The deafening roar all around him stung his eardrums. The concrete beneath his feet shook like during an earthquake. The chaos that surrounded him was reaching critical mass, but the young boy seated in Section 203, Row 4, Seat 14, was loving every minute of it.
The teal-haired twelve-year-old took a break from munching on his bag of popcorn. He adjusted the wire-rim glasses that were slipping down his nose and turned his head to gaze at just how packed the stadium was around him. There had to be at least fifty or sixty thousand screaming fans in attendance. The venue looked so breath-taking, so much larger than life from where he sat, like huge tidal waves of seats swallowing him up from above.
The preteen had never seen anything like it. He was so grateful to his friend and mentor, Ash Ketchum for inviting him here to Sapphire City to witness this. And these seats were amazing! Fourth row, right near midfield. Being here live, so close to the action, was definitely different than simply watching the Pokémon World Championship Tournament on television, which he had done four years ago when Lance was crowned champion.
The midmorning sun was shining down on the beautiful open-air stadium. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Flocks of pidgey and wingull could be seen soaring high overhead against the pure blue background.
Thousands of flashbulbs constantly exploded from every corner of the gigantic arena. The majestic scene along with the sheer pandemonium inside the building were enough to give the boy goose bumps. This was awesome.
The bells and whistles of the tournament’s opening ceremonies had proceeded earlier that morning as had many of the first day’s early battles. Now finally, it was just minutes before Ash’s very first match of the competition.
“Wow! Look at all these people here! Drew would love this!” a brunette teenage girl next to him squealed as she reached over and helped herself to some of her brother‘s popcorn.
“Yeah, too bad he couldn’t come…” the boy muttered, not paying much attention to his older sister. He was so enamored with the match that he wasn’t really listening to her.
“Max, whadduya think is taking the others so long? How long does it take to order a soda? It’s going to start any minute,” she said, looking at the four empty seats to their right.
“What? Oh, I wouldn’t worry, May,” the boy, Max, assured her, although his eyes were still glued to the field. “I’m sure the lines at the concession stands are long.”
The young boy was still busy staring down at the battle field, thinking hard about the magnitude of the tournament for his good friend, and what he must be feeling right now. Max felt proud to have traveled with Ash back when he was a little kid. He had learned so many things about being a trainer from his mentor, even though he wasn’t even old enough to have a pokémon back when they had journeyed together.
But ever since Max had turned ten years old and finally got to select his very first pokémon from Professor Birch back in Petalburg City, he had been training hard. He traveled his native Hoenn Region in search of new friends and in pursuit of every gym badge, just as he had learned from Ash.
But while Max was finally embarking on his own journey, this entire week would be time for reflection. It was a time to reminisce about the good old days: when he and his sister first met Ash and got to travel around with him on his quest. And now, years later as his old friend was participating in the most climactic event of his training-life, the group would be together again.
“How much longer til game time?” May impatiently whined and tugged on the his arm.
“Just a few more minutes,” he mumbled.
“Hey! We‘re back!” a voice shouted happily from May’s right.
Max turned to see that the occupants of the four empty seats next to him and May had returned.
“Just in time guys,” he said to the foursome as they shuffled their way down the aisle and took their seats.
“Well we would have gotten back sooner if Brock hadn’t stopped to flirt with that girl at the concession stand,” Dawn said as she glared at the nineteen-year-old seated next to her.
“Too bad she had a boyfriend,” the brown haired young man sighed sadly and he slumped in his chair next to Dawn.
“Yeah, and he didn’t seem too happy that you were trying to put the moves on his girlfriend,” Dawn chuckled as she took a sip from her soda.
Max laughed to himself as he turned back to face the field. Some things never changed. Brock never had any luck with girls.
“Oh my! This is so exciting,” said the woman on the other side of Brock. “I can’t believe so many people are here to watch my baby! Oh, I hope he isn‘t too nervous!”
The woman, who looked to be in her mid-thirties, was the only one of the group of six who was still standing. She was nervously playing with her chestnut-colored ponytail with one hand and was biting the fingernails on her other.
“Delia, why don’t you have a seat? Here, have some lemonade,” Dawn’s mother, Johanna, who sat next to her, suggested. “I’m sure Ash is fine. He’s been through his fair share of pokémon battles.”
The navy-haired woman took Delia Ketchum’s hand and coaxed her into taking her seat.
“Well the book here says that all first-round matches are three-on-three battles,” Brock said as he skimmed the tourney’s official rulebook he had purchased. “Which three pokémon do you think Ash will use?”
“Hmmm, good question.”
“Dawn would be the one to ask,” her mother said. “She went to visit with him at the Pokémon Center last night after we flew in.”
“Did Ash say anything about which pokémon he was going with today?” Max asked eagerly. He and the others all turned their attention to the fourteen-year-old girl who was the only one of the group to actually see Ash since they all had arrived in Sapphire City.
“Oh… uh… no. We didn’t… we didn’t talk about that last night,” Dawn replied sheepishly, looking uncomfortable as she started to blush.
“Well, he’d better have something up his sleeve. Ethan Hart is an awesome trainer,” Max said, ignoring the girl’s odd behavior in response to his question about Ash.
“That’s who he faces first?” May asked with an obvious look of concern on her face.
“Yup,” Max answered simply. Despite his friendship with Ash, the eleven-year-old didn’t sound too hopeful.
Ethan Hart from New Bark Town was simply one of the best trainers in the world. The nineteen-year-old was the reigning Johto League champion, a remarkable feat for someone his age especially. Known for his flashy battling style and boyish good looks, Hart had reached definite teen idol status with fans. Following his amazing run to the championship, the emerging superstar was offered dozens of lucrative endorsement deals. He was always on television, much to the delight of many teenage girls around the world. And he wasn’t all hype either… the man was one of the best battlers alive.
“Yeah, I’ve seen Ethan on T.V. quite a bit,” Brock said somberly. “His pokémon are really strong.”
“Yeah, but if we know Ash, his pokémon will be too!” May replied with optimism and loyalty to her friend.
And with that everyone cheered and focused their attention down to the field as the two trainers were about to be introduced…
“Professor? Are they ready to be sent over?”
“Yes, they are. All three of them seem very excited to see you!”
“I’m excited to see them too! It’s been a while.”
“I figured you might use these three in battle today and I was right! Especially since it’s your first battle of the tournament. It’s only fitting.”
“Yup. Exactly what I was thinking, Professor. I decided late last night, I’ve come a long way, that’s for sure… and they’ve been there with me from the very start. It’s only fitting to start off with them this week, like you say.”
“All right, I’ll send your pokémon over right now.”
“No problem, my boy. Oh… and Ash. One more thing.”
“Whatever happens out there, Ash… I just want you to know that I’m very proud of you. And so is your mom, your friends, and all of Pallet Town! You should see the town, my boy! You are all anyone is talking about!”
“Th-thanks Professor Oak,” the boy said, touched by the kind words of his long-time teacher who was staring back at him over the video phone. Ash looked down at the ground, trying not to tear up in front of him.
“You have come so far, Ash,” the old man continued, a twinkle in his eyes. “I remember when you first left my laboratory when you were ten. You didn’t even know how to catch a pokémon. Now look at you… Competing for the world championship. Truly amazing. Just remember to go out there and just have fun! Everything else will take care of itself. I’ll send your pokémon right over.”
And with that, the video phone switched off and Professor Oak’s face disappeared from the screen. Ash just sat there for a few minutes trying to collect his emotions. His head was spinning and he began to feel nauseous when he thought about what was about to transpire in only a few minutes.
The boy reached his sweaty hand into his jeans pocket and fished something out: the mysterious gold coin and the tiny slip of paper that had been left outside his door last night. He unfolded the paper and once again recited the words scribbled on it.
The time has come for this to be returned to you.
Take good care of it, and it shall aid you during
the daunting task that awaits you.
Ash returned the paper to his pocket, but kept the coin out. He felt its cool and smooth metal surface in his hand.
It shall aid him during the daunting task that awaits? How much more daunting could things get? He was just moments from walking out onto the field in front of millions of fans to face one of the best trainers on the planet. Yup, daunting was a good word for this.
So what was this little coin supposed to do? It’s golden surface and the five gemstones imbedded in it sure looked beautiful, but how was that going to help him win? Maybe the note just meant it was supposed to be a good luck charm.
Finally, Ash stood up and returned the coin to his pocket. He walked from the video phone, which was located at one corner of the Sapphire Stadium Pokémon Center’s lobby, to the Computerized Transfer System at the other side of the room. He sometimes wondered what kind of genius ever invented all of these high-tech machines but told himself that now wasn’t the time to let his mind wander.
His furry yellow friend bounded excitedly along behind him, his jagged tail wagging in the air. Ash swiped his trainer ID card through the machine and pushed a button on the computer and instantly it started making noises and flashing its lights.
In a few seconds three separate beams of white light appeared and eventually condensed into three red and white pokéballs. Ash picked up the shiny, smooth spheres that Professor Oak had just sent over from Pallet Town. He held all three of the ping-pong-sized orbs in his hand, knowing that the moment of truth was almost upon him.
These were the three pokémon that he would begin with.
“Pi?” (Who’s in there?)
“Mr. Ketchum?” A male tournament official wearing a dark blue suit and holding a clipboard tapped Ash on the shoulder as he was logging off of the pokémon transfer machine.
“Huh?” Ash and Pikachu looked over.
“Sorry to interrupt, but it’s almost time. I’m supposed to get you checked in before you go out there.”
The official motioned towards the long metal tunnel which led from the Pokémon Center's lobby to the field level of the stadium.
“Have you selected your three pokémon, Mr. Ketchum?”
Ash nervously handed the official the three shiny pokéballs he had just received. He tried hard not to let his hands shake too much during the exchange. He was embarrassed by the butterfrees he felt in his stomach at the moment.
“Yup. Here ya go,” Ash muttered. “I’m going with those three. Pikachu here will tag along with me if that‘s okay.”
“Pi-Pikachu!” the yellow mouse chimed and happily greeted the man.
“Very good, Mr. Ketchum. I’ll get these three registered quickly, and you can make your way down to the field. It’s almost time to start. Good luck.”
“… Time to start...” The man’s words rang loudly in Ash’s ears and echoed over and over.
He reached into his pocket again and felt his new good luck charm. Surprisingly, touching the smooth hard surface of the coin calmed Ash as he thought about battle strategy. In fact, it did more than that.
Still clutching the coin in his pocket, the boy suddenly felt a distinct feeling of confidence sweep through his body like a warm summer breeze. It was an incredibly invigorating feeling, like he knew that he was ready for this. Any nervousness he had been feeling instantly evaporated. Ash thought about his life as a trainer and how many battles he had won over the years. Gym leaders, frontier brains, legendary pokémon… he had battled them all before and held his own each time. This tournament would be no different. He could do this! A slight smirk crept onto the boy’s stern face.
“Thank you, Mr. Ketchum. Here are your pokémon back. You can go on ahead… they are ready for you on the field.”
The tournament official returned Ash’s three pokéballs after he had registered them, but the trainer barely acknowledged him. All he could do was stare at the open entry-way to the tunnel about ten feet in front of him.
The waiting was over. The endless pre-tournament press conferences and interviews were over. The years of training and countless hours spent strategizing for this tournament were over. The fantasizing and dreaming about this day was over. It was finally time!
Ash was ready. With one last deep breath, he began walking down the tunnel from the lobby to the battlefield with Pikachu scampering behind.
“Let’s go win this!”
The boy and his diminutive best friend marched confidently through the long, connecting tunnel and slowly into the view of literally millions of people, counting the viewers on television. Walking from the dark tunnel into the blinding light of the stadium was a very surreal moment for Ash and Pikachu.
“And now… all the way from the quaint little town of Pallet… In his first ever appearance at the Champions Tournament… The youngest trainer in this competition’s illustrious history…. ASH KETCHUM!”
The feeling Ash got when he heard his name called over the stadium's public address system was indescribable. He shivered and felt the huge goose bumps rise up on his skin, especially his forearms and the back of his neck. But these weren’t nervous emotions. He had never felt so pumped up in his life. The adrenaline rush he was feeling was a high unlike anything he had ever felt.
The first thing he and Pikachu noticed when they exited the tunnel was how many people were packed into the gigantic stadium. It was easily the biggest crowd they had ever battled in front of.
The flashing lights of the cameras were blinding from above, and the roar of the crowd and the bass of the up-beat background music blasting from the stadium speakers were deafening. The ground beneath Ash was shaking underneath his sneakers.
“Haha, this is awesome!” Ash laughed as he soaked the moment in.
“Pikaaa…” Pikachu, too, was in awe of how big this tournament was.
Ash was so excited by now that he was almost sprinting to his position at the east-end of the battlefield.
The announcer had paused after reading Ash’s name to allow for the polite smattering of cheers he received, but then continued.
“Opposing Ketchum in this first round match…from the town of New Bark… one of the top young trainers in the world… The reigning Johto League Champion… the one, the only… ETHAN HART!”
However loud the crowd may have gotten when Ash’s name was announced, it was one hundred times louder when the Johto Champ was introduced. After all, Ash Ketchum was just some kid who many people felt was lucky to even be there; Ethan was a bona fide superstar. The flashbulbs exploded at a ridiculous rate and the crowd was in a frenzy.
The boy didn’t mind the crowd’s bias however. He fully embraced the underdog role. He watched as a tall, athletic-looking young man sauntered out of the other tunnel on the opposite side of the field.
The man’s shaggy dark hair peaked out from underneath his black and yellow backwards-turned baseball cap. Despite the momentous occasion Ethan wasn’t dressed up at all. He wore only his usual red half-zip sweatshirt and tan hiking shorts.
“Wow… There he is, Pikachu. The Ethan Hart,” Ash said as he stared across the field at his famous opponent. He didn’t sound overly impressed. In fact, his tone of voice had a slight hint of sarcasm.
Ash had never really met Ethan before, but he’d seen plenty of him on television. He knew he was a very gifted competitor, and even keeping the match close would be a chore. But for whatever reason, Ash felt really good about the match despite how tough his opponent would surely be.
The two competitors walked from their respective tunnels and met at the middle of the concrete field and shook hands. Ethan was a few inches taller than Ash, who had to look up slightly to look him in the eye.
“Good to finally meet you, Ash,” the man said warmly.
“You too, Mr. Hart,” Ash replied with a polite smile. “It’s an honor to be able to battle you.”
“Please, call me, ‘Ethan,’ Ash,” the nineteen year old trainer said. “You know, I’ve seen you battle a few times. You’re a very strong trainer. This should be a great match!”
Ash patted Ethan on the back and returned to his spot at the east end of the field. He normally would have been absolutely giddy over the fact that a celebrity trainer like Ethan actually knew him and was giving him a complement, but again, the boy strangely felt neither intimidated nor apprehensive about the match anymore. He just couldn’t wait to begin.
“And now! The moment we’ve all been waiting for…”
The crowd again erupted. The referee, dressed in an all black uniform for the match, took up the microphone in the center of the field and waited for the noise to die down a bit before he began to speak.
“This Group E, first round match between Ash Ketchum from Pallet Town in the red corner and Ethan Hart from New Bark Town in the blue corner, will now commence!… As the rules state, this will be a one-on-one battle with each trainer being allowed three pokémon. Either trainer may substitute at any time. The first trainer to eliminate all three of his opponent’s pokémon will be declared the winner!
“… Trainers, ready?… LET THE BATTLE BEGIN!” The ref signaled the beginning of the match with a whip of his arm. The bell dinged and they began.
“Okay, let’s go, Nidoking!” Ash heard Ethan yell from across the field.
The Johto champion tossed out his first pokéball, which landed and bounced close to midfield before bursting open and releasing a brilliant flash of white light. From the light, a hulking drill-pokémon materialized. The beast stood tall on its powerful hind legs. It roared loudly and had an intense look on its menacing purple face.
Ash calmly reached to his belt and unclasped one of the three small spheres hanging at the his waist. He pressed the small button on the ball’s metallic surface and the sphere instantly grew in his gloved hand to about the size of a baseball. Before he threw the ball, he looked down at it and smiled.
“For old time’s sake…” he whispered.
The boy grunted as he threw the ball--one of the three he had just received from Professor Oak only minutes ago--into the air with all his might.
The orb snapped open and a small, indigo blue-skinned pokémon wearing a clay-colored shell was released with a bright flash of light. It stood on two legs, looking extremely determined. It turned back to look at its longtime trainer and friend. A huge smile was on its blue face, a twinkle in its big red eyes.
“Good to see you, Squirtle! It’s been a long time. Thanks for coming back to help me out again.” Ash smiled brightly before regaining his focus.
“Squirt-ooole!” The pokémon assumed its ‘ready’ position and its wide smile was now a stern game-face.
“It looks like it will be Hart’s nidoking versus Ketchum’s squirtle to start things off!” the stadium announcer bellowed.
“Squirtle?” Dawn asked in a puzzled tone from her seat. “I thought Ash said that he released his squirtle long ago so it could be a fire-fighter or something.”
The teen girl reached for her pokédex out of her backpack and pointed it towards the battlefield.
“Squirtle… The tiny turtle Pokémon…” Dawn’s device said in its distinct female voice pattern. “... Its shell, which is soft during its infancy, hardens as it ages and gains experience. In battle, it is able to shelter itself from attacks by retreating into its shell before striking back with powerful jets of water.”
“Well, Squirtle and Ash have been friends since he was ten years old. It was one of the first pokémon he ever caught,” Brock explained knowingly to Dawn. “I’m sure it wanted to be here for Ash when he competed in the biggest tournament of his life.”
But Dawn had stopped listening to Brock.
The fourteen-year-old was thinking about her friend down there on that field and how it must feel to be at such a milestone moment of a lifelong journey. She had been with Ash for so long, and competing in this tournament had been his dream ever since the day they had met. She desperately wanted Ash to win.
Ethan started the action right away. He pointed directly at Ash from across the field, signaling to his nidoking to attack.
“A squirtle? This should be easy,” he commented with a smirk. “Nidoking! Let’s start with a Horn Drill!”
Upon command, the massive horned-pokémon began to charge towards Squirtle with increasing speed. Its powerful legs propelled the pokémon like a battering ram towards its target with its razor-sharp horn sticking straight out.
“Quick, Squirtle! Dodge it and counter it with a Skull Bash!” Ash yelled. He could already sense an opportunity to strike.
He watched as his pokémon leaped high up into the air, just barely in time to avoid Nidoking’s devastating horn attack. And just as Ash had thought, the lumbering pokémon’s momentum was hard to stop once it had missed hitting Squirtle.
The bulky beast skidded as it struggled to stop in its tracks after its Horn Drill attack had failed. And while its back was turned, Ash’s more agile squirtle shot itself towards Nidoking and connected with a solid head butt right to the chin.
The purple poison-type was stunned both by missing on its attack, and then by being hit by Squirtle’s boney skull. Its big eyes were shut, showing that it was clearly in pain, but it appeared that it was going to take a lot more to knock Nidoking out of the battle.
The two strong and experienced pokémon exchanged a series of close-range punches and other physical attacks back and forth, Squirtle exhibiting extreme agility and Nidoking showing its brute strength like two boxers from different weight classes duking it out.
But after a while, Ethan had seen enough.
“Alright, enough playing around. Nidoking... Time for Thunderbolt!”
Nidoking’s massive horn began to glow an eerie neon yellow as it charged. In an instant, a gigantic lightning bolt of electricity flew towards Squirtle. The attack hit the water-type pokémon head on, and its power knocked the shelled-pokémon to the ground. It moaned and winced in obvious pain, but eventually returned to its feet.
Ash was amazed at how powerful Nidoking was. He had almost forgotten that Hart’s ground-type pokémon famously specialized in electric-type attacks. He would have to be careful. One more electric shock like that and Squirtle would definitely be done for. The boy knew he had to think of something. No matter how great his squirtle was, he realized that it wouldn’t be able to simply overpower Ethan’s electrified nidoking.
The trainer contemplated substituting for Squirtle, but suddenly, an idea popped into his head.
“Alright, Squirtle, use Rain Dance, now!” Ash commanded from his post, extending his right arm towards his opponents.
The turtle pokémon shook off the lingering effects of Nidoking’s attack and again jumped up into the air with its limbs extended. It puckered its mouth and shut its eyes, trying to muster up enough power. And with one deep exhale, it pointed its head skyward. The most powerful blast of crystal blue water Ash had ever seen shot out of Squirtle’s open mouth and straight up into the air for what looked like miles.
The crowd applauded the majestic sight of Squirtle’s attack, which looked like something out of a pokémon contest.
Soon after, the billions of tiny droplets from the attack condensed in the atmosphere high above the stadium. An enormous grey cloud quickly formed and grew huge enough to envelop the entire stadium in shade and darkness, quickly dwarfing the beautiful sunny sky.
“Good job, Squirtle! Now we can go to work!” Ash cheered as the ominous cloud cover continued to grow.
After a few moments, the black rain cloud had grown so large that tiny droplets of water began to tumble down towards the ground. Gradually, the rain became heavier and heavier until it eventually became a torrential downpour, soaking the entire stadium.
“Ugh! Why’d Ash have to do that? Now everyone is all wet!” Dawn growled angrily, trying her best to shield her precious hair--which she had spent an hour brushing and styling earlier that morning--from the sheets of falling rain with her backpack.
“By flooding the entire field, Squirtle gains an advantage over Nidoking, a part-ground type,” Brock explained from the seat next to her.
“Yeah, but everyone knows Ethan’s nidoking knows a bunch of electric attacks,” Max said, looking concerned. “If Ash isn’t careful the water could actually help Ethan.”
“Yeah, and it sure isn‘t an advantage for my hair and clothes,” complained Dawn again. Her long, dark hair was quickly turning into a wet and tangled mess because of the rain.
It appeared that the rest of the many thousands of people in attendance agreed with Dawn, as a definite grumble of annoyance rained down from the stands.
Ash blushed and chuckled as he looked up at the angry crowd. They were obviously not pleased with Ash's choice of attacks. They'd have to deal with it, though. This was going to be his ticket to win this battle.
After only a few short minutes, the field started to look more like a large, rectangular pond. Ash ignored the fact that his clothes were now absolutely soaked and that he was standing ankle-deep in water. He still felt that warm and in-control feeling regarding the match. He was having a blast.
“Now, just wait for it,” the boy whispered to himself.
“Nice strategy, Ash,” he heard Ethan call out from his end. “Nidoking definitely doesn’t like water… But I’m afraid it will only help my pokémon’s electric attacks!”
The fifteen-year-old tried to hide his smile. The cocky expression on Ethan’s face made it hard for Ash to contain his chuckling.
“You forgot, Ash,” Ethan scolded his opponent. “Soaking the entire field… and well, the entire stadium, might increase the power of your water-type attacks, but it also turns the entire field into a huge electrical conductor. You‘re squirtle is toast!”
The older trainer didn’t notice how calm and collected Ash looked from across the way. He assumed the young fifteen-year old had made a rookie mistake. He signaled for his nidoking to attack.
“Finish them off with Thunder attack!”
The giant horn on Nidoking’s head started to glow a vivid yellow as it charged.
“You sure you wanna do that, Ethan?” Ash called out while Nidoking was still charging.
Ethan looked shocked to hear such a question.
“What are you talking about, Ketchum? Quit stalling. Your squirtle is standing in a foot of water. There’s no escaping my pokémon’s Thunder attack.”
“Squirtle isn’t the only one,” Ash quipped back. “Look down.”
“What?” The man looked down at his submerged feet and instantly a look of anger swept across his face when he had realized what had happened.
“An electric attack will definitely finish Squirtle, you’re right Ethan,” the boy replied. “But as you said, the whole stadium is now a giant electrical conductor. You use Thunder and you, me, and every fan in this building will be shocked as well.”
“Damn you, Ketchum!” Ethan growled, knowing full well what Ash had done.
“Yup, so unless you want to hurt yourself… and all your adoring fans out there,” the teen said, gesturing out towards the stadium full of metal bleachers. “You might want to stick to your non-electric attacks.”
Ash was fully aware that Nidoking’s only such attack was Horn-Drill, an attack that required the pokémon to run at full-speed to pull off. And with a good foot and a half of standing water on the field, that would be no easy task.
The boy chuckled, pleased with himself. He had outsmarted the Johto champion. Ethan couldn’t use Thunder and risk shocking himself or the spectators. Such a move would certainly hurt Hart’s precious relationship with his fans and could result in lost endorsements.
“The curse of fame,” Ash thought to himself.
And by doing his homework last night, he knew Ethan couldn’t switch out Nidoking. His remaining two pokémon were both fire-types and wouldn’t fair well in the water either.
Nidoking tried and failed using Horn-Drill a couple of times, but Squirtle connected with strong Water-gun attacks both times. The hulking ground-type just couldn’t land anything while being forced to wade through the water.
Finally, Ash decided to go for the deciding blow.
“All right, Squirtle,” he shouted. “You been practicing that new move we worked on a while back?”
The pokémon nodded and grinned at its trainer.
“Great. Let’s finish this then. Use Ice Beam!”
Squirtle’s normally happy red eyes began to glow neon blue as he took another deep breath in. And in one explosive motion, the tiny-turtle pokémon shot a bright white beam of frigid energy towards Nidoking’s feet.
The Ice Beam did not make direct contact with Ethan’s pokémon, but that wasn’t Ash’s plan. The standing water that covered the field instantly froze solid around the giant pokémon’s feet. It was trapped. Unable to free either leg from the icy shackles, Nidoking was nothing but a sitting psyduck.
“Quick Squirtle! Now use Ice Beam again!”
Before Ethan could react, Squirtle leaped into the air and fired another icy energy beam towards Nidoking which smashed into its face with tremendous force.
“Nidoking is unable to battle! Squirtle is the winner!” The referee signaled as soon as the purple-colored beast’s frozen body collapsed to the flooded ground with a huge splash.
The enormous crowd was stunned. Had this no-name kid really just taken out Ethan Hart’s famous Nidoking… with a Squirtle? After a few moments of stunned silence, the fans began to applaud Ash and his pokémon's innovative strategy.
“Hah! Great job, buddy! Awesome battling! You deserve a good rest.”
The boy bent down to hug his pokémon before returning it to its pokéball. He smiled. There hadn’t been a doubt in his mind that Squirtle would be able to win.
He looked over at Ethan across the field and was surprised to see that the Johto champ looked more than frazzled. He looked absolutely devastated as he returned his nidoking to its ball. Perhaps knowing that he must now use his fire-type pokémon on a water-soaked field didn’t exactly give him great confidence.
“Bulbasaur, it’s your turn!” Ash yelled as he tossed his second pokéball. The metal sphere plunked beneath the water like a stone thrown into a lake. With a bright flash of light, a small lizard-like Pokemon with a healthy green bulb growing on its back emerged.
“Bulba! Bulba-Sooor!” the diminutive grass-type greeted as it began to tread water.
“Bulbasaur! Great to see you! Sorry about the wet field.”
Ethan summoned his second pokémon as well: a black canine-pokémon with large horns and claws. Instantly the fire/dark-type howled in pain once it materialized and found itself standing in water.
“Houndoom,” Ethan commanded. “I know it hurts, but if we can land an fire attack, we‘re right back in this! Look, that bulbasaur is too little to move around fast in the water. Let’s use Flamethrower!”
Tiptoeing gingerly through the cold water, Ethan’s houndoom shot a bright red and orange fire ball towards Ash’s side of the field.
“All right, Buddy, let’s show ‘em! Use Vine Whip to dodge!”
Bulbasaur nodded and instantly, two green whip-like vines protruded from underneath the bulb on the pokémon’s back. The long vines acted like two tall stilts as Bulbasaur used them to lift itself up above the water level. It easily side-stepped the Flamethrower attack, which harmlessly fizzled out when it hit the wet ground.
The crowd again applauded Ash’s resourcefulness. Having Bulbasaur use Vine Whip to maneuver around the field was definitely a great strategy. It continued to dodge several more of Houndoom’s misguided Flamethrower attacks, showing surprising speed and grace despite not being able to use its legs at all.
Knowing it was time to go on the offensive, Ash contemplated his move. He knew grass-type attacks such as Razor Leaf wouldn’t be very effective against Houndoom. But perhaps…
“Let’s try Leech Seed, Bulbasaur!”
Upon command, a tiny seed began to sprout from Bulbasaur’s back-bulb. The pokémon propelled itself into the air and shot the tiny green seed towards Houndoom.
The small seed hit its target and stuck to Houndoom’s black fur. Instantly, about a dozen leafy vines sprouted from it. The green, rope-like vines tangled the helpless fire-type and restrained its legs, sucking energy from it in the process.
The weakened Houndoom tried to free itself, but the Leech Seed vines held strong. Unable to balance itself, Ethan’s pokémon fell to the ground with a splash. It howled in excruciating pain once again as soon as its body felt the cold water. It lay helpless, half-submerged, waiting to be put out of its misery.
“Okay, Houndoom‘s weak! Let’s finish it with Solarbeam!” Ash shouted.
Bulbasaur, still suspending itself with its vines, began to charge the green bulb on its back once again as it collected the sunlight that had begun to peek through Squirtle’s dissipating storm clouds.
The bundled beam of solar energy shot from the grass-type’s bulb and collided with the fallen Houndoom. The powerful attack caused an enormous cloud of white steam that shrouded the field in its mist after it struck.
“No! Houndoom!” Ash heard Ethan yell.
When the dust settled, the boy saw that the water on the field had evaporated as a result of Bulbasaur’s Solarbeam. But that didn’t matter. Houndoom’s unconscious body lay motionless near midfield.
“Houndoom is unable to battle! The blue trainer has only one Pokemon remaining!”
“Awesome job, Bulbasaur!” Ash returned Bulbasaur to its ball and commended his old friend.
“No!” Ethan screamed dejectedly. After sadly returning Houndoom to its ball, the young man reached down for his last chance, and tossed it onto the field.
“All right. At least the water‘s gone. Let‘s see how you do on an even playing field, Ketchum!” the man shouted, a slight glimmer of hope in his eyes.
“Go Typhlosion!” he shouted as a fierce-looking weasel-like pokémon appeared on the field.
Ash knew Typhlosion to be Ethan’s strongest and most experienced pokémon. He had watched many battles on television in which Hart’s ruthless fire-type had simply dominated its opponents. But Ash still wasn’t worried in the slightest. He didn’t know where this unwavering confidence had come from, but the boy felt like he just couldn’t lose.
Plus, he had his own fire power. Ash tossed his third pokéball onto the field.
“Charizard, you’re up!”
With a bright flash of white light, an orange, leathery-skinned dragon-like Pokemon appeared and gave a menacing roar and bared its white dagger-like fangs. Black smoke emanated from its nostrils and its huge blue wings flapped violently after being released from the cramped pokéball.
Ash heard the crowd’s excited reaction to seeing the match-up between the two powerhouse fire-types. Everyone was shocked to see that this young kid they’d never heard of was now just one knockout away from defeating one of the best trainers in the world in dominant fashion.
Charizard had its familiar intense look in its eyes as it sized up its opponent from the east end of the field. The fire-type’s young trainer had a similar look in his chocolate-brown eyes as he stared across the way at his counterpart.
As the two powerful beasts started the match by exchanging a few punches and tail-whips back and forth, Ash noticed the downtrodden expression on Ethan Hart’s face.
The nineteen-year-old’s head was down and his shoulders were slumped. He wasn’t even paying full attention to the battle anymore. The man who had become a world-famous pokémon trainer due to his iron will and bold battling style now looked too rattled to even tell his Typhlosion what to do. He could only watch as his pokémon took hit after hit from Ash’s charizard.
Ash watched as well as the two heavyweights continued to battle. It did impress him that while even though its trainer had already come to terms with defeat, Typhlosion was still battling hard in the name of its master. Commendable… but it wouldn’t be enough.
After the boy watched Typhlosion beginning to grow tired from all its desperate attempts to land attacks on the much-quicker Charizard, Ash decided it was time to put his opponents out of their misery.
“Charizard! Fly up in the air and use Dragonbreath!”
Upon command, the fiery dragon-pokémon took to the air. Its muscular wings carried the beast high above the field where it unleashed an eerie, green-colored flame from its mouth. The beam of toxic energy shot downwards towards the field where it struck Typhlosion directly, causing a massive explosion of green fire and a cloud of thick dust and smoke.
Once the dust settled, Ethan’s fire-type could be seen wobbling dazedly around its end of the field. Its trainer half-heartedly tried to command it to steady itself and use another Flamethrower attack, but Ash acted faster.
“Quick, Charizard! Use Seismic Toss while its still dizzy!”
And with one swift swoop, the winged dragon descended with blazing speed down towards the ground like it was missile locked onto its target. As Charizard was just about to collide with its punch-drunk opponent, it grabbed onto Typhlosion and the two returned to the air.
Ethan’s weakened pokémon couldn’t break free of Charizard’s grasp. The stadium once again ‘oohed and aahed’ at the sight of how fast the fire-dragon was. It soared high up in the air almost out of view, still clutching its victim.
Then like a meteor plummeting towards the earth, Charizard descended towards the field. It was nothing but an orange blur. And just before it crash landed into the ground, Charizard released the helpless Typhlosion and avoided smashing into the field with a swift flap of its wings.
The weasel-pokémon’s impact with the ground was epic. Pieces of concrete, dust, and other debris flew into the air.
After a few moments of silence while the fans waited for the visibility to return, the crowd gave a collective gasp when they saw Ethan’s mighty pokémon lying unconscious in the middle of the enormous crater it had created in the middle of the field.
Ash’s eyes grew wide. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end once again. He held his breath as he watched and waited for Typhlosion to return to its feet.
But it never happened.
“Typhlosion is unable to battle,” Ash heard the referee shout. He almost couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “That means Ash Ketchum from Pallet Town is the winner of the match!"