Zeke picked up the freshly occupied pokeball. "Good job taking down that ChiChi, Tuuli," the tamer shouted up to the airborne pokegirl. Tuuli and Zeke were getting along. Cass and Raudha were getting along with her too. Lalla was being polite. Zeke had brought her into the harem and she didn't express any complaints. She did immediately accept Raudha's offer for some supplemental taming. Then later Cass' invitation to a threesome. Then back to Raudha. A couple times.


Tuuli seemed to have an immediate attraction to the AmazonLee. It didn't bother Zeke. He was grateful for help in contending with the Flirt's high libido.


So they had a rapport, the next step was to hone it into synergy. That meant a trip out into the wilderness to beat up ferals. That, or challenge other random tamers to battles but Zeke didn't like dealing with the battle junkies that lurked around the open arenas. Cutting teeth on ferals was more productive anyway, both for the league and for fattening Zeke’s wallet.


<Catch> Zeke grinned and chuckled lightly as he caught the pokeball Cass tossed to him with telekinesis.


“What’s funny,” Raudha asked with a bemused smile.


“Oh, double meaning. Cass sent ‘catch’ but with both meanings implied.” Zeke waited for the fighting type to get the joke but she merely waited expectantly for the punchline. “Uh… ‘Catch,’ like, ‘catch the ball,’ but also ‘catch,’ like, ‘here’s the catch.’”


Raudha thought for a moment and Zeke felt the spark of realization in her mind. “Ooh,” the AmazonLee said with still a bit of confusion in her voice. “I get it. Huh…” Zeke fought not to show his disappointment at more of his and Cassie’s humor flying over the heads of others.


Lalla muttered something under her breath and Raudha whirled to face the Jigglyslut as Tuuli touched down from the air. The one word at the end everyone made out was, ‘dorks.’


“You should be nicer to the man who saved you from being sent to the ranch.” The fighting type walked right up to press into the pink skinned pokegirl’s space. “Especially with your attitude. They’ve got ways of fixing the attitudes of stuck up boomers like you.” Raudha shifted into a fighting stance with her weight shifted all on her back leg, raising the front foot off the ground as she held it ready to strike out in a kick at any moment. “Want me to demonstrate?”


“Raudha,” Zeke started to check the fighting pokegirl’s aggression towards the normal type when Cass’ mind touched his again.


<Let go. Need happen.>


<Don’t like. Fighting.>


<Lalla won’t. Spineless. If Raudha not, I will.>


<Cass,> Zeke sent the A-bra.


<Zeke,> Cass responded to her tamer.


The fight could have continued but suddenly both psychics were overcome with an electrifying sensation of primal fear. <WATCH OUT!> Both minds broadcast simultaneously.


Raudha reacted first and shoved her petulant harem sister out of the grasp of the serrated limb that swung for the Jigglyslut’s head. The pink skinned normal type hit the packed dirt of the trail that was cutting through the long, dry grass. She crab-walked backwards with her eyes locked onto the insectile limb that was slowly transitioning from golden wheat to vibrant green. The body the limb was attached to stood upright from where her camouflage concealed her.


She was taller than Zeke or any of his girls by her head and shoulders. Naked, covered in segments of green chitin. Only one eye bulged out of its socket, the other was missing, a crushed and deformed crater on that side of her face. Her fanged jaws didn’t line up to close her mouth properly, leaving a constant stream of drool running down her pointed chin. Only one antenna whipped around through the air, the one on the destroyed portion of her face was also missing. As was her other sickle arm on that side, but both human arms remained. Her insectile abdomen with its mounted stinger was more slender than any of the photographs Zeke had seen, the exoskeletal plates warping inwards from the gauntness. It was clear she wasn’t in good health, malnourished and mutilated. This all registered in Zeke’s subconscious mind but the only thing he could rationally think was, ‘Why is there a Mantis here?’


The bug type menace made a clicking sound in her throat that transitioned into a coughing chuckle. “Meat…” She had her gaze fixed on the only male present. “Man meat… Good, better than pokegirl meat. Only had pokegirl meat for so long…” She chittered again as she stalked forward out onto the path from the tall grass.


“I-” Lalla started to crawl to her feet. “I’m not-” The Jigglyslut wailed and scrambled down the path, clawing herself into a run. “Don’t hate me Zeke but I’m not dying for you!”


The Mantis threw her head back and cackled with manic glee as she watched the recent threshold flee. “Smart. Smart girl. Run. All of you run! Leave. Leave and live. Only the man. All I want.” The bug type grunted and her one good eye and antenna twitched when Cass used her Confusion technique and Tuuli pounded her with Gust as their answer. Raudha’s foot shot out with a snap kick, engulfed in sudden flame. The fires died and the AmazonLee screamed as the Mantis’ barbed limb swung to deflect the strike. “Stupid girls,” the man-eater said with a feral grin. She shoved the fighting type away, Raudha staggering to keep upright on only one good leg. Zeke couldn’t see through the rags of her pants, but the muscles in the calf were shredded. The Mantis raised her weaponized appendage up to lick the gore. “Now you’re more meat!”


She lunged for the injured fighting type and bit out her throat. Or she would have. Her face passed through the red nimbus of the capture beam. Zeke had seen the fatal strike on his pokegirl and reacted preemptively to recall her. By the same gift of foresight he already had his second-hand PPHU open to slam the now occupied pokeball into the slot. <Tempest!>


Tuuli reacted to the burst of thought and conjured a great whorl of moving air. Not powerful enough to lift the Mantis off the ground but dust and grass whipped around her and forced the wounded menace to shield her one good eye. With a roar she slashed her claw through the air, using the energy of a Swordwave technique to disrupt the power feeding the Tempest. She snapped her head back and forth as she swept her glance around for her quarry, letting out a snarl as she caught sight of the man’s back through shrubby growth. It grew up intermittently before filling out into the jungle she had been hiding within ever since the Limbec pirates she was associating with were wiped out by a human raid. She hadn’t escaped unscathed herself, and doubtless the JILF and Royal Guard would be hunting her with her stranded so close to their capital.


She needed food. Food to restore her strength so she could fly away. Somewhere safer. Another island with a smaller city. She could go after safer prey, the pink girl who ran away on her own or more ferals, but she had found a man and she wanted to eat the man. So she leapt into the air to chase after the man.


<Behind, Squall!> Zeke sent another telepathic command to his recently acquired Flirt. Tuuli was flying low, fleeing next to him and Cass, and she turned in the air to fly backwards as she conjured the blast of wind. The Mantis was thrown off course and crashed into a cluster of scraggly tamarix trees which were shredded in her rage.


The Mantis pursued on foot. Her massively superior enhanced speed allowed her to overcome the fleeing tamer and his pokegirls in moments. She slashed with her serrated limb at the flying type who had downed her, single mindedly focused in her rage. Drool trailed out of her slack jaw as the scream of pain caused her to salivate even more. The wind girl was down, and the Mantis’ instinct to feed overtook her so she lunged for a bite only to find her head enveloped in the retreating glow of a capture beam again. She got nothing in her mouth but dust and dry grass.


Spitting and snarling she lunged at the first prey she could spot, the A-bra. But it wasn’t the A-bra. It was a psychic trick. A illusion. The Mantis glanced around frantically and caught sight of the man again. They’d made it into the dense growth now where her speed would matter less. She would still catch them. She slashed through the trunk of a tree and then bodily slammed through the splinters. None of the trees around here were of any real substance.


Zeke heard the chime of the PPHU and sent a telepathic burst to Cass. The A-bra lifted the lid of the PPHU strapped to her tamer’s backpack and swapped out Raudha’s ball for Tuuli’s. The AmazonLee’s pokeball floated into the tamer’s hand. He sent another thought, he needed enough time to release Raudha and allow her to orient to the situation. Cass sent a telepathic acknowledgement and reached out with her psychic powers to bend back the limbs of the trees they were running through. The Mantis charged again and Cass let the branches go, the tree limbs whipping around to slap right across the bug type menace’s one good eye. The Mantis reeled back and that was the second Zeke needed.


The tamer thumbed the release on Raudha’s ball. She materialized in her fighting stance and responded instantly to Zeke’s projected thought of, <Chi Blast, trip!> The fighting type pivoted to kick from her back leg, a low sweeping motion. It threw a small wave of chi energy from her foot to the ankles of the Mantis who went down as she was stumbling blindly from receiving the smack from the branch. <Run!> Raudha turned the momentum from the kick into the first push of her legs to do just that.


“Master,” the fighting type shouted as she easily kept pace with him and his A-bra. “Cass can teleport! Recall me!”


<Can’t. Tired. Need breath.> The A-bra’s response was laced with pained weariness. This was already taxing her and Zeke’s low stamina.


“Got it!” Raudha shouted as she broke away from the pair and looped back towards the Mantis.


<Raudha! Don’t!> The AmazonLee ignored her tamer’s projected thoughts and broke into a sprint. Her feet hammered the clay and kicked up clouds of dust with each step. The Mantis was fixated on Zeke again, her pain, hunger, and feral addled mind robbing her of any tactical acumen. Raudha kicked off the trunk of a tree to redirect her path and jump up into the air at the same time, twisting around to deliver a flying kick to the blind side of the Mantis’ skull.


Zeke and Cass stopped running as soon as Raudha doubled back. Cass was gathering her strength and focusing her mind but Zeke was locked into his extrasensory perception. Tuuli would finish healing in thirty more seconds. Raudha would die fighting alone in five. Cass would be ready to teleport in ten. The Mantis would take the time to gloat. He would survive with Cass and Tuuli. He only needed to sacrifice his AmazonLee.


 The Mantis shrieked in rage and clawed her way into a crouch on all fours with her sickle blade raised. She ducked her head under Raudha’s next kick and tackled the AmazonLee before she could close the opening in her guard. Raudha screamed through grit teeth as the sickle blade skewered her thigh to the ground. The AmazonLee crossed her forearms in front of her face to shield against the Mantis’ approaching fangs.


The bug type spat out the flesh she’d taken from Raudha’s arms. The two human hands grabbed the fighting type’s wrists and pinned her arms to the side with her superior strength and reared her head back to deliver another bite, this time fatal for sure.


Raudha vanished into the capture beam yet again. Zeke couldn’t let his AmazonLee buy the last five seconds with her life. He’d disrupted the healing cycle, clipped Tuuli’s ball to his belt and discarded the backpack and PPHU. He was carrying Cass piggyback and was gripping Raudha’s ball in his fist as he ran as fast as he could.


With a scream of fury the Mantis threw another Swordwave at her quarry. Cass twisted and shoved, falling away and taking the brunt of the attack. Both of them tumbled to the ground together.


Cass was dying, but she still had hold of him and was still preparing her teleport. Zeke’s precognition granted him another revelation. She would finish it with her last synapse. He would survive with Tuuli and Raudha this time, but that was even less acceptable. He recalled his A-bra.


The Mantis stalked forward and hissed. “All out of pokegirls, man. Tucked away safe in their balls? No. No safer than you.”


Zeke’s mind was flashing with images of death. Agonizing. Something in his mind seemed to break and he started to laugh.


The Mantis stood over him and indulged in her own laughter. “Haha, little man. What is so funny? It is no fun for me if your mind breaks already.”


The words of Zeke’s answer were occasionally interrupted by nervous twittering. “They always said I should have given up on being a tamer. That I didn’t have what it takes. That I’m too soft, too afraid to see any pokegirls getting hurt. Maybe they were right. I could have gotten away. Cass was about to teleport me but I just couldn’t… couldn’t watch them die.”


The Mantis placed her hands on her hips and stared down at her meal quizzically. “They were right, then. They will still die. They are not safe in their balls. I will let them out, one at a time, for snacks. After I eat you.”


Zeke’s laughter intensified. Nervous and unhinged. He replied with, “No,” but then was consumed by laughter again. “No I,” he stopped and breathed deeply for a few breaths under the menace’s hungry stare. One last chuckle and he looked directly into the Mantis’ one good eye. “No, I win.”


The pokegirl with spiky pink hair and bright yellow eyes shouted an exuberant rebel yell as she swung the electrified steel club right into the Mantis' slack jaw. Zeke had a full view of her too small rock band t-shirt stretched over enormous breasts and torn up black denim pants as she flew right over his head. The metallic resonating tone was one of the most beautiful sounds Zeke would remember for the rest of his life. The spit and blood and teeth flying from the mouth of his would-be killer a cherished and crystalized memory as well.


“Ehyew!” The Mantis screamed through her demolished jaw. “Hwhar…?” Energy condensed around the menace’s sickle claw as she prepared the most dangerous attack in her arsenal.


“Ohshit,” Zeke’s savior muttered as she cast aside her bludgeon and spun to throw the human over her shoulder effortlessly. “Yin Yin Yin Yin halp!”


“thhh-DIE!” The Mantis shrieked as she unleashed her ZanMato. The flash of light was momentarily blinding. Steel rang on steel. Every tree to either side of Mantis was cut down. Interposed between the Mantis and her target was a very near human pokegirl with teal hair, Edo clothes, and a raised curved sword of Edo design. Most of the Mantis’ claw embedded itself in the ground behind the newly arrived combatant. The Mantis held the remaining stump in front of her face, and blinked.


Then she was engulfed in flames.


The fire came from two avian pokegirls, one flying above covered in yellow-orange feathers and another coming up from the side with black skin and dark feathers with a crimson shine from the light of her flames. A dragon pokegirl entered the clearing and added Dragon's Breath to the conflagration. The fiery assault was maintained through the Mantis falling to the ground, only subsiding once her thrashing stopped.


A spider pokegirl, an Arachne Zeke guessed because she had the lower body of a spider, ran into the clearing the battle created carrying her tamer on her back. The pokegirl who had flown in with the metal bat sat Zeke down on his feet. A young man, older than Zeke, muscular build with slicked back dull pink hair and blue eyes. “Hey kid, you alri- Zeke?”


Zeke’s head was spinning from all of the stimulation it was still trying to sort out. “H-hey.” He started to sway as the scene started to spin counter to the rotation of his head. His brain was shutting down, some parts faster than others. “Hey Vince. I- was going to…" There was something Zeke had been wanting to share with Vince. "...Going to message you once I won at the- the gym but…” Zeke’s eyes went unfocused as he tipped over.