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Back to Back Battles
“We are coming in to dock. Thank you all for sailing with us, and we hope you have enjoyed your time on the S.S. Anne. Crew, prepare ropes.”
Nicholas stretched, rolling off their bed and walking over where his bag sat. “Girls! We’re back in port. Time to move.”
Cassidy yawned, rubbing the sleep from her eyes and protesting lightly when Dahlia’s vine crept back under her… well, Nicholas’ shirt. “Dahlia, stop.”
Dahlia ignored her and began massaging the Abra’s breasts. “But do you really want me to…?”
Cassidy flounced back, drawing out a yelp when she crashed into Dahlia and tumbled both girls off the bed. “Yes.” She laughed.
Nicholas spared a glanced back. “Dahlia, behave, or I’ll put you in your pokeball too.”
Dahlia made a face and stood. “That’s not really a punishment, Master.”
“Which is why it’s the worst I’ll threaten you with.” Nicholas replied. “Cassidy, how are you feeling today?”
The Abra looked confused at his question. “What do you mean, Master?”
Nicholas turned back to his gear. “You got eight hours of sleep, same as the rest of us.”
Cassidy blinked. “Um… I feel fine?” Her brow furrowed and her ears canted slightly. “I feel fine.”
“Oop, there’s the dock.” Nicholas felt the ship bounce slightly as it came in to port. “Ready?”
He pushed into the corridor with the others right behind him. They had made it barely ten feet down the hall when a voice hailed him.
“Mr. Topolski, yes?” The sailor waved. “Our records indicate you are a part of the pokegirl league challenge?”
“Um, yea, I am.” Nicholas replied, coming to a halt. “Why?”
“We have a gift for you, sir. Please, this way.” The sailor turned, gesturing for them to follow.
Nicholas shrugged at the other two and started after the man.
“Right up here, sir.” The sailor explained, stopping and gesturing at a small flight of stairs. “Your pokegirls are welcome, but be warned. The Captain’s quarters might be a bit cramped.”
Nicholas frowned. “The Captain’s quarters?”
“Yes sir. Please, go ahead.”
Nicholas climbed up, pushing through the door and holding it for Cassidy and Dahlia.
“Hello, hello! Good afternoon.” The man inside called. “You are?”
“Ah, yes, I have you on my manifest.” The man picked a case off his desk and walked around to hand it to Nicholas. “Here you are.”
Nicholas took the object. “What is it?”
“Something you may need to continue your challenge.” The man chuckled. “Just insert your Cerulean City gym badge in the slot, and it will unlock.” Nicholas stared at the case for a bit too long and the Captain frowned. “You do have the Cerulean City badge, correct?”
“Well, uh… That’s where I was headed next.”
The man nodded. “Well then, no harm, no foul. Once you have your badge you can unlock the case.”
“And what’s inside?”
“A special kind of Technical Machine – a Hidden Machine. Hidden Machines, or HMs, are important parts of the pokegirl league challenge. You may have noticed how our gym here in Vermilion is seemingly inaccessible?”
“I had, yea.”
“That HM, Cut, will teach a pokegirl how to effectively use their cutting power to fell small trees, such as the ones in front of Mr. Surge’s gym, allowing you to pass.”
Nicholas nodded to himself. “I’ve tried getting past those trees already.” He chuckled. “Sturdy little bastards.”
“Aye, that they are.” The Captain replied. “Now then, off you go! And I hope you enjoyed your cruise with us.”
Dahlia piped up when they had disembarked. “Well, this seems to have been worth the trip down here.”
“We got almost a full day of training, a nice amount of relaxation, and this HM.” Nicholas turned the HM over. “That’s interesting, I think it’s small enough to put in my case…” He popped the TM case open. “Yea, that’s nice.”
“So, back to Cerulean, Master?”
“Back to Cerulean.” Nicholas agreed. “I want to challenge Misty. And,” he turned to look at the gym hidden behind the wall of trees, “I know there’s another right here for us to go after.”
Dahlia clapped excitedly. “Alright, Master! Let’s go!”
Nicholas spared a glance at the damaged house as they walked back into Cerulean. There was still a large police presence searching the scene, even after almost a week, so he continued walking without staring too much.
Besides, his destination was somewhere else.
He almost sneezed when he stepped inside the gym. The smell of chlorine was heavy in the air, the lapping water throughout the gym giving an obvious reason as to why.
“YO! How’s it going, tamer!” Nicholas yelped, whirling to see a grinning man waving at him. “Welcome to the Cerulean City gym!”
“Fuck I forgot you existed.” Nicholas snarled, grabbing his head in his hand. “Why-“
“This gym specializes in water-type pokegirls as you may well have guessed!” The man continued, ignoring Nicholas’ protests. “And the leader, Misty, commands a powerful arsenal that’s sure to leave you gasping for air. That is, unless you brought some electric or grass-types to counter them with!”
“Look, I get it!” Nicholas cried. “I get it. I already ran into the guy who does this in Pewter, I get the whole beginner-friendly, hype style you’ve got going on. But I’m trying to focus on my challenge, here!”
The man’s grin barely moved. “Look man, it’s my job.”
“Yea. Sorry.” Nicholas massaged his temples. “What else?”
“That’s it for me!” The man cried. “But be warned, tamer.” His voice dropped to a normal level. “Brock was just an introduction. Your true challenge begins here.”
Nicholas gave him a confused look but the man had already turned away.
“…Ominous.” Nicholas muttered.
Ashley had been standing in shock by his shoulder the whole time and now she finally managed to speak. “What in the world was that, Master?”
“Get used to it, because apparently there’s someone like that employed at every gym.” Nicholas grumbled. “C’mon.”
He could see the first assistant waiting for them next to one of the smaller pools and when he got closer the man got to his feet.
“Welcome, challenger.” He spread his arms. “I hope you’re prepared for a deluge of water-type pokegirls.”
“Is it standard practice for gym tamers to have at least one pun prepared?”
“It’s in my contract, actually.”
Nicholas rolled his eyes. “Ashley, you’re up.”
“Bah, we’ll still do our best!”
Nicholas watched a Machop materialize. “Hey, I thought this was a water-type gym.”
“That’s the focus, sure.” The tamer replied. “But that doesn’t mean we only have water-types.”
“Well, easy win.” Nicholas gloated.
Ashley whipped up a Gust as her first move and the Machop grimaced, bracing herself and letting the wind batter her. In contrast to Nicholas’ overconfidence Ashley watched her opponent warily, so when the Machop didn’t seem to be flagging from a single attack she prepared herself for a counter attack.
Ashley’s eyes bugged when the Machop leapt into the air, the girl rocketing towards where she hovered. It looked almost as if the fighting-type was weightless, although the girl that slammed into her was anything but. Ashley screamed when the Machop grappled her wings and held grimly on as the two spiraled back to the floor.
Nicholas’ jaw dropped when the pair slammed into the ground, exchanging a flurry of strikes that ended with Ashley hopping away to nurse what looked like a broken wing.
The Machop was worse off, however. Her breathing was heavy and she clutched at the wounds Ashley’s claws had opened.
Her tamer waited a few moments before recalling her. “That’s good enough. Jainie, finish this up.”
Ashley hissed when a fish pokegirl materialized. “Well, shit.”
The girl cocked her head, taking in her battered opponent before slamming her hands together, pulling them apart a moment later to reveal watery orbs. She hurled one, dropping low to the ground and dashing towards Ashley as the horn on her forehead began to glow.
Ashley barely managed to duck the first sphere but couldn’t get out of the way in time and the pokegirl slammed into her, the light that had enveloped her horn blasting into Ashley’s body.
Nicholas recalled her when the Pidgeotto didn’t scream in pain, signaling how she had lost consciousness. “Nice.”
The girl slid to a halt, scrambling back towards her tamer and Nicholas narrowed his eyes, releasing Cassidy. “Cass, can you take her?”
The Abra was still dressed in only his t-shirt and it was not the most intimidating of looks. Still, she put on a brave face. “It might take everything I have, Master.”
“Just do your best.”
The fish pokegirl was almost back at her starting position when she froze mid-step.
Her tamer frowned. “Jainie?”
The girl twitched before collapsing, her eyes rolling wildly.
“The fuck!” Her tamer yelled, watching his girl shakily get back to her feet. “Jainie, what happened?” He glanced over at Cassidy, noting her closed eyes and general appearance. “Shit. Horn Drill, hit her hard, GO!”
Jainie staggered in Cassidy’s direction before abruptly taking a ninety-degree turn and tripping into the pool.
Her tamer slammed his palm into his forehead. “Fucking confusion.”
The fish pokegirl floundered to the surface in a panic, her unintelligible shouts drawing stares from everyone involved, but Cassidy was still deep in concentration. Eventually the girl clawed her way back onto land, weaving unsteadily.
“Jainie?” Her tamer called.
The girl blinked a few times before falling flat on her face.
“Ooh.” Nicholas groaned, wincing in sympathy. There had been no effort from the fish pokegirl to cushion her fall and he was sure she had smashed her nose at the very least.
Her tamer recalled her. “Well fought, challenger. Go ahead and move on.”
“Nice, Cassidy. How do you feel?” When the Abra kept her eyes closed he frowned. “Cassidy, you there?”
“I’m here, Master.” Cassidy replied and opened her eyes.
As she began to turn towards him the evolutionary glow started. Nicholas watched it engulf her body and seconds later Cassidy stepped towards him, almost bursting from the light as she did.
“I’m going to have to write a thesis on this.” Nicholas mused.
Cassidy frowned. Her evolution had brought her almost to his height so both looked at each other from a neutral position. “A thesis? On what, Master?”
“I’m a researcher and most of what I’ve worked on is pokegirl evolution.” Nicholas explained. “Except, until I started this journey, it was all theoretical. Now I have practical experience to add.”
Cassidy nodded. “And what would the thesis cover, Master? Since you are talking about it after watching me evolve, I assume it has something to do with that?”
“All of you - Dahlia, Ashley, Elizabeth, Victoria - were... I suppose the best way to put it is ‘incomplete’. You were first form pokegirls. Victoria is a bit of an exception, with her frankly explosive evolution, but the rest of you evolved into what I’d consider a more suitable body for your ability set. Dahlia became able to manipulate her vines properly, Elizabeth gained power behind her attacks, and Ashley gained the use of her hands independently from her wings. I haven’t had a chance to see what’s changed with you, but the common theme between you four has been growth. There was something holding you back, and after evolving that’s gone, leaving you able to grow.”
Cassidy ignored the stares they were attracting. “I see, Master. I would be happy to assist you in your research.”
Nicholas snorted. “Of course you would.”
“I’m serious, Master.” Nicholas paused when Cassidy stepped closer. “While yes, I will enjoy you ‘researching’ me, I would enjoy it more if you allowed me to work alongside you. It’s... it’s been a dream of mine to find a Master who uses his intellect as much as his, ah... other strengths.”
Nicholas slowly nodded. “Then we’ll talk about it later, Cassidy. Thank you for asking.”
Cassidy’s lips twitched into a shy smile. “No, thank you, Master.”
“Yo!” Both turned to see the assistant waving at them. “I know your girl just evolved, but aren’t you going to continue your challenge?”
“Oh, uh, right.” Nicholas stammered. “Is our battle over?”
“Yea. And there’s someone who wants to talk to you.”
Nicholas glanced around. “Who?”
Both he and Cassidy turned at the voice. There was a woman around Nicholas’ age waving at them from her position in the main pool. “Welcome to my gym, challenger.”
Nicholas blinked. “You’re the leader?”
“That’s right. And I can see that your pokegirls have grown substantially from when you faced Brock.” Misty pushed off the edge she had been holding, shooting through the water at incredible speed. “Come! Face me!”
Nicholas nearly slipped when he started to follow, catching himself and moving much more carefully towards where Misty was pulling herself out of the pool. She was wringing the water out of her hair when he got closer. “Did you say something about Brock?”
“I did.” Misty finished drying off and pulled herself up onto a similar podium to the one he had seen Brock on during their battle, although this time it was modeled as a diving block instead of a boulder. To fit the theme, he assumed. “Tell me, Nicholas, how much about the pokegirl league do you know?”
“Erm, not much. I’m not from Kanto.”
“Your own league, though?” Misty asked curiously.
“We don’t have the league challenge.”
“Interesting.” Misty replied. “Very well, allow me to explain something for you. Do you remember how evenly matched Brock’s pokegirls were to your own?”
Nicholas frowned. “Um, yea. I just assumed he was the first gym leader, so he took it easy on newbies.”
“That’s partly correct. But what do you think he would have had to do if an experienced tamer with six or seven badges had challenged him?”
Nicholas blinked. “Well, I guess he’d be outmatched, right?”
“That hardly seems fitting for a gym leader.”
Nicholas shook his head. “What are you getting at?”
“I’m explaining how the gym leaders tailor our challenges to the challenger.” Misty replied. “All because your battle here may be tougher than you expected.”
Nicholas swallowed. “So, all the extra training I did to help my pokegirls...”
“Did you think you could simply trivialize my gym?” Misty’s smile grew vicious. “I hope you’re prepared for a fight.”
“Err, one of my girls...”
“You entered my gym.” Misty taunted. “Are you saying you’re not prepared?”
“Master.” Cassidy put a hand on his shoulder. “We can do this, Master.”
Nicholas glanced at her and had to do a double take. He hadn’t noticed before, but with the evolution... even though her general appearance hadn’t changed much, her body had definitely grown. Before, she had worn his shirt almost like a dress and it had worked fine. Now, with her substantially larger breasts squished into the fabric, the hem had been drawn all the way up to her navel. He had forgotten how it was the only thing she wore.
Cassidy caught him staring and looked confused for a moment before she sighed. “Master, please.”
Nicholas tore his eyes from her heaving cleavage. “Erm, yes. Sorry.” He managed to look back at Misty, chasing the thoughts from his mind. “Well, if Cassidy is up for it, I guess we’ll do our best.”
Misty didn’t seem too bothered by his distraction and she nodded. “Very well, challenger. Ready?” She glanced over to make sure one of the assistants was available to act as a referee. “Let us begin!”
“You want it, you start it.” Nicholas barked. “Cassidy, show me what you can do!”
Cassidy gazed at her opponent when the pokegirl materialized. The girl stood a few inches below six foot, with a nice one-piece suit and short blue hair, but she could care less about those aspects. That was what Master might see, but Cassidy had eyes only for the sparkling red jewel inset in the pokegirl’s forehead.
She recognized that jewel. Something about it scared her.
“Daisy, Water Pulse!”
Cassidy quickly teleported, frowning when no attack seemed to come from her opponent. She was starting to form her own offensive when the water around the arena surged into the air.
“What the-“ she managed before the waves came crashing down on her. She felt the current throwing her about and she struggled to keep herself oriented until she came face to face with the other pokegirl.
The girl seemed to move with her, her unblinking stare capturing Cassidy’s eyes. Cassidy felt fear begin to rise and she tried to force it down but just like her struggles with the waves it was a losing battle. As they continued to spin through the maelstrom Cassidy’s fear and anxiety dominated her thoughts.
Nicholas winced when the other pokegirl braced, water shimmering around her body before she sent staccato blasts at Cassidy. “Cassidy, dodge!” He cursed when the Kadabra didn’t even move and the attack blasted her backwards. “Cassidy!”
Cassidy felt the crushing waves slam into her and her mouth popped open. She began to panic, the water around her pressing in, threatening to-!
Cassidy took a deep breath.
The water surrounded her. It was everywhere, smothering her, threatening to drown her.
She took another breath.
She should be feeling the liquid entering her lungs. Suffocating her.
She took one last breath.
And opened her eyes with a scream. The battering waves, those had been real. She could feel the bruises from where that attack had hit, but whatever psychic trick this pokegirl had tried was over. She was livid with herself for falling for it in the first place but it was over now.
Cassidy slid across the ground, feeling her skin rub raw as she tumbled towards Master. She could hear him again.
She had a fight to win.
“Daisy, hit her again while she’s confused!” Misty was yelling, but Cassidy had already snapped out of it.
The pokegirl gasped when Cassidy teleported and her eyes flashed. “ENOUGH!”
Misty grimaced when the watery aura around Daisy faded. “Push her back!”
Cassidy howled in rage, beginning to focus on crushing the girl in front of her when Daisy whirled, picking up speed as she spun straight into Cassidy’s chest.
Cassidy felt something soft bounce off her new breasts and began to laugh when something else - probably Daisy’s heel with how hard it was - crashed down into her skull.
The Kadabra was out before she hit the ground.
Daisy’s spin continued until she crashed into the pool with a massive splash.
Nicholas recalled Cassidy, watching Daisy cut through the water with ease. “Is she here to fight, or to swim?”
“The pool is part of the arena.” Misty retorted, but Daisy shot back onto land when she called. “Why? Worried that you wouldn’t be able to catch her?”
“No, just about to take a chance.” Nicholas replied and released Elizabeth. “LIZ! Hit hard, hit fast, GO!”
Misty’s eyes narrowed when the Nidoqueen charged forwards with a roar. “Shit. Daisy, Water Pulse!”
The girl shrank back. “I- I can’t, Mistress!”
“What do you mean you-“ Misty started, but Elizabeth had reached her target. Daisy screamed when Elizabeth kicked her chest, her body almost folding around Elizabeth’s foot before she tumbled away.
Misty recalled her when Daisy began to cough blood and stared at where Elizabeth had come to rest. “What did your Kadabra just do.”
“I’m not sure, but it looked like your girl, Daisy, lost her ability to shoot those water waves. I gambled.”
Elizabeth spared a glance back and Nicholas gave her a nervous smile that the Nidoqueen, after a moment, returned.
“Well gambled.” Misty replied. “But your Nidoqueen won’t last long. You’ve only opened her up to a world of pain!”
Nicholas fumbled with Elizabeth’s pokeball when another fish pokegirl materialized. “I know.” He replied as the recall beam saved Elizabeth from taking a massive blast of water. “I have others who cover her weaknesses.”
Misty nodded approvingly when Dahlia materialized. “Lily, get underwater.”
The fish girl leapt back at her tamer’s command, vanishing below the surface of the pool. Dahlia’s vines whipped angrily as she watched the rippling water. “Master, what do I do?”
“Remember the things we discovered on our way back from Vermilion?”
Dahlia frowned, her mind racing. Finally she smiled. “I do, Master.”
“Fill the pool.”
Misty watched Dahlia begin shimmying in place. “What are you hoping to accomplish?”
Nicholas was watching the cloud of dust that had begun to swirl around Dahlia’s flower. “Victory.”
Misty’s eyes narrowed. “Lily! Hit and run!”
Dahlia grunted when the pokegirl popped up behind her, battering her with water before diving back down. “She’s pretty quick in the water, I’ll give her that.” The cloud slowly began to settle across the pool. “But speed doesn’t matter when everywhere is dangerous.”
Dahlia hissed as she took two more attacks. When the next didn’t come she began to smile.
“Lily!” Misty looked around in confusion. “Where are you?”
“When she surfaces, drain her!” Nicholas yelled.
Misty began to look worried when Lily still didn’t come up to attack. “Lily?”
Dahlia noticed a form bob to the surface and sprang into action. “There!”
There were bubbles gathering around Lily’s head and as the seeds Dahlia threw impacted, the girl was spun about to reveal why. Lily snored, Dahlia’s sleep powder finally taking effect.
“LILY!” Misty roared.
With a start Lily snapped awake, coughing lightly before casting about and diving back underwater with a squeak.
Dahlia had a smug smile on her face. “Too late, fish girl.”
Misty’s face set when Lily popped back out of the pool next to her. The innocuous little seeds Dahlia had thrown were taking root, slowly but steadily draining Lily’s stamina.
Lily whimpered when the plant shifted, working deeper into her skin. “Mistress?” She cried.
“Sorry, Lily.” Misty muttered. “Maybe I should have used Sarah instead. This tamer has trained his pokegirls well.”
“It’s okay.” Lily whimpered, staggering slightly. “I’ve always struggled against grass-types.”
Misty recalled her when Lily collapsed. “I should congratulate you, tamer.” She called. “Your Ivysaur fought intelligently. She deserves her victory.” Nicholas nodded and Misty held up another pokeball. “But this isn’t over yet. And I’ve saved my best for last.”
Nicholas watched a tall girl appear. She looked very similar to the first so he pulled out his pokedex. “Starmie.” It reported. “The mysterious pokegirl. Starmie is the evolved form of Staryu.”
Nicholas slowly put his pokedex away. “Dahlia, no tricks. No hesitation. Ready?”
Dahlia heard his tone and settled into a fighting stance. “Understood, Master.”
“Go, Vine Whip!”
“Violet, don’t let her.”
Dahlia had taken two steps when the Starmie raised her hands. Instantly light speared out from her fingers, the star-shaped beams slicing into Dahlia’s body. One cut just below the knee and she crashed to the ground, cursing as she felt her previous wounds exacerbated by this new attack.
“Put her down.”
Nicholas gritted his teeth when Violet motioned and Dahlia’s struggles began to falter. “What are you doing to her?”
“Just buying time.” Misty replied, shimmering barriers beginning to appear around Violet. “She’s crippled and in her own little world, now.”
Nicholas’ jaw set as he watched Dahlia struggle with imaginary phantoms. Maybe she’d recover, but probably not. That hit to her leg had been nasty.
Misty nodded when he recalled the Ivysaur. “I expected as much.”
“Victoria!” Nicholas called as he released the Gyarados. “You’re all we got.”
Victoria stared across the field at her opponent. “Her, Master?”
“She took out Dahlia.”
Victoria frowned slightly before grunting and slamming her fist into her palm. “I will avenge her, Master!”
“She can play with your mind.” Nicholas hurriedly explained when Victoria strode forwards. “Fight hard!”
Victoria came to a halt in front of the waiting Starmie. “Such tactics are for the weak.”
“That’s rude.” Victoria glanced behind her to see another Violet watching her. “I don’t feel I am weak.”
“On the contrary.” Another image continued. “I am one of Mistress’ stronger pokegirls.”
“And you, you are another challenger. Your time will pass.” The original Violet stepped closer. “My throne will last forever.”
Victoria’s jaw set.
Nicholas straightened when Victoria made a mad dash to the edge of the arena, slicing into the water and disappearing moments later. Violet watched her go before giving chase, leaping in to disappear as well.
“Your girl must be seeing triple by now.” Misty noted. “She made the mistake of looking into Violet’s gem.”
“Where do you think you are running?” One of the images asked, her legs barely moving as she swam beside Victoria. “This is not your terrain. It is mine.”
“Shut the fuck up.” Victoria growled.
Yet another joined the group, lazily swimming circles around Victoria. “Just accept it.” She called in a bored voice. “Your chances of hitting me are low enough. Your chances of winning are even worse.”
Victoria ignored the image, sliding her eyes shut.
She hadn’t jumped in the water to run. Not at all. She had jumped in hoping Violet would chase her.
And it seemed like the Starmie had. With her eyes still closed Victoria turned, feeling the water currents against her skin. There had been a splash, and now... yes. There!
Violet was following along at a safe distance when Victoria whirled. The Starmie initially reacted defensively, bracing for the Gyarados to attack. But when Victoria seemed to continue turning she relaxed.
Victoria’s eyes snapped open and she lunged forwards, her tail shoving her through the water at breakneck speed. Violet barely had time to cry out before the larger pokegirl’s jaws were clamped around her neck, only the Starmie’s tough skin softening the blow.
The illusions shattered around her as Victoria shook off the confusing influence. The only thing she cared about was the writhing body in her jaws.
Violet made a few more ineffectual moves before contorting her body and Victoria grunted when she felt Violet’s feet come to rest against her collarbone.
“Let go.” Violet snarled.
Victoria tried to shake her head but Violet’s move had successfully jammed her neck, so she let out a negative grunt instead.
“I’ll break you.” Violet threatened, beginning to put pressure on Victoria’s collarbone.
The Gyarados snorted and Violet winced when she felt Victoria’s muscles surge, easily pushing her back. As Victoria began to overpower the Starmie Violet panicked.
Above them, Nicholas and Misty stared at each other.
“So, uh, what do you think is happening?”
Misty gazed out over the gently rippling pool. “Your girl is winning, somehow.”
“How do you know that?”
“Violet hasn’t come back up.”
Nicholas lapsed back into silence with her as the seconds ticked on.
“Win or lose today, I want you to know that you’re an incredible tamer.”
Nicholas blinked at the sudden praise. “Huh?”
“Your pokegirls all fought well on their own intuition. That’s extraordinarily rare in today’s scene. Usually limited to gym leaders, our assistants, and the Elite Four.”
“What? How do people fight, then?”
“Their pokegirls can barely move without a command. It’s slow. Weak.” Misty glanced at him. “If a pokegirl needs to sit and wait to be told what to do, her opponent will have free opportunities to attack the unmoving target. It doesn’t matter how powerful that girl may be, if she can’t think for herself, she’s worthless.”
“I tend to agree.” Nicholas replied.
“And that is what makes you incredible.” Misty turned back to the pool. “You’ve learned, or maybe simply known, something that it takes other tamers months to figure out. Sometimes years. When did you face Brock?”
“Uh, about a week ago?”
“You’ll be walking onto the Indigo Plateau by the end of the year.” Misty stated. “I’d bet my gym on it.”
Nicholas was taken aback by her earnestness. “What? But-“
“We’re in July? I know.” Misty smiled. “I’m betting on you, Nicholas. Don’t let me down.”
A few seconds later the water erupted.
Misty swiveled to the form that had been thrown from the pool and her eyes narrowed. “VIOLET! RECOVER, NOW!”
Nicholas gaped at the Starmie as she flew through the air. Blood mixed with the water that streamed from her body and he could see large tooth marks across her body.
But where was Victoria?
Violet hit hard, but she was still moving and as she processed Misty’s command her body burst into a soft glow. Seconds later another form burst from the water, Victoria bearing down on her opponent.
The Gyarados wasn’t moving properly either. As Nicholas watched Victoria stumbled, one leg skipping slightly across the ground. A closer look revealed her uselessly hanging arm on the same side.
Victoria ignored his shout and roared. All activity ceased as her voice reverberated throughout the gym - the sound of a thoroughly pissed off dragon.
Violet was just getting her feet underneath her when Victoria struck. The Starmie struggled, screaming when Victoria battered her across the ground with her tail before swooping in and clamping her jaws around her once again. This time, she didn’t hesitate. Violet’s face went white when Victoria’s teeth ripped into her side, opening a devastating wound before the Gyarados flicked her head and sent the Starmie crashing to the ground at Misty’s feet.
“Violet, can you recover?” Misty asked quietly.
Violet’s breaths were coming in short gasps but she still managed to prop herself onto one arm and reply. “Maybe… One more… Mistress.”
Misty glanced up to take in Victoria. “And will it be enough?”
Violet’s arm began to shake. “No. No, Mistress, it won’t.”
“It won’t.” Misty stared at the growling Gyarados, not missing how blood was literally dripping from her jaws. “What do you think, Violet? Should I have used Sarah instead of Lily?”
Violet’s breathing began to even while her technique recovered her strength. “I could have won, Mistress.” She bowed her head in shame. “I got cocky. It’s my fault.”
“Sounds to me like it was a good fight.” Misty corrected her gently. “CHALLENGER!”
Nicholas jumped. “Yea?”
“My pokegirl forfeits. The victory, and badge, are yours.”
Victoria’s growls began to quiet. “She gives up?”
“She gives up.” Misty replied coolly, making and maintaining eye contact with the Gyarados. “You beat her.”
Victoria didn’t even acknowledge when Nicholas began cheering behind her. “She knew a trick. Something that would only work on someone my size.” Victoria replied just loudly enough for Misty to hear.
Misty was walking forwards. “Did he evolve you?”
“I figured. You act like Levi does around me.”
Victoria glanced down when Misty began to pass her. “You have…? I see.”
Misty paused long enough for Victoria to see the smile on her face. “The difference between you and her is that she’s forgotten how to be afraid.”
Victoria’s expression was unreadable when the gym leader stepped past her and began congratulating Nicholas. She remained very quiet even as he pulled her out of the gym and towards the pokecenter.
Victoria started. “What, Master?”
Nicholas frowned at her. “Haven’t you been listening? Because of that, there’s no reason not to head straight for the Vermilion gym.”
Victoria winced. “I’m sorry, Master. I haven’t heard anything that you’ve been saying.”
“Oh. What’s on your mind?”
“What’s on my…” Victoria trailed off. “It’s nothing, Master. Just thinking about my battle.”
Nicholas seemed satisfied by her answer. “Oh yea, must have been a tough one down there. You’re still limping.”
Victoria nodded absently. “Would you return me to my pokeball, please?”
“Oh, sure.” Nicholas recalled her.
Victoria let her thoughts drift. Fear. Misty had said her own Gyarados had forgotten how to be afraid. Could that be the secret? She had evolved by ignoring her fear. She had pushed past her fear to learn that water-type attack. She had stopped worrying about her enemies just now, and focused on herself in order to win.
No, that couldn’t be it. She couldn’t just forget how to be afraid. Her fear had driven her, not hampered her. It had just taken Master Nicholas to realize that.
He was the true path forwards. No matter what, she would fight. Fight for him.
Pewter City – Boulder Badge
Cerulean City – Cascade Badge
Dahlia, Ivysaur – Level 25
Ashley, Pidgeotto – Level 23
Elizabeth, Nidoqueen – Level 22
Victoria, Gyarados – Level 23
Cassidy, Kadabra – Level 18
“Heard you took the badge, Victoria!”
Victoria chuckled when Ashley slapped her back. “Yea, I finished it.”
“The next one will be harder.” Heads turned to Nicholas. “I’ve been thinking.”
There were some teasing looks but nobody spoke up. “What about, Master?” Dahlia asked.
“Just before our battle, Misty told me that each gym will try to match our strength. That would mean every challenge relies solely on our strategy, not our strength. Right?”
A few confused glances. “I guess not, Master?”
“Except that makes no sense.” Nicholas hissed. “Sure, you’ll train your strength as you’re training your strategies, but they don’t just hand out badges to anyone who can throw an attack. We lost the first time we faced Brock. Misty was this close to taking us out as well. And there’s a point where we won’t be able to win on just our strategy.”
“The Elite Four.” Nicholas replied. “They’re called the strongest tamers in the league, not the most… strategic. If we went through every gym without becoming more powerful, we’d fall short of ever making it to the end.”
“Okay.” Dahlia settled in next to him. “I can see how it doesn’t make sense. So shouldn’t we just… keep training? If we know that we’ll have to face the Elite Four at some point, Master, shouldn’t we think about that instead of each individual gym?”
“I considered that.” Nicholas admitted. “However, if that were the case, there would be no reason to have gyms.”
“So what are they for?” Elizabeth piped up.
“From what the Captain said back on the S.S. Anne, these HMs are needed to progress through the league challenge. Each one is locked with a specific badge.” Nicholas dug through his bag and pulled out the Cut HM. “If there are certain gyms that require certain HMs to access, that would force a sort of order in a challenge.”
Realization dawned. “Master, are you saying leader Misty lied?” Cassidy asked.
“No, I don’t think she lied. What I think is that there’s a floor, a certain level of power that each gym will at least have. She might have thought I was trying to cheat that, by continuing to train all of you past that level.”
“So gyms are a test of power and strategy.” Elizabeth mused. “Stepping stones towards the Elite Four.”
“And we’ve now got two badges.”
“So this third battle will be harder than Misty’s, not equal.” Dahlia concluded. “Makes sense.”
“And once I realized that, I did some research.” Nicholas dropped his pokedex onto the ground between them all. “Surge specializes in electric-type pokegirls. That means Ashley and Victoria are easy targets. We’re going to be basically down to three against whatever he has.”
Victoria had been quiet but finally she spoke. “I’m not afraid, Master.”
Nicholas glanced at her in irritation. “I know you’re not, Victoria, but it doesn’t matter if you are or not. The fact is, Surge’s girls will tear you apart.”
“Not if I get to them first.” Victoria snarled.
Nicholas sighed to himself. It was futile to argue with her so he moved on. “Anyways, you should all prepare for a tough fight.”
“We will, Master.” Dahlia replied before anyone else could.
Elizabeth’s eyes narrowed. “We will.”
“We’ll be back in Vermilion probably the day after tomorrow.” Nicholas noted. “Let’s all do our best to get stronger before then.”
All the way back in Cerulean, Misty stepped out of her bath, drying herself before heading to bed. She was just finishing up when a phone rang.
“Hm? Oh, hey Matis. That guy I told you about show up yet?” Misty took a seat, idly tapping a finger against her head. “Yea, next few days, I’d think. Look, I don’t know where you disappear to all the time, but you’ll want to be around for this one. Yea. No, I think he’ll make it all the way.”
Matis Surge leaned back in his own chair. “It’s been a while since I’ve heard you endorse a tamer, Misty.”
“It’s been a while since I’ve seen one like him.”
Surge smiled. “Alright. I’ll make sure I’m at the gym when he shows up.”
“Who was that, sir?” Someone asked as Surge terminated the call.
“Misty. We’re scrapping this run.”
The questioner gawked. “B-but sir! We still have the entire day tomorrow on the cruise!”
“So? I’ll take a bit of a hit, but money is just money.”
“The boss won’t be happy.” The questioner tried.
Surge frowned. “I ain’t one of you, bud. I make these deliveries because your boss pays me to.”
Surge lunged forwards, grabbing a fistful of the man’s black shirt and dragging him close. “You don’t tell me what to do.” Surge growled, towering over the terrified man. “Not even he tells me what to do. Got it?”
“If you don’t finish the run, then we’ll-“
“Then you’ll what.” Surge snorted. “Come at my city like you went after Misty’s?”
“Try it, chucklefuck.” Surge loomed over the Team Rocket member. “And I’ll teach you weaklings how a real man fights a war.”
The man shrunk back. “No. N-no, Lt. Surge, sir.”
“That’s what I thought.” Surge thumbed an intercom. “Captain, the ship appears to have developed engine troubles. We might have to return to port early.” He grinned when he heard the engines’ whine shift. Was he really getting this excited for some random challenger? Maybe. So the guy had better deliver.
Nicholas stared at the interwoven wall of trees before them. “Seems silly that we couldn’t just… get through these before.”
“Maybe it’s all in the technique, Master.” Dahlia replied.
“Let’s find out.”
Dahlia watched him push the Cascade badge into the slot on the HM and the case click open. “I watched Victoria do this, so I…” She hesitated with her hand over the small disc. “Is this one going to pop too?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, only one way to find out.” Dahlia picked up the HM, hesitating only a moment before pressing it to her forehead.
Nicholas waited for the light to die. “So?”
Dahlia still clutched the intact disc. “It didn’t break.”
“I’ll put it away.” Nicholas took it back from her. “So, did it work?”
Dahlia turned to look at the trees. “It’s so simple.”
“I guarantee a pokegirl with large claws could do this without needing the technique.” Dahlia replied, her vines beginning to glow slightly. “I failed before because I didn’t think to reinforce my vines.”
Nicholas shielded his eyes when she whipped out, easily slicing through the trees. “And maybe because you were just a Bulbasaur back then.”
Dahlia smiled slightly. “Maybe.”
“Well, we have a path through, now.” Nicholas stepped through the hole Dahlia had created. “Gym time.”
Dahlia was watching the trees. “Master?”
Nicholas turned. “Hm?”
Dahlia pointed at where new growth was already visible. “What kind of plant is this?”
Nicholas stared at the budding stumps. “One that seems to grow extremely quickly.”
“Well, you can break us back out if needed.” Nicholas replied. “Let’s head inside.”
They stepped into the gym and froze.
“Ah! Welcome, challenger…” Nicholas noticed the hype man begin yelling but he wasn’t paying any attention.
The gym floor stretched out in front of them, massive arcs of electricity flashing through the far side. Through a structure that looked almost like a gate.
“Yea, sure.” Nicholas muttered when the greeter stopped talking. “Hey, that’s not deadly… right?”
“Probably.” The man chuckled. “I saw you staring. Find the switches, avoid the assistants, good luck!”
Nicholas inched forwards, glancing about the area. “Are they on those pillars?” When the greeter didn’t reply he sighed. “Let’s go, Dahlia.”
They carefully moved through the gym, avoiding the arenas as best they could. “Maybe this one?” Nicholas muttered, flicking the latest switch.
With a zap part of the electric gate deactivated.
“Oh!” Nicholas cried excitedly. “Dahlia, this is the first one.”
“Good job, Master.” Dahlia replied. “Where do you think the next one is?”
“Well, we’ve already tried all those.” Nicholas gestured at a chunk of pillars behind them. “So, probably…”
Dahlia glanced at the lines marking a battle arena in front of them. “Over there, Master?”
Nicholas glanced over to see the assistant smirking. “Yea, I think so. Ready?”
“Think you can win, challenger? The truth may shock you!” The assistant cried.
“Okay, that one was just lazy!”
“Don’t care! Go, Hannah!”
“Dahlia, finish this quickly.”
Dahlia uncurled her vines. “How, Master?”
“Just do what you do best.”
Dahlia smiled. “Okay.”
“Hannah, Thundershock! Slow her down!”
“I’m already kind of slow.” Dahlia mumbled to herself, moving forwards and grunting when the electrical discharge hit her. “Ow.”
The assistant frowned when she kept moving. “Did that barely do anything?”
“It hurt.” Dahlia offered. With a yell she attacked, her vines shooting towards the Pikachu across from her. Hannah wasn’t able to dodge in time and she squeaked when Dahlia’s vines began to coil around her body.
“Use her vines like conduits!” Her tamer yelled. “Give her everything you’ve got!”
Dahlia winced as the electricity pumped down her vines. “That’s- really- rude.” She spat out, flipping Hannah into the air and firing leaves from her bulb that sliced the Pikachu on the way down. As she lay stunned Dahlia sprouted a Leech Seed, pegging her opponent before she could react.
“Crap! Hannah, get up and make sure she can’t hit you again!”
Dahlia snorted, dodging back away from the dashing girl’s strikes. “You got some good hits in. I’ll give you that.” The Pikachu screamed when, instead of continuing to run, Dahlia met her charge with one of her own. “But that’s all you get.”
The assistant recalled his pokegirl. “Good fight.”
“Thankfully I could kind of absorb the shocks, Master.” Dahlia mumbled when Nicholas walked up. “They still stung.”
“Here, let’s patch you up.” Nicholas handed her a potion. “That’s what we’re counting on. Since you’re a grass-type, electricity doesn’t conduct as well through your body.”
“Now, we’ve made our way past that assistant.” Nicholas reached out to grab the switch in front of them. “Let’s see if this is the next one.”
The electrical gate snapped off.
“Yea!” Nicholas cheered. “Alright, Dahlia. I’m betting the leader is over there. Want to lead?”
Dahlia shook her head. “You should lead with Victoria, Master.”
Nicholas looked at her in confusion. “Victoria? She’ll get slaughtered.”
“The leader will probably lead with his weakest pokegirl.” Dahlia explained. “If you wanted to knock some sense into her, that would be the time.”
Nicholas absentmindedly rubbed Victoria’s pokeball. “I guess. Still, I don’t like sending her into a battle I know she’ll lose.”
“Didn’t she want that?”
Nicholas snorted. “Yea, I guess she did.”
Surge nodded when Nicholas stepped past the deactivated gate. “Welcome, challenger, to the Vermilion City gym. I am Lt. Surge. You’ve bested my locks, and now stand before the number one electric-type tamer! Do you have what it takes? Or are you going to fold under the pressure?” He flipped a pokeball into his hand. “I look forward to finding out.”
Nicholas raised his own pokeball. “Victoria!”
“Shock her into submission, Viola!”
Victoria materialized and glanced back at Nicholas in surprise. “Master?”
“You wanted to fight, didn’t you?”
Victoria’s face broke into a wide smile. “Yes, Master!”
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Victoria snorted, turning to her opponent with glee. “So, little rat, you are-“
Viola growled, electricity sparking along her tail before she dropped to all fours and sent a crackling stream of electricity at the Gyarados.
Victoria’s sentence was cut off when the attack sunk into her. Her muscles clenched and she began to shake violently, a high pitched scream whistling out of her mouth. After a few seconds the attack faded, leaving Victoria to slump to her knees and crash to the ground.
Nicholas waited a few moments to make sure she was well and truly unconscious before recalling the Gyarados. “Told you, you stubborn girl.”
Surge was shaking his head. “Imagine, leading with a Gyarados. That’s just insulting.”
“She was confident she could take your girls.”
“Ah, giving her a lesson, eh?” Surge chuckled. “I can respect that, challenger. Now let’s start the real fight.”
“Cassidy.” The Kadabra materialized. “Careful. This girl is strong.”
Cassidy surveyed the Pikachu. “Yes, Master.”
“Try to shake her up a bit.”
Cassidy nodded, stepping forwards. As soon as she did Viola let loose another attack and Cassidy whimpered, doing her very best to endure the electricity. When the Pikachu let up Cassidy teleported, locking eyes with Viola. “Gotcha.”
Viola gasped, her eyes unfocusing when Cassidy attacked her mind. After a few seconds she staggered back, furiously rubbing at her skull.
“Alright, Viola, push past this. She’s right in front of you.”
Viola began weaving in place. “Master…”
“Let loose a thunderbolt! Ready! FIRE!”
Cassidy was stepping towards the weaving Pikachu and the electricity caught her completely off guard. She managed to take one more step before collapsing, face down and barely moving.
Nicholas recalled her. “Well. Seems your electricity is stronger than I anticipated.”
Surge was yelling encouragement at his still confused Pikachu, but he looked up when Nicholas spoke. “I don’t believe that for a second, challenger.” He straightened up when it was clear Viola wasn’t improving. “Come on! Show me the reason you thought you could challenge my gym.”
“Here she is.” Nicholas replied, releasing Elizabeth.
Surge grinned when the Nidoqueen materialized. “Finally. A challenge.” He nodded at Viola. “Viola, slam her down!”
“Master?” Viola muttered drunkenly. “The… the cat, she-“
“Cat?” Surge asked incredulously. “There’s no cat, Viola. Hit the Nidoqueen!”
“Got it.” Viola mumbled, turning and charging forwards.
Right into a wall.
Elizabeth just watched the Pikachu fall over. “Master… What just happened?”
“Cassidy got her all confused before you came in.” Nicholas replied, waiting for Surge to recall Viola. “Still, that’s one point for us.”
Surge placed the pokeball back on his belt. “Hmph. I suppose we’ll have to get a bit serious after all.”
Nicholas watched a much more muscular version of the Pikachu materialize and opened his pokedex. “What the…”
“Raichu. The mouse pokegirl. Raichu is the evolved form of Pikachu.”
Nicholas closed his pokedex. “I see. So now you bring out the power, is that right?”
“Rachel, hit her with a Thunderbolt.”
“That won’t do anything.” Nicholas snorted.
Rachel’s entire body lit up, power crackling across her skin before she threw a hand out. The electricity surged down her arm, coalescing into a ball that shot at Elizabeth after a second.
Elizabeth watched the attack scatter across her chest and laughed. “That tickled.”
“Maybe, but I can always count on an overconfident ground-type to give us the initiative.”
Elizabeth’s eyes snapped up and she gasped. Rachel almost seemed to hang in the air, already mid-strike.
Elizabeth barely managed to get her arms up in time to block the Raichu’s kick and howled in pain, flagging back as she felt the tremendous force behind the strike. “The FUCK!”
“You think you’re the first challenger to bring a ground-type to my gym?” Surge hissed. “COME ON, Nicholas. STOP YOUR CHEAP TRICKS AND FIGHT! FIGHT ME LIKE A MAN!”
“Elizabeth.” Nicholas called softly. “She’s a lot stronger than what you saw in Misty’s gym.”
“Yea? Why don’t you tell me something I don’t know, idiot!” Elizabeth’s spines were already standing straight up as she tried to deflect another attack. “Fuck!”
Rachel was dancing in and out of Elizabeth’s range, taunting the Nidoqueen to overreact, when Nicholas spoke again. “Win or lose, Elizabeth.”
Elizabeth was panting from her exertion. “What?”
“Win or lose, Elizabeth. What are you.”
“She loses.” Rachel replied. Elizabeth winced at her tone, hearing the years upon years of fighting that this pokegirl had endured. “Weakling.”
“Elizabeth. Win. Or. Lose.”
Elizabeth slowly nodded to herself as she remembered. “Win or lose. Win or lose.” She raised her eyes to where Rachel stood. “Win or lose, I am a queen.”
Rachel snorted, dancing forwards as her tail began to glow. “Words.”
“You’re right. They’re just words.” Rachel’s eyes widened when Elizabeth snarled, the Nidoqueen suddenly charging to meet her. “Nothing but words. But they are Master’s words.”
The two clashed, Rachel’s tail whipping around and slamming into Elizabeth’s side. There was an unnatural weight behind it and Elizabeth staggered but with the Raichu in range she could counterattack.
Rachel was beginning to drop back and gasped when Elizabeth surged after her, the two so close that their bodies nearly touched. “Wha-“
“You think you’re the only one who can use her Ki?” Elizabeth snarled, energy building in her legs. “AS IF!”
Rachel dodged to the side… directly into the kick that was coming to meet her. The thud that the impact created echoed through the arena, Rachel shooting away from the force.
“It’s just a rib.” Surge called curtly as Rachel bounced across the floor. “Get back up and finish her!”
Rachel screamed, clawing at the ground and finally managing to get her slide under control. Elizabeth braced when the Raichu blitzed towards her with pure fury in her eyes.
“No more banter?” Elizabeth quipped, howling when Rachel slammed into her chest and began clawing at her skin. Most swipes scraped off her scales, but a few found their way across her breasts, opening bloody gashes.
Rachel’s breath blew out of her in a whoosh when Elizabeth drove her knee into the Raichu’s stomach and she stumbled backwards, gasping for air, but just as before Elizabeth stayed on top of her. Rachel had no more air to scream with so when Elizabeth’s leg came up again in another devastating strike the only thing that came out was the cracking of her bones.
Surge didn’t even turn to look as Rachel blasted past him to impact against the wall. “Interesting.” He waited a few seconds before smiling when Rachel slowly got to her feet. “You got any more big hits in you, Nidoqueen?”
Elizabeth’s chest heaved. “How?” She gasped. “How is she-“
“Simple.” Surge taunted. “She’s stronger than you.”
“Elizabeth!” The Nidoqueen jumped at the call, turning to see Nicholas smiling at her. “You’ve fought well. It’s okay if you can’t take her down.”
“No… No!” Elizabeth cried. “Master, I can do it!”
Nicholas smile widened. “Here she comes!”
Elizabeth whirled, her heart quickening when she saw Rachel running towards her. The Raichu was flagging, finally. She winced with every breath. But she wasn’t going down.
Something inside her body broke when Rachel slammed into her but Elizabeth blocked out the pain. Even as the Raichu pummeled her and she could feel darkness threatening to overcome her, she didn’t give up.
Rachel took another short breath, all that she could muster with her shattered ribcage. Below her Elizabeth was still. Finally, she’d-
Elizabeth’s body jerked and Rachel squawked, falling off balance before she felt… something stab into her stomach.
Elizabeth stared up at the surprised Raichu. “Gotcha.” She managed weakly before her eyes finally rolled back and she fainted.
Rachel coughed when she felt Elizabeth’s spikes slide out of her stomach. Shit. She’d relaxed because she thought the battle was over. Master was going to kill her.
“Rachel, report!” Surge barked.
“Sorry, Master.” Rachel muttered before slumping back.
Both tamers recalled their pokegirls and after a few moments Surge began to laugh.
“HAHAHAHAHAHA!” He grinned at Nicholas. “I was warned about you, Nicholas. I was told you were something special. And so I brought in Rachel, one of the pokegirls who earned me this gym. I expected a good fight. And you didn’t disappoint.”
“Wait, she was- you can’t be serious.”
“Oh, but I am.” Surge laughed. “The last tamer who was able to face her was that boy and his monstrous Pikachu. Maybe you’ll meet him one day.” He smiled. “I have another girl ready, but I don’t care. You’ve given us a fight I won’t soon forget. This battle is over; the badge is yours.”
“But if you have another pokegirl…”
“It’s my choice to give out my badge.” Surge replied, walking up to Nicholas and taking his hand in a firm handshake. “Leah would have given your Ivysaur a good match, but this battle was decided when your Nidoqueen stood up to Rachel.”
Nicholas pulled his hand back and stared at the small badge Surge had palmed into his hand. “That’s it?”
“That’s it.” Surge chuckled to himself. “You’ve reminded me of something today, Nicholas. What the fighting spirit of a tamer and his pokegirl is like. Maybe it’s time my girls and I get back in the swing of things.”
Nicholas stared at the other man. “You’re saying I made you think about that?”
“Well, you and your Nidoqueen.” Surge amended. “Good luck out there, Nicholas.” As Nicholas started to turn away he continued. “Next time we meet, I expect to fight you with everything I have.” His eyes were hard when Nicholas looked back. “When we’re not held back by the rules of this arena.”
Nicholas stared at him for a moment before nodding slightly and heading for the door.
Pewter City – Boulder Badge
Cerulean City – Cascade Badge
Vermilion City – Thunder Badge
Dahlia, Ivysaur – Level 26
Ashley, Pidgeotto – Level 23
Elizabeth, Nidoqueen – Level 25
Victoria, Gyarados – Level 23
Cassidy, Kadabra – Level 19
Pewter City – Boulder Badge
Cerulean City – Cascade Badge
Vanessa, Wartortle – Level 26
Petunia, Raticate – Level 24
Hannah, Mankey – Level 24
Riana, Sandshrew – Level 20