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    Default Re: Jim: The Hero's Journey

    CHAPTER 29
    Return of a Rival



    The Nimbasa Musical Theater was a large, purple, neon-decorated building at the north of the city. It boldly advertised itself in bright, glowing letters on its roof, even during the daytime. A large billboard beside its entrance showed a Patrat in a top hat and bow tie and a Deerling wearing a flower behind its ear, standing on a stage and appearing to be in the process of signing a duet. Musicals could premiere at any time, providing they had a full cast. There were several shows a day, due to most of them being short, and they never ceased to wow their audiences.

    After a hearty lunch, Jim, Leanne, Bianca, and their Pokemon directed their steps toward the theater, joining in the crowd flocking to it already.

    "Must be a show starting soon," Jim commented.

    "Yeah! I think it's a performance of some love song or something."

    "Really? Just one performance?" asked Leanne.

    "Pokemon Musicals are pretty short, but the main thing about them is seeing the Pokemon themselves perform!" said Bianca.

    "I'll tell you one thing," said Jim, "you'll never catch me on stage."

    "Aww, but I bet you'd look great in a stage show!" teased Leanne, making Bianca giggle.

    "Girls…" Jim muttered, but in a good-humored way.

    They had reached the entrance to the theater. Inside was an ornate, carpeted lobby decorated with portraits and vases of flowers. At one side, a staircase led up to a landing, where a set of double doors stood. People were streaming up this staircase and through these doors, presumably getting seats for the theater. On another side, men and women were with various Pokemon in curtained stalls, dressing them up in various costumes and accessories, in front of a camera. It seemed this was where amateur photo shoots could be taken for dressing up Pokemon. A Drilbur, for example, was being fitted with a hard hat, a pickaxe held in his broad paw. In another stall, an Audino was wearing a apron, and was in the process of having a bonnet tied up under its chin.

    "Aww! They look adorable!" gushed Bianca.

    "So, the theater doubles as a fashion show," Jim commented. "Pretty efficient."

    "Oh! Jim! You ought to let Missy do some dressing up!" said Leanne, excitedly. "She'd love that!"

    "That might not be a bad idea," said Jim. "I’ve never been a fan of that kind of frou-frou frilly stuff, but she might like it. We'll try it after the show. If we waste any more time, we won't get a good seat."

    "Oh! That's right!" Bianca gasped. "Come on!"

    With her in the lead, they rushed up the stairs and through the doors. The theater was plenty packed already, but they were able to shift their way to three seats in the middle of the seating gallery. The show hadn't started yet, luckily, as the curtain was still down. They sat down and scooped their Pokemon up into their laps. The telltale sound of a Poke Ball opening told Jim that Missy was letting herself out again, and indeed, her felt her familiar soft, heavy body on his shoulder. He glanced at her, and upon being noticed, she smiled and nuzzled his cheek. June looked up at them, but said nothing. Her expression was indefinable. Upon looking over at Bianca, Jim saw Dewott being held in her arms, leaning against her chest. But what really surprised him was how complacent he looked. Before now, Dewott had always born the same stern expression on his face. Now, he looked completely at his ease, as if he felt there was no need for his stoicism.

    At last, the audience hushed. The lights dimmed, and the orchestra was preparing itself. The show was about to start. The curtain rose, and there, in the center of the stage was a Leavanny, dressed in a blouse and ankle-length skirt. The audience "ooh"-ed at her appearance. She had her cutters clasped in front of her heart, and her head was bowed. The spotlight fell on her, and the orchestra began playing a soft, sweet piece in C major. Then, the Leavanny herself began singing, in the most serene, dulcet voice Jim had ever heard.

    "Dreams to dream
    In the dark of the night
    When the world goes wrong
    I can still make it right
    I can see
    So far in my dreams
    I'll follow my dreams
    Until they come true…
    "

    As she sang, everyone seemed in awe. Since Jim could hear Pokemon speaking human language anyway, he guessed that, backstage, the Leavanny's trainer was singing the words she was mouthing, to give the effect that she truly was singing. It made no difference; the effect was spellbinding…

    "Come with me
    You will see what I mean
    There's a world inside
    No one else ever sees
    You will go
    So far in my dreams
    Somewhere in my dreams
    Your dreams will come true…
    "

    He heard a sigh at his shoulder. Looking over, he saw Missy, and she was wearing the most enraptured expression on her face, a look that spoke of admiration, of longing, of desire. He could feel her little paws digging into his shoulder, as if she was restraining herself from leaping on stage to join the Leavanny in her song.

    "There is a star
    Waiting to guide us
    Shining inside us
    When we close our eyes
    "

    At the word ‘eyes’, the Leavanny ‘belted’, so to speak, as the music shifted to a G key. Jim felt a tingle down his spine, and he could even feel June stir in his lap. Yes, even the cool-headed Snivy was not unaffected by such a voice…

    "Don't let go
    If you stay close to me
    In my dreams tonight
    You will see what I see
    Dreams to dream
    As near as can be
    Inside you and me
    They always come true…
    "

    With the last few notes, the song was over, but even before the music had faded away, everyone had gotten to their feet, and every single spectator was applauding wildly, cheering. Both June and Missy had gotten onto Jim's shoulders, and were clapping just as ecstatically as he was. A good majority of the crowd was in tears, Leanne and Bianca included. The Leavanny bowed grandly, and the curtain closed around her.

    ***


    Back in the lobby, everyone was speaking excitedly about the performance.

    "That was unbelievable!" Bianca gushed. "I know it was only one song, but that was so incredible!"

    "The singer had such a beautiful voice, too!" said Leanne.

    "It made me feel like my heart was going to spring out of my ribs," said Jim. "There's no words to describe it…"

    They had stopped in front of the dressing booths, and Bianca immediately seemed to remember something.

    "Oh! Jim! Leanne! Now we can dress Missy up like we said!"

    "Oh, right!" said Jim, and he turned to the pudgy Emolga. "What do you think, Missy?"

    "Yeah! Yeah! Let's do it!" she chirped, leaping off of Jim's shoulder and heading into the booth.

    "Would any of you like to assist her?" Jim asked, somewhat embarrassedly. "I'm not exactly a…fashion expert."

    "It's all right, Jim, we understand," said Bianca, cheerily. "You just leave everything to me!"

    She hurried into the booth with Missy and drew the curtains back. From behind it, they heard her say,

    "Ooh! Look at the size of this wardrobe! They've got everything in here!"

    Jim and Leanne exchanged amused glanced, and then the former looked down at June. Her arms were crossed, and she seemed stern about something. Jim looked from her to the dressing booth, and then seemed to comprehend, as he rolled his eyes.

    "Honestly, June, you're still on that?"

    "I didn't say anything."

    "You've got that look on your face. Look, she's proven that she's just as capable a battler as she is just being a companion. Are you saying that you wouldn't be a "proper" Pokemon if you started acting a little more free-spirited?"

    "Of course not. There's a difference between being free-spirited and just being lazy. Mark my words, Jim: sooner or later, all of this pampering is going to go to her head, so much so that she won't even want to battle."

    "Come on, June, don't be cynical. It's Nimbasa. Let's just unwind. We've earned it."

    At that moment, the curtains drew back, and Bianca, beaming, stepped away to reveal Missy, garbed in a flowing amethyst-purple gown that just came down to her feet. Looking at her, one could hardly tell she was chubbier than most Emolga. An orange flower decorated her left ear.

    "Wow! Missy, you look amazing!" said Jim, approvingly.

    Several spectators saw what was happening and crowded around.

    "Aww! Your Emolga's so cute!" said a young girl.

    "Look at that ribbon!"

    "And that little flower!"

    June folded her arms. It seemed she was expecting her theory to come true, after all.

    "Leanne, think you can snap her picture?"

    "I'd be happy to!"

    Leanne jumped over to the camera set up in front of the booth.

    "Give me a good pose, Missy! Something that says 'lovely, yet sassy'!"

    That seemed no problem for Missy: she put both paws on her hips and winked. Leanne took the picture without delay, and the camera printed the photo right out.

    "Great!"

    Leanne grabbed the waiting photo and handed it to Jim.

    "Now that's what I call 'lovely and sassy'," he said.

    Everyone else crowded around to take a look.

    "June, why don't you join her?"

    "Thanks, but I'll pass," she said, stiffly.

    "Well, isn’t this just adorable?" came a familiar, drawling voice.

    Jim stiffened. He turned around, and the crowd of admirers parted to reveal none other than Nigel Richmond, the rude boy from Castelia City, along with his smug Simisage. June's eyes narrowed.

    "Nigel? What are you doing here?" Jim asked, both intrigued and suspicious. "I thought you were back in Castelia City."

    "I was, because I was visiting as I was making my way through."

    "What does that…Wait. You mean-?"

    "Well! It seems you're not as dim as I thought," sneered Nigel. "That's right. I'm taking part in the Unova League challenge. I suppose you are too."

    "Of course! I've already got three badges."

    Nigel shook his head, tsk tsk-ing to himself.

    "You're not bad with progress, Stevens, but so far, it appears I'm destined to stay one step ahead of you."

    He snapped his fingers, and Simisage stepped forward, holding a small, oblong box in its paws. It opened the lid, and showed Jim four shining badges: the Trio, Basic, and Insect Badges, but also one shaped like a lightning bolt. Jim gaped.

    "You've already faced the Nimbasa Gym Leader? Who is it? What Pokemon do they use?"

    At this display of excitement, Nigel laughed haughtily, as did Simisage.

    "Really now, Stevens. Do you honestly expect me to divulge an advantage to my opponents? And here I thought you had some sense in you."

    "Just because you want to make yourself my rival doesn't mean you have to be unpleasant about it," Jim muttered, fists clenching.

    Leanne and Bianca looked at each other, apprehensively. Missy had taken off her outfit and was standing beside Jim and June, glaring at the snobby boy and his Simisage.

    "It's all in the spirit of competition," said Nigel. "But I will tell you this; if you want any hope of facing the Nimbasa Gym, then perhaps the Nimbasa Battle Tournament will help hone whatever skills you possess."

    "Nimbasa Battle Tournament?"

    "Indeed. It's being held in the Big Stadium, in lieu of the usual sports game, over the course of a few days. Sign up begins in an hour or so, and the tournament will commence with the first rounds shortly afterward."

    "I thought you said you didn't want to help the opposition," Jim said, suspiciously.

    "My dear Stevens, I'm merely passing along information for all to hear. It's what you do with it that's your own business. I might just attend myself."

    "Then that'll be the perfect chance for us to settle this!" said Jim, heatedly. "All that you said about my home back in Castelia, I'm gonna make you eat those words!"

    "We shall see," said Nigel, nastily.

    Sparks seemed to be flying between the two as they stared each other down.

    "So sorry to interrupt your little game of dress up. Do carry on."

    With that, he turned and strode out of the Hall, Simisage following. The crowd, after watching for a few moments, dispersed once again, leaving the three friends and their Pokemon.

    "Jim?" Bianca said, hesitantly.

    "I'm ok, Bianca,” Jim sighed. “Don't worry."

    "Who was that boy? What did he say about home?"

    "His name's Nigel. He was insulting Nuvema Town, saying Professor Juniper's too good for it, for us 'low-class'."

    Bianca gasped.

    "He didn't!"

    "Don't worry. I'm not letting him get away with it. I'm gonna join this Nimbasa Battle Tournament and show him just what I'm made of! Are you both with me?"

    "Of course!" said Leanne.

    "You bet!" said Bianca.

    Jim and Missy leaped onto his shoulders, cementing their own support for him. Jim smiled confidently and jerked the bill of his cap lower.

    "Then let's no waste any time."

    With that, and with their Pokemon in tow, the three left the Musical Hall, and directed their steps toward the northwestern end of Nimbasa City, where the Big Stadium resided…


    ***


    Author's Note: Song used is "Dreams to Dream", sung by Cathy Cavadini. =)

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  2. #32
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    Default Re: Jim: The Hero's Journey

    CHAPTER 30
    The Nimbasa Battle Tournament



    Within half an hour, they had reached the Big Stadium, a massive metal colosseum that, every day, hosted football and baseball games. When Jim was a kid, he'd watch the baseball games on TV with Cheren, both of them rooting for their own teams: the Mighty Sawk for Jim, and the Raging Throh for Cheren; the Sawk being unstoppable batters, but the Throh being expert catchers and pitchers. Now, to be here personally, seeing the home of those televised games, it gave Jim both a feeling of excitement and pity; excitement because he himself would be here battling in a tournament, and pity that the sports games had to be postponed in favor of it.

    When they arrived, there was already a crowd of people, but only a handful were waiting at the booth that read "REGISTRATION". Among them was Nigel, with his arms crossed and a bored look on his face. He looked up, however, as the three friends approached.

    "So!" he said, in mild surprise. "Decided to join after all, have you? I was sure you were going to skip town and avoid the embarrassment."

    "You kidding? I wouldn't pass up this opportunity for the world!"

    "Obviously. Hoping to earn a bit of gold for your poor little town? I expect even a few Pokes would set the scroungers raving."

    Jim gritted his teeth. Bianca looked outraged.

    "Hey! What's your problem with Nuvema Town??"

    "Oh, my. Are you from there as well, girl?"

    "Yeah! What of it?"

    "To be perfectly blunt, I just don't find Nuvema Town that interesting. A population of barely 15 people, only a localized market, and the only public institution being the Junipers' laboratory. With all that, do you still have reason to be proud of it?"

    Bianca's face flushed.

    "Of course I do! We have each other! That's all that matters!"

    Nigel laughed.

    "Oh, how droll," he said, mockingly. 'The power of love and friendship'? It's time you woke up and smelled the coffee: the dregs will always remain the dregs. Only the strong and wealthy survive."

    Bianca looked as if she were longing to give him a good smack in the face, and Jim was at his boiling point as well, having his home (and consequently, him and Bianca) being called "dregs". However, a pair of strong hands settled on both of their shoulders.

    "Well, I'm not wealthy, kid, and you don't see me croaking yet."

    Jim knew that voice! He looked up, and found himself staring up into the rough, unshaven face of The Guy.

    "Guy! You're here too?"

    "Long time no see, Jim. Hello, Leanne."

    "Hi, Mr. Guy!"

    Nigel raised an eyebrow, a look of mounting disgust appearing on his face at The Guy's appearance.

    "These your friends?"

    "Well, one is. This is Bianca. She's been my friend since we were kids. Bianca, this is The Guy. Leanne and I have run into him a couple times."

    "Pleased to meet you," said Bianca, not exactly sure what to make of this stranger.

    "Likewise. A friend of Jim's is a friend of mine."

    Nigel's expression hardened even more, attracting The Guy's attention.

    "And I take it he isn't?"

    "No. This is Nigel, from Castelia."

    "It only makes sense," said Nigel, stiffly, "for someone from Nuvema Town to be acquainted with a man of such raggedness and filth."

    His eyes roved over The Guy's patched trench coat, pants, and worn boots.

    "You've walked the world as much as I have, kid, you're gonna look a little messy."

    "So you're suggesting that what you lack in cleanliness, you make up for in knowledge? Don't make me laugh."

    "You seem pretty fixated on outward appearances, kid. You shouldn't be so narrow-minded. It's unhealthy."

    "As if I would take advice from someone who looks as if they slept in a bush."

    The Guy crossed his arms, sternly looking Nigel in the eye.

    "Not very respectful to your elders, are you?"

    "There's a difference between my elders and my betters. You're one, but certainly not the other."

    "Do you really think money's going to solve every problem you'll ever have?"

    "It always has."

    "You're in denial."

    "What?!"

    "I know your type. You've got money, you've got public respect, you've got power…but are you truly happy?"

    "Of course I'm happy! I'm happy to be wealthy, happy to be secure, happy to be respected!"

    Nigel's tone was bordering on indignant desperation.

    "But is that the only extent?"

    Nigel just stared at him, unable to say anything. At last, with a derisive snort, he turned away and headed for the registration booth.

    "Whoa. You actually tamed him," Leanne said, in amazement.

    "Oh, there's still fight in him," said The Guy. "All I did was give him food for thought. Now come on, we'd better sign up."

    "You're taking part too??" Jim asked, astounded.

    "Of course. I'd never miss a chance like this. Come on now."

    Still numb with amazement at what had just happened, Jim complied.

    ***


    Jim gazed around him, filled with excited wonder. It was if a dream had just come true: he was standing inside the Big Stadium itself, standing among 15 other Trainers, four of whom were Leanne, Bianca, The Guy, and Nigel. The others were people he had never seen before. The Stadium itself had been altered for the occasion: the grassy field had been replaced with a dirt battlefield, through some process Jim could only guess at how it had worked. The enormous scoreboard had been replaced with an equally enormous view screen, which was currently flashing advertisements: "THE BATTLE SUBWAY: HIGH-SPEED COMBAT, BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE NIMBASA SUBWAY STATION".

    Up in the commentator's box, Jim could see two men. One was unmistakably Don George, though this one must have been the local one, taking into account the size of the family. The other was a stocky, fair-haired man in a suit, who had the appearance of a businessman. At last, the screen cleared, to be replaced with one enormous word: "WELCOME". The crowd in the stands erupted into applause.

    "Good afternoon, Nimbasa City!" said the man in the suit into a microphone. "Welcome to the 7th Annual Nimbasa Battle Tournament, hosted right here in our very own Big Stadium! I'm Charlie Burton, and joining me is my co-host, the Battle Club's own, Don George!"

    More cheers from the crowd.

    "Thank you, Charlie, it's great to be back!" said George into his own mike. "It warms my heart to see so many willing Trainers, ready to duke it out in the spirit of competition!"

    "You and I both, George! Now, before we get started and designate our first match-ups, would you care to go over the rules?"

    "Absolutely. The tournament will proceed as follows, everyone: this will be a four-round competition with 16 competitors. The first round shall take place today, followed by the next round tomorrow, and so on. Each battle will consist of a one-on-one battle with no substitutions. If your Pokemon is unable to battle, you are out of the competition, so choose wisely. The winner shall receive the following prizes."

    He gestured with his arm to the big view screen, which flashed the number "$10,000".

    "10,000 Pokes in cash…"

    Next came two colorful slips of paper, decorated with a Ferris wheel.

    "Two free all-day passes to the Nimbasa Amusement Park…AAAAAAND-"

    The screen now displayed a picture of a subway train.

    "The chance to meet and battle the Subway Bosses themselves, Emmet and Ingo!"

    The stadium exploded with applause. Everyone looked amazed at the prospect of such prizes, all except for Nigel, who seemed used to such one-of-a-kind extravagances. Jim looked at Leanne and Bianca, who were both hopping on the balls of their feet in glee.

    "Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my GOSH!" Bianca gushed. "Free passes to the amusement park, AND 10,000 Pokes!"

    "And seeing and battling the Subway Bosses!" said Leanne. "Usually you have to pass some kind of subway-sponsored contest just to see them!"

    "This is gonna be great!" said Jim, turning his attention to June. "You all set, partner?"

    "Definitely!" said June, her eyes blazing with an energetic fire.

    "And now, let the match-ups begin!" said Charlie Burton.

    The screen turned blank, to be replaced with sixteen rectangles, something like giant playing cards, their backs to the viewers. True to their resemblance to cards, they grouped together into one stack, shuffled around, and spread out to their new positions.

    "And the results are…our first match-up…Anonymous vs. Grant!"

    The first two "cards" turned, showing The Guy's face and that of a square-jawed, red-headed man. The Guy turned to look at him. He was tall and burly, with an abundance of facial hair and bare, brawny arms. He cast a contemptuous glance at his unnamed opponent, but The Guy didn't seem the least perturbed by this.

    "Anonymous? Really?" asked Jim, in a half-amused way.

    The Guy grinned.

    "I told you, I'll let the world call me whatever the heck it wants."

    Jim shook his head, still smiling at this.

    "The second match will be…Naomi vs. Solomon Wright!"

    Naomi was a pretty, curly-haired girl in a yellow sundress and parasol. She seemed lost in her own thoughts. Solomon was a wiry but neatly-dressed boy, his face framed by a tangle of black hair. He looked very calculating and composed.

    "Our third match…Jim Stevens vs. Katherine LeClaire!"

    A momentary hush fell over the crowd. Jim looked to see who this LeClaire was. She was a woman of about 30, and very precisely dressed, her hair done up in a neat bun, and a pair of spectacles perched on her nose. She looked like a schoolteacher, and had a certain, indefinably regal air about her. Jim felt nervous just looking at her. She looked over at him in turn, and gave him a small smile, which he returned, albeit uncertainly.

    The Guy gave a low whistle.

    "Boy, aren't you lucky?"

    "You know her?"

    "Everyone does. Katherine LeClaire is an S-Class Connoisseuse, and a really famous one as well."

    "A C-Connoisseuse?! My first match is against a Connoisseuse?!"

    "Don't worry about it," said The Guy, bracingly. "I know you'll do just fine."

    (Against an S-Class Connoisseuse?…I highly doubt that…)

    "Match #4:…Tony vs. Jimmy Ray!"

    Tony was dressed in the duds of a "cool" kid: baggy jeans, T-shirt, ragged jacket, baseball cap, and shades. He looked odd, but it was nothing compared to Jimmy Ray. He was a man dressed in what looked like a Watchog costume. It literally looked like a Watchog was choking on him, his face sticking out of its mouth. Jim grimaced.

    "Glad I don't have to face that guy…"

    "Number 5...Hannah vs. Nigel Richmond!"

    Jim glanced over at Nigel. He was regarding his opponent, a girl with pudgy cheeks and pigtails, with indifference. Jim felt sorry for her.

    "Coming up on number 6...Cruise Greendale vs. Flannigan!"

    Cruise was a blonde-haired, cheerful-looking boy, as opposed to Flannigan, who had the stiffness and uprightness of a soldier or police officer. He looked pretty intimidating.

    "Close to the end with number 7...Leanne Summers vs. Samson!"

    Leanne looked over to find her opponent. He was a mousy, sneaky-looking boy. Leanne didn't look too thrilled at having to fight him.

    "And last, but not least, Battle #8, Bianca vs. Zach!"

    Bianca's opponent was a boy who was tapping his foot impatiently, as if time were extremely precious to him.

    "Those are our match-ups, ladies and gents!" said Don George. "So now, without further ado, let's get ready for our first battle: Anonymous vs. Grant!"

    The crowd cheered.

    "Good luck, Guy," said Jim.

    "Thanks, kid."

    The Guy made his way onto the battlefield, his trench coat billowing in the breeze. Grant took his place, still looking haughty.

    "Ye think ye got what it takes to face me?" he asked, in a thick Scottish accent. "I'm the strongest in me village, where I hail from!"

    "Well, we'll see if that strength applies outside of your home, my friend," said The Guy, complacently.

    "I'm no friend of yours, Scruffy!" growled Grant.

    "You're one to talk, jabbing at my facial hair," said The Guy, still calm and serene.

    Grant looked as if he would blow a gasket at his threats being ignored. He drew a Poke Ball from his belt.

    "Gurdurr, show him what ye're made of!"

    From the Poke Ball came a human-like Pokemon, with gray skin, pinkish bulges on its body, with especially large ones around its shoulders, what looked like curly hair on its head, and a big red nose. Its body was shaped like an hourglass, and it carried a steel construction beam under its arm. Jim had his Pokedex out in an instant.

    "Gurdurr, the Muscular Pokemon, and the evolved form of Timburr. This Pokemon likes to train and show off its strength by carrying steel beams. Gurdurr is so strong and muscular that even a team of wrestlers cannot move it an inch."

    "Looks like a pretty smug Pokemon," said Bianca.

    "Just like its Trainer," said Jim.

    It was only too true. Both Grant and his Gurdurr had self-satisfied smiles on their faces. Jim was aware that a lot of Pokemon and Trainers resembled each other by habit, but this was just unpleasant. The Guy had taken his own Poke Ball out.

    "Scrafty, prepare for battle!"

    The ball opened, and there was The Guy's rebellious Scrafty. It and Gurdurr eyed each other narrowly.

    "Our first match, then, is Scrafty vs. Gurdurr!" said Burton.

    "This could go either way, Charlie," said George, sagely, "both are Fighting types, but Scrafty is also a Dark type, which may prove to be a disadvantage."

    "That's right," Jim muttered. "Dark types are weak against Fighting moves."

    "But wouldn't he have known that?" Leanne asked. "Why would he pick Scrafty if it has a disadvantage?"

    "I think he wants the match on even terms. Besides, if he still has Ferroseed and Palpitoad, neither of them have much advantage either."

    "That's true."

    The referee, a man with dark eyebrows, wearing training clothes, had taken his place at the center, both of his flags in hand. He raised them both up.

    "Let the first match begin!!"


    ***


    Author's Note: I'll admit, this was inspired by the Club Battle arc. I was dissatisfied with how it turned out, and wanted to try my own twist with it. ^^;

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  3. #33
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    Default Re: Jim: The Hero's Journey

    CHAPTER 31
    Round 1: Part 1



    "Gurdurr, use Bulk Up!" ordered Grant.

    Gurdurr lazily tossed its steel beam aside, which made a heavy clang when it hit the ground. Then, bracing its feet, it crouched, flexing its arms inward, its face set. A bluish glow surrounded its body, and its already massive body seemed to bulge outward, so that the muscles were more pronounced, with such force that the ground shuddered slightly, and the dirt even cracked beneath its feet. Everyone gasped.

    At last, Gurdurr straightened out again, leering evilly at Scrafty, its body still glowing. It stomped the ground, and the steel beam returned to its grip. The Guy, however, wasn't intimidated.

    "Not gonna order an attack, are ye?" taunted Grant. "Fine! I will! Now, Gurdurr, use Hammer Arm!"

    Gurdurr lunged toward Scrafty, its arm raised up and glowing red.

    "Scrafty, Hi Jump Kick!"

    Scrafty crouched and leaped at Gurdurr, its knee glowing reddish-orange. Gurdurr's Hammer Arm swung, clocking it on the head, but Scrafty's attack struck it right in the nose. The bulky Pokemon stumbled, off balance, but righted itself with its beam. Scrafty landed on its feet, grimacing from the harsh blow, but still looking ready to fight.

    "Now, use Sludge Bomb!"

    Scrafty reared back, then thrust its head forward again, spitting a large blob of brownish-black slime at Gurdurr, which struck it full on, which such force that it was like a cannonball. Furious, Gurdurr wiped the sludge away, but then winced, a purple glow surrounded its body. Grant looked aghast.

    "What the-?! What have ye done?!?"

    "Yes!" Jim crowed. "It's poisoned!"

    "George, I cannot believe what I'm seeing!" said Burton. "Scrafty has just dealt Gurdurr a poison status affliction!"

    "Very strategic indeed," agreed George. "Whatever happens next, that poison's gonna eat away at Gurdurr's energy."

    Grant was furious.

    "I'm not gonna let ye get the better of me!" he growled. "Gurdurr, Stone Edge!"

    Gurdurr thumped its beam against the dirt and raised its other arm. Swirling rings of jagged stones materialized, orbiting its body, before shooting straight for Scrafty.

    "Dodge it, Scrafty!"

    Scrafty leaped to the side, and the stones struck the dirt where it had stood, implanting themselves there.

    "Come on, Grant, you can do better than this. Aren't you supposed to be the best in your village?"

    "I am the best!!" Grant screamed, his face beet-red. "Shut yer face or I'll use Stone Edge on YOU!"

    "Temper, temper," said The Guy, smirking. "You shouldn't be getting so angry."

    "It's your fault if I am!!" Grant snapped. "Gurdurr, show 'im you mean business! Keep using Stone Edge, and don't let up!"

    Gurdurr made another storm of pointed stones.

    "Keep on dodging, Scrafty, and use Sludge Bomb when you can!"

    So it went. Every time Gurdurr sent a wave of Stone Edge at Scrafty, the latter would dodge, and when it saw an opening, it would shoot another Sludge Bomb. Over time, Gurdurr began to look weaker, and the purple hue its body received from time to time would become more frequent, more vivid.

    At last, it could hardly raise its arm anymore, and the steel beam it held clattered to the ground. It had a sick, tired look on its face. Grant's jaw dropped.

    "Gurdurr! What's the matter with ye?! Keep going!"

    "It's over," said The Guy. "The poison, coupled with all those Stone Edges, have weakened it too much. And now it's time to end this! Scrafty, give it a Focus Blast!"

    Scrafty cupped its hands at its side, and a glowing blue ball of light appeared, growing bigger with each second. At last, it raised its arms and the ball above its head, and then threw it straight at Gurdurr. The Focus Blast struck it right in the stomach and sent it toppling onto its back. One last purple glow, and Gurdurr passed out. The referee raised the flag in his right hand.

    "Gurdurr is unable to battle! Scrafty wins!"

    The crowd cheered.

    "And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen! The first match has been decided! Anonymous will move on to Round 2!"

    On the view screen, The Guy and Grant's mug shots appeared again, but Grant's was blacked out and scrolled away to allow The Guy's to take the center. Grant looked thunderstruck, but he was forced to swallow it and recall his Gurdurr. He turned and walked off without saying a word.

    Jim, Leanne, and Bianca cheered wildly. Nigel, for his part, looked astounded. It seemed he had expected The Guy to lose spectacularly, but now, to see this scruffy, weather-beaten stranger come out on top when he had a disadvantage, was too much to take in. However, at seeing the satisfied look on Jim's face, he checked himself.

    "Mere coincidence, that's all," he muttered. "Sludge Bomb only has a 30% chance of poisoning, anyway."

    The Guy rejoined them.

    "Great job!" said Jim. "You were awesome!"

    "Eh, I've just always had a talent for putting blowhards in their place," he said, indifferently.

    "And now, will the Trainers for Battle #2, Naomi and Solomon, please take their places!" announced Burton.

    They turned their attention back to the battlefield to see the two mentioned on the battlefield. There wasn't much to their battle; Naomi used a Deerling, while Solomon used a Liepard. Naomi indeed was the preoccupied type, as she seemed to space out and forget to order her Deerling to attack. Solomon, on the other hand, took advantage of every opportunity, and Deerling barely put up a fight, being taken down easily.

    When Solomon was announced the winner, Naomi asked,

    "Oh? Is it over already? Oh well."

    She recalled her Deerling and walked off, as if she hadn't even known a battle had even taken place. Jim gulped. He was next.

    "You can do it, Jim!" said Leanne, encouragingly. "Show her what you've got!"

    "Right. Can you hold June for me?"

    "Ooh! Let me! Let me!" Bianca chirped.

    "All right, then," said Jim, amused at her enthusiasm.

    He handed June to her, and was promptly cradled in her arms. She didn't seem to mind, which was a relief, as Bianca tended to be rather over-excited when it came to Pokemon that were cute in her eyes.

    "And now, for Battle 3! Jim Stevens and Katherine LeClaire, please take your places!"

    Jim stumbled forward, taking his place on the battlefield, as LeClaire also did, with great calmness and grace.

    "Mr. Stevens," she said, in a serene, complacent voice, "I've heard much of your exploits recently."

    "Y-You have?"

    "Indeed. Your resistance against Team Plasma is most inspiring. I've looked forward to seeing your skills in battle, and now I have the chance. Do not be fooled, however. I may be a Connoisseuse, but I am also a Trainer, and I will not hold back."

    She drew out a Poke Ball.

    "Maractus, my premium brand, it's battling time!"

    From the Ball appeared a small, green Pokemon that looked like a cactus. It had a round head with yellow eyes, a jagged mouth, and ear-like appendages tipped with pink flowers. Its body was plump and eggplant-shaped, ending in a tiny leaf-like "skirt" extension, which also ringed its "ears", neck, and hands, the last of which bore yellow, pointed fingers. Rings of thorns surrounded its "ears", and there was one in the center of its forehead. The audience "ooh"-ed, and Jim took out his Pokedex.

    "Maractus, the Cactus Pokemon. Maractus moves rhythmically, creating a sound like the shaking of maracas, which scares away predatory bird Pokemon. It resides typically in arid, desert regions."

    "A Grass type," muttered Jim to himself. "Torch would be ideal for this, but she may have planned for that…"

    At last, he nodded and drew his own Poke Ball.

    "Echo, you're up!"

    Out came his faithful Swoobat, hovering with his big, leathery wings. This drew a few "ooh"s and "ahh"s from the crowd.

    "And there we have it, George: Jim Stevens is pitting Swoobat against LeClaire's Maractus, her premium brand Pokemon!"

    "Yes, indeed. With Maractus being a Grass type and Swoobat being a Psychic and Flying type, it would seem like Stevens has this in the bag. However, it shouldn't all just come down to type, after all."

    "A Swoobat. How interesting," said LeClaire, sounding pleased. "I take it you raised it from a Woobat?"

    "Yeah, almost ever since I started out."

    "Magnificent. As Woobat only evolve through happiness, it seems as if the bond between you and your Swoobat is parfait."

    "…I'm sorry?" asked Jim, eyebrow raised.

    "Perfect, my dear."

    "Oh! Well, thanks. Echo and I have been through a lot, but it's really June who's my star."

    He looked over at his Snivy, who was now positioned on Bianca's beret. LeClaire glanced her way as well, looking at her steadily before smiling and nodding.

    "Yes. I can see it even from here. You have the most remarkable bonds with your Pokemon, Mr. Stevens, but, as a Connoisseuse, it's my duty to test such bonds and see how far they go. Maractus, en garde!"

    Maractus got into a battle-ready pose, its movements indeed making a sound like the shaking of maracas.

    "Get ready, Echo."

    Echo landed on his feet, wings spread out, determination in his eyes. The referee raised his flags.

    "Let the battle commence!!"

    "Echo, use Air Cutter!"

    Echo swept into the air, his wings glowing white. He flapped them hard several times, sending waves of crescent-shaped energy for Maractus.

    "Dodge, Maractus, then use Acupressure!"

    Maractus crouched and somersaulted, with the ease of a gymnast, and the Air Cutters struck the dirt. Then, as it landed, its thorn-like fingers lengthened and glowed white. It pressed the fingers of one hand into its side, and those of the other into its temple. Instantly, its body began to glimmer different colors. The last color to show up on its body was a faint blue.

    "Uh oh," The Guy muttered. "That's not good."

    "What? What's going on?" asked Bianca.

    "Acupressure. It sharply boosts a Pokemon's stats, choosing one at random. Unfortunately, we won't have any idea which."

    Jim, however, didn't seem as easily cowed.

    "Give it a Shadow Ball, Echo!"

    Echo brought his wings back, and a ball of sparking black and purple energy appeared in front of his face. He swung one wing back, then smacked the Shadow Ball at Maractus.

    "Block it off with Needle Arm!"

    LeClaire commanded. Maractus' arms glowed white, and it crossed them in front of its face. The Shadow Ball struck and exploded, but Maractus didn't seem much affected.

    "Whoa…that's some amazing resistance," said Bianca.

    "Looks like it got some kind of Defense boost," said Leanne.

    The Guy nodded grimly.

    "Now, Maractus, Pin Missile!"

    Maractus pointed its arms forward, and a volley of what looked like lightning bolts sprang from its fingertips, flying for Echo.

    "Dodge it, Echo!"

    Echo swerved to the side, but only some of the Pin Missiles missed him. The rest struck his furry body, causing him to cry out in pain.

    "This looks bad, George," said Burton. "Since Swoobat is part Psychic type, it still gets normal damage from Bug-type moves."

    "That's right, Charlie, so Maractus does still have a chance of coming out on top."

    "Acupressure once again, Maractus!"

    Once again, Maractus pressed its fingers against its body, glowing various colors, before it settled on a faint red.

    "We can't give up yet," said Jim, determinedly. "Echo, Air Cutter!"

    "Maractus, Pin Missile!"

    Both sent their attacks at the same time. Most struck against each other and cancelled out, but both Echo and Maractus got hit by some of each other's attacks. LeClaire didn't seem concerned about this.

    "Now, Maractus, Return!"

    Jim was stunned. Did she seriously order her Maractus to be called back? But she'd willingly have been disqualifying herself!

    His confusion only increased, however, to see Maractus crouch and lunge for Echo, landing a wicked punch on him, knocking him onto his face.

    "Echo! Are you all right??"

    Echo shakily got back to his feet, panting.

    "What WAS that?" Jim asked LeClaire. "I thought you were calling your Maractus back." LeClaire laughed.

    "It's all right. I don't blame you for your confusion. I honestly have no clue why it's called that in the first place. Return is a move that gets its strength from its user's happiness. The stronger the happiness, the stronger the attack. And, as you can see…" she went on, as Maractus resumed its place, "my Maractus and I are in perfect sync!"

    Both her and Maractus performed the same pose: hand on one hip, the other arm extended outward. The crowd cheered.

    "That's LeClaire for you," said The Guy. "She's an expert Connoisseuse, remarkable Trainer, and knows how to make an appearance."

    "It's hopeless," said Nigel. "Stevens hasn't got a chance. He's outclassed."

    "Oh, I'm not saying he hasn't got a chance," said The Guy. "He just needs to be smart about this." Jim indeed was trying to contemplate his options.

    (What do I do?…Maractus has got Needle Arm to block Shadow Ball, Return for direct damage, and Acupressure for stat boots…not to mention Pin Missile to counter Air Cutter and damage Echo…Wait…Pin Missile's a Bug type move…Maractus is a Grass type…Maybe…Yes!)

    A smile was back on Jim’s face.

    "Oh? You seem to have come across some last-minute inspiration,” said LeClaire.

    "You could say that, Miss LeClaire. Echo, get ready for Air Cutter!"

    Echo raised his now glowing wings.

    "Will you never learn…?" said LeClaire, pityingly. "Maractus, counter with Pin Missile!"

    Maractus fired off a round of Pin Missiles, but Jim was still smiling.

    "Now, instead of Air Cutter, send them back with Confusion!"

    LeClaire gasped, as did the audience. The glow faded from Echo's wings to be replaced by a pinkish-purple aura around his entire body. The cloud of Pin Missiles were surrounded with the same light. They slowed, stopped inches from Echo, then swerved and barreled for Maractus, striking it repeatedly.

    "No! Maractus!"

    Maractus swayed, battered and weakened. LeClaire's face became serious, though still smiling.

    "Very clever, Mr. Stevens, but it all comes down to this! Maractus, Return! Give it everything you have!"

    Maractus crouched, white energy seemed to surround it.

    "Echo, counter with Heart Stamp!"

    Echo swooped high into the air, his nose glowing pink-red. As he dived, the glow now surrounding his whole body like a shield, Maractus leaped, its arm jutted forward and glowing with white fire. Both struck, but seemed suspended in the air, like two missiles struggling against each other, but neither one yielding. For a few tense moments, it seemed to go in Maractus' favor, then Echo's, then Maractus' again.

    At last, with a final bursting surge, Echo pushed Maractus earthward, slamming it straight into the dirt. Through the ensuing cloud, Echo swooped back to his side of the field, and there was Maractus, imprinted into the dirt and out cold. The referee raised his left arm.

    "Maractus is unable to battle! The winner is Swoobat!"

    The crowd exploded into wild cheers, especially in the contestant's row. Leanne and Bianca were leaping up and down in wild ecstasy. The Guy was applauding, his rough face beaming. Echo settled onto Jim's arm, and Jim stroked his head.

    "Great job, Echo!" he congratulated.

    LeClaire stooped by her Maractus, holding it in her arms.

    "Dear Maractus, you did the best you could," she soothed.

    She then recalled it into its Poke Ball and faced Jim.

    "Remarkable work, Mr. Stevens. With that sort of bond, you and your Pokemon shall go far."

    "Thank you, Miss LeClaire. It was an honor to battle you."

    The two shook hands, and LeClaire took her leave.

    "What an impressive display!" boomed Burton. "Despite a type advantage and victory on part of Swoobat, we were still granted a very close battle! Way to go!"

    "I've seen a lot of down-to-the-wire battles, Charlie," said Don George, "but that was unquestionably unbelievable!"

    Jim returned to his friends, Echo still perched on his arm like a falcon.

    "That was so awesome, Jim!" said Bianca. "Your Swoobat was incredible!"

    Echo soared around her head, squeaking happily. A dizzy look came over her face, and Jim and Leanne, knowing why, burst into laughter.

    "I think he likes you," said Jim.

    "So I noticed," said Bianca, woozily.

    Jim fished around in his backpack, pulled out the can of Pokemon food chosen for Woobat and Swoobat, and poured a handful into his hand. Echo instantly alighted onto his arm and started chowing down with relish.

    "Hmph," Nigel snorted. "It was nothing but a lucky break, that's all."

    "Oh, shut up," said the boy Solomon. "I saw the way you were gripping the guardrail. Your knuckles were ghost-white."

    Nigel shot him a sharp look. Jim smiled appreciatively at Solomon.

    "And now, will our next combatants, Tony and Jimmy Ray, please make their way to the battlefield!" came Burton's voice.

    Satisfied with his first victory, Jim joined his friends to watch the remainder of the first round battles.

    Y Rotation Team

  4. #34
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    Default Re: Jim: The Hero's Journey

    CHAPTER 32
    Round 1: Part 2



    The next match didn't take too long, either. Tony used a Darumaka while Jimmy Ray, surprising nobody, used a Watchog. Darumaka put up a good effort, but Watchog had the fight from the start, and won handily, advancing his Trainer to Round 2. Next up, though, was Nigel's first battle, versus Hannah. He still looked disinterested as he took his place at his side of the battlefield.

    "I'd really hate to be Hannah right now," muttered Jim.

    "So would I," agreed Leanne.

    Hannah drew out a Poke Ball.

    "Let's do it, Stoutland!" she said.

    The Pokemon that appeared looked like a large shaggy dog, its body covered in a thick coat of blue fur, and with two enormous mustache-like plumes extending from its face to the ground. Jim's checked his Pokedex.

    "Stoutland, the Big-Hearted Pokemon, and the evolved form of Herdier. Stoutland is very wise and noble, and is skilled in rescuing people stranded on mountains or at sea, its shaggy fur shielding it from the cold."

    "I've heard stories of people being rescued by Stoutland," said Jim. "They're real heroes of the Pokemon world."

    "I can attest to that," said The Guy. "Once I passed out from fatigue while crossing a mountain range. If a wild Stoutland hadn't been nearby to take me the rest of the way down, I might not have made it."

    "Wow."

    The three teens regarded the proud Pokemon, and wondered what Nigel would use against it. He drew out his own Poke Ball.

    "Simisage, prepare for battle!"

    In the familiar burst of light, there was Nigel's Simisage.

    "Simisage? There's an interesting choice," said Burton.

    "Interesting indeed," said Don George. "With Stoutland being a Normal type and Simisage being a Grass type, none of them have an immediate advantage over each other."

    "We can do this, Stoutland! Just do your best!" Hannah encouraged.

    Stoutland barked. Nigel smirked.

    "'Do your best'? How very trite."

    Hannah looked nervous from this comment. Jim's eyes narrowed.

    "Let the match begin!" said the referee.

    "Stoutland, Take Down!"

    Stoutland crouched low, then charged, barreling for Simisage.

    "Simisage, Low Sweep!"

    Simisage's left leg began to glow white, and it seemed to wait as Stoutland approached. Then, when it was nearly upon it, Simisage swept his leg and struck Stoutland's paws, tripping it and causing it to tumble some distance. It got back to its feet, growling.

    "Resilient canine, aren't you?" asked Nigel, in mock admiration. "Simisage, Magical Leaf!"

    Simisage raised one arm, hand opened, and its body became surrounded by a cloud of glowing green leaves. The Guy was staring at it intently.

    "I see. That Simisage was specially bred."

    "Huh? How can you tell?" asked Bianca.

    "Pansage and Simisage can't normally learn Magical Leaf, unless they were born from a Pokemon that knew the move itself."

    "Whoa. I've never heard of that happening before," Leanne muttered.

    Simisage was sending the Magical Leaf attack straight for Stoutland.

    "Use Fire Fang to block it off, Stoutland!" shouted Hannah.

    Stoutland opened its mouth, and a cloud of flames seemed to spring from its jaws. The Magical Leaf struck the flames, burned, and fizzled away. Nigel growled at being foiled.

    "Whoa! That was really clever!" said Jim.

    "Indeed. You don't need to use an attacking move just to attack,” said The Guy, sagely.

    "Simisage, use Swagger!" commanded Nigel.

    Simisage sneered, and a red aura seemed to surround it. It held out one paw toward Stoutland, and made a ‘come and get me’ motion with its index finger. Stoutland snarled, and the same red aura seemed to surround it. Everyone looked tense, even The Guy, though Jim, Leanne, and Bianca were unsure why.

    "What's going on?" Jim asked.

    "Swagger," said The Guy. "It sharply boosts its opponent's attack power, but also confuses it. The aim is to have the opponent attack itself and cause major damage."

    "Oh no..."

    Stoutland was already starting to act agitated, pawing at the dirt.

    "Come on, Stoutland, we can do this!" encouraged Hannah. "Use Fire Fang!"

    Stoutland opened its mouth again, and the flames came springing from its jaws…but the flames struck Stoutland instead of staying put.

    "Oh no!!" Hannah cried.

    "That didn't take long," muttered The Guy.

    "Oh, boy, George," said Burton, grimly, "Stoutland is already succumbing to the bad side of Swagger. This doesn't look good at all."

    "Give it another Magical Leaf, Simisage!" said Nigel, smiling from the success of his plan.

    Simisage sent another wave of luminescent leaves, and this time they struck home. Stoutland cringed from the impact.

    "Stoutland, no!" yelled Hannah, who was almost on the verge of tears.

    "And now, Simisage, let's finish this battle off! Solarbeam!"

    The tufts on Simisage's head and tail seemed to glimmer with a greenish-yellow light. It cupped its paws by its side, and a glowing ball of energy of the same color began to form and grow.

    "Stoutland, I know you can do this!" said Hannah. "Use Work Up, then Take Down!"

    Stoutland let out a long howl, something more like a battle cry, and the red glow around it intensified. Then, it barreled forward, charging at Simisage, a white light surrounding it like fire.

    "Fire!!" yelled Nigel.

    Simisage threw its paws forward, and a beam of energy shot like a massive laser for the approaching canine. The two attacks struck, but seemed to be suspended in place, just like Swoobat's Heart Stamp against Maractus' Return. Then, slowly, inch by inch, Stoutland began to move forward. The two were mere feet from each other. Then, all of a sudden, the Solarbeam exploded, covering the battlefield in smoke and light. Everybody shielded their eyes from this display.

    At last, they could finally see the combatants. Simisage was down on one knee, panting from the exertion. Stoutland was on its side, out cold. The referee held up his flag.

    "Stoutland is unable to battle! Simisage is the victor!"

    The crowd, stunned from the explosion, now erupted into cheers. Nigel simply stood, arms crossed, as did Simisage, after getting itself up.

    "Naturally," he said, simply.

    Hannah was kneeling by her Stoutland, hugging it.

    "It's all right, Stoutland. You did your best," she said, softly.

    "Come along, come along, hurry it up," said Nigel, impatiently. "We can't keep the next fighters waiting."

    Jim gripped the guard rail, anger burning inside him. At last, Hannah left, not looking at anyone as she left.

    "Poor kid," muttered Solomon. "She put up a good fight."

    "Oh, please…" said Nigel, loftily, as he was just re-entering the waiting area. "I've never had an easier challenge in my life."

    "Look, what's your problem?!" snapped Jim. "Why do you have to be so rude? Can't you be a good sport about it?"

    "Where's the fun in that?" Nigel sneered.

    Jim was about to start forward, but The Guy held him back.

    "He's not worth it," he muttered.

    Nigel glared at him, but simply turned away and went to stand at another end of the waiting area.

    "I can't stand it," Jim said. "I just can't stand it! He brings out the worst in me."

    "Easy, kid, easy," said The Guy. "You'll get your chance soon enough."

    "So you think I'm actually going to make it to the finals?"

    "Of course I do. I've got total faith in you."

    "So, you're expecting to lose?"

    The Guy laughed roughly.

    "I may be good, but I'm not perfect. And I'm not saying you should convince yourself that you'll lose. I'm just saying, always be ready to expect the worst, and then do what you can, nothing more."

    Jim regarded him for a moment, then nodded. He couldn't understand why, but he was drawn to this mysterious man. There was an odd sort of kinship between them, an understanding that couldn't be explained, one he would find the answer to eventually…

    ***


    The next battle was Cruise vs. Flannigan. Cruise had a Swadloon, while Flannigan had a Herdier. Herdier was quick and vicious, but Swadloon was no pushover either. It slowed Herdier up with a String Shot aimed for its legs, then bombarded it with Razor Leaf and Energy Ball, winning Cruise the match.

    After him, it was time for Leanne and her fight with Samson. Jim gave her hand an encouraging squeeze with his, which she returned with a smile. She took her place on her side, and Samson took his.

    "I didn't imagine that I'd have to knock out a girl to make it farther into the tournament," he said, in a voice that television made popular with geeky, nerdy characters.

    Leanne crossed her arms.

    "So you think I'm gonna be easy?"

    "I know you will, because I'm ready for anything!"

    He drew out his Poke Ball.

    "Lampent, let's win this!"

    The Pokemon that came forth looked like a floating gas lamp, with a wide-brimmed hat-like feature on top, long, skinny arms, and a glass head with yellow eyes and a small mouth, within which a blue flame could be seen burning. Jim took out his Pokedex.

    "Lampent, the Lamp Pokemon. This Pokemon wanders through cities, looking for souls of the fallen. It appears at the moment of death to take souls away to the spirit world."

    Both Jim and Bianca shivered. The crowd murmured, regarding the ghostly Pokemon. Leanne gulped, but took out a Poke Ball.

    "Zorua, this is your time!"

    From the familiar burst of light, there was little Zorua, looking eager and ready.

    "And Leanne Summers's Pokemon is a Zorua! Very smart planning!" said Burton.

    "Yes, indeed!" said Don George. "Lampent's a Ghost and Fire type, which means it can only use Fire-type attacks on Dark types like Zorua. Very clever!"

    Samson's face fell.

    "A Zorua?? Where did you find that?!"

    "I got it as a reward," said Leanne. "Still feel prepared for anything?"

    Samson fidgeted. Obviously, he wasn't expecting his opponent to have something that was so advantageous over him. But after his initial hesitation, he was back to grinning deviously.

    "You bet I am! Like I said, I'm prepared for anything, and you're soon gonna see that this is no ordinary Lampent!"

    Zorua crouched, growling.

    "Begin!" said the referee.

    "Lampent, use Flamethrower!"

    A stream of flames billowed from Lampent's mouth.

    "Zorua, dodge, then use Faint Attack!"

    Zorua zipped to the side, the flames striking the ground, and then leaped, vanishing into thin air as it approached. Lampent looked about, trying to locate him. Then, suddenly, he appeared on the ground right behind it and pounced at it from there, knocking it for a loop. Samson growled.

    "Lampent, use Smog!"

    The flame inside Lampent's head seemed to turn into gray smoke, and this smoke billowed out of Lampent's front, clouding around Zorua.

    "Zorua!" Leanne yelled.

    Samson grinned, his confidence regained.

    "Now, Lampent, Flamethrower!"

    The flame returned, and Lampent expelled another stream of flames at Zorua, and this time, it connected. The little Tricky Fox was blown back, his fur smoking from the flames.

    "Zorua! Are you ok??"

    Zorua got back to his paws, teeth bared.

    "That's the spirit! Use Fury Swipes!"

    Zorua leaped at Lampent, claws outstretched, and swiped at the Lamp Pokemon…but its swipes seemed to go right through it! Samson laughed uproariously.

    "You have got to be one of the most inept trainers I've ever had to face!" he said. "Don't you know Ghost aren't affected by Normal-type attacks?"

    Leanne stood as if stunned, clapping a hand to her forehead.

    "Shoot! I forgot about that!"

    "Well, if Faint Attack and Fury Swipes are all you have to offer," said Samson, "then I think it's time to turn up the heat! Lampent, Fire Spin on yourself!"

    Lampent began spinning in the air like a top, faster and faster, and as it did so, flames erupted from its mouth, and began to swirl around with it. This created a narrow cyclone of fire that completely surrounded it. Everyone gasped.

    "This looks bad," said The Guy, grimly. "With that Lampent protected by its own attack, Zorua will be hard-pressed to get a hit in."

    Indeed, Zorua seemed uncertain of what to do. He tried to dash at the flames, but had to stop short and come back, cowed by the heat. Another time, he actually charged at it to do Faint Attack, despite Leanne's protestations, but he was blown back, hurt by the flames.

    "Now, Lampent, since Zorua is unable to strike back, Flamethrower!"

    For the very briefest moment, a gap appeared in the flaming cyclone, and a stream of fire was sent out, blasting Zorua on the spot. Leanne had taken off her hat and was wringing its brim in her hands in a fit of agitation. Samson, meanwhile, was looking smug as a snake. Jim was gripping the guard rail so tight that his knuckles were ghostly pale.

    "Come on, Leanne…"

    "What do we do…What do we do…?" Leanne muttered.

    Suddenly, Zorua stiffened, then crouched. A strange purple-black glow was surrounding his body, and his eyes had an odd glow to them.

    "Zorua?…"

    "Lampent, let's end this pitiful display," said Samson, "with one more Flamethrower!"

    Once again, a gap in the cyclone opened, and the Flamethrower shot toward Zorua. Then, without warning, Zorua opened his mouth with a howl, and a beam of purple and black energy blasted from his open jaws, striking the Flamethrower and pushing it back inside, sending Lampent flying out of the cyclone, which dissipated. Samson's jaw fell open, as did a fair many others.

    "What…what the heck was that?!" Jim spluttered.

    "Well, well," said The Guy, smiling roughly. "Tell me, Jim, where did Leanne get that Zorua?"

    "Huh? It was hatched from an Egg a Day Care woman gave us."

    "That explains it then. That move was Dark Pulse, which Zorua can learn only through breeding. Odd that it would only now come out."

    Leanne had snapped out of her surprise, replacing her cap onto her head with a confident flourish.

    "Great work, Zorua! Now that Lampent's out of the fire and back into the frying pan, use Faint Attack!"

    Zorua lunged forward and vanished once again. Samson was too struck by the surprise Dark Pulse to order a command, and Lampent was thrown to the ground by the attack, where it did not get back up.

    "Lampent is unable to battle! Zorua wins!"

    The crowd exploded into ecstatic cheers, which were all the stronger on the side where Jim, Bianca, and The Guy were stationed. The latter merely stood, smiling with arms crossed, as the former two leaped and pumped their fists in the air with joy. Leanne scooped Zorua up into her arms.

    "We did it, Zorua! You did it!" she said, hugging him to her, and the little Pokemon nuzzled her cheek.

    Samson, in a state of shock, recalled his Lampent and stumbled out of the arena.

    "That was great!" gushed Bianca as Leanne returned. "Your Zorua is so amazing!"

    "Well done," said The Guy. "That Dark Pulse came right of nowhere."

    "I know! I wasn't expecting it, either!"

    "Give it a little fine-tuning, and you'll have one heck of a weapon on your hands," he said, looking at Zorua under his heavy eyebrows.

    At that moment, Bianca pushed past, as it was her turn to battle.

    "Good luck, Bianca!" Jim called.

    Bianca waved, and stood opposite Zach, who was still tapping his foot impatiently.

    "Let's just get this over with," he said, grumpily.

    Bianca blinked. She wasn't quite sure what to make of this. Zach took out his Poke Ball.

    "Sawsbuck, ensure me a quick match!"

    The Pokemon that appeared was a tall brown deer with a white belly, Its antlers were adorned with what appeared to be an abundance of red-pink leaves.

    Leanne gasped, and Jim took out his Pokedex. Just like when he scanned Deerling before, there were four images of this Pokemon, though they weren't all different colors. The difference lay with their antlers and fur: one's antlers was adorned with flower buds, another with green leaves, and the last had no plants on its antlers, but possessed snow-white fur at its chest and hooves.

    "Sawsbuck, the Season Pokemon, and the evolved form of Deerling. The plants growing on their antlers change with each season, and these changes are what drives Sawsbuck's migration pattern."

    "It's so majestic!" breathed Leanne.

    "A Normal/Grass type? That's pretty rare. Makes me wonder what Bianca's gonna use. I didn't see any Fire types on her."

    Indeed, Bianca seemed to be contemplating what Pokemon she could use, scratching her hair beneath her beret.

    "Come on, come on!" snapped Zach. "Make it quick!"

    "Don't be so pushy, I'm thinking," said Bianca, huffily.

    Then, she snapped her fingers with a gasp of inspiration. She fished around in her rucksack and drew out a Poke Ball. The way it gleamed as she took it out showed that it was polished to an unbelievable extent.

    "Minccino, let's do this!"

    She tossed her Ball, and out came little Minccino, who gave a chipper little squeak as he appeared. Several girls "aww"-ed at the sight of it.

    "Minccino?" said Jim, surprised. "Why send it out against a big Pokemon like Sawsbuck??"

    "Perhaps she's going for speed and evasiveness, rather than raw power," said The Guy.

    "Begin the battle!" said the referee.

    "Sawsbuck, Megahorn!" said Zach.

    Sawsbuck crouched, its leafy horns glowing bright green, then charged for Minccino.

    "Dodge it, Minccino, then use Swift!”

    Minccino leaped away to dodge the glowing antlers, then, as it was airborne over Sawsbuck, it swung its tail, sending a shower of golden stars raining down, striking Sawsbuck in the back.

    "Catch it with Double Kick!"

    Sawsbuck planted its front hooves into the dirt and struck out with its hind legs, its hooves striking Minccino a hard blow and sending it toppling to the ground.

    "Minccino!" Bianca squealed.

    "Ooh, that's gotta hurt!" said Burton. "Double Kick's a Fighting type move, and when used against a Normal type like Minccino-"

    "-It spells potential trouble for Bianca," concluded Don George.

    "Now, Sawsbuck, use Energy Ball!"

    Sawsbuck reared up, a ball of green energy forming in front of its muzzle. The ball shot forward, straight for Minccino.

    "Minccino!!"

    Minccino got to its feet shakily, and could see the Energy Ball coming toward it. Almost on instinct, its furry tail shone a brilliant white, and with one movement, it swung itself around, slapping the attack with its tail with such force that it bounced back and rocketed off into the sky. The crowd gasped.

    "What the hey?" Jim spluttered.

    "That was Tail Slap," said The Guy. "It's Minccino's signature move."

    Bianca looked thrilled.

    "Yes! Great job, Minccino!"

    Zach growled.

    "Your resistance is wasting my time! Sawsbuck, Megahorn!"

    Sawsbuck charged once again, horns glowing green.

    "Minccino, Sing!"

    Minccino clasped its paws together, closed its eyes, and began to sing in an unusually melodic voice. It had no words, just vocalizing, but the sound was beautiful. Not only that, but bobbing musical notes seemed to float from its mouth, disappearing as they touched Sawsbuck. Its charge slowed from a gallop to a canter, then to a trot, as its eyes became heavy and droopy.

    "Great! Now, while it's sleepy, use Tail Slap!"

    Minccino lunged, its tail glowing again, and smacked Sawsbuck several times across the muzzle with it. The last strike carried it onto its side, where it lay, snoozing.

    "Sawsbuck is unable to battle! Minccino wins! The victor is Bianca!"

    Bianca hopped up and down in absolute glee, and Minccino leaped into her arms to nuzzle her. With an impatient huff, Zach recalled his incapacitated Sawsbuck.

    "Complete waste of my time," he said, and exited the stadium swiftly.

    "You were amazing, Bianca!" praised Jim, as she returned.

    "Thanks, Jim! I had no idea Minccino could use Tail Slap like that!"

    "The three of you are just full of surprises," said The Guy, approvingly. "Keep it up, and those that try to stop your climb to the top will never know how to keep you down."

    The three nodded, grateful for his words of wisdom. Jim glanced over at Nigel, who was still standing off by himself. He wondered how many surprises he would have up his sleeves…

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  5. #35
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    Default Re: Jim: The Hero's Journey

    CHAPTER 33
    A Hard Night's Prep



    "Well, ladies and gentlemen," said Burton, "that concludes the preliminary round! We shall now determine the match-ups for Round 2 tomorrow! George?"

    "Thanks, Burton. The matches will proceed as follows:"

    As Don George spoke, the accompanying pictures appeared on the view screen.

    "Anonymous vs. Solomon! Jim Stevens vs. Jimmy Ray! Nigel Richmond vs. Cruise! Leanne Summers vs. Bianca!"

    Jim's face fell. It looked like he would be fighting the weirdo in the Watchog outfit after all. Bianca and Leanne, meanwhile, were regarding each other pensively. They didn't seem willing to accept that they had to battle each other.

    "Hey, don't sweat it, girls," said Jim, trying to be placating. "It's just a competition, after all. It's all in good fun, right?"

    "Yeah, I guess you're right," said Leanne, after a little hesitation.

    "We just don't want to have to be the ones battling over the chance to face you," said Bianca.

    Jim reddened.

    "Now stop it," he said, in a gentle yet reproving tone. "There's no guarantee that I'll be going on to the semifinals."

    "Oh, come on," said Bianca, brightly, "you've seen that Watchog that Jimmy Ray guy has. I now you'll have something to counter that!"

    "Maybe," said Jim, thoughtfully.

    Burton was giving his final words.

    "Remember, competitors, get a good night's rest, and be prepared for tomorrow! As always, I'm Charlie Burton-"

    "And I'm Don George-"

    "And this…is the Nimbasa Battle Tournament!" they said, simultaneously.

    ***


    Chatting excitedly, the stadium began to empty, and the remaining competitors lagged behind, Nigel far in the back. From their talk, Jim was able to learn a few things about his fellow Round 2 competitors, Solomon Wright and Cruise Greendale.

    Solomon was from Castelia himself, and had known Nigel's family, the Richmonds, since he used to deliver newspapers in their neighborhood. According to him, they were all just like Nigel: pompous and condescending, feeling superior to everyone else. They specially bred all of their Pokemon, which made sense, considering Nigel's Simisage knew Magical Leaf.

    Cruise, on the other hand, was the son of a Pokemon florist in Striaton City. He, his father, was famous for his hedge sculptures, which consisted of many Pokemon not found in Unova. Jim had the suspicion that he had been the one that crafted that "Pikachu" one he and Leanne had seen. Therefore, Cruise was proficient with Bug and Grass Pokemon, hence his Swadloon.

    "Solomon, you know the Richmonds. Why are they so hateful to people from Nuvema Town?" asked Bianca.

    "It's not just Nuvema Town," said Solomon. "They're pretty much against any settling that doesn't come to their expectations, but Nuvema and Accumula rank up with the top. To them, money is everything, and when they look at towns that look like they don't have that kind of money, it pretty much further proves their self-convictions."

    "Nigel also mentioned the Junipers," said Jim, "how their talent was wasted on us from Nuvema Town."

    "Well, it's small wonder. Professor Juniper and her father used to travel the world, accumulating and spreading their knowledge to everyone they met. Naturally, they made quite a name for themselves, but when they settled down in such a small community as Nuvema Town, some people, like the Richmonds, thought it was a waste of their potential."

    "Well, what's it to them?" Jim asked, snappishly. "It's not up to them to decide how the world works!"

    "But they'll never recognize that, I'm afraid," said The Guy, gravely. "All you can do is true to ignore the stuff he says."

    "I try, but it's difficult."

    "I know, I know. It's always difficult to withstand attacks on what you're proud of, but if you can show him you're above such taunts, and don't give him the satisfaction of riling you up, you'll prove you are better than him." Jim smiled and nodded. His respect for the mysterious, nameless Trainer seemed to be increasing with every conversation they partook in.

    ***


    By that time, they had reached the Pokemon Center. Cruise and Solomon went off to do their own things, while the others congregated to the dining area. There, as they ate, Jim got to hear what Bianca had been up to ever since she had run away from home.

    She had not personally been present for the speech from Team Plasma at Accumula Town, but had seen it televised when she stopped over at a Pokemon Center down a byway in the path. At first, she had been stricken dumb with surprise to see Jim stand up to Ghetsis, but then had whooped and hollered with excitement when he caught Echo and engaged in a double battle alongside Leanne. She had thought about going back, but had decided in the end to keep on, as she was sure he would catch up eventually. She had thankfully chosen to battle Chili for the Trio Badge, since her Dewott (who had still been an Oshawott then) was best suited.

    Jim waited for the part he was dreading, but surprisingly, Bianca made no mention of meeting Cheren or having the awful conversation Jim had overheard in secret. There was no hesitation in her voice, either, as if she had practiced for this eventuality. Jim asked no questions about it; he knew it would just stress her out. She had had a very narrow battle against Lenora, during which Oshawott had finally evolved, just like Cheren's Pignite, but had come through in the end to win her Basic Badge.

    Strangely enough, she had a relatively easy time in Pinwheel Forest, reaching the end in less than a day. When Jim and Leanne expressed astonishment and wondered on Earth she could have gotten through so quickly, she said she had used her Herdier (it had evolved from Lillipup by then) to sniff out the way. Despite her excitement to reach it, she didn't spend much time in Castelia City, only enough to earn her Insect Badge, and then was on her way again, since she was so eager to reach Nimbasa City. Jim then asked how the desert fared for her.

    "I didn't go by the desert," she said, tilting her head in slight confusion.

    Jim and Leanne looked at each other, with expressions of those unsure if they had heard right. Jim cleared his throat, in an attempt to sound casual.

    "…Pardon?"

    "I know the straight way to Nimbasa City is through the desert, but I took the way around. It only took me a couple days."

    She beamed, proud of how resourceful she had been. Jim and Leanne looked stupefied. They had spent nearly three days wandering the desert, in the scorching sun and across burning sands, while Bianca, by pure luck, had found a much easier path on the other side.

    "I knew you were full of surprises, Bianca," said Jim, at length, "but this is just ridiculous. What are the odds of you finding so many shortcuts?"

    Bianca thought about it for a moment, then shrugged.

    "I dunno," she said. "Just luck, I guess."

    "Some luck," Jim muttered.

    He returned to his brighter mood in a twinkling, however.

    "But, all in all, I'm just glad you've been doing so well. Ever since you ran off in the night, I was really worried about how you were faring."

    "Aww, that's so sweet," said Bianca, touched. "I thought about you a lot, too, especially after-"

    Here she stopped herself. She seemed on the verge of disclosing information that would not have been advisable to speak of at that time.

    "Yes?"

    "Especially after…that Team Plasma thing!" she said, hurriedly, though it seemed clear that was not what she was going to say. "I was afraid they might have bothered you again after what happened."

    "Oh-ho, trust me," said Jim, grimly, "we've had quite a few run-ins with those 'merry' folk, but nowhere near as pleasant as our little party in Accumula Town."

    Here, Jim told Bianca of their encounters with Team Plasma since the public meeting: the kidnapped Deerling near Wellspring Cave, the theft of the Nacrene Museum's fossils, kidnapping Lilligant from Cirque de Pokee (Bianca expressed great disappointment at not having stayed to see it), and attempting to sic a Darmanitan on them in the desert.

    "That's…that's horrible!" Bianca gasped, dumbfounded at what Jim had described. "What kind of people are they?!"

    "The kind you and I would do very well to stay away from," said The Guy, who had remained silent all throughout their conversation. "There's no doubt they're only trying to follow what's best for Pokemon, but they really need to set their priorities in order."

    "No kidding. Resorting to thievery and attempted murder…"

    The four remained silent for some time, and then The Guy clapped his hands together.

    "Well!" he said. "Since we're all finished, I'd wager we should prepare for tomorrow."

    "Oh! Good idea!" said Jim.

    They all got up from their chairs and left the dining hall.

    ***


    There was a grassy pavilion at the back of the Pokemon Center, almost like a park, complete with topiaries and arranged flowers. It had obviously been set up to help visiting Trainers prepare for the competition, as there were also wooden targets and sack dummies. Here, the foursome broke up to confer with their Pokemon. Jim went off to one corner, and turning back, he saw The Guy with his Pokemon, Ferroseed, Scrafty, and Palpitoad, talking to them stiff and erect, like a military officer. Jim let all of his Pokemon out, and there they stood, looking expectantly up at him. June clambered down from his shoulder to join them.

    "Ok, guys, we're already into Round 2," he said, "and we all have Echo to thank for that."

    Echo grinned in an embarrassed way as the others applauded him.

    "But we can't slack off yet. We're going to be facing Jimmy Ray, who's got a Watchog. We can't be sure what he's going to throw at us, so we have to be prepared for anything. Torrent?"

    "Yeah, bro?"

    "This is as good a time as any to get Brick Break down pat."

    "Right. I'd just need something to practice on, you know?"

    "I do. Croco?"

    "Eh?"

    "Think you can lend a claw in this?"

    "Why me? I ain't no punching bag."

    "You could let him practice on your Stone Edge attacks."

    "Ah! Why didn't ya say so from the start? Sure, I can do that."

    "Sound good, Torrent?"

    "Absolutely!" said Torrent, flashing him a thumbs-up.

    "The rest of you, I'll monitor your training in the meanwhile. Let's get started!"

    ***


    For the rest of that evening, Jim supervised the others as they practiced on the training equipment, particularly with their projectile attacks. The targets looked as if they were made of ordinary wood, but they were impressively sturdy, exemplified by the number of times one target was bombarded by a Shadow Ball or Energy Ball. Torrent and Croco, meanwhile, were in full swing. Croco summoned a cloud of Stone Edge rocks, forming a sort of barrier around himself, and Torrent was to use Brick Break to smash through it. He charged at it with great gusto, but as soon as he jutted his fist out, the telltale glow around it vanished, and he just ended up tumbling headlong into the jagged stones, making Jim wince.

    "Keep going, Torrent," he said, bracingly, "I know you'll get it."

    He looked about the pavilion at his other Pokemon, and then stopped, with some surprise. Missy wasn't among the Pokemon preparing for the upcoming battle. Instead, she was settled on a tree limb, a ripe apple in her paws. Jim crossed over, arms folded.

    "Missy, this is no time for loafing. We have to take this fight seriously."

    "I'm not loafing," she insisted, "I'm watching and learning."

    She looked up at Jim, hoping this was a good enough explanation, but her ears lowered at the sight of how unimpressed he was.

    "Aw, come on, Jim. Fighting's not my niche. You probably won't even need me tomorrow."

    Jim's glare hardened. It was just as June had predicted…

    "I have no way of guaranteeing that," he replied, sternly. "A good Pokemon team is prepared for anything, even if they don't see immediate action. Laziness is not an option! Now hop to it!"

    "I'm not lazy! I just don't like battling! You can't make me if I don't want to!" she retaliated, pouting.

    This made Jim even angrier. She was acting just like a spoiled little child.

    "Now you listen here, young lady," he said. "This is a competition, and in a competition, there is absolutely no room for idle behavior and shirking training! You see the others out there, preparing with everything they've got, and I expect you to do the same! What happened to the Missy I first met, the one who helped save us from a mad Scolipede?!"

    Missy looked terrified at this scolding; it was so unlike Jim. Her lip trembled, and she looked up at him with big, sad, soulful eyes, the apple still clutched in her tiny paws.

    That was enough.

    Jim sighed, wearily, feeling awful for what he had just said. He took his hat off and knelt down to get to her eye level, putting a hand on her furry head.

    "Look, Missy, I didn't mean to yell at you like that. I know not every Pokemon is enthused about battling, but even if they aren't, they have to give their best when the time calls for it. You fought great against N's Yamask, or Burgh's Dwebble."

    Missy looked down at the grass, ashamed at this reminder.

    "Believe me, I don't like forcing you to do what you don't want, but we all have to be prepared for the unexpected. That's what battling is all about. Just give it a try. For me?"

    He smiled down at her, so gently and fatherly that Missy nearly cried. At least, there was the beginning of tears in her eyes. She nodded, dropped the apple, and raised her little arms for a hug, which Jim granted. Then, with a small smile to him, she jumped down from the tree and went to join her teammates. Jim replaced his cap back on his head.

    "Nice going."

    Jim started and turned. June was standing on the branch Missy had just left.

    "You handled that very nicely."

    "I guess you were right, June."

    June put a consoling paw on his arm.

    "Don't blame yourself," she said. "It wasn't your fault. You did the right thing in being firm with her."

    "Do you still hate her?" Jim asked, shrewdly.

    "No, but I still want to make sure her behavior's kept in check. I'm just trying to look out for the stability of the team."

    Jim smiled.

    "I had no idea you were the team mom," he said.

    June looked as if she might have taken offense at that, but on reflection, she smiled and chuckled.

    "Hey! Jim! June!"

    Jim and June turned to see Torch scrambling towards them.

    "What is it, Torch?"

    "You've got to see this! Torrent's finally getting it down!"

    "Really??"

    They followed Torch back to the other side of the pavilion, just in time to see Torrent rushing forward again. Croco had raised a new wall of Stone Edge rocks, and Torrent's arm was ablaze with white light. With a lunge, he threw his arm back, then jutted it forward. There was a crumbling crash, and the stones within the range of his fist were smashed into gravel, so that his fist kept going and socked Croco in the stomach. With a wheeze, he doubled over and fell onto his back, the stones clattering to the grass beside him before vanishing. Torrent stood, panting and cringing, gripping his wrist.

    "Torrent! You did it!"

    "Yeah, I guess I did," he said, with a smile. "Not too good right now, but it's getting there."

    "Definitely. As long as keep it up, we'll have it refined into the perfect Brick Break."

    There was a loud zap and crack at that moment. They whirled around, and saw that Missy had unleashed an Electro Ball at one of the beleaguered wooden targets, finally splintering it. The portly Emolga gazed proudly at her work, then over at the others, who all applauded her electrokinetic display. Jim, especially, looked pleased to see her taking her training as seriously as Torrent had done, and, as he glanced at June, he saw that even the stern Snivy had a smile on her face.

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  6. #36
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    Default Re: Jim: The Hero's Journey

    CHAPTER 34
    Round 2: Part 1



    "Good morning, Nimbasa, and welcome to Day 2 of our battle tournament! I'm Charles Burton-"

    "And I'm Don George-"

    "Reporting to you live from Nimbasa's own Big Stadium! We're about to begin the quarterfinals, starting with our first battle: Anonymous vs. Solomon!"

    The two were already in place, Jim, Leanne, and Bianca standing by in the waiting section, all eyes on the battlefield. Both combatants were looking perfectly composed and collected. Unfortunately, Solomon had done his training away from the others, so Jim had no idea what other Pokemon he had. Just as he was pondering what he could have, the aforementioned Trainer drew out a Poke Ball.

    "Duosion, let's do this!" he said as he threw it.

    The Pokemon that appeared was quite an oddity. It was pale green, with a large head with black eyes and a diamond-shaped mouth, a small body, and stubby arms, all encapsulated in a translucent blobby dark green shell. Jim took out his Pokedex to scan it.

    "Duosion, the Mitosis Pokemon, and the evolved form of Solosis. Because its brain is divided into two, it utilizes its full power when both halves think the same thought."

    The Guy regarded the strange Pokemon with complete calm, then drew his own Poke Ball.

    "Palpitoad, stand by for battle!"

    The Vibration Pokemon appeared on the battlefield, sticking out its tongue impetuously again. Confused murmurs spread throughout the crowd.

    "Why would he choose Palpitoad?" Cruise asked, stupefied. "Scrafty's a Fighting type, but it's also a Dark type, meaning it can resist Psychic attacks! Palpitoad doesn't have any advantage!"

    "I think he knew that," said Jim, who was standing beside him, "and didn't want an unfair dominance."

    "Unfair dominance? He'd have this fight in the bag! Just because he wants to fight fair doesn't mean he should take such risks!"

    "But isn't that what makes Pokemon battling so special? The risks you take?"

    Cruise looked at him in surprise, and couldn't find anything to argue against that.

    "Well, George, it looks like our first battle of the day shall turn out to be an interesting one," said Burton.

    "That's right, Charlie. Neither Pokemon has a type advantage over the other, so all it comes down to is skill and moves."

    The referee raised his flags.

    "Begin!"

    "Duosion, start off with Psyshock!"

    Duosion tensed, and a ball of glowing blue and purple energy formed in front of it, launching for Palpitoad.

    "Palpitoad, defend with Muddy Water!"

    Palpitoad tensed as well, and seemingly out of nowhere, a ring of brown water appeared around it, rising up like a swirling barrier. The Psyshock struck the water, leaving a gap but no other damage.

    "Now fight back with Mud Shot!"

    Palpitoad whipped its tongue out, which had begun to glow yellow. It swung its tongue like a rope, and a volley of mud balls struck at Duosion, striking it repeatedly. Strangely enough, Solomon didn't order an attack to prevent it.

    "That's weird," mused Bianca. "You'd think he'd have some kind of shielding move or something."

    "Yeah," said Jim, regarding Solomon with a grim look on his face. "Just what is Solomon up to?"

    "All right, Duosion, use Psyshock again!"

    Duosion sent another glowing blue and purple ball at Palpitoad.

    "Palpitoad, Muddy Water, this time to strike back!"

    Palpitoad let out a vibrating croak, and another cyclone of brown water surrounded it, but this time it converged into a solid point and struck, like a snake, at the Psyshock. The two attacks struck, fighting to best each other, but finally, the Muddy Water won, and Duosion was swamped by it, literally. Again, Solomon didn't seem perturbed by this. On the contrary, he was smiling, despite his Pokemon's obvious fatigue.

    "You find something funny about all this?" The Guy asked.

    "Not funny, per se, but you've played into my hand nicely."

    "…How's that?"

    "Well, best not to keep you waiting. Duosion, Endeavor!"

    Duosion tensed, its eyes narrowed in concentration, as its inner body began glowing a rainbow of colors. Then, it settled on pure white, and a beam of the same rainbow-colored light blasted forth and struck Palpitoad, who cried out, its body also glowing this colorful myriad. Then, all of a sudden, it slumped, looking far too battle-damaged for having been struck once. The crowd gasped. Bianca and Leanne's jaws dropped, and Jim and Cruise were no less stupefied.

    "What…what was that?" Jim asked.

    "That was Endeavor," replied Cruise. "It's a move that damages the opponent to the exact point the user is at. It's sort of like sharing the pain."

    "And now, Duosion, Recover," said Solomon, quite at his ease.

    A strange glow surrounded Duosion's body, and when it faded, all visible signs of damage on it were gone.

    "No wonder Solomon didn't try to defend," said Leanne. "He was waiting on using that Endeavor, and then refreshing Duosion while Palpitoad's exhausted!"

    "He's really crafty," muttered Jim.

    Oddly, throughout all this, The Guy had hardly stirred. His face had never even registered dismay at this sneaky ploy. Instead, he was frowning, eyebrows lowered, as if pondering what he should do. It hardly looked as if he was bothered at all by what happened. At last, he nodded and smiled.

    "I won't deny it, Solomon, that was very clever. Endeavor plus Recover isn't a very common move set, and you've displayed it admirably, but do you really think I never expected this?"

    Solomon looked slightly taken aback.

    "When you've traveled the world as much as I have, you know all the quirks of every Pokemon you've encountered. The minute I saw that Duosion, I had a feeling in the back of my head you'd try something like that. That's why I'm prepared for it."

    "Ha! You're bluffing! Duosion, Hidden Power!"

    A ball of brownish energy appeared in front of Duosion and shot for Palpitoad.

    "Oh, am I? Palpitoad, dodge and use Aqua Ring!"

    With an effort, the exhausted Palpitoad leaped aside, the Hidden Power striking the dirt. Then, it let out a croak, and a multitude of glowing blue rings, which seemed to be made of water, surrounded its body. A bluish glow surrounded it, and in the next instant, Palpitoad looked much better: not quite fully healed, but with a look of determination returned to its face. Collective gasps and shouts of admiration came from this display. Jim laughed aloud.

    "Ha-HA! I knew he wouldn't be unprepared!"

    "Whoa," muttered Cruise. "He took a big risk, but it's really paying off."

    Solomon looked dumbfounded, but smiled after a bit.

    "So, back to square 1, are we?"

    "Guess so. Ready when you are."

    "Duosion, Psyshock once again!"

    Once more, Duosion sent its psychic sphere at Palpitoad.

    "Counter with Mud Shot!"

    Palpitoad swung its glowing tongue, releasing a shower of mud globs. One struck the Psyshock and caused an explosion, but the others slammed Duosion.

    "All right, Duosion, get ready for another Endeavor!"

    Duosion began to glow rainbow colors once again.

    "Not this time. Palpitoad, Uproar!"

    Palpitoad took a very deep breath, and then let loose something like a roaring croak, so intense in volume in power that the air was actually distorted in waves, Everyone clapped their hands to their ears to shut out the noise. Duosion stumbled, the beam of its Endeavor firing way off.

    "And now, Palpitoad, finish this up with one more Muddy Water!"

    Palpitoad's clamor subsided, and a swirling mass of dirty water rose up, struck forward, and overcame Duosion. Just as quickly as it had come, the water disappeared, and there lay Duosion, unconscious.

    "Duosion is unable to battle! Palpitoad wins!"

    The crowd exploded into wild cheers. The Guy merely grinned in appreciation of his victory, while Palpitoad danced on the spot. Solomon sighed and recalled Duosion.

    "Good work, old friend. You deserve a rest."

    The Guy approached him.

    "Thanks, Solomon. You gave me one heck of a fight."

    "Glad to oblige," he replied, smiling.

    The two shook hands and returned to the competitor waiting area.

    "You both were amazing!" said Leanne. "I had no idea who was gonna come out on top!"

    "You were both pretty well prepared," said Jim. "Not just Aqua Ring, but Recover and Endeavor? I've never heard of such a strategy!"

    "It's helped me win quite a few battles," said Solomon, gratified by someone praising his technique.

    "I still say you would have had an easier battle if you just used Scrafty from the start," Cruise said to The Guy.

    "I doubt that," said Solomon. "My Duosion's Hidden Power was Fighting type; a failsafe for Dark-type opponents. Even if he had chosen Scrafty, it wouldn't have mattered."

    Once again, Cruise was struck dumb by his convictions being refuted.

    "Well, bud, it looks like you and me are next," said an unfamiliar voice.

    Jim turned, and found himself face to face with Jimmy Ray, his oddly-garbed opponent.

    "Er, yeah, I guess so," said Jim, uneasily.

    "Can I ask you something? Not meaning to offend, but-"

    At this, Jimmy Ray laughed.

    "Don't worry, it's not a real Watchog pelt. Pretty lifelike, though, isn't it?" he added, fingering one of the ears of the pelt.

    Jim grimaced.

    "Unnervingly lifelike," he muttered.

    Still, despite his odd attire, Jimmy Ray seemed quite amiable, if a little goofy. At that moment, however, both were called out to the arena, and so they took their places, June once again situated with Bianca. Jim swallowed hard and drew out a Poke Ball.

    "Ok, Torrent, it's show time!"

    There was a burst of light, and there stood the cool-minded Simipour, arms crossed, complacent.

    "A Simipour, eh?" said Jimmy Ray. "Tell me, Stevens, just what Pokemon do you think I'm going to use?"

    Jim rolled his eyes, mostly from how "sly" his opponent was trying to make himself out to be.

    "Well, gee, let me think…a Watchog maybe?"

    Jimmy Ray laughed.

    "You're a riot! This is going to be fun. In any case, you would think that, but no. Watchog is my favorite, of course, but I've got something else in mind….

    Jim raised an eyebrow. The way Jimmy Ray was building up to his Pokemon was…disquieting. There was a sort of cunning slyness to it. He reached into the folds of his costume and pulled out his own Poke Ball.

    "Now, my champion, dazzle this tournament!"

    He threw it high, and it opened.

    The flash of light that usually accompanied Pokemon coming out was much brighter than usual. It was like a sunspot more than a blink of light, and Jim couldn't help but cover his eyes. When he uncovered them, he gave a start, his jaw hanging open. A fair amount of spectators gasped.

    Jimmy Ray's Pokemon…was an Audino.

    It was not like any Audino he had ever seen before. All Audino he had seen had sweet, motherly expressions on their faces, but this one had a crafty, self-satisfied smile on its face. Secondly, all the Audino he had ever seen were plump, but this one seemed toned, with a barrel chest rather than a round belly. Lastly, and most striking, all Audino were usually pink and cream, but on this one, wherever there was supposed to be pink, there was instead purple.

    "What kind of Audino is that?" Jim asked.

    "A very special one," said Jimmy Ray, "one I was extremely lucky to come across. A Shiny male Audino."

    "S-Shiny??" Jim spluttered.

    He had heard tales about Shiny Pokemon: Pokemon that seemed normal, except that they were a completely different color. They were extremely rare, almost impossible to find, and thus were much sought after. Jim was beginning to feel uneasy. He had never seen an Audino in battle, unless he could count the skirmish in the Dreamyard, but he knew they were able to learn an unbelievable amount of different moves, and also had incredible resilience, comparable to a Pokemon he had heard of from the Kanto region, called a "Chansey", though he didn't even know what one was. He was beginning to wonder if sending Torrent out was a good idea. He shook his head briskly.

    "I can't back down now. Special Audino or no, we're not going to go down so easily. Torrent, get ready!"

    Torrent got into a battle position.

    "That's the spirit!" said Jimmy Ray, as his Audino followed suit.

    "Hold on to your hats, folks," said Burton. "We've got a once-in-a-lifetime match here: a battle against a Shiny Pokemon!"

    "In fact, Charlie," said Don George, "this may be the first time ever in any Nimbasa Battle Tournament that a Shiny Pokemon has been used."

    "Truly a historic event, George!"

    Historic or not, however, Jim was determined to bring it down like the rest.

    "Begin!" said the referee.

    "Torrent, use Scald!"

    Torrent took a deep breath, then spat a stream of steaming water straight at Audino.

    "Audino, Safeguard!"

    Audino jutted his chest out, and a greenish-blue force field temporarily surrounded him, before the Scald struck. He grimaced in pain from the hot water, but otherwise was unmoved. Jim frowned.

    "Pretty clever," he muttered. "He's making sure Scald doesn't leave a burn." He then said, aloud, "All right, Torrent, Acrobatics!"

    Torrent sprinted forward, so quickly that he seemed to leave afterimages behind. He tackled past Audino several times with astounding speed, but the Hearing Pokemon didn't move an inch. Jim growled in frustration.

    "This is ridiculous. But then again, this is why we prepared for this strategy."

    Torrent seemed to read what Jim was planning, and went into another battle-ready position, one arm pulled back.

    "Sorry, Jim, but I'm afraid I can't let you do that," said Jimmy Ray, in an imitation of the big bad of an action movie. "Audino, Secret Power!"

    Audino's entire body glowed a violent shade of pink, and the ground seemed to flash the same color. Audino threw his arms up, then forward, the energy blasting forward in a beam to overwhelm Torrent, bowling him over.

    "Torrent!" Jim yelled.

    Torrent crawled back onto his feet, but he seemed rather unsteady.

    "Hang in there, buddy. Use Scald again!"

    Torrent shot another spray of scalding water, but his aim was way off, splashing into one of the far walls of the arena.

    "Torrent! What was that about?!"

    Jim looked from Torrent to Audino, and frowned.

    (That attack Audino did must have done something to Torrent; messed up his accuracy or something…)

    Jimmy Ray was smiling, in such a self-satisfied way that it made Jim's blood boil.

    "Torrent, wipe that smug look off his face! Acrobatics!"

    Torrent dashed forward like before…but he veered to Audino's left side, sprinting this way and that without once making his mark. Jim slapped a hand to his forehead in exasperation.

    "I can see my Audino's Secret Power has you confounded, Jim," said Jimmy Ray, crossing his arms, as Audino imitated him. "You see, it has a different effect depending on where it's used. In this case, since we're on a dirt battlefield, Torrent faces a reduction in accuracy."

    Jim blanched.

    (I knew it…Well, now I have no guarantee of Brick Break making its mark. What do I do?)

    Jimmy Ray, obviously, was not one to wait around while his opponents contemplated how to save themselves.

    "Now, Audino, use Secret Power again!"

    Once again, Audino glowed pink and sent the same blast at Torrent, sending him flying. Jim grimaced. Leanne and Bianca gripped the guard rail in intense anxiety.

    "Whoa-ho, George," said Burton, "this isn't looking too good for Stevens!"

    "Not at all, Charlie. As Jimmy Ray himself said, Secret Power on a dirt battlefield has the chance of lowering the opponent's accuracy. Stevens' Simipour is going to be hard-pressed to get a good hit in."

    Jim set his teeth. He wasn't in the mood to be reminded of the peril he was in. Torrent was as good as half-blind, but he couldn't just throw in the towel based on that technicality.

    "Torrent, use Scald again!"

    Torrent, back on his feet, spat another Scald, and this time, he made his mark, but it didn't seem to make much difference. Audino still showed little sign of being affected beyond a flinch from the impact of burning hot water. Jimmy Ray yawned.

    "Well, Stevens, I'll admit this was entertaining, but it's time to put this performance to an end!"

    With a dramatic flourish of his outstretched arm, he directed his Pokemon to the assault.

    "Audino, Giga Impact!"

    A hushed murmur fell over the crowd, and Jim felt the blood drain from his limbs. A Giga Impact now, when Torrent had been struck by two Secret Power attacks, would mean the end of the match, if he didn't do something. He didn't have much time to think, either, as Audino was beginning to glow with white energy. Frustration had given way to fierce desperation. What was he to do??

    "SAY GOOD NIGHT!!" crowed his outlandishly-garbed opponent, and with that, Audino charged like a bullet, moving so fast that his feet seemed to leave the ground.

    Finally, Jim couldn't take it anymore.

    "TORRENT!!" he yelled, "IT'S NOW OR NEVER! USE BRICK BREAK!!"

    Torrent gave something like a start, as if snapped into attention, and then, his closed-eyed face set with new determination, uncaring that there was a chance he could miss altogether, he pulled his arm back, which began to glow white. The glow intensified as he swung his arm in a circle, as if he were a baseball pitcher winding up for the wickedest throw he could muster. In the next instant, Audino was upon him, and Torrent struck!


    WHAM!!


    The sound of the blow echoed throughout the stadium like a gunshot, and the force reverberated like an earthquake. People gasped, and even the announcers were at a loss for words. From their vantage points, it was nearly impossible to say who had struck first. Both Pokemon were frozen in place, head against head, no change in their expressions whatsoever. Jim and Jimmy Ray stood where they were, a mixture of astonishment and grim determination set on their faces. At this point, the fight could still go either way…

    And then, with still no change of his expression, Audino tumbled backward, falling onto his back and lying there stiffly. A livid bruise was in his midsection, and Torrent's arm, fist clenched, was still outstretched. The referee raised his flag.

    "Audino is unable to battle! Simipour is the victor!"

    It took a moment or two for this outcome to sink in, but then, gradually, the entire stadium exploded into wild applause. It took even longer to register with Jim, but at last, when he finally saw what had happened, his stupor gave way to jubilation. He rushed over to Torrent, who nursing his fist, and threw his arms around him. With a big grin, the Simipour returned the embrace.

    "You did it, Torrent! Just like I knew you would!"

    "Never would without you, bro," he replied, though it was only just audible over the din of the crowd.

    Jimmy Ray, after staring with shock for some time, at last smiled and helped heave his Audino into a sitting position.

    "You did spectacularly, my friend," he said, gently, "I'm proud of you, loss or no."

    Audino weakly smiled, and was recalled into his Poke Ball. With Torrent by his side, Jim approached his Watchog-clad opponent.

    "Thanks, Ray. You gave me one of the toughest fights I've ever experienced. Your Audino's something else."

    "So is your Simipour. I'm proud to have had the honor of battling you."

    The two gave each other a hearty handshake, then turned to return to the contestant's area, amid the cheers and wild, disjointed shouts of disbelieving excitement from the two announcers.

    Y Rotation Team

  7. #37
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    Default Re: Jim: The Hero's Journey

    CHAPTER 35
    Round 2: Part 2



    The instant Jim stepped back among his fellow Trainers, he was enveloped in a double-hug from Leanne and Bianca.

    "THAT WAS UNBELIEVABLE!!" they both squealed.

    June had jumped back onto his shoulder and gave him a warm nuzzle.

    "Aw, shucks, girls," said Jim, coloring.

    Even Oshawott was giving him an appreciative smile.

    "Nice work, kid," said The Guy. "Teaching your Simipour Brick Break was a nice touch."

    "Took a lot of doing to perfect it, though."

    "All training takes a lot of doing. It's seeing those moves perfected in action that's the ultimate payoff."

    The Guy gave him a paternal smile and clapped his other shoulder. The girls let go of Jim, as Cruise and Nigel were being called for their battle. Jim looked up. He hadn't seen or heard from Nigel since their confrontation after his preliminary battle yesterday. Today, however, there he was, coming strutting out of nowhere, past the group of friends. He acted like he didn't even see them.

    "Good luck, Cruise," Jim said.

    "Thanks," Cruise replied, before stepping out.

    The two combatants faced each other, and Cruise took out a Poke Ball, which he held with what looked like an appreciative reverence.

    "Servine, I'm counting on you!" he cried as he tossed it.

    The Pokemon that appeared had a long, snake-like body, green with a cream underbelly, but had small arms and legs, making it appear more like a lizard. It had a pointed snout, red eyes, a crest on its head, a yellow collar-like adornment across its chest and shoulders, and pointed leaves running down its tail, ending in one at its tip. Jim felt June grip his shoulder rather tightly, and looking askance to her, saw that she was regarding the Pokemon with a kind of wary dislike. Jim took out his Pokedex.

    "Servine, the Grass Snake Pokemon, and the evolved form of Snivy. Servine avoids detection by sneaking through thick foliage, then surprises its opponents from behind with its whip-like vines."

    "Wow. So that's what you'd evolve into."

    "Hmph…"

    "What? What'd I say?"

    "Look at that smug, condescending face…"

    Jim regarded her with some astonishment, then looked at Cruise's Servine. There was no denying that it did look cocky and sure of itself.

    "Are you saying you'd never want to evolve?"

    "Not if it means I'd become as boastful as that."

    At first, Jim didn't think it was fair of June to be so judgmental. Bianca's Dewott might have been stoic and disciplined like all Dewott, but he still maintained his loyalty to his Trainer. Then again, if June did evolve one day into a Servine…would he lose the June he had grown to love? Such was indeed food for thought, so much so that he nearly forgot the battle was still about to start, and Nigel was choosing his Pokemon.

    "Elgyem, come forth!"

    The Pokemon that appeared this time was small and gray, with a large, egg-shaped head with ovular green eyes and odd, black lines in the forehead. It had a stubby tail and broad, fingerless hands that were set instead by three buttons or lights, red, yellow, and green. Many people gasped or muttered excitedly. Jim scanned this one as well, his Pokedex still out.

    "Elgyem, the Cerebral Pokemon. This Pokemon was never been seen by humans until it appeared in the desert 50 years ago. It uses its psychic powers to cause painful headaches."

    "50 years ago?" Jim mused.

    "Elgyem are an extremely peculiar race indeed," said The Guy. "No one knows what they are, where they came from, or how they came here at all, but they seem to have adjusted to their surroundings like all Pokemon."

    Jim looked at Elgyem, wondering what it could be capable of, being a Psychic type.

    "Let the match begin!" shouted the referee.

    "Servine, use Leaf Tornado!"

    Just like June would, Servine spun like a top, becoming surrounded by a hurricane of leaves which then tossed themselves at Elgyem.

    "Elgyem, Teleport!" commanded Nigel.

    With a blink of light, Elgyem suddenly vanished on the spot, as if it were the image of a TV screen being shut off. The leaves bombarded past, denied their target, who then appeared left of the spot. Cruise clenched his fist, while Nigel merely grinned.

    "Don't let it get to you, Servine! Use Slam!"

    Servine charged forward at astounding speed.

    "Counter with Headbutt!" ordered Nigel.

    Elgyem shot forward headfirst like a missile, a faint glow surrounding it. Just when they were about to collide, however, Servine jumped and wrapped its tail around Elgyem, pulling it to a sharp stop, much to it and Nigel's collective astonishment. Then, with an effort of strength, it pulled a somersault, throwing Elgyem over its head and slamming it right into the dirt. Now it was Nigel's turn to grimace and Cruise's to smirk. Jim gripped the guard rails in anticipation.

    "I'd love to see Cruise wipe that smug look off Nigel's face permanently," he said. "This'll teach him not to discount the Snivy evolutionary line."

    "Don't get too confident, kid," said The Guy. "Cruise has got his head in the game, sure, but Elgyem's still a Psychic type, and they can pull off some really nasty tricks."

    Jim looked at him, but said nothing. He didn't think it wise to contradict him; after all, he'd had more experience.

    "Elgyem, use Psybeam!"

    Elgyem had lifted itself back up, and had held its hands forward, palms first. The lights began to blink rapidly, and in the next instant, a beam of rainbow-colored light erupted from between its hands, shooting for Servine.

    "Dodge it, Servine, and then use Leech Seed!" Cruise ordered.

    Servine crouched and leaped with great agility. The Psybeam blasted past and struck the opposite wall of the stands, discombobulating several spectators. Meanwhile, the spiny leaves on Servine's tail had begun to glow a bright green. In the next instant, it swung its tail in a wide sweep, and tiny, glowing projectiles were flung from it to strike Elgyem. They were so small, Jim couldn't see what they were, but in the next instant, he saw a multitude of green, creeping vines encircle Elgyem's body, and a reddish glow seemed to emanate from them. Elgyem winced in pain, and small orbs of the same red light fled from the vines and absorbed into Servine's body.

    "What a spectacular tactical maneuver!" said Burton, excitedly. "It looks like Cruise has set himself up for a slow but steady victory!"

    "Yes, indeed, Charlie," said Don George, "Elgyem will still be able to attack, but that Leech Seed's gonna eat away at its health little by little, while that energy goes to Servine."

    Jim pounded the guard rail with his fist.

    "Ha!" he shouted. "I knew Cruise would one-up on Nigel! Let's see him get out of this!"

    "You might want to look again, Jim," said Solomon. "Nigel doesn't look too concerned."

    Indeed, despite this setback, Nigel still looked completely at ease, as if all of this had been taken into account.

    "Oh my," he said, in a sarcastically concerned voice, "You've roped my poor Elgyem into a Leech Seed trap. Whatever shall I do?"

    Cruise raised an eyebrow, nonplussed from this show.

    "Oh, wait, I know exactly what I'll do," said Nigel, a glint in his eye. "Elgyem, use Heal Block!"

    A gasp ran over the crowd, as Elgyem's eyes began to flash a pale yellow. The same glow surrounded Servine, and it seemed, in the next moment, to fade away and turn a rusty copper color, as if the light had died.

    "What…what did he just do?" asked Jim.

    "Heal Block," said Solomon, grimly. "It's a move that keeps the victim from regaining health by any means. Leech Seed will still damage Elgyem, but Servine won't get the benefit of restoring its health from it."

    Jim beat the guard rail again, but this time out of frustration.

    "That sneaky…" he muttered.

    Cruise was taken aback by Nigel's ploy, but was clearly trying to regain his stance. Nigel was laughing.

    "It's just as I said to Stevens," he said, coldly, and Jim looked up. "The Snivy line will never match up to my idea of a perfect Grass type. Too little variety, very predictable…"

    His cold eyes were narrowed with devious glee.

    "Not bad, Nigel, not bad. That's an oddly specific strategy you've worked out. It doesn't change the fact that Heal Block is still a double-edged sword. Servine can't regain health, but that doesn't make Elgyem immune to damage. It all comes down to pure skill now."

    "Precisely," said Nigel, composedly.

    "Then let's proceed! Servine, use Aerial Ace!"

    Servine crouched, and a white energy seemed to surround its body. It lunged forward, but its feet weren't touching the ground. It was actually soaring through the air, like a bird! Jim couldn't take its eyes off it; never before had he seen anything other than a Flying-type Pokemon fly so gracefully. Even June was watching it with wide-eyed wonder. Nigel, for his part, was so caught off guard that he didn't order Elgyem to dodge, and Servine struck head on. At the same time, the telltale red blink told everyone watching that Leech Seed had zapped more energy.

    "Once again, Servine!" ordered Cruise.

    Servine, pulling a spectacular U-turn, rocketed toward Elgyem once again, but this time, Nigel had regained himself.

    "Teleport!" he commanded.

    Elgyem vanished, causing Servine to blast right past where Elgyem had been and crash into the dirt. A collective groan of "Ohh!" ran through the crowd at the sight of the impact. Nigel's smile was back on his face as Elgyem returned to view above the prostrated Grass Snake Pokemon.

    "Headbutt!" he ordered.

    Elgyem inverted itself and struck Servine square in the back, like a pile-driver. Cruise winced.

    "Again!"

    Once again, Elgyem slammed down, headfirst. Servine looked as if it were in terrible pain.

    "Come on, Servine! Hang in there!" begged Cruise.

    Servine very shakily got to into a crouch, but it was clear that it was extremely battered, and with no way to recover. Nigel's devious smile had become even more unpleasant.

    "You put up a valiant effort, my dear Cruise," he said, "but even you must know when to admit defeat. And now, Elgyem, end this pitiful display! Psybeam, full power!"

    Elgyem brought its arms back. The lights on its palm blazed with the rainbow-colored light of the brewing Psybeam. Then, it brought its hands together, palms forward, and with the speed and ferocity of a gunshot, it fired! The blast overwhelmed Servine, hitting it full force and sending it crashing into the wall behind it. When the light vanished, Servine was sprawled against the wall, out cold. The referee raised his flag.

    "Servine is unable to battle! Elgyem is the winner!"

    It took a moment for the audience to recover itself from such a display, but they burst into cheers soon enough. Nigel proudly recalled Elgyem as Cruise rushed to his Servine and picked it up in his arms.

    "You did wonderfully, Servine," he whispered. "I'm proud of you."

    Jim was glaring at Nigel as he returned to the spectator's area, followed by Cruise.

    "Oh, come now, Stevens, are you such a sore loser that you get mad even when you're not the one who lost?"

    Jim said nothing, and Nigel went on his way.

    "Sorry, Cruise. I really wanted to see you win."

    "It's all right, Jim. I'm surprised I even got this far."

    "Your Servine's really something else. That Aerial Ace came out of nowhere!"

    "Thanks. I taught it to Servine to give it a little variety."

    "It was perfect timing, if you ask me. For just a moment, it wiped that smug look off his face. 'Very predictable', huh?"

    He didn't care if Nigel could hear or not. Cruise laughed, then he paused, as if struck with an idea.

    "If you want," he said, "I could teach your Snivy Aerial Ace."

    June perked up, caught off guard by this suggestion.

    "Really?" Jim asked. "You'd do that?"

    "Sure! If she's willing, that is."

    "What do you think, partner?" Jim asked.

    June's eyelids lowered.

    "Would I have to take orders from him?" she asked, pointedly.

    "I suppose so," said Jim.

    June sighed, resignedly.

    "Well, compromises have to be made, I suppose," she muttered.

    "So?" Cruise asked, expectantly.

    "She's not too jazzed about being taught by her evolved form, but she'll do it."

    "Awesome! Don't worry, Servine's no drill sergeant. He's like a big brother to my other Pokemon."

    "You hear that, June?" Jim asked, looking at her hopefully.

    She said nothing, so he dropped it.

    "Will contestants Leanne Summers and Bianca make their way to the arena, please?" called Burton.

    Both girls jumped at being addressed.

    "Well, here goes," said Leanne.

    "Wish us luck," said Bianca.

    "Good luck, girls, and remember, just battle like you normally would."

    If this reassured them in any way, he didn't know, as the two just made their way out to the battlefield, taking their places. Both, however, seemed to have made up their minds on who to use. Leanne had taken Oshawott with her, and he was now standing by her side, at the ready. Bianca took out a Poke Ball from her rucksack.

    "Let's do this, Dewott!" she said.

    The ball opened, and there was the Discipline Pokemon, standing cross-armed and stern-faced.

    "Well, well, well!" said Burton. "We have a very unique match up for our final battle of the day: Oshawott vs. its evolved form, Dewott!"

    "It's certainly not the first time we've had this sort of battle," said Don George, "but each time, they've managed to surprise us. Let's see what they've got up their sleeves."

    "Let the match begin!" said the referee.

    "Dewott, use Water Pulse!"

    Dewott cupped his paws in front of his chest. A swirling ball of compressed water appeared between them, then shot forward toward Oshawott.

    "Counter with Water Gun!"

    Oshawott spat a stream of water from his mouth, striking the Water Pulse. Unfortunately, the attack didn't cancel out. Instead, the Water Pulse barreled through and mowed Oshawott over. He was back on his feet in an instant, however.

    "Good work, Oshawott! Now, use Razor Shell!"

    Oshawott drew his scalchop, and the familiar glowing blue blade appeared at its wide end.

    "You use Razor Shell as well, Dewott!"

    Dewott drew both of the scalchops at his sides, forming a pair of shorter, slimmer blades than Oshawott's. He spun these in his paws demonstratively, then got into a battle stance not unlike a ninja, while Oshawott's was one akin to a medieval knight. The two leaped at each other, and while Dewott was very swift and furious with its blades, Oshawott's was larger and thus more capable of blocking and repelling. Both obviously had proficient skill with their weapons, and neither seemed to have an advantage over the other. At last, however, Oshawott succeeded in prying his Razor Shell between Dewott's crossed ones and, with an upward sweep, broke them apart, sending them flying in two directions and allowing the pre-evolved Pokemon to land a hit against his evolved form. The crowd cheered at the result of this contest of wills.

    "This is an astounding performance already, George!" said Burton. "One would think that Dewott, the evolved form, would possess a more immediate advantage, but Oshawott is holding its own very admirably!"

    "Yes, indeed, Charlie," said Don George. "What Oshawott may lack in brute strength, it makes up for with strategy!"

    Bianca smiled as Dewott recovered his scalchops.

    "Not bad, Leanne," she said. "Your Oshawott's really something else! But my Dewott's now pushover either! Show them, Dewott: Fury Cutter!"

    Dewott crossed his arms, scalchops in both paws, and translucent blades appeared once again, but these were green instead of blue. He lunged at Oshawott and swiped with first one, then the other, and Oshawott dodged or blocked with his Razor Shell. As Dewott kept attacking, however, the blades of his Fury Cutter seemed to grow longer and glow a more vivid green. Not only that, but he struck harder and faster as well, giving Oshawott less and less time to react.

    "That's not good for Oshawott," said Cruise. "Fury Cutter's a move that gets stronger each time its used. Dewott's building it up as Oshawott doesn't take action."

    At last, Dewott struck so quickly that its movements were almost invisible. With one stroke, it knocked the scalchop from Oshawott's paw. Then, with the other, it struck Oshawott a hard blow across the face, sending him rolling. Leanne cringed.

    "Hang in there, Oshawott!" she said.

    Oshawott shakily got to his paws, then froze, a panicked look on his face. He looked this way and that, frantically, for his misplaced scalchop. At last, he spotted it and sprinted for it.

    "Don't let him get to his scalchop, Dewott! Use Water Pulse!"

    Dewott shot another pressurized water ball at Oshawott, striking the ground between him and his scalchop and stopping him short. Leanne grimaced.

    "You can keep fighting without your scalchop, Oshawott! Use Water Gun!"

    Oshawott shot a jet of water at Dewott.

    "Block it, Dewott, then use Revenge!" commanded Bianca.

    Dewott crossed his arms, and the Water Gun struck. Right after which, a golden glow surrounded its body, which then expanded like the sphere of an explosion, blasting Oshawott and throwing him for a loop.

    "Oshawott!" Leanne cried out.

    "What was that?" Jim asked, astounded.

    "Revenge," said The Guy. "A Fighting-type move that gets its true power after its user's been damaged."

    "Man, Bianca's been training Dewott really well…" said Jim, reflectively.

    He would never have thought it of her, her being so…well, her. It also made him wonder, if Bianca's Dewott was this powerful, how strong were Cheren's Pokemon by this point?…

    At any rate, it looked really bad for Oshawott, blown from his scalchop and struck with a powerful Revenge attack. However, Leanne seemed to have decided on her course of action.

    "All right, Oshawott, it's time," she said. "Unleash our secret weapon!"

    Oshawott, who had staggered back to his feet, nodded resolutely. A swirling column of water encapsulated his body and, with this water still surrounding him, he rocketed toward Dewott. If both Trainer and Pokemon had been expecting something, it wasn't this. Dewott was swept off his feet, struck squarely in the chest by Oshawott's attack, but Oshawott wasn't done there. He curved around and struck again from the side, so hard that one of Dewott's scalchops went flying.

    "Catch it, Oshawott, and use Razor Shell!"

    Even if it wasn't his own, Oshawott seemed to know how to handle any scalchop. He grabbed the weapon in his paw, the Aqua Jet dissipating, and, somersaulting as the blade formed, came right down on top of the disoriented Dewott and struck him squarely on the skull!

    Both Pokemon seemed to freeze after the blow, neither moving an inch, frozen like statues in that position. A tense feeling spread over the crowd, waiting for what would happen next. Then, without warning, with no noise or change of expression, Dewott fell backward onto his back, defeated.

    "Dewott is unable to battle!" said the referee. "The victor of this match is Oshawott!"

    The crowd roared with applause at this unexpected turnabout, Jim loudest among them. Leanne was leaping in the air with excitement, while Bianca looked somewhat disappointed. Dewott had gotten back up into a sitting position, and was startled to see Oshawott standing over him. The latter handed the former back his scalchop and held out his paw for a sportsmanly handshake, a gesture which Dewott graciously reciprocated. Oshawott then scurried across the battlefield and retrieved his own scalchop, but was immediately afterwards scooped up into Leanne's embrace.

    "You were amazing, Oshawott! You did it!" she squealed.

    Oshawott smiled and nuzzled her tenderly. Bianca, meanwhile, kneeled by Dewott and hugged it.

    "You did a great job, Dewott. I'm not mad at you for losing," she said.

    Dewott smiled as well, and was recalled. Bianca then approached Leanne.

    "Your Oshawott's something else, Leanne! That Aqua Jet came out of nowhere!"

    "Your Dewott was nothing to sneeze at, either," said Leanne. "I just hope you're not too mad for losing."

    "It's a shame that I couldn't keep going," Bianca admitted, "but one of us had to win anyway. Good fight!"

    She stuck out her hand, and Leanne gave it a hearty shake. Jim couldn't help but grin at this; what had begun as a tense reluctance ended in admirable sportsmanship between his two female friends…or was it sports-woman-ship?

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    Default Re: Jim: The Hero's Journey

    CHAPTER 36
    Aces Wild



    "And with that unbelievable outcome, ladies and gentlemen," said Burton, "we now conclude Round 2 of the Nimbasa Battle Tournament! Tomorrow will be the semifinals: only two matches and four combatants to go!"

    "Before we end off today," said Don George, "let's review who our combatants will be. Match 1 will be Anonymous vs. Jim Stevens, and Match 2 will be Nigel Richmond vs. Leanne Summers."

    Jim paled slightly as he regarded the stoic wanderer. He'd seen how he battled against Grant and Solomon, and wondered what else he could have up the sleeves of his trench coat. Leanne, meanwhile, looked askance with an uncomfortable expression at Nigel, who was paying her no mind. He looked utterly bored, as if he didn't even know she existed.

    "So rest up and prepare yourselves, Trainers," continued Don George, "because it's not over yet! From Nimbasa City, this is Don George-"

    "And Charles Burton-"

    "Signing off!" they said in unison.

    ***


    "I've gotta say, Jim, you haven't had very enviable opponents in this tournament," said Solomon.

    "Yeah, I mean, an S-Class Connoisseuse is one thing," said Cruise, "but a guy with a Shiny Audino too? And now you're facing that Anonymous guy! And just think, if you win, you'll have to face Leanne or Nigel, whichever of them wins!"

    "Yes, Cruise, I'm aware of my less-than-admirable match-ups in this tournament," said Jim, wearily.

    The three boys, Leanne, and Bianca had regrouped and returned to the Pokemon Center together. The Guy had gone off by himself, not really giving a reason for it, but no one asked.

    "I'm not saying that as a bad thing," said Cruise. "You totally wrecked them!"

    "I hate to burst your bubble, Cruise," said Jim, "but hanging on by the skin of my teeth isn't my idea of 'wrecking'."

    The girls giggled.

    "Anyways," said Cruise, "we still on for teaching your Snivy Aerial Ace?"

    "You bet I am! I just need to consider what I ought to use against The Guy."

    "Well, you know he's got a Scrafty and Palpitoad," said Solomon.

    "And Ferroseed."

    "Pardon?"

    "We've met him a few times before. He also has a Ferroseed."

    "Hmm, I see. And the fact that you've met him before adds more to complicate your planning. Chances are, he knows what Pokemon you plan to use. He seems to know how you operate pretty well."

    "Yeah. It's a little unsettling, to be honest. It's like he's everywhere at once, especially when Team Plasma's involved."

    "Well, do you have any Pokemon in reserve? Any he might not have seen?"

    Jim pondered this for a moment. He had Rok back at Professor Juniper's, and he would probably cause quite a sensation if brought before a stadium full of spectators. Unfortunately, though, The Guy had battled Rok already and would most likely know how to deal with him. On the other hand, there was…

    "Jolt!" he said, slamming his fist into his palm, out of getting a brainstorm.

    "Jolt?"

    "My Blitzle! It's been a while since he's seen any action!"

    Leanne smiled upon hearing this; it had been a while since they had gotten to see Jolt or use him in combat.

    "Cruise, if I make a call to Professor Juniper and get my Blitzle, do you think you can handle kicking off June's training?"

    "Definitely!"

    They had arrived at the Pokemon Center and its adjoining pavilion. Jim set June down.

    "Now pay attention to what Cruise and Servine tell you, June, and behave," he said, strongly emphasizing the last word.

    June crossed her arms, but nodded to show she understood.

    "Atta girl. And don't rush yourself. I know learning new moves takes time."

    He stroked her head, which, despite her temper at having to take orders from someone else, she appreciated.

    "I'm gonna go call Professor Juniper and tell her I'm swapping Jolt for tomorrow, but I'll be back to check on you, all right?"

    "All right."

    "I'll see you all in a bit," he said to the others, then he went into the Pokemon Center.

    ***


    Taking a seat, he took out a Poke Ball and clicked it upon. In a flash of light, Missy appeared on his knee, bow and all. As soon as she saw that she and Jim were alone, she lunged at him in a hug, nuzzling under his chin. He laughed and stroked her back.

    "Hey there, girl. Listen, I'm gonna need you to do something for me, ok?"

    She looked up at him, expectant yet hesitant.

    "Relax, it's nothing too bad. I'm going to call Jolt in for tomorrow's match, but I need to swap one of you guys for him. Would you be all right with staying at Professor Juniper's lab for tomorrow? I'll call you back when the matches are over, I promise."

    By her face, he could tell she was having mixed feelings. On the one hand, it meant not having to battle. On the other hand, she'd be away from Jim.

    "Come on, it won't be too bad. I'm sure the Professor would love to meet you."

    Her expression brightened somewhat at this, and in the end, she finally said,

    "Ok, Jim. I'll do it."

    "That's my girl," Jim said, giving her a hug.

    With that, he turned on his X-Transceiver and dialed the Professor's number. After a moment of static and ringing, her face appeared, still chipper and genial.

    "Jim! Hello! Glad to see you!"

    "Likewise, Professor. I've got some great news!"

    "It's about the Nimbasa Battle Tournament, isn't it?"

    "You know about it?"

    "Of course! It's aired all across Unova, after all! We've all been rooting for you! You performed spectacularly in your battles, you and Bianca!"

    "Aw, shucks, Professor…" Jim said, modestly. "In any case, I called to let you know I'm gonna make a party shift."

    "Splendid! Who will it be?"

    "Jolt."

    "Couldn't have chosen better myself. He's shown so much improvement since being sent here."

    "And Rok? How's he doing?"

    "Much better after settling in. He was quite, well, curious about his surroundings, but he's gotten used to it by now. I have to say my research has taken a major skyrocket since you sent him to me. I had no idea about an Archen's Nepi Berry diet, and that we had the ability to reproduce it in so simple a way! Sitrus Berry in Oran Berry Juice! Who knew?"

    "Tell me about it," said Jim, grinning. "Anyway, I'm going to be sending you my Emolga, Missy, in exchange. Just be careful; she likes to be pampered."

    He lowered the X-Transceiver so Missy could peer into the screen.

    "Oh, Jim, she's darling! Don't worry, I'll take good care of her in the meantime. Good luck!"

    "Thanks, Professor. Give my best to Mom!"

    With a smiling nod, the Professor ended the call.

    "Ready, Missy?"

    "Ready!"

    Jim recalled Missy into her Poke Ball and took out his Pokedex, turning on the Pokemon switch software. After inputting the necessary information, Missy's Poke Ball began to shimmer and glow white. It vanished, only to be replaced by another Poke Ball, which Jim picked up before standing up and exiting the Pokemon Center.

    ***


    When Jim came back outside, he could see that training was already underway. Prominent, however, was Servine, given a wide berth by his comrades, and June, both standing at one end.

    "Again, as I do it," said Servine, in a much kinder tone than Jim would have expected from a Pokemon known for deceit and trickery.

    Just like in the battle with Elgyem, Servine crouched, then launched forward, propelled by some unseen force as white energy trailed past him. He soared down the grassy expanse, pulled a perfect U-turn, and swung back to his old position. June, eyes narrowed out of either concentration or contempt, attempted to emulate him. She crouched, and for the single space of a second, she was propelled forward, but only by a foot or two, after which she flopped onto the grass. A few of the Pokemon, like Zorua, laughed, but quieted when she stood up again, angry.

    "You're definitely showing progress," said Servine, approvingly. "That was at least a start."

    It looked as if June were dying to tell him off for being condescending to her (when he seemed to be acting nothing of the sort), but she saw Jim approaching and bit back her bitterness and resigned herself to a simple 'Thank you'. Everyone looked up as Jim came into view. He drew out his remaining Poke Balls.

    "All right, everyone: roll call!"

    He tossed them up one by one, with them appearing in the order in which he called.

    "Echo! Torch! Torrent! Croco! And last, but not least, Jolt!"

    The ball opened, the traditional burst of light blasted from it…but everyone gaped.

    The Pokemon that came out couldn't have been Jolt. It was a zebra, sure enough, black with white stripes, but this one was at least twice as tall, standing tall and proud. Instead of one shock of white mane protruding like a lightning bolt, there were two, and the tail ended in a frizzy ball. Perplexed, Jim took out his Pokedex.

    "Zebstrika, the Thunderbolt Pokemon, and the evolved form of Blitzle. Zebstrika is dangerous when angry, as it shoots lightning in all directions from its mane. When running at full speed, it lets loose a roar of thunder in its wake."

    Everyone stared up at the intimidating Pokemon, who was gazing directly at Jim. Tentatively, Jim approached.

    "Jolt? Is that really you?"

    The Zebstrika lowered its head to look Jim straight in the eyes, and Jim stared into them. After several tense moments, a wide grin spread across his face and he threw his arms around the Pokemon's neck.

    "It is you!" he cried.

    Jolt, now properly recognized, nuzzled the size of Jim's head, and a wave of relief spread over the group, though they still gazed in amazement at the impressive Pokemon. Jim stepped back to look at him.

    "Look at you! You look amazing! I had no idea you'd evolved!"

    "The Professor's lab suited me," said Jolt.

    For those acquainted with him (those who could understand him, anyway), the change in his voice was surprising. Gone was the cocky voice or rough accent; he had the deep voice of a boy who had officially become an adult, as well as a tone of calm confidence.

    "Her paddock had a lot of running room."

    "I can imagine. We are gonna wreck the competition!" said Jim, excitedly.

    Jolt grinned.

    "Hey! That's what I said!" said Cruise.

    Everyone laughed, and Jim led Jolt to his teammates.

    "June, Echo, you remember Jolt."

    June nodded in recognition of her old friend. Echo, on the other hand, fluttered around him in excitement.

    "Oh my gosh! Is that really you, Jolt? I can't believe you've evolved! But then again, so did I! This is so awesome!"

    "I can see you haven't changed at least, Echo," said Jolt, with a laugh and shake of the head.

    "These are our new partners, Jolt: Torch, Torrent, and Croco."

    The two Simi Brothers waved in a friendly way, but Croco crossed his arms in an aloof way. Jolt raised an eyebrow and looked at Jim, who only shook his head to intimate not to let the Krokorok's attitude get to him.

    "Now then, everyone, as you might have guessed, we've made it into the semifinals. Kudos to Torrent for getting us there."

    Everyone applauded the Simipour.

    "It was nothing, dudes and dudettes," he said, modestly, "it was Jim-bro all the way."

    Jim smiled.

    "We're up against The Guy now, and let's face it, he's familiar with our team. He hasn't seen Jolt in action, though, so I think we might be able to pull off a surprise by using him. What's more, Jolt's evolved, and has some new tricks up his sleeve. I'm going to take Jolt to an open stretch where he has plenty of running room. Anyone who wants to watch can accompany us. Meanwhile, June, you're doing good, so keep it up."

    "Yes, Jim," she said, casting a not-too-friendly sidelong glance at Servine.

    ***


    Croco and Echo opted to stay and watch June train, so Torch and Torrent followed Jim and Jolt. Within a few minutes, they found a wide glen in the pavilion, ringed by trees.

    "Perfect," said Jim. "Ok, Jolt, let's see what you got. Got your Flame Charge down pat?"

    "Like you wouldn't believe," said Jolt. "Watch this!"

    He stepped forward and began stomping the ground with his hooves. Then, when he had built up the proper momentum, flames erupted around his body, and he blazed around the perimeter of the glen, performing several laps in only a matter of seconds. At last, he pulled a perfect stop right in front of Jim, kicking up dirt and grass. Jim, Torch, and Torrent applauded.

    "That was spectacular!" Torch whooped. "The best pyrotechnic display I've ever seen!"

    "Yeah, Jolt, you've really gotten good at that!" said Jim. "Let's time it now. I'll count how many times you can circle the pavilion in…let's say 30 seconds. Can you handle that?"

    "Not a problem," said Jolt.

    He got into a race-ready stance as Jim switched his X-Transceiver to its clock mode.

    "Ready…go!"

    Jolt started instantaneously, flames blazing around him as he sped off. Torch and Torrent were swinging their heads back and forth with his revolutionary progress. If one were to view from above, they would have seen what appeared to be a ring of flames encircling the glade, like a comet chasing its tail.

    At last, Jim yelled, "Time!", and Jolt pulled to a stop, once again kicking up grass and dirt.

    "So? How did I do?"

    "I counted at least 30 times. 1 lap per second! And considering a space this size, that's really impressive!"

    Torch and Torrent applauded wildly.

    "I could have done a bit better," Jolt admitted, "but I didn't want to go overboard."

    "Aw, now, don't be so modest," said Torch. "You were fantastic!"

    Jolt grinned.

    "Now that we know speed's no issue for you," said Jim, "let's see your electrical prowess."

    He bent down and picked up a large pine cone.

    "Watch as I throw it and try to zap it. Got it?"

    "Got it."

    Jim pulled his arm back and tossed the pine cone high up, its silhouette illuminated by the moon. Jolt's eyes followed the pine cone's progress, his white stripes and mane instantly glowed yellow, and his whole body sparked with electricity. A blast of lightning shot from the horn-like protrusions of his mane, striking the pine cone and blowing it to smithereens. The explosion was like a burst of fireworks, and the three spectators shielded their eyes from it.

    "Whoa! A blast worthy of the 4th of July, man!" said Torrent, awed.

    "Man, Jolt, you've really improved from the reckless Blitzle I caught. Seems real long ago."

    "I couldn't have gotten this far without you, Jim," said Jolt. "If it weren't for you, I'd probably still be picking fights with other Pokemon on Route 3."

    Jim couldn't help but grin at this.

    Suddenly, through the trees, there came the yell of a boy's voice, as if in pain. Jim and his Pokemon whipped around, surprised. Through the trees, there came a burst of bluish light, a scream of terror, a roar, as if from some maddened beast, and someone shouting.

    "No! Down!"

    Jim stiffened. It was The Guy's voice!

    "Come on!" he said, and rushed into the trees, his Pokemon following.

    They stopped at the edge of another clearing, obscured by the bushes. Nigel was prostrate on the ground, holding his arm, his hand bleeding. The Guy was pocketing a Poke Ball, none of his Pokemon visible. He looked furious.

    "What were you thinking?!" he snapped. "Sneaking around the pavilion like that!"

    "Who was sneaking??" Nigel snapped, though his voice was shaky. "I was merely taking a stroll!"

    "Oh, sure," said The Guy, sardonically, "taking strolls always involve leaping out of the trees and shouting 'Aha!', don't they?"

    Nigel's face reddened, but he said nothing as he got to his feet.

    "You're lucky he didn't tear you a new one. You never, ever sneak up on a Ferroseed like that! I've heard of one that almost gouged a reckless Trainer's eyes out!"

    "If you're trying to spook me-"

    "Spook? No, kid, I'm trying to keep you on your guard. This ain't your precious mansion in Castelia. This is the big time, the real world, and unless you play by its rules and not yours, you're in for a heap of trouble."

    "As if I need advice from a scruffy ruffian such as yourself," Nigel said, bitterly.

    He turned to leave, but The Guy called to him,

    "And don't worry, I'll tell Jim you were looking for him."

    Nigel stopped and whirled around.

    "How did you-?"

    But he stopped, catching himself before he said too much. He cleared his throat.

    "I mean, I have no idea what you're talking about. Good night."

    He briskly left the clearing. Jim had held his breath all throughout the conversation, and now let it out silently with Nigel gone.

    "Hope that gave you an earful, kid," said The Guy, seemingly to no one in particular.

    He wasn't looking in their direction. Jim gave a jump.

    "How did you know I was listening?" he asked.

    "You lived alone as long as I have, in the wilderness, you get a few 'upgrades' to your senses."

    "So he was spying," Jim muttered. "I had a suspicion of it during his battle with Cruise. It was way too convenient for him to have an Elgyem perfectly prepared for energy-draining attacks, like Servine's Leech Seed."

    "Indeed. That Nigel's dangerous. He's very resourceful, which is small wonder, considering he's lived his whole life surrounded by resources. Now that you know what he's been up to, make sure you keep an eye out for anything 'suspicious'."

    Jim nodded grimly. It would have been disastrous if he had walked in on him testing Jolt's power, or worse, seeing Snivy preparing for Aerial Ace.

    "You've got it. So he spooked your Ferroseed?"

    "Yeah. He's all right now, just went a little nuts. He's got a wicked temper."

    "Well, if everything's all right, I'll leave you to your training."

    "Yeah. Good night, kid."

    "Good night, Guy."

    With that, he and his Pokemon stepped away from the bushes and down the path. As they left, Jim turned to look back at The Guy. He was still standing much as he was when they spoke, arms crossed, gazing at the moon above.

    ***


    Jim said nothing about his encounter with The Guy, or the scene he had witnessed involving Nigel, when he rejoined his friends. Croco and Echo were chanting June's name encouragingly as she crouched at the ready. She looked tired and sweaty, but there was a fierce fire burning in her eyes, a fire of indomitable spirit, of one who refuses to call it quits. Servine was standing close by.

    "You've got guts to even want to keep going now," he said, "So let's try once more. Remember, feel the air around you. Don't fight it; let it buoy you."

    June's eyes narrowed in concentration. There was a burst like a small explosion, and she shot forward, surrounded by streaks of what appeared to be wind turned visible. She kept her arms out, like wings, her tail flat, the leaf at the end seeming like a big rudder. Everyone whooped, as this must have been her best progress yet. She flopped to the ground after going about 10 feet, but didn't get up. Jim rushed over to scoop her up.

    "June! Are you all right?" he asked, concerned.

    She opened her eyes and gazed up at him.

    "How…did I do?…" she whispered, weakly.

    "Wonderfully," said Jim, proudly. "You're really getting the hang of it. I'm so proud of you."

    He hugged her close to his chest, and she nestled against his jacket, apparently glad to receive his comfort.

    "But now that I can go that far," she said, "I think I can teach myself. Servine's decent, I'll give him that, but I still prefer calling my own shots…"

    She rested her head on Jim's chest out of tiredness. Jim just laughed gently and stroked his stubborn Snivy's smooth back. Whatever happened tomorrow, he was well on his way to preparing a spectacular strategy for the remainder of the tournament.

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    Default Re: Jim: The Hero's Journey

    CHAPTER 37
    Every Ferro Has Its Thorns



    "Welcome once again, ladies and gentlemen, to the Nimbasa Battle Tournament! I'm Charles Burton-"

    "And I'm Don George-"

    "And we're about to proceed into the semifinals! Our four remaining contestants have really shown us their strength in the previous rounds. Let's not waste any time and dive into our first battle: Anonymous vs. Jim Stevens!"

    "Both have shown amazing promise in their battles, Charlie."

    "That they have, George, but all eyes seem to be on young Jim Stevens, who not only defeated renowned S-Class Connoisseuse Katherine LeClaire, but was also the Trainer who stood up to the wandering cult known as Team Plasma in Accumula Town, making waves all across Unova!"

    Jim's face reddened at being singled out like this, but he still took his place at the other side of the field, across from The Guy. Bianca, Leanne, Cruise, and Solomon were all cheering from the sidelines, along with June and Oshawott.

    As Jim looked them over, his eyes fell on Nigel. Neither had spoken to each other since yesterday (Jim had no desire to speak to him, anyway), but Nigel seemed much more wary, guarded, and Jim could guess it was a result of his sneaking around the pavilion being compromised, and the thought that he had been trying to spy on his training above all. It was an unsettling thought, but he couldn't let it get to him now.

    "I've really been looking forward to this, Jim," said The Guy, returning Jim's attention to the impending battle. "Ever since our first match outside Pinwheel Forest, I've been hoping to see just how much stronger you've gotten. You've done incredibly well up to this point, but now it's time you showed me personally."

    "Then hopefully I won't have you leaving disappointed," said Jim, drawing his Poke Ball.

    With a grin, The Guy drew his own.

    "All right, Jolt, let's take this battle up to 11!" Jim shouted, tossing his ball up.

    In a blaze of light, the Zebstrika appeared, pawing the ground with his head high and electric-colored eyes fixed on The Guy. Many people murmured at the sight.

    "Zebstrika, huh? Then this ought to be pretty interesting indeed. Prepare for battle!"

    He threw his own Poke Ball up…but it wasn't Ferroseed that came out, and Jim's jaw dropped at the sight. The Pokemon that appeared was much larger and saucer-shaped. It still had the same yellow eyes, and was covered in silver armor plating and numerous thorns, but there were also three green vine-like attachments extending from its body, ending in spike-covered, spherical ends. Jim took his Pokedex out.

    "Ferrothorn, the Thorn Pod Pokemon, and the evolved form of Ferroseed. It hangs from cave ceilings, shooting steel spikes at those who pass beneath it. It battles by whipping its spike-tipped feelers, which have the power to reduce a boulder to rubble."

    Jim could do nothing but gape at the unexpected appearance, and wondered when on Earth it had the time to evolve between when he and The Guy had talked that night. And then, it hit him.

    (That light! The one we saw when we heard Nigel getting attacked! That must have been Ferroseed evolving into Ferrothorn! It must have taken a lot of effort to hold it back…)

    "Well, well!" he said aloud, "Your Ferroseed evolved just before our battle? That was lucky."

    "Biggest stroke of luck I think I'd ever managed, and believe me, that's saying a lot."

    "This actually makes our battle a lot more interesting," said Jim.

    "How's that?"

    "If it were Jolt fighting Ferroseed, I wouldn't have felt it fair, but now that it's a Ferrothorn, it's much more even."

    "That it is, Jim, that it is. You ready?"

    "You bet I am!"

    "And with this, folks, our first semifinal battle is about to get underway: Zebstrika vs. Ferrothorn!" said Burton.

    "With Ferrothorn being a Grass and Steel type, and Zebstrika being an Electric type, it may be a close match indeed," said Don George.

    "Begin!" said the referee.

    "All right, Jolt, let's open up with a Thunderbolt!"

    Jolt's stripes glowed yellow, and then his whole body was surrounded by an electric aura. He let loose a massive lightning bolt straight for Ferrothorn, who didn't move. The blast struck, and Ferrothorn flinched, but didn't seem affected otherwise.

    "Sheesh," muttered Jim, "that's one tough shell.

    "Ferrothorn, retaliate with Power Whip!"

    One of Ferrothorn's feelers began to glow a brighter green. It whipped this one back and swung it straight for Jolt.

    "Dodge and use Flame Charge!" said Jim.

    Jolt began stomping the ground, kicking up a cloud of dirt. The Power Whip disappeared into the dust, but seemed to have missed its target, as Jolt came blazing forth, all aflame, to the left of the attack. He rammed right into Ferrothorn, but was then thrown back, several scratches on the front of his body.

    "Jolt! What happened?"

    "Uh oh," said Burton. "It looks like Stevens forgot about Ferrothorn's Ability."

    "Iron Barbs," said Don George, "which results in damage inflicted when an attack involving physical contact is used."

    "Oh…I should have guessed those spikes were there for a reason," Jim muttered. "You all right, Jolt?"

    He hardly needed to ask. Jolt was already pawing the dirt again, ready for more.

    (I'd better save Flame Charge for when we need it most…Still, that was a Fire-type attack, and Ferrothorn's a Grass and Steel type. It must have taken substantial damage from an attack like that…)

    He looked at Ferrothorn. Its shiny metallic shell was flecked here and there with buffs or scratches, but otherwise, it looked like it wasn't going down anytime soon.

    "Well, Jim, now we see where we stand," said The Guy. "If you want to risk your only super effective attack, you need to pay the price for it! Ferrothorn, Pin Missile!"

    Ferrothorn raised one of its feelers, and a shower of needles shot from it, flying straight at Jolt and striking him like a swarm of angry insects. Jolt cringed from the stinging impact.

    "Don't let it get to you, Jolt! Use Thunderbolt!"

    Jolt unleashed another massive lightning bolt, but it still didn't seem to cause much effect on Ferrothorn.

    "Counter with Power Whip, Ferrothorn! One after the other!"

    All three of Ferrothorn's feelers began to glow a lighter green, and it raised one to strike.

    "Dodge them, Jolt!" ordered Jim.

    Each time a Power Whip struck, Jolt darted to the other side, making it strike into the dirt with a heavy thud. However, after a bit of this, Ferrothorn seemed to guess the Zebstrika's pattern and actually faked him out. As it raised its left feeler and threw it forward, Jolt dodged to the right, but Ferrothorn changed its direction and finally hit home, hitting him squarely in the face.

    A loud, collective groan swept through the crowd, in the "that's gotta hurt" way. Jim fidgeted with his cap, sweat beading his forehead. Ferrothorn was a tough opponent, even tougher than Jimmy Ray's Shiny Audino. He also remembered the tough time he had had against Lenora's Herdier, until…

    A sudden inspiration struck him.

    "Wait a minute…" he muttered. "That's it!"

    "What's going on, kid?" The Guy asked. "Are you losing your cool already?"

    "I was about to," Jim replied, "until I remembered one of my previous battles. It helped decide what I should do now. Jolt, use Thunderbolt on yourself! Don't hold back, either!"

    The entire crowd was thrown into confusion at this reckless tactic, but a smile had come to Jolt's muzzled face; he knew where Jim was going with this. With that, he sent a stream of lightning straight into the air, which arced and plummeted back down, striking Jolt's body and sending off a massive discharge of electricity. Everyone gasped, and even The Guy seemed taken aback. If he didn't move a muscle, at least his face showed that he wasn't expecting this ploy. Jolt's body was now surrounded by a golden aura, his stripes glowing yellow, and a hum like a generator coming from him.

    "What in the world just happened?!" Burton asked, aghast. "Jim's Zebstrika just attacked itself!"

    "I've seen ploys like this in double battles," said Don George, no less stupefied, "but never in a single battle!"

    "Kid…what was that?" The Guy asked.

    "A little bit of improvisation," said Jim, grinning. "Since Jolt's Ability is Motor Drive, I can't count on my opponents being gutsy enough to attack him with an Electric attack. So, in my battle with Lenora, I tested a thesis of mine, and it came true: activating Motor Drive by myself."

    The Guy merely stared from Jolt to Jim in amazement, and then he smiled himself, in an almost paternal, proud way.

    "I've got to hand it to you, kid, you're a cut above the rest. In all of my years in wandering Unova, seeing all kinds of Pokemon and Trainers, I've never met one who takes as many risks as you do. That's why I like seeing you battle: you always know how to keep your opponents guessing."

    Jim couldn't help but smile broader at this praise.

    "However," The Guy continued, "unconventional or not, you've still got to get past me, and I doubt a Speed boost will add much to helping you accomplish that! Ferrothorn, Power Whip!"

    Once again, Ferrothorn raised its feeler to strike, but Jim was ready this time.

    "Jolt, as soon as it strikes, dodge, then ram into the feeler with Flame Charge!"

    The Guy's eyes popped wide open, wondering what in the world Jim was up to. As soon as Ferrothorn sent its feeler in for the attack, Jolt zipped aside so quickly he was nearly a blur. Then, quick as a blink, he shot forward, cloaked in flames, and rammed into the Power Whipping feeler, which swung its way back as if it were made of rubber, the tip glowing red and fiery from the impact of the Flame Charge. The momentum carried it around Ferrothorn's circumference and clocked it right between the eyes.

    It let out a roar of pain and anger from the blow, and, after disengaging itself from its feeler, began stomping and slamming the ground in rage. Several people screamed in terror, fearing a rampage from the monstrous Pokemon. Jim recalled, grimly, that The Guy had said it had a 'wicked temper'.

    "Ferrothorn, settle down!" shouted The Guy severely, but Ferrothorn didn't seem to take any heed.

    It tucked its feelers around its body, turned itself on its side, and began rotating swiftly in place, moving so fast that its body was one ovular blur, like a working buzz-saw. Perplexed at its behavior, Jim took out his Pokedex.

    "Gyro Ball, a Steel-type move that is stronger if the user is slower than the opponent."

    A pang of apprehension struck Jim in the stomach. With Jolt's Motor Drive and Flame Charge having added massive Speed boosts to the already nimble Pokemon, even if Gyro Ball wasn't very effective, it would still deal massive damage when calculated. He had to stop it right then and there, before it went out of control.

    "Jolt! Stop Ferrothorn with Flame Charge!" he commanded.

    Jolt stomped the ground, building up his steam. With a roar, Ferrothorn launched forward like a missile, rolling like a wheel. Then, all of a sudden, Jolt lunged forward…but it wasn't Flame Charge he was using. Instead of flames, he was surrounded by a shield of blinding electricity, and he was galloping so fast it was almost as if he were flying. Jim's Pokedex, still out, dictated the phenomenon to the awestruck Jim.

    "Wild Charge, an Electric attack that results in recoil damage."

    At this point, Jim didn't care what attack it was or what its effects were, just as long as Ferrothorn was stopped before it could let loose its rage in an unwanted way. Both Pokemon charged at each other, mere blurs as they honed in on each other, and then…

    *BOOM!*

    The impact was like the explosion of a bomb. The entire stadium shook with the force of the blow, and the battlefield was enveloped with a thick cloud of smoke and dust. Jim's friends clung to the guard rails to keep from being blown off their feet. All was eerie and quiet; not a sound was to be heard within or without. Jim strained his eyes, hoping to see what had happened.

    Then, the smoke began to clear, and there, standing stock-still, head still jutted forward and looking very battered, was Jolt. All the way across the field, upended into the dirt, its feelers splayed at its sides, was Ferrothorn, pacified into unconsciousness at last. The impact of the Wild Charge had tossed it all the way back across the battlefield, into the position it now rested in.

    Not even the referee could be unaffected by such a display, but eventually, he managed to catch himself and raise his flag.

    "Ferrothorn is unable to battle! Zebstrika is the winner!"

    The stadium roared with wild cheers from the stupefied crowd, so unbelievable was the display. Burton and Don George were both shouting incomprehensibly into their microphones in a state of excitement. Jim, for his part, could hardly believe what had just happened. He felt unable to move at first, but eventually, he found himself stumbling over to Jolt, who was standing unsteadily on his hooves, tired out from the battle. Jim came up to him to both support and hug him.

    "You were outstanding, Jolt!" he shouted over the din. "I've never seen anything like that!"

    All Jolt could do was give him a weak, but genuine, smile, and was gratefully recalled into his Poke Ball. The Guy was taking no risks, and immediately recalled the temperamental Ferrothorn before it could wake up. A look of grim anxiety was on his face, most likely at his lapse of control over his Pokemon. It passed, however, when Jim approached.

    I've said it before, and I'll say it again," he said, "you really are a cut above the rest. You're gonna go far, kid, really far."

    He held out his large, weathered hand, and Jim took it, receiving a firm, hearty handshake from the wanderer. With that, amid the wild cheers (and expletives from people who had expected The Guy to win), the two made their way back to where their friends awaited.

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  10. #40
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    Default Re: Jim: The Hero's Journey

    CHAPTER 38
    Frillish Out of Water



    When Jim and The Guy returned to their circle of companions, none of them seemed to be able to articulately express their astonishment.

    "That was…I mean…I can't even…!" babbled Cruise.

    "OHMYGOSHTHATWASTHEMOSTUNBELIEVABLETHINGIVEEVERSEENYOUGUYSWEREAMAZING!!" squealed Bianca, the complete opposite of speechless.

    Solomon, fortunately, was more composed.

    "I must admit," he said, "the both of you were spectacular. It was a clash worthy of such a tournament."

    "I'm just glad Ferrothorn was calmed down," said The Guy. "He really knows how to fly off the handle when he's riled."

    "Tell me about it," said Leanne. "If Jim hadn't stopped it, it would have come crashing into us…"

    "And do you know what this means, Jim?" Bianca asked, excitedly. "You're moving on to the finals!"

    "I told ya, kid," said The Guy. "I knew you were gonna come out on top."

    "Aw, come on, you guys," said Jim, modestly, "you're embarrassing me."

    "How utterly touching," said a familiar, cold voice.

    Everyone looked up to see Nigel standing near them.

    "I will admit, Stevens, you put up an amazing display. Perhaps you're not as lackluster as I had imagined."

    Jim said nothing, not wanting to bait him into another confrontation.

    "Nevertheless, make no mistake: I will come out on top, and show you once and for all why you should have stayed home in cozy little Nuvema Town…"

    He mentioned the town and its adjectival attachment in a patronizing, mocking way that brought the blood to Jim's ears, but he still didn't rise against him. Instead, he said,

    "You still have to get past Leanne, you know."

    Nigel cast his gaze at her.

    "Yes, of course. I'm sure she'll put up a worthy performance," he said, in a bored voice.

    Leanne colored, but Nigel took no notice, and was already heading onto the battlefield.

    "Kick his butt, Leanne," Jim said, putting a hand on her shoulder.

    She nodded and smiled.

    "I'll try," she said.

    With that, she joined her opponent out on the field. Nigel had already drawn his Poke Ball, balancing it in the palm of his hand. When Leanne took her place, he tossed it up high.

    "Frillish, come forth and win me the day!"

    The Pokemon that appeared in the burst of light resembled a jellyfish, floating above the ground. It was blue, with a rounded head, set with red eyes, a frowning mouth, and something resembling a white crown at the top. A frilly white collar surrounded its neck area, and below it was a long body ending in three tentacles. Two more, most likely its arms, were where its shoulders likely were.

    Jim took out his Pokedex. Just like Deerling, there were different versions of this Pokemon. The other was pink and was smiling. Both were labeled with a gender symbol: male for the blue and female for the pink.

    "Frillish, the Floating Pokemon. Frillish paralyzes prey with toxic secretions from its tentacles, then drags them down to their lairs far below the ocean's surface."

    "How morbid," he muttered.

    He looked at Leanne, and wasn't surprised to see that she was also discomforted by the creature's odd appearance. She seemed to regain her confidence, however, as she drew out her Poke Ball.

    "Lilligant, let's go!" she shouted.

    The ball opened, and sure enough, there was the shy Grass type, standing demurely in front of her Trainer.

    Jim's jaw dropped.

    "Lilligant??" he spluttered. "I didn't know she battled!"

    From his belt, two Poke Balls opened, and Torch and Torrent appeared. They were no less surprised.

    "Lilligant!" said Torch, aghast. "What's she doing out there??"

    "Why didn't she tell us she was going to battle?!" asked Torrent.

    "Can she even battle?" Jim ventured.

    "Sure she can," said Torrent, "but she's never really had a lot of battles before. She uses her moves only as an added touch to her dancing Seeing her use Quiver Dance and Petal Dance…it's enchanting…"

    Torrent, reminded of the memory of such a spectacle, gained a wistful, faraway expression to his face. Jim couldn't help but grin at the sight: it was obvious Torrent was head over heels for Lilligant, and it was hard to blame them; she was so cute and innocent. So much so, in fact, that he was still baffled how Leanne could let her battle in this tournament. Nigel, on the other hand, was nowhere near as such.

    "A Lilligant? Quite an extravagant Pokemon for someone of your appearance. Did you inherit it from someone, or did they bestow it upon you out of pity?"

    Leanne said nothing, something Nigel hadn't seemed to expect. Most likely, he had been hoping for some angry reaction to his taunt, but being denied this, he decided to press on.

    "Very well, then. We'll see just what it can do."

    "And so begins our last semifinal battle," said Burton, "Lilligant vs. Frillish!"

    "With Lilligant being a Grass type and Frillish being a Water and Ghost type," said Don George, "it's safe to say we can expect a toe-to-toe battle from the word 'go'!"

    "Begin!" said the referee.

    "Frillish, show this peasant what we came here to prove! Water Pulse!"

    Frillish cupped its arm tentacles in front of it, creating a swirling ball of compressed water. It then threw its tentacles apart, and the ball launched for Lilligant.

    "Dodge, Lilligant! Then use Quiver Dance!"

    With the agility and grace of a gymnast, Lilligant spun to one side, dodging the aquatic projectile. Then, she began to spin faster and faster, her leaven hair whirling about her. When she had finished, she stopped and gave a great flourish, a thousand dazzling sparkles emitting from her body. Many people in the audience "ooh"-ed and "ahh"-ed. Jim was spellbound, and the two Simis were absolutely entranced.

    "What exactly did that do?" Jim asked.

    "Quiver Dance," said The Guy, who was probably one of the few who hadn't been mesmerized, "is a rare Bug-type move. It increases Special stats as well as Speed."

    Jim gazed in wonder at Lilligant. She had seemed so delicate and innocent, but she seemed to be possessed by a new resolve, a new determination.

    "And now, Lilligant, use Magical Leaf!"

    Lilligant raised one arm, and a swirling mass of vibrantly glowing leaves appeared around her before shooting for Frillish. The attack blazed through it, slashing and buffeting it. Nigel was looking at it with a form of expectant urgency, but seemed disappointed when what was apparently supposed to happen didn't happen.

    "Well, it seems you have some bite in you, yet," he said, "but then again, so do I! Frillish, Night Shade!"

    Frillish closed its eyes, and when they reopened, they were glowing a frightening, ominous red, and a spooky glow surrounded its body. It raised its tentacles, and this glow seemed to expand from its body like an explosion, sweeping over Lilligant. She had closed her eyes, and looked as if she were being pained by a nightmare or unwholesome mental image.

    Everyone else seemed to be affected in some way or another by the Night Shade. Jim, for his part, felt as if his blood had turned to ice.

    "Hang in there, Lilligant!" said Leanne, though her teeth were chattering. "Use Magical Leaf again!"

    Shivering, Lilligant raised her arm, summoning another cloud of glowing leaves, and sent them flying at Frillish. They struck home, and the Night Shade dissipated, to the relief of everyone else present. However, something odd happened to replace it. Upon being struck, Frillish's body began to glow a smoky black. That same glow somehow seemed to transfer to Lilligant, causing her to flinch. Nigel smiled deviously. Jim couldn't see why he should be so content, as Frillish looked extremely battered from two super-effective attacks done on it.

    "What…what happened?" Leanne asked, confused. "What did you do, you weasel??"

    "Oh, I really shouldn't spoil it," he said, tauntingly. "Why don't you try and attack again? I dare you."

    "Oh, you do, do you?!" Leanne snapped. "Lilligant, Magical Leaf!"

    Lilligant raised her arm, but this time, no leaves appeared. The crowd gasped. Lilligant tried again, but still nothing.

    "Lilligant! What's going on?! Why isn't it working?!"

    "I'd been waiting for this, and it seems luck has shone down on me," said Nigel. "My Frillish's Ability is known as Cursed Body. It has a 30% chance of disabling the last attack used on it."

    Leanne gave a quick gasp, realizing how she had just been conned. Jim gripped the guard rail in pensive fury, and Torch and Torrent were beside themselves with anger.

    "You…you little sneak!" said Leanne.

    "And just what do you plan to do about it?"

    "This! Lilligant, use Petal Dance instead!"

    Lilligant began to spin gracefully again, like a ballerina. Instead of leaves, a swirl of pink flower petals surrounded her. This wave of arboreal projectiles launched at Frillish.

    "Dodge, Frillish! Dodge until she wears out!"

    With surprising agility, Frillish wove this way and that, evading the onslaught of petals, moving with rapidity despite its weakened state. At last, Lilligant stopped spinning, but was now teetering this way and that, looking dazed. Torch and Torrent had expressions of utmost anxiety on their faces.

    "Oh no. I was afraid of this…" muttered Cruise.

    "What?" Jim asked.

    "Petal Dance leaves the user confused. Nigel's open to retaliate."

    "That's not good…"

    Leanne was no less anxious in seeing Lilligant reduced to confusion.

    "Frillish, Recover," said Nigel, complacently.

    There was a shimmer of greenish light around Frillish, and the wounds it had sustained seemed to melt away, leaving it healthy again. Leanne bit her lip.

    "Lilligant, try and use Petal Dance again!" she said.

    Lilligant wove dangerously to one side, but still spun once again, summoning a storm of petals to throw at Frillish. They were way off target, unfortunately. Everything was falling apart for her, and after she had had such a strong start, too.

    "Too bad," said Nigel, "and here I hoped you were actually going to prove a worthy challenge. Frillish, Water Pulse!"

    Frillish formed another ball of compressed water and threw it. This time, it struck home, and Lilligant was thrown for a loop, more out of the force of the shot than actually being susceptible to it.

    "This is looking pretty bad, George," said Burton. "Lilligant was off to an amazing start earlier, but the tables have turned so suddenly!"

    "Yes indeed, Charlie," said Don George, "what Frillish lacked in type advantage, it has made up for with strategy and tactics."

    "Come on, Lilligant, I know you can do this. Petal Dance, once more!"

    Lilligant seemed to be putting in every last effort to steady herself, and so began to spin and conjure up another cloud of petals.

    "Give it up," said Nigel. "It's not going to connect."

    Lilligant, however, tossed her attack, and this time, it did strike home on Frillish, buffeting it. Nigel's jaw dropped, but his sneer returned to his face when he saw the telltale smoky glow that indicated Cursed Body was once more taking effect. Lilligant was once more touched with the same glow. Leanne blanched.

    "Oh no," she groaned. "Magical Leaf and Petal Dance are her only attacking moves, and now they're both disabled…"

    Nigel's smile broadened even more.

    "Pardon me, but am I to assume you have no means of fighting back anymore?"

    His tone was so condescending and jeering that Leanne hung her head by way of answer.

    "Now, now, I will say this. You put up a tremendous performance. I never expected you to last this long. But come now, we both knew who would come out on top in the end, didn't we?"

    Leanne said nothing. Jim gritted his teeth, gripping the rail until his knuckles were pale. "

    Frillish, I think it's time we closed the curtain on this battle. Ice Beam!"

    Frillish cupped its tentacles, forming another ball, but this one was white-blue, and the energy swirling around it seemed to be wind or snow. The ball let off a beam of the same color, with the force of a cannon, straight for Lilligant. It struck her square in the middle, enveloping the field in a blaze of ice-blue light and smoke. When it cleared, Lilligant was prostrated on the ground, knocked out. The referee raised his flag.

    "Lilligant is unable to battle. Frillish is the winner!"

    Those in support of Nigel cheered loudly, but it wasn't much of a majority. He didn't seem to care, however, and recalled his Frillish coolly. Leanne ran to Lilligant and picked her up in her arms.

    "Lilligant, I'm so sorry…" she said, in a tearful voice. "I wish you hadn't gone through that, but I'm still proud of you for how you did. Please don't be too angry with me for putting you through that."

    Lilligant opened her red eyes slowly, looking at her contrite Trainer, and by way of answer, put her leaf-like arms around her neck and nestled against her chest. Fighting to hide back tears at this display, she carried Lilligant back to her friends. As soon as she was set down, Torch and Torrent immediately attended to her, taking her to a corner of the spectator's section to be with her. Neither Jim nor Leanne objected; they had been family in the circus, after all.

    "I'm sorry, Leanne," Jim said, sympathetically. "I hated to see Lilligant taken out like that. Both of you did very well, too."

    She responded by giving him a warm hug, which he reciprocated.

    "Thanks.It was just that stupid Frillish's Cursed Body that messed me up. I would have done better otherwise."

    "Blaming your opponent for your own shortcomings, as I knew you would."

    Jim stiffened. Nigel was right by them, smirking.

    "Your mistake was relying on that Lilligant in the first place. It's a show Pokemon, bred for appearance and companionship-"

    He said this word with some derision, then continued,

    "-not for battle. But then of course, how could you possibly have known that? You're from Accumula Town, are you not? You're nearly as backward as Nuvema Town."

    Jim was resisting the urge to lash out at him, but it was difficult. Thankfully, only his fist was shuddering, and he had it in his jacket pocket. He was not about to let Nigel have the satisfaction of riling him up. Nigel seemed to catch on that his taunts were producing little effect, and with a snort that seemed to suggest 'you're no fun', he stalked away. Jim breathed out in relief after he was out of earshot.

    "Good work, kid," said The Guy. "Don't give him a reason to keep antagonizing. At least, not until your match."

    "Don't worry. I'm gonna show him tomorrow," said Jim, decidedly.

    Burton and Don George were commentating again at that moment.

    "With that, ladies and gentlemen, we can now conclude the semifinals of the Nimbasa Battle Tournament!

    "Tomorrow, we'll experience the exciting conclusion: the final battle!" said Don George. "Jim Stevens vs. Nigel Richmond, both of whom have shown undeniable skill and technique throughout this entire tournament!"

    "And with that, folks, this has been Charles Burton-"

    "And Don George-"

    "Signing off!"

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  11. #41
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    Default Re: Jim: The Hero's Journey

    CHAPTER 39
    An Unexpected Visit



    "Don't worry, Leanne. You were marvelous out there!"

    "I've never seen a Lilligant battle like that. So graceful!"

    "You ought to be proud that you at least made him regret taking you lightly."

    Cruise, Solomon, and The Guy were all chipping in their own consolatory comments for Leanne, who was still somewhat disheartened from the way Lilligant had been beaten. As for the Pokemon herself, she was arm-in-arm with Torch and Torrent, one on each side, supported by them, as she was still weak and dizzy. She was resting her head on Torrent's shoulder, an act Torch regarded with something like disappointment or jealousy, though, if it was visible at all, it was well hidden.

    "Thanks, everyone," said Leanne. "I am glad that I was able to catch him by surprise. I just wish Lilligant hadn't been so outmatched. It was her first battle under me. What if it happens again? What'll it reflect on me as her Trainer?"

    "Leanne," said Jim, putting a hand on her shoulder, "come on, now, this isn't like you. The Leanne I know wouldn't be down in the mouth over one battle. Yes, Lilligant lost, but that's how Pokemon battles are supposed to go: one side wins, the other side loses. It's part of life."

    Seeing that his words lacked the effect he meant for them to produce, he paused to collect his thoughts, then said,

    "Think of it this way: at least you didn't force her to battle, right?"

    Leanne looked up at him.

    "I mean, she seemed so gung-ho when you sent her out. It was obvious that she wanted to battle. She knew what she would be getting herself into. I just hope that's at least some consolation."

    He looked at her, tense on what her reaction would be. At last, she smiled and tilted her head to lay her cheek on his hand.

    "Thanks, Jim. I guess you're right about that."

    Jim smiled. Cruise and Solomon sighed, glad the emotional crisis was averted. Bianca, meanwhile, was strolling at their side, humming placidly, as if unaware of what was going on. Her attention, however, was arrested when the sound of someone calling her name stopped them all short.

    "Bianca! Sweetie, there you are!"

    Bianca froze, something like apprehension coming into her face.

    "It couldn't be…" she whispered.

    A man was advancing toward them, dressed in a business suit and tie. He was a tall, bluff-chested man in his late 30s or early 40s, with fair hair and a boyish face, but with the appearance of one on whose shoulders the weight of the world constantly rests.

    Even Jim couldn't help looking startled.

    It was Bianca's father himself!

    "Daddy!" Bianca gasped out. "What are you-??"

    "Bianca, I'm so glad I've finally caught up with you!"

    He hurried up to them and grabbed Bianca in a tight hug, which she was too discombobulated to reciprocate.

    "D-Daddy…" she stammered.

    "I was so worried about you," he continued, letting go of her at last, before catching sight of Jim. "And Jim! It's good to see you again!"

    "Likewise, sir," Jim mumbled, meekly.

    It wasn't as if he was afraid of the man; Bianca's father was one of the nicest men he'd ever met, and had been great friends with his father. Something about being in his presence here and now, though, was unnerving.

    "I just arrived this morning, and was staying at the Pokemon Center when I saw the coverage of the tournament in the lobby. You were fantastic, son, absolutely fantastic! And to have such a powerful Zebstrika at this point in your journey!"

    Jim felt his face redden at this praise.

    "And you, sir!"

    He looked up to see that Bianca's father was now speaking to The Guy, who merely raised his eyebrows at being addressed by someone he'd never seen before.

    "That Ferrothorn of yours was an absolute powerhouse!"

    "Daddy, you're being embarrassing again…" muttered Bianca, who had taken her hat off and was hiding her face behind it.

    "I appreciate your enthusiasm," said The Guy, "although I'm not sure I've had the pleasure-"

    "Oh! Yes, sorry, where are my manners? I'm Frank, Bianca's father. And your name was…Anonymous?"

    "I'm not too particular about what people call me. For convenience's sake, just call me Guy."

    "Will do. And Jim, are these two boys friends of yours?"

    "Yes, sir. This is Solomon and Cruise."

    "A pleasure, sir."

    "Hi!"

    "So, what brings you all the way out here?" Jim asked.

    "Well, I had sort of hoped that I would have encountered Bianca in more private circumstances…this makes why I'm here a bit more difficult."

    Frank scratched the back of his head, looking uncomfortable. Jim felt a an icy feeling of premonition in the pit of his gut; he had a feeling he knew what was coming.

    "Bianca, I've come to take you home."

    Sure enough.

    "Take…me home??" Bianca gasped out, shocked.

    "Yes, dear. You have no idea how worried I've been, especially considering you left while your mother and I were asleep. And speaking of your mother, you have no idea how fraught with anxiety she's been…"

    Bianca looked down at the ground, shame stamped clearly across her face.

    "On top of all that, there's been news about this wandering cult, Team Plasma, engaging in pretty shady business across Unova. No, Bianca, it's much too dangerous for you to be going around by yourself, so it's time to come home."

    Bianca stayed silent, and though her hat was hiding her face from that angle, Jim could imagine there were tears starting in her eyes. He couldn't just let her suffer like this…he had to do something.

    "Sir, with all due respect," he said, "she's not the only at fault, here."

    "Hmm? What do you mean?" Frank asked, looking at Jim quizzically.

    "What about Cheren and me? We're both wandering Unova with Team Plasma on the loose. I don't know where Cheren is, but we're no better than Bianca."

    Bianca looked up, stunned. Jim was trying to shift the blame onto himself as well?

    "Ah, but I've also heard that you've been handling Team Plasma yourself with relative ease, Jim," said Frank, appraisingly, "You're perfectly capable of taking care of yourself."

    Jim felt a flash of hot anger flow through his veins. He was beginning to get very tired of people assuming he was perfect in every single regard. It was absolutely infuriating, and would only add coals to the fire when it came to Cheren's opinion of him…

    "As for Cheren," said Frank, in a more pondering tone, "I've no idea what's become of that boy. I always figured the three of you would have set out together."

    "So did I, sir," muttered Jim.

    "In any case, this is nothing that should concern you, Jim. I'm just here to bring Bianca back home."

    "But it does concern me!" snapped Jim, perhaps more angrily than he should have. "Bianca's my friend! She can't go back now! Not when she still has so much to see and do! Can't you see that there's nothing that will stop here from being a Trainer?"

    "Jim."

    Jim stopped in the middle of his tirade. Bianca had spoken up.

    "It's all right. I don't want to cause trouble. If Daddy thinks I should go, I'll go…"

    "But Bianca-!"

    "He's right, too. I shouldn't have just run off like I did, scaring him and Mom half to death. It wasn't right. Good luck tomorrow, Jim…"

    She turned to join her father. Jim just stood, dumbfounded, unable to process what was going on.

    "Hold it!"

    Everyone stopped. Now it was The Guy's turn to speak up.

    "Frank," he said, "I can see you're very much a family man, and have nothing but the utmost concern and devotion for the wellbeing of your daughter. But consider for a moment: she and Jim have been through a lot together. I can't personally speak on that, but surely you'd have noticed."

    Frank thought for a moment, then chuckled out of fond remembrance.

    "Yes…she and Jim were inseparable, even when they were kids…"

    "If she has to go home, at least let her watch the tournament finale tomorrow. Let her cheer Jim on. You can give her at least that, can't you?"

    "Well, I don't know…"

    "Of course you can!" said Jim, his brain finally back in gear, and catching The Guy's drift. "Come on, sir, it's just one more day. Besides, you were a great Trainer yourself once, weren't you?"

    "Well, really, Jim, I wouldn't say I was great-"

    "Don't be so modest!" said Jim, his demeanor and speech taking on, for the moment, the form one would most likely find on a salesman trying to close a deal. "Dad talked about the adventures you two had all the time! You yourself were obviously very excited about seeing the semifinals live today! Imagine how it would look in person!"

    A sort of gleam was rekindling in Frank's eyes as Jim said this.

    "Can you look me in the eyes and tell me you'd pass up a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity like this, sir?"

    Frank and Jim looked at each other for several moments, and then Frank broke into a hearty laugh.

    "Jim Stevens, I swear you're more like your father every day. He had a way with words himself, if I remember correctly."

    "Heh, yeah," said Jim, with a chuckle, "Mom said that's how he got her into going on their first date."

    "Well, Jim, no, I can't tell you I'd pass this up. After all, it is just one more day, and I'd hate to have arrived in Nimbasa City just to leave again. All right, then. Bianca?"

    "Yes, Daddy?"

    "We'll stay until tomorrow and watch Jim compete in the finals. After the tournament, though, we'll be off for home. Is that clear?"

    Bianca glanced from her father to Jim, who nodded approvingly.

    "…Yes, Daddy."

    "Good. Now, I'm going to take a look around town. See you all at the Pokemon Center!"

    With that, Frank turned and took his leave of the group of friends. As soon as he was gone, Bianca threw her arms around Jim's neck.

    "Jim, THANK YOU!" she squealed. "That was really good, the way you convinced Daddy!"

    "I couldn't just let you up and leave like that, Bianca," Jim said, reddening from the display of affection. "Really, I was just working off what Guy was saying. He deserves a good chunk of the credit."

    "Nonsense," said The Guy. "You were the one who used it the way you did."

    "Jim Stevens, peacemaker. How utterly droll."

    Everyone turned in the direction of the voice, and Bianca released Jim. Nigel strolled out, with a look on his face that said he had seen everything. June narrowed her eyes, and the Simi Brothers moved in front of Lilligant, as if to shield her.

    "That was rather touching of you, Stevens, standing up to the girl's father like that. It's too bad you'll make him regret attending."

    "And why's that?" Jim asked, calmly.

    "Because when I eliminate you tomorrow, he'll be absolutely disappointed to see you having fought for nothing."

    "You seem convinced that you have this competition in the bag, Nigel. Does the possibility that your opponent might have an ounce more talent than you give them credit for ever enter your head?"

    "Not for a single moment."

    "You seemed impressed with the way Leanne and I battled," countered Jim. "You even said you had underestimated our skills."

    He raised his eyebrow, daring Nigel to beat that. Nigel indeed seemed caught off guard when reminded of something he apparently had hoped they had forgotten. He cleared his throat.

    "Yes, well, we all have our moments of weakness. I may be perfect, but I'm not impervious to spontaneous emotions now and again."

    Jim rolled his eyes.

    "Scoff if you must, Stevens, but I assure you, victory will be mine tomorrow."

    "You might want to put a new CD in, Nigel, because I am getting so tired of that same old song you're singing."

    Nigel's face flushed.

    "How dare you-!"

    "Now, if you'll excuse us, we have the rest of the day to enjoy ourselves. I'll expect your best tomorrow, Mr. Richmond."

    Jim turned, and the others followed. Nigel looked as if he were about to blow a gasket at his taunts being blown off so easily.

    "You think you'll win so easily, Stevens, but you're wrong!" he shouted. "I don't care what you have up your sleeve! I will dominate it, mark my words!"

    "So you admit you were trying to find out what I was doing last night?" Jim called back, casually.

    Nigel turned pale at this. He seemed to want to come back with a fiery retort but, finally at a loss for words, he gave a disgusted growl, turned, and stalked off.

    "All right, who are you and what did you do with Jim?" June asked, playfully.

    "Why, whatever do you mean?" Jim asked coyly.

    "It seems like you're a totally different person when you're standing up to somebody. Team Plasma, Bianca's dad, Nigel."

    "Oh. Well, you have to understand, June: if there's one thing I can't stand, it's bullying behavior. I just can't sit back and let someone be oppressed like that. I'm saying nothing bad about your father, though, Bianca," he added, hastily.

    "It's all right, Jim, I understand," said Bianca, cheerily.

    "I guess it is almost as if another person's taking the wheel. It's almost like…"

    (Almost like Dad...

    He remained silent for a long while, but then the silence was broken up by Cruise.

    "Come on, guys! Jim's got a final battle to prep for! You gonna use June, Jim?"

    "If she's up for it."

    He looked up at his Snivy partner.

    "I certainly am. I've seen what that Richmond snob has on his team, and I'm sure I could handle any one of them."

    "That's my girl," said Jim, scratching the top of her head. "Let's get to work, then!"

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  12. #42
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    Default Re: Jim: The Hero's Journey

    CHAPTER 40
    A Grand Finale



    Jim yawned with rather obnoxious loudness. He could hardly be blamed; he had spent half the night making sure his and June's strategy was down perfectly. He was finally called out of it when he could barely keep his eyes open any longer, and despite his protests of "Just a little more. I think we've really got it!", he was dragged off to bed, June recalled to her Poke Ball. She had put up a fight as well, insisting to keep going, as she was sure she no longer needed assistance in perfecting her secret weapon.

    Jim was still drowsy when he got up that next morning, but he also seemed restless and uneasy. His hand shook as he ate breakfast with his friends. Bianca's father had left early to get a good seat.

    "What's wrong, Jim?" Bianca asked.

    Jim jumped, his fork clattering on his plate. June looked up at the noise, seated beside Jim with a bowl of special-made Pokemon chow in front of her.

    "Huh? What? …Oh. It was just you, Bianca. Nothing's wrong. Why do you ask?"

    "You seem really tense," said Cruise. "Are you that worried about facing Nigel?"

    Jim looked down.

    "Maybe a little," he murmured.

    "But you seemed so confident when you were speaking to him yesterday," said Solomon.

    "That's because I wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of rattling me. He doesn't deserve to be proud of belittling others. It's time someone taught him respect."

    "And you're just the kid to do it," said The Guy, who was seated far back from the others.

    Jim couldn't help but find himself amused with every new thing he learned about this wandering man. Now he was playing cards with his Scrafty. The Pokemon seemed to have good knowledge about the game, as he was bent over his hand with intense concentration. Both had piles of plastic tokens at their sides of the table, but what confounded Jim was that Scrafty's was at least twice as big as the one on his Trainer's side.

    "When did you teach him to do that?" Leanne asked, more stupefied than Jim.

    "Pretty soon after I captured him. Ferroseed and Palpitoad can't learn it, obviously, so he was my candidate. Sometimes I need a little diversion now and then."

    "Can any Pokemon learn to play cards like that?" Cruise asked.

    "You can teach a Pokemon to do pretty much anything, within reason. It's their willingness to learn it that counts."

    He laid down his hand.

    "Two pair."

    Scrafty smirked and laid down his own hand.

    Three of a kind.

    The Guy just stared at it, then Scrafty, then turned to the others.

    "You know that's the third straight game he's won? I'm beginning to suspect Foul Play, but he doesn't even know that move."

    This got a round of laughter from everyone, including Jim, who found his unease evaporating already.

    "With all seriousness, kid," The Guy said to him, "you're gonna do just fine. You rely on actual skill and dedicated training; he gets his leads by skulking around and spying to gain his advantages."

    "Right. Thanks."

    "On that note, I've got something that I think might come in handy."

    He reached into one of the pockets of his coat and pulled out something that, at first glance, Jim thought was a jar. On closer inspection, though, he saw that it was actually a flute, made of yellow glass.

    "What's this?"

    "A Yellow Flute. There's five kinds of flutes out there, all with special abilities. When played, the music of a Yellow one heals a Pokemon that's been affected by confusion."

    "Erm…no offense, but what use is it going to be? I have no idea what Nigel's going to throw at me."

    "Maybe not at first glance, but think back, kid: why's he so disdainful of your Snivy?"

    Jim looked at June, who was still eating complacently.

    "Because he thinks her evolutionary line's inferior."

    "And who's his star Pokemon?"

    "His Simisage."

    "So, it stands to reason that he's gonna want to fight you with his Simisage, and he'll probably expect you to use your Snivy. Now, think back to when you saw Simisage battle. What moves did it have?"

    Rather perplexed by this train of thought The Guy was leading him down, Jim scratched his head as he tried to recollect.

    "Let's see…Low Sweep, Magical Leaf, Solarbeam, and Swa-"

    And then it hit him like a punch to the side of the head.

    "Oh! You mean-??"

    The Guy nodded, smiling as he realized Jim was catching on.

    "But…is it even allowed?"

    "Of course it's allowed. The Tournament doesn't hold a ban on items; they're just rarely used, that's all. In fact, I think the last time someone used an item was during the…3rd tournament. A Trainer was going up against another who was fond of Poison types, so he kept a good stock of Pecha Berries for the upcoming battle. Guess he kind of gave himself away, didn't he?"

    "Heh, right. Guy, this is absolutely invaluable, but I've never played an instrument before."

    "Doesn't matter. Give it a try."

    "What? Now?"

    "Yeah, now. Let's see."

    Everyone had gathered around to watch, interested. Jim felt a little foolish at this sort of attention, but after a little hesitation, he put the flute to his lips and blew. It made a low, deep sound, like someone blowing into a conch shell. Remembering the finger holes along the rim, he fiddled with those, creating a twittering sound. Everyone seemed entranced by the performance. Jim took the flute from his lips, staring at it, dumbfounded. The Guy stood up and put a hand to his shoulder.

    "You're ready. Knock 'em dead, kid."

    ***


    "Good morning, Nimbasa City! This is Charles Burton-"

    "-and Don George, welcoming you once again to this year's Nimbasa Battle Tournament! Well, folks, your patience is about to be rewarded! In just a few moments, we will proceed into the final battle of this year's tournament!"

    "That's right, George! On the one side, we have Jim Stevens, the Bane of Team Plasma, from Nuvema Town, and on the other, we have Nigel Richmond, heir to the Richmond fortune, from Castelia City!"

    "Both have shown unbelievable prowess and skill to make it this far, trampling over the rest of the competition without even breaking a sweat!"

    Jim let those two ramble on with their bombastic words full of hot air, though he did wince slightly at the mention of 'trampling' his opponents. He looked over at the stands. Leanne, Bianca, her father, Cruise, and Solomon were all seated in one row. The Guy, arms folded complacently, was seated one row below. He looked across at Nigel, standing as coolly and aloofly as Jim had ever seen him.

    "I'm surprised you even managed to arrive, Stevens," he said. "Struck up the nerve to show your face, did you?"

    "I can see it wasn't so hard to drag yourself here, Nigel," Jim responded. "I bet publicity draws you to a place like a moth to a flame."

    Nigel's brows lowered in a glare.

    "Treading on thin ice, are we, Stevens?"

    "Nothing wrong with a little pre-battle banter."

    "Is that so? Confident you'll win, do you? Think you'll make the folks back home proud, and please your friend's father?"

    "Even if I don't win, they'll still know I fought my hardest."

    Nigel roared with laughter.

    "Stevens, you are a gem!" he said, wiping a tear from his eye. "That kind of drivel may work back in little old Nuvema Town, but this is the real world. Only the strong survive, and it's the duty of the strong to weed out the weak!"

    "Glad you agree," Jim shot back.

    Nigel's eyes widened, realizing he had just been had, and he snarled through gritted teeth. Jim looked up at his Snivy partner.

    "Let's do it," he said.

    June nodded and leaped gracefully from Jim's shoulder to land in front of him on the battlefield.

    "Going with your faithful little Snivy, are you, Stevens?" asked Nigel. "That suits me just fine."

    He drew out a Poke Ball.

    "Simisage, this is your hour!"

    He tossed it up, and in a blaze of light, the Thorn Monkey Pokemon appeared. With its crossed arms and cocky grin, all it needed to complete the image was a pair of sunglasses.

    "And both combatants have chosen their Pokemon!" said Burton. "Jim Stevens is going with his Snivy, while Nigel Richmond has picked his Simisage!"

    "Both are Grass types, so this match should prove to be toe-to-toe!" said Don George.

    June glared at Simisage, her ruby-red eyes mere slits. Simisage merely grinned smugly at the little Grass Snake.

    The stadium held its breath, waiting for the moment…and then…

    "BEGIN!"

    Jim didn't waste an instant as soon as he heard the referee yell it out.

    "June, start with Leaf Tornado!"

    June jumped up, spun like a top, and a swirling whirlwind of leaves surrounded her, before launching straight for Simisage.

    "Counter with Magical Leaf!" commanded Nigel.

    Simisage raised its arm, calling up a cloud of rainbow-glowing leaves. It pointed forward sharply, and the leaves blazed across the battlefield. The two leaf-based attacks collided, cancelling each other out, but not before both Pokemon were struck by backlashes from the others' moves. The crowd "ooh"-ed.

    "Yes, that's right, Stevens," said Nigel, "give them a good show back home! I'll bet this is the most excitement they'll have ever seen in that dull little burg!"

    "You just love to hear yourself talk, don't you?" countered Jim. "June, Energy Ball!"

    June cupped her paws in front of her, a glowing ball of greenish energy forming between them. It launched like a bullet from them, straight for Simisage.

    "Simisage, deflect it with Low Sweep!"

    Simisage's right leg began to glow white, and as the Energy Ball came for it, it performed a wicked roundhouse kick, striking the ball with its foot and causing an explosion on contact. Simisage was blown back, but it landed back on its feet, hardly even scratched.

    "Not bad, Stevens," said Nigel. "Your Snivy is certainly holding its own, but how long can it keep it up?"

    "Long enough to make you regret calling her species weak!"

    "Oh, that'll be the day."

    "It is that day! June, Leaf Blade!"

    June leaped, somersaulting as she did so, and the leaf at the end of her tail began glowing a vivid yellow-green.

    "Simisage, Low Sweep, once again!"

    Once more, Simisage struck out with its foot, it and June's Leaf Blade colliding like the swords of two dueling knights.

    "Keep it up, June!"

    "Don't you let up, Simisage!"

    The two struck at each other again and again, neither gaining an inch. There was a fierce fire burning in June's eyes as she dodged and swiped with her tail, one Jim had never seen before until today. This wasn't just any battle for her…

    The crowd was on the edge of their seats, watching the back and forth as it raged on. Bianca's father was probably leaning in farther than all of them, eyes wide, mouth agape. In fact, he was leaning forward so far that Bianca had to hold on to him to keep him from toppling over.

    At last, with a thud that cracked like a whip, Simisage succeeded in punting June back across the field onto Jim's side. She fell onto her back, but was on her feet in an instant.

    "I've enjoyed this heated little spar, Stevens, but the time has come to put the ball in my court! Simisage, Swagger!"

    The familiar sneer crossed Simisage's simian face, and a red aura seemed to surround it at the same instant. It held out one hand and twitched its index finger, in a "come and get me" fashion. June's reptilian eye pupils contracted as she regarded the smug monkey with absolute hatred. The same red aura surrounded her, and she seemed to be in a fit that was quite uncharacteristic for her, clenching her little fists and stamping at the ground.

    In the stands, The Guy unfolded his arms and leaned forward, his eyes fixed on Jim. Although Jim didn't look toward the stands, he could feel those stoic, unflinching eyes on him. He reached into his pocket and took out the little flute. Nigel spied it and gave a derisive scoff.

    "Going to regale us with a little ballad of Nuvema Town, Stevens? I could use a bit of comedy."

    Ignoring his comment, Jim held the flute close to his lips.

    "It'll be all right, June," he said, calmly.

    He closed his eyes, put the flute to his mouth, and blew a short, sweet melody that seemed to linger in the air, like the song of a bird in the morning. The red glow faded from June, and the rage seemed to leave her eyes. In fact, she had a look on her face like one who didn't remember what they had been doing, but Nigel didn't seem to notice. He clapped his hands in a mocking, sardonic fashion.

    "Bravo, Stevens, bravo. I consider myself an aficionado when it comes to fine music, and I will say this: perhaps you should quit Training and take up the flute. Even then, you'd need practice, for it wasn't that spectacular."

    However, to his bewilderment, Jim seemed neither angered or hurt by this remark. In fact, he was smiling. Nigel glowered.

    "Your behavior's beginning to infuriate me, Stevens! It's time I put an end to your shenanigans once and for all! Your Snivy's buffed up, but hopelessly confused! You haven't a hope of striking back, just like that pitiful little girl and her Stoutland!"

    "Her name was Hannah, thank you very much," said Jim, in the calmest voice imaginable, "and are you going to keep flapping your gums, or are you going to attack?"

    "You…insolent…trailer trash!!" snarled Nigel. "Simisage, wipe that smirk off his face! Solarbeam!"

    Simisage raised its arms above its head, the sunlight seeming to filter down into the leaf-like crest on its head, causing it to glow yellow. It then cupped its paws to its side, forming a glowing, yellow sun-like orb between them. Throwing them forward, it shot a massive beam of the same energy straight for June. Jim, however, didn't even flinch. He had stared down the barrel of a Solarbeam before, and knew what to do now.

    "June, dodge and retaliate…with Aerial Ace!"

    A gasp ran through the crowd. With a burst of light, as if speed were physically infusing itself into her body, June launched straight off of the ground, swerving to the left as the Solarbeam soared on, blasting the opposite wall, and causing a fair number of people to shriek from the impact. Nigel just stared, open-mouthed, as June soared like an airplane, low above the ground, and struck Simisage from the side, knocking him over with great force. Then, June turned back and struck him again from the other side, before swooping back and landing back in front of Jim.

    Nigel had difficulty articulating himself.

    "But…that…how…this is impossible! Your Snivy should be incapacitated with confusion!"

    Then, all of a sudden, the answer seemed to strike him, his eyes widening to prove it.

    "That flute! What did you do?!"

    "Oh, you mean this?" Jim held it up. "I'm glad you liked the melody. I call it "Return to Reason", ala the Yellow Flute."

    "Return to… Ah! That was a Yellow Flute?! You little wretch! How dare you use an item like that!"

    "Not against the rules, Mr. Richmond," said Jim. "Most people just don't feel like using them. This, however, was a special gift, for just this battle."

    He pocketed the flute again.

    "Now, shall we proceed, now that you know that your Swagger tactic has just royally screwed you over?"

    "What?? What do you mean?!"

    "Swagger increases physical attack, but also confuses. Well, with the confusion averted, June still keeps that power increase, and since Aerial Ace is a physical attack…"

    Nigel's pupils shrank, the full force of what he was being told hitting him like a ton of bricks. He had been suckered right from the start, even when he had had everything ready for Jim's undignified downfall.

    "Not going to call an attack? Then allow me! June, give him a full taste of Aerial Ace, and finish with Leaf Blade!"

    Once more, like a bird taking flight, June leaped from the ground and soared straight for Simisage. She swept past him again and again, singing across him with the speed of an arrow. Then, at last, for a coup de grace, she soared up, somersaulted, and, with the telltale glow at the end of her tail, struck Simisage squarely on the skull with a Leaf Blade attack. The blow seemed to ring across the field like the fall of a hammer. Everyone gaped and leaned forward as June landed back on the ground, turned her back, and put her paws to her hips.

    Jim, feeling it only appropriate, said,

    "And that, Mr. Richmond, is how we do it in Nuvema Town."

    June accompanied the ending with a snap of her fingers and, like a tree struck clean through the trunk with an axe, Simisage toppled backwards and flopped with a thump onto its back, where it lay unconscious, unmoving, and completely blown away by what had just happened to it, much like its Trainer.

    The referee at first was unable to process what happened, but at last seemed to get his bearings and raised his flag, thundering out,

    "Simisage is unable to battle! Snivy wins, which means the victory, and the title of Nimbasa Battle Tournament Champion goes to…JIM STEVENS!!"

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  13. #43
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    Default Re: Jim: The Hero's Journey

    Chapter 41
    Enter Elesa



    Having been taking part in the tournament for four days, Jim's ears had become accustomed to the clamorous and wild cheering the audience was capable of, but the jubilation that met his victory defied all previous battle conclusions. It was if someone had pulled the trigger on a gun designed for the express purpose of bombarding the very air waves with raucous, tumultuous noise. People had risen from their seats and were leaping and pumping their fists, while some, who obviously had been rooting for Nigel, were stamping their feet in frustration.

    Wildest of all were the cheers where Jim's friends sat. He almost laughed when he saw the scene. He didn't know who was applauding harder: Bianca or her father. Both had risen from their seats and were clapping so furiously and cheering so loudly that Jim was sure they were going to feel plenty sore later, when the pain caught up with them. The Guy wasn't applauding, but he had the biggest grin Jim had ever seen on his rough features, and there was a shine in his eyes that said all that his words were unnecessary to say.

    At last, he managed to tear his eyes from the scene, and he ran to June, who, despite the way she calmly ended the battle, was unsteady on her feet. Jim scooped her up and held her at arm's length, looking at her with paternal warmth.

    "June, this is your victory, girl. You earned this…" he said, softly, though it wouldn't have mattered, as his voice could hardly be heard at all.

    June returned the smile, and as her Trainer drew her close, she threw her arms around his neck and planted a lick on his cheek. With tears starting in his eyes, Jim just held her close as the crowd cheered on.

    He was broken out of his emotion by someone clearing their throat. Jim looked up, and was surprised to see Nigel, standing alongside Simisage. Both looked as if nothing had happened; the stupefaction from their loss was completely erased, replaced with complete calm. Nigel held out his hand, and Jim shook it, bemused.

    "Congratulations, Stevens. The better man won, fair and square. Perhaps I was wrong about you."

    "Well…gee, thanks, Nigel."

    "I shall still strive to defeat you, mark my words, but at least now we know where we stand."

    A small smile, not a sneer, but a competitive smirk, crossed his face. Jim couldn't help but smile back.

    "I'll be looking forward to it."

    Simisage and June looked at each other. Simisage gave a curt nod, which June returned.

    "I believe you're wanted on that stage," said Nigel, directing his attention to a platform where Don George and Charles Burton were standing, both flushed from the excitement of the battle and perhaps from cheering their heads off. "As for me, my journey continues. Good luck out there, Stevens. I expect your best when we meet again."

    "You know it, Nigel."

    With that, Nigel and Simisage turned and departed the stadium. Somewhat shakily, and with June still cradled in his arms, June directed his steps toward the two emcees.

    "Jim Stevens of Nuvema Town, it is our great pleasure to name you this year's champion in the Nimbasa Battle Tournament!" boomed Burton.

    "And in addition to the title, you also receive 10,000 Pokes, in cash, two free all-day passes to the Nimbasa Amusement Park, and an opportunity to meet and battle the Subway Bosses for free!"

    With that, Don George handed him a large gold cup, filled with a thick wad of Poke bills, two colorful tickets, and another white ticket with the Subway insignia stamped in the center.

    "Now, how's about a few words for the cameras?"

    Jim's attention was directed to a cameraman at the ready. Though caught on the spot, Jim mustered up what he could and said,

    "What can I say, really? I didn't enter this tournament just to prove myself as a big hero, like I was made out to look like when I stood up to Team Plasma. I entered because it sounded like it would be a great time, and I wasn't even expecting to come out on top. Well, at least not 100% expecting. Honestly, I would have been glad to place anywhere, as long as I was able to try something new and see some awesome Pokemon. It wasn't just me, either: my whole Pokemon team and my friends were behind me the whole time, and I owe them a big thanks for that. Mom, if you're watching back home, I'll be sending the 10,000 home to you via Pidove Express. You'll have much better use for it than I would. Love you, Mom. Thanks, everyone. This is Jim Stevens of Nuvema Town, signing off."

    June gave him a warm nuzzle when he finished, and he felt Don George slap him heartily on the shoulder.

    "There ya have it, ladies and gents: choice words from our champion! We'd like to thank you once again for tuning into the 7th Annual Nimbasa Battle Tournament! As always, this has been Don George-"

    "-And Charles Burton, wishing you the best, and we'll see you next time!"

    ***


    If Jim had gotten an earful from listening to the audience clamor for him, that was nothing compared to the auditory assault his companions gave him as he rejoined them. Leanne and Bianca were both hugging him almost to the point of suffocation, and Cruise was jabbering away in his usual excitement, Frank not too far behind by comparison. Only Solomon and The Guy kept their composures when congratulating their friend. June herself was given a very affectionate congratulations by Oshawott, which at the same time was hilarious to watch for the humans.

    What had happened was that when the two were set down in front of each other, Oshawott was going to kiss June on the paw, but the Snivy seemed to have different plans. She snared Oshawott in her vines, drew him in close like a fish on a line, and kissed him passionately on the lips, surprising the charismatic Sea Otter Pokemon profoundly. Nonetheless, when the shock was over, he returned the kiss, the two in a tight, loving embrace. Bianca was overjoyed at the display, while Jim laughed aloud at how bold June was in actually making the first move.

    They arrived at the Pokemon Center, where Jim was preparing to swap Jolt back out for Missy. Before he did so, he let the Thunderbolt Pokemon out to talk to him. With a big grin, he put an arm around Jolt's neck.

    "Thanks, Jolt. You really came through for me, buddy. I'll call you again when I need you."

    Jolt leaned down to nuzzle his Trainer.

    "I'll be ready, Jim," he said.

    With that, Jim recalled Jolt and rung up Professor Juniper on his X-Transceiver. When the Professor appeared, her face was aglow with excitement, and Jim could hear the television on behind her.

    "Jim, that was unbelievable!!" she cried. "I knew June was a tough little Snivy, but to actually teach her Aerial Ace! That's going to serve you so well! You have no idea how proud we all are!"

    She shifted the Transceiver to show that she had guests, who all waved to Jim when they saw him: Rok, Missy, Bianca's mother, Cheren's parents, and his own mother. Jim's broad smile turned to a soft one when he caught sight of her. The Audino he had sent to her was with her as well, standing behind her with the sunniest smile imaginable on her face, wearing a kitchen apron to boot. The change in scenery seemed to be doing her good.

    "Thanks, everyone. You don't know how much this means to me," he said. "Missy."

    The plump Emolga perked her ears at being addressed.

    "Sorry about the delay. I'm bringing you back."

    The curiosity on her furry face gave way to joy, as she bounded from her place in Mrs. Stevens' lap and settled on Professor Juniper's shoulder. The Professor laughed and stroked her head.

    "I hope she's behaved herself, Professor?" Jim asked.

    "She's been on her best behavior, Jim. She's such a sweetheart, but she's got quite the appetite too."

    "Don't I know that," said Jim, laughing. "I'll be inputting the transfer as soon as we've ended the call. It's great to see you all again."

    "Same to you, Jim," said Professor Juniper. "Good luck, and make us proud, kiddo!"

    Amid the myriad of goodbyes from his neighbors and mother (and the jubilant squawks from Rok), the X-Transceiver's screen turned to black. Jim took out his Pokedex and inputted the code to switch Jolt with Missy. Jolt's Poke Ball shone brightly, disappeared, and was instantly replaced with another Poke Ball. Rather than just this one, Jim took all of his team's Poke Balls out and opened them up. Soon, Echo, Torch, Torrent, Croco, and Missy were all standing before him. Almost instantly, Missy launched from the ground and plowed herself into Jim's chest in a tight hug, nuzzling deeply.

    "Hey, girl!" he said, laughing. "Juniper told me you behaved very well. I'm just sorry I kept you waiting longer."

    "It's all right! I got to watch the whole thing at her lab! You were amazing!"

    She turned to face June.

    "And you, June! You were unbelievable!"

    She hopped out of Jim's arms and embraced the Snivy tightly. At first, June looked startled, but her bewilderment melted into a warm smile as she returned the hug.

    "Thanks, Missy," she said, simply.

    "Well, gang, as you can probably guess," said Jim looking at his teammates, "we won!"

    The four remaining Pokemon cheered loudly. Torch and Torrent high-fived each other, and Echo swooped around them all, squeaking jubilantly. Croco merely stood, arms folded, but with a big, proud grin on his face.

    "I want to thank you all for everything you contributed in our victory."

    "GROUP HUG!" yelled Echo.

    Everyone but June and Croco swarmed Jim in one big hug, toppling him over. The last two just glanced at each other and shared a laugh at these antics, along with the other humans. As soon as Jim was able to get back up again, Cruise stepped forward.

    "You really did an excellent job out there, Jim," he said.

    "Thanks, Cruise. It was your Servine that saved us, though."

    "Aww, shucks. Anyway, it's time I headed back home. I promised my dad I'd be back after the tournament ended."

    He grabbed Jim's hand and shook it vigorously.

    "You be careful out there, Jim. I know you're gonna do great!"

    Jim smiled.

    "Take care, Cruise," he said.

    Amid farewells from the others, Cruise headed out of the Pokemon Center. Now it was Solomon's turn to step up.

    "I should be on my way as well. You're an amazing Trainer, Jim, and I hope your travels yield success."

    "Thanks, Solomon."

    The two warmly shook hands, and Solomon took his leave like Cruise.

    "Seems like this is the Hour of Farewells," joked The Guy. "I ought to move on myself."

    Jim's face fell at this. He had been so used to having The Guy around as a teacher and support. The wanderer seemed to catch those thoughts in Jim's expression.

    "Relax, kid. We'll meet again sure enough, so keep up the good work, and don't give Team Plasma an inch, or they'll go a mile."

    "I won't."

    Then, as if remembering something, Jim reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out the Yellow Flute.

    "Here. I probably won't need it anymore."

    "Thanks," said The Guy, taking it back. "Knowing me, I'll probably need it a lot more."

    He laughed roughly, then clapped Jim on the shoulder.

    "Do me proud, Jim."

    Jim just looked up at the man, wise beyond his appearance, with respect and admiration. The Guy then turned and made his way to the door.

    "Take care, everyone," he said.

    Another chorus of farewells, and the enigmatic man took his leave. Jim already felt a deprivation at his departure, but knew that he might as well get used to these kinds of meetings and farewells. Frank cleared his throat, and when he spoke, his voice was hoarse from all the yelling he had done.

    "Yes, well then, Jim, you haven't forgotten our agreement?"

    Jim looked at Bianca, whose eyes were once again cast downwards.

    "No, sir," he said, solemnly.

    Bianca stepped forward, but before either of them could say anything, the doors of the Pokemon Center flew open.

    "Oh! Excuse me, folks. You would not believe the day I've had."

    Leanne gasped.

    "Y-You're-!"

    Jim looked over, and it was his turn to stammer. The person who had entered was a woman of incredibly striking appearance. She had short blond hair, electric blue eyes, and a slender, very feminine figure. She was dressed in what appeared to be a yellow jacket, a black shirt, matching black pants, and yellow high heels. The shirt had several large V-shaped gaps in it, leaving those areas of her midriff bare. She also wore a pair of headphones with extraordinarily long wires extending from them, tipped in white.

    "E-Elesa??" Jim blurted out. "The Elesa, here??"

    Elesa looked curiously over at him.

    "Oh? Do I know you?"

    "N-Not personally, miss, but I've seen you on the covers of some of the magazines my mother buys. You're only the most famous model in all of Unova!"

    Elesa smiled pleasantly.

    "Well, thank you!"

    Her gaze then intensified as she studied Jim closely, and she gave a small gasp of surprise.

    "Ah! Isn't this an electrifying thrill! You're the young man who just won the Nimbasa Battle Tournament, aren't you?"

    "Yes, Miss Elesa. Jim Stevens, at your service."

    "Well, congratulations! I would have seen the tournament myself, but I had a fashion shoot scheduled at the time of the finals."

    She gave a weary sigh.

    "I really need to sort things out with my agent next time."

    Her eyes then fell on Bianca, who was still looking somewhat gloomy.

    "What's the matter, dear?" she asked.

    Bianca squeaked and looked up, startled.

    "N-Nothing," she said.

    Frank cleared his throat again.

    "Miss Elesa, I beg your pardon," he said, "but I'm afraid we don't have time to chat. Bianca and I were just on our way home."

    "But, Daddy…"

    "Now, Bianca, we had an agreement, remember? Just until the end of the tournament."

    Elesa raised an eyebrow.

    "I'm sure it's none of my business," she said, "but it looks like whatever agreement you had isn't mutual."

    Frank looked up at her, somewhat angry at her trying to interfere.

    "Well, see, Miss Elesa," said Bianca, tentatively, "I really want to continue traveling Unova, but my father doesn't think it's safe for me."

    "Of course it's not safe!" said Elesa, putting her hands on her hips, but her gaze was directed at Frank, and not Bianca, to everyone's surprise. "Nobody ever said Pokemon Training would be a bed of roses. Of course she's going to be in danger; that's all just a part of growing up. I see no reason why she shouldn't continue."

    "Madam, with all due respect," said Frank, sternly, "you're not her parent. I am, and I think I know what's best for my daughter."

    "You think you know, or you do know?" asked Elesa, wryly.

    Frank blinked, realizing what Elesa was playing at. Jim couldn't help but grin, but he made sure Frank didn't see. He figured that, as a professional fashion model, Elesa wouldn't have been so…good-natured. It was refreshing to see how humble celebrities really could be.

    "Miss Elesa," said Frank, stiffly, "I have no doubt that your intentions are in the right place, being a Gym Leader, but, as you said yourself, it isn't your business."

    "Whoa, whoa, hold it!" said Jim, interrupting them. He stared, astounded, at Elesa. "You're the Nimbasa Gym Leader??"

    "That I am!" said Elesa, proudly.

    Jim just continued to stare, but then, as if by request, the voice of Burgh floated into his brain:

    "We are more than certified keepers of League Badges and masters of one type of Pokemon; we are respected members of the communitarian world as well."

    Like it had held true for the Striaton Trio, Lenora, and Burgh, so too, it seemed, did it apply to Elesa. At first, he was about to wonder what Pokemon she'd have in store if he challenged her, but then, as if a bolt came from the blue, a new idea struck him. He turned to Frank.

    "Sir! I've got a new proposition for you!"

    "Oh? And what would that be, son?"

    "Elesa, would you be willing to battle me soon, as a Gym Battle?"

    "Of course! We could have it done tonight, if you'd like!"

    "Perfect! Well, then, sir, here's my proposal: if I win against Elesa, then you'll agree to let Bianca keep traveling."

    Bianca looked up, surprised.

    "And if I lose..."

    Jim paused. The words seemed to stick in his throat.

    "If I lose…I'll go home with her."

    Everyone gasped.

    "Jim! Are you nuts??" Leanne cried. "How can you make a bet like that?!"

    Frank looked uncomfortable.

    "Now, Jim, this is completely unnecessary. I'm not trying to be heartless, you know that. I'm only looking out for my little girl's safety."

    "I know, sir, but I've already made my decision. Do we have a deal?"

    Jim's firm tone unsettled Frank. He shifted his feet, cleared his throat a couple of times, then said,

    "All right. It's a deal."

    Elesa looked from one to the other, not quite sure what to say.

    "I apologize, Miss Elesa," said Jim. "I'll come to the Gym tonight."

    "Great! Bring your A-game, and get ready for one wild ride!"

    With that, and with the stride of one accustomed to walking down the runway at a fashion show, Elesa left the Pokemon Center. After a few moments of silence, Frank clapped his hands together.

    "Well! I'll let you get ready, Jim. If anyone wants me, I'll be upstairs."

    With that, he took the stairs leading to the second floor. As soon as he was gone, June climbed up onto Jim's shoulder and gave him a hard slap on the back of the head with her tail.

    "Ow! What was that for??"

    "Are you sure it was your father's way with words you inherited, and not a gambling problem? How could you make a deal like that?!"

    "I meant what I said, June," said Jim, firmly. "It wouldn't feel right traveling the rest of Unova, knowing that my best friend since childhood would be missing out. I wanted us to be able to travel together, but even if that plan's fallen through, I'm not going to let any of us not be able to travel at all. Either all of us do, or I don't. That's all there is to it."

    June blinked, her sternness stripped away by Jim's response. She looked at her Trainer with mingled surprise and respect.

    "Jim, why are you risking so much for me?" Bianca asked.

    Jim clasped her hands gently.

    "Because you're worth risking so much for. You're like my sister, Bianca. I'm not going to let you be denied your dream."

    Bianca's eyes filled with tears. She didn't say anything, but she just threw her arms around Jim in a tight hug.

    "There, there," said Jim, soothingly, patting her back. "Everything will be all right. You'll see."

    "Jim, you're sure about this?" asked Leanne.

    "I'm sure."

    He looked at June, wondering if she'd interject. She merely stared at Jim for a while, then, with a shake of the head, said,

    "You've done plenty of crazy stuff already, Jim. I shouldn't be surprised at this. I'm with you."

    She leaned in to nuzzle his cheek. Jim smiled and stroked her head. Bianca finally released him, and he turned to his other Pokemon, who had been watching pensively all this time, but now relaxed when they saw the old smile on their Trainer's face.

    "Ok, guys, you know what's expected. Let's get cracking!"

    Y Rotation Team

  14. #44
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    Default Re: Jim: The Hero's Journey

    CHAPTER 42
    Battling the Queen of the Runway


    Of course, Jim didn't know what kind of Pokemon he'd be up against in facing Elesa, and in all honesty, it might have benefited him better if he had asked Frank about, but he didn't want to face him again after what had just transpired, at least not until after the battle. So, to compensate, he made sure everyone on his team was healed up and that their techniques were up to snuff. Despite having trained themselves hard in preparing for the Nimbasa Battle Tournament, they all seemed completely eager to be ready for the upcoming Gym Battle, and showed little to no signs of fatigue or resentment at more preparation. Even Missy, at Jim's request, demonstrated her attacks to make sure she could still perform them. While her Shock Wave, which she could perform while stationary, was easy enough for her to perform, what astounded Jim was how she was still able to perform Electro Ball and Acrobatics, which required much more dexterous movements on her part, considering how heavyset she was. Still, as evening rolled around, he felt a good deal of confidence in being able to handle what Elesa could potentially throw at him.

    "All right, guys," he said, as they were wrapping up, "we've done all that we can, and it's time to take on Elesa. We don't know what kind of Pokemon we'll face, but at least we know we've prepared for anything as far as our capacity goes, and that's good enough. Whatever happens, we'll get through it together."

    He put his hand forward, and everyone else laid their forelimbs atop of his in a team hand-pile. They were ready.

    ***


    At about 5 in the evening, Jim, Leanne, Bianca and her father took their leave of the Pokemon Center and, following the directions of Nurse Joy, made their way into the southern part of Nimbasa City, where a large building covered in flashy neon lights and embellished with an enormous Poke Ball insignia stood.

    As soon as Jim stepped forward, the glass doors slid open, but it surprisingly opened into a relatively compact room. There was nothing else there but what looked like a four-seated roller coaster car facing a door in the opposite wall, into which the car's track seemed to lead. Jim stared at it, puzzled.

    "What are we supposed to do here?" he asked.

    "Ahh, I see the methods of this Gym haven't changed at all," said Frank, with a tone of fond remembrance. "Elesa has always been a fan of high speed thrills, so she installed a roller coaster to take her opponents into her Gym."

    "Whoo! I love roller coasters!" whooped Bianca.

    "Sounds like Elesa really knows how to have fun," said Leanne.

    "Seems a little unconventional, if you ask me," said Jim, "but who am I to argue?"

    With that, all four of them got into the car. The handrails slid down and clicked into place, the door in front of them slid open, and before Jim could properly nerve himself, the car shot forward down the track, through the door. They were whisked along a coaster track that twisted, turned, looped, and spiraled. Every moment, Jim felt apprehensive that he'd lose his hat or his glasses along the way. The girls didn't seem to share this anxiety, though; they were screaming with delight as they zoomed along. June, seated in Jim's lap, was keeping a death grip on his jacket, looking more unnerved than he had ever seen her before, and it could hardly be blamed. Oshawott, for his part, was pressed against Leanne's stomach from the momentum, looking as if he were about to be sick.

    At last, the car rolled to a stop in a similar room, but with a massive pair of sliding doors facing them. They all stepped out, somewhat shakily, and as soon as they approached, the doors slid open.

    At first, it was pitch dark, but as they stepped inside, first one, then two, then three spotlights turned on, one by one, all three of them alighting on a stage, on which stood Elesa, her back to them, hands on her curvy hips. She turned and gave them all a winning smile.

    "Welcome! I've been expecting you! Are you ready, Jim?"

    "You know it!"

    Jim stepped forward, and Frank and the girls took their places outside of the stage. Leanne had just enough time to call out "Good luck!"

    Elesa made a graceful gesture with her arms, and lights burst on all around them. Jim could see that the stands were all packed with spectators. Nearly all of them were girls and women, obviously huge fans of the beautiful model. Some were even dressed like her in identical outfits. A lot of them were carrying banners that said "WE *HEART* YOU, ELESA!" or "QUEEN OF THE RUNWAY!" A female referee, dressed in a form-fitting Latex suit streaked with lightning bolts, raised her flags.

    "The battle between the challenger, Jim Stevens of Nuvema Town, and Gym Leader Elesa, is about to begin! Both sides will use three Pokemon. The battle will be over when all of one of the combatants' Pokemon is unable to battle, and only the challenger can make substitutions. Without further ado, let the battle begin!"

    "Yow!"

    Elesa struck a pose, one arm jutted forward, the knuckles of her other hand set dramatically against her temple.

    "I'm already feeling the dizzying thrill that can only come from an oncoming electrifying battle! Let's make this battle fabulous, Jim!"

    Jim raised an eyebrow, quite bemused by this outburst. Elesa reached into her pocket and pulled out a Poke Ball.

    "Galvantula, time to bedazzle the stage!"

    She tossed it up, releasing a Pokemon resembling a large spider. It had yellow fur, streaked with purple, with frizzy patches of blue at its abdomen. It also had four spindly legs, ending in pointed feet, a pair of mandibles, and 6 eyes, four clustered, and two on the sides with pupils. Jim took out his Pokedex.

    "Galvantula, the EleSpider Pokemon, and the evolved form of Joltik. Galvantula seizes its prey by creating an electrically-charged web, shocking it into paralysis. This immobility allows Galvantula to consume its prey at its leisure." Jim gave a shudder at the thought of a Pokemon like this eating another Pokemon. Still, now he knew what to expect: Elesa's specialty was Electric types.

    "Hmm...an Electric type, but also a Bug type…"

    He took out a Poke Ball, weighing it in his hand, just as he was weighing it in his mind. Finally, he nodded.

    "All right, Torch, you're top of the roster today!"

    He tossed the ball up, and in a burst of light, there was the Simisear. He took one look at Galvantula and jumped, startled. He looked imploringly at Jim, as if begging him not to make him fight the unsettling creature.

    "Come on, Torch, you can do this," said Jim, bracingly. "Just give it a shot."

    Still looking uneasy, Torch turned to face his opponent. Elesa gave a small giggle.

    "Aww, does my cute little Galvantula scare your poor Simisear? Might not reflect too well on your battling."

    Jim ignored this comment.

    "I'll let you make the first move, then, hon."

    "Fine with us! Torch, use Flamethrower!"

    Torch took a very deep breath, then spewed a stream of flames straight for Galvantula.

    "Galvantula, Agility!"

    With unbelievable swiftness, Galvantula sprang off the ground, dodging the Flamethrower as it blazed beneath it. As it leaped (Jim wondered if it was a trick of his imagination), a trail of afterimages seemed to follow.

    "Now, Electro Ball!"

    A ball of sparking electricity appeared between Galvantula's mandibles, which then launched like a missile for Torch.

    "Dig, Torch!"

    Quickly, Torch burrowed his way into the dirt of the battlefield, the Electro Ball exploding like a bombshell where he had been standing. He had acted not a moment too soon. Galvantula landed back on the field, its larger eyes roving the field and searching for its adversary. All of a sudden, Torch burst from underneath, fist first, catching it right on the stomach.

    "Atta boy!" Jim shouted.

    Elesa, however, didn't seem surprised at all.

    "Galvantula, Slash!"

    One of Galvantula's mandibles began to glow white, and it swiped at Torch with it, striking him in such as a way as to plummet him straight back to the ground.

    "Torch!" Jim yelled.

    Shakily, Torch got back to his feet. At first, Jim wondered how he could have taken such damage, but then he remembered: Slash had a high chance of landing critical hits.

    "Don't give in, Torch! Flamethrower!"

    Torch spewed another blast of flame at Galvantula.

    "Counter with Electro Ball!"

    Galvantula launched another large ball of electricity for Torch, and the two attacks collided, pushing against each other violently. At last, however, the Electro Ball seemed to gain victory, blasting right through the Flamethrower and exploding upon contact with Torch.

    "TORCH!!"

    Smoke billowed everywhere, but as soon as it lifted, Jim could see his faithful Simisear, out cold already. The referee raised her flag.

    "Simisear is unable to battle! Galvantula wins!"

    Jim just stared. To think that a Pokemon of his that would have had an easy advantage over his opponent could be taken out so easily was quite a hammer blow, especially after the winning streak he had been experiencing as of late. A feeling of unease was also creeping into his senses; if this kept up, he might actually lose and have to return home…

    No. He couldn't think that way. He wasn't doing this for himself, but for Bianca. With his nerves steeled again, he took out Torch's Poke Ball to recall him.

    "Return, Torch. You did your best, and that's what counts."

    With Torch returned, he reached for another Poke Ball, once more weighing it in his palm as he considered.

    "…Why not?…" he muttered to himself.

    He gripped it tightly and looked up.

    "Elesa?"

    "Hmm? Yes?"

    "You should consider yourself lucky. I was planning to hold onto this as a final resort, but your Galvantula's helped change those plans."

    Elesa raised an eyebrow, and Jim threw the ball up.

    "Croco, let's sock it to 'em!"

    In a blaze of light, the Krokorok appeared, looking smug and confident.

    "A Krokorok? My, my, this does put a change in things, doesn't it?" said Elesa, amused. "This ought to be a blast, though!"

    "Think so? Well, let's see, then! Croco, use Bite!"

    Croco lunged, fangs glowing white.

    "Galvantula, Slash!"

    Once again, Galvantula struck forth with its mandible, and the two attacks collided with a sound like clashing swords, Croco holding Galvantula's mandible between his fangs, and the two struggling to overcome each other. At last, however, Croco flung Galvantula away from himself. The spider-like Pokemon landed on his legs, but there was deep bruising on his mandible.

    "So, that's how we're going to play, are we?" asked Elesa. "Then, let's! Galvantula, Signal Beam!"

    Galvantula's eyes glowed a rainbow myriad of colors, and in almost the same instant, a beam of the same color assortment shot for Croco from between its mandibles.

    "Dodge with Dig!"

    Jim shouted, even though he wasn't sure what Signal Beam did. Croco leaped up and dove straight into the ground, the Beam blasting right past. Jim took out his Pokedex.

    "Signal Beam, a Bug-type Attack with a 10% chance of confusing the opponent."

    Jim breathed a sigh of relief at his timing. Since Dark types were weak against Bug type attacks, if Jim hadn't ordered a Dig, things could have been ugly.

    The next moment, Croco shot out of the ground, catching Galvantula on the underside. Galvantula flopped onto its back as Croco landed deftly back on his feet. Galvantula eventually righted itself, but it was looking tired from taking two Dig attacks performed on it.

    "You're a tough customer, Jim," said Elesa, "but then, so am I! Galvantula, Signal Beam, once again!"

    Galvantula began charging its attack once more.

    "Don't dodge this time, Croco," said Jim.

    Croco looked at him surprise.

    "Just try to block it off. Then, it'll be time for a little…payback."

    He winked, and Croco, comprehension dawning on him at last, smirked slyly and winked in return. He faced Galvantula, and as the attack fired, he crossed his arms in front of him, bracing himself for the impact. The attack struck home, and Croco cringed, but he still held strong.

    "What good did that do?" asked Elesa. "You'd have benefited better from Digging again."

    "Or would we have?" asked Jim, coyly.

    Elesa looked confused.

    "Croco, use Payback!"

    Croco's eyes began to glow red, and a smoky, shaky aura surrounded his body. With a swift movement, as if he were about to lunge forward, Croco unleashed what looked like a shadowy version of himself, which leaped at Galvantula and began pummeling it, giving it no chance to fight back. Elesa looked stunned, while Jim watched, proudly. As he had learned, Payback was a lot stronger when it was used after the opponent had attacked first, so he had let Galvantula strike back before initiating the special effect. The afterimage vanished, and Galvantula stood wobbly on its feet, beat up all over.

    "Galvantula!" gasped Elesa.

    "You've got a tough Galvantula, Elesa," said Jim, "but it's time it went down with honor. Croco, Stone Edge!"

    Croco raised his arm, and a swirling mass of pointed stones surrounded him. He thrust his arm forward, and the stones hurtled for Galvantula, striking him full force. Jim knew there was no coming back from this, as Galvantula's Bug typing made it incredibly susceptible to Rock type attacks. Sure enough, when the attack was completed, and the hail of stones stopped, Galvantula's legs gave way, and it flopped onto the battlefield, beaten. The referee raised her flag.

    "Galvantula is unable to battle! Krokorok wins!"

    There were groans from Elesa's fans, though some people in the audience cheered for Jim. He suspected they may have been some of the people who had rooted him on in the tournament. Elesa recalled Galvantula.

    "Nice job, Jim. You came right back after that little setback I gave you."

    "Think of it as retribution for taking Torch out so easily," said Jim.

    Croco cracked his knuckles, threateningly.

    "Ohh, feisty, aren't we?" toyed Elesa. "That's just adorable!"

    Jim felt his cheeks redden. 'Adorable'?? She was messing with him!

    "And speaking of adorable…"

    She pulled her next Poke Ball out.

    "Emolga, take the stage!"

    In a burst of light, an Emolga appeared. This one was much slimmer than Missy, and had no extra accessories; it was fit and primed for battle. Still, it was an Electric and Flying type; even if Dig was useless against it, Croco was immune to Electric attacks, and it, like Galvantula, had even more weakness to his Stone Edge attack, being a Flying type. Jim wondered if Elesa had an ulterior motive to using this one. Shelving this suspicion for now, he saw Elesa give the first command.

    "Emolga, Acrobatics!"

    Emolga took flight and soared toward Croco at incredible speed.

    "Dodge, Croco!"

    Just barely, Croco managed to jump aside as Emolga swept past, then again as it came for another go. The third time around, however, it struck home, catching Croco in the chest and sending him toppling. He was back up in an instant, however, his fangs gritted with rage.

    "Simmer down, Croco," warned Jim. "When it comes around again, catch it with Bite!"

    Emolga swooped in once more, but Croco was ready. As soon as it got close, he snapped down with his teeth, catching it in his mouth. Emolga yelped with pain, but Croco gave his head a toss and flung it back over to Elesa, the little Sky Squirrel already looking bruised.

    "Such a party pooper," said Elesa, pouting with her hands on her hips. "How can you attack something so cute as my Emolga? You have one too, unless I'm mistaken."

    "Don't patronize me!" said Jim. "This is a Gym Battle, not a beauty contest!"

    "I know, but you need to learn proper respect when dealing with a lady," replied Elesa, winking.

    Jim blinked.

    "A…lady? Your Emolga's a female, like mine?"

    "That's right!"

    "But, what does that have to do with anything?"

    "Everything, as I'll now show you. Emolga, Attract!"

    Emolga turned to Croco, brought her paws to her lips, and blew a kiss. A swarm of what looked like tiny hearts flew towards the confused Krokorok, then swirled around him before fusing into his body. A pinkish glow surrounded him, and in the same instant, the most bizarre change came over him: his jaw hung open, his limbs went slack, and a glazed, dreamy look came into his eyes.

    "C-Croco?" spluttered Jim. "What's gotten into you??"

    He took out his Pokedex.

    "Attract, a move which produces intense infatuation if the opponent is the opposite gender. This infatuation may prevent the opponent from fighting back."

    Jim groaned.

    "Foiled by spontaneously-simulated hormones…"

    Elesa giggled at this.

    "Catch on quickly, don't you? So, while Croco's befuddled with romance, Emolga's free to fight back. Emolga, Acrobatics!"

    Emolga swooped at Croco, slamming against him again and again as she zipped by, while Croco continued to stand in place with a goofy, sappy grin on his face. Jim found it unbelievably cruel that Croco could stand to be attacked repeatedly by the object of his affections, but at the same moment, the phrase 'tough love' floated into his mind.

    "Come on, Croco, man up!" snapped Jim. "This isn't like you at all!"

    Croco just continued to stand, staring off into space as Emolga zipped by once again. Jim smacked his brow in frustration as Elesa laughed.

    (This is getting ridiculous!…Croco's gotta snap out of it himself, or we're gonna get nowhere!)

    "Croco! Snap out of it! She's showing you nothing but pain for your love, so I think it's time you repaid her in kind! Use Stone Edge!"

    Croco seemed to snap to attention, shaking his head vigorously. As his eyes refocused, he saw Emolga come in for another attack. Instinctively, he raised his arm to summon another cloud of Stone Edge rocks, and Emolga, still performing Acrobatics, flew right into it, getting buffeted and scratched repeatedly.

    "Emolga, no!" Elesa cried, distressed.

    "Atta boy, Croco!" said Jim, elated. "Now, finish with Bite!"

    Once more, Croco snatched up Emolga in his fangs and gave her a fling with a toss of his head. She flopped against the ground, bruised and unconscious. The referee raised her flag.

    "Emolga is unable to battle! Krokorok wins!"

    A fair number of girls groaned at seeing the cute little Pokemon taken down. Croco rubbed his head, as if a migraine was settling in.

    "Bleh," he muttered. "What the heck was I doing before now?"

    "Best not to think about it," said Jim.

    Elesa recalled Emolga, her expression unreadable.

    "I have to admit, Jim, you're doing splendidly. I've never seen an opponent shake off Emolga's Attract like that. You must really be in this to win it!"

    "Of course I am!" said Jim. "My entire career as a Pokemon Trainer is at stake, after all…"

    He glanced over at his friends. Bianca had been wringing her beret in her hands in agitation. Leanne was cradling Oshawott in her arms, and Frank's face seemed to be flushed from watching the fight so far.

    "Well, you're in luck, Jim. It's not often that I get to use my secret weapon on a challenger."

    Just the way she said that made Jim gulp.

    "Secret…weapon?"

    "Mm-hmm. I only use it when my challenger actually shows promise."

    She drew another Poke Ball and tossed it up.

    "Let's make the scene!"

    The ball burst open, and Jim and Croco braced themselves, ready for a fierce, ferocious Electric type…but what really came out utterly perplexed them.

    Where there would logically have been some all-powerful Pokemon, there was instead a mud-brown fish, flat as a pancake, with its fins and yellow tail splayed out. It had round, simple eyes and a thick-lipped mouth. It was apparently well-known to the spectators, as they cheered wildly upon its appearance. Jim took out his Pokedex to scan this absurdity.

    "Stunfisk, the Trap Pokemon. Stunfisk conceals itself on the bottom of lakes and shocks any Pokemon that touches it, smiling all the while."

    "That's…just creepy," said Jim, unsettled. "And it's a Ground/Electric type, yet it can survive in water. This thing is just all-around odd."

    "Do you like it?" asked Elesa, brightly. "Stunfisk is my secret weapon, my jack-of-all-trades Pokemon."

    Stunfisk gave an energetic flop and glared at Croco. The effect wasn't quite as appealing as they would have liked. Jim shook his head to refocus himself.

    "Come on, Croco, let's show it what we're made of! Stone Edge!"

    Croco raised his arm, summoning a cloud of jagged stones.

    "Stunfisk, Camouflage!" ordered Elesa.

    Stunfisk's entire body turned transparent, leaving no trace of it. Croco launched the Stone Edge, but the stones only seemed to strike the floor. There was no cry from Stunfisk, so they must not have hit it.

    "Keep your cool, Croco," said Jim. "It's gotta be here somewhere…"

    "Now, Stunfisk, Mud Bomb!"

    From out of nowhere, a glob of something like mud barreled right into Croco, splattering him and covering his eyes. He flailed about, trying to clear his vision all the while.

    "Croco, settle down!" said Jim. "Now's not the time to lose our heads!"

    If Croco had heard, he didn't show it, as he still stumbled about, his claws to his eyes. Elesa smirked.

    "Amazing how even a single attack can reduce the most steadfast Pokemon into a bundle of confusion and nerves," she said. "Your Krokorok did splendidly, Jim, but the time has come. Stunfisk, end it with Scald!"

    Jim stiffened, the blood draining from his limbs. Had he heard right? Scald? A Ground type Pokemon, not even part Water, knowing a Water type attack?? Inconceivable!

    All the same, Stunfisk reappeared in front of them, flipped up, and spat a pressurized stream of boiling water straight for Croco. The blast struck home, and Croco was flung off his feet and straight into the back wall, where he landed with a sickening thud before slumping to the floor, out cold. The referee's flag went up.

    "Krokorok is unable to battle! Stunfisk wins!"

    Jim shook himself out of his stupor. Croco was down, and he was supposed to have been his key player in this match. Still, he couldn't have predicted what Elesa would have had in store for him, so live and learn. He recalled the unconscious Krokorok to his Poke Ball.

    "You did great, Croco," he said. "Get a good rest."

    As he pocketed the ball, he wondered who he ought to send as his last. Echo and Torrent were out of the question, being weak to Electric attacks, and Missy wouldn't be able to much either…

    And then it hit him: June! She had an advantage, and a resistance, to everything Stunfisk might throw at her! He looked down at the little Snivy by his side, who looked up expectantly.

    "June, it's all up to you."

    "Got it," she said, with a nod.

    With an acrobatic leap, she took her place on the battlefield.

    "You're in luck too, Elesa," said Jim. "Your secret weapon has the honor of battling my top Pokemon."

    "Oh! So that's the lucky little Snivy that helped you win in the finals," said Elesa, intrigued.

    "Luck had nothing to do with it," countered Jim.

    June's eyes narrowed.

    "We'll see," said Elesa. "Your move."

    "Why, thank you. June, Leaf Blade!"

    June somersaulted and plummeted tail-first toward Stunfisk, the leaf on her tail glowing a vivid greenish-yellow.

    "Block it off with Discharge!" commanded Elesa.

    Stunfisk's body glowed yellow, and the next instant, a bubble of electricity formed around it. The Leaf Blade struck, but lost the chance to actually hit Stunfisk. It also threw June back, causing her to land back on her feet.

    "Ok, that's not gonna work," muttered Jim. "Try Energy Ball!"

    June cupped her paws in front of her, forming a glowing green ball between them, which shot straight for Stunfisk.

    "Counter it! Mud Bomb!"

    Stunfisk flared up and spat an enormous glob of mud at the Energy Ball. The two attacks struck, creating a smoky explosion.

    "Now, Camouflage!"

    By the time the smoke cleared, Stunfisk had already vanished. Jim growled to himself.

    (No wonder it's her secret weapon. It's got an extremely diverse move-set, unusual typing, and a strategy for any attack thrown at it. What do I do? At this rate, it'll all be over…)

    "Discharge!" Elesa commanded.

    From out of nowhere, a burst of electricity shot forth and struck June, throwing her off her feet. Luckily, as Electric attacks didn't affect Grass types very much, she survived, but her concentration had been thrown off. She was looking agitated, her ruby-red eyes roving the battlefield in search of the slippery Pokemon.

    "Simmer down, June…" warned Jim.

    He saw what Elesa was trying to do: keep June thrown so far off of her concentration that she wouldn't be able to land a hit before it was too late.

    "Mud Bomb!"

    From a completely different direction than last, a blob of mud shot for June.

    "Dodge it!" Jim yelled.

    Even if she didn't see it coming, June knew better than to stand like a sitting duck. She leaped backwards in a graceful somersault, the Mud Bomb just barely missing as it sailed underneath her curved back.

    "Very resourceful," complimented Elesa, "but you still can't fight what you can't see."

    Jim, however, didn't feel fazed by that. Seeing where the Mud Bomb had come from, and June's split-second dodge, had given him an idea. If June couldn't see where the attacks were coming from, then he would have to do it himself…

    "All right, Stunfisk, Scald!" said Elesa.

    Quickly, Jim roved his eyes around the field, and there, to June's left, he saw the burst of boiling hot water shoot for her.

    "June, Aerial Ace to your left!" he shouted.

    June's eyes widened at such a precise command, but nonetheless, with a burst of white light, her tiny feet left the ground as she soared across the field, the Scald stream abreast of her. A smile crossed her face as she saw why Jim had ordered such a maneuver: she could now see where the Scald was coming from, where it seemed to be cut off. That was where her opponent was! With a burst of speed, she swooped low, and finally struck!

    Whatever she hit made her stop short from the recoil, and, with a wobbling shimmer, Stunfisk became visible once more, tossed through the air. Elesa gasped.

    "No way!"

    "Yes, way!" said Jim, jubilant. "Now you've got it, June! Leaf Tornado!"

    June raised herself up and began spinning like a top. A swirling mass of glowing leaves surrounded her, and with a flick of her tail, she tossed it straight up toward Stunfisk. The flat fish was swirled around and buffeted by the sharp leaves. As the attack disappeared, it seemed to hang in thin air, flapping its fins weakly, but Jim knew that attack had done major damage, and it was time to wrap things up.

    "June, give it one last Energy Ball! Don't hold back, either!"

    June cupped her paws in front of her once again. The ball that appeared seemed to expand larger than any she had previously conjured before, nearly as large as herself. At last, she launched it straight up, where it generated a very sizeable explosion upon contact with Stunfisk, and illuminated the entire field in a vivid green glow. Everyone gasped, straining their eyes to see what would happen next.

    Then, like a downed aircraft, Stunfisk plummeted to the battlefield and flopped into a heap. The secret weapon had been diffused. The referee, no less surprised than the other spectators, took some time to collect her thoughts, and then raised her flag hastily.

    "Stunfisk is unable to battle! Snivy wins, which means the challenger, Jim Stevens, is the winner of this Gym Battle!"

    Cheers erupted from various corners of the spectating areas, but the loudest came from the side where Leanne, Bianca, and Frank were watching. Yes, even Bianca's father, in spite of himself, was as energetic as a little boy at seeing Jim come out the victor. Beaming proudly, Jim scooped up June into his arms.

    "Two for two," he told her. "I'm really proud of you, girl."

    "This is our victory, Jim," she said, putting a paw on his chest for emphasis.

    Seeing the questioning look on his face, she nodded toward Bianca and her father, and then he understood. His smile broadening more, he held her close, only breaking away as Elesa approached, pocketing Stunfisk's Poke Ball.

    "That was a dizzying performance, Jim," she said. "With all the setbacks I threw at you, you still gave me one heck of a fight!"

    "I can easily say the same for you, Elesa," said Jim. "Thank you."

    Smiling gently, Elesa held out her hand. Sitting in the palm was the lightning bolt badge Jim had seen in Nigel's badge case.

    "As Gym Leader of Nimbasa City, it is my pleasure and honor to confer onto you, Jim Stevens, the Bolt Badge."

    Gratefully, Jim accepted it into his own hand and held it up, the stage lights of the arena gleaming off of its surface.

    "That makes Number 4: The Bolt Badge!" he crowed.

    At that moment, his friends approached from where they had been standing.

    "Jim, that was incredible!" said Leanne. "You and June were in perfect sync!"

    Frank, however, cleared his throat.

    "Jim, seeing you battle made me realize how foolish I'd been. I was so worried about what I thought was best for Bianca, that I didn't realize it was really what I thought was best for me. I'm proud of you, Jim, for showing me my error. Your father would have done just the same."

    He put a paternal hand on Jim's shoulder.

    "Thank you, sir," said Jim, touched by his words.

    Frank then turned to his daughter.

    "Bianca, can you forgive your old man for making such a fool of himself?"

    Bianca, not wasting a second, threw her arms around him in a tight hug.

    "Of course, Daddy! I could never stay mad at you!"

    Father and daughter warmly hugged each other, and then broke away. There were tears in Bianca's eyes, but of joy rather than sadness.

    "Well, I guess I'd better be off home, then. I promised your mother I'd be back after the tournament, so I hope she won't be too worried about the delay."

    "Tell my mother I said hi, sir," said Jim.

    "Will do, son. Take care, everyone!"

    With that, he exited the Gym through the double doors, and they had just enough time to hear him give another whoop of joy before it closed. It seemed he was taking the roller-coaster back.

    ***


    Shortly after, Jim, Leanne, and Bianca took their leave of Elesa and the Gym as well. The girls were still discussing the battle as they vividly remembered it.

    "Wasn't Croco hilarious when he was love-struck??"

    "Totally! I can't wait to see his face when he finds out!"

    "I plan to keep that on the down-low, actually," said Jim.

    "Aww, why?"

    "It just wouldn't seem right. He's got a reputation to keep up, and hearing about being Attracted by an Emolga could very well shatter it."

    "Well, I guess you're right. But it was still really funny to watch!"

    "I know! Poor Torch, though."

    "Yeah, I felt so bad when he got taken out. We should do something to make him feel better about it. What do you think, Jim?…Jim?"

    But Jim wasn't listening. He had stopped short, and was standing as if turned to stone, a look of absolute dumbfoundedness on his face. There, coming towards them, nonchalantly, was the one person he would never have expected to see after such time…

    It was Cheren.

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  15. #45
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    Default Re: Jim: The Hero's Journey

    CHAPTER 43
    A Bond Broken


    A tsunami of emotions was flooding Jim's entire being. Part of him wanted to rush over and greet his childhood friend, who had been like a brother to him ever since they were kids, but the other part wanted to march right over, grab him by the collar, and give him a good, hard punch right in the face.

    As he stood, transfixed, these two halves of him argued with each other in his mind.

    (Go on, go over and hit him! The little weasel deserves it!)

    (No! That's not the way to handle conflict! This requires calm, rational discussion.)

    (Calm? Rational? The slime ball totally blew me off! You heard what he said outside Nacrene City!)

    (Yes, but he doesn't know he was overheard. Besides, that was long ago! He might have had time to rethink what he said. Maybe he's realized he was wrong!)

    (Or maybe he's a self-important jerk who just can't accept that I didn't want all this attention! He's jealous!)

    (Of course he's jealous! His family has always had to earn everything the hard way, through honest, difficult work. Seeing me suddenly get such a boost in popularity and luck must be killing him!)

    (Oh yeah? Well, that's not the only thing that'll be killing him when I'm done…)

    (You stop that! If he does still harbor ill feelings toward me, we'll talk it out. No. Violence.)

    (Always the peacemaker, aren't you? Fine, we'll do it your way, but don't come crying to me when everything comes crashing down…)

    "Jim! Wake up!"

    "Huh? Wha?"

    Jim shook himself out of his trance. He had been so busy letting his emotions argue that he forgot where he had been.

    "What happened? You just kinda zoned out."

    "Did I? I didn't realize…"

    He had to mask the fact that the whole reason he had zoned out was because of Cheren's appearance. He looked ahead, and made a show of surprised discovery.

    "Hey! Is that Cheren?"

    "What??"

    Bianca too looked ahead, and let out a delighted squeal.

    "It is! CHEREN! OVER HERE!"

    Cheren, who had been walking while observing his surroundings, hadn't seen them, but he looked up upon hearing his name, and his pale face split into a wide smile.

    "Bianca! Jim! What a coincidence!"

    He rushed over, and was immediately mobbed by Bianca, who had given him a big hug.

    "Ok, ok, take it easy, Bianca!" he said, chuckling. "I missed you too."

    "Is that him?" Leanne whispered.

    Jim nodded.

    "Are you going to-"

    "No," he said, firmly. "At least, not yet. Maybe he's changed."

    With that, he stepped forward to greet Cheren, who had managed to finally shake Bianca off. The two boys exchanged their signature handshake: high-five, fist-bump, thumbs up. At least that hadn't changed…

    "Jim, it's good to see you."

    "Likewise, Cheren. I was worried when you ran off without telling us."

    "Huh? Oh, right, that…I know I should have said something, but I was so eager to get an early start. I understand Bianca had that same amount of zeal."

    He looked wryly at their female friend, who put her fists to her hips.

    "Well, yeah, but at least I told you both I was leaving, unlike you!"

    "In the middle of the night, no less, and without consulting your folks."

    "My dad wouldn't have let me…until earlier."

    "Until earlier? What do you mean?"

    "Well, I've got Jim to thank for that."

    She turned an appreciative glance at Jim, who felt uncomfortable. This was exactly the sort of bait Cheren would need to fuel his misgivings about Jim's recent run of luck…

    Fortunately, Cheren didn't say anything about it, but merely raised an eyebrow, though even that was a bad sign.

    "Is that so?"

    "Well, I guess…" said Jim, trying to laugh it off. "I mean, you know how Bianca's dad is."

    "Indeed, I do. A genial man, but completely overprotective."

    "So, I kinda battled the Gym Leader, with the stakes being that if I lost, the both of us would have to return home…"

    "Jim! What on Earth could you have been thinking?"

    "I was only thinking about making sure Bianca could live out her dream. I didn't want to travel knowing she wouldn't be allowed to…"

    Bianca hugged his arm, and Cheren just stared at them both, somewhat taken aback.

    "Jim, I had no idea…"

    "It's all right. I'm not above making careless decisions."

    "Ah, yes, I can certainly corroborate that."

    The two laughed, and then, for the first time, Cheren's eyes encountered Leanne.

    "Oh! Is this a new friend of yours, Jim?"

    "Hmm? Oh, right! Cheren, this is Leanne Summers, from Accumula Town. Leanne, this is Cheren, my other childhood friend."

    "Hi!"

    She held out her a hand, with Cheren shook.

    "Charmed. Accumula Town, you say? That's where that Team Plasma riot took place, wasn't it? I'd bypassed it, but heard about it on the news in Striaton. I would have loved to give those fascists a piece of my mind…But I daresay you gave them more than a piece of yours, Jim," he added, turning his gaze back on Jim.

    "Well, I suppose you could say that…"

    "Oh, don't be so modest. You're 'the Bane of Team Plasma', after all."

    Jim's eyes widened, not just because there was the very slightest trace of cynical irony in Cheren's voice.

    "You know about that?"

    "Oh, Jim, everybody knows about that. The Nimbasa Battle Tournament is broadcast coast to coast. You and Bianca both did splendidly, by the way."

    "Thanks."

    "And speaking of…Ah! There's the Snivy of the hour!"

    He was looking at June, who looked up upon being addressed. She had still been tired out from the Gym Battle, and had been napping when they encountered Cheren. She took one look at him and, her eyes narrowed, tucked herself away beneath his hat. Cheren looked confused.

    "What was that about?"

    "She's just a little tired out. We just came back from challenging the Gym Leader."

    "Oh, that's right! What did you have to face?"

    Jim wavered on whether or not to tell Cheren. He remembered Nigel had been less than helpful when he revealed he had challenged Elesa, but he didn't want to be like that, even if his feelings for Cheren were still mixed…

    "Electric types," he said.

    "Really? Guess it makes sense, considering all of the lit-up attractions and all. Should be an easy victory for my team, though."

    He pulled out three Poke Balls.

    "Speaking of which, why not meet them?"

    He tossed the balls up, and in the trademark bursts of light, there appeared his Pignite, a Liepard, and a new Pokemon. It vaguely resembled a bluish boulder, but had a crest-like ride extending from the forehead, two yellow eye-like holes beside them, three feet-like appendages, and several red-orange crystals extending from all over its body. Jim, not daring to tell Cheren he had seen his Tepig evolve, decided to scan it along with this new one.

    "Pignite, the Fire Pig Pokemon, and the evolved form of Tepig. There is a flame burning inside Pignite's body that it fuels with food. It flares up this fire to make itself stronger and faster."

    "Boldore, the Ore Pokemon, and the evolved form of Roggenrola. Because Boldore is unable to contain its massive energy, orange crystals form on its body. These crystals glow when Boldore's power overflows."

    "Looks like a solid team," said Jim, pocketing his Pokedex.

    "Thanks! Let's see yours, then!"

    Once more, Jim felt a sort of apprehension to this. He figured Cheren would only count it as more of his unfair luck to have not just a Simisear, but a Simipour, both of which were pretty rare. Still, he didn't dare show hesitation in complying, and sent out his remaining Pokemon, which stood before him.

    "All right, Cheren, meet Echo, Torch, Torrent, Missy, and Croco."

    "Ahh, so this must be what became of the Woobat you caught to defy Team Plasma!"

    Echo puffed his chest out with pride.

    "A Simisear and a Simipour, as well! A very lucky and, may I add, valuable combination!"

    Torch looked at his feet, embarrassed, while Torrent looked as complacent as ever.

    "Oh, Jim, your Emolga's simply adorable. Such a big girl, too."

    Missy put her paws behind her back and made a cute, silly face.

    "And, of course, a mighty Krokorok! Very unique!"

    Croco crossed his arms.

    "And with June, that makes for a very well-balanced team. Jim, I'm impressed!"

    "Thanks, Cheren."

    "One question, though: hasn't June had the urge to evolve yet? Considering all you've been through, it seems she'd be a Servine by now."

    "I guess that's true, but I think she's happier being a Snivy. To be honest, I prefer her that way too."

    He felt a slight pressure on his scalp, and figured that must have been June giving him a hug for saying that. Cheren chuckled.

    "Oh, but Jim, think of the possibilities! You could be a much more potent Trainer with everyone on your team evolved! I mean, your Emolga can't evolve, but the rest of your Pokemon are all evolved! June needs to jump on the evolution bandwagon if she wants to survive!"

    This was too much.

    "She's survived long enough up to this point, Cheren," said Jim, somewhat coldly, "and it's her decision if she wants to evolve, not mine."

    Cheren's smile faded a little, and the girls looked at each other. Bianca seemed the most anxious, and Jim could tell why. However, Cheren's smile returned.

    "Of course, Jim. My mistake. You certainly seem to be making a name for yourself, though, what with all the Team Plasma encounters."

    "It's not like I'd asked for it," said Jim, still a little icily.

    "Of course not, Jim, of course not. It seems we've all been cast our different lots in life, and yours consists of everything falling neatly into place for you."

    The anxiety in Leanne and Bianca's faces only intensified, despite the calmness of Cheren's voice.

    "Yes, I suppose so," said Jim, his anger mounting, "I guess you could say I'm 'too perfect for my own good'."

    Cheren seemed staggered by this; obviously, he had not been expecting Jim to not only admit a fault like this, but to say it nearly exactly the same way he had put it himself. Bianca had turned pale; now she knew as well…

    "Why, Jim, whatever do you mean?" Cheren asked.

    "Drop the act, Cheren. I was outside Nacrene City when I heard you talking to Bianca…"

    His voice shook at this point with suppressed sadness and anger.

    "I thought we were brothers. I trusted you like one…but just because of some chance encounter with a legendary dragon, you're treating me like an obstacle!"

    Cheren's gentleness faded into coldness.

    "You wouldn't be an obstacle if you didn't keep having everything come up roses!" he said, bitterly. "My family has had to work hard for everything that we have, and what do I have to show for it? The bare essentials of a Pokemon Trainer! And what do you have to show for blindly walking into unexpected happenstances? Everything! A Pokemon partner no one else has ever tamed, the prospect of being a legendary Hero, a reputation among Team Plasma, and the championship of an annual tournament under your belt! And do you deserve any of it? Not as far as I'm concerned!"

    The two stared at each other, anger blazing in their eyes, as the girls looked about ready to faint.

    "Well, at least that's out in the open to my face, then…" said Jim, coldly.

    "Oh, you've been waiting for that, have you? Waiting to confirm your suspicions about me, just so you can prove you're better?"

    "I don't think I'm better than anyone, Cheren! I've been trying my hardest not to stand out like a sore thumb, because I knew you'd lap it up and add fuel to the flames!"

    "Oh, Jim," said Cheren, a mockingly pitying expression on his face. "You can delude yourself, but you're not fooling me. Deep down, you love it…"

    A cold numbness flooded Jim's limbs. Had he heard right?…

    "…What did you say?…"

    "You heard me. You say that you hate the spotlight, but inside, you know you relish it. You know that you want to be bigger than all of us, the shining star of Unova. Well, you're well on your way…"

    "Take that back," Jim snarled through his teeth, fists clenched.

    "I don't see any reason why I should. We both know I'm right. You'll keep clawing your way to the top, pushing aside every other decent, hardworking Trainer aside, like me. Face it, Jim. Real Trainers survive on skill and perseverance. You scrap by on luck and mere chance…"

    *CRACK!!*

    Jim stared, stunned, his fist still raised. He had been meaning to strike Cheren; every fiber in his being had screamed at his brain to knock some sense into him…but June had beat him to it.

    Rage burning in her red eyes, she had sprang from underneath Jim's hat and had smacked Cheren hard across the face with one of her vines. A red, ugly mark showed where it had hit. The girls gasped, as did the Pokemon present. Cheren just stood, as if turned to stone, utter stupefaction on his face. At last, with a calm movement, he adjusted his glasses.

    "So, Jim…this is where we've led ourselves to…Whatever happened to 'bros forever'?…"

    "Funny," said Jim, his voice still flinty, "I was about to ask you the same thing…"

    With that, Cheren recalled his Pokemon, turned, and without another word to any of them, stalked off. Jim waited until he was completely out of sight, and then, his limbs and emotions utterly failing him, he sank to his knees, supporting himself with his hands, as bitter, heartbroken tears cascaded down his face…

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