    “I don’t know if we can count on another Protect,” he muttered. “Torch, Solarbeam!”

    He tossed the ball up, and the Simisear appeared. The moment he did so, he began charging up a ball of golden-green light.

    “Emboar, Flamethrower!” commanded Cheren, tossing his own ball up. The massive Emboar made the ship tilt slightly, but it steadied again, as he took a deep breath, embers twinkling in his nostrils.

    “Zorua, Dark Pulse!” shouted Leanne, throwing up a ball of her own. Zorua landed lightly on the railing, opened his little fanged mouth, and began charging a ball of purple and black fire.

    “Musharna, Signal Beam!” said Bianca. She was the only one who hadn’t swapped a Pokemon. Musharna began to charge up another rainbow-colored light on its trunk.

    The eight attacks fired at the same time, meeting in mid-air over the water: the four blinding white Hyper Beams, the golden-green Solarbeam, the fiery red and orange Flamethrower, the purple and black Dark Pulse, and the rainbow Signal Beam.The effect was almost instantaneous: an explosion that rocked both boats violently, and sent the sea below into a mass of ripples, spraying in both directions.

    With one hand on Torch’s arm, Jim grabbed out to keep Leanne from toppling into the water. With a great grunt, Cheren’s Emboar gripped the railing and pulled back, trying to steady the boat, which Bianca’s Musharna also seemed to be attempting with Psychic powers. June had her vines wrapped around Oshawott, who was dangling over the railing, and reeled him in.

    “Thanks, love,” he gasped.

    “You guys ok?” Jim asked.

    “Y-Yeah,” said Torch, keeping a tight hold on Jim’s arm. “I’m ok.”

    “I think I’m all right” gasped out Leanne. Then she cried, “Zorua! Where’s Zorua?”

    For one panic-stricken minute, Jim worried the little Zorua might have fallen into the water, but a movement somewhere above him told him that he was perched safely on Leanne’s hat, his fur soaked from the spray, but clinging tightly. Leanne let out a breath of relief and reached up to stroke Zorua’s fur. He caressed her hand gratefully.

    “Everyone else ok?” Jim asked.

    “Just fine,” said Cheren, who was steadying Bianca. She looked green in the face.

    “I could be better,” she groaned.

    Across the water, Jim looked at Team Plasma. The four grunts were slammed against the wall of the boat, and their Liepard were sprawled on the deck, unconscious.

    “Jim! Are you all right?”

    “What’s going on?”

    Mrs. Stevens, Professor Juniper, Audino, and Captain Lowell had appeared on the deck, no doubt scared out of their minds by the explosion that had rocked the boat.

    “We’re fine, Mom,” said Jim. “Sorry about that, but we had to engage in a bit of overseas warfare.”

    Professor Juniper stared out at the Plasma grunts as they regained their footing.

    “That’s Team Plasma?” she asked. “It can’t be. They always dressed like knights.”

    “Exactly what we were puzzling about,” said Cheren. “We don’t know what to make of it, and it’s not likely they’re going to be open enough to tell us.”

    “Y-You...You will pay for this, Stevens!” growled one of the grunts.

    “Like I haven’t heard that before,” said Jim. “What are you gonna do, let these Liepard loose and find more Pokemon to sic on me?”

    He felt his mother’s pressure on his shoulder, and put his hand to hers reassuringly.

    Before any of the grunts could answer, however, an angry voice, oddly magnified and metallic, as though coming from a radio, roared out,

    “WHAT ARE YOU IDIOTS DOING?!?”

    Everyone on the ferry gasped as a holographic image of Ghetsis’ head, blue-tinted and livid, blossomed over the heads of the grunts.

    “S-Sage Ghetsis!” stumbled the female grunt, petrified. “W-We were hoping to ambush Stevens and his friends as they-”

    “Haven’t I already told you?!” growled Ghetsis. “He is not to be touched! Lord N commanded that he be left to him and only him!”

    “But Sage Ghetsis!” said a male grunt. “Why?”

    “Do not ask me to fathom the reasons of our most gracious leader!” snapped Ghetsis. “I am ordering you to pull back, NOW!”

    And the image of Ghetsis vanished instantly.

    Without another word, but with terror on every face, the four grunts recalled their Liepard, disappeared into the boat, and turned it around, speeding off in the opposite direction.

    “What in blazes was all that about??” asked Captain Lowell. “Who was that spook who just appeared?”

    “Sage Ghetsis of Team Plasma,” said Jim, recalling Torch. “He’s on par with N when it comes to leadership. What I wanna know is what N is up to. He wants me to be ‘left to him and only him’?”

    “He must want it on equal terms,” said Cheren. “Him being the Black Hero and you the White Hero. A duel dragon to dragon, and wants nothing to spoil it.”

    “Maybe...” muttered Jim, while the girls looked at each other in stunned surprise.

    This change of pace for Team Plasma really did give Jim food for thought. Why had they gone against Ghetsis’ orders in the first place? Why were they dressed so differently, if they were so determined to keep up their facade of peaceful diplomacy? What was N really after in saving Jim for himself? Was he still an ally, or had he changed tack now that he had Zekrom under his control?...

    As Jim sat pondering all of this, the rest of his friends recalled their Pokemon while Captain Lowell returned to the bridge.

    “Jim? Come with me, please.”

    Jim looked up. His mother was standing over him, Professor Juniper and Audino at her sides. There was an odd expression on her face.

    He stood up and followed the three into a cabin that had been set aside for them, and Audino closed the door and shut the porthole swiftly.

    “What are you-” Jim began, but his mother cut across him, forcing him into a sitting position onto the bed.

    “James Charles Stevens,” she began, in a tremulous, rather stern voice, “I’ve been patient with you up to this point, but I’ve reached my limit. Ever since this whole adventure started, you’ve had too many brushes with danger. You nearly get attacked by Unfezant in the woods, nearly get scorched by Reshiram’s flames, almost get savaged by a wild Scolipede and a wild Darmanitan, are attacked by Pokemon of the Relic Castle, and worst and most important of all, all of these brushes with Team Plasma! You’re only 16, Jim, and these are full-grown men and women! They’ve been trying to get you out of the way, to kill you! Do you think I want my only child being preyed upon by such desperate criminals?!”

    Professor Juniper and Audino were looking at each other uncomfortably, but Jim wasn’t going to have any of this. He jumped to his feet, towering over his own mother.

    “If you think I’m just going to turn back around when we’re not even a day away from the Victory Road outpost-”

    “But Jim, this is insane!” said Mrs. Stevens, in a pleading tone. “You’re only a boy! How can you be expected to fight a man’s battle like this, against an entire cult of fanatics? You can’t just-”

    “Do you think I don’t know what I’m up against?!?” Jim exploded. “Don’t you think I’ve been brooding over this ever since this started?!”

    Mrs. Stevens staggered back, alarmed at her son’s tone.

    “Do you think I like having such names held over my head like a crown?! The White Hero? Plasma’s Bane? Do you think I enjoy the attention, the special treatment? I don’t! All I want is to receive the same treatment and respect as any other Trainer, just to have my own journey like Dad had, but...”

    He faltered, his eyes beginning to swim with angry tears.

    “But it just can’t be...Reshiram chose me, Mom. It chose me to wield its power the same way the White Hero did. I can’t explain why; I still don’t know why. All I know is it’s plunged me into nothing but trouble ever since I began my journey, and it’s all been beyond my control. Team Plasma’s after my blood not just because I disagree with their theories, but because their king inherited Zekrom!”

    Mrs. Stevens’ eyes widened in shock. Professor Juniper and Audino looked thunderstruck.

    “It’s destiny that chose this for me, Mom,” Jim went on, his voice becoming choked. “I hate it, but I don’t have a say in the matter...I already lost Cheren for a while because of it...Please don’t tell me I’m going to lose you, too...”

    Mrs. Stevens gasped, putting a hand to her mouth, tears springing to her eyes as well.

    “Jim...” she breathed, her voice choked. “Oh, Jim...I had no idea...I’m so, so sorry...”

    She collapsed against Jim, putting her arms around him, crying into his chest, and Jim hugged her in turn, the tears running down his face.

    “Of course I don’t want to lose you,” she said. “That’s why I’m so afraid for you...I can’t lose you like I lost your father...”

    “You won’t, Mom,” Jim muttered softly. “I promise...If they want to pick a fight, it’s their problem, not mine...I’ve survived this far, haven’t I?”

    “Yes, yes you have,” said Mrs. Stevens, with the ghost of a smile in her voice. “Despite everything I said, I’m still proud of how far you’ve made it, and I know your father would be, too...”

    She leaned up and kissed his cheek.

    As they continued in their mother-son embrace, a soft, pink light began to surround them. Looking up, they saw that Audino, tears sparkling in her blue eyes, had her paws held up, and the light was coming from them in soft waves. As it continued, Jim felt an immense weight being lifted from his heart. She was using Heal Pulse to ease the pain between them.

    When she saw that they had broken apart and were observing her, she gave a slight squeak and put her paws guiltily behind her back. Jim, however, smiled.

    “Come here, Audino,” he said, holding out his arm. With a relieved smile, the plump Audino came over and accepted Jim’s grateful hug. Mrs. Stevens and Professor Juniper looked at each other.

    “I’m sorry, Aurea,” said Mrs. Stevens. “I shouldn’t have made such a scene.”

    “It’s fine,” said Professor Juniper. “I would have been surprised if you hadn’t. You’re just looking out for your kid like every mother should. I don’t like the danger he puts himself in any more than you do, but in all seriousness, every Trainer needs to come to expect that. Charles did.”

    “I suppose so,” said Mrs. Stevens, looking at Jim.

    He had sat down on the bed, and was letting Audino try on his glasses. They all laughed as she blinked through them, her blue eyes magnified behind them. The tense atmosphere that the argument had created had dispelled almost as if it were fog blown away by the wind, and as far as Jim remembered, the issue was never brought up again, thank goodness...

    Y Rotation Team

  5. #35
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    Default Re: Jim: Blaze of Glory

    CHAPTER 35
    The Road to Victory


    “Prepare to disembark, passengers! We are approaching Victory Bay!”

    Just as Captain Lowell had predicted, early the next day, several hours earlier than intended, the boat docked in a small harbor, connected to a small town, really just a couple of houses and a Pokemon Center, standing at the entrance of the dense forest covering the slopes of the mountain ahead. They had finally arrived at the Victory Road outpost.

    The group of travelers disembarked from the boat, all thanking Captain Lowell for the transportation, and Jim apologized for the attack yesterday.

    “Nothing you could do about it,” he said. “Ratty scum. Never liked those Plasma cowards. Keep safe from them, everyone.”

    And with that, he steered his boat back the way they had come, heading off toward the horizon.

    “Well, everyone,” said Jim, looking out at the forest, “here we are.”

    “I can’t believe it came so soon,” said Leanne.

    “Me neither,” said Bianca.

    “Well, we’re not quite there yet,” said Cheren. “We still have to get through Victory Road and up to the plateau.”

    “You make it sound like we’re walking into an ambush,” said Jim.

    “Don’t you remember what Captain Lowell said? There are tough Pokemon up this way. We have to be on our toes.”

    “Ah, right. With the whole Team Plasma thing, I nearly forgot.”

    “Why don’t we stop in the Pokemon Center first?” asked Mrs. Stevens. “Rest for a bit before going on?”

    “Sounds good to me,” said Professor Juniper. “I want to check on Fennel and Amanita anyway.”

    So they directed their steps into the Pokemon Center. Inside, they found a number of Trainers talking excitedly amongst themselves, giving pep talks with their Pokemon. Professor Juniper left to use the video phone, while Jim looked about. Some Trainers had Pokemon not native to Unova, though he had seen most of them at the Winter Festival. Jim wondered if all of them were there for the League, and inwardly hoped they were as he’d loved to see them battle.

    “Pokemon League?” asked a woman at the counter.

    “We are,” said Jim, indicating himself and Cheren.

    “Excellent! Come over here and I’ll verify your entry.”

    Puzzled, the two boys approached the counter.

    “Let me see your badges, as well as your I.D.s,” she said.

    Both boys took out their Pokedexes and the eight badges apiece they had earned. The woman inspected them closely, and looked at their Pokedexes screens.

    “Jim Stevens and Cheren of Nuvema Town,” she said. “Is that correct?”

    “Yes, ma’am,” said Cheren.

    She took out, from under the counter, a boxy machine with different slots, both identical to each other on each side: a thin, long one, and eight shaped just like the badges. She placed the Pokedexes and badges in accordingly. A screen overhead lit up, and Jim and Cheren saw their own faces. A computerized voice said,

    “Jim Stevens of Nuvema Town. Cheren of Nuvema Town. Verification complete.”

    “Very good,” said the woman, handing everything back. “You are now clear to go.”

    “Thanks, ma’am,” said Jim, gratefully, and they rejoined the others. “Did you know we had to do that?” Jim asked Cheren.

    “Not in the slightest,” said Cheren.

    When Professor Juniper came back from her call, she had a troubled look on her face.

    “Fennel gave me a weather update for our area,” she said. “Storm-force winds and lightning along Victory Road. We’d be safer going through the tunnels. She told me it’s a shortcut. But she also said the storm’s not naturally made.”

    “What does that mean?” asked Leanne.

    “According to her,” said Juniper, “it’s a sign that Tornadus and Thundurus are on the prowl.”

    “Tornadus and Thundurus?” asked Cheren. “You mean the legendary storm Pokemon?”

    “That’s right.”

    “The ones who savaged the land before being quelled by Landorus?” asked Jim.

    “The very same. Fennel says it means something’s got them agitated, but about what, neither she nor I have any clue. All she said was to keep away from them and keep to the caves.”

    No one had any objections to this, naturally. As they prepared to depart, however, Jim wondered what it was that was making the legendary storm makers act this way, and where could Landorus be if it wasn’t keeping them in check?...

    ***


    The Victory Road Caves were about half a mile north of the outpost, through the trees, and into the mountain itself. According to Professor Juniper, it was actually a shorter route to take than actually going up the side of the mountain, but the caves still had some dangerous Pokemon within. They would therefore have to proceed with caution.

    As they went, they kept glancing up at the sky, and could see a dense, velvet-black bank of clouds hanging over the path they would have taken. There were loud, booming cracks of thunder coming from it, and, once in a while, a jagged fork of lightning would shoot downwards. If Jim strained his eyes, he imagined that he could just make out shapes moving about in the cloudbank: humanoids with clouds covering their lower bodies, with very long tails. Those must have been Tornadus and Thundurus. Jim was tempted to try and see what the Pokedex would say about them, but a bolt of lightning struck all too close to them as they were thinking this, and decided against it.

    To everyone’s relief, they managed to reach the Victory Road Caves without further hassle, and were glad to hear the sounds of the storm dying away as they went.

    “I still don’t understand,” said Cheren. “What is it that has them causing a storm over Victory Road?”

    “Hopefully it’s not an omen,” said Leanne. “I don’t want to think of anything going wrong during the tournament.”

    “You and me both,” said Jim, grimly.

    “It is highly unusual,” said Juniper, thoughtfully. “They’ve been at peace for many years since their last great conflict.”

    “When was that?” asked Jim.

    “When the sons of the Heroes battled again,” said Juniper. “The violent combat between Zekrom and Reshiram agitated them, and they started adding their own brand of power to the equation. They would have gone on even after the battle between the dragons was called off, if Landorus hadn’t arrived to settle them.”

    Jim gulped inwardly. Did that mean Tornadus and Thundurus could already sense a battle between the dragons again? But how could that be? N was soaring the skies of Unova on Zekrom, and Reshiram was dormant somewhere, waiting for the call of the Light Stone. How did they know for sure?...

    At that moment, Jim felt June’s grip on his shoulder tighten. He looked at her, and saw her ruby red eyes gleaming in the dark, alert and watchful.

    “What is it?” he asked.

    “I don’t know,” she whispered. “But I think we’re being watched...”

    Jim turned his head this way and that, but couldn’t see anything. He could, however, hear a funny rustling sound, as if a number of bugs was scurrying about, and a metallic clinking noise. By the looks on everyone else’s faces, they could hear it too.

    “Professor?” asked Bianca, anxiously.

    “...Durant,” said Juniper, grimly. “I know that sound anywhere. Jim, Cheren, get your Fire types out. They’re Bug and Steel, so they can ward them off easily.”

    The two boys nodded, and drew their Poke Balls.

    “Torch, go!”

    “Emboar, go!”

    Once again, the Ember Pokemon and Mega Fire Pig Pokemon appeared, the latter’s flaming beard casting a reddish glow over the cavern.

    And then Jim saw them: the Durant, at least twenty.

    They resembled ants, but were made entirely of metal. They had glaring red eyes and razor sharp mandibles, snapping viciously. Leanne and Bianca gave yelps of fright. Mrs. Stevens held tight to Audino, looking pale. Jim brought out his Pokedex.

    “Durant, the Iron Ant Pokemon. It makes its home in interconnected maze-like tunnels in mountains. It is protected by a metallic armor.”

    They were advancing, snapping their pincers with metallic clanking noises. Leanne leaped away as one nearly bit her on the ankle. Jim wasn’t about to let that pass.

    “Torch, Flamethrower!” he ordered.

    Torch breathed a stream of roaring flames, sending the offending Durant scuttling away, hissing in anger.

    “Emboar, Flamethrower!” said Cheren.

    Emboar snorted his own blast of fire at the crowd of Durant, and they backed away, cowed by the fierce flames.

    “Go on ahead!” Jim ordered. “We’ll head them off!”

    Mrs. Stevens looked like she was about to object, but Professor Juniper gripped her arm and tugged her away, Audino at her side. Bianca and Leanne hesitated.

    “Go!” said Jim. “‘Before more of them show up!”

    Obviously not wishing to encounter more of the little vermin, the girls hightailed it away from the cavern after the grown women. The two Fire type Pokemon kept up a steady stream of double Flamethrowers, the Durant not daring to come any closer.

    “Keep at it,” said Cheren, “and start backing away. The minute we tell you to stop, run!”

    Torch and Emboar obeyed, and as the four edged backwards toward the continuation of the tunnel, they did not let up their pyrotechnic onslaught for one instant.

    “Stop!” Jim and Cheren said at once, and the two Pokemon, ending their attacks, sprinted after their masters down the tunnel.

    Moments later, over their pounding footsteps, they could head more rustling and clinking, just behind them meaning the Durant were regrouping for another attack, or more were arriving on the scene, or both. The path they took wound on and one, twisting in a serpent-like fashion this way and that.

    “I hope the others haven’t met any more,” panted Jim.

    “So do I,” panted Cheren.

    Suddenly, they skidded to a halt. They had reached a dead end in the rock wall, save for a narrow crack in it. To his relief, Jim could see that the women had already gotten there, and were sidling through it. Professor Juniper and his mother had already made it through, and Bianca was just disappearing into it when they arrived, her hips brushing the rough stone. Audino, however, was not so lucky. She tried to slip through sideways like the others, but found herself brought to a halt, her great belly pressed uncomfortably against the other side of the fissure and refusing to budge.

    Jim and Cheren rushed over, where Leanne, still on their side of the crack, was trying to console the wedged Audino, who was apologizing profusely.

    “It’s not your fault,” she said. “How does anyone expect to make it through this thing? Not every Trainer’s going to be petite.” She stroked Audino’s head gently. “Just stay calm and we’re gonna get you out.”

    “You’d better hurry with that,” said Cheren, grimly, “because we’ve got company!”

    Jim whipped around, and saw, with an unpleasant jump in his insides, that Cheren was right. Even more Durant than the ones they had cornered were streaming in, glaring at them with their red eyes!

    Immediately, Torch and Emboar began trying to hold them off with more Flamethrower attacks, but they couldn’t stop the ones approaching from the side, which began to approach Leanne, still pushing against Audino’s side to try and force her through the crack. They would be upon her in seconds.

    With a yell, not even thinking about what he was doing, Jim leaped Leanne and the Durant, arms spread open.

    “Jim! What are you doing?!” Leanne shouted.

    “You just focus on getting her through!” Jim said, and he kicked out at the Durant with one foot. “Get back! Get away from them!”

    His foot caught one in the forehead with a clanging blow that sent shudders down his leg from the impact. In retaliation, it clamped its mandibles on Jim’s foot, making him howl in pain. Leanne screamed, but, with a supreme effort, she managed to shove Audino through to the other side. She then hesitated, looking from the crack to Jim, who still had his foot in the Durant’s vice-like grip. Then, determined anger in her eyes, she drew a Poke Ball and shouted,

    “Let go of him, you little beast! Larvesta, Flame Wheel!”

    The Torch Pokemon appeared in a blaze of light, and immediately, he began revolving rapidly in the air, cloaking himself in flames. He tossed himself at the Durant, slamming onto its back. Jim could feel the heat of the attack on his leg. The Durant let go and backed away, its steely back glowing red from where Larvesta had struck.

    “Good one, Leanne!” said Jim, gratefully. “Thanks!”

    “Your welcome,” breathed Leanne, now squeezing through the crack herself. She had to suck in her gut to sidle through, but she was going to make it just fine. She recalled Larvesta as she disappeared through, and he vanished in a red light.

    The Durant had regained itself. Hissing furiously, it advanced on Jim, ready for another strike.

    “Don’t you touch him!” snapped June.

    She raised one paw, twirling it, and forming a glowing Energy Ball in her palm. She lobbed it, and it struck the Durant square in the face. However, Steel was resistant to Grass, and, after shaking off the blow, continued on them. Torch was preoccupied with keeping six at bay at once, and he was looking tired out. Jim couldn’t risk kicking again; he might injure his other foot...

    *WHAM!!*

    With a blow like a piledriver, Emboar’s fist came crashing down right on top of the Durant, knocking it flat and out cold, its eyes rolling dizzily. Jim looked up at the Mega Fire Pig standing over him.

    “Thanks, Emboar,” he breathed.

    Emboar grinned and nodded, before turning back to aid Torch with the other Durant.

    “Jim!” called Cheren. “Get through that gap! When you do, recall Torch through it! I’ll do the same with Emboar.”

    “Right,” said Jim, and he began inching his way sideways through the crack. He had to drag his injured foot along behind him, and it throbbed painfully. He could have avoided being so careless and stupid, but all he had been thinking about was protecting Leanne and Audino.

    At last, he made it through, finding himself in a cool, dimly-lit chamber. Before doing anything else, he stuck his arm through the gap, Torch’s Poke Ball in his hand, and called,

    “Torch, return!”

    He saw the narrow beam shoot through, saw Torch vanish inside, and then pocketed the ball before slumping down, his foot still aching.

    “Jim, are you all right?” asked his mother, anxiously.

    “Fine,” said Jim. “One of those little buggers bit my foot, though.”

    Audino rushed to his side, kneeling down beside him.

    “I can fix it, Mr. Jim,” she said.

    She gingerly removed his shoe, and everyone winced when they saw the puncture marks through his sock, and the blood standing out. Audino whimpered.

    “It’s my fault. If I hadn’t gotten stuck, you wouldn’t have had to defend me like that...”

    “Don’t be silly, Audino,” said Jim. “I shouldn’t have tried to kick that thing in the first place. I wasn’t thinking straight. You did nothing wrong. Like Leanne said, they can’t expect everyone to get through that little crack.”

    Audino didn’t answer, but smiled gently and brushed Jim’s fringe in a motherly way. She put one paw to his foot, and a pink, pulsating glow surrounding it. In an instant, Jim felt the pain recede, and then vanish all at once. Even the blood disappeared from his sock.

    “Thanks, Audino,” he said, in a grateful tone, putting his shoe back on.

    “Always happy to help, Mr. Jim,” she said, kindly. Mrs. Stevens was smiling warmly. It was so heartwarming to see the two of them so close in friendship. When they finally got home, she was confident they would go on happily this way.

    Cheren came bustling in through the crack, hand held out behind him, a Poke Ball in it.

    “Emboar, return!” he called.

    The light was sucked into the Poke Ball, and he pocketed it.

    “Well!” said Cheren, brightly. “That was exciting.”

    “I could do without that kind of excitement myself,” said Bianca, still trying to catch her breath, her glasses askew.

    “This is more Papa’s field,” said Juniper. “He was always the one for narrow escapes. I’ve gotten too used to comfortable lab work.”

    They shared a laugh at this, but then, suddenly, Oshawott lunged forwards, drawing his scalchop.

    “What’s with him?” asked Cheren, perplexed.

    “Who’s there?!” Oshawott bellowed into the darkness ahead. “Come out and fight, you cur! We have you outnumbered!”

    Jim stood up, hastily.

    “He’s saying there’s something up ahead,” he told the others.

    They hurried over to his side, not wanting to be near whatever Oshawott was threatening. His Razor Shell blazed into life, and the bluish glow formed a beacon to illuminate the cave.

    There was indeed something in the cave with them...something huge.

    An enormous gray ox was standing crouched in the shadows, its great, angled horns sharp and pointed, glaring at them through the dark.

    Professor Juniper gasped.

    “Terrakion...” she breathed.

    Jim felt a thrill of mingled panic and excitement run through him. He was finally face-to-face with a Sword of Justice, Virizion and Terrakion having been only seen silhouetted, but, at the same time, he knew they were in deep danger, as June and Oshawott had said the Swords of Justice were enemies of humanity.

    “Why are you intruding in my chamber?” Terrakion boomed, in a gruff, male voice.

    Everyone gave a start, Jim along with them, though this normally should have been no shock to him. Terrakion’s lips weren’t moving, but he was still speaking to them, through some kind of telepathic voice, one everyone could hear, even the others. Jim had never heard of anything of the kind.

    “Stand and fight!” Oshawott yelled. “I’m not afraid to take you on!”

    “Oshawott...” moaned June. Jim looked at Leanne, and saw that she was pale-faced, wishing for Oshawott to back down.

    Terrakion regarded the impetuous Water type for a moment, holding his Razor Shell challengingly.

    “Put that toy away before you hurt yourself,” he rumbled.

    “Toy?!” spluttered Oshawott. “I will not stand for such insults! En garde!”

    He leaped at Terrakion, raising his blade to strike. However, Terrakion was quicker. To everyone’s amazement, an orange, curved blade, glowing just like Oshawott’s Razor Shell, materialized from out of his forehead, and, with one swift stroke, knocked the scalchop out of Oshawott’s paw. Oshawott landed back on the ground, looking astonished and a little scared. Terrakion leered down at him, but didn’t move as Oshawott grabbed his scalchop and rushed to Leanne’s side, clinging to her leg while glaring at the great Pokemon.

    “We didn’t mean to disturb you,” said Jim, trying to keep a brave tone. “We were just trying to get away from a swarm of Durant.”

    “And why were you in the tunnels in the first place?” asked Terrakion, the blade still glowing. “Trainers take the path up the outside of the mountain.”

    “Because it’s storming out,” said Jim. “Tornadus and Thundurus-”

    “Tornadus and Thundurus?” asked Terrakion, sharply. “Well, that’s different, I suppose. Those two don’t care if they hit anyone or anything while they’re messing around in the air...”

    “So, er...can we pass through?” asked Jim, tentatively.

    Terrakion gave him a swift look, and his great eyes seemed to bore right into Jim’s.

    “You’ve got a lot of nerve asking that of me, kid,” he growled.

    “W-Well,” stammered Jim, “I know you and the other Swords of Justice aren’t too keen about humans. Your companions gave me quite a scare in our travels, and Keldeo-”

    “How do you know about Keldeo?!” boomed Terrakion, suddenly. Leanne and Bianca squeaked in terror.

    “We saw him on the Moors,” said Jim, not daring to look away. “He and Oshawott here had a close swordfight, which ended in a draw. He, Keldeo, that is, fought very well.”

    Terrakion continued to glare at him for a while. Eventually, however, a rough smile creased his face.

    “You’ve got guts, kid,” he said. “I’ve never met a human who could stand up to me like that. It’s not just that, either. I saw the way you helped your Audino friend a moment ago. I haven’t seen a human protect a Pokemon like that in years...Tell you what: I’ll walk you to where the tunnel leads out to the plateau, but no farther. Is that clear?”

    “That’s more than enough,” said Jim, glad to have gotten on Terrakion’s good side.

    “Good. Then stay close.”

    He turned around and began lumbering off, while Jim and Company, hardly able to believe their luck, followed behind.

    ***


    They went along silently, no one speaking. Jim didn’t want to annoy Terrakion with any questions he might not want to be pestered with, so he held his tongue. Oshawott was looking particularly stony, though Jim guessed it was probably from being disarmed so easily. June, seeing this, had climbed down off Jim’s shoulder to walk beside him, and he did seem to cheer up with her at his side.

    Professor Juniper, meanwhile, was typing madly into a little keyboard attachment that was included with her X-Transceiver, taking notes about what she had just witnessed in meeting the legendary Terrakion. Jim didn’t doubt her fellow professors and scientists would be plenty jealous...

    Eventually, however, Jim grew curious about something. He cleared his throat.

    "Er, Terrakion?"

    "Mm?" Terrakion grunted.

    "Can you tell me anything about the rest of the Swords of Justice? Cobalion and Virizion, and maybe Keldeo?"

    Terrakion gave him another swift, sharp look, but then said,

    "You're one bold kid, you know that? Not everyone's got the courage to ask something like that."

    Jim smiled weakly.

    "Well, Cobalion can be a real stick in the mud, but he's a natural-born leader. Never loses his head in a crisis. He's saved my hide more than once." Terrakion chuckled roughly. "And Virizion? She practically lives and breathes the forest. Very graceful, swift as an arrow and just as deadly."

    "Oh!" said Jim, interested. "So Virizion's a she? I never knew that."

    "Not many do," said Terrakion. "And Keldeo...he's one special little colt. We found him all alone, driven away from a forest fire caused by some of your lot..."

    "Oh...I'm sorry. I had no idea..."

    "Well, we took him in and raised him to be one of us. He's on his way, though not quite there yet. He's still gotta grow into his sword."

    "Huh?"

    "The secret weapon of a Sword of Justice: Sacred Sword. Once he masters it, he'll finally be ready..."

    "Wow..."

    At last, Terrakion stopped before a stone archway.

    “This is as far as I take you,” he rumbled. “Take care not to come stumbling into my chamber again, or I might not be so accommodating.”

    “We’ll bear it in mind,” said Jim. “Thanks.”

    Without another word, Terrakion turned and lumbered off back into the darkness.

    “Can you believe our luck?!” squealed Professor Juniper, girlishly. “Terrakion! The Terrakion! He talked to us, and escorted us! Bianca, this is going to be big, big, big!”

    She grabbed Bianca’s hands and whisked her around, both of them laughing excitedly.

    “That could have gone so much worse,” said Cheren. “We were lucky.”

    “Lucky we had Jim,” said Leanne. “I couldn’t think of anything to say to that thing.”

    “I was quite lost for words myself,” said Cheren.

    “I don’t need any thanks,” said Jim, modestly. “Let’s just get to the stadium.”

    They stepped out through the archway, and found themselves standing on a rocky cliff. Miles and miles below, they could see the dense forest, and were surprised to see that they were above the dense patch of clouds where Tornadus and Thundurus were still causing a disturbance. It made Jim feel a bit dizzy to imagine being up this high.

    Tearing his eyes away, he joined the others as they walked around the bend in the path, and there, up a sloping incline, towering before them, was the ornate Unova League stadium, rather ancient in appearance, though the air was already full of the buzz of chatter.

    They had made it at last...

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  6. #36
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    Default Re: Jim: Blaze of Glory

    CHAPTER 36
    Old Friends


    Jim and his companions weaved their way through the crowd of people flocking to the stadium, all of whom were talking excitedly about the start of the tournament. Jim didn’t know how many were competitors and how many were just there to watch, but he could feel the charge of excitement and anticipation running through them like an electric current. It seemed to pervade his very veins.

    Suddenly, Leanne grabbed his arm.

    “Oh my gosh!” she cried. “Jim! Look!”

    She was pointing wildly to the Pokemon Center, situated separately from the stadium, and which was the size of a department store.

    “Holy cow,” breathed Jim. “That’s the biggest Pokemon Center I’ve ever seen!”

    “Not just that, but look who’s nearby!”

    Jim looked in the direction she was pointing, and felt his jaw drop. Two boys were standing by the Center, probably to get away from the crowd, and he actually recognized them! The fair-haired boy, dressed in earthy green and brown, was Cruise, and the skinny, taciturn boy, his face framed by black hair, was Solomon, the two he had made acquaintances of in Nimbasa City!

    Jim pushed his way to the crowd towards them, the others doing their best to follow.

    “Cruise! Solomon! What are you guys doing here?”

    Both boys looked up, and both looked equally amazed.

    “Jim? Jim Stevens?” asked Solomon. “Fancy seeing you here!”

    “Jim!” called Cruise, waving energetically. “Long time no see!”

    Jim shook hands with both of them, still dumbfounded.

    “I didn’t know you guys were in the League challenge!”

    “Indeed we are,” said Solomon. “I was just telling Cruise I didn’t know he was competing, either.”

    “And I was saying the exact thing to Solomon!” said Cruise. “Isn’t that hilarious?”

    “Very,” said Jim. “You remember Leanne and Bianca, right?” he added, ushering the two girls forward.

    “Hi again!” said Cruise.

    “Nice to see the two of you again,” said Solomon, chivalrously. “Although I must say, Bianca, you look a tad different than I remember.”

    “Hey, yeah!” said Cruise. “You look...smarter!”

    Bianca smiled and blushed.

    “And this here’s my other best friend, Cheren,” said Jim.

    Cheren shook hands with both boys.

    “My mother, our Audino, and Professor Juniper. This is Cruise and Solomon, everyone. We competed in the Nimbasa Battle Tournament. Cruise is actually the one who taught June Aerial Ace.”

    “I was wondering who the mastermind of that was!” said Professor Juniper. “I should have guessed, with you having a Servine that knew it. Very smart!”

    Cruise’s ears went red with embarrassment.

    “Well, isn’t this just the day of reunions? I see you all managed to make it after all.”

    Everyone turned. Nigel was striding towards them. Jim noticed that Solomon and Cruise were both glaring at him. It seemed they hadn’t met him before coming here. and their feelings towards him hadn’t altered.

    “There’s no need to look so sour,” said Nigel, looking at the two. “You could stand to be a little more cheerful on a day like this.”

    Neither of them said anything, so Nigel turned to Jim.

    “Stevens. Glad you made it. This tournament would have been downright dull if you had failed to show up.”

    “No surprise to see you’re here, Nigel,” said Jim. “I had a feeling you’d be one of the first to arrive.”

    “And just in time, too,” said Nigel. “Have you heard about that awful weather on the mountain path? How did you get here?”

    “Through the tunnels. It wasn’t easy. We got swarmed by Durant.”

    “Ugh! Nasty little insects. I had just the Pokemon for them, too. My-”

    He stopped suddenly, and a sly grin appeared on his face.

    “Aha...” he said, waving a finger at Jim. “Pretty clever, Stevens...”

    “What?” asked Jim, puzzled.

    “You almost made me let slip what I have in my party. That’ll have to wait, however. Nice try.”

    “What, you think I planned that?” asked Jim, amused. “I’m completely in the dark.”

    “So you say, so you say,” said Nigel. “But don’t bother dropping hints about what you’ve got. I like a good surprise before I trounce my opponents.”

    “Oho, we’ll see,” said Jim.

    “Yes, we shall,” said Nigel.

    His eyes roved over Jim’s friends and mother.

    “Your posse?” he asked, lightly.

    “Oh!” said Jim. “Well, you remember Leanne and Bianca.”

    “I do indeed,” said Nigel.

    The girls weren’t sure what to say. Neither of them had very good memories of Nigel, though Leanne had been a witness to his recent change in attitude.

    “This is Cheren, my other best friend, my mother, our Audino, and I believe you know Professor Juniper.”

    “Ah, yes, certainly,” said Nigel, a slight frown coming over his face.

    Jim didn’t feel too pleasant, either. He was on tenterhooks to see if Nigel would follow up on the insults he had bestowed upon the Junipers so long ago.

    “I have nothing against you and your father, Professor,” said Nigel, “but I merely express regret that your immense talents didn’t lead you to settling down in a city more...more suited to persons of your status.”

    Professor Juniper looked at a loss for words.

    “Well, we like Nuvema Town just fine,” said Professor Juniper. “The hustle and bustle of big cities never quite did it for me. Papa’s always on the move, too, and he loves Nuvema Town. I don’t think I could see myself just packing up and moving away.”

    Nigel said nothing. Jim wondered if he was biting back what he would have said in his earlier days.

    “Of course,” he merely said. “Well, I should be off. I wanted to get a good look at the stadium. Until we meet again, Stevens. A pleasure meeting your little band.”

    And he walked away back toward the stadium.

    “...Is that really Nigel Richmond?” asked Cruise. “What the heck happened to him?”

    “It’s obvious, isn’t it?” said Solomon, who had kept his head. “When Jim beat him in the tournament, he put him in his place, showed him what he gets for being such a snob. I quite welcome this new Nigel Richmond myself.”

    “Travel has a way of purging the immaturity out of a fella.”

    Everyone wheeled around. The Guy had just come up behind them, though he looked more weatherbeaten than ever, his coat ragged and rain-stained.

    “Hey, I know you!” said Cruise, excitedly. “You’re that guy with the card-playing Scrafty!”

    The Guy chuckled. “Glad you remember me for something like that. I recognize you two, sure enough. Weren’t you the kid who battled me with a Duosion?” he asked Solomon.

    “Quite,” said Solomon, “and didn’t you trounce it with your Palpitoad?”

    “I might’ve. My memory’s not too good, getting older.”

    He turned to Jim.

    “And here you are, Jim. Glad to see you made it up safely.”

    “Thanks, Guy. Did you have to go through the storm?”

    “Yeah,” said the Guy, grimly. “Sprang up on me while I was almost halfway up. Rotten luck, eh?”

    “Pretty rotten, yeah,” agreed Jim. “But Professor Juniper reckons it’s Tornadus and Thundurus causing it.”

    Cruise and Solomon looked astonished at this news.

    “Tornadus?” began Solomon.

    “And Thundurus?” finished Cruise.

    “Very intriguing,” said the Guy, looking at Professor Juniper. “You’re sure?”

    “The signs are similar to when they last had a skirmish, yes,” said the professor. “Of course, we have to make allowances for exceptions. The tension of the League could just be exciting them.”

    “I hope that’s what it is,” muttered Jim.

    “Don’t you worry about it, son,” said the Guy, clapping him on the shoulder. “This year’s gonna be one heck of a tournament. I’ve seen quite a few flocking in with Pokemon from outside Unova. Should be interesting.”

    “And when does the tournament start?” asked Cheren.

    “Well, the opening ceremony is tomorrow, and-”

    “The opening ceremony!” shouted Jim, clapping a hand to his forehead. “I almost forgot! Leanne, we have to find Alder!”

    Leanne looked puzzled for a moment, then her face lit up with realization.

    “Oh, right! Yeah! Do you think we’ll be able to find him?”

    “He shouldn’t be too hard to find. Come on! We’ll see you guys later!”

    And the two rushed off towards the stadium, leaving the others watching after them, bewildered and completely unsure of what the excitement was about.

    ***


    It wasn’t easy finding him. The stadium lobby was packed with people, and, even if Jim thought it would be easy to find someone as tall or with as wild a hairdo as Alder, they came up empty. It didn’t help that a lot were wearing wigs styled like Alder’s signature style, though none of them had his presence.

    They were just thinking of checking the Pokemon Center, when they heard voices from a door they were passing by. It was ajar, and a hushed but eager conversation was going on from within. Jim doubled back, taking Leanne with him, and put his ear to the crack.

    “No sign of them at all?” asked a female voice.

    “None whatsoever,” came a voice Jim recognized as Alder’s. “It’s a bit disquieting that they’ve been hushed up for this long.”

    “They probably know we’d be onto them,” said a tough, deep voice. “They wouldn’t dare muck around with us on duty.”

    “Even so,” came a dignified voice, not unlike Nigel’s, “we should post extra security, just to be safe. We have to expect everything from them, even the ludicrous.”

    “How you talk, Grimsley,” said the female voice. “You speak as if they’re going to pop out of the ground!”

    “It’s not such a strange theory, Shauntal,” said a younger, dreamy female voice. “They are rather desperate and, well, rather strange, too.”

    “Let’s not argue about this,” said Alder. “If they remember who we are, they shouldn’t have the guts to try any funny business with us watching.”

    “Exactly,” said the deep voice.

    “We’ll let the tournament go as planned. We’re not letting a little thing like some cult of kooks put a stop to an annual competition. Agreed?”

    “Agreed,” said the other four voices.

    “They’re keeping an eye out for Team Plasma,” whispered Leanne. “And they’ve heard nothing? What about that boat attack?”

    “Probably a minor thing compared to other stuff they’ve done,” Jim whispered back. “I don’t like the fact that they’re being this quiet, either...”

    They jumped away as footsteps approached, and Alder stepped out. He stopped as he spotted them.

    “Oh! It’s you two!” he said. “Made it through that storm all right? Excellent!”

    “We were looking for you, Alder, sir,” said Jim. “Since the opening ceremony is tomorrow, and our Pokemon are performing-”

    “Oh, right, right!” said Alder, grinning. “I remember now! Are they primed and ready?”

    “Yes, sir,” said Jim. “All we require is access to the song they wish to dance to.”

    “Oh, that can be provided for easily,” said Alder, waving a hand. “The ceremony begins at noon tomorrow. After your Pokemon perform, we’ll announce the first matchups, then dismiss the crowd to get ready for next day’s battling.”

    “Sounds great! And where should our Pokemon be?”

    “Follow me,” said Alder.

    He led the way through the crowd, many people jumping past as he went, giving him a wide berth, and saying things like, “Excuse me, Alder, sir,” and “Hello, Mr. Champion.” At last, after taking them up a flight of stairs, he led them out onto a platform jutting out over the entire stadium, in front of the announcer’s booth, like a diving board over a gigantic pool.

    “You should have sufficient room to perform here”

    “Oh yeah, this is perfect!” said Jim. “Thanks a lot, Alder, sir!”

    “It’s no trouble,” said Alder. “I’m just raring to see what you’ve got in store for us. I need to get going, as there’s some minor details I have to look over as Champion, but I’ll see you tomorrow.”

    “Definitely!”

    And the threesome went back inside, Alder going in one direction, Jim and Leanne the other.

    “Do you even know what they’re going to perform?” asked Leanne.

    “They haven’t told me the details,” said Jim. “All they mentioned was the song I should play. They said wintering in Undella inspired them, but that’s all they said.”

    “Well, it’s their performance. I guess they know best,” said Leanne, with a shrug.

    They managed to rejoin the others back at the Pokemon Center, and spent the rest of the day getting Cruise and Solomon up to speed on what had been going on ever since they parted away. Jim didn’t think it honest to conceal his connection with Reshiram from them, and so reduced them to open-mouth stupefaction when he told them all about getting the Light Stone, and N receiving Zekrom. They regarded Jim as if he were a hero out of a storybook, sprung from its pages to regale them with his tales of bravery. For once, though, Jim didn’t bother to resent the attention. It felt good, relieving, even, to fill them in on their exciting, bizarre happenings, but, even as he went to bed that night in the spacious sleeping quarters of the Center, he wondered if any of it would equal the battles they were about to undertake over the next few days...

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  7. #37
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    Default Re: Jim: Blaze of Glory

    CHAPTER 37
    Let the Games Begin


    “Now, you’re sure you guys are ready for this?”

    “Of course! We’ve been ready for weeks!”

    “We’ve been over it, man. We are capital R Ready.”

    “All right, all right, I just wanna be safe about it. There’s a big difference between practicing and performing the real deal.”

    “We know that, bro. We’re circus Pokemon, remember?”

    “You could say it’s in our blood.”

    “Oh, yeah. Nearly forgot.”

    “And you’re ready, Lilligant?”

    “Uh-huh. I’m ready, Leanne.”

    “Good. You’re going to be wonderful.”

    “Thank you.”

    There was a knock at the door, making them all jump. Jim and Leanne had been in the announcer’s booth, getting Torch, Torrent, and Lilligant prepped for their big performance, and hadn’t even noticed Alder approach from outside. He opened the door.

    “Everyone ready?” he asked, looking in very good spirits.

    “As we’ll ever be, sir,” said Jim.

    “You’ve got your song prepared?”

    “Loaded and ready for playing.”

    “Excellent! Now let’s get this show on the road!”

    As he came inside, he was followed by a man Jim thought he knew. Then, with a sudden jolt, it came to him: Richard Burton, the announcer of the Nimbasa Battle Tournament!

    “Mr. Burton!” said Jim. “I didn’t know you’d be here!”

    “Ah, Mr. Stevens! Fancy seeing you here!” said Burton. “Yes, my job has me all over the place. I announce a lot of tournaments across Unova. Gets unbelievably hectic, believe me.”

    He and Alder took seats behind a pair of microphones on the desk. Jim looked out through the window, and could see that the stands were jam-packed, so that all of the people seated looked like multicolored blurs.

    Burton pressed a button, and a sound like an extravagant fanfare played through the loudspeakers. The crowd cheered loudly.

    “Good afternoon, Unova!!” boomed Burton. “And welcome to the annual Unova League Conference, held here at scenic Victory Mountain! I’m your co-host, Richard Burton, here with the champion himself, Alder!”

    “Hello, Unova!” said Alder. “It warms my heart to see so many Trainers and spectators here to witness one of the most anticipated events of the year. You’ve all come a long way to see it and take part in it, and now it’s time to earn your reward for such perseverance.”

    “Before we get down to the nitty-gritty,” said Burton, “we have a special treat for you all, as part of the opening ceremony. We have here with us Jim Stevens of Nuvema Town and Leanne Summers of Accumula Town, who have graciously volunteered to give a performance via their Pokemon. What makes this truly special, however, is that these Pokemon are former members of the traveling troupe, Cirque de Poké!”

    Even wilder cheers, and some excited murmurs, erupted from the crowd at this. Jim looked at the three Pokemon, who were beaming with anticipation.

    “So, without further ado,” went on Burton, “I give you Torch, Torrent, and Lilligant, performing...” He paused. “Mr. Stevens, what is it they’re going to perform?”

    Jim leaned forward, speaking through Alder’s mike.

    “I’m glad you asked, Mr. Burton. They’re going to be paying a tribute to Meloetta.”

    Many people gasped, and even more murmurs went through the crowd.

    “A tribute to Meloetta?” asked Burton, amazed. “Astounding! Well, let’s not waste any time, then, shall we? Ladies and gentlemen, the Cirque de Poké trio in a tribute to Meloetta!”

    Leanne made a small gesture to the Pokemon, ushering them forward, and they stepped out to tumultuous applause, the loudest of which came from those who recognized them. As Jim reached over to start the music, however, June reached down with a vine and, sweeping it across his belt, activated the rest of his Poke Balls. Echo, Missy, and Spade appeared in the booth. She did the same with Leanne, and she and Oshawott were joined by Tranquill, Zorua, and Larvesta.

    “They shouldn’t miss this,” she explained to Jim.

    “Ah, right,” said Jim, smiling at her for her forward thinking. He reached over to the console and pressed a button to start the music.

    At once, a tropical, partially synthesized, beat began to play, but as it continued for several seconds, it was joined by the unmistakable sound of orchestral string music.

    As the two melodies melded, the three Pokemon began to dance, Lilligant performing a kind of hula, while Torch and Torrent rolled their fists and stamped their feet to the music, stepping backwards and forwards as they did so.

    Then, they stopped, as Lilligant began to perform a much more elegant solo dance, a mix between hula and ballroom, as the music swelled beautifully. As she danced, everyone gasped as Torch blew a steady Flamethrower over her head, while Torch fired an Ice Beam from between his paws. The two attacks arced gently over the dancing Lilligant, melding to create a silvery mist from the melting ice around her. Everyone ‘ooh’ed and ‘ahh’ed. Jim, Leanne, and their Pokemon were wide-eyed and gaping in amazed admiration. Alder and Burton looked transfixed with wonder.

    The melody turned again to its chorus, and the three resumed their first dance routine, but this was cut in half this time, as the music became elegant and ballroom-like again, and Torrent, taking Lilligant in his arms, swept her along into a beautiful ballroom dance while Torch watched, smiling. Jim looked over at Leanne, who was wiping at her eyes. Lilligant’s pale face was absolutely aglow as she danced with Torrent. It was almost impossible to see them without imagining them in a ball gown and a tuxedo on a spotless dance floor.

    Then the elegant dance ended, as Torrent gracefully released Lilligant, allowing her to spin by herself, and he hopped over to his brother. The music became tropical and synthesized once more, and the two engaged in a goofier, jerky dance one might expect to see at a club dance. Laughter and applause rippled through the crowd at their antics.

    Finally, they returned to one last play of the chorus, but this time, it ended differently. As the music reached its end, Lilligant held her arms wide, and Torch and Torrent, to the astonishment of all present, unleashed a Solarbeam and Hydro Pump at the same time. The two moves arched gracefully, the sun mixing with the water and forming a great, bright, beautiful rainbow, lingering even as the song ended.

    The stands erupted with wild cheers and applause. Inside the booth, Jim and Leanne were clapping so hard their hands numbed, and their Pokemon were cheering fight to burst. Alder and Burton just stared, amazed at what they had just witnessed.

    As Jim applauded, however, he could have sworn he spotted something in the air, barely visible against the rainbow: a tiny, human-like figure, like a woman with long, waist-length green hair, wearing what looked like a long black dress which opened out like a flower, showing her thin legs. Her eyes were bright blue, and there was something like a microphone earpiece on the side of her head.

    Her eyes seemed to be glistening with tears, though she was smiling. She blew the performers a kiss, and in the next instant, before Jim even knew what was happening, she was gone. Torch, Torrent, and Lilligant, too busy waving to the crowd in the midst of a three-Pokemon hug, hadn’t noticed, and neither, it seemed, had anyone else. Had that been Meloetta?...

    “Absolutely amazing!” roared Burton through the microphone. “I’ve never seen such choreography in my life! Meloetta would be very proud, my friends, very proud! Let’s give it up, once more, for the Cirque de Poké Trio!”

    After taking one last bow, the three Pokemon stepped inside to rejoin their Trainers. Leanne gave Lilligant a big hug while Jim gave a double high-five to the Simi Brothers. Missy, Echo, and Spade crowded around the two, voicing their admiration and enthusiasm.

    “Unbelievable!” said Echo.

    “Amazing!” said Missy.

    “Right purty!” said Spade.

    “You three were incredible!” said Jim. “I’ve never seen anything like that!”

    “We have you to thank for it, Jim,” said Torch. “You gave us the chance to do this at last.”

    “Yeah, man. We owe it all to you,” said Torrent.

    “Aw, you guys...” said Jim, modestly.

    He then turned to Leanne.

    “Let’s skedaddle. We ought to be with the rest of the crowd when the first matches are selected.”

    “Good idea,” she said.

    After recalling all of their Pokemon, the two Trainers took their leave of the announcer’s booth, and made their way through the packed seats until they finally reached the spot Mrs. Stevens, Professor Juniper, the Guy, and Bianca had reserved for Leanne. They waved energetically to Jim as he went to join Cheren, Cruise, Solomon, and Nigel among the other innumerable Trainers who would be competing in the competition.

    “Quite the performance, Stevens,” said Nigel. “I’m impressed.”

    “Thanks, Nigel, but it was all them. I never even saw them during practice.”

    “You mean that was self-practiced?” asked Solomon, incredulous. “Incredible!”

    “The way they made that rainbow at the end with Solarbeam and Hydro Pump!” gushed Cruise. “Really cool!”

    Jim looked at Cheren, who just beamed at him, clapping a hand to his shoulder. It was all the praise Jim really needed.

    “Well, once more, ladies and gentlemen,” said Burton, “welcome! Those of you who have participated in any previous Unova League Conferences should know the rules already. We have 128 total contestants in attendance this year, so this tournament will be split into six rounds, plus the preliminary round. The preliminary round, which will take place immediately after the opening ceremony, will consist of a single Pokemon battle, one on one. After that, Rounds 1 thru 3 will consist of three on three battles, and the three final rounds will consist of full six on six battles. Make sure you have all Pokemon on hand during those battles; incomplete teams will not lead to disqualification, but might prove a disadvantage, so be wary. After the completion of each round, the next match up will be chosen via random selection among the winners of that round.”

    Jim kept his eyes forward, ready for when he would appear in the brackets upon the big screen.

    “The grand prize,” Burton went on, “is the Unova League Cup, a prize of $10,000,000 Pokes, and the opportunity to battle Champion Alder himself!”

    Wild applause rang through the crowd at these words, and Jim felt a thrill pulse through his veins.

    “That’s right, Burton,” said Alder, “and I look forward to seeing that on lucky Trainer make it all the way to the top! So give it all you’ve got, everyone, and let’s get to it!”

    More wild cheers rippled through the audience, and the big screen finally lit up.

    128 images, like miniscule playing cards, appeared, each depicting one of the competing Trainers. Jim briefly glimpsed his own before they all flipped onto their backs. Thin, silvery brackets extended around them, making 64 pairs. The cards then flipped over again, completely swapped around. Jim saw that he was in the 7th battle of the day, and his opponent was a very pretty young lady with long, silver-blond hair. He looked around to try and spot her, and found her. She was wearing a black tank top, a crimson skirt, and white stockings. She caught his eye, smiled, and winked. Jim managed to weakly smile back.

    “Memorize your matchups, folks,” said Burton, “because we’re about to get this party started! Our first match up will be Wesley Palomino vs. Nestor Goldthwait! Competitors, make your way to the field. Everyone else, please wait outside the ring until you are called. Thank you.”

    Jim joined the others not participating along the railing to the battlefield, standing among his friends.

    “Can you imagine my luck?” groaned Nigel. “I’m paired for the 28th preliminary battle, and with that troll over there.”

    He jerked his thumb to an enormous Trainer with a square-ish shape and a jutting jaw. He certainly did not look like a people person.

    “How did you luck out on getting that pretty girl?” asked Cruise. “Just like when you got paired with Miss LeClaire in Nimbasa.”

    Jim merely shrugged, turning his attention to watch the battle.

    ***


    Even for battles that only consisted of one Pokemon on either side, Jim had to admit that there were plenty of close shaves in the battles before and after his. It seemed that, as these were the battles that decided who would even go on to the first round, the Trainers were exerting themselves even more to avoid being the unlucky loser.

    At last, it was Jim’s turn, as he heard his name being called over the intercom.

    “Our next preliminary match: Jim Stevens vs. Julie Farrow!”

    “Good luck, Jim!” called Cruise, as he went out onto the battlefield to face his opponent, Julie.

    “I know you,” she said, when they were facing each other. “You’re the guy who keeps ruining Team Plasma’s plans. Hard to believe they keep losing to a boy.”

    “First you call me a guy, then a boy,” said Jim, wryly. “How nice.”

    Julie giggled. “I’m just saying it like it is. You may be ‘Plasma’s Bane’, but that doesn’t mean I’m gonna go easy on you.”

    “Believe me, Miss Farrow,” said Jim, “I would have been insulted if you did go easy on me.”

    Julie merely grinned and pulled out a Poke Ball.

    “Samurott, go!” she called, throwing it up.

    In the blaze of light from it, an enormous, intimidating Pokemon appeared. It looked like a great blue sea lion, standing on four thick legs. Cream-colored adornments on its forelegs resembled sword scabbards with hilts sticking from them. It had a pointed snout, bristling white mustaches and a beard, and stern red eyes. Its short tail was shaped like a seashell, and it was wearing a spear-pointed conch shell as a helmet.

    Jim brought out his Pokedex.

    “Samurott, the Formidable Pokemon, and the final evolved form of Oshawott. One stroke of its seamitars is enough to strike down its toughest foes. Its glare and mighty voice quell the most disobedient of Pokemon.”

    Jim stared up at the imposing Samurott, which glared down at him haughtily.

    “June, feel up to this?” asked Jim.

    “Always,” said June, and she leaped down onto the field.

    There was a loud murmur from the crowd. Obviously, they did not see the sense in sending out a tiny Snivy against an enormous Samurott. Julie was smirking confidently.

    “Hold your horses, folks,” said Burton. “Those who have seen Mr. Stevens during the Nimbasa Battle Tournament will remember that this is no garden-variety Snivy. He may be sound in his judgement after all.”

    “Darn right I am,” Jim muttered.

    The referee, standing in the middle, raised his flags.

    “Begin!” he bellowed.

    “Ok, June, start us off with Energy Ball!” said Jim.

    June leaped into the air, a glowing green and yellow ball forming in her palm, which she then lobbed at Samurott. Samurott, however, didn’t move. The Energy Ball struck against it and exploded, but it didn’t even skid backward from the recoil.

    “Uh-oh,” muttered Jim.

    “Samurott, Ice Beam!” commanded Julie.

    A glowing ball of icy-blue light appeared at the tip of Samurott’s helmet, and a jagged bolt of blue lightning shot at June.

    “Dodge it, and use Aerial Ace!” shouted Jim.

    June swerved to the side to avoid the blast, and, in the process, soared straight at Samurott, gliding above the ground. She flew upwards and struck it straight across the face, this time making it step back a pace or two, but it regained itself quickly, glaring at June as she swept back to her former spot.

    “Keep using Ice Beam, Samurott!” said Julie.

    “And June, you just keep dodging!” commanded Jim. “And while you’re at it, chuck some Energy Balls for good measure!”

    Samurott fired blast after blast of icy lightning, but June was too quick. She leaped from side to side, the blasts just missing her, and once in a while, she’d throw another Energy Ball, which exploded against Samurott.

    “Speedy little Snivy, isn’t she?” teased Julie. “But we’re gonna get you in the end! Samurott, Megahorn!”

    Several spectators gasped. The spear of Samurott’s helmet began glowing green, and lengthened until it resembled a javelin. Jim was so surprised that he didn’t give a command, and Samurott struck so swiftly that June didn’t even think to dodge. The Formidable Pokemon rammed her with its spear, throwing for a loop and sending her sprawling. The attack looked like it had taken a lot out of her.

    “JUNE!” yelled Jim. “Are you ok?!”

    June slowly struggled to her feet, looking weakened.

    “This could be big trouble for Jim,” said Burton. “Megahorn’s a powerful Bug type attack, and it looked like it did a number on Snivy.”

    “It would have been a lot worse if Samurott were part Bug,” said Alder. “The same-type attack bonus it would gain might have ended this fight on the spot.”

    Jim bit his lip. Samurott was highly dangerous with both Ice Beam and Megahorn. If he didn’t do something quick, he was going to be knocked out of the competition, and only in the preliminares, too!

    “I should have figured this would be a piece of cake,” said Julie. “Guess Team Plasma’s just a bunch of wusses, because you’re not that strong. Samurott, finish this up with another Megahorn!”

    Samurott’s spear began to glow green again. Jim, however, was ready.

    “June, dodge it, and then...use Toxic!”

    Many spectators gasped at this command, and Julie looked stunned. Samurott struck, but June leaped up into the air, and, swirling her hand in midair, formed a bubbling ball of purple goo, which he tossed at Samurott. It struck home, and the Formidable Pokemon, though it straightened up, suddenly began to glow with a sickly purple hue, and a weakened look came over its proud face.

    “No!” squealed Julie. “What have you done?!”

    “What was that you were saying about me?” asked Jim. “That I wasn’t that strong? Well, allow me to prove you otherwise! June, Leaf Storm!”

    June began to twirl in midair. A mass of glowing leaves surrounded her body, which then launched straight for Samurott. The tidal wave of leaves blasted against it, knocking it off its sturdy legs and onto its side.

    “Samurott! Get up!” yelled Julie.

    Samurott twitched, and made as if to rise, but its body glowed a sickly purple again, and the next instant, it had flopped back onto its side, out cold. The referee raised one flag.

    “Samurott is unable to battle! Snivy wins, which means the victor is Jim Stevens!”

    Tumultuous cheers rang through the crowd as Jim lifted June up into his arms.

    “Atta girl!” he said. “I knew you were the right choice for our start into the League.”

    June merely smiled and nestled against his chest. Julie recalled Samurott, looking crestfallen. However, she did manage to smile at Jim.

    “Good match,” she said. “That’s one heck of a Snivy you have there.”

    “Yeah, well, your Samurott was pretty tough, too,” said Jim.

    “Good luck!” said Julie, and she left the battlefield, Jim doing the same, rejoining his friends.

    “Great work, Jim!” said Cheren.

    “Did you see that Aerial Ace?” asked Cruise. “She’s got it down pat!”

    “I must admit, I was a tad nervous,” said Solomon.

    “A tad?” asked Nigel, with a slight laugh. “Your knuckles were ghost-white, Solomon.”

    “Not as much as yours,” retorted Solomon.

    Before the two could get into an argument, however, Solomon was called for his match, as he had been selected to fight right after Jim. Jim, for his part, sat back with June curled up against him to watch the rest of the preliminary matches, glad that he had least made it past the first round...


    ***


    Author's Note: The song envisioned for the performance is Coconeru's "A Tropical Octav3" =)

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  8. #38
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    Default Re: Jim: Blaze of Glory

    CHAPTER 38
    A Battle of International Proportions


    Jim wished he could have brought a video camera. The rest of the battles in the preliminary round were as harrowing, or even more so, than his own, and sometimes, he felt as if they ended much too quickly. He was also itching to see more new Pokemon, perhaps some not native to Unova, and he always had his Pokedex at the ready, like a drawn gun ready to fire. Half of the time, he completely forgot about it, so mesmerized was he at the bouts that were going on.

    To his relief, Cheren, Cruise, Solomon, and Nigel all passed their preliminary battles as well. Cheren’s Emboar completely flattened his opponent’s Klang, and Nigel had made his unsightly rival’s Watchog look like a joke against his Simisage. Cruise’s Swadloon seemed to have evolved into a Leavanny, and duked it out with a Boldore, while Solomon’s Liepard made short work of a Cofagrigus. The sun was low over the horizon by the time the final bout was completed.

    “And there we have it, folks!” said Burton. “This concludes the preliminary round, and we wish to extend our appreciation for those who participated but did not make it. You showed amazing skill in getting this far, and that’s what matters.”

    “Indeed, Charlie,” said Alder, “and now, turn your attention to the board to see who you will be facing tomorrow!”

    Everyone looked up at the giant screen. There were now 64 mugshots spread across it. These flipped over, glowed, then flipped back over, swapped and linked by brackets. To his surprise, Jim saw that he was in the first battle of the next day, and his opponent was a boy in a dark-green overcoat, his long silver-blonde hair concealing half of his face. Jim searched him out and found him, standing with folded arms and an impassive expression. His steel-gray eye flickered momentarily on him, then returned to the screen.

    “The battles start at 9 sharp tomorrow, so be early and be ready!” said Burton. “This is Charles Burton-”

    “And Alder-”

    “Wishing you good luck for tomorrow!”

    ***


    “You guys all made your battles look so easy,” Jim said over dinner, as he sat with Leanne, Bianca, Cheren, and his tournament pals. Mrs. Stevens and Professor Juniper had a table to themselves nearby, while The Guy was at another table, playing cards with Scrafty.

    “It was rather pathetic, if you ask me,” said Nigel, taking a bite out of a chicken salad sandwich. “Watchog are so predictable, and besides, I kept myself fired up by inwardly telling myself that I wouldn’t let that ugly brute continue through the tournament. Not on my watch, at any rate.”

    “I wouldn’t go so far as to call them pathetic,” said Cheren. “They did make it this far, didn’t they?”

    “Perhaps,” conceded Nigel, “but they have to learn that the League expects much more out of a Pokemon they’ve seen a thousand times before. Variety is the spice of life, after all. Now, you, Stevens,” he said, turning to Jim, “your Snivy pulled off a very close victory. I take it that Toxic was a recent acquisition?”

    “It was, courtesy of Roxie.”

    “Roxie?” asked Solomon, surprised. “Roxie of Virbank?”

    “Yeah, why?”

    “She’s one of the most lethal Poison-type Trainers in Unova. She combines the dangerous effects of Poison with raw power, all with the energy and drive of a rock concert.”

    “Sounds like she makes battles a heck of an event,” said Leanne.

    “It’s a great ace up the sleeve, at any rate,” said Cruise. “Even if it’s not always a sub-type of theirs, most Grass types ought to have a Poison or stunning move at the ready.”

    “Well, if it comes from your mouth, Cruise,” said Bianca, “it’s gotta be true. You’re like the expert on Grass types.”

    “Aw, shucks, Bianca,” said Cruise.

    “It looks like you’re going to be our first battler tomorrow, Jim,” said Cheren. “I took a look at that guy you’re paired up against. Seems like you always get the interesting ones, huh?”

    “Yeah!” said Cruise. “Miss LeCaire, that guy in the Watchog outfit, that girl from today, and now this dude. How do you keep getting so lucky?”

    “You call being matched up against the most noticeable of people lucky?” Jim asked, incredulous. “As if I wanted any added attention.”

    “Oh, come on,” said Solomon. “We’re only poking fun. You’re going to do just fine.”

    “Ha!” came the Guy’s voice. They turned to see him lay down his hand. “Full house! What do you say to that, smart-aleck?”

    Scrafty smirked and laid down his hand: four of a kind. The Guy stared, then turned to the group and said,

    “Sometimes I think I taught him too well.”

    ***


    “Good morning, ladies and gents! This is Charles Burton-”

    “And Alder-”

    “And welcome back to the Victory Mountain Conference! We hope you’re all wide awake and ready, because it’s time to proceed with Round 1! Now that we’ve gotten past the preliminaries, it’s time for the true showdown to begin!”

    “That’s right, Charlie, and our first match of the day is going to be Jim Stevens against Artemis Kirk!”

    Amid shouts and cheers from the crowd, Jim stepped out onto the field, the early morning sun bearing down on him and making him squint. He’d passed an uneasy night, but he felt ready. His opponent, Artemis Kirk, was already facing him, his face still half-shrouded by his hair.

    “Jim Stevens,” he said quietly. “They speak of you even from where I come from. You are quite famous.”

    “Er, thanks,” said Jim. “Should I know who you are?”

    Artemis chuckled.

    “I think not. I am not the sort of Trainer who clouds himself in fame and adulation. I work best in solitude, honing my skills to their apex. I have come a long way to take part in this tournament, to show the people of Unova Pokemon they have not laid eyes upon before.”

    Jim raised an eyebrow, a little bemused by his opponent’s behavior. Artemis drew a Poke Ball.

    “But enough talk. Let us begin! Gengar, you’re first!”

    From the Poke Ball came a truly creepy-looking Pokemon. It was purple, with stubby arms and legs, pointed ears, and rigid spikes running down its back. Its eyes were red and sinister, and it had a wide, toothy grin that looked quite evil. Jim brought his Pokedex.

    “Gengar, the Shadow Pokemon. Gengar steals heat from wherever it is hiding, so a drop in temperature is a sign that it is nearby. It lurks in the shadows, its sinister grin the only thing visible.”

    “And Artemis Kirk’s first Pokemon is a Gengar!” said Burton. “Quite a rare appearance, wouldn’t you say, Alder?”

    “That’s right, Charlie,” said Alder. “Gengar’s a fully-evolved Ghost/Poison type native to the Kanto region. It seems Mr. Kirk has been far and wide to have found it.”

    “Ghost/Poison, huh?” Jim muttered. “Interesting combination. All right, then.”

    He pocketed his Pokedex and took out his own Poke Ball.

    “Echo, come on out!”

    The ball burst open, and the faithful Swoobat appeared.

    “And Jim Stevens starts off with a Swoobat!” said Burton.

    “Interesting choice,” said Alder. “Swoobat is a Psychic/Flying type. Both Pokemon have their strengths and weaknesses to exploit against each other. Swoobat’s Psychic abilities may take a toll on Gengar’s Poison typing, but Gengar is still a Ghost type, something Swoobat ought to be wary about.”

    “Begin!” yelled the referee.

    “Echo, start off with Air Slash!”

    Echo swept up, his wings shining blue, and he flapped them sharply, sending buzzsaw-shaped blasts straight for Gengar.

    “Dodge it, Gengar, and use Shadow Ball!”

    Gengar swept upwards, the Air Slash blazing past beneath it, then cupped its hands together, forming a sparking black and purple ball, which launched at Echo.

    “Dodge, Echo! Then use your own Shadow Ball!”

    Echo ducked as the Shadow Ball sailed overhead, then drew one wing back. A Shadow Ball of his own formed in front of his face, which he whacked toward Gengar with his wing. The attack struck it full in the face and sent it backwards, but it was still grinning wickedly.

    “Gengar, Dark Pulse!”

    Gengar cupped its hands in front of its face. A glowing black and purple fireball formed between them, and the next instant, a blast made of the same substance fired from it.

    “Don’t let it hit you, Echo!” Jim shouted.

    Echo swooped upwards, just narrowly avoiding getting his tail hit.

    “Again!” commanded Artemis.

    Gengar fired again, and Echo darted to the side, but the Dark Pulse just grazed his left wing, and he grimaced in pain. Jim flinched, and Artemis grinned darkly.

    “Your Swoobat is quick, but can it dodge this with a damaged wing? Gengar, Thunderbolt!”

    Jim’s eyes widened in horror. Thunderbolt?!

    Sure enough, Gengar’s body became surrounded with electricity, and it fired a massive bolt straight at Echo.

    “Echo! Get out of the way!” yelled Jim.

    Echo tried to swerve aside, but having his wing struck had slowed him down. He was struck full-force, letting out a cry that rang through the stadium, and which made Jim’s blood curdle. The poor Swoobat crumpled into a kneeling position, supporting himself on his wings.

    “Echo! Hang in there!” Jim encouraged.

    “It’s over, Stevens,” said Artemis. “It was unwise to send out a Pokemon I fully expected to dominate...Gengar, end this pathetic scene. Shadow Ball!”

    Gengar once more cupped its hands, forming a black and purple ball between them. Jim’s mind reeled as he tried to think of a way out of this. Then, to his utter relief, Echo, wobbling slightly, managed to take off once again, flapping slowly and unsteadily.

    “It matters not,” said Artemis, seeing the look on Jim’s face. “Your Swoobat is too weak to take much more. Gengar, fire!”

    Gengar launched the Shadow Ball.

    “Oh yeah?” asked Jim. “Echo, dodge, then use Thunder Wave!”

    A gasp rippled through the ground, and even Artemis looked surprised. Echo barely managed to swerve away from the Shadow Ball as a bolt of bluish lightning fired from his body, hitting Gengar full on. The Shadow Pokemon’s body sparked, and it grimaced in agony.

    “Gengar, no! Fight back! Thunderbolt!”

    Gengar tensed, but the sparks only intensified, and it was forced to stop, cringing.

    “Dark Pulse!” Artemis yelled in desperation.

    Again, Gengar tried to move, but the sparks only flared up even more, keeping it unable to move. Artemis growled in frustration.

    “Now, Echo, use Psychic!” Jim commanded.

    Echo swooped into the air, his body becoming surrounded by an intense blue aura, his eyes gleaming with the same glow. There was a burst of whitish light, and Gengar stiffened, looking stricken, eyes wide and pupils shrunken. The Psychic had sent a powerful stunning blast straight into its mind.

    “No!” Artemis roared.

    “Yes!” crowed Jim. “Finish this up, Echo! Shadow Ball!”

    Echo pulled one wing back, forming another Shadow Ball. Artemis, however, seemed to have come to a decision.

    “Gengar, if you’re going down, take that Swoobat with you! Destiny Bond!”

    Jim felt his heart freeze. He had heard of Destiny Bond, a Ghost-type move that took the opponent down along with the user. If Gengar fell, then so would Echo!

    Too late to attempt anything, Jim could only watch as Echo fired the Shadow Ball, and at the same time, Gengar’s entire body glowed with a red light, and something like a shadow streaked along the battlefield, merging with Echo’s shadow, and casting him in the same red light.

    “NO!” Jim yelled.

    Gengar was struck by the Shadow Ball and crumpled. A stricken look came over Echo, and he too fell to the ground, unconscious. Everyone in the stands looked stunned at the sudden development. The referee raised both flags.

    “Both Gengar and Swoobat are unable to battle!”

    “What an upset!” said Burton. “Swoobat takes out Gengar, but was the victory truly worth it? A very dastardly ploy, using Destiny Bond.”

    “Dastardly indeed, Charlie,” said Alder. “It looks we’re in for quite a battle if the first match-up was this intense.”

    “Good job, Echo,” said Jim, recalling his poor Swoobat. “Get some rest.”

    Artemis recalled Gengar. “Not too shabby, Stevens,” he said, “but that was only the beginning...”

    He drew his next Poke Ball.

    “Sudowoodo, you’re next!”

    In a burst of light, a Pokemon resembling a lanky tree appeared. It had brown, yellow-spotted skin, a simple face, arms with three green spheres at the end of each for hands, and a Y-shaped adornment on top. Jim brought out his Pokedex again.

    “Sudowoodo, the Imitation Pokemon. It disguises itself as a tree to avoid being attacked. However, it hates water and flees from rain.”

    “And Artemis sends out his second Pokemon,” said Burton, “and while not as ominous as Gengar, it is still an oddity of the Pokemon world.”

    “Very true,” said Alder. “Sudowoodo looks like a plant, but it’s actually a Rock type. Many Trainers make that common mistake, and it is no fault of theirs.”

    “A Rock type?” Jim muttered. “Well, isn’t that lucky?”

    He drew out his next Poke Ball.

    “Torrent, go!”

    The complacent Simipour appeared in a blaze of light.

    “Jim Stevens seems to be going for type advantage,” said Burton, “and has chosen a Simipour.”

    “Let’s hope he’s not being cocky about this,” said Alder. “Simipour would have an advantage, but Sudowoodo is also a devious Pokemon with a lot of tricks up its sleeve.”

    “Begin!” shouted the referee.

    “Sudowoodo, Stone Edge!”

    Sudowoodo crossed its arms, rings of jagged stones surrounding its body. It threw its arms out, and the stones launched at Torrent.

    “Use Hydro Pump!” Jim shouted.

    Torrent cupped his paws, a ball of water forming in a swirl between them, then threw them forward, sending a massive jet of pressurized water from them. They blasted back the stones and struck Sudowoodo full-force. However, it still looked ready for more.

    “How’s that possible?” Jim asked, surprised. “Hydro Pump’s one of the strongest Water attacks! That should have dealt major damage!”

    Artemis smirked unpleasantly. “My Sudowoodo’s Ability is Sturdy. An attack that would have normally taken it down in one strike no longer has that power. Show that Simipour what you’re really made of, Sudowoodo! Earth Power!”

    Sudowoodo raised one arm, a golden glow surrounding its body, and punched the ground. Deep cracks began moving along the ground toward Torrent.

    “Dodge it with Acrobatics!” Jim ordered.

    With a deft somersault, Torrent leaped away, the cracks ending where he had stood.

    “Now, while you’re up there, use Ice Beam!”

    Torrent cupped his paws again, an icy blue light forming between them, and when he threw them forward, a jagged bolt of icy lightning shot from them toward Sudowoodo.

    “Protect yourself!” yelled Artemis. “Stone Edge!”

    Sudowoodo once more summoned rings of jagged stones, the Ice Beam striking against them. Though the stones became encased in ice, Sudowoodo was unharmed.

    “Whoa,” muttered Jim. “Clever.”

    “You haven’t seen anything yet,” said Artemis. “Sudowoodo, Hammer Arm!”

    With unbelievable dexterity, Sudowoodo bounded straight up toward Torrent, raising one glowing arm up over its head.

    “Torrent!” yelled Jim. “Look out!”

    Too late. With a swift downward swing, Sudowoodo smacked Torrent with its arm, sending him crashing to the ground, flat on his face, generating an ‘Ooooh!’ of pain from the crowd. Sudowoodo landed deftly as Torrent unsteadily got back to his feet.

    “Hang in there, buddy,” said Jim. “Shake it off.”

    “‘Shake it off’, don’t make me laugh,” said Artemis, sneering. “My Sudowoodo is more than enough to take you down. Wood Hammer!”

    Sudowoodo leaped toward Torrent again, arm raised and glowing blue.

    “Dodge it, Torrent!” yelled Jim.

    Torrent leaped to the side as Sudowoodo swung, narrowly missing. It swung again, and Torrent managed to dodge once more.

    “Now retaliate! Brick Break!”

    Torrent drew his arm back, which began to glow white, and he let loose with a punch that sent Sudowoodo flying far back to its side of the field. Several spectators gasped, others cheered. Artemis stared in amazement, then smirked in a mocking way.

    “Impressive,” he said. “Your Simipour has its share of tricks, but it’s not going to save you. Sudowoodo, Earth Power!”

    Once again, Sudowoodo raised its arm and slammed its hand against the ground, sending golden cracks towards Torrent.

    “Get around them, Torrent, and use Hydro Pump!”

    Torrent skirted to the side of the cracks, cupped his paws to his side, and let loose another large blast of water at Sudowoodo.

    “Break through it with Hammer Arm!” commanded Artemis.

    To everyone’s amazement, Sudowoodo sweeped his glowing arm at the Hydro Pump, knocking it away and into the wall to its right. Jim’s jaw dropped.

    “And now, Stone Edge!”

    Another ring of stones appeared around Sudowoodo, and launched at Torrent.

    “Acrobatics!” yelled Jim.

    Torrent somersaulted into the air, the stones clattering harmlessly below.

    “Now, give him an aerial Brick Break!”

    With a frown of determination, Torrent dove for Sudowoodo, bringing his arm back and spinning it like a pitcher about to throw a baseball, a white blaze surrounding it.

    “Intercept it, Sudowoodo! Wood Hammer!”

    Sudowoodo brought its arm back, glowing blue once again, waiting for Torrent, who was coming closer and closer, his arm a blur of white fire.

    There was an air-splitting, indefinable noise, as Torrent struck Sudowoodo square in the face with Brick Break, but Sudowoodo struck Torrent full-on with Wood Hammer. Torrent was thrown back, where he landed heavily on his feet, looking battered, while Sudowoodo teetered, wobbled, and ultimately, fell flat onto its back, out cold. The referee raised one flag.

    “Sudowoodo is unable to battle!” Simipour wins!”

    “Unbelievable!” Burton roared over the tumult of the crowd. “After taking a Wood Hammer head-on, Simipour was still able to take out Sudowoodo with a super-effective Brick Break!”

    “That Wood Hammer didn’t help any either, Burton,” said Alder. “That recoil damage added on to the damage done by Brick Break. It looks like Mr. Kirk would have done better with a Sudowoodo that had Rock Head for an ability.”

    Artemis did not look pleased, and he recalled Sudowoodo.

    “You ok, Torrent?” Jim asked.

    “I’ve got a few buffs,” said Torrent, “but I can keep going. Don’t worry about me, bro.”

    “That’s my boy.”

    “Well, well, well, Stevens,” said Artemis. “You’ve actually forced me to resort to my final Pokemon. I never imagined it would go this far, but what can you do? Now you must face the fury of my final combatant!”

    He held up his third and final Poke Ball as he said this.

    “Lickylicky, it’s up to you!”

    Jim stared in dumbfoundment at the Pokemon that appeared. It was large, pink, and enormously fat, with a great, round, ball-shaped body, marked with yellow stripes and a white cloth-like pattern extending from its neck. It had an odd curl atop its head, beady eyes, and an enormous tongue protruding from its mouth. Jim thought that it looked like some swollen children’s toy, perpetually mocking him with that tongue. He brought out his Pokedex.

    “Lickylicky, the Licking Pokemon. The saliva produced from its tongue can dissolve any substance. The numb feeling caused by its saliva does not dissipate.”

    “And Artemis Kirk’s final Pokemon is a Lickylicky!” said Burton. “Quite an oddity!”

    “An oddity is right,” said Alder. “Lickylicky’s a Normal type from the Sinnoh region, but the evolved form of the Kanto Pokemon Lickitung. The Lickitung line has quite a history.”

    “A Normal type, eh?” Jim said. “Nothing a few Brick Breaks can’t handle.”

    “Begin!” yelled the referee.

    “All right, Torrent, go in for Brick Break!” shouted Jim.

    Torrent dashed forward, arm aglow once more. Artemis, however, was smiling unpleasantly.

    “Not this time, Stevens! Lickylicky, Power Whip!”

    Lickylicky stuck out its enormous tongue even further, whipped its head around so that its tongue followed, then sharply snapped its head back to its normal position, sending the tongue, now glowing bright green, right at Torrent. It struck him a hard blow, stopping him short and throwing him back, where he crumpled before trying to shakily get back up.

    “Aw, no...” Jim muttered. “Power Whip’s a Grass attack. This isn’t good...”

    “End this pathetic scene, Lickylicky,” said Artemis. “I can’t stand seeing a Pokemon suffer when hope is lost. Focus Blast!”

    Lickylicky sucked in its tongue and took in a deep breath. A blue light was shining in its great fat belly, working its way up its chest, into its throat, and then, with a noise like cannonfire, it spat out a great glowing blue ball. It was too late for Torrent to do anything; he was blasted full-force and thrown into the air, from where he landed with a sickening smack back into the ground and did not get back up. The referee raised a flag.

    “Simipour is unable to battle! Lickylicky wins!”

    With a heavy sigh, Jim recalled Torrent as the crowd rang with cheers and groans.

    “Good work, Torrent. You deserve a nice long rest. Now...what do I have that can combat that thing? Spade could withstand Power Whip, but that Focus Blast would mean big trouble...”

    As he pondered this, he ran his hand along his Poke Balls, and as it came to rest on one, it jittered, making him jump in surprise. Before he could stop it, there came a burst of light, and none other than Missy appeared, bow and all. Many females in the audience ‘aww’ed at her. She turned and smiled sunnily at Jim, but he didn’t feel like smiling at all. In fact, he felt as if the bottom of his stomach had disappeared..

    “Missy! What are you doing?! I didn’t choose you!” he snapped.

    Missy’s smiled vanished, and her ears drooped, a hurt look on her face. Jim winced, knowing he’d gone too far...

    “Missy, I didn’t mean it like that...Look, just come back and we’ll go with-”

    “Ah-ah-ah,” interrupted Artemis, wagging a finger. “You’ve made your final choice, and now you have to go with it. A substitution now would call for disqualification.”

    “W-What?! But-”

    “Rules are rules, Mr. Stevens,” said Artemis with a shrug, though he was looking very self-satisfied.

    “And in an odd turn of events,” said Burton, “Jim Stevens has chosen an Emolga as his final Pokemon.”

    “Very odd,” agreed Alder. “Emolga’s an Electric/Flying type, but can its smaller size and higher speed be enough to take down a defensive powerhouse like Lickylicky?”

    Jim sighed. He had no choice.

    “Ok, Missy, it looks like we’re just going to have to go through with this. I’m counting on you, all right?”

    She turned to look at him, a lingering of the hurt from his harsh words still in her eyes.

    “Please, Missy...I really need you to pull out a win for us...”

    She considered him for a moment, then nodded determinedly.

    “I won’t let you down,” she said, and turned to face Lickylicky, who was looking down at her in a mocking way.

    Jim smiled. Missy was willing to give it her best; he couldn’t have asked for better.

    “Begin!” yelled the referee.

    “Start us off with Discharge, Missy!”

    An electrical aura surrounded Missy’s body, and she let loose a powerful blast of lightning. Lickylicky didn’t bother trying to dodge or defend; it just took the blast with only a minor grimace. Jim gulped.

    “That’s some strong flab,” he muttered.

    “Use Rollout, Lickylicky!” commanded Artemis.

    Lickylicky bounced into the air, curled up into a ball, then began rolling straight toward Missy, gathering speed as it approached.

    “Get out of the way, Missy!” Jim yelled.

    Missy flew to one side. Lickylicky rolled past, veered sharply, and came right back at her.

    “Keep going!” Jim shouted. “Don’t let it get you!”

    Missy flew this way and that, trying to avoid being struck, but eventually, she failed to notice Lickylicky right behind her, and it bowled her over, knocking her for a loop. It then came for a second hit, and another, and another. Jim tugged down on his hat in anxiety.

    “Oh, this isn’t good, Charlie,” said Alder. “Rollout increases in power every time it lands a hit. It might be lights out for Emolga.”

    Lickylicky’s last hit sent Missy flying back to her side of the field, as the bulbous Pokemon uncurled itself.

    “Missy! You ok??”

    Missy struggled to her feet, looking scuffed, but being struck like that seemed only to have strengthened her resolve. Her eyes glinting with a steely light, she tugged the ends of her bow sharply, and then drew up her little tummy with her paws, letting it plop back down with force. The sight of such bravado brought the smile back to Jim’s face.

    “Atta girl! Now, give it an Iron Tail!”

    Missy soared into the air, her black tail gleaming with a silver sheen, and even taking on the appearance of polished metal. Swinging it, she flew straight for Lickylicky.

    “Intercept it with Power Whip!”

    Lickylicky whipped its tongue out again, sending it flying and glowing green at Missy. Missy swung her tail at the same time, the two attacks colliding. A look of revulsion came over Lickylicky’s face, and it drew in its tongue again, gagging and spluttering. Artemis looked dumbfounded, but Jim laughed.

    “Ha! Looks like Missy’s Iron Tail left a sour taste in Lickylicky’s mouth!”

    The crowd laughed. Artemis did not looked pleased.

    “I will not allow jokes at my or my Pokemon’s expense!” he snapped. “Lickylicky, Focus Blast!”

    “Dodge it with Aerial Ace!”

    Lickylicky spat out another glowing blue ball, and Missy swerved to avoid it, flying straight at Lickylicky. Unfortunately, when she struck, she only bounced off its gut and was thrown back.

    “Sheesh, what’s that thing made of?” Jim muttered.

    “Power Whip!” Artemis commanded.

    Lickylicky whipped its tongue at Missy again. This time it hit home, Missy covering herself with her arms as she was swept backwards, electrical sparks flying from her body. Then, all of a sudden, Lickylicky jerked, a stunned look on its face. A flurry of sparks ran up its tongue and into its body. Lickylicky flailed and crumpled onto one knee, looking pained.

    “What the-?!” shouted Artemis, looking thunderstruck.

    “My oh my!” said Burton. “It looks like Emolga’s Static Ability has kicked in! Lickylicky is paralyzed on the spot!”

    Jim stared, dumbfounded, from Missy to Lickylicky. Static...of course! Physical contact induced paralysis! Lickylicky’s chances of attacking were halved!

    “Yes! We might have a chance now! Missy, use Iron Tail!”

    Grinning broadly, Missy soared at Lickylicky and, her tail shining silver again, struck it full in the face, throwing it back. Artemis growled.

    “Don’t let it do that to you!” he yelled. “Rollout!”

    Lickylicky tried to curl up into a ball again, but the sparks redoubled, and it was forced to stop. Artemis looked livid.

    “No!” he yelled.

    “Yes!” said Jim. “Missy, Discharge!”

    Missy let loose a massive electrical attack on Lickylicky, blasting it full-on. Artemis had gone very pale, his one visible eye wide and burning with anger, his teeth clenched.

    “I refuse to let you get the best of me, Jim Stevens!” he hissed. “Lickylicky, Hyper Beam!”

    Those simple words instantly wiped the smiles from Jim and Missy’s faces, especially when Lickylicky was actually able to move. It opened its mouth wide, a glowing golden light forming within it. Then, with a resounding, ground-shaking boom, it fired, straight for Missy.

    “GET OUT OF THERE, MISSY!!” Jim yelled.

    He had no time to see if his command had reached her, as he had to dive out of the way as the Hyper Beam went roaring past, blasting the wall behind him. Many people screamed and shrieked, and the ground shook with the blast.

    When the shaking had stopped and the smoke began to clear, Jim looked about desperately.

    “Missy?...Missy?? Missy!”

    “Up here, Jim!”

    Startled and relieved at the same time, Jim looked up. Missy was hanging in mid-air, floating gently down with the aid of her gliding membranes. Lickylicky was still standing, but looking stiff as a statue, sparks still emitting from it.

    “Of course!” Jim said, an epiphany striking. “Moves like Hyper Beam need recharging after use! Missy, use Return, quick!”

    Missy nodded and crouched low, her body tensed.

    “And remember, I’ve got faith in you.”

    She jumped at the sound of this and turned to look at him. He was smiling warmly down at her.

    “I know you can do this. You may have gotten into this battle by accident, but I know we can win this together! You’ve gotten this far...Take it home, girl.”

    Tears filled her little eyes, but she nodded in determination, smiling, and turned to face Lickylicky again. A white, blazing glow surrounded her body, and Jim also had the impression that little hearts were floating in the light as well. Then, like a stone launched from a catapult, Missy barreled forward, blazing straight for Lickylicky, but instead of its rotund gut, she aimed straight for its face.

    There was a great *BOOM!* as Missy collided with Lickylicky, an explosion of light vaguely shaped like a great heart exploding from where she made contact. Lickylicky wobbled on its stubby feet, waving its arms for balance, but for naught. It fell backwards with a great crash, and did not get back up.

    Artemis looked absolutely dumbfounded, unable to comprehend what had just happened. The referee raised his flag.

    “Lickylicky is unable to battle! Emolga wins, which means the victory goes to Jim Stevens!”

    The stands exploded with tremendous cheers and shouts. Jim whooped and threw his fist into the air, doing a kind of wild victory dance on the spot. He stopped, however, when he saw Missy standing before him, looking battered but very happy. Grinning from ear to ear, he stooped down and scooped her up.

    “Congratulations, girl!” he said, drawing her into a close hug. “You got us into the next round! I never should have doubted you when you came out! Can you ever forgive me?”

    In answer, Missy planted a big lick on his cheek and nuzzled herself against his cheek. Beaming, Jim continued to hold her as Artemis approached, looking very solemn.

    “Congratulations, Stevens,” he said, civilly, holding out his hand. “The better man won.”

    “Thanks, Artemis,” said Jim, shaking his hand. “Your Pokemon were something else, though. Those regions are definitely worth an exploration one of these days.”

    “Trust me,” said Artemis, with a flicker of a smile, “you would not be sorry for it.”

    With that, he took his leave, amid the cheers of the crowd and Burton yelling himself hoarse about ‘the example I want to see in all of you!’ Grinning and still cradling his beloved Emolga, Jim turned and made his way back to the stands, ready for some much needed R&R and for the chance to watch the battles instead of making them.

    Y Rotation Team

  9. #39
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    Default Re: Jim: Blaze of Glory

    CHAPTER 39
    Cheren's Power


    When Jim returned to the stands, everyone crowded around to congratulate him and Missy, going from shaking her little paw to ruffling her fur to giving her a hug (Mrs. Stevens, Leanne, and Bianca were especially enthusiastic to perform this latter expression of congratulations). It must have been a universal feeling of astonishment among them that this adorable little Emolga had taken down such a formidable-looking Pokemon as a Sinnoh Lickylicky. June seemed the proudest, as she enveloped her in a warm embrace.

    “Missy, you were unbelievable! I can’t believe you took down that brute single-pawed!”

    “Jim was counting on me, June,” said Missy, “and I wasn’t about to let him down.”

    Both Jim and June smiled proudly at this statement, then sat back to enjoy the remainder of that day’s battles.

    ***


    When Cheren was called, he almost dashed out of the stands, so eager was he to get started. Jim had never seen him so energized before. His opponent, one Clarissa Trelawney, was a bold-looking girl, wearing a dark-blue midriff top and black pants, her bushy red hair done up into one big ponytail. She had a tough, gang member look to her.

    “Hope you’re ready for a thrashing, poindexter,” she said.

    Cheren merely raised an eyebrow and said nothing. Clarissa scoffed and drew out a Poke Ball.

    “Gothorita, go!”

    The Pokemon that appeared resembled a little human girl, nearly completely black and white in coloration, save for its purple face, blue eyes, and red lips. It had two large bunches of hair on the sides of its head decorated with bows, as well as bows down its front. It had spindly arms and legs, and looked like it was wearing a short dress. Jim brought out his Pokedex.

    “Gothorita, the Manipulate Pokemon, and the evolved form of Gothita. Gothorita draws its power from stars. It arranges rocks in the same positions as the stars, and uses its Psychic powers to control people and Pokemon alike.”

    Cheren adjusted his glasses and drew his own Poke Ball.

    “Accelgor, go!”

    Cheren’s Pokemon had a...distinctly mummified appearance. Its body looked as if it were wrapped in strips of gray cloth. Its head was covered by something like a pink helmet, curled at the back like a snail’s shell. This helmet was striped with green and marked with a black star-like marking. In a gap in the helmet shone two eyes. Jim brought out his Pokedex again.

    “Accelgor, the Shell Out Pokemon, and the evolved form of Shelmet. Losing its shell has given Accelgor incredible, ninja-like speed. It weakens if its body dries out, so it wraps itself in strips of membrane to stay moisturized.”

    “Begin!” said the referee.

    “Accelgor, start off with Bug Buzz!”

    Accelgor crossed its arms, causing a red glow to surround its body, then threw its arms out wide, releasing a barrage of red shockwaves accompanied by an unpleasant rustling sound, like the call of a thousand cicadas.

    “Gothorita, counter it with Psychic!”

    Gothorita opened its arms, a blue glow surrounding its body and emanating from its eyes. A series of blue shockwaves shot from it, meeting the red midway down the battlefield. With a burst like glass breaking, the Bug Buzz overpowered the Psychic and swept over Gothorita, throwing her backwards.

    “Gothorita!” yelled Clarissa.

    “Whoa,” muttered Leanne. “That’s some explosive Bug power.”

    “You’re telling me,” said Jim.

    “Gothorita, use Faint Attack!”

    Gothorita, floating back into the air, soared toward Accelgor, but vanished halfway there. It reappeared behind the Shell Out Pokemon and sent it flying with a swift kick from behind. Clarissa looked pleased with herself, but Cheren did not look fazed at all.

    “Now give it a Psyshock!”

    Gothorita brought its hands forward, a blue and purple ball forming between them. This ball then shot straight at Accelgor.

    “Accelgor, dodge it and use Giga Drain!”

    With astounding speed, Accelgor righted itself in the air, then strafed to the side as if it had teleported, the Psyshock sailing past. Then, a venomous green glow filled its eyes and surrounded its body. The same glow surrounded Gothorita, who looked stricken, as green orbs flew from its body and absorbed into Accelgor’s. Clarissa did not look pleased.

    “I’m not going down that easily!” she declared. “Gothorita, use Psyshock again!”

    Gothorita formed and fired off another blue and purple ball of Psychic energy.

    “Use Bug Buzz, Accelgor!”

    Once more, Accelgor let loose a barrage of red shockwaves with the unpleasant accompaniment of the cicada-sound. It completely overpowered the Psyshock and threw Gothorita off of its feet, where it crumpled onto the ground, unconscious.

    “Gothorita is unable to battle!” called the referee. “Accelgor wins!”

    “Unbelievable!” cried Burton. “Such raw power! Accelgor took down Gothorita like it was nothing!”

    “Cheren’s certainly trained his Pokemon to its apex,” said Alder. “Let’s see if Miss Trelawny can pick herself up after this.”

    With a slight huff, Clarissa recalled Gothorita as Accelgor settled back on the ground.

    “Cheren has this in the bag,” said Jim, smoothly. “No way he’s gonna lose this early.”

    “I’m with you, Jim,” said Bianca. “GO, CHEREN!”

    Cheren seemed to hear the exuberant shout for him, as he turned in the direction of the stand and waved to his pals. Clarissa, meanwhile, had chosen her next Pokemon.

    “Go, Mienshao!”

    The Pokemon that appeared looked like a large weasel. It was tall and slender, colored light purple with darker purple accents. It had long whiskers and even longer fur on its arm, extending far beyond its paws. Jim had his Pokedex out once again.

    “Mienshao, the Martial Arts Pokemon, and the evolved form of Mienfoo. It attacks by whipping opponents with the long fur on its arms. Once it goes into a combo attack, it cannot be stopped.”

    “Begin!” said the referee.

    “Accelgor, Focus Blast!”

    Accelgor drew an arm back, a blue glowing ball forming beneath its hand, which was then lobbed right at Mienshao.

    “Bounce!” commanded Clarissa.

    With the agility of a grasshopper, Mienshao leaped into the air, the Focus Blast sailing away beneath it. From way up high, it came plummeting down, striking Accelgor right on the head with enough force to briefly squash it downwards. At the same time, a flurry of electric sparks were unleashed. Cheren’s jaw dropped as Clarissa smirked.

    “Uh oh!” said Burton. “This doesn’t look good for Accelgor and its early lead! Not only is Bounce a super-effective Flying attack, but it has a chance of invoking paralysis!”

    “Oh boy...” groaned Jim.

    “Now I’ve got you,” said Clarissa, deviously. “Mienshao, Poison Jab!”

    Mienshao lunged, its fist glowing a sickly purple.

    “Dodge it, Accelgor!” Cheren commanded.

    Accelgor tried to move, but a blast of sparks issued from its body, and it was unable to get out of the way as Mienshao socked it in the chest with its glowing fist. Cheren gritted his teeth briefly.

    “Recover!” he shouted.

    Accelgor stood stock still, closed its eyes, and a calming greenish glow began to surround its body, before another flurry of sparks shot from it. It cringed, and the glow faded.

    “Oh, no...” Cheren muttered. “The paralysis is even keeping Accelgor from finishing a Recover.”

    “That works perfectly for me,” said Clarissa. “Mienshao, finish it off! Jump Kick!”

    Mienshao crouched, arms held out like wings, then dashed right for Accelgor. It leaped and kicked it hard with one foot, which had turned a violent, fiery orange. Accelgor crumpled and flopped onto its back, unable to move.

    “Accelgor is unable to battle! Mienshao wins!” said the referee.

    Clarissa looked mightily pleased with herself as Cheren recalled Accelgor.

    “Not bad,” he said, calmly. “We’re both one for one. Don’t think I intend to go out so easily, however.”

    “Yeah, yeah,” said Clarissa, carelessly.

    Cheren drew his next Poke Ball.

    “Go, Darmanitan!”

    In a burst of light, a Darmanitan appeared on the field, beating its chest fiercely. Jim felt a slight spasm go through his insides at the memory of a particularly terrifying moment in the desert. The feel of Leanne’s hand over his own seemed to confirm that she had not forgotten as well.

    “Begin!” said the referee.

    “Jump Kick!” commanded Clarissa, and Mienshao came dashing at Darmanitan.

    “Fire Punch!” Cheren commanded.

    Darmanitan drew back its arm, its fist becoming ablaze with flames. It let loose a wild punch, its reach out-matching Mienshao and sending it flying back across the field.

    “Ooh, hold on!” said Burton. “It looks like Cheren’s getting his second wind!”

    “Yes!” said Jim. “Keep it up!”

    “Mienshao, Bounce!” commanded Clarissa.

    Mienshao once more bounded into the air.

    “Not this time,” said Cheren. “Darmanitan, Smack Down!”

    Darmanitan cupped its hands in front of its face, forming a glowing orange and silver orb in between them. This fired from between his hands like a cannon, striking Mienshao in midair and sending it plummeting straight down, as if a magnet had called it to Earth.

    “No way!” shouted Clarissa.

    “Way,” said Cheren.

    “Mienshao, go in for another Jump Kick!” commanded Clarissa.

    Mienshao lunged again, but Cheren called,

    “Darmanitan, Psychic!”

    Quite a few people in the crowd gasped, and even Jim gave a double take. Darmanitan could know Psychic?!

    Sure enough, Darmanitan, strangely, got into a sitting position, as if it were meditating, calm and complacent as if it weren’t in a battle at the moment. All at once, almost imperceptibly, a wave of bluish energy emanated from its body, and Mienshao stopped dead-still where it was in the air, a stricken look on its face.

    “Mienshao!” cried Clarissa.

    “Finish this, Darmanitan!” said Cheren. “Superpower!”

    Darmanitan flexed its arms, a red aura surrounding its body, then leaped straight at the immobilized Mienshao, shoulder first. He rammed hard into it, flinging it all the way across the field, where it slammed into the opposite wall. There it slumped, unable to get up again. The referee raised a flag.

    “Mienshao is unable to battle! Darmanitan wins!”

    “Amazing!” crowed Burton. “Cheren’s Darmanitan, while not in Zen Mode, still managed to implement a surprise Psychic attack! He really seems to be prepared for any circumstance!”

    With a growl, Clarissa recalled Mienshao.

    “You’re really starting to get on my nerves, poindexter!”

    “Why? Because I’m displaying skill and tactics?”

    “Because you keep coming up with these ‘perfect’ movesets against my Pokemon!”

    “I beg your pardon, madam?” asked Cheren, raising an eyebrow. “I merely make it a point to keep my movesets as diverse and as accommodating to all battle situations as I can manage.”

    “Well, I’m gonna wipe that smug look off your face, mister!” said Clarissa, holding up another Poke Ball. “Go, Alomomola!”

    In the characteristic burst of light, an Alomomola appeared. Through some odd contrivance that Jim couldn’t quite comprehend, it remained upright, suspended in the air. Cheren, however, smiled.

    “I see how this is going to play,” he said, “and it’s not going to work. Darmanitan, return.”

    To everyone’s amazement, Cheren held out Darmanitan’s Poke Ball and called it back. Clarissa did not look at all pleased.

    “You can’t do that!” she raged.

    “Actually, I can,” said Cheren. “Substitutions are not against the rules.”

    He brandished a new Poke Ball.

    “Go, Stoutland!”

    A Stoutland, its shaggy coat shiny and silky down to its massive plumed mustaches, appeared on the field. Clarissa shrugged.

    “You’re going to go with that? Suit yourself.”

    “Begin!” said the referee.

    “Alomomola, use Hydro Pump!”

    Alomomola reared back, then released an enormous jet of water from its mouth at Stoutland.

    “Dodge it, Stoutland, and then use Thunder Fang!”

    Stoutland crouched and leaped, dodging the Hydro Pump effortlessly. As it dived at Alomomola, it opened its mouth, and its fangs began to spark and glow a luminescent yellow. It bit down hard on the Caring Pokemon, sending an electric shock all throughout its body. Clarissa looked very displeased.

    “You rotten stinker!” she huffed. “We’re just getting started! Alomomola, use Wish, followed by Ice Beam!”

    Alomomola closed its eyes, and a soothing blue glow surrounded its entire body. After it faded, its eyes snapped open again, and it shot a bolt of icy lightning from its mouth. Stoutland was struck square in the chest, and it skidded back a few inches.

    “That’s it, Stoutland, shake it off,” encouraged Cheren. “Use Crunch!”

    Stoutland lunged for Alomomola again and bit down on it once again. Alomomola cringed, but at that moment, the soothing blue glow returned to its body, intensified this time. Stoutland released its hold, both it and Cheren looking puzzled as Alomomola’s injuries seemed to fade away.

    “What on Earth?” Cheren muttered.

    “Behold the power of Wish!” said Clarissa, proudly. “Given a little time, my little Alomomola regains some of its pep, and for a Pokemon already renowned for having high stamina, that’s just bonus points for me!”

    Cheren furrowed his brow, adjusting his glasses.

    “Getting a little cocky, isn’t she?” Leanne asked Jim.

    “It’s gonna bite her in the butt, believe me,” said Jim. “Cheren’ll strongarm that Alomomola into defeat, just watch.”

    “Thunder Fang!” Cheren commanded.

    Stoutland charged for Alomomola, its fangs sparking and glowing again.

    “Not this time!” said Clarissa. “Alomomola, Wake-Up Slap!”

    Alomomola’s hand-like fins glowed with a blue light, and all of a sudden, it began spinning like a top, slapping Stoutland multiple times in the face with its fins. Stoutland slid backwards, the fur on its face mussed and a disgruntled look on its eyes.

    “Aww, did I make the puppy angry?” teased Clarissa. “Good! A little Fighting type slap ought to teach you some manners! Alomomola, Hydro Pump!”

    Alomomola shot another jet of water at Stoutland, but surprisingly, Cheren didn’t order a command for it to dodge or retaliate. The Hydro Pump blasted right into Stoutland, who didn’t seem very much fazed. Cheren had been anticipating this, but why?

    “Reversal!” he commanded.

    Stoutland crouched, a spiraling coil of white light surrounding its shaggy body, then charged, barreling right into Alomomola, who came out of the impact looking distinctly battered.

    “What?!” shouted Clarissa. “What did you do?!”

    “Reversal gains more power the less stamina a Pokemon has,” said Cheren, sagely. “I figured you’d use something powerful after that Wake-Up Slap, so I let you do the work for me. Much obliged.”

    Clarissa growled, grinding her teeth.

    “I’m gonna make you stop making a fool of me! Alomomola, Wish!”

    “Sorry, but it’s time this battle ended,” said Cheren. “Stoutland, Giga Impact!”

    Stoutland crouched once more, a fierce golden glow surrounding it, then barreled right at Alomomola, leaving a flaming streak behind it. With a tremendous *CRASH!*, it slammed Alomomola so hard that it slammed flat against the opposite wall, leaving a life-sized imprint of it in the concrete. It remained there for only a moment or two, before it slid off and fell flat onto its side. The referee raised a flag.

    “Alomomola is unable to battle! Stoutland wins, and the victory goes to Cheren!”

    The crowd exploded into wild cheers as Cheren merely smiled and waved in response to this adulation. Stoutland came padding over, and he stroked its furry head.

    “Good work, Stoutland,” he said. “Excellent job.”

    Stoutland barked in a pleased way in response. As for Clarissa, she recalled her Alomomola and stomped off without another word.

    “Man, Cheren, that was incredible!” said Jim, once Cheren had returned. “And you still had Darmanitan left! That was way better than I did!”

    “It just goes to show, Jim,” said Cheren, “that blowhards are never to be frightened of. Now, let’s see how this next match plays out, shall we?”

    “Gladly!”

    As Jim settled back to enjoy the rest of the day’s matches, however, he couldn’t help thinking that Cheren would be one tough customer to contend with, should it turn out that they would have to face each other sooner than later...

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  10. #40
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    Default Re: Jim: Blaze of Glory

    CHAPTER 40
    Old Wounds Die Hard


    The competition ended earlier than yesterday, due to less battles. However, besides Jim and Cheren, Cruise, Solomon, and Nigel all managed to make it past their battles as well. Only Cruise had a truly close shave, his Bug and Grass Pokemon faced against a Trainer who specialized in Ice and Rock types. Solomon breezed through his with his usual calm and careful thinking, while Nigel made his opponent look like an utter joke once again.

    “Well, folks, once again, we must close out another day of battles here at the Mt. Victory Pokemon Conference,” said Burton, at the conclusion of the final battle.

    “That we do, Charlie,” said Alder, “but first, let the match-up randomizer commence!”

    This time, the screen was occupied by only 32 mughosts. They flipped over, glowed, then flipped again, swapped around with each other. Jim looked eagerly up to see who he was matched against, but felt faintly disappointed. The Trainer he had been pitted against, this time for the third match of the day, had very pale skin, curly brown hair, and a rather weak expression on his face. Jim sought him out and found him. He didn’t look excited about the results. As a matter of fact, Jim wondered if he was even aware of what was going on. He looked like he needed to be in a hospital instead of a tournament.

    “As always, this is Charles Burton-”

    “And Alder-”

    “Signing out!”

    ***


    “I know what you’re gonna say, guys, and I don’t want to hear it, because I already agree with you.”

    It was dinner once again, and as before, they spent the whole meal discussing the matches. Of course, Jim’s and Cheren’s were of the utmost interest, primarily due to Missy and Cheren’s brute force.

    “Your opponent looks like one good blow could put him out of commission,” said Solomon.

    “He reminds me of a sickly lad I knew when I was in school,” said Nigel. “Always ill with something, could never focus properly. That might work to your advantage, Stevens.”

    “But if he can’t focus,” said Leanne, “how did he manage to get this far?”

    “Dumb luck?” Nigel suggested, shrugging.

    “He didn’t look like he was even aware of what was going on,” said Jim. “He sure didn’t look pleased about the matchup results, anyway.”

    “That’s cuz he knows he’s gonna lose,” said Cruise. “With the way you’ve been battling, he probably realizes it’s a lost cause.”

    “That’s what I’d say,” said Bianca. “You’re a force to be reckoned with, Jim, and we want you to prove that to him tomorrow.”

    “Well, with such support, how can I refuse?” Jim said, chuckling, bringing laughter about around the table.

    “You’re letting your guard down too easily, kid,” said the Guy, from his table in the corner. Jim turned to look at him. “In the years I’ve wandered this planet, I’ve found that it takes all types to fool you into a false sense of security. That kid looked ill, sure, but Leanne’s right: he has to have some brains to have been able to get this far. Watch out for him, hear me?”

    “Got it,” said Jim.

    “Oh, lighten up, Guy,” said Cruise. “Jim’s gonna wreck him! You know that, don’t you?”

    “I’ve got complete confidence in him,” said the Guy. “I’m just saying it’s too early to count your chickens. The smallest people can often hide the biggest surprises. Mind that.”

    “When you’re finished predicting Armageddon,” said Nigel, dryly, “we’re ready to move on to dessert.”

    The Guy shook his head and returned to his own meal. Jim, however, became meditative as dessert was passed around. He wondered whether if, after all, his opponent really did have an ace up his sleeve that he’d have to watch out for. Perhaps he should pack a tough Pokemon just in case. He’d see Professor Juniper about it before turning in.

    ***


    “Sawk is unable to battle! Beheeyem wins, which means the victory goes to Nigel Richmond!”

    Nigel had been pitted for the second match of the day, just before Jim. He hardly changed his expression as he commanded his Pokemon, and for good reason. His Jellicent and Beheeyem alone made short work of his opponent’s team, consisting only of Fighting types. With a bored look, he recalled Beheeyem and returned to the stands as his crestfallen opponent slumped away.

    “Great job, Nigel!” said Jim. “That was awesome!”

    “Thank you, Stevens, but honestly, unless I get a real challenge sooner or later, I may drift into a malaise,” said Nigel, almost petulantly. “I entered this competition to test my skills. How can I properly do that if no one gives me a proper challenge?”

    “You’re too good, that’s why,” said Solomon.

    “Precisely! It almost feels like a curse, I must say...”

    “And now for our next match of the day,” said Burton, “Jim Stevens vs. Cody Halleck!”

    Jim got up and headed down to the field, amid tumultuous applause. Moments later, Cody Halleck joined him, still looking slightly out of it.

    “...Jim Stevens,” he said, softly.

    “Yes?”

    “I’ve heard about you. You make Team Plasma run away like scared babies.”

    “Er, well, I wouldn’t go that far-”

    “I was sick all winter,” said Cody, interrupting him. “Pneumonia. My brother helped train my Pokemon for me, but I’ve always loved hearing the stories of how you kept saving Unova from them.”

    Jim felt himself go red in the face, in spite of himself. This kid was sounding like a fan boy, though his words were quiet and dull in tone.

    “Uh...thanks, I guess.”

    “I had always hoped I’d see you in person,” Cody went on, “and now I have that chance. Please, show me the power that vanquished Team Plasma.”

    He drew his first Poke Ball.

    “Go, Eelektross!”

    In a burst of light, there appeared a Pokemon so grotesque in appearance that Jim felt his stomach flop. It looked like a greenish-blue eel, but it stood on two beige fins and had long, club-shaped arms with clawed hands at the end. It had a long dorsal fin, red eyes within yellow markings, and a circular, sucker-like mouth armed with pointed fangs. Jim brought out his Pokedex.

    “Eelektross, the EleFish Pokemon, and the evolved form of Eelektrik. It latches onto prey with its sucker-like mouth and discharges electricity into it through its fangs. It crawls out of the ocean using its arms, ready to capture and drag away unsuspecting prey.”

    “Its Ability’s Levitate, too,” Jim muttered. “So Ground attacks won’t work on it...Well, here goes nothing.”

    He drew his own Poke Ball.

    “Rok, let’s do this!”

    With a burst of light and a shrill cry, Rok appeared on the field. There came many gasps and excited murmurs from the crowd. Last night, Jim had made the decision to swap Echo with Rok for this match, so he had asked Professor Juniper to contact Fennel so he could make the exchange. It would just be for this match, until he knew what he was going to face next.

    “Do my eyes deceive me?!” asked Burton, excitedly. “Jim Stevens’ first Pokemon is a live Archeops!”

    “Very interesting,” said Alder, in a curious tone. “Our young friend is more than meets the eye.”

    “Wonderful,” said Cody. “I had heard that you had an Archeops, but I thought my brother was just making it up. I’m so glad to see it’s true.”

    “Well, I hope you’re ready,” said Jim, “because his strength is no fairy tale.”

    Rok flapped his wings mightily.

    “Begin!” said the referee.

    “Eelektross, use Discharge!”

    A bubble of electricity surrounded Eelektross, which burst out into a massive blast.

    “Take to the sky, Rok, and use Dragon Pulse!”

    Rok soared upwards into the air, his tail narrowly avoiding being hit by the electrical blast, and breathed a blue-purple flame straight down at Eelektross.

    “Flamethrower!” said Cody.

    Eelektross breathed a steady stream of red flames, which struck the Dragon Pulse and cancelled the two attacks out.

    “Go in for a Crunch now, Rok!”

    Rok dove sharply, his fangs bared and glowing white.

    “Dragon Claw!” said Cody.

    Eelektross pulled one arm back, the claws on it glowing blue. Both Pokemon struck at the same time; while Rok sank his fangs into Eelektross’ arm, Eelektross struck Rok across the face with his claws. Both Pokemon backed off, marked where they had struck each other.

    “Shake it off, Rok,” said Jim, bracingly. “Now, give him another taste of Dragon Pulse, close-range!”

    Cody didn’t even have time to react. Rok let loose another blast of dragon-fire, blowing Eelektross back across the field. It shook it off, however, and got back into a fighting stance.

    “It’s useless,” said Cody. “Eelektross has no weakness. All you can do is chip away at it.”

    “Then that’s just what we’ll do,” said Jim. “Rok, use Crunch again!”

    “Use Dragon Claw again, Eelektross!”

    The two Pokemon lunged at each other, fangs and claws glowing, but just as they were about to connect, Jim yelled,

    “Pull up, Rok!”

    And just like that, Rok swooped up into the air, Eelektross lunging at empty air now, causing it to fall flat onto its face.

    “Clever,” said Cody. “Not many Trainers have the forethought to pull out in the middle of an attack. Still, we intend to win. Eelektross, Discharge!”

    Eelektross got back up, its body sparking with electricity.

    “Rok, use Rock Slide!”

    Rok raised his wings above his head, and several rippling white waves emitted from his body. As they spread out, what looked like white pools of light appeared in midair, and from them came tumbling enormous rocks and boulders. Eelektross let loose its Discharge, but they were blocked off by the tumbling rocks. Several bounced off its head, dazing it, but most of them created a sort of wall around it, sealing it off from the rest of the battlefield. For the first time, Cody looked surprised.

    “No way,” he muttered.

    “Now that we’ve got him cornered, Rok,” said Jim, “finish this with Dragon Pulse!”

    Rok breathed another large blast of purple-blue flames straight down.

    “Block it with Flamethrower!” said Cody.

    Eelektross breathed its own stream of fire, meeting the Dragon Pulse in midair. This time, however, Rok’s attack slowly but surely overpowered it, forcing it down and filling the whole enclosure with dragon fire, creating a forceful blast that knocked the stones away. By the time it cleared, there lay Eelektross, out cold. The referee raised a flag.

    “Eelektross is unable to battle! Archeops wins!”

    Archeops pulled a somersault in the air, letting off one of his shrill victory cries, causing Jim to smile at his antics. Cody recalled Eelektross.

    “Excellent,” he said. “That’s exactly the power I wanted to see from you, Jim. Now, let’s begin Round 2. Go, Vanilluxe!”

    He tossed his next Poke Ball out, and from it appeared a Pokemon that looked like a Vanillish. However, the ‘cone’ body it had had was now like a dish, and the Pokemon had two snowy heads, one of which had an appendage like a straw poking out. Jim took out his Pokedex again.

    “Vanilluxe, the Snowstorm Pokemon, and the evolved form of Vanillish. It makes snow clouds inside its body by swallowing large amounts of water. If both heads become angry, it can unleash a violent blizzard.”

    “Think you can handle this one too, Rok?” Jim asked.

    “Me try, Jim-friend,” Rok answered.

    “Atta boy.”

    “Begin!” said the referee.

    “Start us off with Rock Slide, then!”

    Once more, Rok raised his wings, sending off white waves from his body, which sent boulders plummeting from the sky.

    “Vanilluxe, Blizzard!” said Cody.

    Vanilluxe’s entire body became surrounded by a whitish-blue light, and the next instant, what looked like a shockwave of snow and ice burst forth from it, coating the falling rocks with ice, but they didn’t stop there. The ice continued on, striking Rok where he floated. He fell to the field, covered in icicles and shivering.

    “Rok! You all right?”

    Rok shook himself dry like a dog, growling at Vanilluxe.

    “Show it your stuff, boy!” said Jim. “Dragon Pulse!”

    Rok reared back, then flung his head forward again, spewing dragon fire once more.

    “Mirror Coat!” said Cody.

    Vanilluxe’s body became surrounded by a translucent, rainbow-colored shielding. The Dragon Pulse was absorbed into it, then expelled back in a beam of the same rainbow-coloring. Rok was struck full force and thrown back, slamming against the wall.

    “Rok!” Jim yelled.

    Rok slumped to the ground, eyes rolling dizzily. He was out.

    “Archeops is unable to battle!” said the referee. “Vanilluxe wins!”

    Jim felt dumbfounded as he recalled Rok. This kid really was aware of what was going on, despite his sickly appearance. He was calm and polite in tone, but he still had the mindset of a true Trainer: decisive and tactical.

    “Good work, Rok,” he said, then drew another Poke Ball. “Time for your League debut, bud. Spade, go get ‘em!”

    From the ball burst Spade, who stood with arms spread out, claws glinting.

    “An Excadrill,” said Cody, simply. “This could mean trouble for me.”

    “You bet it does,” said Jim, smirking. “Spade, Metal Claw!”

    Spade dashed at Vanilluxe, one of his claws shining with a metallic sheen.

    “Ice Beam!” Cody commanded.

    Both heads fired bolts of ice lightning from their mouths, but Spade shielded himself with his glowing claws, and so the attack bounced right off. He lunged and raked his claws over the Snowstorm Pokemon’s body, sending it flying. It righted itself, looking battered.

    “Now that’s how we do it!” said Jim.

    “Use Flash Cannon, Vanilluxe!” said Cody.

    A ball of silvery-white light appeared in between Vanilluxe’s twin faces, growing brighter and larger each second. It then fired as a massive beam straight for Spade.

    “Drill Run underground!” Jim commanded.

    Spade jumped up, inverted himself, clamped himself into his drill shape, and burrowed straight under the ground, the Flash Cannon shooting past and missing. In another instant, Spade burst up right underneath Vanilluxe, still spinning and knocking it for another loop.

    “Now bring it on home with a Slash!”

    Spade, whose momentum had carried him up higher than Vanilluxe, raised one claw up, which began glowing white and lengthening, then struck at Vanilluxe, sending it plummeting straight down, where it crashed against the earth battlefield. Spade landed nimbly, while Vanilluxe had made a crater upon impact, knocked unconscious.

    “Vanilluxe is unable to battle!” said the referee. “Excadrill wins!”

    “Spade, you are a wrecking machine!” said Jim, approvingly.

    Spade smirked appreciatively at his Trainer as Cody recalled Vanilluxe.

    “Do you want to know something, Jim?” asked Cody.

    “What?”

    “I don’t even care if I win or lose. All that truly matters is that I was able to recover soon enough to be able to face you in battle.”

    “Well...gosh, I’m honored, Cody,” said Jim, awkwardly.

    Cody drew his last Poke Ball.

    “Let’s make this worth it,” he said, decisively. “Go, Scolipede!”

    Sure enough, from the Poke Ball came a Scolipede, but one that possessed an extremely stark contrast to the already intimidating Pokemon Jim had encountered before. A long, jagged dark coloration ran from its left eye down its underbelly, like a scar, which also created a discoloration in the sclera of its normally yellow eyes. Jim didn’t know why, but there was something unsettlingly familiar about that Scolipede. For that matter, as soon as it laid eyes on him, its eyes narrowed to slits, and it pawed the ground with its feet, as if longing to gore him with its pincers. But why?

    “Jim!!”

    Jim knew that voice, but not its tone. It was Oshawott, but he sounded like he was in terror, a mood he had never experienced the stalwart Oshawott as expressing before.

    “Jim! I know that beast! It’s the same foul insect that beset us in Pinwheel Forest! Mind yourself!”

    Scolipede seemed to hear Oshawott’s voice, and it let out a feral roar, stomping the ground in sudden agitation.

    Jim felt his blood freeze.

    No way...it just couldn’t be possible. How did a kid like Cody come across that murderous Bug? How had it survived that tumble down the cliff? What was it doing here?!

    “Begin!” said the referee, jarring Jim out of his mental wanderings.

    “What? Oh! Right! Spade, bring that Bug down! Drill Run!”

    Spade once more clamped himself into a drill shape and launced himself.

    “Block it off with Megahorn!” said Cody.

    Scolipede bent itself down, the horn-like feelers on its head glowing green and extending like drawn swords. Spade collided with the horns, and eventually ground to a stop within them. With a thrust of its head, Scolipede threw him off, whereupon he unfurled.

    “Ok, try Metal Claw!” said Jim, and Spade dashed at the Megapede Pokemon, claws gleaming.

    “Earthquake!” commanded Cody.

    Before Jim could call the attack off, Scolipede reared up like a horse and slammed its front feet on the ground, sending a violent tremor through the battlefield. Spade was tossed skyward, flailing his arms.

    “Spade!” Jim yelled.

    “Now, finish it with Aqua Tail!” said Cody.

    Scolipede arched its twin tails upward, and two jets of pressurized water blasted from them straight at up Spade. They struck home with the force of a cannon blast, and he plummeted straight down, landing with a cringe-inducing smack on his back, where he lay unmoving.

    “Excadrill is unable to battle!” said the referee. “Scolipede wins!”

    Jim recalled Spade, his stupor over the return of a Pokemon of his nightmares coming back at him.

    “How did you find that Scolipede?” he asked, trying to sound casual.

    “I was at Pinwheel Forest, and I saw it lying at the bottom of a cliff,” said Cody. “It was bruised up and was bleeding, so I captured it and took it to a Pokemon Center to heal it. I meant to let it go once it was restored to health, but it took a liking to me, so I kept him.”

    Jim felt another shock of numbness go through him. His and Leanne’s Pokemon had injured the thing that badly? But it had tried to kill them, so why should he have cared about that? Still, if it was able to express gratitude for being healed, maybe it wasn’t completely monstrous...

    “So are you going to choose your next Pokemon?” asked Cody.

    “Wha? Oh! Right, yeah, sorry.”

    Jim fumbled around on his belt, reaching for the Poke Ball he needed now more than ever. He found it and grabbed it.

    “Torch, do me proud!” he shouted, tossing it.

    The faithful Simisear appeared in a flash. He blanched briefly at the scarred Scolipede’s visage, but regained his composure and raised his fists in a ‘put ‘em up’ fashion.

    “And, begin!” said the referee.

    “Scolipede, Poison Jab!” commanded Cody.

    Scolipede charged with a vigor and ferocity Jim reckoned grimly had something to do with him, its pincers glowing a sickly purple.

    “Torch, dodge it with Acrobatics!”

    Torch crouched, then leaped into a spinning somersault right over Scolipede’s head. However, Cody smiled.

    “Aqua Tail!” he said.

    “Oh, nuts,” Jim muttered.

    Another pair of water jets shot from Scolipede’s tails, spraying Torch right in midair, sending him tumbling back down, where he landed with a hard *Wham*.

    “Hang in there, Torch,” Jim encouraged.

    Torch got shakily back to his feet.

    “Use Poison Jab again!” said Cody, and Scolipede charged once more.

    “Not this time!” said Jim. “Flamethrower, Torch!”

    Torch took a deep breath and spat a raging stream of fire at Scolipede. The flames washed over it, and though it snarled in pain, it didn’t stop. Through the fire, Jim could see a gleam of madness in its eyes. That thing was out for blood...

    “Torch! Get out of there!” Jim yelled.

    Too late, for Scolipede charged right through, covered in burns, and struck, sinking one of its pincers into Torch’s stomach. The Simisear reeled, clutching his torso, but it didn’t look like he had been poisoned. Scolipede was not done, however. With a mad roar, it tried to spear Torch with its feelers, but he managed to evade them narrowly.

    “Scolipede, enough!” called Cody, who suddenly looked pensive. “I didn’t order you to keep attacking!”

    Scolipede reared up and stomped the ground, sending another Earthquake out and tossing Torch into the air. It then shot another Aqua Tail straight up.

    “Scolipede, stop!” Cody yelled.

    “Torch! Block it away with Solarbeam! Hurry!” Jim shouted.

    Torch shook his head vigorously to regain his senses, cupped his hands by his side, and fired a beam of golden-green light from them. It was not as big as a normal Solarbeam, but it did the trick. The Aqua Tail jets were pushed back and neutralized, and Torch landed safely back on the ground, while Scolipede was still stomping about in an agitated way.

    “Scolipede, what’s gotten into you?” asked Cody. “You’ve never disobeyed me before!”

    “I think I may have something to do with it, Cody,” Jim confessed.

    “Huh?”

    “I’ve got reason to believe that that Scolipede is one I encountered in Pinwheel Forest. I angered it by accident, and it went a little beserk. We fought back, and it fell off a cliff, which fits with where you found it. I think it’s having a tough time letting go of that grudge.”

    “Oh...” said Cody, mystified. “So my Scolipede knew and fought you before I met it?”

    “It would seem so.”

    Scolipede was hearing none of this, however. It was still stomping and raging, sending off more blasts from its Aqua Tail.

    “This is turning into quite the interesting battle,” said Burton. “Unless Cody gets his Scolipede under control, it could mean game over for either him or Stevens!”

    “I agree,” said Alder. “A dangerous Pokemon like Scolipede is a threat to anyone if unchecked in its wrath.”

    “Then it looks like there’s only one option,” said Cody, quietly.

    “What?” asked Jim.

    “You have to defeat it.”

    “W-What?!”

    Jim was utterly stunned. Cody was asking him to beat him?!

    “Cody, that’s not how this is supposed to work!”

    “It’s all right, Jim,” said Cody, calmly. “I told you, I don’t care if I win or lose. All I care about is that I had the chance to see, meet, and battle you. I knew I could never truly beat you if you were really were Jim Stevens.”

    Jim stared at him. Cody was speaking in complete good faith. He was giving up his chance to continue in the League to stop his Scolipede’s rampage...

    Scolipede seemed to have had enough waiting. With a roar, it lunged at Torch, pincers glowing once again.

    “Torch, you heard Cody,” said Jim, decisively, “take down that Scolipede! Use Flamethrower! Give it everything you have!”

    Torch nodded, took a very deep breath, and breathed the biggest Flamethrower Jim had ever seen him pull off before, even bigger than he was! The flames washed over Scolipede, and though it still tried to charge through, it eventually began to slow down. On it came, slower and slower, until finally it stopped mere inches from Torch, and collapsed onto its stomach, finally tranquilized.

    “Scolipede is unable to battle!” said the referee. “Simisear wins, which means the victory goes to Jim Stevens!”

    As usual, the crowd went wild with applause, but all Jim felt was a slightly sick feeling. He’d won, yes, but had it truly been his victory? He had been asked to win, so did it truly count?

    It didn’t stop him from giving Torch a good high-five when he turned to face him.

    “Good job, pal,” he said.

    Cody had recalled Scolipede, and was crossing over to him.

    “I know what you’re feeling, Jim,” he said, “and don’t worry. You did earn this victory. I don’t want you thinking any other way.”

    This seemed to ease the tension inside him. Jim allowed himself to smile.

    “Thanks, Cody. I’m glad I could grant your wish of facing me.”

    Cody smiled, the slightest hint of color finally allowing itself into his pale face, then turned and walked off. Jim went to rejoin his friends. Leanne was beside herself.

    “That Scolipede! How did that Scolipede, of all Scolipede, find its way here? I thought it was going to kill you!”

    “I thought so, too,” said Jim, as June crawled back onto his lap. “Believe me, I was worried it was gonna start attacking the crowd.”

    “So you met a crazed Scolipede in Pinwheel Forest, and it ended up coming back to haunt you here,” said Nigel, in an amused tone. “Whatever shall you surprise us with next, Stevens?”

    “Oh, give it a rest, Nigel,” Jim muttered. “I’ve had enough surprises for one lifetime...”

    ***


    At long last, mid-afternoon, the final battle ended, and Burton and Alder were giving their end-of-the-day announcements.

    “And that wraps up Day 3 of the competition!” said Burton. “Things are starting to heat up as we narrow down our competitors!”

    “That they are, Burton,” said Alder. “Now, let’s take a look at the match-ups for tomorrow’s competition.”

    Once more, the mugshots appeared on the giant screen, reduced to only 16 now. They flipped over, shone, and flipped back once again. Jim was now in the second match of the day, and his battle was against...

    Cruise?!

    Y Rotation Team

  11. #41
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    Default Re: Jim: Blaze of Glory

    CHAPTER 41
    Jim vs. Cruise


    “I’m gonna face you tomorrow?” asked Cruise over dinner that night. “Holy cow, that’s gonna be awesome!”

    “I know,” said Jim, having somewhat recovered from the initial shock. “I can’t wait to see how much your Pokemon have improved since. Last time, I remember you having a Sewaddle and a Servine. Now I see you using Leavanny, Scolipede, and...what was that other one? The little sheep?”

    “Whimsicott.”

    “Right, Whimsicott. The little wind-devil.”

    “Well, you’re gonna be in for a real show. I’ve been saving my best for the chance that I face one of my best buds, and it’s gonna be you, Jimmy! Lucky, huh?”

    “Yeah, lucky,” said Jim. “Just don’t expect me to go easy.”

    “I’d be insulted if you did,” said Cruise, grinning. “I know you wouldn’t hold back.”

    “I agree,” said Nigel. “Knowing you were holding back just because you were facing a friend would be a worse blow than defeating them.”

    “Duly noted,” said Jim, dryly.

    “Unfortunately, the Trainers I’ve been facing really do seem to be giving me their best,” Nigel went on, “and that frustrates me. I’m not getting any better experience from such easy victories.”

    “Don’t worry about it, Nigel,” said Cheren. “Sooner or later, you’re gonna face one of us, and then you’ll have the challenge you’re hoping for.”

    “That’s what I’m looking forward to,” said Nigel, smirking. “Once the peanut gallery is weeded out, then we can see who among the five of us truly deserves the title of Pokemon Champion!”

    “Amen to that,” said Solomon.

    “Let’s bring it to ‘em!” crowed Cruise.

    “Boys,” Bianca and Leanne muttered together.

    ***


    “Krookodile is unable to battle! Throh wins!”

    “And what an exciting conclusion to our first match of the day, eh, Alder?” asked Burton.

    “It was pretty hairy toward the end, Charlie,” said Alder, “but I think we all knew who would pull out on top.”

    “Yes, indeed. Now, let’s move onto our next match of the day: Jim Stevens vs. Cruise Greendale!”

    “Just do your best, honey,” said Mrs. Stevens, patting Jim on the shoulder. She seemed to guess what he was feeling.

    “Thanks, Mom,” he said, as he got up.

    The cheering was tumultuous as Jim and Cruise took their places on the battlefield.

    “Let’s give them a good show, Jim,” said Cruise. “No matter what happens, you’re always gonna be my pal.”

    “Same to you, Cruise,” said Jim, with a grateful smile.

    Cruise drew his first Poke Ball, twirling it between his fingers.

    “Lemme show you the real ferocity of a Bug!” he said, fiercely, before tossing the ball. “Crustle, go!”

    The Pokemon that appeared on the field resembled a red crab with yellow eyes, but this was offset by the enormous slab of gray rock its head, claws, and legs were poking out of. Jim brought out his Pokedex.

    “Crustle, the Stone Home Pokemon, and the evolved form of Dwebble. Its powerful legs allow it to travel great distances with the stone it carries on its back. In fierce territorial combat, the Crustle whose shell breaks is the loser.”

    “A Bug/Rock type, huh?” Jim said. “Torch won’t be able to do much, then.”

    He drew a Poke Ball.

    “This is a job for you, Torrent!”

    In a burst of light, the Simipour appeared, unfazed, as usual, by his opponent.

    “Going with your Simipour, eh?” asked Cruise. “Smart choice. Let’s do this!”

    “Begin!” said the referee.

    “Torch, start with Hydro Pump!”

    Torch cupped his paws to his side, a swirling ball of water forming between them. He then threw them forward, sending a powerful blast right at Crustle.

    “Into your shell, Crustle!” Cruise commanded.

    Cruise withdrew his head and claws into his shell, the water blast striking against the hard stone.

    “Going on the defensive, are we?” asked Jim. “Then we’ll just have to chip away at it. Torrent, Brick Break!”

    Torrent dashed toward Crustle, his right arm glowing a brilliant white. He leaped and struck with a furious chop that actually managed to overturn Crustle’s enormous shell onto its side. Several people gasped.

    “Come on, Cruise, is this how it’s gonna be?” Jim asked. “We promised not to hold back on each other.”

    Cruise, however, was smiling.

    “We’ve only just begun, Jimmy,” he said. “Crustle, Shell Smash!”

    In one swift movement, Crustle righted itself and reappeared at the mouth of its shell. Then, with surprising speed, it leaped out of its shell, so that it now resembled a large red scorpion with a hooked tail. A red glow surrounded its body, which turned white, then the light was broken as lines seemed to perforate through it, like stained glass. With a crashing sound, as if it really were glass, the white ‘pieces’ broke away, leaving Crustle glowing red once more.

    “What the heck was that?” Jim asked, completely confused.

    “Shell Smash,” said Cruise. “Crustle’s lost some of its defensive power, but doubled its offensive power and its speed. Now the real battle begins.”

    Jim’s confusion gave way to excitement, as he smiled competitively.

    “That’s what I like to hear. Torrent, Hydro Pump!”

    Torrent fired off another large blast of water.

    “Dodge it, Crustle, and use X-Scissor!”

    Crustle bounded into the air like a grasshopper, dodging the Hydro Pump, then fell straight for Torrent, claws crossed and glowing purple. He slashed them apart as he came level, striking Torrent with a flaming purple X that knocked him through the air. He landed sturdily back on his feet.

    “Atta boy,” said Jim. “Give him an Ice Beam!”

    Torrent raised both hands, fingers curled so that his hands resembled a pair of pistols, and fired a pair of ice-blue bolts from his index fingers. Crustle was struck full-on by the blast, the glow of the Shell Smash fading slightly.

    “Don’t give in, Crustle,” said Cruise. “Use Rock Wrecker!”

    Crustle raised his claws above his head, a rock materializing between them and glowing with a red-orange aura. This launched like a cannonball right at Torrent.

    “Blast through it with Brick Break!” said Jim.

    Torrent drew his arm back, his paw glowing white once again. He gave a sharp swing at the rock, striking against it, but it wasn’t enough to shatter it. Cringing from the pain it sent him, Torrent wasn’t unable to hold off the attack, as it pelted him backwards across the field.

    “Torrent, hang in there!” said Jim.

    “Sorry, Jim,” said Cruise, “but it’s time for Torrent to say adios. Crustle, Solarbeam!”

    Jim felt his stomach clench. Really, at this point, he shouldn’t be surprised at what certain Pokemon could learn...

    Crustle’s body took on a golden-green tinge as he raised one claw, pointing it open at Torrent. A ball of the same color formed between the pincers.

    Jim’s brain felt like it had jammed as he tried to think of a way out. Crustle’s Attack powers were beefed, but his Defenses had taken a plummet. If he could get in a good super-effective attack on it, he might have a chance.

    The Solarbeam fired, blazing with the intensity of a sunbeam.

    “Torrent, Acrobatics!” Jim yelled.

    Swift as a frog, Torrent bounded into the air, pulling a double-flip as Crustle tried to move its Solarbeam to catch it in midair. Then, with a sharp dive, Torrent returned earthward, stomping Crustle on the back with both feet. The Stone Home Pokemon let out a cry of pain.

    “What?!” Cruise shouted.

    “Now give it a Hydro Pump for good measure!” said Jim.

    Torrent bounded off, cupped his paws in midair, and fired a jet of water at Crustle, blowing it off its feet and sending it flying. It smacked hard against its rocky shell, then slid to the ground, out cold.

    “Crustle is unable to battle!” said the referee. “Simipour wins!”

    Though momentarily shocked, Cruise still recalled Crustle, both it and its shell disappearing into its Poke Ball.

    “Not bad, Jim, not bad,” he said. “Great start! Now that you’ve seen what I can dish out, let’s move on to the next round!”

    “I’m ready for you, Cruise,” said Jim.

    “You better be. Go, Amoonguss!”

    Cruise launched his next Poke Ball, and from it came a Pokemon resembling a large white mushroom. It had half-closed eyes, a pink snout, and its arms ended in circular ‘shields’ decorated like Poke Balls. Even its warty cap resembled one. Jim took out his Pokedex.

    “Amoonguss, the Mushroom Pokemon, and the evolved form of Foongus. It lures prey by swaying its Poke Ball-disguised arms and performing a sort of dance. It makes its home in damp regions.”

    “Think you can go a little farther, Torrent?” Jim asked.

    “I got this, bro,” said Torrent, casually. “At the least, I’ll get in a hit or two.”

    “Awesome.”

    “Begin!” said the referee.

    “Ok, Torrent, use Ice Beam!”

    Torrent pointed one arm straight forward, index finger glowing blue, then ‘shot’ a bolt of ice lightning at Amoonguss. However, it shielded its face with its caps, sending the Ice Beam ricocheting away.

    “Not this time, Jimmy,” said Cruise. “Amoonguss, use Spore!”

    Amoonguss uncovered its face, reared back, and spat a cloud of golden dust from its mouth. It settled over Torrent, who looked bewildered, but then, his arms slumped, and he began swaying on the spot.

    “Torrent?” Jim asked, in an anxious tone.

    To his dismay, Torrent flopped onto the ground and fell asleep.

    “Torrent, no!” Jim shouted. “Wake up! Don’t fall asleep now!”

    “Perfect!” said Cruise. “Now, Amoonguss, Energy Ball!”

    Amoonguss pointed one of its arms at Torrent. The ‘button’ of the Poke Ball design began to glow, and a greenish-yellow ball of light formed in front of it. It fired, and Torrent was thrown into the air by the blast, still asleep, and he landed spread-eagle back on the ground.

    “Simipour is unable to battle!” said the referee. “Amoonguss wins!”

    Jim recalled Torrent, wondering how the referee could have told the difference between asleep and knocked out.

    “Good job,” Jim said as held his ball up. “Get a good rest.”

    He drew a second Poke Ball and turned to Cruise.

    “You shouldn’t have done that, Cruise. Now you’ve called down the thunder.”

    “Oh?” asked Cruise, raising an amused eyebrow.

    “Torch, avenge your brother!”

    Torch appeared on the battlefield, and from the look on his face, he seemed to understand the situation. With a steely look in his eye, he pointed at Amoonguss.

    “My name is Torch the Simisear. You KOed my brother. Prepare to die.”

    Several audience members laughed at his antics, even if they couldn’t tell what he was saying. Even Cruise seemed amused.

    “That’s a pretty clownish Simisear you got there.”

    “It’s what he was born to be, Cruise,” said Jim.

    “Begin!” said the referee.

    “Torch, let’s cut to the chase. Flamethrower!”

    Torch took a deep breath, then spewed a massive flame right at Amoonguss. The fire washed right over it, and Jim heard it cry out.

    “I didn’t think your little Poke-shields could block that off,” he said.

    The flame subsided, and Amoonguss, its face blackened, coughed out a cloud of soot.

    “Use Spore, Amoonguss!” said Cruise.

    Amoonguss reared back, ready to spew another Spore attack.

    “Oho no, not this time,” said Jim. “Torch, dodge it with Dig!”

    As Amoonguss spit its Spore attack, Torch dove into the dirt like a gopher, the cloud of dust dissipating over the hole. With a burst, Torch resurfaced underneath Amoonguss, tossing it into the air.

    “Sludge Bomb from above!” Cruise commanded.

    Amoonguss pointed one arm down at Torch, and a glob of mud-like stuff shot down toward him. Torch gave a start, realizing the doom he was in, and dove back into the hole, the Sludge Bomb going with him. There was a blast like a bomb, and Torch came out the other side, carried by the explosion. He turned over in the air and landed on his feet, as Amoonguss landed down on its bottom end.

    “Not bad,” said Cruise, “but we’re just getting started. Amoonguss, Sludge Bomb!”

    Amoonguss formed and launched another ball of sludge at Torch.

    “Acrobatics!” Jim commanded.

    Torch leaped over the Sludge Bomb, his momentum carrying him straight over to Amoonguss, where he stomped down on his head, like Torrent did with Crustle. However, something quite unexpected happened. Amoonguss gave off what sounded like a sinister chuckle, and a cloud of purple dust released itself into the air, surrounding Torch. Looking sick, he stumbled off, a purple hue surrounding his body.

    “Torch! What happened?!”

    “Effect Spore,” said Cruise, in a scholarly tone. “Amoonguss’ Ability, one shared by all mushroom Pokemon. If the opponent makes physical contact, they have a chance of becoming poisoned, paralyzed, or put to sleep. From the look of things, it decided to give Torch a dose of poisoning.”

    (How can he say that so calmy?!)

    “Now, Amoonguss, use Hidden Power!”

    Amoonguss spread out its arms, and two glowing green balls of light formed in front of its caps. With a helicopter-like motion, it swung about, sending a shower of multiple balls at Torch, striking him repeatedly and sending him onto his back. There was one last sickly purple flicker, and he fell flat.

    “Simisear is unable to battle! Amoonguss wins!”

    “You’d be surprised how long it took to perfect that Hidden Power,” said Cruise, “but I think it really rocks, don’t you?”

    Jim was stunned. This Amoonguss had effortlessly taken out Torrent, and had even taken out Torch, his ace against Grass and Bug types. It had even come prepared with a specialized Hidden Power!

    With a sigh, he recalled the Simisear.

    “Good work,” he said. “You did a great job. Now let’s see if we can’t make a turnabout.”

    He drew his last Poke Ball.

    “Echo, let’s do this!”

    In a blaze of light, the trusty Swoobat appeared. Jim had had a hunch that Cruise might throw something with Poison against him, so he swapped Rok back for Echo just to be safe.

    “Ah, your good ol’ Swoobat,” said Cruise. “I still remember when he socked it to Miss LeClaire’s Maractus.”

    “And he’s gonna sock it to your Amoonguss today,” said Jim, boldly.

    “We’ll see,” said Cruise.

    “Begin!” said the referee.

    “Echo, Air Slash!”

    Echo swept his wings up, then clapped them together, sending a wave of buzzsaw-like energy blasts at Amoonguss, sweeping over it and slashing past, making it try to cover itself.

    “Hidden Power, Amoonguss!’

    Amoonguss sent another wave of green energy balls at Echo. The speedy bat Pokemon flitted this way and that to avoid them, but couldn’t avoid one that eventually caught him in the chest. He stumbled in the air, but was able to regain himself.

    “Hang in there, Echo,” Jim encouraged.

    “Again!” said Cruise, and Amoonguss sent another volley.

    “Shadow Ball!” Jim said.

    Still trying to swoop out of the way of the barrage, Echo formed a sparking black and purple ball near his wing, then lobbed it at Amoonguss, catching it in the face and sending it skidding backwards.

    “Amoonguss,” said Cruise, decisively, “it’s time we sent Echo to dreamland. Spore!”

    Jim cringed. Not again, not now...

    Unless...

    Amoonguss took in a deep breath, and fired.

    “Blow it back, Echo!”

    Cruise’s eyes widened in shock. Echo began flapping his wings rapidly, creating a gust that stopped the Spore cloud and sent it flying back at its originator. The dust cloud settled around Amoonguss, causing it to wobble on the spot, its eyes closing sleepily.

    “No! Amoonguss!” yelled Cruise.

    “Now, Echo, wrap this up with Air Slash!” said Jim, with renewed confidence.

    Echo sent another barrage of wind-saws that buffeted and beat Amoonguss repeatedly, sending it crashing heavily onto its back.

    “Amoonguss is unable to battle!” said the referee. “Swoobat wins!”

    Cruise just stood there with his jaw dropped with some moments, until finally he called back his Amoonguss.

    “Looks like the playing field’s evened out now, eh, Cruise?” Jim asked.

    “I dunno how you did it, Jim, but Amoonguss was one of my best,” said Cruise. “I gotta give you props for that.”

    “Well, it really gave me a run for my money.”

    “But now,” Cruise went on, holding up his third Poke Ball, “you have the opportunity of facing my champ, and an old friend of yours.”

    “Huh?”

    “Go, Serperior!”

    In a blaze of light, Cruise’s final Pokemon appeared. It looked like an enormous serpent, pale green in color, though its skin ended in a kind of lapeled collar by its neck, its sharp-snouted head a pale white. It had what looked like a pair of pointed ears, brilliant red eyes, and small leaf-like ‘hands’ at its side. Its tail ended in an ornate, branch-like shape. Jim’s Pokedex was brought out once again.

    “Serperior, the Regal Pokemon, and the final evolved form of Snivy. Serperior holds its head high, intimidating smaller Pokemon with the glare of its eye. It only give its all to opponents it deems worthy.”

    So this was what June would have finally evolved into. That thing did look incredibly powerful, but he still appreciated the small, cute Snivy he had as his partner and friend.

    “So this was the Servine that taught June Aerial Ace,” said Jim, admiringly. “It’s really grown.”

    “I know,” said Cruise. “That’s why I thought you’d love to face it as the final challenge in our match.”

    “Cruise, it’s my honor,” said Jim, bowing graciously. Serperior raised an intrigued eyebrow.

    “Begin!” said the referee.

    “Serperior, start with Leaf Blade!”

    Serperior whisked its long tail back, the end of which began to glow green, and swung it at Echo, smacking him across the front.

    “Take it like a champ, Echo!” Jim encouraged. “Air Slash!”

    Echo swept his wings, sending a barrage of wind-blades at Serperior.

    “Aerial Ace!”

    Swiftly, majestically, almost as if by magic, Serpeior rose into the air and soared toward Echo, swooping and swerving gracefully between the Air Slash blades, as if it were performing a kind of acrobatic swim. It swept straight past, slamming Echo with its tail.

    “Sheesh, that thing’s fast,” Jim muttered. “Give it a Shadow Ball, Echo!”

    Echo sent another ball of black and purple lightning at Serperior. It did manage to catch it on the side of the face, but it brushed off the impact as if it were a mere snowball pelted at it.

    “Ok, Serperior, use Coil!” said Cruise.

    Serperior rose into the air until it was perfectly upright on its tail, then began to coil and wind itself, a purple aura surrounding it all the while. Once it had completed, it settled on the ground, the purple aura still glowing around it.

    “W-What did that do?” Jim asked, hesitantly.

    “Oh, Coil?” said Cruise, casually. “It only raises the user’s Attack, Defense, and accuracy.”

    (Oh, is that all?...)

    “Now, Serperior, show off your new special move! Dragon Tail!”

    Serperior swept its tail back again, the end glowing a brilliant, luminescent blue, and swung it hard at Echo.

    “Dodge it!” Jim yelled.

    Echo swept upwards, avoiding the tail, but Serperior brought it swinging back again, catching him from behind. He stumbled but kept aloft, though he was already looking pretty battered.

    What was Jim to do? This Serperior was quick, knew how to evade and take attacks, knew plenty of moves, and had now buffed itself up. Cruise wasn’t kidding when he said it was his prime Pokemon. How was Echo supposed to get a hit on something so quick?

    Something so quick...

    Wait, that was it!

    “Not gonna call a move, Jim?” asked Cruise. “Then allow me! Serperior, Dragon Tail once again!”

    Serperior swung its glowing tail once more, but Jim was ready.

    “Echo, dodge and use Thunder Wave!”

    Echo swerved away from the incoming tail, then fired a bolt of blue lightning from his body at Serperior. The bolt struck home, and both Trainer and Pokermon’s eyes widened as sparks escaped from Serperior’s body, causing it to give a sudden twitchy jerk.

    “Serperior, no!” Cruise shouted.

    “Now we’re back in the game!” said Jim. “Echo, use Air Slash!”

    Echo flapped his wings mightily, once more sending a wave of wind-saws flying through the air.

    “Dodge them, Serperior!” yelled Cruise.

    Serperior tried to move, but another burst of sparks caused it to stop, allowing the Air Slash to buffet and bash it.

    “Come on, Serperior!” Cruise encouraged in desperation. “Leaf Blade! Dragon Tail! Try anything!”

    Serperior lifted its tail, but whatever glow it tried to acquire faded away as more sparks burst all around, and it cringed in pain.

    “It was a good run, Cruise, but it’s got to end here,” said Jim. “Echo, Psychic!”

    Echo spread his wings wise, a blue fiery aura surrounding his entire body. The same glow surrounded Serperior, who rose slowly into the air, until not even its tail was touching the ground. Then, with an almighty surge, the Regal Pokemon was thrown backward, slamming into the opposite wall, where it slumped in a heap, out cold.

    “Serperior is unable to battle!” said the referee. “Swoobat wins, which means the victory goes to Jim Stevens!”

    The stands burst into wild applause as Echo flew a victory lap around the stadium, then alighted atop Jim’s head.

    “Good work, boy!” Jim said, proudly, as he reached up and stroked his head. “Nicely done.”

    Cruise, for his part, sighed and recalled Serperior.

    “Well done, old friend,” he said, softly. “You made this a worthy battle.”

    “Cruise!”

    Cruise looked up to see Jim standing in front of him.

    “Thanks a bunch, bud,” he said, holding out his hand. “You really gave me a good match.”

    Cruise’s face split into a wide smile, and he gladly shook Jim’s hand.

    “Same to you, Jimmy! You were amazing! You’re gonna knock ‘em dead in the next round!”

    Jim smiled in return, and the two friends made their way back toward the stands, where their friends were still jabbering excitedly away about what they had just witnessed.

    Y Rotation Team

  12. #42
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    Default Re: Jim: Blaze of Glory

    Chapter 42
    A Key Player Returns


    “Sigilyph is unable to battle! Zebstrika wins!”

    “Man, these battles are getting intense,” said Bianca.

    “Small wonder,” said Leanne. “We’re getting close to the end. No one wants to lose now.”

    “I certainly don’t,” Jim muttered. “Then again, I’m relieved to have even gotten this far.”

    “Oh, would you stop second-guessing yourself?” Cheren lightly chided. “You’ve done amazing so far, and you’re gonna do great in the semifinals.”

    “I have that same feeling about you,” said Jim, cracking a grin.

    “We’re really coming down to the wire now, everyone!” said Alder, as the last two fighters of the day retired.

    “That we are, Mr. Champion,” said Burton. “We’ve come to the semifinals: the final 8 challengers! Hereafter, the rules will be a little different. The battles shall now be 6 against 6, so bring a full team of your best and brightest! Show us some spectacular bouts!”

    “And now,” said Alder, “let’s see who will be facing who tomorrow.”

    Once more, the faces of the remaining Trainers appeared on the screen. They flipped over, flashed, and flipped back up again, showing that Jim would be facing off against Solomon tomorrow, as the first match of the day. He cast a quick glance at the taciturn Trainer, but his thoughts were evidently elsewhere, as he did not turn around. Still, Jim couldn’t help but feel that he too was assessing this turn of events.

    “We’re coming into the home stretch, everyone!” boomed Burton. “Do us proud!”

    ***


    “Ok, a 6 on 6 match...this is gonna be tough to gauge...”

    Jim was pacing up and down the bedroom reserved for him, June sitting on the bed and watching him.

    “From what Solomon has shown in his battles, he likes Pokemon of tough and tactical types: Psychic, Ghost, Dark, those that can hit hard or use special maneuvers. That means he’ll either try to strike me down with something swift and powerful, or mess with me before going in for the finishing move. Now, let’s see...Spade can resist Psychic and use X-Scissor for Psychic and Dark types, and Echo has Shadow Ball for Ghost types, but he’s weak to Ghost himself. Maybe-”

    “Jim, will you please calm down?” June interrupted. “You’re not going to find the solution by pacing yourself into a frenzy.”

    “I know, I know, but this is different territory, June. This isn’t a 3-on-3, it’s a 6-on-6. I have to have exactly the right Pokemon from the get-go. One misstep, and it could jeopardize my whole strategy. He hasn’t shown me every Pokemon he has, whereas I’ve left my entire strategy open for him to exploit.”

    “I can see why you’d be tense,” said June, patiently, “but you’re overreacting. Even if he’s seen how most of the team plays, you can still surprise him. Besides, it doesn’t always come down to type, you know. I’m surprised you need to be reminded of that.”

    At last, Jim stopped pacing. He turned and looked into her clear, calm eyes, full of wisdom, and finally smiled. He went and picked her up as he sat down with her.

    “You’re right, June,” he said. “just like always. I don’t think you’ve ever been wrong about anything.”

    “Sure I have,” said June, smiling in her turn. “I was wrong about you when we first met.”

    The smile faded a little from Jim’s face, but not for a disagreeable reason. No, he was reflecting on just how long ago it was that he and June had actually become partners. It seemed almost an eternity since that eventful day, with images of Tranquill and raging flames forever burned into his mind.

    “What’s the matter?” June asked.

    “Oh, I was just remembering the day we first met. I can still vaguely feel where you smacked my face with your tail.”

    June giggled softly. “I’ll bet Oshawott still remembers the few times I smacked him.”

    “You always were a little charmer,” Jim joked, gently prodding her little belly.

    She laughed, then, without warning, snaked her vines out and began tickling Jim’s sides. He burst into a fit of laughter and fell back upon the bed as June moved her vines this way and that around him, too quick for him to prevent.

    At last she stopped, and she just lay there on Jim’s chest, gazing at him, as he did the same.

    “How did I ever deserve a great Pokemon like you?” he asked, stroking her back.

    “Because you’re a great Trainer,” she replied.

    “You have to take into account, though, that nearly all my team acquirements were from their own volition. Look at Torch and Torrent. Look at Spade. Even Echo let himself get caught.”

    “But you did manage to catch and tame two unruly Pokemon: Jolt and Croco.”

    “Heh, true, can’t argue with that. I wonder what Croco’s up to now. It’s been a few months since I left him with Clay.”

    “I’m sure he’s living his dream, and paying his debt to society,” said June. “He has you to thank for all that, after all.”

    She bent forward and licked the tip of his nose. Jim smiled and scratched behind her head, making her close her eyes like a contented cat.

    They were interrupted, however, when there came a knock at the door. June got up so Jim could sit up, a curious look on his face.

    “Who is it?” he called.

    “Special delivery for Mr. Jim Stevens!” came a gruff, streetwise voice.

    Jim and June looked at each other.

    “Did you order something?” she asked.

    “No, did you?” he asked.

    “Certainly not.”

    Jim got up and opened the door. What he saw made him jump back in astonishment, and he heard June gasp behind him.

    There, standing in the doorway, arms folded, smirking, was Croco!

    “Croco!” Jim gasped out.

    “Hiya, Jimmy boy,” said Croco. “You get yourself a tan since I last saw ya?”

    He tilted his head to look past Jim and see June, who was sitting, mouth agape.

    “Hey, June! Lookin’ good as always.”

    “I ju- I can’t even- How did-” Jim stammered, looking completely astounded. “What are you doing here? I thought you were with Clay!”

    “I was. We were watchin’ the tournament together. You’re doin’ pretty good, but let’s face it, you’ve lost a bit of your touch when you left me with Clay. So, bein’ the generous Krokorok that I am, I decided to come up here and lend ya my abilities. I’ve got a new trick or two up my sleeve, and you ain’t gonna be sorry for havin’ them.”

    He reached out and pressed something cold into Jim’s hand.

    It was a Poke Ball. Croco’s Poke Ball.

    “‘Course,” Croco went on, “Clay wants me back when the tournament’s over, which I doubt’ll be a big problem. Junior’s finally learning to wise up and act more his age, so he’s pullin’ his weight around. So, Jimmy, whaddya say?”

    Jim could do nothing but stare blankly at Croco for several moments. Was this for real? Croco was coming back to the team, to help him during the League? It was too good to be true.

    “...What do I say?” he finally said, gripping the ball tightly. “I say you’ve always been welcome, old friend!”

    He clapped a hand on Croco’s shoulder, beaming, and Croco merely grinned and gripped Jim’s arm in a brotherly way. June smiled warmly.

    “I’m sure the rest of the team’ll be thrilled to see you back. They’ve missed you.”

    “Ah, I gotta admit, I missed you lugs too. You’re all a bunch of sentimentalists, but that ain’t gotta be a bad thing.”

    Laughing, Jim took out his Poke Balls and tossed them up, letting out Echo, Missy, Torch, Torrent, and Spade. They all stared in amazement at Croco, who was still grinning smugly.

    “Croco!” said Torch. “Y-You’re back!”

    “Surprised?” asked Croco. “You guys need all the help you can get in the big leagues, so here I am.”

    “I knew you couldn’t stay away for long,” said Torrent.

    “Ah, shut it, hippie,” Croco grumbled.

    “Mr. Croco!” gasped out Spade, pushing his way forward. “Ah didn’t think Ah’d see you again so soon!”

    Croco seemed to register Spade for the first time, and his jaw dropped.

    “Get outta here,” he muttered. “Kid?? Is that you??”

    “Sure is,” said Spade, smiling. “All thanks to Mr. Jim.”

    “Ha!” barked Croco, elated. “Y’see? I knew you were the right one for the kid, Jimmy boy! You got him to evolve into an Excadrill! Oho, this is dynamite! Think of the damage we’re gonna do out there, kid!”

    Jim was smiling from ear to ear. It was like a member of his family had come back, and everything was complete and whole once more. He didn’t see how they were going to fail tomorrow. He wondered why he had even been worried...

    ***


    “Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the semifinals of the Victory Mountain Conference! We only have 8 Trainers left, and all are eager to take home the gold! Our first match today shall be Jim Stevens vs. Solomon Wright!”

    Before yesterday, Jim might have entered the battlefield with trembling limbs. Now, while he did still feel a slight shake in his step, it was from a kind of nervous excitement rather than panic. He and Solomon both took their places.

    “I always had a hunch that you and I would duke it out before this tournament was done,” said Solomon. “Let’s make this worth it.”

    “Wouldn’t have it any other way,” said Jim, and both drew their first Poke Balls.

    “Gothitelle, go!”

    ‘Go, Echo!”

    Jim’s trusty Swoobat appeared, as well as a tall Pokemon Jim had yet to see. It had the purple face, blue eyes, red lips, and black hair of a Gothorita (though its was arrayed in star-like points with a bow on top), but its body was garbed in a floor-length black dress with long sleeves. Jim brought out his Pokedex.

    “Gothitelle, the Astral Body Pokemon, and the evolved form of Gothorita. Its Psychic powers are strong enough to distort space around it, which brings stars light-years away into visibility. It can sense its Trainer’s life span, and laments when it does.”

    “Psychic for Psychic, eh?” asked Solomon. “This should prove interesting.”

    Jim wasn’t sure he liked the calculating look in his eye as he said this...

    “Begin!” said the referee.

    “Gothitelle, Trick Room!”

    Gothitelle raised its arms, a blue glow emanating from its body. All at once, with lines crisscrossing in midair to connect together, a kind of cube-shaped barrier surrounded the battlefield. glimmering with a pale glow. Jim and Echo both stared around in dumbfoundment.

    “What’s going on?” Jim asked, his voice slightly distorted and echo-prone in the chamber. He also noticed that the movements of Echo’s wings seemed to have slowed, as if he was in a video moving at half-speed.

    “Trick Room reverses the rule of order,” said Solomon, calmly. “The slowest are the first to act, while the swiftest are left in the dust.”

    Jim’s head reeled as he tried to make sense of the riddle, but he had sense enough to call for an attack.

    “Echo, Shadow Ball!”

    Echo opened his wings, a black and purple ball of energy forming in front of him. He brought one wing back, and smacked it like a volleyball right at Gothitelle. However, the way it moved, it was oddly sluggish, as though it was being viewed through an underwater filter.

    “Dodge,” said Solomon.

    Gothitelle sidestepped in such a way that made it look like it was moving at lightning speed, leaving after-images behind it. The Shadow Ball struck against the side of the barrier and vanished.

    “Whoa...” Jim breathed.

    “Now, Thunderbolt!” Solomon commanded.

    Before Jim could even register astonishment at such a command being given, Gothitelle let loose a bolt of yellow electricity from its body, striking Echo in the air on the spot. He let out a cry of pain, and his flapping became much more feeble as smoke rose from his zapped body.

    “Echo, no!” Jim cried.

    He couldn’t lose any Pokemon this early in the fight. It would mean bad news...

    “Use Air Slash!”

    Echo raised his wings again, and flapped them as hard as he could, though the effort seemed to take a lot out of him. He managed to send two buzzsaws of wind at Gothitelle, but it merely stepped out of the way of these, as well.

    “Thunderbolt, once again,” said Solomon.

    Gothitelle sent another bolt at Echo, blasting him and sending him straight to the ground, where he crumpled, unable to get back up. The referee’s voice came through the barrier, but it sounded muffled and distorted.

    “Swoobat is unable to battle! Gothitelle wins!”

    Jim was dumbstruck. How could Echo have been taken out so effortlessly? He knew things were going to get tougher, but he never imagined like this...He recalled Echo, nonetheless.

    “Ok, gotta think,” he muttered. “With this Trick Room in effect, slow is fast and fast is slow...I need to use a Pokemon who’s not quite so fast, but can still do what I need...Ah!”

    He drew out his second Poke Ball.

    “Spade, go for it!”

    The Excadrill appeared in a burst of light. The walls of the barrier fluctuated briefly, as if admitting the new arrival. Solomon made no note of the new arrival, but Jim knew his options would now be limited. If this Gothitelle did have a Psychic attack, it wouldn’t be much use, and Spade was immune to its Thunderbolt attack. Of course, it could have a move prepared to combat such an eventuality as this.

    “Begin!” came the referee’s voice.

    “Spade, Drill Run!” said Jim.

    Spade enclosed himself within his claws and launched himself at Gothitelle, spinning like a drill.

    “Psyshock!” commanded Solomon.

    Gothitelle held its hands forward. A glowing blue and purple ball appeared between its palms, then launched at Spade. There was an explosion when it struck, and Spade unfolded from the force of the blow, right in front of Gothitelle.

    “Perfect,” Jim muttered. Then, he shouted, “X-Scissor!”

    Spade quickly crossed his claws in front of his chest, then flung them apart, striking Gothitelle across the torso in a way that left a flaming purple ‘X’ where he had struck. Solomon raised his eyebrows in an intrigued way.

    “Clever,” he said. “You had a backup even if Drill Run failed. Still, this battle has only just started. Gothitelle, Brick Break!”

    Gothitelle drew one arm back, its forearm glowing red.

    “Counter it with Metal Claw!” Jim shouted.

    Spade swung one arm forward, the claws on that arm shining with a metallic glimmer. The two arms collided with a clang, and the two began straining against each other for supremacy.

    “Slash!” Jim ordered.

    Spade pulled back his other arm, the claws on it elongating and glowing white. Then, he struck at Gothitelle, knocking it away.

    “Brick Break, once again!” said Solomon.

    Gothitelle charged at Spade, its arm glowing red once more.

    “Dodge, Spade, and use X-Scissor!”

    With unexpected agility, given the circumstances, Spade sidestepped, causing Gothitelle to miss, then struck with both claws, slashing them across each other to make another fiery X. Gothitelle was tossed across the field, and it crumpled in a heap. The walls of the barrier flickered, then vanished, a sign that its master was no longer in control.

    “Gothitelle is unable to battle! Excadrill wins!”

    Still showing no sign of surprise, Solomon recalled Gothitelle.

    “A successful comeback, Jim,” he said. “An eye for an eye, one might say. However, we are right where we started once more, so the contest begins anew. Conkeldurr, go!”

    He tossed his next Poke Ball, revealing a large and rather intimidating Pokemon. It had a bulky torso and a rather small lower body. It had tan skin, a bulbous nose, heavy brows, a small gray beard, an odd protrusion atop its head, pink bands around its shoulders, and veins that stood out on its body. It seemed to be supporting itself on a pair of concrete pillars, which its hands were balanced upon. Jim took out his Pokedex.

    “Conkeldurr, the Muscular Pokemon, and the evolved form of Gurdurr. It is believed to have taught humans the art of creating concrete more than 2,000 years ago. It uses concrete pillars as walking sticks and tools for battle.”

    “A Fighting type,” Jim mutered, grimly. “This won’t be pretty, but we have to go as long as we can.”

    “Begin!” said the referee.

    “Spade, use Slash!”

    Spade lunged for Conkeldurr, claws extending and glowing white.

    “Conkeldurr, Bulk Up!” said Solomon.

    Conkeldurr let go of its stone pillars, which stood in place where they were, and crossed its arms over its chest. Its body became outlined in a red aura, and with a sudden surge, it seemed to swell, its muscles tightening, veins standing out on its brawny arms. Spade struck, but it didn’t even flinch from the blow.

    “Oh, boy,” Jim said, grimly expecting something bad to happen.

    “DynamicPunch!” Solomon ordered.

    Conkeldurr uncrossed its arms to draw one fist back, which began to glow with a fiery red-orange light, then let loose a wicked punch to Spade’s snout, sending him flying hard across the field.

    “Spade! You ok?!” Jim shouted.

    Spade got back to his feet, but something was wrong. His footsteps were unsteady, and there was a disoriented, unfocused look in his eyes. Jim worried that the punch had really knocked him for a loop.

    “Spade? What happened?”

    “An unfortunate but effective side effect of DynamicPunch,” said Solomon. “It leaves the victim confused.”

    (Confused? Great, that’s just what I need...)

    “We’ll have to tough through it, Spade. Use Drill Run!”

    Spade enclosed himself into his drill shape, but instead of charging for Conkeldurr, he went straight underground. A slight smile curled Solomon’s lips.

    “A Dig-Drill Run combination? Unintentional or not, I’d call that clever. Unfortunately, I prepared for even a subterranean assault. Conkeldurr, Earthquake!”

    Conkeldurr gripped the tops of its pillars again, raised them both up, and slammed them into the ground like piledrivers. The ground began to shake violently, and Spade was tossed up into the air, unfurling from his drill form.

    “Spade! No!”

    “Now, another DynamicPunch!” Solomon commanded.

    Conkeldurr raised its pillars again and slammed them down, but this time, it was to jettison it straight into the air, straight for Spade. It drew its arm back, its fist glowing once more, and socked him hard across the face, sending him crashing to the ground with a sickening thud. The Subterrene Pokemon lay where he was, out cold, while Conkeldurr landed deftly on its feet and returned to its concrete supports.

    “Excadrill is unable to battle! Conkeldurr wins!”

    Jim could feel a sense of dread settling over him as he recalled Spade. Solomon had gained an early lead, and he was chipping away at his best Pokemon. If he didn’t think of something soon, he was going to lose...

    (I’ve never felt so on-the-edge before. Solomon doesn’t kid around. I’ve got to be smart with my next choice...)

    “Rok, go!”

    In a blaze of light from his next Poke Ball, the Archeops swooped into the air, giving a piercing crow into the crowded air. Solomon smirked.

    “Now things begin to get interesting,” he muttered.

    “Begin!” said the referee.

    “Rok, use Dragon Pulse!” Jim ordered.

    With a screech, Rok belched forth a stream of blue dragon fire. Conkeldurr merely raised its pillars and plunked them down in front of itself, creating a barrier that blocked off the attack.

    “Clever,” Jim muttered.

    “Stone Edge!” said Solomon.

    Conkeldurr moved its pillars apart again, then crossed its arms over its chest, two rings of floating stones appearing around it. It then threw its hands forward, the stones soaring straight for Rok, buffeting and striking against him.

    “Now, DynamicPunch!”

    Conkeldurr once again launched itself into the air, this time aiming for Rok, fist drawn back and flowing red.

    “Not this time!” said Jim. “Rok, dodge and use Dragon Pulse!”

    Though battered by the Stone Edge attack, Rok had enough sense to strafe to the right, avoiding the dangerous punch, and unleash another blast of dragon fire upon Conkeldurr, this time connecting. Conkeldurr was thrown back onto the ground, landing heavily.

    “Give it another Stone Edge!” said Solomon.

    “Counter with Rock Slide!” said Jim.

    As Conkeldurr summoned another swarm of swirling stones, Rok spread his wings, an intense glow emanating from his body. Just as Conkeldurr launched another barrage of Stone Edge rocks, boulders materialized in the air and came raining down, shattering to bits when hitting the Stone Edge, but also managing to neutralize many of the projectiles. Conkeldurr found itself on the receiving end of a blow from a rock or two.

    “This can only go for so long, Jim,” said Solomon. “There can be only one. Conkeldurr, Bulk Up, then use DynamicPunch!”

    Conkeldurr braced itself once again, a fierce fiery glow surrounding its body.

    “Rok, stop it, quick!” Jim yelled. “Dragon Pulse!”

    Rok launched another blast of flames at Conkeldurr, but whether it did damage or not, he couldn’t tell, as Conkeldurr’s pose did not alter in the slightest. In the next instant, it leapt straight for Rok.

    “Aerial Ace!” Jim commanded in desperation.

    With the speed of a launched arrow, Rok swooped straight for Conkeldurr, ready to intercept, and Conkeldurr lunged out with its fist...

    There was a harsh, concussive explosion that rocked the air upon the impact, shaking the ground below the two Pokemon and jarring their Trainers. From below, it was impossible to say what had happened, as the two hung in the air, seemingly frozen by their collision.

    However, all of a sudden, the two came plummeting straight to the ground, both out cold.

    The match up was a draw, and Jim was behind 3 against 4. It didn't look good...

    Y Rotation Team

  13. #43
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    Default Re: Jim: Blaze of Glory

    Chapter 43
    A Crucial Turnabout


    “Archeops and Conkeldurr are both unable to battle! This match is a tie!”

    Both Trainers recalled their Pokemon, Jim still in a state of anxiety. He had taken down two of Solomon’s Pokemon so far, but at the cost of three of his. If he didn’t hit upon an advantage soon, he was going to lose...

    “Liepard, you’re next!” said Solomon, throwing his next ball.

    His Liepard, which Jim had seen several times before, appeared on the field, its lithe body tensed and ready.

    Jim instinctively felt around on his belt, but was stopped by a light pressure on his shoulder. He turned his gaze on June, situated at her usual perch, stoic and calm as ever. He looked into her clear eyes and knew what she was saying: she would be the next to go up.

    “You sure?” Jim asked.

    She nodded.

    “Then let’s do it, partner,” said Jim, with a smile.

    She sprang from his shoulder and took her place on the field, staring down Liepard, who let out a warning growl.

    “June?” asked Solomon. “I would have suspected her to be your final choice, your secret weapon, as it were.”

    “When she knows it’s time to battle, I’m in no position to deny it,” said Jim.

    “Good answer,” said Solomon, approvingly.

    “Begin!” said the referee.

    “Liepard, Hone Claws!”

    Liepard’s claws extended from its paws, which it then proceeded to sharpen against each other, with a noise like nails on a chalkboard. Jim and June both flinched from the sound, though the former remembered Hone Claws being used against the latter before...

    “June, use Energy Ball!”

    June, shaking off the horrible sound, raised her paw, a green and yellow ball of light forming in her palm. She lobbed it straight at Liepard, who was still in the midst of sharpening its claws, and struck it full in the face, stopping it.

    “Shadow Claw!” said Solomon.

    Liepard snarled and raised one paw, which began to glow a smoky, ghastly purple. It then lunged straight for June, the glow extending into a kind of jagged shadow of a claw.

    “Dodge it, June!”

    June dashed to one side, narrowly avoiding the claw strike, but was not so lucky on the second one, being tossed away by the powerful feline’s attack.

    “All right, June, use Aerial Ace!” said Jim,

    “Sucker Punch, Liepard!” said Solomon.

    Before June could even move to attack, Liepard sped forward like lightning and hit her in the stomach with one of its paws. She flew backwards a few feet before regaining her stance.

    “Try Energy Ball, then!” said Jim.

    “Sucker Punch, once more!”

    Once again, before June could even move, Liepard lunged forward and socked June in the belly with its paw, ceasing her attack.

    “Leaf-”

    “Sucker Punch!”

    And again, June was stopped by Liepard’s cheap shot.

    “You can’t land a hit on me, Jim,” said Solomon. “Liepard’s Sucker Punch will make sure of that.”

    Jim grimaced, weighing his options. Liepard had increased its fighting power with Hone Claws, and was now preventing June from getting many hits on it with Sucker Punch. It was going to box her in and keep her from acting at all until she was too weak to fight back.

    Unless...

    “June,” Jim began, “use-”

    “Sucker Punch!” Solomon shouted.

    “...Toxic!” Jim concluded.

    Solomon’s eyes widened, realizing he had just been had.

    This time, June was able to evade Liepard’s strike, and she raised her paw, a purple ball of bubbling slime forming in her palm. She lobbed it at Liepard, where it struck it in the face, and the poison seeped in. It would have been difficult to tell with Liepard’s purple coloring, but Jim could see that the poisoning had succeeded when he saw the yellow areas on Liepard glimmer with the sickly hue, not to mention the overall droop in its usually haughty face.

    “Now, where were we?” Jim asked, the smile back on his face. “Ah, yes. June, Leaf Storm!”

    June, smiling herself, jumped into the air, a swirling cloud of leaves surrounding her lithe form. This cloud then launched itself at Liepard, battering and buffeting it with a barrage of razor-sharp leaves. Solomon still did not look deterred.

    “You have managed to get yourself back on your feet, Jim,” he said, “but there is one final test my Liepard must impose on you. Hyper Beam!”

    Drained and poisoned though it was, Liepard raised its head, mouth wide open, and fired a golden-white beam of light from within, straight for June. Jim, however, wasn’t fazed.

    “Dodge it with Aerial Ace, then launch off an Energy Ball!” he said.

    With the swiftness and elegance of a bird, June swooped upwards, carried by the momentum of her own energy, the Hyper Beam shooting past and striking the wall behind. In the air, she formed another glowing green and yellow ball and launched it downwards. Liepard was hit full-force and thrown across the field, where it landed on its side. It attempted to raise its head, but there was another glow from the poison, and it fell flat.

    “Liepard is unable to battle!” said the referee. “Snivy wins!”

    Jim felt a surge of elation go through his veins. They were now even, three to three! He was gaining ground!

    Wordlessly, Solomon recalled Liepard.

    “Impressive,” he finally said. “We now stand as equals once again. You seem to have made the right choice in sending June out.”

    He drew his next Poke Ball.

    “But you may have to reevaluate that choice for my next fighter. Chandelure!”

    In a burst of light, a truly eerie Pokemon appeared floating in the air. It resembled an ornate chandelier, with a spherical head or body and long black arms tipped with purple flames. A larger flame was emanating from its head, its face striped and possessing a pair of blank yellow eyes. Jim brought out his Pokedex.

    “Chandelure, the Luring Pokemon, and the evolved form of Lampent. Chandelure uses the swaying flames on its arms to hypnotize opponents. Being consumed in its flames burns away a mortal’s spirit.”

    “Just when I keep thinking they couldn’t get creepier,” Jim muttered. Aloud, he said, “June, this one’s a Ghost/Fire type. Take a break, all right?”

    “Just what I was hoping you’d say,” said June, gratefully, and she stepped off the battlefield as Jim took out a Poke Ball.

    “Torrent, this one’s all yours!”

    The Simipour appeared in a blaze of light, not at all unnerved by the creepy Ghost type floating above him.

    “Smart move,” said Solomon. “I know you’re bold, but certainly not boneheaded.”

    “Begin!” said the referee.

    “Chandelure, use Shadow Ball!”

    A ball of purple and black energy appeared in front of Chandelure’s face, then fired toward Torrent.

    “Acrobatics!” Jim commanded.

    Torrent leaped upwards and forwards, evading the ball, and turned his momentum into a rapid succession of somersaults, slamming against Chandelure as he did so. However, before he could reach the ground, Solomon shouted,

    “Energy Ball!”

    This time, a green and yellow ball, just like June’s, appeared in front of Chandelure, before firing at Torrent, blasting him right into the ground.

    “Chandelure can learn that?!” Jim spluttered.

    “There is no limit to what forces a ghost may call upon,” said Solomon, cryptically, as Torrent got back to his feet.

    “Hang in there, bud,” said Jim, consolingly. “Use Ice Beam!”

    Torrent cupped his paws, a ball of ice blue light forming between them, then thrust them forward, shooting a bolt of freezing lightning at Chandelure.

    “Melt it with Flamethrower!” said Solomon.

    The purple flame coming from Chandelure’s head flared up and snaked around, as if alive, to fly right at the Ice Beam, striking it as it came and melting it away, causing a heavy cloud of steam to hang over the field. Jim couldn’t even see the other side of the field through it, as it was fogging up his glasses.

    “Energy Ball!”

    Another green and yellow orb of light shot at Torrent, through the mist.

    “Dodge it!” Jim yelled, instinctively.

    Torrent leaped into the air, and Jim heard and felt the small explosion of the Energy Ball impacting the ground.

    “Psychic!” Solomon called through the evaporating mist.

    A piercing blue glow penetrated the fog, outlining Chandelure where it floated. Up in the air, the same glow surrounded Torrent, where he floated, frozen, looking startled. Chandelure’s eyes glowed, and Torrent came rocketing down, slamming into the dirt of the battlefield with a sickening thud. Many people in the stands groaned.

    “Now, throw him back up, and use Energy Ball!”

    Chandelure glowed blue once more, surrounding Torrent in the same glow, and threw him violently upwards. Then, with the same rapidity, it formed and launched another Energy Ball attack. Jim, in desperation, yelled,

    “Torrent! Hydro Pump!”

    Torrent seemed to snap to attention, as he threw his paws forward, and a surging channel of water blasted from between their palms. It struck the Energy Ball as it was soaring upwards and knocked it aside, continuing onwards to Chandelure, who could only look up in what Jim assumed was astonishment. The Hydro Pump splashed over it, completely overwhelming it and creating a puddle on the battlefield. When Torrent landed back down, Chandelure had floated slowly down to ground level, its flames extremely diminished, the glow in its eyes faded.

    “Chandelure is unable to battle! Simipour wins!”

    Jim felt an even greater surge go through him. He had gained the lead! Solomon was one of his toughest opponents yet, but he was quickly regaining his ground.

    Solomon recalled Chandelure, but didn’t say anything this time. He didn’t look angry, nor did he look distressed. He merely tossed out his next Poke Ball, revealing...a Golurk.

    Jim gulped as he craned his neck to look up at the 9-foot Pokemon looming over Torrent, gazing down with its expressionless (and, let’s be honest, faceless) face.

    “Begin!” said the referee.

    “All right, Torrent, go for another Hydro Pump!”

    Torrent conjured up and let loose another torrential blast of water from its hands.

    “Into the air, Golurk!” said Solomon.

    Golurk’s legs suddenly disappeared into its torso, and with a roar like a jet, it jettisoned itself skyward via flames from within, evading the Hydro Pump assault.

    “From on high, Magnitude!”

    Golurk let its legs back out and came plummeting straight down, slamming down hard with its fist. The ground shook violently, and Torrent was tossed up into the air once again.

    “Torrent!” Jim yelled. “Give it another aerial Hydro Pump!”

    Once again, from his unconventional position, Torrent fired another surge of water, which hit Golurk hard in the chest, causing it to stumble back heavily. It regained its footing quickly, however.

    “Hammer Arm!” said Solomon.

    Golurk crouched and leaped into the air to meet the descending Torrent, raised its arm, which began to glow white, then slammed it straight down on Torrent’s skull, throwing him straight to the ground with the speed of a bullet, only adding to the crater he had already made from Chandelure’s Psychic.

    “Torrent! Are you all right?” Jim asked.

    Torrent began to shakily get to his feet, but it seemed Solomon was going to have none of that.

    “Golurk, Heavy Slam!”

    Golurk raised its arms as if in a victory pose, becoming outlined in a yellowish glow, and them came hurtling straight down toward Torrent, shoulder first. With a sickening, icy plunge in his stomach, Jim knew what was about to happen...

    “TORRENT!!” he screamed.

    Too late.

    With a ground-shaking, earth-shattering slam, Golurk impacted the ground, the force of its blow making everyone jump in their seats in the stands, and causing a cloud of dust to hang over the spot where it had touched down. Slowly, with the smooth movements of a well-oiled machine, Golurk raised itself back up, stepping back to its side of the field. The dust dissipated, and there lay Torrent, in an immense hole in the ground, flattened and unconscious.

    “Simipour is unable to battle!” said the referee. “Golurk wins!”

    Jim, jaw still gaping from what he had just been forced to witness, recalled Torrent. The fact that he could even survive such an assault, such a massive blow, was a miracle in itself...

    “June,” he said quietly, turning to his partner, “this may sound nuts, but do you think you could handle a round 2? Golurk may be huge, but you’re faster and a more difficult target. Remember Clay’s Seismitoad?”

    “I do,” said June. “I’m ready.”

    She stepped forward to take her place. To a sane mind, this would seem laughable, as Golurk dwarfed her by a considerable amount, standing like a colossus over the little Grass Snake Pokemon. Solomon made no comment on the matter, but smiled in an almost amused way.

    “Begin!” shouted the referee.

    “Golurk, Shadow Punch!” said Solomon.

    Golurk pulled its arm back and threw it forward. While it seemed to stop short, it actually seemed to go further on, as a ghostly afterimage.

    “Dodge it, June, and use Energy Ball!”

    June jumped swiftly out of the way, as the fist slammed into the ground, and tossed another green ball of light, hitting Golurk square in the chest.

    “Magnitude!” said Solomon.

    Golurk raised its fist, ready to slam it against the ground.

    “Aerial Ace!” Jim shouted.

    June once more swept into the air, just as Golurk slammed the ground, missing her.

    “Now use Energy Ball once again!”

    June formed and launched yet another Energy Ball attack, this time hitting Golurk in the face.

    “Keep it together, Golurk,” said Solomon. “Heavy Slam!”

    Golurk raised its arms again, a yellow glow surrounding it, before charging for June.

    “Keep it back, June! Leaf Storm!”

    June swept her arm in a graceful fashion despite the peril she was in, another cloud of leaves forming around her. With a wave of her paw, the leaves shot from the cloud and struck against Golurk, who strained against the onslaught.

    “Don’t let up, June!” Jim said. “Keep throwing them!”

    June launched barrage after barrage of leaves to keep Golurk away. The sweat stood out on her face, and her teeth were bared as she threw out her onslaughts. It looked like it was taking every ounce of strength she had. Golurk’s aura had dissipated as it slowed to a stop, and it was becoming overcome by the assault of leaves.

    The storm finally ended, and Golurk, scratched and buffeted, swayed where it stood, while June, sweating and haggard-looking, panted where she stood. Leaf Storm had drained her of her reserves.

    Finally, Golurk began to topple forward, but Solomon suddenly shouted, forcefully, yet not in a distressed way,

    “Golurk, Shadow Punch!”

    Jim was too surprised to even react. As Golurk fell, with the last of its strength, it threw its fist forward, sending a shadowy punch that socked June and knocked her flat.

    “JUNE!” Jim yelled.

    With a thunderous crash, Golurk collapsed onto its front, while June lay where she was, unmoving.

    “Snivy and Golurk are both unable to battle!” said the referee. “This match-up is a tie!”

    Solomon recalled Golurk while Jim hurried over to pick up June.

    “Are you ok, girl?” he asked.

    Her eyes opened slowly.

    “Yes,” she breathed.

    “I’m sorry, June. I shouldn’t have ordered so many Leaf Storm attacks. I knew they’d drain you, but I was scared Golurk was going to crush you.”

    A faint smile appeared on June’s face.

    “Then you don’t need to apologize. It was the only way. Your secret weapon should handle him, now.”

    Jim nodded and gently set June to the side before turning to face Solomon.

    “I must commend you, Jim,” said Solomon. “Here we are, with both of us down to our last resources. You’ve proven to me throughout this battle why you have deserved coming this far. If I were to lose to anyone in this competition, I’ll be satisfied it was to you.”

    “You don’t know that I’ll win,” said Jim. “Chances are you saved your best for last.”

    “True, but we shall see if I was wise in holding it back for this long,” said Solomon, drawing his final Poke Ball. Jim did the same.

    “Then let’s make this a bout to remember,” said Jim. “Croco, go!”

    He tossed the ball, and in a burst of light, the streetwise Krokorok appeared, arms folded, looking smug and calm.

    “Reuniclus, go!” said Solomon.

    The Pokemon that appeared had a very unusual composition. It was pale green, with black eyes, a small body with stubby limbs, but that was hardly the weirdest thing about it. Its entire form was shrouded within a green, blobby substance, which made extensions for its detached ‘ears’ and a pair of long, club-like arms with three fingers each, each arm containing small floating chunks or orbs within, as if they were a minimalistic bone structure. Jim brought out his Pokedex.

    “Reuniclus, the Multiplying Pokemon, and the evolved form of Duosion. This highly intelligent Pokemon controls arms with the strength to crush rocks. When it joins hands with another, it amplifies its psychic powers.”

    “This is the end result of your faithful Duosion, huh?” Jim asked, remembering the Pokemon that battled the Guys’ Palpitoad in Nimbasa.

    “Indeed,” said Solomon. “He has become my star player, as I shall now demonstrate. I must say, though, I don’t recall you having a Krokorok.”

    “He’s technically on break, since I traded him to Clay,” said Jim. “He didn’t want to miss out on the fun.”

    Croco grinned.

    “Then let’s make this fun, Reuniclus,” said Solomon.

    Reuniclus swung its arms into a battle-ready pose.

    “Begin!” said the referee.

    “Croco, use Stone Edge!”

    Croco raised one arm, and a swirling cloud of jagged stones appeared, which hurtled toward Reuniclus.

    “Psychic!” said Solomon.

    Reuniclus’ entire body and eyes glowed blue, and the stones slowed to a stop in front of its face, before reversing and flying straight back at Croco, who shielded his face with his arms from the onslaught.

    “Now, Focus Blast!”

    Reuniclus brought both hands forward, a shining blue orb forming between their palms. This ball launched toward Croco, who was just unshielding his face.

    “Dodge it, Croco, and use Crunch!”

    Croco bounded into the air, the tip of his long tail just avoiding being struck by the Focus Blast, and dove for Reuniclus, fangs bared. He sunk them deep into its arm, making the Psychic-type cry out in pain.

    “Knock it away, Reuniclus! Dizzy Punch!”

    Reuniclus pulled its other arm back, the fist glowing an odd rainbow color, then struck, socking Croco in the snout and knocking him away. He landed on his feet, but awkwardly. He shook his head, but Jim could feel something was wrong. He was wobbling this way and that, and his eyes looked unfocused. And that’s when it hit him: Solomon had initialized confusion again.

    “Excellent,” said Solomon, complacently. “Now, Reuniclus, Focus Blast!”

    Reuniclus formed and launched another blue sphere, this time hitting true and knocking the dazed Croco for a loop.

    “Croco! You all right?”

    “Anyone get the license number on that bus?” he mumbled as he got back to his feet. He seemed to have regained his senses.

    “Close enough. Use Stone Edge again!”

    Croco summoned another cloud of jagged stones and hurled them at Reuniclus.

    “Psychic, once again!”

    Reuniclus glowed blue once more, and the Stone Edge stones stopped and made for Croco again. Jim, however, said,

    “Bat them back with your new Iron Tail!”

    Solomon’s eyes widened briefly at this revelation. Sure enough, Croco swung his tail back, with it now glowing with a silver, metallic sheen, then swiped it forward, striking the oncoming stones right back at Reuniclus, as if it were a game of tennis. The stones struck against it, making it flinch and yelp.

    “Clever,” said Solomon. “I had made preparations for Reuniclus fighting Dark types with Focus Blast, but I will admit I was not expecting a redirect of projectile force after a prior redirect. You’ve made this battle extremely entertaining.”

    “Heh, thanks,” said Jim.

    “But we are not through yet,” Solomon went on. “Reuniclus, Focus Blast!”

    Reuniclus cupped its hands again.

    “Croco, jump and use Crunch!” Jim shouted, preemptively.

    Croco lunged, fangs bared. A thin smile played about Solomon’s lips.

    “Switch to Flash Cannon, into the air!”

    Now it was Jim’s turn to feel surprised at this change of events. The ball in Reuniclus’ palms was not blue, but silver-white, and it launched a beam of the same substance straight up at Croco, blasting him directly and knocking him out of the air.

    “Tricky,” Jim muttered, as Croco got back to his feet. “I guess that was a little cocky of me.”

    “Now go in for another Dizzy Punch!” said Solomon.

    Reuniclus floated straight for Croco, swinging one arm in a windmill fashion, glowing its odd rainbow color.

    (If that hits Croco, he’ll just get confused again! I have to interrupt it!)

    “Earthquake!” Jim shouted.

    Croco, snapping to attention, raised his tail and slapped it hard against the ground, which began to shake violently. It might not have struck Reuniclus, floating in the air, if a jagged piece of earth didn’t spring up and hit it from underneath, throwing it into the air. The glow faded from its fist.

    “Reuniclus, Focus Blast!” Solomon yelled, undeterred.

    Reuniclus turned itself around, brewing another Focus Blast in its palms.

    “Croco, knock it back with Iron Tail!” Jim said,

    The Blast fired, and Croco, tail metallic once again, swung at it and sent it straight back, making it explode against its face. It began to drop toward the ground, and for the first time, Solomon had a grimace on his face, as if he had not anticipated this.

    “Now let’s finish this, Croco!” said Jim. “Crunch!”

    Croco lunged straight into the air, latched onto Reuniclus’ arm with his fangs, swung him around and launched him straight downward from the recoil of letting it go. Reuniclus plummeted straight down and fell flat against the ground with a crash, while the Desert Croc Pokemon landed on his feet. Reuniclus lay where it had been struck down, out cold.

    It was over.

    “Reuniclus is unable to battle!” said the referee. “Krokorok wins, which means the winner is Jim Stevens!”

    The crowd, momentarily stunned, erupted into wild cheers. Leanne and Bianca were bouncing up and down, waving wildly and screaming at the top of their lungs, while Mrs. Stevens, Professor Juniper, and Cruise looked like they were clapping hard enough to blister their hands. Cheren, Nigel, and the Guy’s satisfied smiles were all the praises needed from them. Jim felt his elation explode within him. He had done it. He had made it past the 6 on 6 against Solomon, thanks to the timely arrival of Croco.

    The aforementioned Pokemon chose that time to step forward, grinning broadly despite a few bruises. Trainer and Pokemon shared a high-five.

    “Good to have you back, Croco,” Jim said. “You really came through for us.”

    “Course I did, Jimmy,” said Croco. “I wasn’t gonna let what I learned go to waste on ya.”

    Solomon, for his part, recalled Reuniclus, muttering something like ‘Good work’ before turning to Jim.

    “It’s not in my habit to be surprised or dismayed, Jim,” he said, “but you gave me several moments of intensity the likes of which I have never felt before. As I said, if I was to be knocked from the tournament, it would have been an insult if it had been from any Trainer other than you.”

    “Thanks, Solomon,” said Jim, smiling broadly. “I really thought I was going to lose from the way the battle started.”

    “Many Trainers choose to dictate the outcomes by how battles start,” said Solomon. “However, unless you progress, you will never know if your convictions were true or false. In this case, they were false, thankfully.”

    He held out his hand, and Jim shook it gratefully. The two friends turned and made their way back into the stands to watch the rest of that day’s fights.

    ***


    “Dewott is unable to battle! Simisage wins, which means the victor is Nigel Richmond!”

    Jim’s hands were feeling raw from clapping for both Cheren and Nigel. Both had pulled off their full battles spectacularly. Neither of them had shown signs of being in imminent danger, unlike him, and, as usual, Nigel almost seemed bored as he directed his attacks. He was still waiting for that match that would really get his blood pumping. He merely nodded to the compliments and congratulations of his friends as he returned.

    “And with that,” said Burton, “today’s round of the Victory Mountain Conference is complete!”

    “Only four Trainers remain,” said Alder, “and of these four, only two shall compete in the final round, the championship bout! Our final contestants are...”

    The screen lit up with the faces of the four remaining Trainers.

    “Jim Stevens of Nuvema Town, Cheren of Nuvema Town, Nigel Richmond of Castelia City, and Gwendolyn Fairchild of Mistralton City!”

    “Let’s match these Trainers up, and see who will face who in the penultimate battle of the tournament!” said Burton, sounding absolutely energized.

    The faces flipped over, the backs glowed, then flipped over again. Cheren was paired with Gwendolyn Fairchild in the first match of tomorrow, while Jim was paired with Nigel.

    The two looked at each other, and knew, from the looks on their faces, that they had both expected this.

    “Well,” Nigel said, smiling, “it seems my patience is about to be rewarded exponentially...”

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  14. #44
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    Default Re: Jim: Blaze of Glory

    Chapter 44
    A Cryptic Tidbit


    “Eat hearty, everyone,” said Jim. “You all deserve it for what you did today.”

    Jim and Leanne had returned to the former’s room, and he had set out food bowls for Echo, Rok, Spade, Torrent, Croco, and June, filled to the brim. The tired but happy Pokemon chowed down gratefully as the two Trainers sat on the bed and watched. Torch, Missy, and Jolt had joined them as well, for Professor Juniper had informed him that he could keep all of his teammates’ Poke Balls with him; all he had to do was use his Pokedex to indicate which ones he wanted active. Jim found this very convenient, as he couldn’t remember his entire crew being together all at once. Then again, Jolt and Rok made the room slightly crowded, due to their larger sizes.

    Oshawott was settled right next to June, keeping her company as she ate. For some odd reason, she seemed to be eating more forcibly than usual, which was quite unlike her.

    “Slow down, darling,” said Oshawott. “You don’t want to get a stomachache, do you?”

    “No,” she said, “but I just feel very hungry for some reason.”

    “Well, small wonder,” said Oshawott. “You took down a Golurk all by yourself.”

    “With Torrent’s help,” said June.

    “But you made it happen, sis,” said Torrent, who had overheard. “That took ace skills!”

    “And you did use up a lot of energy in continuous Leaf Storm attacks,” said Oshawott. “I’d say that’s well deserving a hearty meal.”

    He playfully patted his mate’s belly. She shot him a look for an instant, but it dissolved into a warm smile.

    “You’re impossible,” she said, tenderly.

    “So, Jim,” said Leanne, “who do you plan to use against Nigel?”

    “A lot of my hard-hitters, for sure. Spade, Jolt, Croco, probably Echo and the Simi Bros.”

    “Sounds like you have a full team right there,” said Leanne, brightly.

    “Yeah. Of course, I don’t know what Nigel might have in reserve, so I can only hope I choose right.”

    “You will,” said Leanne. “You’ve made it all the way to the semifinals, haven’t you? You’re gonna win this!”

    She shook his shoulders playfully, and he found himself smiling.

    “Thanks, Leanne. That means a lot.”

    “Say, can you watch Oshy for me? I’m gonna go take a walk.”

    “Of course.”

    Leanne stood up and headed out of the room as the Pokemon continued their meal.

    ***


    As Leanne strolled down the hallway, she took the opportunity to look about at other Trainers discussing the upcoming matches tomorrow. To her delight, much of the discussion was about Jim, commenting on his victory earlier, the moves he had taught his Pokemon, and so on.

    “Didja see the way his Krokorok tossed that Reuniclus?”

    “Those two made for a really entertaining battle!”

    “That Snivy, man! What a powerhouse!”

    Some were even talking about the old ‘Plasma’s Bane’ title.

    “Man, if only Team Plasma could see him now,” a boy was telling his friend. “They’d need their brown pants.”

    “Ugh, gross,” said his friend. “Where are they these days, anyway?”

    “Hiding somewhere, probably,” said the boy. “They’d have a heck of a time getting past security, though. I heard they’re posting the Elite 4 as guards during the tournament.”

    “The Elite 4 are running security?” Leanne asked, coming up to them.

    “You bet,” the boy said. “You ever see them battle? No one messes with the Elite 4 or Alder. You’re better off making your last will and testament when you get on their bad side.”

    “And you think that’s what’s keeping Team Plasma back?”

    “Can’t see why else. They may talk big, but they’re a bunch of cowards.”

    “Ha!”

    The three jumped. The laugh, shrill and scornful, came from just down the hall. Leanne leaned past the boy to see, and gasped when she recognized the black, burglar-esque garb Team Plasma employed when they attacked by boat.

    Before she could say anything, the Plasma grunt sped away, and she barreled after him in hot pursuit. The two boys merely stared in confusion at what had just happened.

    The grunt made his way out into the pavilion in front of the entrance, and Leanne skid to a halt as he stopped and turned around.

    “What do you want?” she asked. “Trying to spy on Jim, were you?”

    “I need not have bothered,” said the grunt. “Everybody sings the praises of Stevens, so his battles are no secret to us.”

    “Then what are you after? What are you all up to hiding away like this? The Elite 4 really does have you spooked, huh?”

    “Bah!” spat the grunt. “They do not frighten us! We could decimate their forces in an instant, but we choose to bide our time. At any rate, why should I reveal my mission to Stevens’ tagalong?”

    “Tagalong?” Leanne asked, more puzzled than angry.

    “Indeed. What are you but his little sidekick?” sneered the grunt. “All you do is stand in the sidelines, cheering him on, while he does all of the dirty work!”

    Leanne raised an eyebrow.

    “Am I supposed to feel insulted by that?” she asked.

    “...What?” said the grunt, as if he wasn’t expecting this answer.

    “I know Jim does most of the battling, and I’m cool with it. Battling isn’t always my thing. I’m just happy to be able to journey with him, but when I have to fight, I will. It’s nothing I’m ashamed of. I’m totally good with cheering him on.”

    The grunt blinked. He must have thought his taunts would have done more damage than this, and even seemed a little nervous that Leanne wasn’t intimidated. Leanne smiled.

    “Not getting the effect you wanted?” she asked.

    “Er...Pawniard, get her!” screamed the grunt, tossing a Poke Ball and releasing a Pawniard, its metal blades glinting in the sun.

    Leanne sighed. Privately, she had been doing her own training of her Pokemon, for the eventuality that she would have to battle for herself. It seemed time had provided the opportunity at last.

    “If that’s the way you want it, fine,” she said, taking her own Poke Ball. “Larvesta, go!”

    In a burst of light, the little Torch Pokemon appeared.

    “You mock me by using the Pokemon we claimed for ourselves?”

    “If by ‘claim’, you mean ‘stole from his mother’!” snapped Leanne.

    “Spare me your prattle! Pawniard, Slash!”

    Pawniard dashed forward, its claws extending and glowing white.

    “Use Bug Buzz, Larvesta!”

    Larvesta tensed, then unleashed a series of red shockwaves of energy, coupled with the awful sound of a thousand cicadas. Pawniard stopped in its tracks, clapping its claws to where its ears would be.

    “Now use Flame Wheel!”

    Larvesta flipped himself over, becoming cloaked in a whirl of flames, then sped right for Pawniard, slamming into it and throwing it back.

    “Pawniard, get back up! Use Guillotine!”

    Pawniard regained itself, crossing its arms. Its claws extended even more and began glowing with a more sinister dark-silver light. Then it rushed straight at Larvesta once again.

    “Larvesta, String Shot!”

    Larvesta spat a stream of thin white thread from wherever his mouth was on its face. This thread wrapped itself around Pawniard, sticking its arms together and to its torso, causing it to lose balance.

    “And one more Flame Wheel should do it!”

    Larvesta once again shrouded himself in fire and launched himself at Pawniard, knocking it flat onto its back and burning away the String Shot. The grunt was beside himself as he recalled it.

    “I will not stand for this!” he snarled. “I will not be humiliated by Stevens’ overweight cheerleader! Yamask, go!”

    In another burst of Poke Ball light, a Yamask appeared.

    “Larvesta, return,” said Leanne, calling back her companion, then tossing a new Poke Ball. “Go, Zorua!”

    The little Tricky Fox appeared, grinning deviously at Yamask. The grunt was doing his best not to look intimidated.

    “Will-o-Wisp!”

    Yamask drew its arm back, a ball of blue flames brewing on its hand, which was then lobbed at Zorua.

    “Zorua, Dig!” said Leanne.

    Zorua burrowed straight into the ground like a gopher, the flaming orb hitting the ground and dissipating in a burst of sparks. In the next moment, Zorua came bursting out of the ground from behind.

    “Yamask, Shadow Ball!”

    “Faint Attack!”

    Just as Yamask lobbed a black and purple ball of light at Zorua, the latter disappeared into thin air, before reappearing beside Yamask and striking with one of his paws, knocking it back. The grunt grit his teeth.

    “You will not take me down so easily! Yamask, Shadow Ball!”

    “Zorua, Dark Pulse!”

    “D-DARK PULSE?!” spluttered the grunt.

    Yamask launched another Shadow Ball, while Zorua spat a stream of black and purple flames from his mouth, blasting away the opposing attack and going straight for Yamask, overwhelming it and sending it flat onto its back. Zorua gave a small ‘Hmph!’ to it, then turned and grinned up at Leanne.

    “Good job!” she said, reaching down with one hand.

    He leaped up and slapped her palm with his paw in a kind of high-five, while the grunt merely stared in shock.

    “Who...who are you?” he breathed.

    “Just a girl from Accumula,” she answered, shrugging.

    Zorua leaped up her arm and perched onto her shoulder.

    “Honestly, it feels like you guys have been getting worse and worse. I remember when you used to be something of a threat, but this? This was just pathetic.”

    The grunt’s face contorted with fury, but he seemed to come to his senses, and even started to chuckle, puzzling Leanne.

    “You need only patience, chubby one,” he said. “Tell your precious Stevens this: Team Plasma has suffered humiliation in the past, but soon, very soon, we will rise from the ashes like a mighty phoenix. We shall tower over all who opposed us, and when they see us at the height of our majesty and glory, then perhaps they shall deign to listen to us. If not, so much the worse for them...”

    “What are you talking about?...”

    But the grunt said no more. Instead, he tossed something on the ground, creating a cloud of smoke. When it vanished, both he and his Yamask were gone.

    “What was up with that, Zorua?” Leanne asked.

    Zorua tilted his head, showing he understood no better than she did.

    “Guess we’d better tell Jim about this, at any rate. He might be wondering where I’ve gone to.”

    ***


    When Leanne returned to Jim’s room, it was to find quite a humorous scene. Jim had been joined by his mother, the professor, and Bianca, all of whom were coddling his Pokemon. Bianca had taken Missy into her lap and was tickling her belly while Echo rested on her knee. Professor Juniper was stroking both Rok’s and Jolt’s heads, the latter looking very complacent while the former’s tail was swishing around, knocking against the wall, and Mrs. Stevens had June in her lap while she was stroking the top of Torch and Torrent’s heads. Croco was chilling beside Jim, who was not looking amused.

    “I had no idea you two had such soft fur,” Mrs. Stevens said. “One so warm and fluffy, the other so cool and soft.”

    “Ha! You’re soft,” Torch said to Torrent.

    “Yeah? Well, you’re fluffy,” Torrent rebutted.

    “...Touche,” Torch conceded.

    “Mom, honestly,” Jim groaned. “They’re fighters, not pets.”

    “Of course, dear,” said his mother, distractedly, now scratching Spade underneath his horn, which he really seemed to like.

    “Hoo-whee,” he sighed. “That spot’s been itchin’ me for ages.”

    Jim sighed in frustration.

    “They’re never gonna take the next couple fights seriously like this.”

    “Oh, lighten up, Jim,” said Bianca, who was now playing with Echo’s wings. “After all they’ve had to do recently, they deserve a little R&R.”

    “Well said, Bianca,” said the professor. “I know you want to do your best, Jim, but you have to put your Pokemon into consideration as well.”

    “It’s not like I’ve mistreated them,” Jim began, in a protesting tone.

    “Of course not,” said Juniper, “but a little playtime never hurts. A tournament doesn’t need to be all serious business. Relax, unwind, have a little fun.”

    Jim started to argue, but could find nothing to say to that. She was right, after all. He supposed he had been a little overzealous about battling that he didn’t really think of letting his Pokemon unwind.

    “Is June feeling all right, Jim?” his mother asked suddenly.

    “What do you mean?” Jim asked, a spasm of panic going through him at the thought of something wrong with his partner.

    “She seems a little...bigger than usual,” said Mrs. Stevens, pressing a finger against June’s belly, where it sank in, as if she were poking a marshmallow. “She looks like she’s starting to get a little tummy.”

    Jim got up and went to take a look. He hadn’t thought about it before, but June was looking a little larger than he remembered. How could he have not noticed her putting on weight?

    “You ok, girl?” he asked.

    “Of course,” said June, relaxed. “I suppose I just overdid it on dinner. It left a little on me.”

    She patted her belly with both paws.

    “I should be right as rain when you need me.”

    Jim smiled softly and stroked her chin, making the three women smile as well.

    “Jim?” Leanne piped up, coming over.

    “Oh, there you are, Leanne. Welcome to ‘Pokemon Daycare’,” said Jim, sarcastically, earning an eyeroll from Bianca.

    “There’s something you need to know. Something important!”

    “Hmm? What is it?’

    Mrs. Stevens, Bianca, the professor, and all of the Pokemon looked up, having overheard. Leanne, feeling no qualms about it, seeing as how they knew enough about Team Plasma, told them all about her encounter with the grunt.

    When she had concluded, Jim sat in silence, while the other females looked stunned.

    “Rise from the ashes?” asked Juniper.

    “And they’d tower over us all?” asked Bianca.

    “How horrid,” said Mrs. Stevens. “What are they playing at?”

    “It sounds like they’re planning something huge,” said Jim, “something to put them in a position where no one will dare oppose them. If I’d have to hazard a guess, it may have to do with N and his new steed, Zekrom. I can’t imagine anyone trying to challenge someone riding a big thunder-dragon.”

    “Very true,” said Juniper. “But what should we do? Report it to the Elite 4? To Alder?”

    “We don’t even know if this threat holds any real weight,” Jim said. “That grunt could have just been trying to intimidate Leanne. What if we reported this and nothing disastrous really did happen? It would just create a big scare, and they’d have to cancel the tournament. And I’m not saying that it should go completely ignored,” he added, seeing the professor about to say something, “but at the very least, we should confide in Alder, have the Elite 4 step up security without making a big scene about what it’s really for. We don’t need to spread rumors of an impending attack when the source isn’t the most reliable. Just be on our guard, that’s all.”

    “I’m with Jim on this,” said Bianca. “We should tell Alder without spreading it around like a rumor.”

    “I’m with him, too,” said Leanne.

    “I’ll have a word with Alder myself,” said Juniper. “Rest easy, Jim.”

    “Thanks, Professor.”

    Mrs. Stevens smiled and clasped her son’s shoulder.

    “My brave, clever boy,” she said, tenderly.

    Jim smiled and grasped her hand.

    “It may be more idiocy than bravery,” he confessed, “but I’m just going by what my gut is telling me.”

    The group said no more about it, and settled back to their afternoon of relaxation, though Jim’s mind still ran with the possibilities of what Nigel would throw at him tomorrow...

    ***


    That evening, while everyone had gone to bed, Jim lay awake, staring up at the ceiling, his mind buzzing. It was bad enough that he had to worry about what Nigel would throw at him tomorrow, but the words of this Team Plasma grunt Leanne encountered also confounded him. He had sounded sure of himself when he said they would leave the matter to Alder, but in reality, he was still second-guessing. What was he to do?

    He stood up and crossed to his window, leaning on the sill. Outside, he could see a widespread view of the forested mountainside below. There were still storm clouds looming over, even nearly a week after they had first ascended the trail. It was said to have been Tornadus and Thundurus causing it, but what for? Why were they so agitated? Had they sensed danger on the horizon? Were they trying to keep people away? But how could they possibly know? What did Team Plasma mean about rising from the ashes and towering over all?

    “And here I thought you’d kicked this habit.”

    Jim glanced down. Sure enough, June was sitting beside him on the windowsill.

    “What are you doing up?” Jim asked.

    “I felt you get out of bed. I had a feeling you weren’t sleeping right.”

    “No. My mind’s too full. I can’t stop thinking about Nigel or Team Plasma.”

    “But hopefully not for the same reasons.”

    “Of course not. I just can’t get those words out of my head. ‘Rising from the ashes’ and all that. What are they up to? We already saw that they shed those stupid knight outfits.”

    “It is disturbing that they’ve changed their image, but there’s nothing we can do but wait. It may amount to nothing after all.”

    “And if it doesn’t?” Jim asked.

    “...Then we’ll face them as we always did,” said June.

    Jim softly stroked her head. He always appreciated her wise optimism at these times.

    “And about Nigel?” she asked.

    “I’m excited to see what he’s got in store, but I’m also worried he might be too tough for me. I barely got past Solomon today.”

    “And yet you still got past him,” said June. “It’s like Cheren said: you have to learn to stop second-guessing yourself and just go with it. You said yourself that you didn’t care if you won or lost, that you just wanted to see how far you’d gotten, and now look at you: in the Top 4 guaranteed. You have a lot to be proud of.”

    “I know, but I also don’t want to put together some slipshod battle. This is the semi-finals. Everyone deserves a big, climactic battle.”

    “Says who?” asked June, raising an eyebrow.

    “Er...”

    “Jim,” she said, softly, “this isn’t about them. This is your battle. Do it your way, not their way. If it does happen to become some super-charged excitement fest, all the better. The point is, you can’t always try to run your destiny by everyone’s else’s expectations, or need I remind you of the Plasma’s Bane hype?”

    “Brr, no,” Jim said, shuddering.

    “There you go. Now, why don’t you go back to sleep? You have a big day tomorrow.”

    “...Yeah, you’re right. Thanks, girl. I’m always glad we have these talks.”

    “Happy to help, Jim.”

    Jim picked her up and carried her back to bed with him, laying her atop his covers as soon as he had settled in.

    “You sure you’re ok? You never used to eat as much as you did today, so I just want to be sure.”

    “Positive. I was just famished after that whole ordeal.”

    “All right. Actually, a little belly’s kind of cute on you, partner.”

    He ran a tickling finger along her tummy, causing her to giggle.

    “I thought you said we were fighters, not pets,” she said, teasingly.

    “Don’t use my words against me,” said Jim.

    June smiled and licked his cheek.

    “Good night, Jim.”

    “Good night, June.”

    And the two partners drifted off to sleep, Jim’s remaining dreams for that evening calm and undisturbed.

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  15. #45
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    Default Re: Jim: Blaze of Glory

    Chapter 45
    Jim vs. Nigel: Part 1


    The next day was nothing short of a gala event. Fireworks were going off and the tumult in the crowds was deafening. The tournament was so near its conclusion that the excitement was mounting to a fever pitch. If it was this intense for the semifinals, there was no telling what would be in store for the finals...

    The first match of the day was Cheren vs. Gwendolyn Fairchild, an innocent, quiet girl who just seemed happy to have come this far. Cheren was very courteous towards her, calling her ‘Miss Fairchild’ and wishing her the best of luck. She seemed to take this exceedingly well, and Jim even fancied that she had the look of one who was smitten...

    The match began. It was Cheren’s Darmanitan vs. Gwendolyn’s Cinccino. Cinccino packed quite an astonishing variety of attacks for a little rodent Pokemon: Hyper Voice, Aqua Tail, Rock Blast, and Swift. Aqua Tail and Rock Blast especially seemed to keep Darmanitan at bay, but it muscled through the assault and felled poor Cinccino with a combination of Fire Punch and Superpower.

    Gwendolyn next turned to Swanna, who, despite Darmanitan’s attempts at bringing it earthward with Smack Down, sent it packing with Bubblebeam and Hurricane. Cheren was not at all deterred by the loss of his first Pokemon, and composedly switched to Gigalith, who tanked Swanna’s Bubblebeam and took it down with repeated Stone Edge attacks.

    Gwendolyen next sent out Maractus, which very nearly took out Gigalith with Seed Bomb and Drain Punch (both moves Gwendolyn must have seen a tutor for), but just missed its chance as it was taken out by Flash Cannon. The mighty Rock type was finally taken down by Gwendolyn’s Vanilluxe, but the latter was doomed to a harrowing and ultimately fruitless battle against Cheren’s Stoutland.

    She next tried Musharna, which endured Stoutland’s attacks, but just narrowly managed to bring it down with Psychic and Signal Beam. From there, it was an all-too-easy target for Cheren’s Lampent, a Pokemon Jim had had yet to see from his friend, which employed Will-o-Wisp and Shadow Ball to bring down the formidable Psychic type.

    Gwendolyn seemed to know she was in no position to win, especially since her last Pokemon was a Galvantula. Still, she held out for as long as she could, and very nearly succeeded in bringing Lampent down, even managing to invoke paralysis on it, but a particularly powerful Flamethrower ended the battle, 3 to 0.

    Of course, the crowd went absolutely bonkers over Cheren’s victory, but Jim was more interested in how the fight had played out. Gwendolyn had actually been able to bring down half of Cheren’s team, something none of his other opponents had come close to accomplishing. She really had deserved her place in the semifinals, and it seemed Cheren expressed these very sentiments to her, as he shook her hand while speaking to her, and she turned a very bright shade of red, though she was smiling, as she took her leave of the battlefield.

    “Always the gentleman, eh, Cheren?” Jim asked as his friend rejoined them.

    “And why not?” Cheren asked. “She was an innocent girl, and her battling prowess much surprised me.”

    “So, when’s the honeymoon?” Cruise asked, chuckling.

    “How mature,” Cheren mused, dryly.

    “Ladies and gents, your attention, please!” said Burton, his voice booming over the noise of the crowd. “I know how energized you all are from that spectacular performance, as the two of us certainly are, but the time has come to move to our last semifinal bout! Who shall face Cheren in the final round to try and claim the title of Champion? Let’s find out as Jim Stevens and Nigel Richmond duke it out! Gentlemen, take your places, please!”

    “Good luck, Jim,” said June, as she was placed in Bianca’s lap. As Leanne was sitting right next to her, Oshawott snuggled up to his love.

    “Thanks,” said Jim.

    He and Nigel descended the stands together and took their places on opposite sides of the field.

    “At last,” said Nigel, “someone whom I know will give me a battle worth putting my effort into. It was a strenuous experience, Stevens, but one that has paid off in the end.”

    “I feel the same way, Nigel,” said Jim. “It’s been a long haul, but here we are, about to see which of us is worthy to make it to the final battle.”

    “This is where we decide it once and for all,” said Nigel, drawing his first Poke Ball. “Have at you!”

    Jim drew his first as well, not taking his eyes from Nigel’s.

    “Sawk, come forth!”

    Nigel tossed his ball with vigor, and a Sawk appeared on the battlefield, sitting cross-legged in a meditative pose, eyes closed. It snapped to attention, however, and got to its feet, ready to fight.

    “Starting with a Fighting type, eh?” Jim asked. “Fine with me. Echo, this one’s all you!”

    He threw his ball, and the trusty Swoobat appeared in the air.

    “Predictable, yet not unlike you, Stevens,” said Nigel. “We shall see where this goes.”

    “Begin!” shouted the referee.

    “Echo, use Air Slash!”

    Echo flapped his wings mightily, sending a rush of wind-formed saw blades at Sawk.

    “Block them off with Close Combat!” Nigel commanded.

    Sawk’s focus seemed to tighten as, all of a sudden, it lunged out with a flurry of punches and kicks, striking the Air Slash blades before they made contact and making them vanish into thin air. Jim and Echo’s jaws dropped as Sawk finally let off its assault, looking slightly fatigued.

    “Oh, you’re good,” Jim said. “Echo, we’ve gotta step up our game. Shadow Ball!”

    Echo brought one wing back, a black and purple ball of dark energy forming in front of his face. With a sweep of said wing, he smacked the ball like a missile towards Sawk.

    “Dodge it, Sawk, and use ThunderPunch!”

    Sawk crouched and sprang into the air with the swiftness of a grasshopper, leaving the Shadow Ball far below. Then, it pulled one arm back, its fist glowing with electricity, as it came down toward Echo.

    *WHAM!*

    Sawk, well, socked Echo right in the face with the electrical punch, sending him reeling. Sparks flew off his body from the assault as Sawk regained its place on the field, composed but alert.

    “What’s the matter, Stevens? Can’t keep up?” Nigel asked. “Not a very good way to start.”

    (Just you wait, Nigel. You’ll see I’ve got more up my sleeves.)

    “Echo, Air Slash, once again!”

    Echo sent another barrage of wind saws at Sawk.

    “This again? Sawk, Close Combat!”

    Sawk struck out wildly once again, punching and kicking at every air-saw that came its way. When it finished, it got back into its old stance, thought it was panting slightly.

    (Hold the phone...Sawk keeps getting tired from having to do all those Close Combat attacks. I can’t count on Nigel to overlook that, though. I think it’s time for another tactic.)

    “Echo, use Shadow Ball again!”

    Echo formed and launched another shadowy projectile at Sawk.

    “You’re just dooming yourself to repeat history,” said Nigel. “Sawk, dodge and use Dual Chop!”

    Sawk leaped into the air again, this time raising both hands in a chopping fashion, glowing bright blue. This time, however, Jim was ready.

    “Echo, use Thunder Wave!”

    Both Nigel and Sawk’s eyes widened in surprise as Echo unleashed a bolt of blue lightning from his body, striking Sawk in midair, though this did not stop it from landing a double-chop strike to Echo, who reeled backwards from the impact. It fell heavily to the ground, sparking with electricity.

    “You seem very fond of paralysis this tournament, Stevens,” Nigel said, masking his irritation.

    “Hey, it’s worked so far, hasn’t it?” asked Jim, shrugging. “Now, where was I? Oh yeah. Echo, Air Slash!”

    Echo sent yet another wave of air-saws at Sawk.

    “Close Combat!” yelled Nigel.

    Sawk tried to fight back, but its paralysis ultimately kept it at bay. It was therefore struck again and again by the vicious air-blades. It stumbled backwards, looking very run-down.

    “All those Close Combats didn’t help, Nigel,” said Jim. “Now Sawk’s in the perfect position for a proper sendoff.”

    Nigel gritted his teeth in frustration.

    “Echo, Psychic!”

    Echo raised his wings, his entire body surrounded in a blue aura. Sawk, surrounded in the same aura, was lifted straight off the ground, held in the air for an instant, then tossed straight across the field, slamming into the opposite wall. It slumped against the ground and did not get back up.

    “Sawk is unable to battle!” said the referee. “Swoobat wins!”

    (We’re off to a good start here. First round goes to me. Can’t get too cocky, though...)

    Nigel recalled Sawk.

    “First blood goes to you, Stevens,” he said, “but that was just one Pokemon. You still have 5 more to deal with.”

    “I know how to count, Nigel,” Jim retorted.

    “Then you may count on this being your Swoobat’s last stand. Jellicent, come forth!”

    Ignoring the bad pun, Jim watched with slight trepidation as the ominous Floating Pokemon appeared. Ever since Leanne fought it as a Frillish, it had shown itself to be a devious fighter, employing ample use of its Cursed Body Ability.

    “Let’s just try to chip away at it, Echo,” he encouraged his Swoobat. “If it comes to the worst, Jolt will handle it no problem.”

    Echo nodded, though he was still looking rather battered from his bout with Sawk.

    “Begin!” said the referee.

    “Echo, use Thunder Wave!” said Jim.

    Echo unleashed another bolt of blue lightning.

    “Not this time,” said Nigel. “Jellicent, dodge and use Hydro Pump!”

    Jellicent floated swiftly to one side, the bolt blasting past. Then, a raging torrent of water spat like a fountain from within its mustache right at Echo. Echo, however, had the sense to roll out of the way himself.

    “So, that’s how we’re gonna play, is it?” Jim asked. “Echo, use Air Slash!”

    Echo flapped his wings rapidly, sending yet another onslaught of air-made buzzsaws at Jellicent. These struck against it, but seemed to glance off its rotund body. At the same time, an ominous purple aura surrounded it, which then surrounded Echo, who looked stricken. It was just as Jim feared: Air Slash had just been locked by Cursed Body.

    “Tut, tut,” teased Nigel. “You don’t learn from history, do you, Stevens? You’re only dooming yourself to repeat it. Jellicent, Confuse Ray!”

    Jellicent waved its hand-like tentacles, and several swirling orbs of yellow light surrounded its body. These shot forward and struck Echo, whose eyes went out of focus, and his wing beats became erratic, making him weave drunkenly.

    “Aw, nuts,” Jim muttered.

    “Let’s set him in the right direction, shall we?” Nigel asked, with a bantering smirk on his face. “Ominous Wind!”

    Jellicent began whirling around and around like a top, and waves of purplish wind flew from its body, beaded with white lights. Echo was swept this way and that by the gale, which Jim noted had an ‘unpleasant’ smell to it, though he couldn’t tell whether it was outright bad or merely foreboding.

    “Echo, use Shadow Ball!” Jim shouted.

    Another Shadow Ball formed, but Echo was moving so haphazardly that, when he launched it, it flew straight up into the air and vanished in a cloud of smoke and sparks. Jim slapped his brow with his hand in frustration.

    “Jellicent, end this pathetic scene. Hydro Pump!”

    Jellicent sent another blast of water at Echo, shooting him with bullseye precision right out of the air and onto the ground, where he lay, unconscious.

    “Swoobat is unable to battle! Jellicent wins!”

    “You did a good job, pal,” said Jim, recalling Echo. “That’s what counts.”

    “Well, Stevens, we’re one for one,” said Nigel. “Think you can keep this up?”

    “Nigel, I know I can,” said Jim, drawing his next Poke Ball. “Jolt, let’s do this!”

    In a blaze of light, the Zebstrika appeared, pawing the ground slightly as he stared down Jellicent.

    “Ah. How quaint,” said Nigel. “I expected nothing less, although I would have anticipated you going for your Snivy, otherwise. Come to think of it, where is she? She’s normally perched upon your shoulder.”

    “She wasn’t feeling well. We both decided it was best she sit this one out.”

    “Ah. Pity, really. She seemed the strongest of the bunch.”

    “Glad you think so, but no one in my gang slouches. Show him, Jolt! Kick this off with Wild Charge!”

    Jolt reared and let off a fierce neigh, becoming enshrouded by an electrical aura as he did so. In a blaze, he dashed straight for Jellicent, ramming right into it. Among the sparks that flew from the collision, there was one thing missing: the smoky purple aura that usually went with Cursed Body.

    “Finally!” Jim said, triumphantly, as Jolt returned to his side of the field. “I knew that Ability couldn’t last forever. Not only that, but we got some major damage in.”

    “I applaud your bull-headed stroke of fortune,” said Nigel, sardonically. “Even so, Jellicent still has some fight left in it! Jellicent, Sludge Wave!”

    A goopy, sludge-like mass of purple slime formed around Jellicent, enshrouding it, before blasting right at Jolt.

    “Dodge it!” Jim commanded.

    The speedy Zebstrika dashed to one side, avoiding the attack, or so he thought, for the backlash caused by the wave hitting the ground caused some of it to splash against Jolt, causing him to flinch in pain.

    “You’re very lucky,” said Nigel. “Sludge Wave has only a 10% chance of poisoning. Do you still think your mighty steed can hold out? One false move, and you might lose another attack to Cursed Body, just like your unfortunate Swoobat.”

    “True,” Jim said, “but we’re not afraid to chance it. Jolt, use Thunderbolt!”

    Jolt’s mane blazed a blinding yellow, and a bolt of lightning shot from his body straight at Jellicent.

    “Sludge Wave, once again!” Nigel shouted.

    Once more, Jellicent became enshrouded by a glob of purple slime, just as the Thunderbolt struck. The blast seemed to absorb right into it, leaving Jellicent unscathed, while it fired another blast of poisonous slime from itself. This time, Jolt was completely overwhelmed by the attack, and even Jim had to step away lest some of it get on his shoes. Still, Jolt didn’t look like he’d been poisoned yet, which was a good sign.

    “And now, Jellicent, Hydro Pump!”

    Jellicent reared back, ready to let loose another blast of high-pressure water.

    “Jolt, charge right through with Wild Charge!”

    Jolt reared again, let off another fierce neigh, then shot forward, surrounded by an aura of blindingly bright lightning. Jellicent launched its Hydro Pump, but Jolt charged right through it. If the electricity conducted through the attack didn’t catch Jellicent off guard, then being struck full force by Jolt did. This ‘double whammy’ sent it flying, where it crashed into the opposite wall. However, even as it went down, sparking from the impact, that familiar smoky purple aura surrounded its body, then Jolt’s. Wild Charge had been cancelled out with Jellicent’s last ounce of willpower.

    “Jellicent is unable to battle! Zebstrika wins!”

    Wordlessly, Nigel recalled Jellicent, while Jolt walked back to his side of the field, looking battered.

    “You all right, pal?” Jim asked.

    “Yeah. Don’t worry about it. I can last a little longer.”

    His calmness and sincerity brought a smile to Jim’s face.

    “Good to know.”

    “That Zebstrika is quite the powerhouse,” said Nigel, “but I still have a few bruisers ready to have their own go, such as my next choice. Escavalier, come forth!”

    Nigel’s Poke Ball burst open, and a new Pokemon appeared on the field. This one slightly resembled a snail, at least in its curled lower body, but it was otherwise encased in a medieval sort of armor: gleaming and silver, with a brush-like adornment atop its helmet and a pair of striped jousting lances for arms. Its body was blue with a yellow underbelly, its glaring eyes yellow with orange pupils. Jim brought out his Pokedex again.

    “Escavalier, the Cavalry Pokemon, and the evolved form of Karrablast. It protects itself with armor taken from Shelmet, and attacks with its dual lances. Even when in trouble, it faces its opponents bravely.”

    “I’m beginning to see a trend with these ‘dex entries,” Jim muttered. “‘Always fights to the last breath’, ‘never gives in’...Ah well, who am I to nitpick? Jolt, use Thunderbolt!”

    Jolt sent another fierce blast of lightning from his body straight for Escavalier.

    “Escavalier, Protect!” said Nigel.

    Escavalier held its lances forward. A greenish ball of light appeared at the tips of both, and then expanded into a bubble-like shield around the Pokemon, deflecting the blast.

    (Just as I expected. Well, now that we know it has Protect, and it’s already used it once, let’s see if it can pull it off again twice in a row.)

    “Jolt, use Overheat!”

    Jolt reared up, a surging flame forming inside his mouth as he did so. When he stomped back down, the flame blasted forward in a wild, raging stream. Nigel looked taken aback for an instant, but then yelled,

    “Protect!”

    To Jim’s astonishment and disappointment, Escavalier pulled off another perfect Protect, negating the fierce flames.

    “Darn it,” he muttered. “Two Protects in a row. I hate when that happens.”

    “Everyone does,” said Nigel, smugly. “Now that Zebstrika is nice and drained, Escavalier, use X-Scissor!”

    Escavalier charged forward, crossing its lances in front of its body. These began to glow with a purple fire. Before Jim could call out another attack, it sweeped its lances in an X formation, hitting Jolt across the chest with a fiery purple X. The Zebstrika was really starting to look run down.

    “Hang in there, Jolt,” Jim consoled. “Use Thunderbolt!”

    Jolt let loose another blast of electricity at Escavalier.

    “Dodge, Escavalier, and end this with Iron Head!”

    Escavalier flew toward Jolt once again, flying to one side to avoid the attack. As it drew near, its helmet began to glow and shine with a silver, metallic sheen. With the force of a battering ram, it slammed right into Jolt, and the mighty Zebstrika slid backward, crumpling in a heap on the ground.

    “Zebstrika is unable to battle! Escavalier wins!”

    “You did a great job, Jolt,” Jim said, as he recalled the Zebstrika. “Get a good, long rest.”

    (I hate to play the obvious type advantage card, but what other option do I have right now?)

    “Torch, avenge your fallen comrade!”

    He tossed his next Poke Ball, and the Simisear appeared, fists cocked and ready for battle.

    “As I expected,” Nigel said, unperturbed. “Of course, it’s just common sense.”

    “Glad you see it that way,” said Jim. “Torch, Flamethrower!”

    Torch spewed a fierce stream of flames straight at Escavalier.

    “Protect!” said Nigel.

    Once again, the Cavalry Pokemon summoned a bubble shield that negated the attack. Jim clenched his fists in frustration.

    (Dang it! How is he getting such good odds with Protect?! If this were a game, I would so call hax!)

    “Since your Simisear’s a Fire type,” said Nigel, “all we can do is chip away at him. Fine by me, as Protect seems to be holding out just fine.”

    Jim growled.

    “Escavalier, Iron Head!”

    Escavalier shot for Torch, helmet gleaming once again. Torch instinctively guarded by crossing his arms, but the impact still sent him skidding across the dirt.

    “Try another Flamethrower, Torch!” Jim commanded.

    Torch unshielded himself and spat another stream of flames. This time, the attack struck, and Escavalier grimaced in pain from the assault. Nigel, however, did not waver.

    “Escavalier, X-Scissor!”

    Escavalier charged forth once again, lances crossed and glowing purple.

    “Torch, use Dig!” Jim commanded.

    Torch jumped up and, with the speed of a gopher, burrowed underground, narrowly avoiding having his tail struck by Escavalier’s lances. A few moments later, Torch came bursting out, fist first, right underneath Escavalier, sending it flying.

    “Seems you’re getting your second wind, Stevens,” said Nigel. “I like that! Keep the game a-going!”

    “Glad to see you’re enjoying yourself, Nigel.”

    “Enjoying myself? This is the first real match I’ve had during this tournament! I’ve never felt so alive!

    “Then I’ll do my best not to disappoint you,” said Jim. “Torch, Acrobatics!”

    Torch sprang forward toward Escavalier, jumping as he did so, so that he was performing a series of flips and somersaults.

    “Counter with Iron Head!”

    Once again, Escavalier lunged forward, helmet gleaming, and the two struck each other in the middle, head-on, literally. They sprang apart from each other back to their respective sides of the field.

    “Torch, let’s give this knight an honorable discharge,” said Jim. “Flamethrower, full strength!”

    Torch took in a deep breath, embers glistening in his mouth. Nigel, however, was smiling, despite the peril he was in.

    “Escavalier, the time has come. If you do go down, take him with you! Power through that Flamethrower and use Reversal!”

    Jim was taken aback by this. Nigel was forcing his Pokemon, a Bug and Steel type, to charge into a Fire type attack?! Was he insane?!

    Torch let loose an enormous Flamethrower, while Escavalier charged forward, one lance pulled back and glowing with a spiraling white light. The flames washed over it, but the Cavalry Pokemon did not waver for an instant. Though it was obvious the flames were paining it, it was still charging through them, and, to Jim’s bewilderment and horror, the light surrounding its lance was intensifying, as if Torch’s flames, or the damage being inflicted by them, was strengthening the attack!

    “Torch! Pull back! It’s a trap!” Jim yelled.

    But he was too late.

    Escavalier struck at Torch with its lance, and the energy surrounding it exploded, throwing both Pokemon apart. The flames dissipated, and Torch and Escavalier were thrown onto their stomach and back, respectively.

    Jim stared in stupefaction as both Pokemon attempted to rise. Escavalier, looking Torch straight in the eye, crossed its lance across its heart, as if it were giving the Ember Pokemon a kind of honorary salute. Whether he understood or not, Torch collapsed onto his face, and Escavalier, without any alteration to its attitude, slumped onto its back soon afterward.

    “Both Simisear and Escavalier are unable to battle! This match-up is a draw!”

    Y Rotation Team

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