"Almost done, love."
Standing still upon their motel bed, Vulpix stares at the wall with her chocolate eyes unfocused as Lee's hands poke and prod her body. From her mind, Lee feels her vague sense of deja vu bleeding over to him.
Beside Lee, Treecko sits quietly in a deep meditative stance, his eyes closed and breathing slow. Were it not for the little corrections he makes to his posture whenever Lee jostles the bed, He would have thought his pokemon to be asleep.
Finally, at the foot of the bed, Corvisquire watches Vulpix's physical with barely veiled distaste, and his wings tensed to flap. Had he teeth, Lee is certain Corvisquire would be bearing them.
Lee gently takes Vulpix's chin and gives her jaw a little squeeze, making her open her mouth and he peers inside with a penlight held in his other hand. Silently, he marvels at the feeling of her powerful jaw muscles under his fingers. One bite and jerk of her neck would rend flesh with ease, he thinks. He'll have to order a bite-force gauge and pick it up at the next Pokemart they visit.
"Teeth, pearly and white. Gums, pink and healthy." Lee smiles, releasing her jaw to pet the curls of fur on her head, drawing a few wags from her tails. The man smiles and picks up the pen and notebook at his side, jotting several notes down.
Weight: 24.6 lbs (+0.9 from last)
Height: 2'3" (Discounting ears)
Muscle formation remains even and consistent. Fur growth even and consistent. Temperature at 112F. Free of illness/parasites. Vulpix bored but alert during the whole process.
"So, that's everything, Corvi," Lee smiles at the crow, taking care to not show his teeth. "A check-up is as easy as can be. If you're up to it, we can do yours."
For a split-second, it seems as if Corvisquire actually considers the offer, then he turns his beak up with a scoff and turns away.
Vulpix levels the crow with a frown for the rude dismissal and Lee tries to not let his disappointment show on his face.
"It's open!" Lee calls, scooping up the equipment scattered across his bed and depositing it messily into his backpack. The digital scale and thermometer get stuck on each other and require him to shake the whole backpack for them to drop inside.
The door of the tiny motel room opens, revealing a wet, grinning, swimming-trunks clad Brendan with an absolutely beaming Marshtomp behind him. Behind them, Zinnia follows in with several plastic bags held in one hand.
"Are you still couped up in here?" Brendan asks, wiping sand off of his feet before setting further in. "C'mon! The ocean is warm and the beach is open!"
"What he means to say, is that the Brawl on the Beach is starting soon, so up you go!" Zinnia whips one of the bags in her hand at Lee, who fumbles and catches it at the last second. "I guestimated your size since you were too lazy to come with, so sorry not sorry if they're sized wrong."
"I told you, I needed to swing by the gym and register then perform Vulpix's physical," Lee grumbles, still sour that the Dewford gym website was down, necessitating a long, early morning walk there. He opens the bag in his hands and finds a plain pair of dark green swimming trunks and a pair of cheap flip-flops.
Zinnia just turns her nose up mockingly. "What guy turns down the chance to watch their stupidly sexy friend try on bikinis all morning?" She gives her head an exaggerated shake and clicks her tongue in disapproval.
"A guy with dignity, maybe?" Brendan dryly remarks, making Marshtomp chuckle.
Zinnia steps past him, purposely billowing her cloak out to whack Brendan in the face. "I'm using your bathroom to change, then you're up. We've got a tournament to win, so don't take forever!" She slips into the small bathroom at the end of the motel room and shuts the door behind her.
Brendan rubs his smarting cheek with a grumble. "Jeez, what's her damage?" He wonders aloud. Brendan crosses the room to his bed and digs in his backpack, withdrawing three empty pokeballs before stuffing them in his pocket. "Me and Marshtomp are gunna duck out of watching that tournament if it gets boring and go to the Granite Cave," Brendan says, looking back at Lee. "In the meantime, we're going back to the ocean. See ya!" With that, Brendan and Marshtomp zoom off.
Lee shakes his head, then turns when the bathroom door opens.
Out strolls Zinnia, clad in a black and red striped bikini that tightly hugs her figure and leaves little to the imagination, almost seeming a size too small. On her head, a pair of sunglasses sit unused, and her hair tie is absent, letting her roughly hewn hair fall down to her neck. She smiles at him, eyes sparkling with mischief. In the back of his mind, Lee wonders how she has no tan lines before his imagination provides an answer that makes his face grow warm.
A nudge from Vulpix quickly snaps him out of his starring before Zinnia can comment on it. "Yeah, yeah, let me finish cleaning and I'll be along."
In the full-length bathroom mirror wearing just his swimming trunks, Lee silently regards himself.
Never could he be called overweight on earth, as the zoo gave him enough work to do, but the presence of all the food stands and the small food court that all gave discounts to staff sabotaged his poor self-control. He was forever in the boring middle-zone of formless and average. Now, after weeks of walking being his main mode of transport and most of his meals being lean and self-made, he now sports the slightest amount of definition. If he squints, he could almost say he has abs.
'That probably won't last long.'
What truly draws his attention are the marks the now bare parts of his body exposed.
His hands and forearms bear pale, thin, cross-crossing lines of marred flesh that most cat handlers acquire after several years on the job. Some are deeper and more visible, but most are faded with age. His torso and legs have several blemishes caused by young claws and teeth too playful for their own good, and he knows there are one or two small ones on his back. Most of the damage is too minor to see from a distance unless an observer is looking for imperfections, but...
Looking further up his right arm, an ugly, messy bite mark marrs his bicep and wraps around to his tricep, a permanent reminder to a younger, more disrespectful Lee to not overstep bounds.
He had only been under Aasir's mentorship for several months when he got too comfortable on the job and paid for it. Usiku was the name of the old panther who taught him the painful lesson, and it was only Aasir's intervention that let him get away with his arm still mostly in one piece. The older keeper yelled himself hoarse in a livid fury after tending to his idiotic student's wounds.
Lee pushes away the thoughts of his mentor in favor of the present, looking himself over again, self-consciousness rearing its ugly head the longer he inspects himself. Brendan has seen a bit of Lee while uncovered and simply thought all the marks cool as most young boys might.
Zinnia has seen none of them, which is its own bundle of worries, but the sheer number of strangers who will see and judge makes him falter. Surely claw and bite scars upon a trainer when pokemon are normally so docile is a mark of shame?
"Hey!" Zinnia pounds on the bathroom door. "Did you stop to take a dump and fall in? Hurry up already! We've got twenty minutes to be there!"
With a sigh, Lee grabs his wallet and shrunken pokeballs off of the bathroom sink and stuffs them into his pockets. He opens the door to find a surprised Zinnia, who stops with her hand raised to knock again. "No need to bust down the door, I'm here," Lee remarks.
Zinnia looks up and down his body, eyes lingering here and there before she smirks. "I would have figured you more built under that jacket. At least you aren't flabby," she says, reaching out a hand to poke his arm. "Well, c'mon! Times-a wasting!" The dragon tamer nabs her own pokeballs from where they lay on Brendan's bed, which are all attached to a loose belt that she loops around her waist just barely tight enough to not fall from around her hips. She throws the motel door open and saunters off, leaving Lee behind.
He looks over to Vulpix, who watches silently from his bed. "Again, I think you're the only one I can rely on," he says, making to follow after Zinnia.
The vixen snorts and hops to his shoulders when Lee pauses to lock the motel room door behind him. The soft fur across his bare shoulders and neck soothes his worry just a bit.
The pair turn, and find the beach right off the front doorstep, complete with a beating sun, white sands, the sounds of children playing in the waves, and the waves themselves.
Lee looks back at the somewhat ratty motel they rented from with a frown. "This place looked better in the dark. Premium beachfront spot my ass," he grumbles, speeding up to match pace with Zinnia, who glances at him as she pulls her sunglasses down over her eyes.
"Any idea who all is in this tournament? Or is it just locals?" Lee asks as he weaves past a laughing young boy being chased by a Zigzagoon. Looking further down the beach in front of one of the resorts, he sees a large gathering of people and pokemon by a lifeguard tower and can already hear bombastic music. "The flier made this look like a huge thing."
"Brawl on the Beach is to draw tourists in," Zinnia answers bluntly. "Most trainers come for the gym and leave afterward, which doesn't draw a ton of interest since everyone can just watch gym battles on TV. This is to squeeze some of that sweet, sweet moolah out of vacationers and passing trainers. The ten grand prize, band bookings, permits for running the event and all that other stuff?" She guffaws into her hand. "I bet they make that back thirty times over easy just by selling overpriced food and souvenir stand junk."
And indeed, as they get closer to the lifeguard tower sporting a large telescreen saying "Brawl on the Beach", they pass several stands on the outskirts, one of which is selling just hotdogs and beers for an unearthly $5 and $7 respectively. The grinning vendor has a line several beachgoers long.
"God damn," Lee swears. "Go back to the motel to eat, loud and clear."
The pair of trainers and shoulder-riding pokemon slip between the crowd to the lifeguard tower, where a table with a sign saying "registration" taped to the front is set-up under the telescreen. There, an older, rotund man in flower-print swimming trunks and a bored-looking teen girl in a one-piece swimsuit sit behind a pair of laptops. The man is already talking to a pair of boys clutching pokeballs, so the girl perks up as Lee and Zinnia approach. Her eyes glide off of Zinnia to Lee, making them widen as she takes in his visage.
"Zinnia Draconid and Lee Henson, reporting for the tournament," Zinnia grins and takes charge of the conversation from the get-go. "We should be reserved."
Inwardly, Lee feels himself shrinking and fights to keep his face impassive, now acutely aware of how many stares he's getting from Zinnia's announcement.
"O-Oh, sure!" The girl pulls her eyes off of Lee and looks down at her laptop. "Can I see your IDs and the pokeballs of the pokemon you're using?"
Lee wordlessly pulls his pokeballs and ID from his pocket, handing them to the outstretched hand of the attendant girl. She looks at the ID for a moment and types several things down, then holds each pokeball before a scanner on the front of the laptop, which beeps after each pokeball. The girl hands the card and balls back, and repeats the same process with Zinnia.
After typing a few more things into her laptop, sneaking looks at Lee as she does so, the girl clears her throat. "Looks like everything is in order. You're team number fifteen. Everything should be beginning in abo-"
"Goooooood morning Dewford!" The speakers up on the corners of the lifeguard tower blare, echoing up and down the beach. A reedy, middle-aged man dressed like a beach bum with a wide smile and a microphone on the tower waves an arm out to everyone. "It's that time again, time for a Brawl on the Beach!"
The people and pokemon all gathered around cheer, drowning out everything else for a moment.
"We're mixing it up this time, folks," the man on the tower continues. "For this Brawl, we're doing double battles! You heard that right, doubles! Twice the excitement this time! Sixteen teams of two will compete in single-elimination style for ten-thousand credits and the right to be Dewford's Dynamic Duo till the next Brawl!" The man moves to the side to make room as someone else climbs up the steps of the tower. "I'm local radio host Josh Speakmen, and joining me today to commentate on today's tournament is..."
Stepping up beside Speakmen with a charming smile is none other than the Dewford Gym Leader.
Again, the crowd gathered under the lifeguard tower cheer, which redoubles when Brawly waves down to everyone.
Lee ignores the crowd in favor of looking at Brawly. The man's excellent physique, tall form, and handsome face make it obvious why a number of girls and even a pokemon or two in the gathering around the tower sport blushes and have eyes only for him. In the corner of his vision, he can see Zinnia rub her chin and eye the Gym Leader appreciatively.
Brawly takes a second microphone offered to him by Speakmen with a smile. "Thank you everyone for the warm welcome!" He says, his surfer bro voice rolling up and down the beach. "This year's Brawl is going to be a blast, I can already feel it. We've got some real talent competing today so this'll be one for the books!" He says. As he talks, his eyes scan the crowd below, stopping on Lee, Vulpix, and Zinnia for a second longer than anyone else.
'That's not ominous at all...'
Vulpix sniffs dismissively from his shoulder. 'Y** ***** *** *u**.'
"Then without further ado, lets get the battles underway!" Speakmen cries, drawing a pokeball. With a toss, the ball flies high and pops open, throwing down a bolt of light into an empty spot in the crowd. Several people back up as a Vibrava materializes in the sand with a buzz of his wings.
'A Vibrava?' Lee blinks 'What's up with this?'
The dragonfly pokemon buzzes his wings again and then dives headfirst into the sand, vanishing with the crunch of displaced earth, then the sand begins to rumble under everyone's feet, prompting a wave of backing up.
The mussed sand vibrates and flattens into a circle almost a hundred feet across, radiating out from the center. On one end, the sand bunches up and forms the borders of a box large enough for two people to stand in with room to spare, and on the other side, another border-box forms. After a second, little flags pop out of the sand in each box, a red one and a blue one. The end result is a clean, circular battlefield.
"Wow..." Lee absently applauds with everyone else as Vibrava emerges out of the sand and flies back up to Speakmen. 'Flygon went up a little more on my list.'
"Let's welcome our first competitors," Speakmen says. "Start the roll!"
On the side of the tower, the telescreen stops scrolling through sponsor logos and displays all the names of the competing trainers. The screen rapidly scrambles them then throws the names into a bracket. The screen highlights the first fight with a red box.
JANE & MANTY
AMIR & DON
Lee feels Zinnia lightly elbow his side and looks over, following her pointing finger to the screen. "Looks like we're battle number four," she says, and indeed, they're slated to fight in the fourth match against a pair of trainers named Deb and Jean.
Speakmen smiles and waves a hand out. "First up is the daughter and father duo from our own Dewford, give it up for Jane and Manty!"
From the people gathered around the ring, a young brunette girl, probably around Brendan's age, and an older man with a laugh-line creased face wave to everyone amid applause and take the blue box.
"And next up is Amir all the way from Unova, and Don of Slateport!"
A pair of teen boys, one sporting a desert tan, and the other in an entirely too-bold speedo take the other box with dramatic waves to the spectators.
"Our first heat will be one pokemon per trainer." Brawly picks up as the crowd quiets down from the competitor announcement. "Once one team has no pokemon left to battle, the opposing team will advance. Trainers, please send out your selections!" Brawly cries as Speakmen returns his Vibrava and withdraws another pokeball.
The girl, Jane, throws out a Greatball. "Go, Pinchy!"
At the same time, her father throws a pokeball of his own, "Wingull!"
On the side of the father and daughter, a Corpish and a Wingull take form. As they send out their pokemon, the boys across from them do the same.
"Dewott, you've got this!" Amir tosses a pokeball with a water drop sticker upon it.
The other boy, Don, whips his pokeball high in the air without an intro.
From their pokeballs, a Dewott and a Swellow take their places on the field, Dewott smirking confidently while Swellow screeches up from above.
"It's Corphish and Wingull versus Dewott and Swellow!" Speakmen calls. "Dewott is a rare and powerful Water pokemon from the far away land of Unova, and Swellow is the fast and furious evolution of Taillow! On the other side we've got Corphish, one of the toughest Water-types around, and Wingull, the high-flying Water and Flying type we all know and love! What are your thoughts on this one, Brawly?" He turns to the Gym Leader.
"Dewott is the one to watch in this match, Josh," Brawly takes over the commentating seamlessly. "As you said, they're rare and powerful pokemon. So much so, Unova's rockin' Professor Juniper gives their younger stage, Oshawott, to her Lab Trainers."
'Rockin?' Lee wonders with his lips twitching up into a smile. 'Honestly? I can't blame him.'
"We're looking at a dynamite first match here! Are all trainers ready?" Speakmen asks into his mic, opening his other pokeball, releasing a Hypno that stands at his side.
Both sides call at once.
Speakmen's Hypno raises a hand, and a shimmering dome forms over the ring before fading into invisibility, just like with Brendan's battle in the Rustboro gym.
Idly, Lee wonders if Vulpix will be able to make Psychic barriers one day.
What follows is a one-sided and somewhat mediocre battle. It's clear that the girl trainer, Jane, only recently got her Corphish as the trainer and pokemon simply can't synergize at all. Wingull is obviously not a dedicated battler, and is quickly picked off by Swellow, leaving Corphish struggling in a 2v1 match. One good Slash attack from Dewott leaves Corphish with a cracked and useless claw, letting Swellow rush in to his lame side for a knock-out Take Down.
"And thats the match!" Speakmen calls. "The winners are the red team!"
The spectators erupt into applause.
Zinnia turns to Lee with a hand on her hip just above her pokeballs. "Those two seemed, eh. Not that great? The winners I mean."
Lee frowns as he watches the teen boys high-five and recall their pokemon. "Dewott fights like a berserker and Swellow's trainer refused to call any attacks unless it was one-hundred percent safe to do so. Quite the dichotomy, but I don't know that such a thing makes for a good battle strategy. One is overtaxing himself and the other is wasting opportunities. Swellow would have been caught in an uneasy one-on-one if Dewott overextended and got nailed by Corphish, who Swellow's trainer refused to engage. If Swellow knew any support moves, at least his time idling would not have been wasted. I could criticize Dewott's trainer more for just brainlessly attacking, but at least he did something." He stops. "I don't mean to shit on a match between some kids and a dad, though. It was fun to watch."
"That's what I was thinking, just in more words," Zinnia laughs. "You're such a nerd."
"I am not..." He grumbles.
The next two matches are much the same, each one taking about ten or so minutes. A Beautifly and Spoink ended up roasted by a Torkoal, whose Clefairy partner stood by running support with Helping Hand and Heal Pulse. A missed Flamethrower from Torkoal splashed against the dome barrier, making for a thrill for the crowd.
The next one was an outright bore until the end. A large Trapinch and a Lotad fought a Sentret and Nincada. The Nincada could barely fight with the harsh sun in it's nocturnal eyes, and a savage Crunch from Trapinch took it out of the fight in a single blow. Sentret's young trainer panicked at the sudden uphill battle and ordered Sentret to run away from his much slower foes and pelt them with Charge Beam. Lotad only needed two hits from Charge Beam to go down, but Trapinch's immunity to Sentret's only ranged attack meant they had to fight for real. The instant Sentret went in for a Fury Swipes attack, foolishly from the front since his trainer did not specify a flanking maneuver, he hesitated right before the attack and took a bone-shattering Crunch for the trouble.
Literally bone-shattering, as there was more than one sickening snap when Trapinch's jaws closed around the rodent pokemon like a steel trap, drawing winces and Oooohhhhh's from the crowd. The on-site Chansey on loan from the Pokemon Center quickly moved in when the match was called and hauled the brutalized Sentrent and distraught trainer away to a medical tent behind the lifeguard tower.
Finally, Lee and Zinnia's match arrives.
ZINNIA & LEE
DEB & JEAN
"Now for our fourth match, we've got Zinnia of Fallarbor, and Lee of Little Root!" Speakmen's voice booms over the PA. "C'mon up!"
Lee ignores his prickle of nervousness and holds his face in a mask of cool as he and Zinnia weave through the spectators, who all turn to look at them. They take their place in the red box. As Speakmen calls for the other trainers, Zinnia leans towards Lee.
"Hey, I'm going to use Goomy, these two don't seem like much," Zinnia whispers as the opponents, both teen girls in bikinis, both probably fifteen or sixteen years of age, take their places and send Lee nervous looks. "Goomy'll be more willing to fight with someone on his side... So long as it's not your bird."
"Up to fight, love?" Lee asks Vulpix, who gives him a vulpine smile. He turns back to Zinnia. "Vulpix then."
Zinnia's smirk turns savage.
"Trainers, please select your pokemon!"
Vulpix leaps from her trainer's shoulder, barely disturbing the sand as she lands and takes a loose, aloof stance. The action only seems to heighten the anxiety of the opposing trainers, who both clutch their pokeballs closely.
Zinnia keeps her manic smile in place as she draws a pokeball and throws it in the ring. "Goomy, time to tear them up!"
The tiny dragon pokemon appears in a flash of light, already looking resigned, then annoyed when the sand sticks to his damp body. A vulpine purr from Vulpix draws his attention, and the little dragon suddenly seems to realize it's not Vulpix that he's going against, but rather with. He draws himself up a little straighter.
"Delcatty, you've got this!" Jean cries, her pokeball flying from her hand.
"Volbeat, go!" Deb follows a second later.
Delcatty and Volbeat materialize on their side of the field. The pair of pokemon meet eyes for a moment and look at their opponents. Delcatty's hackles rise and Volbeat's wings take him several feet up into the air, the lantern on his rear flashing.
"In one corner, we've got Goomy, a rare Dragon-type pokemon, the first one we've seen in this tournament! What a thrill!" Speakmen laughs. "And his partner is a lovely Vulpix! A real spitfire of a pokemon in more than just the figurative sense. This match is going to be hot!" He turns to the girls. "Then we've got Delcatty, don't let the pretty exterior fool you, a Delcatty's claws will send you to a world of hurt! And with Volbeat's literal razzle-dazzle, we might have our most stylish team yet! Any opinions on this one, Brawly?"
Brawly raises his mic and looks right at Lee, making him sigh in resignation. "Yep," Brawly begins. "Considering Lee Henson here, a Lab Trainer under Professor Birch's employ," he points as if it's needed. "Defeated Roxanne's own pokemon while working with a type disadvantage, it's my opinion that Vulpix is the strongest pokemon to set foot in the ring yet, maybe the strongest pokemon in Brawl on the Beach in years."
A number of surrounding people gasp, a few of them raising cellphones and pokenavs to point at Lee and Vulpix. Lee has to seriously fight to keep his face even, but he's sure he's twitched more than once already. It's only Vulpix's silent, telepathic urges for him to keep calm that prevents him from openly shrinking away from the attention.
"And I doubt someone in his company with a Dragon pokemon is anything but a serious trainer as well," Brawly continues, looking at Zinnia as a smile blooms on his face. "I gotta say, I'm definitely going all-out when Lee and I battle at the Gym here in a few days. This is the first battle I've been eager for so far this year." he crosses his arms as more gasps and chatter breaks out. "I'm sorry to say, but Miss Jean and Miss Deb have got a seriously uphill battle here. It's time to ride the wave, or drown."
'Brawly, you motherfucker,' Lee glares up at Brawly with narrowed eyes, making the Gym Leader rock back on his heels, his confusion at the sudden hostility is plain on his face.
If the girls across from Lee and Zinnia looked dismayed before, they're positively petrified now, looking as if a Haunter just flew in their faces. Even their pokemon are measuring up Goomy and Vulpix with great reluctance.
A small part of him is secretly pleased that Vulpix is being regarded with respect, but it's overshadowed by his annoyance courtesy of all the eyes on him. "Lets just get this out of the way," Lee grunts. A second later he kicks himself for his tone when both of the opposing trainers flinch.
"Are both sides ready?"
"Ready!" Zinnia practically roars
"Ready..." Both Jean and Deb murmur.
Hypno's barrier shines to life, locking the pokemon in.
Goomy puffs himself up and Vulpix's muscles tense.
Delcatty's hackles rise once more and Volbeat hovers backward a foot or two, uneasy eyes locked onto Vulpix.
Speakmen draws in a breath, but time seems to slow as Lee reaches out to Vulpix telepathically 'Don't activate Drought, love,' Lee sends to the vixen. 'No need to dry out Goomy. Also, no need to advertise our telepathy. I'll give verbal instructions, but add details here. They want to put us on the spot? Fine, I guess we can't hide forever, so we'll give them a show here before I lose my nerve. We're not going to drag this out, but neither are we going to show our full hand, got it?'
She responds with a flicker of wordless understanding, and time seems to resume with the conversation over.
"Quick Attack!" Lee calls first. 'Hit Volbeat, then bounce to Delcatty, who is probably the stronger of the two. We'll let Goomy have the weaker 'Mon and help as needed.'
Vulpix goes from still to a streak of orange in hardly a second, flying at Volbeat, who freezes like a deer staring down the headlights of a runaway truck. The firefly pokemon can barely brace himself before Vulpix hits him like a furry cannonball, then he's thrown to the sandy ground with a wheeze when the fox pokemon uses him as a springboard and launches herself at a wide-eyed Delcatty.
"D-Delcatty, duck!" Jean stutters out a half-second too late.
Vulpix shoulder checks Delcatty, who yowls in distress when she's knocked clean off of her paws and into the sand. The impact is so violent that the cat pokemon bounces off the sand and comes to a stop several yards away as Vulpix twists and lands on her paws.
"What a dynamic start!" Speakmen booms. "Vulpix has blitzed both Delcatty and Volbeat! Can Deb and Jean turn this around, or has the tone of the match already been set?"
"Volbeat!" Deb begins, "Help Delca-!"
"Goomy!" Zinnia's much louder voice cows Deb and makes her falter halfway through her command. "Dragon Breath on Volbeat!"
Goomy gurgles and swells up like a balloon, a green glow shining through his skin, then he opens his mouth and unleashes a torrent of crackling green flames right at Volbeat.
The Bug pokemon buzzes and dives out of the way of the flames, but Goomy, much like his teammate Swablu did in her match with Ash's Taillow, quickly fires off another attack with corrected aim. Volbeat can only squeak before he's engulfed in raging dragonfire that covers any noise of pain he might have made.
'Zinnia is ruthless as usual, and it looks like even Goomy can throw some good punches if fired up,' Lee turns his attention back to Vulpix and Delcatty, but keeps Goomy and Volbeat in the corner of his eye.
Delcatty struggles to her feet, blotchy discoloration blooming on her side as she avoids putting weight on one of her forelegs.
"You can do it, Delcatty!" Jean cries. "Use Feint-"
"Confuse Ray," Lee orders simply.
"-Attack! Uh oh..."
Delcatty stalks forward just as Vulpix's eyes begin to glow, and before Delcatty can fade into Feint Attack's curious invisibility, she jolts as Confuse Ray hits and stumbles face-first into the sand, where she flails helplessly.
From the corner of his eye, Lee watches Volbeat zip at Vulpix in a Quick Attack to try and help Delcatty, but...
Volbeat cries out as another plume of green flame washes over him and knocks him away.
"Things are looking grim for Delcatty and Volbeat!" Speakmen says as the burnt and battered Volbeat struggles to stand. "Vulpix and Goomy are dominating the match and their opponents can barely muster a defense! They need to get up and get going if they're going to win this!"
'Sorry girls, I hate to be a dick but I need this cash for my Eevee fund,' Lee sighs. He turns his head to Zinnia. "Ready to finish this up?"
Zinnia rubs her chin. "Goomy doesn't have a good finisher unless you want to take both of them out."
"Have him knock Volbeat towards Vulpix, and we'll end it," Lee replies, getting a nod from her.
"Vulpix, Fire Spin."
The vixen's eyes light up the same color as balefire as a wide ring of writhing, spinning flames comes to life along the ground around her with the still struggling and confused Delcatty in the radius. The flames begin to pick up speed, spinning faster and faster, growing more intense...
"Goomy, Watergun just behind Volbeat!" Zinnia orders, her evil smile widening as she watches Fire Spin dramatically begin to spool up. "Throw him into Fire Spin!"
"Volbeat!" Deb struggles to think of an order. "G-Get out of there!"
Her partner Jean just watches with resignation, her head dropping into her hands.
The slug-dragon swells like a balloon again then spits a bowling ball-sized orb of water that hits the ground at Volbeat's side like a bomb, throwing water everywhere and the firefly into the air at Vulpix.
The second Volbeat crosses into the ring of fire from above, the glow in Vulpix's eyes doubles in intensity, then...
A whirling tower of inferno explodes into existence, rising up and splashing against the top of the barrier with both the roar of a wildfire and shrill shriek of a tornado. Sand is dragged into the blazing whirlwind and swiftly turned to glass, making a crystalline ring around the perimeter that glows a molten red.
"Holy smokes!" Speakmen exclaims as the spectators roar along with the fire. "It's like Vulpix opened a portal to the underworld! I would have expected this out of a Charizard, not a little Vulpix! The insanity! I don't think Delcatty and Volbeat are walking away from this one, folks!"
After several seconds of hell on earth, Fire Spin fades and dissipates in wisps of flickering orange, throwing Delcatty and Volbeat carelessly into the sand, thankfully away from any glass. Both pokemon lay limp and coated in burns, unable to fight further. In the middle of the cooling glass ring, Vulpix stands on a little island of sand, her chest rising and falling deeply.
"One! Two! Three!" Speakmen blows an air horn in his other hand. "Thats it! Vulpix and Goomy are the winners!"
Cheers ring out as the barrier falls, letting everyone recall their pokemon. The girls across from Lee and Zinnia dejectedly recall their pokemon, turning to the Chansey already behind them and handing the pokeballs over.
Zinnia recalls Goomy with a wide grin and kisses the ball when the tiny dragon is safely inside. "I knew you could do it!" She cheers. "You just gotta have some confidence in yourself, Goom. You're stronger than you know."
The ball wiggles in her hand.
Lee smiles at the scene as Vulpix retakes her place across his shoulder. "Damn fine job, love," he tells her, smiling a bit wider when she presses her forehead to his unmarred cheek. He reaches up and rubs behind her ear, pulling her a little closer in a facsimile of a hug.
"What an explosive match! What did you think of that one, everyone!?"
Everyone cheers and Lee even sees someone hold up a poster board sign with a hastily drawn Vulpix and Goomy upon it.
"Just like Brawly predicted, Lab Trainer Lee's Vulpix and Zinnia's Goomy aced the fight! All without taking a single hit, to boot!" Speakmen's excitement is almost tangible. "There's a storm overhanging this competition, a firestorm! Can anyone brave it? We'll find out here soon, as we'll be taking a short break to clean up the ring. Standby, everyone!"
Again, Vibrava flies to the center of the ring and dives into the ground with Dig. The ring rumbles, then the sand begins to spiral inward, pulling the glass to the center where it cracks and grinds back to sand as it sinks underground. Vibrava has obviously done this before.
Lee, Vulpix, and Zinnia step back into the spectators, many of whom crowd up close practically bursting with questions and congratulations.
"That was nuts! How does a Vulpix get that strong?" A teenage boy with a surfboard under his arm gapes at them. The Marill at his feet mirrors his expression perfectly.
"Or that fast?" A pretty young woman in a white sundress asks, standing very close. "She was a blur! There one second, gone the next. And that fur of hers is glorious. What's your rate for breeding?"
"Miss Zinnia! Miss Zinnia!" A young girl runs up, weaving through the legs of adults to reach the dragon tamer. "Was that really a dragon? Do you have others? Can I see em?!"
"Hey, guys..." A man and a woman holding hands approach. They're the Trapinch and Lotad trainers from the prior match and both are openly nervous. "So, uh. We're fighting in the next heat. Can you maybe take it easy? We're not pros or anything..."
"You kids ain't half bad!" A round, grinning man clad in a blue alolan shirt and sunglasses steps up. "What were your names again? Lee and Zinnia? It's not everyday you see talent like this."
Zinnia's temper is getting ready to blow as more people crowd them, Lee can see it on her darkening face. For a second, Lee is tempted to let her do it if it'll make all the prying eyes just back up a little!
Vulpix nips his ear, sending him an image of Professor Birch, then his ID card with his title of Laboratory Trainer in sharp relief.
'Shit. It'll look bad for both us and the lab if Zinnia opens her trap.' Lee shuts his eyes and sighs. Then he reopens them and tries to put on his best answer dumb questions from zoo guests face. "Everyone! One at a time, please!" He starts, stopping Zinnia short from yelling "Fuck off" or something equally offensive. "I'll answer everything as best I can till the next match starts. If you still have questions for myself or the Hoenn Pokemon Lab, I can provide you with my email and I'll get back to you as soon as possible."
'Which is to say you'll find yourself in my spam folder if what you have to say is stupid.'
"Anyway," Lee points to the surfer boy and his Marill. "Vulpix has been on a harsh training regimen and diet customized down to the calorie from day one to maximize her power for her eventual evolution to Ninetales. Hours upon hours, day in and day out. It asks a lot of both the trainer and pokemon, and not every method works best for everyone. Do your research before making any drastic changes to your pokemon's diet and routine. Next..." He turns to the woman in the sundress, who looks at him with large, hope-filled eyes. "Vulpix and I discussed such a matter awhile ago. She has no interest in breeding for profit, and I certainly won't force the issue," he says, making the woman's face fall.
For roughly ten minutes, Lee, aided by Vulpix and sometimes an irritated Zinnia, field questions from and talk to the small crowd that has gathered around them. As Lee expects, a lot of the questions are asinine or intrusive, which get polite non-answers, but a surprising number of them are fairly intelligent things that it would do a trainer well to know. For several, he has to tell them to email him and he'll get back to them, as he simply does not know, and others he has to keep short, lest they turn into full lectures. Of the handful of business cards Birch gave him, he's down to just two copies after giving out many of them.
"Hey pal, I got a question for ya. Do you think you're hot shit because Brawly called you out?"
The chatter in the group quiets as everyone turns to the person to ask such a bold thing.
Lee follows the voice, turning to the side, where he finds a young, sneering face pointed at him.
Before him stands an older teen boy, perhaps seventeen, with maroon eyes and hair down to his chin. His feet sport simple sandals partially covered by his long, ripped up jeans, and his torso is covered with a black sleeveless shirt. Most of his maroon hair is covered by a loose black beanie, sans a bang that stands up in defiance of gravity. On his left arm, a fingerless metal bracer that would look right at home in a Hot Topic is slotted with four shrunken pokeballs with spots for two more. All in all...
'This kid reeks of teenage angst and too much anime.'
Lee pushes away what he really wants to say and clears his throat. "Honestly? No. I would have preferred to not have all this attention. Since we've been identified now, though, I don't see much reason to hold back."
The teen crosses his arms. "Of course you would have liked to keep the anonymous cool guy thing going. Can't have anyone blowing away your smokescreen, can you?" He shakes his head condescendingly. "That's all people like you have going for them."
Lee's brows meet as he tries to puzzle out what the boy before him means. "Excuse me?"
"You're a privileged, theatrical hack, I can see it even if no one else does," the teen says, his sneer transforming into a full-blown scowl. "You may have dazzled all the dimwits watching this farce of a competition, but I can see you for what you really are," He says before pointing an accusing finger at a startled Vulpix. "Your fox there needed a full ten seconds to charge up that Fire Spin. Looks fancy against no-talent shitters who will wait around to get wiped out, but against a real trainer? You'd be down and out if you stopped for even two seconds."
'He noticed,' Lee feels his eyes narrow as the red-head calls out the failing point of Vulpix's Fire Spin. 'We still can't get the instant, turn-things-to-ash-in-one-touch inferno that she displayed back in Petalburg Woods, but charging it gets closer than a cold cast at the cost of needing to sit still, a death sentence in an even fight. This kid is sharp.'
Zinnia's short fuse finally hits its limit. She scowls right back at the mouthy teen. "Okay, let's see your achievements, smartass. Can you take down a full-tilt Gym Leader working with a type disadvantage the whole time?"
For some reason, that makes him snarl like a feral animal, he turns to Zinnia with loathing etched into his face. "I could if I was some privileged shit who had everything I needed to do so handed to me!" He roars, making several people around him gasp and back up. "Look at you!" He points at Lee, who freezes. "A grown-ass man covered in scars becoming a trainer this late in life? With a rare pokemon no less? Something tells me you failed as a trainer and ran away here to Hoenn. Then you had some buddy in the League get you a pokemon and a fresh start and a free paycheck so you can fake your way to the top, because all that fucking matters anymore is being buddy-buddy with someone in the Pokemon League! I've seen this before, and I know I'll see it again!"
Lee rocks back at the sheer vitriol the teen spews. On his shoulder, Vulpix openly growls, one of her paws sliding down to his pectoral to give better lift-off for a jump. He places a hand on the paw to hold her in place and mentally shakes off the second-hand rage that bleeds from Vulpix to him. "Kid, look, you're making a lot of assumptions, and I think-"
"I don't give a rattata's ass about what you think," The boy interrupts, red eyes blazing. "Backpedal all you want now that you've been found. I'm going to enjoy cutting you down to size when we battle, assuming you make it that far."
Lee is just barely fast enough to catch a livid Zinnia's wrist when she steps forward with a fist cocked back. Hard act or not, the maroon-haired boy flinches and backs up a step.
"Zinnia, don't." Lee orders, releasing her. She rubs her wrist and meets his eyes. "An assault charge is the last thing you need. We'll settle it in the ring."
"Good as new, folks!" Speakmen's voice rolls over everyone as the ring stops rumbling. Vibrava pops out of the ground and flies back to the lifeguard tower. "Now, lets get back to it! Show us the next teams!"
The telescreen highlights the next names.
ANDRE & BENJAMIN
KATE & DEE-ANNE
The teen before Lee and Zinnia snorts. "Looks like I'm up. Watch closely and maybe you'll learn something," he turns and walks toward the ring, everyone parting for him. A few steps in, he stops, and without turning around says; "Oh, and control your bitch, Henson." With that, he keeps walking.
"The fucking audacity of that brat!" Zinnia screams, her fists clenched and face red in fury, marking this as the angriest Lee has ever seen her. "He better hope his ass gets knocked out before we fight him, or so help me there will be no mercy!"
"He was certainly a character..." Lee mutters with a frown, His own flicker of annoyance is overshadowed as he tries to think back and see if he remembers the kid from anywhere. 'He's weirdly familiar. The hair and attitude make me think of Silver, but he lives in Johto and doesn't match looks-wise.' Lee crosses his arms as he ruminates on the identity of the rude kid. 'I don't recall any trainers of note being named Ben or Andre, either.'
"First up, both here in lovely Dewford on vacation from Lilycove City, we've got Kate and Dee-Anne!" Speakmen introduces, pulling everyone's attention back to the ring. A pair of older ladies in conservative beach-wear and sunhats smile and wave as a few cheers are sent their way.
"Next up, we've got last year's literal dark horse, and this year's defending Brawl champ, Dewford's reigning Dark-type specialist, Andre!"
The teen who accosted Lee and Zinnia, now known as Andre, steps into his box as a near equal amount of cheers and boos are sent his way. He smirks and waves mockingly to several of his loudest decriers in particular.
'A Dark-type specialist?' Lee wonders. 'It fits the angsty theme he's got going on. If he won last year...'
Vulpix flicks an ear, tickling him. Her emotions flicker, mostly being disappointment at how easy their match was.
'True, I guess it's not a huge accomplishment if most battles are like the ones we've seen so far, but let's watch to be sure he's not just blowing smoke.'
"And partnered with Andre, we have Benjamin from our own Dewford!"
A short, mousy boy in glasses who looks like he wants to be literally anywhere else reluctantly takes a spot at Andre's side.
"Trainers! Pick your pokemon!"
From Kate and Dee-Anne's side, both ladies throw in pokeballs without an intro, releasing a Plusle and a Minun. Both pokemon let out delighted squeaks at seeing each other.
Benjamin gulps and tosses his pokeball. "Psyduck, standby!"
The ball pops open midair, shooting down a mass of light that collects and forms a Psyduck. The duck pokemon blinks and looks around. When his eyes fall on Andre, Psyduck quacks and openly quakes, his eyes wide.
"Psyduck, it's okay, we're a team this time..." Psyduck's trainer tries to comfort the duck pokemon without any results. Benjamin wrings his hands, and it's unclear if he's trying to calm himself or his pokemon. "Just take it easy, okay?"
Andre smirks. "Do as Ben says, Psyduck. Hell, Ben. Just sit back and let us take care of this," he laughs, raising his pokeball dramatically before flicking his wrist, sending the ball in.
At the apex of it's flight, the pokeball opens with it's distinct pop-hiss and drops a crouching, quadrupedal form into the sand.
Lee feels his heart skip a beat when the light around the pokemon clears.
Slowly standing from it's crouch, an Absol rises to his full height, slowly opening his blood-red eyes as he does so. The eyes snap to Psyduck, who goes totally still, then to Plusle and Minun, who both stiffen and step closer to each other. In an instant, the ring takes on a fearful air.
A bead of sweat unrelated to the Hoenn summer sun runs down Lee's brow as he looks at the pokemon. His bone-white coat is clean, his red-eyes look almost feral in their intensity, and his claws, bladed tail, and most certainly his bladed horn all glitter with a freshly sharpened edge. 'Absol is much more menacing when you see one up close. I want a knifecat, but at the same time I don't.'
"In one corner, we've got Plusle and Minun! A real dynamic duo if there ever was one! In the other, we've got Psyduck, a Water-type with some psychic flair! Last, but most certainly not least, we have Absol, the Disaster pokemon! He was certainly a disaster for all his foes last year, and it doesn't look like thats changed this year. What do you think, Brawly?"
The Gym Leader's expression is one of carefully maintained neutrality, one that doesn't so much as twitch when Andre stares up at him with narrow eyes. After a few seconds, Brawly raises his microphone. "I don't know about this one, Josh. It could go either way. Let's watch and see."
Andre's face twists itself into a rictus of hate.
"Are both sides ready?"
The barrier comes down, locking the pokemon in.
"Ready, I guess," Kate says with her partner nodding.
"Just start already!" Andre yells.
"As I said, just sit back, Ben," Andre grunts. "Absol, Night Slash!"
Absol unhurriedly stalks forward, his blade humming with a threatening aura of pulsating purple.
"Plusle," Kate, calls her pokemon, making him perk up.
"Minun," Dee-Anne calls her own pokemon, who perks up as well.
"Thundershock!" They both cry as one.
Plusle and Minun mash their plus and minus marked cheeks together, throwing a wave of sparks, then as one, squeak and shoot a screaming bolt of electricity at Absol, who makes no move to dodge. Then at the absolute last second, with the bolt only feet away, Absol moves. He steps out of the way just barely enough to avoid the bolt, which smashes into the barrier with a crackle. He stares at Plusle and Minun with the same placid expression he's had since he was released and keeps walking forward.
"Again!" Both lady trainers order.
Plusle and Minun repeat the same attack with a fierce cry, their whole bodies lighting up in a corona of electricity as they throw an even bigger bolt at Absol.
Just like last time, Absol carelessly sidesteps the bolt with devilish speed, seeming to just teleport several inches out of the way all while never breaking his stride.
Both pokemon opposite of Absol separate and take uneasy steps backward. In the instant they do so, Absol tenses.
The sand explodes under Absol's paws as he charges forward with breakneck speed, barely more than a flicker of ghostly white that reforms as Absol behind the pair. Plusle and Minun only have time to shriek in agony when the Dark-type throws his head and cuts deeply into their backs with Night Slash.
The entire crowd cringes and Oooooohhhhhh's as one.
Another bead of sweat joins the one from earlier on Lee's face. 'The instant they lost face, Absol struck. Definitely a cat-like behavior to have. And that speed! The only pokemon I know that's faster is Corvisquire, and that's only while using Extremespeed...' There was no white aura to indicate a move being used when Absol dodged or charged in, which means... 'That's all-natural speed. Holy shit.'
Plusle hits the sand face down and does not rise, his back slowly weeping red. Only the slow rise and fall of his breathing tells everyone he's alive.
Minun somehow manages to twist midair and land roughly on his paws, his own back sporting a huge laceration. The rodent pokemon pants and shivers, but slowly stands back to his hindlegs, drawing a wave of cheers from the spectators.
"Absol has no chill, as the kids say," Speakmen speaks up. "In just one attack, Plusle is down! Minun is left with a tense one on two match... Well, sort of, if Psyduck steps in. Can Dee-Anne and Minun make a monumental comeback?"
"No, they can't." Andre laughs. "Absol, Night Slash again!"
"Minun, Electro Ball!" Dee-Anne frantically cries. "You can do it, honey!"
Absol doesn't bother playing with this weakened prey, and charges full-tilt. Minun charges up and fires Electro Ball in record time, but Absol ducks the attack instantly and lashes his horn out.
Minun is thrown from his paws again, now with a matching cut on his stomach and unconscious before he even hits the ground. He rolls across the sand, before coming to stop at Psyduck's feet. The duck pokemon looks down at Minun, petrified.
"One! Two! Three!" The horn sounds. "That's it! Absol and Psyduck are the winners with the fastest match yet! Will last year's champ sweep the competition? Or will he find a challenge and really show his stuff? This Brawl is really heating up!"
The Dark-type specialist recalls his Absol with a smirk and pats his partner on the shoulder, then he turns and stares right at Lee and Zinnia, his smirk growing.
At Lee's side, Zinnia grits her teeth. "Smug little shit. I'm going to enjoy beating that Absol into the ground."
It was at that time Lee realizes that his team and Andre's are on opposite sides of the brackets, meaning they can only meet in the finals. He runs his hand through his sweaty hair and lets out a tired breath. "Fun. I know some grand power out there is fucking with me. Would a break be too much to ask for?"
Vulpix just noses his cheek and offers some silent comfort.
The next few matches are a blur, as Lee and Vulpix are too deep in thought forming a strategy to deal with Andre and the matches themselves just aren't very interesting. Once, he looked up when the crowd got especially riled up, but it was just because a Seel's Icy Wind formed an interesting pattern on the barrier. After what seems to be no time at all, Lee and Zinnia are called again.
ZINNIA & LEE
LANA & TROY
"Lab Trainer Lee and Zinnia, versus Lana and Troy! Trainers! Select your pokemon!"
Across from Lee and Zinnia, Lana and Troy both share looks, Lana's determined while Troy's is resigned, and pull out one pokeball each before throwing in tandem. For Lana, the large Trapinch she used earlier takes to the field, and Troy's Lotad, still sporting a few electrical burns from his hasty healing session, finds his place next to Trapinch.
Zinnia draws her ball next. "Shelgon! We're not wasting time on this one!" She throws the ball, and from it emerges Shelgon in a flash of light. The encased dragon rumbles from within his shell, making the sand around his feet vibrate.
For a second, Lee debates putting Vulpix in, but figures it better for her to save her energy. That in mind, he makes his decision. "Corvisquire! You're next!" He throws the pokeball high, where it snaps open and materializes Corvisquire, who screeches loud enough to make Trapinch and Lotad flinch.
"Lana and Troy start with Trapinch and Lotad again, but Lee and Zinnia switch it up! What pokemon are those two, anyway?"
"Both are powerful mid-stages, Josh." Brawly takes over, watching the pair of pokemon with a growing smile. "Corvisquire will evolve into Corviknight, a huge crow pokemon from Galar, and Shelgon evolves into the dragon pokemon Salamence, the same ace pokemon of Drake, one of Hoenn's most powerful trainers." The comparison to the Elite trainer's pokemon draws a wave of exclamation from the crowd. "Both are serious powerhouses, and I'm frankly not surprised that Lee and Zinnia have them."
"Lets see how this shakes things!" The barrier comes down. "Are all trainers ready?! Begin!"
"Shelgon, Rollout on Trapinch!" Zinnia is the first one to bark.
'When did Shelgon learn Rollout? I guess that leaves us with Lotad,' Lee thinks. "Corvi! Pluck!"
Shelgon pulls his legs into his shell and spins up into a gray blur, kicking up a cloud of sand before rushing at Trapinch.
"Trapinch, catch him with Crunch!" Lana orders.
Trapinch opens his jaws wide and bites down right before Shelgon impacts him, but the dragon pokemon keeps spinning even in Trapinch's hold. The sound of Shelgon's shell grinding against Trapinch's teeth is an awful, ear-splitting din like a circular saw trying to cut into steel, complete with a shower of sparks. It only takes a second for Trapinch's mouth to begin smoking and for the tactical error to show.
Meanwhile, Corvisquire divebombs Lotad too fast for Troy to call an attack, his beak glowing white. Lotad can only try to scramble away from the crow pokemon, but has the breath knocked out of him when Corvisquire lands on his lilypad head.
"Lotad! Use Flail!" Troy desperately calls. "Get him off!"
Lotad begins to glow but loses focus and yelps when Corvisquire digs his talons into the delicate leaf on Lotad's head. Then with a malicious caw, the crow pokemon brings his beak down and harshly bites Lotad again and again, making the pokemon croak and struggle even harder. It only takes three or four bites before the already-damaged Lotad stops struggling and goes limp as the pain sends him into unconsciousness.
Corvisquire stops and hops off of his foe, eyeballing the fallen Lotad with an avian sneer. For half a second, Lee fears Corvisquire will take out his frustration on the already downed Lotad, but despite a few caws and angry flaps of his wings at Lotad, Corvisquire does not strike again.
"And it looks like Lotad is down!" Speakmen cries. "If Trapinch doesn't make a move soon, it looks like he'll be joining Lotad!"
Trapinch finally throws his head to the side and spits out Shelgon, who cancels Rollout to reorient himself, but the damage has already been done. Trapinch groans and shakes his head, the edges of his teeth all worn down and dulled. Shelgon, meanwhile, only has scratches to show for the trouble.
As the knocked out Lotad is recalled, Zinnia keeps the offensive going. "Shelgon! Dragon Pulse!"
"Corvi, Swift!" Lee adds in.
Shelgon's barely visible mouth glows blue with whirling energy, and Corvisquire launches himself up into the air with his wings shining gold. Both pokemon cry and launch their attacks.
"Trapinch, Dig now!" Lana screams.
The antlion pokemon tries to dig underground, but with his teeth raw and painful, he can't move the sand in time and is hit by the whirling beam of dragon energy, then by a mammoth barrage of star-shaped rays, both attacks kicking up earth-rocking explosions. When the resulting plume of sand falls back to the ground, Trapinch is partially buried and unmoving. After several seconds, the match horn sounds.
"Two knockouts within seconds of each other! Corvisquire and Shelgon's fury knows no bounds! Lee and Zinnia advance to the semifinals!" The words are met with cheering and a few more signs being held aloft.
Lana recalls her pokemon and practically falls into Troy's arms in tears. The man in turn glares at Lee and Zinnia.
Lee can only shrug and mouth 'Sorry'. On his shoulder, Vulpix just shakes her head.
The next match, Andre's, is a repeat of his last one. The boy's Absol makes short work of the Cacna and Rosalia he faces, both falling to a single, savage Night Slash despite their desperate attempts to keep some distance between themselves and the Dark-type. Absol simply dodges every projectile with ease and cuts them down with an instant burst of speed while Benjamin's Psyduck stands still and just stares at his teammate in terror.
After that, the other matches aren't much to talk about. One younger trainer boasted about having a Gyrados, but then stuttered and declined to use it, if he had one at all. His team lost. Eventually, the matches loop back to Zinnia and Lee for the semifinals.
AMIR & DON
ZINNIA & LEE
"It's time for the semifinals! We've had a wonderful tournament now, and it's getting down to the wire! Amir and Don with just Dewott and Swellow have made quick work of their matches so far, but how will they fare against a Lab Trainer and an apparent dragon tamer? For the semifinals, it'll be two pokemon per trainer!"
As they take to the ring, Lee turns to Zinnia. "Hey, this one we should probably plan for. These two aren't pushovers."
Zinnia nibbles on her lower lip. "Think they'll open with Dewott and Swellow again?"
Lee glances at the pair of young trainers. Amir has a cocky smirk on his face, while Don's is more guarded, but certainly not fearful. "Yeah. Dewott and Swellow have only taken minor hits so far, so they'll use them to open. They might even be expecting us to use pokemon we've already used in anticipation of them using different pokemon to catch us in a double fake-out. I'll use Treecko for Dewott if you want to handle Swellow."
The dragon tamer grins and palms a pokeball. "Swablu it is, then."
"Trainers! Make your first selection!"
Everyone draws their hands back, then at once, throws.
On Amir and Don's side, Dewott and Swellow materialize in flashes of light as expected. Dewott makes a show of drawing his scalchops and dropping into a fighting stance while Swellow just hovers with a keen eye watching the field.
Treecko and Swablu form from their own flashes of light. Treecko stands with his forearms crossed and eyes closed, dismissing his opponents without even looking at them. Swablu, meanwhile, looks at Swellow and takes to the air with a chirp.
"It's Treecko and Swablu versus Dewott and Swellow! Are all the trainers ready?" Again, the barrier falls and traps the pokemon inside.
"Ready!" Amir and Don respond at once.
"Ready!" Zinnia and Lee mirror their reply.
"Treecko, Quick Attack!"
"Swablu! Dragon Pulse!
"Dewott, intercept Treecko with Slash!"
"Swellow! Use Agility to dodge!"
All the pokemon explode into action at once.
Treecko blurs forward, zig-zagging rapidly to try and throw off Dewott, who watches the green blur with caution. The instant Treecko is close enough, Dewott whirls in a full circle with the edges of his left shell whistling through the air right at Treecko's unprotected face.
The wood gecko catches Dewott's wrist before the shell can slice into his muzzle and lashes out with a kick, catching Dewott in the stomach and drawing a grunt from the otter pokemon as he folds slightly. Dewott does not give the opportunity for a second attack and rips his wrist from Treecko's hold, spinning on a single paw and sending his own kick towards Treecko, who narrowly backsteps the blow.
Dewott growls and rushes forward, slashing furiously in a flowing dance that gives Treecko no opening for a counter, forcing him to backpedal with a frown. Once, Dewott surges just a little faster, giving Treecko a shallow cut across his forearm. Treecko scowls in reply and glows white with Quick Attack, stepping dangerously into Dewott's wild attacks and weaving around one, two, three, four slashes to slam an elbow into Dewott's face, making him recoil and clutch his snout. Dewott isn't stunned for long and throws one of his shells, cutting into Treecko's side.
"Treecko! Keep him at arm's length and use Absorb! He'll tire before you do!" Lee calls, too engrossed in the melee to do more than glance at Swablu and Swellow, who are in a furious mid-air dogfight.
Swablu screeches when she's struck with Swellow's blindingly fast Aerial Ace and fires off a retaliatory Dragon Pulse that clips Swellow, burning a thin furrow into his side. The larger bird rapidly circles around as Swablu struggles to keep him in her line of sight.
"Swellow, use Aerial Ace again!"
"Fuck that! Swablu! Hyper Voice!" Zinnia cries.
Lee's eyes widen as Swablu sucks in a deep breath that inflates her small body. "Treecko! Retreat and cover your ears!"
Treecko wastes no time breaking away from Dewott, but not before hitting the Water-type with a split-second Absorb, making Dewott cringe and step back. In a flash, Treecko glows white and returns to Lee's side of the field, tightly covering his ears.
Swablu's beak opens and unleashes an auditory hell.
The whole dome rattles and the sand jumps and dances from the soundwaves. Even with the barrier taking the worst of the edge off, Lee still feels a twinge of phantom pain from Vulpix as she winces and folds her ears back. Many of the spectators back up, their own ears covered.
Much like Ash's Taillow did, the awful noise freezes Swellow midair and wracks the bird with pain, both from the hearing damage and his hollow bones being rattled by the violently vibrating air. Swellow can't even keep his wings flapping and falls harshly to the ground where he writhes in abject agony.
Dewott is hit as well, covering his ears with his mouth open in a scream that Swablu overshadows with ease. The otter sways and falls to his knees
Treecko, even behind Swablu and with ample time to prepare, grits his teeth.
After what seems like an eternity that was probably only a few seconds, Swablu runs out of breath and pants.
Swellow goes limp, his eyes closing as he fades into blissful unconsciousness.
Dewott, meanwhile, stands shakily and picks his shells up, looking between Swablu and Treecko with unfocused eyes.
"What a heinous attack! It downed Swellow with ease! I wouldn't be surprised if people on the other side of the island heard that!"
"Treecko, put him out of his misery," Lee rubs an ear with a frown. "Quick Attack into Pound!"
The wood gecko glows white once more and flies over the sand at Dewott, who brings his shells up in a shaky defense.
"Dewott, Detect!" the now dismayed Amir cries, only for his pokemon to have no reaction.
'His eardrums are probably blown out. Sorry about Zinnia, kid.'
Before the otter can raise his defense, Treecko slips into his now open guard and strikes out with his heavy tail, hitting Dewott in the temple throwing him end over end. The Water-type tumbles to a stop in the sand, knocked out.
"And Dewott is knocked out! Both Don and Amir need to select new pokemon!"
Both teens recall their pokemon slowly. Amir clenches the ball in his hand when Dewott is safely returned and Don murmurs something to Swellow's pokeball too quiet to hear. Don says something to Amir, who looks up. The boys then huddle, talking to each other near soundlessly.
Lee turns to Zinnia with an unamused frown. "Care to warn me next time you try to deafen my pokemon?" He asks, rubbing Vulpix's aching ears.
Zinnia crosses her arms under her bust and raises a brow. "What? And give away the element of surprise?"
"We, your teammates, stop being useful if my pokemon can't hear a word I'm saying."
The draconid rolls her eyes. "Treecko lived. It's fine."
Lee just sighs and shakes his head.
After about ten more seconds, their opponents break their huddle. Don steps forward and clears his throat. "Hey, proctor, commentator guy? We're cutting our losses. Dewott and Swellow were our best pokemon. We forfeit."
The crowd jeers and boos, making Don flinch and Amir just crosses his arms with a dour look upon his face.
"Amir and Don concede defeat!" Speakmen recounts. "Lee and Zinnia are our first finalists!"
"There is no shame in knowing when you're outmatched and bowing out gracefully," Brawly quickly jumps to the rescue of the boys, instantly quieting much of the booing. "Amir and Don went far into the Brawl and both are great trainers with great pokemon. Lets hear it for them, everyone!"
The crowd does a 180 and cheers erupt from everyone... Or almost everyone. From his place in the crowd beside his partner Benjamin, Lee sees Andre's face fall into a deep scowl as he stares up at Brawly with something akin to revulsion.
"And we've moving right along! Lets get the next match underway!"
The telescreen lights up, moving down to the next backet.
CECIL & ALEX
ANDRE & BENJAMIN
Lee's eyes turn to the trainers named Cecil and Alex. Cecil is almost painfully average, being a man in his twenties or so with a build much like Lee's own. His partner, Alex, is a fair bit shorter and slimmer, almost feminine in his appearance. If not for his lack of shirt paired with his swimming trunks, Lee might have mistaken him for a woman. Both did well in their matches, their Seel and Electrike making a surprisingly good team.
Cecil raises his hand as he and Alex approach, both stopping short of the ring's trainer box with anxious expressions. "Uh... Look, we hate to be buzzkills and all, but we're going to forfeit too." His words draw a collective sound of disappointment and several boos from the watching people.
"We... just don't want our pokemon torn up that bad, is all..." Alex adds in a small voice, unable to meet anyone's eyes and instead staring at the sand.
Lee clicks his tongue and looks over to Zinnia, who gives him a manic smile in return. He looks away from her and to the vixen on his shoulder, who shakes her head in tandem with his.
"Cecil and Alex drop out when faced with last year's champ, advancing Andre and Benjamin to the finals! This is sure to be Brawl on the Beach's best match ever! We'll be taking a short break to get ready, so grab your drinks and snack now!"
The telescreen flashes one final time.
ZINNIA & LEE
ANDRE & BENJAMIN