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Chapter 18




         Two figures stood at the start of Route 1. It was here that their journey together had begun, and it was fitting that the final stretch began at the same place.


         Dahlia gazed out over the meandering path. “Are you ready, Master?” Nicholas didn’t respond and she glanced at him. “Did Abigail shake you that badly?”


         Nicholas blinked and sighed. “I was really hoping that she’d come around.”


         “She wanted to take her own path, Master. You’re wonderful for helping her.” Dahlia smiled slightly. “And Maka has filled the void she created. She’s an interesting girl.”


         “She is. She’s showing me first hand how incredible pokegirls really are.” He chuckled. “Not even a week out of that tube and she’s nearly speaking just as well as the rest of us.”


         “I wonder about her, Master.” Dahlia mused. “She’s one of very few of her kind. How does that make her feel? Does she think differently from modern pokegirls, or will she develop a brand new way of thinking based on her experiences?”


         “Professor Oak said she’s equivalent to a newly hatched pokegirl.” Nicholas replied. “She may have some ancient instincts, but otherwise she’s just a regular pokegirl.”


         “Her language skills are impressive.” Dahlia conceded. “Alright, Master. Enough talk?”




         As they walked Dahlia tried to discuss strategy, but she quickly fell into simply enjoying the atmosphere with him.


         “Look, Master.” Dahlia giggled and pointed at a watching pokegirl. “A wild Pidgey.”


         Nicholas chuckled. “Remember when Ashley first jumped us?”


         “Yea.” Dahlia gazed at the wary pokegirl. “This one seems a bit more cautious.”


         “I’m glad Ashley was the one we ran into first.” Nicholas replied, continuing past the girl. “It just wouldn’t be the same without her brazen attitude.”


         “No, I suppose not, Master.” Dahlia hurried after him. “Viridian is up ahead.”


         “Yea.” Nicholas turned to her with a smile. “Are you ready?”


         Dahlia smiled back. “I’ve been waiting for this moment for years, Master. I’m ready.”


         “Then let’s go.” Nicholas turned back to the waiting city. “If we win today, we qualify to challenge the Elite Four. The best tamers in Kanto.”


         “And maybe you’ll finally ask Sabrina on a date.” Dahlia teased.

         Nicholas cleared his throat. “Elite Four.”


         “I know she called you, Mas-ter~” Dahlia sang. “What did she say?”


         “Nothing.” Nicholas replied gruffly. “Come on. Focus on the gym.”


         “I’m not letting up.” Dahlia giggled. “After we win, you’re calling her. Got it?”


         “No promises.”


         “Fine.” Dahlia skipped ahead. “Let’s go, let’s go!”


         Nicholas chased her through the streets, glancing around as memories surfaced. That had been where they had first met Elizabeth. Over there, where they had gathered before taking on the forest.


         “Oof. Why’d they have to put the gym up on this little hill?” Dahlia grumbled, pausing at the top and taking Nicholas’ hand. “Got it, Master?”


         “Got it.” Nicholas turned back towards Viridian. “I think they put it up here because it’s above all the other buildings.”


         Dahlia looked out with him. “I guess so. Makes it more important.”


         “Exactly.” Nicholas turned to the door. “No turning back now.”


         They stepped inside and Nicholas braced for the shouting hype man. When it didn’t come, he looked around.


         The man watching him bowed. “Welcome to the Viridian City gym, challenger.”


         Nicholas peered at him. “Hi?”


         “Before you proceed, I must ask. How many badges do you have?”


         “Uh, seven.” Nicholas replied. “This is my last gym.”


         “Good.” The man turned to the dark interior. “Because the leader here is the toughest of all gym leaders. He fights from the shadows, unleashing devastating ground-type attacks on anyone in his path. Not many people know his identity, and he prefers it that way, I hear.”


         Nicholas shivered. “Wow.”


         “Step forwards.” The man nodded at the room. “There are no assistants in this gym. No puzzles, or tests. Just you, and him.”


         Nicholas took a step and watched lights snap on around the room, slowly moving towards the other side but stopping just before they illuminated the opposite tamer’s box.


         “Welcome to-“ Nicholas frowned as the voice paused. Someone had stepped across from him and he could see the lower half of the man stop moving. “You.”


         Nicholas blinked. “Sorry?”


         “You again.” The man spat. “I suppose it was inevitable that you would find me here.”


         “Who are you?” Nicholas asked uneasily. “And how do you know me?”


         “Of course. You can’t see me.” Nicholas gasped when the man stepped into the light. “So you’ve come for the Earth Badge, have you?” Giovanni asked. “Come to face the greatest tamer?”


         “No.” Nicholas stammered. “No, no, you’re not the gym leader. You can’t be.”


         “Why? Because you assumed my boasts were baseless?” Giovanni shook his head. “A pity.”


         Nicholas turned to the door and swallowed when he didn’t see the greeter. “Where’d the other guy go?”


         “Didn’t you hear? It’s just you and me now.” Giovanni raised a pokeball. “Come, Nicholas. Face me! Once more! This time, I’m not holding back.”


         “No.” Nicholas turned back to Giovanni. “I won’t fight the Viridian gym leader.” His eyes narrowed. “But I’ll fight Giovanni. The leader of Team Rocket, and enemy of all pokegirls.”


         Giovanni stared at Nicholas for a few moments. “Very well.” He flipped the ball, throwing out his arm as the entire gym burst to light. “Then come, Nicholas. Come break yourself upon the indestructible ground that is Team Rocket!”


         “Dahlia. Expect each of our opponents to outmatch us.” Nicholas watched a pokegirl materialize. “Do not hesitate. Do not hold back. If we slow down, we will lose.”


         Dahlia growled, staring at the smirking girl. “I won’t let you down.”


         “Let’s see what we’re up against.” Nicholas raised his pokedex.


         “Golem. The megaton pokegirl.”


         Nicholas grimaced. “I don’t like the sound of that.”


         Dahlia crouched, her vines shooting out towards her opponent. The Golem screamed when Dahlia mercilessly cut whatever she could reach, drawing bloody gashes along the Golem’s arms and body. Dahlia was preparing for another hit when the girl threw her arms down, smashing her foot into the ground with a shout.


         “What’s she doing?” Nicholas muttered.


         Dahlia felt the ground beneath her jump and she stumbled, trying to keep her balance as suddenly the entire floor began vibrating. Nicholas caught himself but Dahlia was unable to fight the vibrations and she was thrown to the ground, bashing her face against the floor before getting tossed around like a ragdoll.


         “This is my gym.” Giovanni snarled. “Built to my strengths.”


         “Dahlia, she’s hurt bad. Finish her off!” Nicholas roared.


         Dahlia felt the quakes subsiding and slammed back into the ground on all fours. The Golem choked when she snarled and snaked her vines across the ground to wrap around the girl’s body.


         “That hurt.” Dahlia hissed, tightening her grip as the girl struggled. “But you’ll fix that.”


         Dahlia sighed when her vines began to glow, draining the weakly moving Golem by the second. Giovanni quickly recalled his pokegirl, growling when he saw Dahlia get back to her feet. “Fucking grass-types.”


         A dark-skinned pokegirl materialized and Dahlia shot her vines out again, keen on repeating the same sequence. Nicholas glanced at his pokedex. “Dugtrio. The mole pokegirl.”


         Before Dahlia’s attack could land the girl smashed both hands into the ground, sending a plume of dirt into the air. “Hehehe, you can’t see us!” Dahlia cursed when her vines cut through the cloud of dust and didn’t encounter any resistance. “Oooh, I think we should beat you up, right me? Right?”


         “What are you blabbering about?” Dahlia snarled. She saw a shadow running through the expanding cloud and oriented herself. “There you are.”


         The girl screamed when Dahlia’s vines smashed into her, blowing enough of the cloud away to show her holding onto the Venusaur’s vines with one hand. “I think that’s a great idea.” Nicholas blinked when he saw the girl making talking motions with her free hand. “Yes. I agree.”


         Dahlia coughed when the blowing dust enveloped her. “What the heck is this?” She tugged, feeling the Dugtrio still holding onto her. “Think I can’t hit you, bitch?”


         A euphoric laugh echoed around the gym and Dahlia screamed when the Dugtrio burst into view. “WE HOPED YOU COULD!”


         Dahlia doubled over when the girl sank her fist into her stomach, gagging as she fought not to throw up. The Dugtrio danced back, removing Dahlia’s grip and laughing again. “Can’t hit what you can’t see~ Can’t hit what you can’t-“


         With a roar Dahlia lunged forwards, her grasping hands wrapping around the surprised Dugtrio’s arm. “Gotcha.”


         The Dugtrio screamed in pain when Dahlia focused her Giga Drain technique, viciously ripping the girl’s energy away to fix the damage she had sustained. She frowned when the girl almost immediately went limp and Giovanni’s recall beam took her. “Shit.”


         “Dahlia, are you alright?”


         “I- I couldn’t heal very well, Master.” Dahlia replied, falling back from the flash of red in the middle of the sandstorm. “And this dust, it’s getting in my eyes, and…” She winced when she felt her raw skin rub against itself. “It hurts.”


         “You’ve done more than you needed to.” Nicholas urged. “Do you need to sub out?”


         “I can take another one down.” Dahlia replied, focusing on the shape she could see in the blowing sands. “She won’t hit me.”


         Dahlia screamed when the figure shot through the space between them, a Sandslash coming into view with an unreadable expression on her face. “Too slow.”


         Dahlia was stumbling back when the girl slammed her hand into Dahlia’s face, bringing the Venusaur down to crash into the ground. Dahlia was struggling to get free when she felt the ground beneath her tremble and a moment later the shockwave ripped through her. It was almost as if the earth itself punched her as she was tossed into the air, mercifully unconscious.


         Nicholas recalled her and gazed around the arena. Giovanni had said this was his territory, and he could believe it. With the blowing sand and cracked dirt floor, it looked more like a cave or desert than the interior of a gym.


         Well if the ground was dangerous, he knew who had to come in next.


         Ashley materialized with her wings curled around her body to shelter her from the blowing dust. “Is it my turn, Master?”


         “I’m glad you’ve all learned how to see outside of your pokeballs. Saves time.”


         “She’s trying to hide from me.” Ashley’s eyes zeroed in on the crouching Sandslash. “Pathetic.”


         “Need any help?”


         “I need to stay off the ground. Anything else?”


         “See if you can’t slow her down somehow. This is a battle of attrition, and she’s already winning.”


         “Understood, Master.” Ashley threw her wings out, shooting into the sky and twisting to begin an attack run.


         The Sandslash’s movements were perfectly fluid, slipping through the sand faster than Ashley could dive. She dug her claws into the ground, ripping out chunks of stone that she heaved at the incoming Pidgeot.


         Ashley spun, narrowly avoiding the salvo and crashing into the Sandslash. The girl yelped when Ashley wrapped her wings around her. “The hell are you doing!”


         “Shh, shhh,” Ashley cooed, “isn’t this nice and soft? We don’t have to fight, we can…”


         “You can get off me.” The Sandslash snarled, sinking her claws into Ashley’s arm and throwing the Pidgeot to the ground.


         Ashley whooped and vaulted away, getting back in the air to avoid a follow-up attack. “You call that a hit?”


         “Get down here and I’ll show you how hard I can hit.” The Sandslash spat, ripping another chunk from the floor.


         Ashley took the next missile and laughed when she shrugged off the impact. “You’re so weak!”


         The Sandslash staggered back when Ashley slammed into her. “Yea?” She growled. “So are you.”


         Nicholas looked around at the blowing sands. Ashley couldn’t be dealing with the constant damage much better than Dahlia had, so the Pidgeot needed to win, and fast.


         Ashley swerved to avoid another barrage of stones and hit the Sandslash again. She grimaced as she wheeled back around. The drawn out battle was slowing her down, every hit or attack bringing her closer to exhaustion. The blowing sand wasn’t helping either. She had one, maybe two more good hits in her.


         The Sandslash was panting as she hefted another fistful of rocks. This wasn’t the kind of fight she’d trained for, fruitlessly pelting a bird with rocks. She was better than this.


         Ashley decided as she tucked her wings for one final pass. It didn’t matter how hard the next hit was, she was going to hit back harder. And end this.


         The Sandslash wound up, firing a barrage of stones at the diving Pigeot. Ashley blinked when the rubble sailed away in front of her. “You… missed?”


         The Sandslash gurgled when Ashley crashed into her, weakly pushing back before collapsing. Ashley panted, standing over the girl in confusion. Until the stones impacted against her back.


         Ashley crashed to the ground, screaming as the rockslide forced her flat. She couldn’t move. And the sand, she couldn’t breathe-!


         Both tamers recalled their pokegirls and after a moment Giovanni sketched a bow.


         “There’s something about watching your pokegirls fight, Nicholas.” The crime boss smiled. “Let us continue.”


         Nicholas tsked and reached for Cassidy’s pokeball. “Cassidy, it’s your turn.”


         The Alakazam watched a familiar pokegirl materialize across from her. “Uh oh.” The Marowak banged her club against the ground, growling menacingly at her. “I don’t have a great track record against Marowak, Master.”


         Nicholas chuckled. “You’ve beaten Galina, haven’t you?”


         “Once.” Cassidy replied, raising her hands and focusing on her opponent. “And she looks stronger than Galina.”


         “I hope you’ve enjoyed our opening act.” Giovanni called. “Because now, Nicholas, we will be bringing this show to a close.”


         “Cassidy, MOVE!” Nicholas roared.


         The Marowak charged forwards and Cassidy brought her hands together. She couldn’t let that girl hit her. Not with the massive club the Marowak wielded.


         The Marowak took the beam of rainbow energy head on. Cassidy strained, gritting her teeth as she forced more and more power into the attack. She had to go down. She HAD TO!


         Cassidy gazed in horror when the Marowak burst through the beam. Blood leaked from behind her mask, showcasing the extreme damage the Marowak had endured in order to keep moving. But she was still moving. And now Cassidy was in range.


         Cassidy quickly threw her arms up, bracing as she prepared to teleport, before feeling the hit. The club obliterated her forearms, continuing almost without slowing to impact against the Alakazam’s chest.


         I’ve got massive boobs. Cassidy thought desperately, feeling the club push into her flesh. They’ll cushion the blow.


         She tried to scream when the club crushed her ribcage, shooting back with so much force that Nicholas had to shield his eyes from the wind her flying body created in its wake. Cassidy barely had time to register that her lungs were shredded from the shards of her own bones before she felt the impact when she hit the gym wall.


         Nicholas quickly recalled her, staring in shock at the cracks her body had caused. After a few moments he turned back to Giovanni. “What… the hell?”


         Giovanni sneered. “Next.”


         Flashes of red surrounded Nicholas and he could see the anger on each of his pokegirls’ faces when they materialized.


         “You son of a bitch.” Elizabeth snarled, stomping forwards with Kary looking like she was about to slither out after her. “I should-“


         “STOP.” The girls froze when they heard Nicholas’ command. “Kary, get the fuck back here.”


         Kary turned slowly to look at him before returning to where Victoria seethed. “Master?”


         “Cassidy isn’t dead.” Nicholas stared at Giovanni. “He’s playing by the rules. This time.”


         “That’s right. I am.” Giovanni nodded at where Elizabeth still stood. “Well, tamer? Is this your next sacrifice?”


         “I am no sacrifice.” Elizabeth hissed. “I will destroy you.”


         “Big words,” Giovanni laughed, “from a second-rate queen.”


         “I don’t care.” Giovanni looked surprised when Elizabeth stalked forwards. “I’m weak. In many more ways than you think. But I will still fight for my sisters.” She came to a halt and held out a hand towards the Marowak. “Because I fight for them. And they fight for me.”


         Giovanni’s eyes narrowed. “Drop her.”


         The Marowak was still bleeding but she charged forwards, swinging her massive club around in preparation to hit Elizabeth.


         “Go to hell.” Elizabeth snarled, winding up and landing a devastating kick to the Marowak’s head.


         The girl tumbled backwards as her helmet shattered and sent shards of bone ricocheting around the gym. Elizabeth stared dispassionately at the blood still dripping from the girl’s orifices and walked forwards, water beginning to swirl around her shoulders. “Let’s get you cleaned the fuck up, yea?”


         Giovanni recalled the unmoving Marowak, waiting for Elizabeth’s attack to fade before releasing his own Nidoqueen. “I haven’t felt like this in a very long time.” He gazed over the battlefield to lock eyes with Nicholas. “It has been far too long since any tamer has been able to challenge me like you have.”


         “Glad to help.” Nicholas shot back.


         Giovanni chuckled. “Selene, show this upstart queen your power.”


         The Nidoqueen chuckled darkly as she looked at Elizabeth. “I owe you some pain for what you did to me, runt.”


         “I’ll do it again.” Elizabeth growled.


         “I doubt it.” Selene replied, sending a shockwave through the arena.


         “You know, all of you have been doing this trick.” Elizabeth growled, raising her own foot. “I think I’ve figured it out.”


         Selene gasped when Elizabeth fired her own attack. The two waves clashed, shaking open a wide fissure in the middle of the arena before the energy rebounded and sent spikes of earth shooting into the air.


         “How?” Selene hissed. “This is my Master’s technique! Nobody else should know it.”


         “I learn quick.” Elizabeth retorted, but she looked uneasy, and Selene noticed.


         “If you learn so quickly, then keep up.” The Nidoqueen laughed, slamming her foot into the ground again.


         Elizabeth grimaced, returning the favor, but this time it was obvious that her attempt was weaker. Selene laughed when Elizabeth was thrown to the ground, bouncing away when the vibrations took her. She was starting to chase when the ground in front of her buckled and she slid to a halt. “Wait-“


         The spikes hammered her body, leaving Selene gasping for breath. She fell to her knees as Elizabeth slowly got back up.


         “Told you.” Elizabeth muttered, staggering towards her opponent.


         “That was not my Master’s technique.” Selene gasped, forcing herself back upright and moving towards Elizabeth. “You’re nothing but a second. Rate. Fake.”


         Nicholas winced when Elizabeth tried to kick again and missed. Selene grabbed her leg, throwing her to the ground and stepping over Elizabeth’s panting face. Elizabeth coughed when Selene slammed her foot into her neck, the larger Nidoqueen leaning over to put her weight into the pin. “I’m not falling for that twice.”


         Elizabeth let out a gurgling laugh and Selene’s eyes narrowed, putting more and more of her weight on Elizabeth’s neck until Nicholas recalled her.


         “Kary.” Nicholas said quietly. “I need you to win this.”


         The Dragonair slithered forwards. “I’ll wash her away.”


         “I’m not worried about that Nidoqueen.” Nicholas watched Kary begin to build water. “I’m worried about what’s coming next.”


         Kary stared at Selene. “I’ve defeated that monster before, Master.”


         “Not quite.”


         Kary growled and released the technique, riding the surging wave that appeared behind her. Selene gave her a jaunty grin as the crashing water washed over her, sweeping the Nidoqueen across the floor until she slammed into one of the spikes Elizabeth had caused. Kary fell back to the ground as the water drained through the numerous cracks and holes the battle had caused, waiting for Giovanni to recall Selene and bracing herself for the Kangaskhan that she’d fought before.


         Giovanni slowly raised his sixth pokeball. “I suppose it comes down to this.” He flicked the ball up, catching it and triggering the release with a flourish. “Saiya. No mercy.”


         Kary frowned when a massive girl appeared. That wasn’t who she had fought before.


         Nicholas hissed. “That’s the Rhydon.”


         “So it comes down to this, Nicholas.” Giovanni nodded at where Victoria stood. “Your dragons, and my most powerful pokegirl.”


         “We’ll drown her.” Victoria hissed. “You and your rocks can’t swim.”


         Giovanni laughed. “Try it.”


         Kary snorted, throwing her hands out as water shimmered behind her again. “Fine. I will.”


         As Kary let the torrent of water loose, she felt herself growing uneasy. The Rhydon wasn’t moving. At all. She just stood there, waiting for the attack. Wasn’t she going to defend? To try and lessen the damage? There was no way she could withstand this.




         As the water battered her, Saiya began to laugh.


         Kary felt a twinge of fear at the sound and tried to pull back, but it was too late. Saiya’s knees bent and the Rhydon leapt forwards, her horn beginning to glow. Kary felt the horn puncture her stomach and desperately grabbed at Saiya, but the Rhydon shook her off. All Kary could do was scream.


         Victoria watched in horror as Saiya rode Kary to the ground, impaling the squirming Dragonair on her horn. With a flick Saiya threw Kary away, turning towards Victoria and roaring her challenge as the Dragonair went still.


         Victoria barely registered the flash of red when Nicholas recalled Kary. She didn’t even hear him when he began talking to her. All she cared about was the staring pokegirl in front of her.


         She’d tried to kill Kary.


         She’d tried to kill her mate.


         “VICTORIA!” Nicholas shook his head when the Gyarados didn’t respond. “Victoria, snap out of it!” When she still didn’t move he got in front of her, yanking her head down so that she had no choice but look into his eyes.


         “Victoria.” He felt her attention snap to him and he swallowed. Her rage was nearly a physical thing at this point, and her red eyes were visibly glowing with suppressed power. “Listen to me. I know you love Kary.” He couldn’t help but smile when Victoria blinked. “Yea, I’m not dumb. I’ve seen what you two have been getting up to. So I’m telling you something, right now. It’s okay, Victoria. It’s okay to let go.” He held her cheek and stared deep into the Gyarados’ eyes. “Be who she knew you could be.”


         Nicholas quickly jumped away when the growls began. Victoria raised her head back to Saiya, the sounds ripping past her clenched teeth. Saiya was completely relaxed until Victoria’s face twisted and she screamed.


         Saiya took a half step back when the murderous aura swept over her. “Yea? You want to do this again?” She bent down and scooped up some large rocks when Victoria charged.


         Saiya swallowed as the missiles impacted and Victoria shook off the damage, charging directly at the Rhydon. Saiya screamed when Victoria grabbed her, driving her knee into Saiya’s stomach before landing a kick to her jaw that sent the sturdy ground-type staggering backwards.


         Saiya retaliated by lowering her head, but Victoria wasn’t going to let her finish the attack. Before the Rhydon could gather power in her horn Victoria was back on her, slamming her shin in Saiya’s face and sending her staggering back even farther.


         Saiya turned and spat blood, feeling where Victoria’s strike had knocked a tooth loose. “Bitch dragon.” She spat again to clear her mouth and turned to Victoria. “Just try to drown me if you think that’ll work.”


         Victoria didn’t make a sound as she charged back in, hammering Saiya with her fists and feet even though the constant impacts against the Rhydon’s tough body had broken open her own skin. Blood streamed down her limbs as she continued to attack. She was a single-minded machine, intent solely on beating down the flagging Rhydon.


         Saiya finally retaliated, blocking Victoria’s arm and bashing her forehead into the Gyarados’ face. Victoria reeled back for a moment before continuing her assault, blood spraying from her broken nose with every breath she took. Saiya tried again, jabbing Victoria’s stomach, and screamed when the Gyarados caught her hand and sank her teeth into the Rhydon’s fingers.


         Saiya tore her fingers away, cradling the useless hand, and stared hatefully into Victoria’s eyes. “I am Master Giovanni’s strongest pokegirl.” She hissed. “I will NOT. Be DEFEATED. By someone. Like. YOU!”


         Victoria finally felt a pang of exhaustion pierce the blood rage she had fallen into. Her opponent wasn’t down yet. She needed to fix that before she couldn’t fight anymore.


         Giovanni watched Victoria slam another devastating strike into Saiya. The ferocity with which this tamer’s pokegirls fought, the way he directed them… He looked up at Nicholas. Something about the way this tamer stood… It reminded him of another time.


         “Don’t give her a chance, Victoria!” Nicholas screamed. “Blow her away!”


         Saiya laughed, wiping blood from her eyes. “You can try.”


         Victoria spoke for the first time and Saiya felt her blood run cold at the complete lack of emotion in the Gyarados’ voice. “I will not try.” She raised her arms as wind began to howl around her, the Twister cutting into Saiya while Victoria continued to focus energy.


         Saiya screamed and charged, desperately pumping energy into her horn, but it was already over. Victoria slammed her hands together, feeling the water around her streaming into the growing ball around her arms. As Saiya got close, she fired.


         The Hydro Pump tore through the short distance between the two pokegirls, lifting Saiya off the ground and blasting her all the way to the opposite wall. Giovanni whirled when Saiya hit, staring at the cracks that had begun to radiate from the impact point.


         Victoria finally let off her attack, gasping when she felt her rage leave her. She was tired. So tired…


         Giovanni gazed at his unconscious Rhydon. “Saiya…”


         “That’s for Galina!” Nicholas roared. “That’s for Kary, and Sabrina, and every city and tamer you’ve terrorized! That’s for KANTO, you heartless son of a bitch!”


         “That was a truly intense fight.” Giovanni exhaled, recalling Saiya before turning to look at Nicholas and Victoria. “I can’t deny it any longer.” He shook his head. “I’ve lost to you. I was wrong about many things, it seems.”


         “What are you doing.” Nicholas watched Giovanni step forwards. “Hey, stop. Your girls are down, so-“


         “Don’t try to arrest me, Nicholas.” Giovanni stopped next to Victoria and glanced at the panting Gyarados. “You think I have only six pokegirls?”


         Victoria slowly looked up at the eyes watching from the shadows. “…No.”


         “I’m merely giving you this.” Giovanni held out the badge to Nicholas. “You’ve earned it, and more.”


         “I don’t want your stupid badge.” Nicholas snarled, slapping Giovanni’s hand away. “I don’t want anything from the leader of Team Rocket.”


         Giovanni had let his hand fall and now he stared off into the distance. “I wasn’t always that. At one time I found joy in battle, just as you do.” A few minutes passed before he hooked his other hand under his suit jacket. Nicholas watched as Giovanni pulled it off, discarding the emblazoned clothing to the side. “Maybe it’s time I gave up. Rediscover that joy, perhaps.” Nicholas watched Giovanni slowly raise his hand again. “Once upon a time, I was only the Viridian gym leader, Nicholas. Will you accept a hard-won badge from him?”


         “Taking a uniform off changes nothing.”


         “I’m done.” Giovanni replied. “I’m retiring. Team Rocket is disbanded.” He raised his hand slightly higher. “Take it.”


         Nicholas slowly reached out, accepting the Earth Badge. “If you’re retiring, then… what will you do now?”


         “I’ll find a new path.” Giovanni stepped back and his Kangaskhan appeared from the darkness. “Perhaps dedicate myself to training again. I was the greatest, once. I intend to be that again.” He nodded to Nicholas. “Let us meet again, tamer. Grow stronger for me so that when we do, I can prove that I have regained my crown.”


         Nicholas raised his hand when Giovanni flicked something towards him. “What’s this?”


         “That is a TM. For a technique I developed, Earthquake. It is the premier ground-type attack.” He shook his head. “It’s a fitting gift for one such as you, who dares to challenge the pokegirl league.”


         Nicholas nodded slightly. “Thank you.”


         “Now go!” Giovanni roared. “Defeat the Four, and show this league your power. I’ll be waiting, Nicholas. We’ll fight again.”


         Nicholas turned to the door when Giovanni disappeared into the shadows.







Tamer:Nicholas Topolski


         Pewter City – Boulder Badge

         Cerulean City – Cascade Badge

         Vermilion City – Thunder Badge

         Celadon City – Rainbow Badge

         Saffron City – Marsh Badge

         Fuchsia City – Soul badge

         Cinnabar Island – Volcano Badge

         Viridian City – Earth Badge

Active Harem:

         Dahlia, Venusaur – Level 49 (Alpha)

         Ashley, Pidgeot – Level 47

         Elizabeth, Nidoqueen – Level 48

         Victoria, Gyarados – Level 50

         Cassidy, Alakazam – Level 48

         Kary, Dragonair – Level 49

Inactive Harem:

         Galina, Marowak – Level 35

         Sasha, Ditto – Level 31

         Maka, Kabutops – Level 45







         Nicholas gazed into the night sky.


         What had come over him back there? He’d forced them into a battle, not a gym battle, but a battle for their lives. Cassidy had almost died. Kary had been even closer. And he hadn’t stopped, hadn’t tried to help, just recalled them and sent the next into battle.


         Was he a good tamer?


         A while later, Dahlia found him lying down watching the stars.


         “So there you are, Master.” She got down, snuggling against him. “We’ve been looking for you.”


         “Sorry.” Nicholas murmured, reaching his hand up to stroke her hair. “I think I needed some time by myself.”


         “Well we need time with you.” Dahlia replied, gently nuzzling his neck. “Please, Master?”


         Nicholas continued stroking her. “Do you think we should stop?”


         “Huh?” Dahlia turned to look at him. “What are you talking about?”


         “This league challenge, this fighting.” His fingers tightened in her hair. “I’m hurting you.”


         He could feel Dahlia’s arms wrap around him. “You aren’t hurting us, Master. You are empowering us. Without you, none of us would be as strong as we are.”


         “Yea, but isn’t it enough? Our fights… Cassidy could have died. Kary had a hole through her body!”


         “That’s simply how battling is.”


         “Like hell it is.” Nicholas growled. “Our fights have been getting more and more dangerous. I feel like every battle we get into these days ends up with one of you seriously injured. I can’t believe that you enjoy having your bones broken and body cut apart.”


         “Of course not. There are very few pokegirls who enjoy pain.” Dahlia rested her head on his chest. “But all pokegirls enjoy battling. It’s what we live for, Master. And we all hope beyond hope that we will have a Master who can keep us focused on our goals.”


         “What goals?”


         “To become stronger.” Dahlia replied simply. “Every one of us, we dream of becoming stronger. The Professor used to talk about how pokegirls have an extreme ability to absorb battle experience and grow just by watching fights, not even needing to participate in them. We’re designed to fight. It’s what pokegirls do.”


         “But you get hurt.”


         “Yes. We get hurt.” Dahlia raised her head so she could look into his eyes. “We get hurt. We get broken. Many times, we are beaten nearly to death. But we learn from that. We grow. And the next time, we do a little better. Over, and over, until we no longer get hurt. We no longer are beaten.” She placed a finger on his nose. “But without you, Master, without our leader, our tamer, we would lose focus. Without you, we would never get better. We would never stop getting hurt.”


         “This all sounds like you’re just trying to make me feel better.”


         Dahlia shook her head slightly. “No, Master. We are your pack, your harem. And yes, I understand that you never wanted me to say this again. But there is some truth in it.” She kissed him gently before sitting up. “We are not human. We are monsters, according to humanity. Without humans, we become like animals. Fit only to fight.” Her eyes bored into his. “Without you, Master, we would know nothing but pain. It is because of you that we can grow beyond it. And so we suffer our little pain gladly, and do anything to keep you safe, because without you we are nothing.”


         Nicholas let out a sigh. “Hi, Alpha.”


         Dahlia broke into a gentle smile. “Hi, Master.”


         “You’re definitely not just trying to make me feel better, because that hurt to hear you say.” Nicholas snorted. “But I accept that there is a tiny bit of truth to it, even if I don’t agree with it.”


         “Have I answered your question, Master?” Dahlia asked quietly.


         Nicholas nodded. “I think you have.” He got to his feet, holding out a hand to help Dahlia up. “We’re not stopping.”


         Dahlia kissed him. “Good.”


         “Are the others alright?”


         “Cassidy needs rest. Kary is livid. The others are doing well.” Dahlia fell in behind him as Nicholas headed back to the tent. “But before you come back, Master.”


         Nicholas glanced at her. “Hm?”


         “You have a call to make.”


         Nicholas stared at her for a moment. “You’re not giving up on that, are you.”


         “You have every badge now.” Dahlia replied with a smile. “And you have no excuses anymore. I’ve explained to you how even our own strength is due to your efforts.”


         Nicholas rubbed his eyes. “We haven’t beaten the Elite Four.”


         “Call her.”


         “Fine.” Nicholas growled. “But it’s late. She might be asleep.”


         “Call her anyways.”


         “Fine.” Nicholas pulled out his pokedex. “I’ll join you in a few minutes.”


         “Take your time.” Dahlia kissed him one last time and walked back to the tent.


         Nicholas looked down at the pokedex for a while, lost in thought. He had feelings for Sabrina, but she didn’t seem to have the same. He was just a tamer, and she was a powerful gym leader. No matter how he thought about it it didn’t work. Calling would be a mistake.


         He dialed Sabrina’s number.


         Please don’t pick up. Please don’t... Nicholas swallowed when the call connected. The video feed was jumpy for a few seconds before Sabrina’s face came into view. “Nicholas! How are you doing, why the late call?”


         “Um, well, I was just winding down and... figured I’d say hi.” Nicholas replied. “Since it’s such a beautiful night...”


         Sabrina listened to him trail off. “And?”


         “Never mind.”


         “Well, I was just getting ready for bed, but I’m happy to spend some time talking.” Sabrina giggled. “It’s our one week check-in call, after all.”


         Nicholas blinked. “Our what?”


         “One week after we first met, you called me.” Sabrina said. “And one week after our lunch... meeting, you came back around with breakfast. Now it’s been another week or so since you left.”


         Nicholas put the pokedex down next to him. “Is it really that consistent?”


         “It is.” Sabrina said with a smile. “I’m starting to get used to it.”


         “I guess staying in touch every week is... good.” Nicholas muttered. “For friends.”


         “I wish you’d call more.”


         Nicholas did his best to ignore his pounding heart. “I’ll try, but after taking our eighth badge we’re going to be heading straight to the Indigo Plateau. I’m not sure how far away it is, and I might not be in touch for another week.”


         “To get to the Plateau you’ll need to pass through Victory Road. It’s the final test before the Elite Four.” Sabrina was shuffling about with her pokedex propped up on something. “It’s not easy. You’ll have to put your own skills to the test in more than just battle. And your pokegirls will be fighting hard.”


         “I think we can do it.” Nicholas glanced down at the feed. He wasn’t sure what Sabrina was doing, but he quickly looked away when he saw her in her pajamas. “Um, my Alpha gave me a pep talk. I can’t let them down.”


         “That’s a good outlook to have.”


         “Yea, well, I feel like they’re unfairly putting me on a pedestal. I’m just their tamer, I’m not the one who pushed past her own doubts to become a powerful fighter. That was Victoria. I’m not the one who gave up her ambitions for the good of the harem. That was Ashley.”


         “But they each have a common thread.” Nicholas looked back down at Sabrina’s tone. “They have you, don’t they?”


         Nicholas struggled to respond. Sabrina had taken a seat and her pajama top, it... he forced himself to look at her face. There was no way she was doing that intentionally. She’d probably just sat on the end of it and drawn it down. That was it. That... that was all it was.


         “I guess.” He finally managed.


         “And you’re one to talk about pedestals.” Sabrina teased gently. “You’ve had me on one since the day we met.”


         “That’s different.” Nicholas replied quietly. “You’re a gym leader.”


         “We’ve had this conversation before.”


         Nicholas sighed and leaned back, out of sight of the pokedex camera. “Yea. I guess we have. It’s just a job, bla, bla…”


         “I don’t think you give yourself enough credit.” Sabrina’s voice said. “You just earned your eighth badge, right? You’re probably as powerful as I am. Honest power, Nicholas. You’re just not willing to accept it.”


         “I’ve been a tamer for less than a year.” Nicholas replied drily. “How could I accept that I’m as powerful as you are? You’ve been training since you were at least fifteen.”


         “One year, ten years, it doesn’t matter.” Sabrina replied. “What matters is the will of the tamer. That is what pokegirls take strength from.”


         “Then you’ve got me beat there too.”


         “I don’t know if I do.” Sabrina still couldn’t see him on the video feed but she leaned towards the camera anyways. “Nicholas, every tamer is different, and what measures strength is different for everyone. For some, they have physical strength. They are big, or intimidating, or they can match some weaker pokegirls. They use that to promote competition. Some tamers are charismatic. They know exactly what to say, and what will get their harem to fight tooth and nail for them. They even can charm pokegirls to join them just from their words alone. Some are smart. They are the ones who act as tacticians above anything else, using their skills to create and implement training plans that keep their harem growing ever stronger. They know exactly what to do in every situation.”


         “What are you?”


         “Well, there’s more than just three categories, but I’d say I’m intellectual.” Sabrina replied. “What do you think you are?”


         “I don’t fit any of those categories.” Nicholas tore up a bit of grass and flung it into the air. “I’m nobody.”


         “No. You’re not.” Sabrina replied firmly. “You don’t think you fit into any of those categories because you fit into all of them, Nicholas. You are a dangerous tamer to go against because your opponents will never be able to know what your pokegirls will do. Will they fight with brute strength? Will they strategize, and form traps? Or will they play mind games, lowering their opponent’s guard before they strike? You’re unpredictable. You and your harem. And that is what makes you strong.”


         Nicholas frowned at the sky. “Where’s all this coming from? Our gym battle?”


         “All of your gym battles.” Sabrina watched him come back into frame with a surprised look. “I’ve been asking around since we met. You have a lot of fans, did you know that?”




         “Misty, Brock, and Matis, to start with.” Sabrina replied. “Erika wouldn’t stop singing your praises. Blaine wouldn’t stop making puns, and he only gets that way when he’s excited. And most importantly, when I called Gary Oak… He said something very specific.”




         “He reminds me of my old friend.” Sabrina replied. “That’s what he said.”


         Nicholas frowned. “Old friend? Who?”


         “A tamer that rose beyond everything Kanto and Johto had to offer.” Sabrina replied. “He’s beaten all of us at full strength, and it still wasn’t enough.”


         “Where is he now? Why isn’t he Champion?”


         “Because he wanted more.” Sabrina said. “He vanished years ago along with his harem. Maybe Gary knows where. I don’t.”


         “So I’m being compared to some super-tamer.” Nicholas snorted and dropped back onto the grass. “Great.”


         “Nicholas-“ Sabrina sighed. “That’s not a bad thing. It means people think you’re an extraordinary tamer.”


         “No, it means I have more room to disappoint them.” Nicholas retorted. “But… thanks, for at least trying to make me feel better.” He gazed into the starry sky. “I’m glad I called.”


         Sabrina gazed at the empty screen. “Me too.”


         “I should get to bed. The girls will want to cuddle and stuff after our gym battle.”


         “Yea, I was heading that way myself.” Sabrina said. “Look, Nicholas… Will you give me a call tomorrow? Before you enter Victory Road?”


         “I guess I can do that.”


         “I’ll be waiting.”


         She let out her breath when the connection dropped.


         “How’d it go, Mistress?”


         Sabrina looked up to see Diana watching her from the doorway. “Sorry, Dia. I got distracted.”


         Diana smiled. “I know, Mistress. You get distracted a lot these days.”


         Sabrina blushed and looked down at her pokedex. “What do I do? I’m waiting, Diana. I’m waiting and giving it time. But it feels like… like there isn’t any time left. He’s almost to the Indigo Plateau. What will he do once he defeats Gary?”


         “You’re sure he will?”


         “There is no doubt in my mind.” Sabrina replied. “And when he does he’ll be swept away in more than we were, back when we defeated the Elite Four. He’ll slip out of my fingers. Maybe forever.”


         “You’re waiting for him to say something, right?” Diana asked. “Maybe he’s doing the same.”


         Sabrina blinked. “Waiting… for me?”


         “He speaks of you with nothing but awe, Mistress.” Diana said. “I have heard it in every conversation you have. He doesn’t want to lose you any more than you want to lose him.” She beckoned and Sabrina joined her in the doorway. “Maybe that’s why he hasn’t made the first move. He’s afraid that if he does, you’ll reject him, and you’ll slip through his fingers.”


         Sabrina let Diana kiss her. “That… makes sense.”


         “So say something when he calls-“


         “No.” Sabrina murmured. “No, not tomorrow. But we’ll talk more then.” She returned the kiss, fondling Diana and pushing her down the hall. “Tonight I should be focusing on you, Alpha.”


         Diana returned the attention and brought her lips to Sabrina’s ear. “We’ll leave right after breakfast, Mistress.”


         “Get out of my head.” Sabrina giggled as the two vanished into her bedroom.







         Nicholas stared up at the towering gate in front of them.


         “This building is where we need to go?” He muttered.


         “I think so, Master.” Dahlia was checking the map on his pokedex while the rest of the harem loosely circled them. “It says to go north from here.”


         Nicholas pushed the doors open. “Then let’s do it.”


         “Ho, Kanto tamer!” A guard raised one hand when Nicholas stepped inside. “Beyond me lies Victory Road, and the Indigo Plateau. You must display mastery to proceed. Tell me, do you have the Boulder Badge?”


         “Yea.” Nicholas took his pokedex back from Dahlia and slid open the badge compartment. “I have all of them.”


         “I only require the Boulder Badge.” The guard replied, stepping aside with a bow. “Please continue.”


         Nicholas walked through the building, looking around at the various hallways before exiting again. Once outside he could see another gate nearby. This guard asked for the Cascade Badge, and the next asked for the Thunder Badge. Nicholas came to a halt in front of another gate standing on the edge of a large lake.


         “Ho, Kanto tamer.” The guard said. “To pass you must have the Rainbow Badge.”


         “Yea, right here.” Nicholas said, stepping past the guard and looking out over the water. “There’s another arch… in the middle of the lake?”


         The guard glanced at him. “Simple to get to for a tamer such as yourself, I hope.”


         “Kary, Victoria.” Nicholas recalled the others and grabbed hold of Victoria’s back. “Let’s go.”


         They passed through two gates in the water before stepping onto the far banks. Nicholas gazed around uneasily at the unkempt area and released the rest of the harem again. “Girls, there’s a lot of cover around here.”


         Dahlia stepped forwards. “Allow me, Master.”


         The group shielded their eyes when the Venusaur’s vines slashed out, bits of grass flying through the air as she cleared a path. They continued forwards through another gate, only a single wild pokegirl making herself known.


         “Hold, Kanto tamer.” The last guard held up his hand. “Beyond me lies your final test, Victory Road. But to enter you must show your mastery of all eight Kanto gyms. Tell me. Do you possess the Earth Badge?”


         “I do.” Nicholas held up Giovanni’s badge, letting it catch the light. “I have all eight.”


         “Then step past me, tamer.” The guard bowed and stepped to the side to allow the group access to a yawning cave entrance. “And enter your final test.”


         Nicholas played with his pokedex as they approached the cave. “Hold on. I… told Sabrina I’d call her before going in.”


         Dahlia glanced at him as the others shared grins. “Then call, Master. We’ll move forwards once you are ready.”







Tamer:Nicholas Topolski


         Pewter City – Boulder Badge

         Cerulean City – Cascade Badge

         Vermilion City – Thunder Badge

         Celadon City – Rainbow Badge

         Saffron City – Marsh Badge

         Fuchsia City – Soul badge

         Cinnabar Island – Volcano Badge

         Viridian City – Earth Badge

Active Harem:

         Dahlia, Venusaur – Level 50 (Alpha)

         Ashley, Pidgeot – Level 47

         Elizabeth, Nidoqueen – Level 48

         Victoria, Gyarados – Level 50

         Cassidy, Alakazam – Level 48

         Kary, Dragonair – Level 49

Inactive Harem:

         Galina, Marowak – Level 35

         Sasha, Ditto – Level 31

         Maka, Kabutops – Level 45



Tamer:Michael Thieme


         Pewter City – Boulder Badge

         Cerulean City – Cascade Badge

         Vermilion City – Thunder Badge

         Celadon City – Rainbow Badge

         Fuchsia City – Soul Badge

         Cinnabar Island – Volcano Badge

         Saffron City – Marsh Badge

         Viridian City – Earth Badge


         Vanessa, Blastoise – Level 53

         Tamama, Exeggutor – Level 52

         Hannah, Primeape – Level 53

         Riana, Sandslash – Level 53

         Madeline, Fearow – Level 50

         Kura, Ninetales – Level 51