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Kary stared down Sharra. Both Dragonite were poised to attack, but Sharra had her back to the wall. Kary was relaxed. She still had Ashley to back her up.
“Make your move, whelp.”
Kary smiled. “You sound scared.”
Sharra’s eyes narrowed and she began to hiss. “I have watched you tear through my sisters like paper. I have watched, trapped by my Master’s rules. I am here now. You are the one who should be afraid.”
“Then charge me.” Kary spread her arms slightly. “Use the technique that took down my lover.” Her own eyes narrowed. “But you won’t, will you? Because it embraces our rage too tightly. It is a risk. One you know if you take, you will regret.”
Both shimmered with the trapped power of their techniques, looking like two sides of the same coin. The tension between the two dragons stifled everything else in the room.
“SHARRA!” Lance roared, throwing his arm forwards. “FREEZE HER SOLID!”
The moment of indecision on Sharra’s face was all Kary needed and she blitzed forwards. Sharra scrambled to form the technique Lance had ordered, but she was reacting to Kary’s attack. Kary grinned as her claws began to glow. Her Master had trusted in her own instincts. Sharra’s had fallen to his human hubris.
Sharra screamed when Kary ripped her glowing claws through her body, but as devastating as the attack was, the other Dragonite still held on. Kary was wheeling back around when the beam caught her, punching a hole through her new wings before playing across her body. Kary roared in pain as she crashed to the ground, struggling to move as the ice began creeping up her body.
“Down.” Sharra rasped, one hand attempting to stem the blood dripping from her wounds, the other continuing to send ice shooting into Kary. “And. Stay. DOWN.”
Nicholas slid his eyes shut when Kary was encased by the ice. It was happening again. He readied her pokeball.
“And the dragon master-“ Lance stopped when the ice around Kary began to glow orange. “-what?”
With a scream Kary’s flamethrower burst free and washed over Sharra. The Dragonite’s piercing screams echoed through the arena as the girl herself fell from the sky, crashing to the ground in a cloud of dust. With a snapping of the ice Kary forced herself to her feet, one wing in tatters and uncontrollable shivers shaking her body. But she stood proudly, staring down at her unmoving opponent.
Lance recalled Sharra in shock, staring at the battered Dragonite in front of him. “I… lost?”
Nicholas recalled Kary and took hold of Ashley’s pokeball. “Is that it? Is it over?”
Slowly Lance began to laugh. “That’s it. I hate to admit it, Nicholas, but you… you are truly a pokegirl master. You have defeated my dragons, and earned yourself a spot in the Hall of Fame.”
“I’m not done though, am I?”
Lance blinked. “Oh?”
“Isn’t there someone else I need to challenge?” Nicholas asked. “I don’t want to be in the Hall of Fame. I want to be the Champion.”
Lance slowly nodded his head. “So be it. Then continue, challenger, and see the true power of the pokegirl league.”
Nicholas took only enough time to heal everyone before stepping past Lance and ascending the stairs behind the dragon tamer. It was strangely dark until he took the first step. Instantly a pair of spotlights came to life beside him, and with every few steps, a new set triggered. Finally Nicholas stepped into the largest arena yet, ringed by half-full stands.
He was looking around at first, picking out the faces of the crowd, and didn’t notice the figure standing in front of him. When he did he gasped. “Michael?”
The other man didn’t turn, completely focused on the arena. Nicholas looked further and his eyes widened.
Vanessa was spraying jets of water at a flying pokegirl and as Nicholas watched he realized it was a Charizard. With a roar the draconic pokegirl spun from the sky, ducking beneath Vanessa’s water streams and opening a nasty slash on the Blastoise’s chest.
“Vanessa, fill the sky! Don’t let her dodge your cannons!”
Vanessa settled back, the protrusions under her shell retreating before she raised her hands. All at once water blasted across the arena, smothering the flying Charizard. Vanessa yelped when the wall of water burst apart to reveal the Charizard flying directly at her and she desperately began to hunker behind her shell.
Flames licked from the Charizard’s mouth and she roared, a wall of fire spewing from her jaws and engulfing the Blastoise.
“VANESSA!” Michael screamed. “HANG IN THERE!”
The fire cleared to reveal the Blastoise still standing and Michael breathed out in relief. “We can do this, Vanessa!” He blinked when the Blastoise didn’t respond. “Vanessa?”
Nicholas watched as Vanessa keeled over to a roar from the crowd. “The battle is over!” A voice yelled. “The Champion defends his title once again!”
Nicholas saw the forcefields around the arena drop and he ran forwards. “Mike!”
Michael turned and blinked. “Who…? Nicholas?”
“I wasn’t expecting to see you here!”
“Same to you.” Michael turned away. “Sorry. I have to go thank him for the battle.”
Nicholas watched Michael and Gary meet in the center of the arena, the men exchanging a few words before Gary turned to beckon Michael towards a doorway. “Hey-“
“You’re the next challenger, yes?” Nicholas whirled to see a man watching him. “The Champion will be just a few minutes.”
“Yea, but that’s my friend, I wanted to-“
“You should be worried about your battle.” The man replied. “Your friend was an excellent tamer, but even he didn’t make it past the Champion’s fourth pokegirl.”
Nicholas swallowed. “Really?”
“Really. Prepare yourself, challenger.”
Nicholas felt his trepidation grow as the minutes ticked on, some figures moving about as they fixed any damage the arena had sustained. Finally Gary reappeared, but Michael was nowhere to be seen.
“We’re ready for you, challenger.” The announcer said.
Nicholas slowly walked forwards, coming to a halt in front of Gary. The man grinned. “We knew this day would come, Nicholas.”
“I heard you had some trouble with Lorelei before hitting your stride.”
Gary smiled. “And I can tell that you’re focused on this battle.”
“I’m here to take your title.” Nicholas replied. “I can’t lose concentration now.”
Gary’s face split into a grin. “So be it, Nicholas. As the Champion of the Indigo League, I accept your challenge!”
“Tamers, take your positions.” Nicholas turned and walked to his side, taking one last look around the empty arena. This was it. Everything they’d done had led to this.
He half closed his eyes, taking a few calming breaths. They would need him to be focused. They would be relying on him to cover their backs. He opened his eyes again and hefted a pokeball.
He was ready.
“Shit.” Nicholas spat as the pokegirls materialized. He’d chosen to lead with Dahlia, and the Pidgeot across from them was going to be a major issue. “Dahlia. There’s no cover in here. Make some.”
Dahlia frowned. “Master?”
“The floor, break it! It’s too open!”
Dahlia slammed her hands into the ground as she understood. The Pidgeot was winging towards her when her vines shuddered, swelling as Dahlia pumped energy into them, and the smooth landscape erupted in a writhing mass of green.
The Pidgeot barely avoided taking a swipe and pivoted, wheeling around to target Dahlia’s open side. Dahlia screamed when the avian girl’s talons dug into her body, ripping away in a spray of red as the Venusaur struggled to recover the energy she had used to turn the flat arena floor into a tangled mess of debris.
“When you first met Kyrie, your… was she an Ivysaur then?” Nicholas looked around in confusion before noticing the speaker at the base of his protective box. “Your Ivysaur would have never been able to take a hit from her. And yet she seems to be ready to take another.” Nicholas looked over at Gary’s side of the arena to see the man speaking. “You’re a dangerous tamer. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you came from.” Gary raised his hand. “VALKYRIE, MAKE SURE SHE NEVER RECOVERS!”
“No mercy, huh?” Nicholas growled. “Dahlia, brace!”
Dahlia had finally gotten her feet back under her when Valkyrie came in for another pass. The Pidgeot’s wings snapped forwards and for a moment, just a moment, nothing happened. Then the hurricane blasted through the air and engulfed Dahlia.
The winds were so strong Dahlia felt herself lifted a few inches off the ground. Without being able to use her bulk to brace herself she flew backwards, slamming into one of the spires she had only just created. What had been meant to be cover now was a weapon that Valkyrie used to pin the Venusaur, bludgeoning her with the force of the wind until Dahlia managed to throw herself to the side and spin away.
Nicholas raised her pokeball and recalled the gasping Venusaur, sparing a glance at the referee when he did. When the man didn’t call the point he grinned and released Elizabeth. “Clip her wings.”
Elizabeth’s eyes flashed and she snarled when Valkyrie used the opening her release created to get an uncontested hit in.
“Clip her wings? What’s she going to do?” Gary taunted.
“Elizabeth and Ashley have been rivals ever since they met.” Nicholas replied quietly, refusing to fall for Gary’s bait. “Now be silent, unless you want to lose.”
Gary’s cocky smile faded when he heard Nicholas’ tone. “VALKYRIE! GET OUT OF THE AIR!”
“Too late.” Nicholas whispered.
Elizabeth grabbed one of the jutting pieces and focused, training her full attention on the banking Pidgeot. Clip her wings, huh. She was going to do much more than that.
This was everything she had worked for. Everything she had wanted since meeting Master Nicholas. She wasn’t going to fail him. Not now.
The beam of crackling power that shot from in front of Elizabeth’s mouth skewered Valkyrie cleanly. The Pidgeot didn’t even scream, tumbling from the sky with her body smoking. Gary recalled her when she hit the floor, all trace of his former attitude gone. Now he looked like Nicholas did, the two tamers fully invested in the arena between them.
“You warned me.” Gary said.
“I warned you before.” Nicholas replied.
Gary nodded slightly and raised another pokeball. “You did.”
“Elizabeth-“ Nicholas’ command was cut off by the pokegirl that materialized. “-oh boy.”
Elizabeth felt a twinge of fear when she saw the Alakazam levitate off the ground. Why did it have to be both Ashley and Cassidy?
“Return-“ Nicholas swore when Elizabeth was thrown through the air and crashed through a pillar of concrete. The Nidoqueen was feebly stirring when the Alakazam teleported on top of her, the air itself around the two pokegirls warping from her power. Elizabeth wordlessly screamed, slumping over before sprawling motionless on the ground.
“Circe, finish her off!” Nicholas heard Gary roar.
“She’s down.” Circe replied coolly. “No Nidoqueen could survive-“
“I can.” Elizabeth rasped.
Circe fell to what she thought was a safe distance when Elizabeth’s trembling hand rose, but her focus on the Nidoqueen had blinded her to her surroundings. With a motion the pillars around her shook before crashing inwards to crush the screaming Alakazam. Unfortunately with how weakened she was, Elizabeth’s attack could only do so much. Shards of stone sprayed the arena when Circe broke free, pointing a hand and smashing Elizabeth back against the ground.
Nicholas recalled her. He needed to take a breath before he lost his composure. Dahlia was hurt, bad. He could hear the referee calling Elizabeth’s point. Gary was taking the momentum from him, and he needed to figure out how to reverse that.
Nicholas felt the seconds tick by without bringing him any answers. Every moment more that he delayed, Circe was able to regain her composure. He didn’t have all the answers… So he was going to have to trust that they did.
“I’m sorry that I keep having to rely on you,” he called as Kary materialized, “but I need an answer that I don’t have.”
“That’s alright, Master.” Kary replied, taking aim at Circe. “That’s what I’m here for.”
“While we’re here, I want to go over our old battles. One more time.”
Kary glanced up at Nicholas. “Now, Master? In this cave?”
“We’re here to train. Learning from our past is the best way to do that.” Nicholas handed her his pokedex. “This is from our fight with Blaine. I want you to watch what Ashley had to go against.” He watched Kary begin to scan the video. “And I want you to do it better.”
Kary let out her breath. She knew how fast Cassidy was. Normally, she would never make it to this enemy Alakazam. Normally.
“What the-“ Gary cried, recoiling from the glowing form across from him.
Kary’s roars filled the arena as she poured every ounce of power into her wings. Circe reacted immediately, lowering her hands and preparing to blast the Dragonite. Kary moved then, faster than any human or pokegirl could follow, and Circe’s eyes bugged when she felt the solid strike pushing under her ribs.
Nicholas blinked when he saw Circe curl up, bringing… something to her face as she flew through the air. Kary snarled, roaring once more when the Alakazam smashed through two pillars before vanishing into a cloud of concrete dust.
“Kary, DODGE!” Nicholas roared. “SOMETHING’S WRONG!”
Kary had started to turn to him questioningly when a beam of ice lanced out from the cloud. She staggered, clutching at the hole in her wing, before screaming when a barrage of beams slammed into her entire body.
“I knew she’d done something.” Nicholas snarled, recalling Kary when the Dragonite plummeted from the sky. “She shouldn’t have been able to withstand that hit.”
Gary smiled as Circe stepped from the cloud of dust. The Alakazam spat, peeling a strip of tattered leather from between her teeth. “There’s an entire world out there that you don’t know about, Nicholas. But you should be proud that you made us use our tricks.”
“Got one of our own.” Nicholas retorted. “ASHLEY!” He threw his hand forwards as the Pidgeot materialized. “Don’t give her a moment’s rest!”
Circe sketched a curtsy as Ashley dove towards her and Nicholas snarled when he saw Gary’s cocky smile return, even as he recalled his unconscious Alakazam. They’d taken the momentum, but Gary had still taken the upper hand.
“Not letting you do that.” Nicholas growled, swapping Ashley with Dahlia when a Rhydon appeared on the other side. “Dahlia, are you alright?”
Dahlia shook herself and clutched at her dripping wounds. “Thank you for the break, Master.”
“Hm.” On the other side of the arena, Gary glanced at his pokegirl. “She’s hurt, Sonya. But she’s still a Venusaur.”
Sonya stomped the ground. “I want to try, Master Gary.”
“I need you for that bird.”
Sonya growled but slumped back, letting Gary recall her. Nicholas nodded slightly when he saw the switch. “They’re given us an opening.”
Dahlia needed no other encouragement, charging across the field towards the Gyarados that had materialized. So many of these enemies were the same as her harem sisters, and Dahlia grinned. She’d been training them for so long that she knew everything she needed to win.
The Gyarados drew herself up, her emotionless eyes focusing on the charging Venusaur before she bared her fangs. Dahlia’s mouth set when she felt the intimidating presence wash over her, but she wasn’t trying to hit hard. She was just trying to hit.
The Gyarados recoiled as Dahlia smashed into her, some of the Venusaur’s blood splattering against her skin. Dahlia desperately grappled the squirming Water-type before focusing and beginning to drain her of energy.
“Knock her away, Pandora!”
Dahlia grunted when water swirled from the Gyarados’ jaws and she was thrown away, Pandora leaping after her with her mouth open wide. Dahlia tried to raise an arm to defend herself and bit back a scream when Pandora merely took hold of it, her sharp fangs tearing into Dahlia’s skin before she twisted and slammed the Venusaur to the ground. Dahlia could feel her healing wounds ripped back open by the attack and she brought her free hand back around in an attempt to drain more energy, but Pandora didn’t let her. With a roar Dahlia was thrown into the air, her vines desperately trying to find something to grab onto, until she slammed back to the ground with a massive thud.
“Dahlia, can you get up?” Nicholas waited a few moments before recalling her and reaching for Ashley’s pokeball again.
He shook his head and passed over her, grabbing Cassidy’s instead. “Cass, she’s dangerous.”
Cassidy materialized and nodded. “I know, Master. Just as Victoria is.” She motioned, a ball of energy springing to life between her fingertips. “Command me.”
“I have nothing to say.” Nicholas replied. “Just make sure you are the one who stays standing.”
Cassidy smiled. “I know you have more than that, Master, but I will follow your orders regardless.” She crouched, more orbs springing to life across her outstretched arms.
Pandora took the barrage head on, shaking off the damage and closing in on Cassidy. Cassidy let her hit before flipping back, her body gracefully twisting away from a follow-up strike. Pandora tried to follow but Cassidy landed, raising her hand in front of the surprised Gyarados’ face.
“Bye.” She said cheerfully. Pandora had no time to brace and the torrent of energy engulfed her in a multicolored rainbow.
Gary recalled her when the attack cleared to reveal Pandora slumped on the ground with raw, bleeding patches across her body. He shook his head slightly before raising his fourth pokeball. “It’s fine. Girls, we can do this.” The Exeggutor that materialized scowled and settled an angry mask over her face. “We’ve always found a way through.”
Nicholas narrowed his eyes. That pokegirl… That was what Michael had. He’d said she was a Psychic-type. “Cassidy, you’re weakened.”
Cassidy didn’t turn to him. “Yes?”
“She’s going to overpower you.”
Cassidy nodded. “Possible.”
“I’m bringing Ashley in.”
Cassidy grinned even though he couldn’t see her face. “Then do it, Master.”
Gary cursed quietly when Cassidy vanished and Ashley appeared again, the Pidgeot instantly taking to the skies. “We can do this all day, you know!” He yelled, reaching for his Exeggutor’s pokeball. “I’ll keep swapping between Rayel and Sonya, and you’ll keep swapping between your Pidgeot and Alakazam, but we’ll outlast you!”
“Not if I’m faster than your hand.” Ashley tucked her wings, diving towards her unprepared opponent. Nicholas saw her go and clenched his fists, willing the Pidgeot to dive faster. Faster!
Gary was raising the pokeball when a blur shot from the sky, crashing into Rayel. The Exeggutor screamed, shards of her mask peppering Gary’s box as Ashley wheeled around for another attack.
“No, Rayel-!” Gary was shouting at his pokegirl as the Exeggutor squared up, blood trickling down her face and accentuating the fury twisting her lips. With a scream she threw out her arms, psychic energy building until a beam of power blasted skyward.
Ashley tumbled when the attack hit but she caught herself quickly, lining back up with the Exeggutor and flapping to raise her speed.
Gary finally managed to get her pokeball out and he recalled Rayel just before Ashley impacted.
Ashley screeched as she fought to get her momentum back under control and Gary used her indecision to quickly release Sonya again. “The bird! GET HER!”
Nicholas was reaching for Ashley’s pokeball when he saw her slam into the far wall. “Oh no.” He started to raise it when he noticed what Ashley was doing and instead dropped the ball to cup his hands around his mouth. “YOU CAN DO THIS!”
Ashley spat to clear the blood from her mouth and sprang off the wall, wings unfurling halfway into the air to give her that extra bit of speed she needed. Sonya was still trying to locate her when Ashley slammed into the Rhydon, feathers swirling around the pair as Ashley struck with every limb she had. Sonya roared, lifting her away and diving for the ground to scoop up rubble that she could use as missiles.
“Just like the Ground Gym, Ashley!” Nicholas screamed. “DROP HER!”
Ashley grinned as she flipped through the air. “Master, let Victoria try.”
Nicholas realized what she was referring to and laughed, recalling her and releasing the Gyarados. “Victoria?”
Victoria actually giggled when she materialized. “I’ve been waiting.” She hissed, slowly growing in volume as she charged towards the struggling Rhydon.
“Don’t have a choice.” Gary whispered, recalling Sonya and releasing Rayel again. Victoria slammed her shin into the materializing Exeggutor, blowing her back with a laugh. She felt the recall beam take her and she gave the staggering girl a cheeky wave as Ashley reappeared. Gary slammed his hand into the wall of his box when Rayel tried to attack, only barely succeeding in taking a chunk out of Ashley before the Pidgeot took her down.
Ashley was celebrating when the air around her warped. Both trainers froze when they heard the explosion, Nicholas gasping as Ashley tumbled from the sky. “ASHLEY!”
“Rayel…” Gary clutched the unconscious Exeggutor’s pokeball. “Well done, you wonderful girl.”
“What the hell was THAT!” Nicholas roared, recalling Ashley. “What happened!”
“We happened.” Gary replied confidently. “You’re finished, Nicholas.”
“Victoria!” Nicholas growled when the Rhydon reappeared. “I need you, Victoria. Be the pokegirl that you’ve always wanted to be.”
Victoria reappeared without a hint of a smile on her face. Gone was her momentary joviality, replaced fully by the laser focus that she had carried through their last few major battles. Nicholas could tell that she was ready, so he spoke only one word. “Win.”
He wasn’t sure how long it had been happening, but Nicholas suddenly could hear the crowd chanting. He could hear the announcer yelling rapid-fire sentences over the noise. And as Victoria stepped forwards, water swirling around her body and cloaking her in a roaring dragon’s head, he could hear the noise grow louder.
Gary sighed as he looked at Sonya. “Sorry, Sonya. I need you to soften the blow for Alexa.”
The Rhydon snorted and lowered her head. “I’ll take a piece of her with me, Master.”
“If you can.” Gary gazed at the advancing Gyarados. “She’s even stronger than Pandora. We may have finally met our match.”
Sonya closed her eyes when she saw the torrential waves coming for her. “I trust my Alpha.”
Gary waited for the waters to wash away before recalling the Rhydon, her awkwardly twisted body wedged between a few of the pillars Dahlia had created what felt like hours ago. But he knew it had only been a matter of minutes.
Nicholas glanced up at Gary. “Yea?”
“I want to thank you. Now, before this battle finishes. One way or the other. I want to thank you for coming here.” He raised a strangely patterned pokeball. “And so does my Alpha.”
Victoria stiffened when the Charizard materialized. The sudden heat washed over her and she shielded her eyes, willing the water around her to wick it away. Alexa planted her feet, fire licking from between her lips as she took in her opponent. Victoria nodded slightly when a massive pair of orange wings unfurled, Alexa baring her fangs and roaring her challenge.
“Fire dragon. Water dragon.” Nicholas murmured. “Victoria should have the advantage. So why do I suddenly feel like this battle has only just begun?”
Gary smiled. “Because you are a strong tamer, Nicholas. Never forget that.” He slowly raised his arm to point towards Nicholas’ side of the field. “ALEXA! BURN HER AWAY IN THE FIRE OF YOUR HEART!”
“Victoria!” Nicholas smiled when she turned to him. “You also have the heart of a dragon. Don’t you?”
Victoria’s confident smile answered his. “I do, Master.” She turned back to the waiting Charizard and grinned. “But mine contains the fury of the ocean. A fury that will consume your flames.”
Alexa chuckled in return. “I can not wait, sister.”
In the stands, a group sat. Most watched Victoria, but Sabrina had eyes only for the man who commanded her.
“He’s grown, hasn’t he?” Matis grumbled. “Imagine that, the little runt who tried to take my badge with a Ground-type has grown into a dragon tamer.”
“We knew he would.” Erika offered in reply. “Didn’t we?”
“One more push.” Sabrina whispered, not caring that the others were watching her just as much as they were watching the battle. “You can do it, Nicholas.”
Victoria slid behind a pillar, sheltering from the horrifying flames that sought her. She could feel her skin cracking just from the heat alone and she knew that the front of her hiding place likely resembled the other half-melted lumps of concrete around the arena.
“You’re running out of places to hide, little fish.” Alexa roared, shaking her head to clear the remainder of her flames. “Do you intend to run forever?”
“Keep talking big.” Victoria growled, pooling a bit of water into her hand before leaping up and scattering it across the smoking arena.
Alexa swore when an explosion of steam engulfed the area, hiding Victoria from view. She had nothing but respect for this challenger, but it had to end. She took aim at a swirl in the mists and charged up as much flame as she could without burning herself. This was going to be over in one, devastating blow.
The crowd roared when Victoria burst from the mists behind Alexa, her mouth open in a soundless scream. Alexa barely managed to twist around before Victoria slammed into her, bringing her water-cloaked fists smashing down into her head. With a deafening cry Alexa crashed to the ground. Victoria stood over the unconscious Charizard, her chest heaving as she fought to breathe. Had… had she won?
Nicholas spared a glance at Gary and grimaced. “Victoria, hit her again! Before she can hit you back!”
“ALEXA IS DOWN!” Nicholas jumped when he heard the announcer scream into his microphone. “THAT’S IT! WITH A FINAL SCORE OF SIX TO FOUR, WE HAVE A NEW! LEAGUE! CHAMPION!”
“A new league…?” Nicholas blinked when the crowd erupted with cheers and Gary recalled Alexa. “We… we won?”
Victoria whirled to him. “Master?!”
“We won.” Nicholas began to laugh, spreading his arms to catch Victoria when the Gyarados sprinted towards him. “WE WON! WE WON!”
He had been planning to catch her, but Victoria had very different plans and Nicholas felt himself lifted off the ground when she grabbed him in a bone-crushing hug. “We won!” Her jubilant cries pierced the roaring crowd as she spun in circles. “MASTER!”
“Yes, we did!” Nicholas cried with laughter, patting her shoulder the best he could. “Easy, Victoria! Whoa! I’m going to go flying if you keep this up!”
Victoria dropped him back to the ground, her bright and happy eyes capturing his. “We’ve done it, Master.” She rested her forehead against his and for just a moment there was nobody else in the room but them. “You’ve done it.”
Nicholas reached up to caress her cheek. “I would never have gotten here without you.”
“And we would never have gotten here without you.” Victoria whispered in reply.
Nicholas looked up, but it wasn’t Gary who had called. The man was watching him, but that was it.
Nicholas spun and gasped. Sabrina was forcing her way through the crowd nearby. “Sabrina?”
“Get out- of- my- way!” Sabrina shoved past the last line and vaulted the bleachers. Nicholas yelped and began running to catch her but the Psychic-type gym leader turned her fall into a gentle hover, landing and rushing the last few feet to him. “You’ve done it! You’ve done it. You’ve made it all the way.”
“I- Yea, I have.” Nicholas stammered. “What are you doing here? Don’t you have a gym to manage?”
“I had to be here for your league challenge.” Sabrina replied breathlessly. “I couldn’t miss something like this.”
“How… How much have you seen?”
“I’ve been watching all of your attempts.” She replied. “When you finally beat Lorelei, I knew it was the one. So I called everyone.”
Nicholas stared at her. “Everyone?”
“Heyo, tamer!” Nicholas craned his neck to see Blaine cheerfully waving at him. “Congratulations!”
“Blaine?” Nicholas stammered.
“Congratulations.” Nicholas heard the soft voice and turned to see Erika watching him from nearby. “You’ve done it.”
“I told you, didn’t I?” Misty smiled from her position beside Erika. “I made a bet, and I was right. I expect to get my reward soon.”
“Nicholas.” Nicholas continued turning to see Matis watching him. “I expected much from you. I’m glad to see I wasn’t disappointed.”
“Why… why are you all here?” Nicholas asked.
“You’re worth watching.” Misty replied. “You’ve made a lot of friends on your little journey, Nicholas. We couldn’t leave you to celebrate alone.”
“I wouldn’t say I’m his friend.” Matis grumbled.
Misty laughed and stuck her tongue out at the grumpy Electric-type leader. “Stick it, army boy.”
“That’s why they’re all here.” Nicholas turned back to Sabrina when she spoke again. “But, I’m here for another reason.”
Nicholas blinked. “Why?”
“You kept going on and on about how you weren’t worth anything.” Nicholas felt his heart jump into his throat when Sabrina reached out and took his hands in hers. “On and on, over and over. Look at you now. You’re the Champion, Nicholas. Are you still worthless?”
“…No, I guess not.”
“Welcome to the ranks of the elite, Nicholas.” Sabrina’s voice had grown quieter and he unconsciously leaned forwards to hear her better. “You’re in my league now.”
Nicholas’ eyes widened when Sabrina leaned forwards and pressed her lips to his. She held him there for a few seconds before pulling back, a small smile flitting across her face.
“You’ve avoided asking me for this long.” Sabrina whispered. “Do I have to do it for you?”
Nicholas started to speak but his throat was dry. “S-Sa- ehm- Sabrina, will you… do you…” He swallowed, finally able to spit out a full sentence. “Do you… want to go on a date?”
Sabrina laughed and Nicholas felt the stress and worry of the last few days melt away. “Do I want to go on a date.” She smiled teasingly. “I would love to, Nicholas. I know of this nice café in Saffron. We can get lunch.”
Nicholas began to laugh as everything clicked into place. “I’m so stupid.”
Sabrina laughed with him, squeezing his hands. “I was too. But we can start now, can’t we? For real.”
Nicholas nodded, gazing into her eyes. “I’d like that.”
“Ho, Champion.” Nicholas turned, still holding Sabrina’s hands, to see Gary smiling at him. “I hate to interrupt, but there’s a ceremony we have to follow. That is, as long as you want to claim my title.”
Nicholas nodded, letting go and stepping away from Sabrina. “I do.”
“Then follow me.” Gary chuckled. “You know the rules, Sabrina.”
Sabrina smiled. “I do.” She pulled Nicholas back around to take another quick kiss. “I’ll call you. Alright?”
Nicholas nodded mutely, watching her gesture and take Diana’s hand when the Alakazam appeared. A moment later she was gone.
“It’s getting a bit noisy out here.” Gary said, gesturing at the far door. “Come on.”
Nicholas recalled Victoria and followed Gary through the door, breathing out when it shut and the cheers vanished. “Did I really do it?”
Gary smiled to himself as he led Nicholas to a pair of healing machines. “You did, Nicholas. I’ve known since I saw your harem on Cinnabar that I had a real challenger to my title. And here you are. You’ve done what dozens, maybe hundreds of tamers have tried and failed.”
Nicholas watched the machine work. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”
“They couldn’t have done it without you.”
“Yea, everyone keeps saying that.” Nicholas turned to Gary. “Just once, can I praise them without someone telling me I’m just as good? From my point of view I did nothing, you know.”
Gary laughed. “Fine, fine. No, you couldn’t have done it without your pokegirls. Now it’s time to honor them as the Champion’s harem.”
Nicholas followed him further into the room. “How?”
“Step over here.” Gary gestured at a blank wall. “We’ll take your photo, and enshrine you and your team on the Champion’s wall.”
Nicholas turned to look at the dozen photos nearby. “These are the previous Champions?”
“You’ve joined a select group.” Gary walked over and pointed. “There’s my grandfather, there. And there’s me.” He turned back to Nicholas. “Speaking of…”
The door opened and Professor Oak walked through. “Wow! It’s loud out there, Gary. Your battle must have been something else.”
“They’re cheering a new Champion.” Gary replied, stepping aside to let Oak approach Nicholas. “He deserves it.”
Professor Oak reached out to shake Nicholas’ hand. “When I first invited you and your friend to my lab, Nicholas, I never expected you to make it here, let alone defeat my grandson.” He smiled. “Along the way you’ve won over quite a few hearts and minds, as well as taking actions that may have saved the entire region from a criminal syndicate. You’re a true Champion of Kanto.”
“…thanks, Professor.” Nicholas replied. “But there isn’t just Kanto, is there? There’s also Johto.”
Professor Oak’s eyebrows rose. “Well, yes.”
“You’re technically the Champion of Johto as well.” Gary replied. “We’ll talk about that, and a million other things, later. Right now, it’s time to celebrate your achievement. Grandfather, will you be our witness?”
“As I have been since my own retirement.” Oak replied with a smile.
“Release your harem, Nicholas.” Gary laughed when Nicholas didn’t move and six flashes of red materialized into pokegirls. “Or not.”
“Yea, they’ve learned a few tricks.”
A similar lightshow erupted from Gary’s belt to reveal his own harem. “I rather hope they have.” Gary turned and began shooing his harem away. “The battle’s over, come on, girls, give him some space.”
Nicholas turned to the wall, stepping over and waiting for his harem to line up around him. “Do we need to do anything special?”
“Just look at the camera.” Oak bent down to fiddle with the settings. “This photo will hang in this room until the end of the league, so no funny business now.”
“No funny business.” Nicholas breathed, taking a neutral expression. “Ready, girls?”
“Ready, Master.” Came the chorus of replies.
Oak settled down behind the device. “Then here… we… go!”
Tamer: Nicholas Topolski
Dahlia, Venusaur – Level 60 (Alpha)
Ashley, Pidgeot – Level 59
Elizabeth, Nidoqueen – Level 61
Victoria, Gyarados – Level 60
Cassidy, Alakazam – Level 61
Kary, Dragonite – Level 62
Ten days later…
Nicholas hurried through the streets, nervously adjusting his shirt. Shit, shit, shit…
He slowed when he saw Sabrina waiting for him outside of the gym. “I’m so sorry-“
Sabrina checked the time. “You’re three days and twelve minutes late.”
Nicholas frowned. “Three days?”
“It’s been ten days since you became Champion.” Sabrina smiled. “That’s three days past our normal weekly meeting.”
Nicholas felt the tension vanish from his shoulders. “Yea, sorry about that.”
“I’ll forgive you.” Sabrina smiled happily when he held out his arm for her. “Where is your harem?”
“They’re enjoying our new home.” Nicholas shook his head. “I’m amazed that the league has buildings specifically for the Champion and his harem. Or, mansions, really.”
“Think you can show me around after lunch?”
Nicholas nodded slowly. “I can do that. I don’t have anything else to worry about until four o’clock.”
Sabrina smiled. “The non-stop life of the Champion, huh.”
“It’s been slowing down.” Nicholas replied. “They want me to be on deck for any challengers, though.”
“Mmm, I’ve heard rumors that the Elite Four have begun stepping up their training.” Sabrina giggled. “I don’t think anyone is getting to you any time soon.”
“That’s good to hear.”
“Yea.” Sabrina took her seat and gazed wistfully around the café. “It feels like it’s been months since we were here last.”
Nicholas nodded. “I mean, it’s been at least one, I think.”
“Back when I was just happy to have gotten that cute boy I’d met to go out with me for lunch.”
Nicholas smiled down at the table. “You were throwing so many signals at me back then, I can’t believe I didn’t see it.”
“It wasn’t time.” Sabrina replied simply. “But we got there in the end.”
“I guess we did.”
Sabrina raised her glass, waiting for Nicholas to do the same. “A toast. To the new Champion, and a new age in Kanto.” She clinked their glasses and took a sip. “One without Team Rocket.”
Sabrina slowly lowered her glass when she heard his tone. “Nicholas?”
“It’s not your problem.” Nicholas took a sip and sighed. “There’ve been sightings of uniformed Rocket members on the island chains. I’ll probably be heading out there in a few weeks to see what I can find.”
Sabrina shook her head. “That’s where Archer said he would go.”
Nicholas frowned. “You know something?”
“Not really. Just that Rocket being on islands makes sense.”
“Well all I had were rumors and unconfirmed sightings. You’re saying they’re there for sure?”
“As far as I know.”
“Then a few weeks is too long.” Nicholas pulled out his pokedex and began writing a letter. “I’ll have to go out there…”
A hand covered the screen and Nicholas looked up to see Sabrina watching him. “We’re having lunch. It can wait.”
Nicholas hesitated for a moment before putting his pokedex away. “Yea, it can.”
“I don’t want to talk about business, or anything like that today.” Sabrina said. “I want to talk about you, and me, and us. I want to forget for a moment that we have responsibilities. I want to have our date.”
Nicholas smiled. “Alright.”
So they talked. About Sabrina’s childhood, her friends, and interests, about Nicholas’ home, his research, and experiences. They talked until they were the only table left with a lunch menu, and only then did they get up.
“I hadn’t noticed how late it’s getting.” Nicholas checked his pokedex. “Shit. It’s a quarter after three.”
“Not enough time to give me a tour?”
Nicholas shook his head but beckoned. “I’ll take you there with Diana, at least, so you can visit. How about that?”
Sabrina smiled. “Let’s do it.”
The two walked back to the gym to meet Diana, and a few minutes later Cassidy was there to pick them up. The pokegirls went first, returning a moment later to take their tamers with them.
Nicholas nodded at the towering building when they arrived. “That’s it. I’ve been told it’s mine, even if I one day retire as Champion. I’m thinking of customizing a bit.”
Sabrina looked up at the multi-storied building. “How many floors?”
“Three, plus the attic. It’s incredible. I think they expect me to grow my harem.” Nicholas said with a laugh.
“There are twenty bedrooms on the second and third floors.” Nicholas chuckled. “And what I assume is the master bedroom on the ground floor. There’s a full kitchen, a study area, a training gym, everything I could need.”
“Yea, but it’s not home.” Nicholas gazed at the building with a sigh. “Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but…”
“It’s not in… What did you say your region was called? Aloha?”
“Alola.” Nicholas replied. “No, it’s not. But it’s here, and I’m the Champion here, so it works.”
“I’ll leave you to your meeting.” Sabrina kissed him and turned to catch Diana’s attention, drawing her away from her conversation with Cassidy. “Call me!”
Nicholas waved, waiting for her to teleport away before turning to the house.
“Your meeting is already here, Master.” Cassidy said as they entered. “And it’s someone we know.”
Nicholas rounded the corner and laughed when he saw Blaine sitting at a table. “Blaine!”
The Fire-type gym leader rose with a grin. “Nicholas! Good to see you, my man. Have you met…?”
Nicholas turned to the other man and bowed. “Of course. It’s good to see you again, Elder.”
Mr. Fuji chuckled. “And you, Champion.”
“So, what’s the meeting for?” Nicholas asked curiously. “Something on Cinnabar?”
“Yes and no.” Blaine settled back down. “Nicholas, there’s something I need to confess to you. Mr. Fuji and I, we… we used to work for Team Rocket.”
Nicholas blinked, looking between the two men. “Really? Why?”
“We were scientists, willing to sacrifice our morals for knowledge.” Blaine sighed. “We were there when the cloning experiments happened.”
Nicholas nodded as he realized. “Oh.”
“Yes. We are responsible for the creation of the ultimate pokegirl, Mewtwo. It’s our fault that she exists, and our fault that dozens were killed when she escaped. It was our crimes that finally opened our eyes, and we left Team Rocket soon after.”
“But it was too late.” Mr. Fuji said quietly. “The damage was done. Mewtwo was loose, and nothing we could do would change that.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Because you are the Champion now.” Blaine reached into his pocket, pulling out a purple orb and holding it out to Nicholas. “The ultimate threat to Kanto is out there, and you are Kanto’s ultimate protector.”
Nicholas accepted the ball and stared at the black M. “I thought Gary had this.”
“He did. Until you took his place.” Blaine sighed. “And I have bad news. Or good news, maybe. We’ve discovered where she is.”
Nicholas rolled the ball between his fingers absently. “And it’s my duty as Champion to capture her. Stop her.”
“Well isn’t Gary lucky.” Nicholas said drily. “He might be Champion again soon.”
Blaine snorted. “You can’t just give him the title back, Nicholas. You are the Champion, like it or not.”
“Oh, that’s not what I meant.” Nicholas pocketed the ball. “If I die going after Mewtwo he won’t have a choice.”
His callous remark quieted the room. Eventually Mr. Fuji shook his head. “Nicholas, if you can’t stop her, nobody can.”
“I get that.” Nicholas turned to Cassidy. “Get everyone ready.” He paused and glanced at the two men. “What do we know about Mewtwo?”
“She is cloned from Mew, the precursor pokegirl, and a Psychic-type. However, she was created to be the ultimate weapon so you should expect her to attack with anything.”
“But she’s probably most suited to Psychic-type attacks.”
Mr. Fuji nodded. “That would stand to reason.”
“Okay. I’ll start forming a battle plan.” He watched Cassidy vanish to begin gathering the harem. “Where am I going?”
Status:Indigo League Champion
Dahlia, Venusaur – Level 60 (Alpha)
Ashley, Pidgeot – Level 59
Elizabeth, Nidoqueen – Level 61
Victoria, Gyarados – Level 60
Cassidy, Alakazam – Level 61
Kary, Dragonite – Level 62
Galina, Marowak – Level 35
Sasha, Ditto – Level 31
Maka, Kabutops – Level 45
Vanessa, Blastoise – Level 59
Tamama, Exeggutor – Level 58
Hannah, Primeape – Level 58
Riana, Sandslash – Level 59
Madeline, Fearow – Level 58
Kura, Ninetales – Level 59