A note from Fuggmann

So Borne of Caution has enjoyed an explosion of popularity here recently on RR, and I want to say thank you to everyone who reviews, comments, rates, etc. I love knowing that you enjoy my work and it makes me all the more eager to create more for you. 

Disclaimer: I don't own Pokemon. Any similarities between real people, living or dead, or places, standing or demolished, in this story are just coincidence.

I am an animal lover, but not exactly an expert. Some biology and behavior referenced in the story may not be 100% accurate, or might even be outright pseudoscience.

A big thanks to NurseBold, Nicolas H, Max D, Tim M, ncskeeter56, Thomas D, Avo, S. Nutter, Lucy B, Lars H, Jesper B, Frogsamurai, Bunny Waffles, LizardMessiah, and Chyymor for being patrons.

An extra big thanks to Spartanstoryteller, Drekin, Teigen S, and HyeoJ for being high-level patrons.

Last but certainly not least, a very special thanks to BrokenOlive for being a top-tier patron.

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The crowd around the makeshift ring begins to disperse, most heading to the various food stands around the beach before the final match. On the other side of the ring, Andre is content to stand with his arms crossed as his foot taps the sandy ground impatiently. At his side, Benjamin just twiddles his fingers and looks at the ground.

Lee turns to Zinnia, starting slightly when he sees her actually shivering in anticipation. Her almost crazed ruby eyes are locked with Andre's arrogant maroon in a silent staring match.

Lee shakes his head. "Zinnia, we need to talk before this match,"

With great reluctance, she turns away from the Dark-type specialist to look at Lee, her frown from earlier returning. "About what?"

"About how to deal with that Absol and any other pokemon he has," Lee begins, putting a hand on her shoulder and guiding the dragon tamer into turning to try and hide their conversation. "That Absol's speed is insanity. Even if his partner just stands around, this is going to be a tough one and we need to work together if we're going to win this."

Zinnia just laughs. "Sure thing. Wipe the floor with his partner and I'll have Shelgon trash the Absol. They aren't known for taking hits. Easy."


Lee feels his lips pull downward. "Don't blow me off. Andre's pokemon is as quick as Corvisquire when he's using Extremespeed and downed all his opponents in one or two hits. If Andre's other pokemon are half as strong, or god forbid, even better, then we might be toast. There's no consolation prize, so that money you want is gone if we lose."

That seems to make Zinnia stop and think for a moment. After a long few seconds, she says; "Fine, I guess. I still think you're worrying too much. What's your plan? I doubt he's going to open with Absol."

"Probably not," Lee agrees. "We want to remove Benjamin from the equation as quickly as possible so he can't give them a come-from-behind victory, which means stalling Andre to focus him down. It's kind of a dick move, but love and war and all that."

Zinnia nods. "Exactly what I was saying. If you take down his pokemon, I'll have Swablu play keep-away with the brat's pokemon and then we can crush him."

"And then when Absol comes out, we need to play it smart," Lee stresses. "I don't know if we get any substitutions or not, so we'll need to wear him down with anything we have. Burns, poison, paralysis, confusion, whatever we've got to weaken him for when Shelgon or Vulpix take the stage to fight him," he says, raising a hand to pet the vixen on his shoulder.

"And we're back, folks!" Speakmen cries, snapping Lee and Zinnia from their huddle. Everyone quickly begins to gather around the ring for prime viewing spots as the commentator takes a breath. "In the red corner, we've got Hoenn Lab Trainer Lee Henson and the lovely Zinnia Draconid, who have taken the Brawl by storm and made it all the way to the finals! In the blue corner, We've got Dewford's bad boy defending champ Andre and final four finisher from last year Benjamin! Let's hear it for them, everyone!"

The cheers are so loud that echo off the hotels and beach houses lining the beachfront. Out in the ocean, a lone Dewgong pokes its head out of the water to see the commotion.

Andre smirks and steps up to his side of the ring, Benjamin following demurely at his heels.

With a deep breath, Lee steps forward into the red box with Zinnia at his side. "Remember the plan. I'm starting with Treecko," he says quickly, getting a nod from Zinnia.

"This'll be a three on three match with only one sub allowed per trainer," Brawly takes over, gazing down at Andre, who scoffs at him. "Once one side is out of pokemon, the other side will be our winners. Trainers, select your first pokemon!"

As one, Lee, Zinnia, Andre, and Benjamin toss their pokeballs forward.

On the red side, Treecko and Swablu take form. Swablu lets out a tweet and rises into the air as Treecko rolls a shoulder and settles into an uncaring stance.

Across from them, Benjamin's Psyduck takes the sandy field as a large Mightyena emerges from Andre's ball. The dark canine pokemon lets a bone-rattling growl roll from his throat and stares down both Treecko and Swablu, ignoring the nervous Psyduck at his side.

Treecko's eyes narrow as he takes in Mightyena, but he keeps his loose stance rather than squaring up, making Mightyena draw back his lips in a dagger-toothed snarl.

'Shit, I was hoping Andre focused solely on his Absol and left his other pokemon weak,' Lee sighs. The Mightyena's teeth are all pearly white and his coat is sleek and shiny, all hallmarks of being well-raised. At least Andre raises his pokemon well. 'I was hoping a little too hard, I suppose.'

"It's Treecko and Swablu versus Psyduck and Mightyena!" Speakmen announces. A second later, Hypno's barrier comes down, trapping all 4 pokemon inside. "Get ready! In three, two, one...!"

Swablu puffs herself up.

Treecko brings his forearms up in a guard.

Mightyena lowers his body with a growl.

Psyduck cowers.


"Treecko! Focus down Psyduck! Hit and run with Absorb!" Lee cries.

Zinnia and Andre shout orders at the same time Lee does, but their words get mixed up and are lost to Lee. Their pokemon get the message through.

As one, Treecko, Swablu, and Mightyena explode into action.

Treecko glows white in a Quick Attack and blasts forward at the petrified Psyduck, only to abort his charge and leap over Mightyena, who crosses the distance between them in a single, powerful bound.

Mightyena's flame-coated fangs close around nothing, drawing a growl from him. The canine pokemon turns, only to leap back as to not be hit by Swablu's Take Down.

"Keep going, Treecko!" Lee instructs, feeling his heart begin to race.

"Fire Fang!" Andre replies from across the field, his face set into a smirk. "Take out Treecko!"

Mightyena's mouth bursts into brilliant orange flames, his fangs glowing a searing orange a shade brighter than the flames. He charges Treecko again, only to stop with a skid as Swablu nearly bowls him over again.

"Bitch!" Andre yells, his smirk falling into a scowl. "Fine. You wanna go first? Mightyena, Thunder Fang on Swablu! Roast that bird!"

Zinnia laughs. "Good luck! Swablu! Circle around and use Dragon Pulse!"

Treecko isn't idle as Andre and Zinnia issue new orders and races to the still frozen Psyduck, kicking up plumes of sand with each step.

"P-Psyduck, use Confusion! Quick!" Benjamin cries, wringing his hands as he does so. "He's going to get you!"

The duck pokemon's fearful eyes glow blue, but before any attack can be fired off, Treecko is before him. The wood gecko pokemon twirls, throwing his tail into Psyduck's stomach and doubling poor duck over with a sputter. Treecko then quickly slides behind Psyduck and puts his arms around Psyduck's neck in a chokehold. The psychic duck can only struggle in Treecko's grip before crying out as his life force is stolen by Treecko's Absorb.

'Where did he learn to do a chokehold?' Lee silently asks the fox on his shoulder, only to get the telepathic equivalent of a shrug from her.

"Psyduck! Throw him off now!" Benjamin desperately orders. "You can't let him do this!"

"Tighten your hold, Treecko! Don't let him focus!" Lee orders right back.

Psyduck's struggles increase even as his energy is stolen from him. The duck's eyes glow again, but he gags and lets the glow fade when Treecko's arms strain against his neck and cut off more of his windpipe. The entire time, Absorb keeps sapping away at Psyduck.

Lee takes the spare second to look over at Swablu and Mightyena, silently kicking himself for focusing too much on Treecko.

"Dragon Pulse!"

"Dark Pulse!"

Swablu's whirling ray of Dragon energy crashes against Mightyena's dark beam, both meeting in a stalemate for a second before Dark Pulse begins to push Dragon Pulse back. Mightyena roars below Swablu, more inky blackness pouring from his throat as Dark Pulse blasts through Dragon Pulse, ripping the attack into wispy blue scraps

Swablu trills in alarm and dives, Dark Pulse missing her by inches. The black column of energy slams into the barrier like a runaway truck, rattling the whole thing and drawing a wince from Speakmen's Hypno up in the guard tower.

'Swablu isn't going to be able to keep this up,' Lee grimly realizes, his eyes zeroing in on the rapid rise and fall of Swablu's chest. 'Mightyena is too strong. We need to finish with Ben as soon as possible.'

He turns back just in time to watch Psyduck's struggles weaken to nothing, the duck pokemon going limp in Treecko's hold. Treecko releases his foe, letting him fall to the sand with a soft thump.

"Psyduck is the first to go down!" Speakmen calls, drawing a wave of cheers from the spectators. "What happened to his robust performance from last year? Oh well. Benjamin! Select a new pokemon!"

The bespectacled boy sighs and recalls his downed Psyduck through a little hole in the barrier, sucking the pokemon into the safety of his pokeball in a flash of red light. He murmurs something too quiet to be heard to the ball before placing it on his belt. After a moment of indecision, he grabs another from his belt and throws it, a small hole appearing in the barrier to let the ball in.

With a pop, the ball opens and flies a full-grown Tropius. The great sauropod pokemon raises it's neck to it's full seven foot height and stares down at Treecko. It's gaze strays over to Andre for a moment, an expression Lee cannot place briefly passing by it's face.

"And it looks like Benjamin is done playing around! His ace pokemon Tropius has taken to the field! Can this Grass-type titan be toppled?"

"Tropius! Use Growth!" Benjamin calls.

Tropius growls and unfurls his leafy wings, the appendages shining in the sunlight. A second later, the muscles under Tropius' skin ripple and flex, bulging and turning the already intimidating pokemon into a wall of sharply defined muscle. He stares down at Treecko, who almost takes a step back as he chews anxiously on his twig.

'I can't lose Treecko this early. He can't fight Tropius with is current options,' Lee bites his lip and glances at Swablu and Mightyena for a split second, just in time to watch Swablu shriek and hastily flit away as she's clipped by one of Mightyena's electrified fangs. 'Swablu needs help too. Damn. Looks like I'm burning my only sub.'

"Ref! I'm subbing!" Lee yells up to Speakmen as he draws Treecko's ball. A second later, a hole opens in the dome and lets Lee recall a disgruntled Treecko back to his ball.

"Looks like Lee is substituting his pokemon! Who will he pick to replace Treecko?"

The zoologist ignores the commentator in favor of whispering to Treecko's ball, which shakes in obvious agitation. "I know, pal, but sometimes you gotta retreat from a battle to win the war," he says gently. "You'll get your time to shine. I promise."

The ball goes still, so Lee shrinks it and reaches into his pocket for Corvisquire's ball. With a deep breath, he throws it in, and out comes Corvisquire with a flash of light and a screech to announce himself.

"Corvisquire is back! It's beak and brain versus bulk and brawn!"

The raven pokemon sizes up Tropius only to laugh in his scratchy, throaty voice, making the much larger pokemon frown.

"Don't take him lightly, Corvi!" Lee orders, making the raven pokemon sober up just the slightest amount. "In the air! Hone Claws!

Corvisquire takes to the skies and Tropius is quick to fly upward at him without any prompting from Benjamin.

"Tropius! Stop him with Razor Wind!" Ben orders.

Tropius bellows and flings his front set of wings forward, throwing near-invisible scythes of wind that scream towards Corvisquire.

Corvisquire rolls out of the way agilely, grinding his talons together all the while. As he raises his talons to sharpen his beak, he smirks a vile smirk and waits as Tropius barrels towards him, then drags his claws down his steely beak, drawing sparks that he kicks into the eyes of the passing Tropius.

The large pokemon bellows in pain and screws his eyes shut, throwing his head to try and clear his eyes and he halts and hovers in place.

Lee can't take the time to appreciate just how much of an asshole his pokemon is as he sees Swablu's losing battle in the corner of his eye. "Corvi! Knock Tropius towards Mightyena with Steel Wing!"

"H-Headbutt! Don't let him hit you!" Ben cries, his whole face a rictus of panic.

The bird happily complies and darts up high before coming down like a rocket onto Tropius' back, slamming his shimmering wings into the wrists of Tropius' own wings with a sound like an axe meeting a tree.

Tropius bellows again and starts to fall, but not before whipping his long neck around and driving his head into Corvisquire like a wrecking ball. The raven can only gasp and is thrown off his opponent's back like a missile.

"What a dirty trick from Corvisquire! But it didn't go unpunished!"

Corvisquire's wings shoot out and arrest his momentum before he hits the wall of the barrier, letting him hover mid-air as he takes harsh breaths of air into his abused body. His face slowly falls into a furious scowl.

Tropius, meanwhile, comes down like a meteor at Mightyena as Swablu flies up and makes herself scarce at Zinnia's yelled order, making Andre's eyes widen.

"Mightyena, Detect!" Andre roars. "Then nail Swablu!"

The wolf pokemon's red eyes glimmer with clarity as Tropius falls towards him. Then at the last second, he leaps, twisting his whole body around in an unnatural way, briefly standing on the still falling Tropius as he does so. Then with a tense of his rear legs, Mightyena uses Tropius as a springboard, launching himself right at a wide-eyed Swablu!

Swablu can only screech as electrified fangs wrap around her, electrocuting her as Mightyena lands upon the ground paws-first and shakes her like a ragdoll.

"Swablu!" Zinnia screams, horror written on her face.

After a long second, Mightyena lets the mauled and burned bird go with a swing of his neck, throwing her across the field where she lays still, shuddering as she draws in labored breath.

Tropius, meanwhile, crashes into the sand with a thunderous bang! Sand is thrown everywhere, obscuring the pokemon for a few seconds. As the last of the sand falls, everyone sees the Grass-type slowly rising to his feet, his whole form radiating scorn for the raven pokemon above him.

"Swablu is down! Both teams have lost their first pokemon! Mightyena is barely scratched and took out Swablu in one decisive blow! Meanwhile, Corvisquire and Tropius both have wounds to show in their bout. What will Zinnia's next pokemon be?"

With gritted teeth, Zinnia recalls her wounded pokemon to her ball. Once Swablu is back on Zinnia's belt, her hand flies to Shelgon's ball.

"Zinnia, wait!"

The dragon tamer turns to Lee with a snarl. "Wait? For what?! I'm going to pound that prick into the ground!" She growls, turning to Andre and Ben.

The first boy has the gall to smile at them, and the second one just keeps his expression in a very forced neutral. Ben adjusts his glasses and looks away.

"Remember the plan," Lee insists. "We need to save Shelgon and Vulpix for last. They need to work together to take down Absol."

"Fuck your plan!" Zinnia replies. She almost tears Shelgon's ball off her belt and throws it before Lee can protest further.

In a flash, Shelgon is once again on the field. The Dragon pokemon grumbles and locks eyes with Mightyena, whose hackles rise.

"Stalwart Shelgon takes to the field! Have the tables turned?"

'Dammit all, Zinnia.' Lee sighs, prompting Vulpix to nose his cheek with a quiet whine in her chest.

With the new pokemon on the field, everyone begins moving again, starting with Mightyena.

"Mightyena, Ice Fang!" Andre laughs.

"Shelgon, Smokescreen!" Zinnia counters.

Mightyena's mouth crusts over with a layer of glittering ice too late, as Shelgon blows out a cloud of oily smoke and obscures himself. His squat form vanishes in the cloud of smoke.

The wolf pokemon raises his nose and takes a few sniffs of the air, probably searching for Shelgon, but growls and backs up warily as the smoke rolls closer to him.

Lee's focus is pulled from Shelgon and Mightyena as Tropius growls and rises back into the air, the rear leaf on his left side noticeably limp.

Across the field, Ben gulps and goes on the offensive. "Tropius, Magical Leaf!"

"Corvi! Swift!" Lee cries out in reply.

Tropius swipes a broad, leafy wing forward, throwing a barrage of beautiful rainbow leaves that home in on Corvisquire as if they have a mind of their own.

Corvisquire responds with a screech and throws his gold-coated wings forward, sending out a mammoth wave of shining stars that fly into the Magical Leaves.

The stars and leaves meet with a staccato of pops and explosions, each collision blowing up in a brillant shower of rainbow sparks that draws pointed fingers and cheers from the watching people.

Of the few Magical Leaves that survive Swift, Corvisquire neatly dodges each one a second before impact, and although they all turn to come back at him, all of them lose power and fade before they can strike again.

Tropius isn't so lucky, his bulk and injured wings proving too much to make last minute flight adjustments. The remaining handful of Swift stars explodes against his thick hide, leaving scuffs and burns. To his credit, Tropius barely even winces.

Lee hazards a look to Mightyena and Shelgon just in time to hear the dull thunk of a rattled skull and see a dazed Mightyena thrown from Shelgon's smokescreen. The skin of the wolf pokemon's head is split open from an impact, letting red leak from the wound as he stands on shaky legs.

The smoke begins to fade, revealing Shelgon with a frost-crusted bite mark on his shell. The dragon stalks forward, barely noticing his own wound.

"Shelgon, use Dragon Pulse!" Zinnia laughs, her bloodthirsty grin on full-blast.

"Dark Pulse! Overpower Shelgon!" Andre growls.

Both pokemon open their mouths and charge their attacks. A writhing ball of black and purple forms in Mightyena's maw as Shelgon's Dragon Pulse builds in a flurry of raging blue. Then as one, both pokemon roar and fire.

Dark Pulse and Dragon Pulse meet once again, but unlike with Swablu, Dragon Pulse rapidly begins to overpower Dark Pulse without a struggle. Just before Dark Pulse fails, Mightyena snarls and leaps away, but catches Dragon Pulse to his side, burning a furrow into his fur.

Glad that Zinnia is holding off Mightyena, Lee turns his attention back to his battle.

"Tropius! Synthesis!" Ben calls, his face falling further and further into frantic desperation the longer the match goes.

'Shit! No!' Lee's eyes widen. "Corvi! Taunt!"

Tropius flares his leafy wings out, but not before Corvisquire dives at him, giving the sauropod pokemon a peck to his skull before fluttering away, cawing his scratchy laugh the entire time.

The golden glow building around Tropius dies before much, if any damage can be repaired. With a bellow, Tropius flies headfirst at Corvisquire, making Benjamin claw at this hair in frustration below. "Tropius! Snap out of it!" The boy pleads.

Tropius acts as if he hears nothing and flings a leafy wing at the fleeing Corvisquire, launching another wave of Magical Leaf easily twice as large as the last one.

Corvisquire rolls and weaves through the leafy projectiles, a few of them scraping across his ferrous feathers and one even cutting into his side when it corrects its course more than expected. The raven lets out a furious screech, more angry than hurt by the injury, then sharply turns to face the still enraged Tropius.

"Get behind him and use Pluck on his wings! Ground him!" Lee calls up to his pokemon.

"Tropius, please listen to me!" Ben clenches his fists. "Don't let him do it!"

Corvisquire beelines for Tropius, then deftly barrel rolls out of the way of a Headbutt to find himself behind the huge pokemon. The bird lands on the back of his foe and digs his talons in before savagely biting at the wrists of Tropius' wings, forcing a sharp note of pain from his throat. Corvisquire can only get a few bites in before Tropius whips his neck around and bites a surprised Corvisquire, tearing the bird away from his wings and flinging him into the nearby wall of the barrier back-first.

Corvisquire coughs as the wind is knocked out of him for the second time today but quickly flares his wings to maintain a hover. He lets out a wheezy, hacking laugh as Tropus' injured wings struggle to keep the pokemon aloft, forcing him to drop into a rough landing that vibrates the ground.

Lee lets out a breath, silently marveling at how this battle is making his heart race like the battle with Roxanne did. "Corvi, don't let up! Hit and run from the rear with Pluck!"

Corvisquire obliges with a cruel cry.

Devoid of his mobility, Tropius can only struggle as Corvisquire makes several diving-bombing passes at him, each pass leaving the sauropod with another wound that saps at his stamina as his own attacks miss the raven pokemon. Corvisquire is clipped several times by Magical Leaf, but the damage is little more than paper cuts.

"C'mon Tropius! Not like this!" Ben cries, looking perilously close to tears. "Slow Corvisquire down with Sweet Scent!"

Tropius waves his head around as he turns in place to keep Corvisquire in sight, a pink cloud of mist ejecting from the fruit dangling around his neck.

The bird pokemon barrels through the mist, slowing almost none as he digs his beak into his foe's side, making another bloody gouge in his hide. It's only as Corvisquire rises again does he slow down, his avian face slowly easing into something resembling neutrality.

"Shake it off, Corvi!" Lee yells. "He's playing with your head! Don't let him make a fool of you!"

At the words 'make a fool of you' Corvisquire shakes his head and clears his thoughts, his angry glower returning with twice the potency. His screech of rage makes Tropius flinch and even draws the eyes of Andre's battered Mighyena before a Dragon Pulse throws him from his feet.

'Tropius is a tough bastard,' Lee thinks, looking at all the wounds littering his body, wounds inflicted with a super-effective move. 'Making Corvisquire lose face before an audience was his last mistake, though.'

And indeed, Corvisquire looks fit to be tied. His beady eyes glitter with hate at the mere suggestion that he was nearly played.

"Corvisquire, finish him off with Extremespeed," Lee orders.

The raven spreads his wings wide and lets out a loud, haunting cry before flickering out of existence with a loud crack of displaced air.

Tropius can barely brace himself before Corvisquire rams into his side like a tank shell, crossing the distance between them in a single heartbeat.

The sauropod can't even vocalize his pain before he's completely lifted off his feet, carried along by Corvisquire's sheer momentum...

...Right at Mightyena.

"Mightyena, Detect!"

The canine pokemon's eyes widen as his trainer's order comes a second too late to process. Tropius strikes the wolf with a bone-rattling impact, drawing a yelp from him.

Corvisquire's wings snap open and halts his flight as Tropius and Mightyena roll to a stop in a heap. Tropius is still for a moment before slowly struggling to his feet, only to falter and fall back to the ground as consciousness leaves him.

Mightyena, on the other hand, rises and stands on wobbly paws, his teeth gritted in a growl. The canine is coated in burns and bruises with the wound on his head still slowly bleeding. He whips his head to the side to flick away blood that trails too close to an eye. He looks as if a stiff breeze will knock him over.

Andre turns to Benjamin with a fury filled face. "Can you at least try to be useful?!" He screams at the mousy boy, who just flinches and steps away.

"What a move! Corvisquire tips the scales into the red team's favor in a single brutal attack!" Speakmen's excitement amps up the audience even more.

"Extremespeed, huh?" Brawly chimes in, looking at Corvisquire. "That's a powerful move, one thats takes Quick Attack to its highest, most dangerous level. That's a rarity to see on a pokemon that isn't fully evolved."

"Indeed it is!" Speakmen agrees easily, his head nodding along. "Tropius is down! Benjamin! Please select your final pokemon!"

With great reluctance, the smaller boy on the blue side recalls his abused Tropius and draws his final pokeball. He holds it between both hands in what seems to be a prayer before tossing it into the ring.

The pokeball pops open and out floats a purple ball of gas that sprouts a pair of large eyes and a fanged grin. The eyes take in Corvisquire, Shelgon, then Mightyena. Below the eyes, the fanged grin falls into a frown.

"It looks like Ben's last pokemon is Gastly! Does this ghost have the tricks in his non-existent sleeve needed to balance things out?"

Across the field, Andre grabs his partner's arm and pulls him closer, harshly whispering something into his ear. Ben grimaces but slowly nods.

"Shelgon! Rollout! Finish Mightyena off!" Zinnia starts the battle again, pointing to the dark canine.

Shelgon growls and pulls his legs into his battered shell before rolling at Mightyena like a bloodthirsty pinball.

"Mightyena, Ice Fang. Give it your all." Andre quietly orders, his arms crossed.

Mightyena's face tightens into a grim parody of a smile as his teeth are once again coated in ice, then without dodging, he charges headfirst at Shelgon.

The ice-encrusted teeth sink into the whirling shell pokemon, drawing deep, harsh lines in the metallic armor before Mightyena is swept under the Rollout and battered one last time.

There is the cringe-inducing crack of a broken bone as Shelgon bowls over Mightyena, and the Dark-type does not stand afterward, finally succumbing to his numerous injuries and falling unconscious in the sand. Shelgon does an about-face and cancels Rollout, coming to a stop and showing everyone the new gashes in his chewed-up shell.

"Mightyena is out! Shelgon proved to be just a little too much after Swablu wore Mightyena down! What pokemon will Andre call next?

With a sigh, Andre produces Mightyena's pokeball and recalls the wolf in a flash of red.

Lee looks away from his partner's battle at Vulpix's mental prompting, noticing Ben had stopped to watch Mightyena fall as well. For a moment, he debates calling an attack and the boy is unaware, but... "Hey! The battle isn't paused or anything!" Lee warns, making Benjamin jump. "Corvisquire! Steel Wing!"

The raven shrieks and divebombs Gastly, his wings shining with a sharp, metallic sheen.

"Gastly, out of the way!" Ben cries. "You can't get hit! Not now!"

The ghost pokemon moans and partially dematerializes, letting a startled Corvisquire crash painfully into the sand when he passes right through the ghost.

"What?!" Lee exclaims aloud, his jaw-dropping. 'What the fuck? Ghost pokemon can just do that?'

"And Andre's next pokemon is Murkrow! This one is a new addition we didn't see last year!"

Lee glances over, and sure enough, a little black crow with a witch-hat plume of feathers now hovers on the other side of the field.

"Now, Gastly..." Ben lets out a resigned sigh. "Use Curse on Shelgon."

Gastly grimaces as a malicious red aura bursts into life around both he and Shelgon, who roars in agony and seizes on his feet.

"Oh no..." Lee hears Zinnia whisper. In the corner of his eye, he can see her tanned face paling.

"Corvi, stop him!" Lee orders. "Extremespeed into Steel Wing!"

The raven pulls himself from the sand and glares up at the ghost above him. The instant his form begins to flicker, Ben gives Gastly one last order. "Gastly, Destiny Bond!"

Lee blanks out at what he hears save for one word. 'Fuck.'

The ghost's face settles into acceptance as Curse fades, and an instant later he's explosively driven into the sand by Steel Wing, unconscious with a rend running down his ethereal form.

Corvisquire can barely croon over his victory before arcs of violet energy erupt from his being, drawing a horrid, nails-on-chalkboard scream from his throat. The bird writhes and thrashes, desperately trying to escape the torture he's subjected to, even flying up and crashing into the barrier only to fall again. After only a few seconds that seems like hours to Lee, Corvisquire finally gives up and faints, the arcs of violet fading as he falls to the sand and goes still.

"Ohhhh no! Gastly lays a Curse on Shelgon and takes down Corvisquire in a dramatic double-KO! It's all up to Andre to win it, but with both Murkrow and Absol at full health, it might be Lee and Zinnia who are in trouble!" Speakmen exclaims. "Ben, please withdraw Gastly, and Lee, please select a new pokemon!"

Gastly is pulled back into his pokeball as Ben steps back, letting his maroon-headed partner have the entire trainer box.

Lee gulps and recalls his unconscious pokemon, his abused raven returning to his ball in a flash of red. 'Shit, this is looking bad. Shelgon isn't going to last long, and Murkrow just has to run the clock on him. Murkrow needs to go down ASAP to draw Absol out so Vulpix and Shelgon can double team him. Just Vulpix is risky, and Goomy and Treecko won't be enough to fight that monster, I already know that.'

Mind made up, Lee turns to Vulpix, who looks back with her large eyes shining with resolve. "Ready, love?"

Vulpix needs no other prompting and jumps from Lee's shoulder through a hole that opens in the barrier for her. She lands lightly in the sand and coolly looks up at Murkrow, who caws much like Corvisquire might.

"Vulpix takes the stage! Here is where things heat up, folks!"

Before any moves can be called, Shelgon grunts as the red aura of Curse flares up around him, freezing him for a second save for his barely hidden twitches of pain. When the fit passes, he pants harshly.

'Right, we need to be quick. Shelgon is on his last legs. Chase him down with Ember, we can't hide if we're going to win.' Lee growls. "Vulpix! Ember!"

The vixen draws in a short breath and exhales a veritable storm of orange fireballs that all scream towards a very startled Murkrow. Without any prompting from Andre, the crow rises to escape.

"Shelgon, herd him back with Dragon Pulse!" Zinnia quickly jumps in as Murkrow tries to run.

"Double Team, now!" Andre counters.

'Nice try,' Lee widens the channel between himself and Vulpix, easily settling into her psychic grasp. He snakes his will into her pyrokinesis and takes control of half the Embers to ease Vulpix's burden for what comes next. 'There's no running from this.'

Murkrow's form shimmers before countless clones scatter around the ring. Shelgon's Dragon Pulse annihilates several of them, but the real one eludes the attack.

"It looks like Murkrow is content to stay away from the action for a bit! A smart idea cons-hold the phone, what's going on?!"

The watching crowd roars when all the Embers change course and fly as if they have a mind of their own, groups of the fireballs all picking a Murkrow to chase down. Every single Ember that passes through an illusion joins another group until it's three colossal clouds of fire running down three frantic crows.

"Well, that's certainly new..."

"Damn it, what are you doing?!" Andre demands, his eyes wide as he stares at the immobile Vulpix, who ignores him, too engrossed in her task to move. "Murkrow, Detect!"

Like Migtyena, Murkrow's eyes glint with supernatural clarity as the last two illusions are destroyed by the Embers. He twirls mid-air and weaves through the projectile hell around him with impossible grace, Embers missing him by less than an inch and often colliding with each other in explosions of flame.

Lee grits his teeth as the strain of guiding his half of the Embers begins to make his head throb. Likewise, he can feel the maintenance of the Embers beginning to drain Vulpix at an alarming rate. Each second that passes makes the rise and fall of her chest into more of a pant.

'Cut them off. We'll try again later.'

Vulpix obliges with a sharp exhale, making the Embers fade out into naught but sparks, leaving Murkrow hovering above as he catches his breath. The instant the crow pokemon stops moving, though...

"Scary Face, then Dragon Pulse!" Zinnia orders. "Go, Shelgon!"

Shelgon roars and glares up at Murkrow with eyes full of sheer hate, making the bird pokemon choke up and unable to dodge the following blast of Dragon energy. Murkrow is plucked from the air and thrown against the barrier with a burst of loose feathers. He slides down the wall for several feet before he can open his wings and shakily take flight again.

"C'mon! Get at least one hit in!" Andre scowls. "Shadowball!"

Murkrow coughs and opens his beak wide, an orb of squirming purple forming and growing until it's nearly three times as large as Murkrow himself. Then with a loud caw, he sends the ball hurtling down to the spot between Vulpix and Shelgon.


Vulpix's legs tense, then she leaps away in one bound. Shelgon, however, is stuck with a grunt as his Curse flares up again. The Shadowball swallows Shelgon and explodes, a shock wave of curiously cold air washing over the whole ring.

When the smoke clears, cheers ring out as everyone sees Shelgon still standing, albeit barely. His shell is lined with cracks and scratches, his legs shake, and although difficult to tell under his armor, his breaths come in sharp gasps.

The longer he looks, the more Lee feels their chances of victory slipping away. 'Jeez. Okay, new plan...' Lee thinks back to when Murkrow used Detect, and how much of a toll it had on the bird pokemon. 'Chase him down with a small number of Embers, enough to cause damage but not so many that your stamina dies up too quickly. Got it, love? When Detect runs out, we hit him with something big.'

Vulpix silently agrees with a flick of her ear, already drawing in a breath that comes back out as a stream of Embers.

Once again, all the Embers beeline for Murkrow, who turns tail and runs.

"Detect!" Andre orders, a smirk on his face.


The much smaller group of fireballs remain hot on Murkrow's heels, coming in for pass after unsuccessful pass, and each time Murkrow gets away with nothing more than singed feathers. Even with Shelgon firing off Dragon Breath attacks to help, Murkrow escapes unharmed. Rather than just a few seconds of pursuit this time, the fox-guided Embers stay locked on like missiles and keep swooping in regardless of their flight time.

Murkrows dodging becomes more and more jerky and panicked as Andre's smirk falls.

Finally, one fireball tags the bird with an explosion of fire, throwing him off course with a squawk and into the path of another Ember, which explodes against him like the last one. With an unspoken signal from Vulpix, all the remaining fireballs make haste, and all crash into the flailing Murkrow one after another, trapping him in a barrage of fire and pain.

After the last Ember meets it's mark in a burst of flame, a smoking Murkrow falls limp from the sky with his eyes closed.

"Murkrow! Pull up now!" Andre grits his teeth. "It's not over!"

Murkrow does not reply and hits the sand with a sad thump, all consciousness lost.

"That's all she wrote for Murkrow!" Speakmen's words earn cheers from the spectators, a countless number of them now holding up phones and camcorders compared to the handful who were recording the whole battle. "It's just Andre's Absol against four pokemon! This is either a closed battle or a comeback for the books! Andre! Send in your last pokemon!"

Andre's sneer is traded for a sudden calm that immediately makes Lee wary. "Fine. Absol has always had my back and I know he won't fail me here," the teen boy says with absolute certainty, returning his downed Murkrow to his pokeball and drawing the last ball from the black metal gauntlet on his arm.

With deliberate slowness, Andre expands the ball and tosses it with only a flick of his wrist. In a flash of light following the pokeball's distinct snap-hiss sound, Absol materializes in the field with his head bowed eyes closed. His eyes snap open and lock not onto Vulpix or Shelgon, but Lee and Zinnia.

Despite the warmth of the tropical sun high above, Lee feels a cold shiver run down his spine.

"Here we go! That could be the last match of the Brawl on the Beach!"

"Absol, Night Slash." is all Andre says, crossing his arms as he does so.

Just like with every match before, Absol's scythe-like horn glows a sickly violet before he slowly walks forward. His footsteps in the sand seems infinitely louder than any cheering or chatter from the people watching. The red eyes under Absol's brow of white fur watch Vulpix and Shelgon intently, waiting for a single mistake.

Shelgon stiffens as his Curse flares up, and before he can even wince, Absol is behind him with his scythe raised to strike.

Lee's eyes widen, and a single, reactionary thought from him with no words spurs Vulpix into action. She turns at breakneck speed and blasts Absol with a gout of fire.

Absol darts away from the nameless tongue of flame Vulpix shoots, well out of the way before the attack could even hope to hit. Absol lands in a crouch and regards Vulpix with the same flat expression he's held since his first match. It makes the tilt of his head almost mocking.

'Mock this,' Lee grunts. "Will-o-wisp!"

Vulpix's maw opens wide, a ball of white flame blooming to life. She rears her head back and-!

Lee cries out when a white-hot line of pain is drawn across his back, his hand shooting to the wound, only to come back free of any blood. "Wha..."

Vulpix's yowl of agony instantly makes him forget his own pain, and he then realizes why he felt something in the first place.

In the ring, Vulpix falters and shoots Will-o-wisp wide with no hope of recovering it. A deep slash across her back bleeds profusely as Absol stands behind her, his neck already bent in a post-strike stance. Absol then tenses and leaps away without even looking as Shelgon barrels through the spot he occupied just a split second prior.


The man turns to Zinnia, who levels him with a look of alarm. "Are you okay? What was that about?!"

"Worry about the battle, not me," he answers quickly. "Vulpix! Love! Are you alright?!"

The vixen pants as her coat slowly turns red from the back down from the wound, but she nods without taking her eyes off of Absol.

'How the hell did this pokemon get so quick?' Lee struggles to think of just how much time a pokemon would need to focus on speed alone to get that fast. Then another, more disquieting thought strikes him. 'Or maybe we're just slow?'

"Shelgon, we're taking the offensive! Headbutt!" Zinnia orders with a pointed finger. She gives Lee a very pointed look, once saying 'help me'.

Lee nods back and turns to Vulpix. "Vulpix, you know what to do," he says aloud. Mentally, he sends her: 'Use Baby-Doll Eyes. We need to lower his ability to attack as far as we can.'

"Absol, take them apart. Night Slash," Andre says, even going so far as to close his eyes and smile.

The Dark pokemon leans to the side, letting Shelgon pass him by as his scythe charges with Night Slash.


Vulpix's eyes light up with an eerie pink glow, invisible enfeebling rays shooting from them.

Absol's eyes widen, then without looking at Vulpix, he moves so quickly it looks as if he teleports a foot to the side, sidestepping Baby-Doll Eyes with impossible dexterity. He turns his blank gaze to Vulpix, making the vixen freeze.

'Did he just dodge an invisible priority move without even looking?' Lee feels his head begin to spin and scrambles for an answer.

Absol slowly lowers himself in what has to be a mocking telegraph before stopping and freezing. Then without looking behind him, he sways out of the way of Shelgon's follow-up Headbutt and lashes out with his scythe, carving a furrow in Shelgon's side that draws blood through his armor.

Shelgon stumbles, and Absol takes the opportunity to loose a blindingly fast slash again, slicing through Shelgon's shell like a knife might do through styrofoam.

"Shelgon!" Zinnia screams, her eyes wide and devoid of her usual mirth. "C'mon, baby! Hang in there! Dragon Breath!"

The encapsulated dragon growls and turns, his green flames licking the corners of his mouth.

"Help him, Vulpix!" Lee calls. "Ember! And don't let up."

Vulpix wastes no time in throwing her head forward, launching a blast of Embers that all zig-zag through the air at Absol.

Absol ducks Shelgon's Dragon Breath then rolls to his feet and dances around the cloud of fireballs all desperately flying around like hornets attempting to sting him. Not a single movement is wasted and Absol only ever moves enough to avoid harm, not an inch more.

Vulpix growls and pours more energy into Ember, making the fireballs whiz around like vengeful sprites, but no matter how fast they become, The Disaster pokemon flows like water around them and doesn't even have a singed strand of fur to show for it. Finally, Absol scoffs and charges Night Slash once more. The instant a hole in Vulpix's attack opens, he shoots through it and charges the fox, the sand under his feet exploding from the sheer force of his movement.

Vulpix's eyes shoot wide open as the scythe blade bears down on her, seemingly in slow motion.

"Vulpix!" Lee screams, his heart jumping into his throat.

Absol's neck flexes, and the scythe-like horn falls.


...Right into Shelgon's shell.

At the last moment, the dragon forces his way between Absol and Vulpix, catching the horn in his armor, and before Absol can pull away, Shelgon roars and twists his whole body, drawing a wince from Absol as his stuck horn twists his neck.

"Lee, if you've got a big attack, use it now!" Zinnia demands, turning to the scarred man with a grimace. "Don't worry about Shelgon! Just blow this guy away!"

Across the way, Andre frowns. "What? Absol, get out of there!"

Absol begins to struggle, trying to remove the torque on his main weapon so he can disengage, but Shelgon holds strong and fights the Dark-type tooth and nail. Shelgon is wracked by his Curse again, but powers through to keep Absol still.

It takes Lee a moment to process Zinnia's words, but when he does and understands just what she's doing, he gulps and nods. "Vulpix," he calls.

"Use Convergence."

The vixen leaps away, not needing to be told twice. She lands a dozen yards away, her eyes glowing a baleful orange as the ring begins to heat up.

All around Shelgon and Absol, great, rolling balls of fire spawn from nothing, each one rapidly growing and driving the heat in the ring up even further. A few of the awestruck spectators back-up as the heat bleeds through the barrier.

"Absol, get out of there now!" Andre orders, looking worried for the first time in the entire match.

His pokemon struggles harder as the orbs of fire around him and Shelgon grow past the size of soccer balls and begin to creep up on the size of beach balls.

Vulpix pants, her stamina beginning to falter the larger the fireballs under her control become.

'C'mon, love! You can end it right here!' Lee wraps her psyche in a layer of adoration just like she always does to him. 'I know you can!'

The fireballs surge and grow larger than ever.

Absol sees the countless fireballs morph into miniature suns and growls. With a grunt, he slowly begins to overpower Shelgon, who is at his limit. Then with a shrill, haunting cry, Absol lifts Shelgon's entire three-hundred-pound bulk, still stuck to his horn, over his head.

"Fire!" Lee orders.

As one, all the fireballs converge on Absol, exploding like a...



Lee growls and forces the bout of vertigo away.

The entire dome shakes from the force of the overcharged Convergence, prompting screams from onlookers. Cracks even spider web along the dome before Speakmen's sweating Hypno repairs the damage.

"H-Holy moly! What in the world was that move, Brawly?!... Brawly?"

The bewildered Gym Leader in the lifeguard tower raises his microphone slowly. " not sure, Josh. It was the first time I've ever seen something like that."

As the smoke begins to clear, there are no pokemon left standing in it. Shelgon, finally knocked out with a shell filled with cracks, lays on his side, but Absol is nowhere to be seen. Off to the side, Vulpix falls to her rear and pants harshly.

'Did we win?'

Ripping pain in his side answer's Lee's question in the worst way.

Vulpix screams as something jagged tears into her flank and throws her against the barrier from the force. An instant later, Absol materializes at her side.

The last of the smoke finally clears, showing Absol panting from his place by Vulpix. The Disaster pokemon is covered in horrible burns and one of his hindlegs is obviously dislocated from how he refuses to put weight on it. His eyes are wide and wild, a far cry from his aloof standing just a few minutes prior, but the most telling thing is his horn.

Or what's left of it.

The keratin weapon has lost it's last few inches, shortening it and leaving the edge ragged. It'll likely take weeks before it grows back. Andre looks devastated on his side of the field.

Vulpix, already running on fumes from bloodloss, her most powerful attack to date, and now a new wound, falls to the ground, her mind dulling not unlike a fitful sleep to Lee.

"Unreal! Absol survives uh... What was it called? Convergence? Whatever it was, he made it out in one piece, taking down both Shelgon and Vulpix against the odds! Zinnia and Lee! Send in your final pokemon!"

Lee numbly holds up Vulpix's ball in a shaking hand and recalls her into it. All that's left are Treecko and Goomy.

Treecko and Goomy against a pokemon that took everything Vulpix could dish out.

For a moment, Lee entertains the thought of surrender. 'But Zinnia would never let me hear the end of it, and Treecko...'

Reluctantly, Lee draws his last pokeball from his pocket, but stops when Zinnia's hand falls onto his. Looking up, he sees her with a wide grin.

"Why so happy?" The man questions with a shake of his head. "You do realize we're about to lose, right?"

"No, we're not!" She grins even wider and withdraws her hand. "I figured out his gimmick!"

That earns a raised eyebrow from Lee. "Gimmick?"

"How Absol dodges everything," the dragon tamer says, bringing her voice down to just above a whisper. "All of the brat's pokemon know Detect, and Absol learns Detect naturally. It gives the pokemon a split second of all-seeing clarity, see?" She gestures with a finger pointed to her eye. "So they can see anything incoming, even things coming from behind. It would stand to reason his best pokemon is the best user of this shared move, right?"

All at once, it clicks into place. "So Absol is using Detect without being ordered to? That's how he avoided taking hits until he was trapped?"

"Yes!" Zinnia wiggles in place happily. "And like with Murkrow, Detect can only be used for so long before the clarity fades, so if we keep Absol on the defensive..."

"We can land a good enough hit to finish him off..." Lee realizes, hope burning in his chest. "Hot damn, Zinnia. Nice detective work."

"Hellooooo, red team? Is your powwow done?"

Lee turns and glares up at Speakmen, who jumps. "J-Just asking is all!"

Taking Treecko's ball in his hand, Lee brings it up to his mouth to whisper: "Stay in sync with Goomy, this one can't be allowed to go on the offensive at all," he murmurs.

The ball wiggles in his hand, drawing a smile from Lee. "Right. Treecko! You're up!"

"Goomy! Finish this!"

Both Lee and Zinnia toss their last pokeballs, which pop open and deposit Treecko and Goomy into their side of the field.

Treecko meets eyes with the nearly-feral Absol and settles into a guarded stance.

Goomy quivers, the only thing keeping him from quitting against this scary pokemon being the fact that it's a two-on-one fight.

"Absol, Night Slash!" Andre orders, forcing a sneer that doesn't quite fit on his face anymore.

"Goomy, Dragon Breath!" Zinnia starts.

"Treecko, Quick Attack into Pound!" Lee follows up a second later.

Goomy balloons up with a green glow, then blasts a gout of green fire at Absol as Treecko circles around in a sprint.

Absol weaves around the Dragon Breath and ducks a swipe from Treecko, only to have to leap to the side to avoid yet another blast of fire. His leap nearly sends him into Treecko's Pound, where he narrowly ducks. Absol then has to jump with a growl to avoid a Water Gun from Goomy that explodes against the sand.

For several long minutes, Absol is stuck in a game of avoiding the other two pokemon, and with each passing second, he tires more and more. Once he tries to rush Treecko, but his wounded hindleg makes him falter and he nearly pays with a Pound to the skull. All the while, Andre grows more and more frustrated.

"Dammit, Absol!" Andre finally blows up, his fists clenched and his face red. "Take one of them out already! Push past the pain and get it done! Remember what is on the line, here!"

Absol grits his teeth and raises his wounded leg at this trainer's words. All the muscles in his lower body flex and ripple at once. Then with a sicking pop, his hip joint is popped back into place.

The action is so unexpected that Goomy stops attacking to gape at the stunt, and Absol homes in on the hesitation instantly.

As little more than a streak of ghostly white, Absol appears before Goomy with his broken scythe raised. An instant later, Goomy is sporting a deep laceration across his middle with an uncomprehending expression, his mucus armor doing nothing to stop the attack. After a split-second, the pain hits and Goomy cries out, writhing and struggling.

Lee can see the brittle hope on Zinnia's face die, her expression falling into resignation.

As Goomy cries out, he accidentally bashes one of his antennae against Absol's leg.

Absol yelps and jumps away, holding his foreleg up with a wince.

Right where Goomy's antennae hit, a barbed stinger oozing a purple substance is sunk into Absol's leg.

"What the hell?" Lee asks, blinking at the Absol as he sways on his feet only to shake his head and correct himself. "Goomy has a stinger?"

"Two, actually," Zinnia glumly replies, returning Goomy to his ball as the little dragon faints. "They're hidden in his antennae. A stab from one is like getting hit by Toxic," she says, looking between Absol and Treecko.

"Why didn't Absol dodge?" Lee wonders aloud

"Who knows. Maybe it's because Goomy didn't intentionally attack?" Zinnia shrugs. "Get ready. Here he comes," she warns.

Lee ignores Speakmen's words about Goomy's withdrawal as Absol rushes Treecko, Night Slash ready. Already, Absol's poisoned movements are positively sluggish since the naked eye can track him.

"Treecko! Run him down until the poison weakens him enough!" The scarred trainer orders as Treecko barely ducks the Night Slash.

"To hell with that!" Andre screams, his face contorted in desperation. "Absol! Full blast! Give him everything you've got!

Absol and Treecko both narrow their eyes. Absol tenses and Treecko is cloaked in the white aura of Quick Attack, then the pokemon rush each other.

Treecko sidesteps a slash that draws a thin red line in his side, then backpedals when Absol flips forward and lashes out with his bladed tail, cleaving through where Treecko's head was a second prior. Then Absol ducks under a kick from Treecko and clamps his razor-sharp teeth into Treecko's ankle, making Treecko wince. Then with a whip of Absol's neck, Treecko is flung away like a toy.

"Absol, Razor Wind!"

Absol draws his broken scythe back and swings his head, throwing screaming wind blades at Treecko

"Treecko, Feint Attack!"

The wood gecko takes a deep breath, then to all the onlookers, vanishes as if he were never there. The Razor Wind attack flies right through where he was without hitting a thing.

Absol pants and scans his eyes around, for one, two, three, four seconds, then rolls out of the way when a thick tail nearly brains him. The instant Treecko is visible, Absol roars and swipes a paw at him, drawing three thick lines across Treecko's torso.

"Don't hold back! Night Slash!"

Treecko leaps away and holds the wounds with gritted teeth. But Absol refuses to give him any rest and charges again, swiping with his paws wreathed in a watered-down Night Slash.

Lee bites his lip as he watches Treecko just barely avoid a grievous, unconsciousness-inducing wound each attack, but he's still nicked and cut a little each time. Each wound weeps just a little bit of red, but enough of them will...

"Wait for an opening, Treecko! He'll tire before you do, so punish every mistake!" Lee calls, desperately hoping he's right.

Absol finally overextends an attack and Treecko quickly slides to his side, tail glowing white as he twirls and goes in for a knockout.

...But the Dark-type just leans out of the way without needing to see the attack, letting Treecko turn a full 180 degrees away from him as the missed Pound bleeds off its momentum.

Absol's scythe glows with a charged Night Slash as the Absol rushes Treecko's turned back with a final burst of flicking speed.

Lee sighs and palms Treecko's ball, but drops it in shock when he sees what happens next.

Treecko twists around the Night Slash with supernatural grace, all without looking. His yellow eyes shine with clarity as he continues his spin and unleashes Pound again.

The Dark-type's eyes widen and he goes to duck, but freezes when a cough with sickly purple froth forces it way from his mouth.

Treecko's tail slams into the side of Absol's head like a club, lifting the Dark-type right off his paws and throwing him harshly to the sand, digging up a trench as he comes to a stop.

For a single heartbeat, everyone is silent. Then Absol twitches and groans, trying to force his way to his paws. After a few seconds of fruitless struggle, Absol finally goes limp, his eyes closing.

Treecko pants from his place just a few yards away from Absol then straightens up with a small smile. A second later, a beautiful white glow overtakes his form.

"No way..." Lee breathes.

Treecko grows inside the shell of white light, gaining over a foot of height as long leaves sprout from his wrists, his head, and his tail. His body loses the roundedness of youth, replaced with a sleek reptilian form. The glow fades, and Grovyle takes Treecko's place, now with several thin scars on his belly and arms.

Grovyle looks toward Lee with a small smile around the twig in his mouth, and Lee can help but grin like a loon in return.

One. Two. Three.

Speakmen's airhorn blows and the crowd explodes into cheers

"That's one for the record books, everyone! The most thrilling Brawl we've had in years!" Speakmen practically jumps for joy, making the rickety lifeguard tower sway. "I almost can't believe it! It was neck and neck right till the end! Treecko's decisive attack won the day and pushed him to evolve! I bet mister Lee Henson is beside himself with happiness!"

Lee can't help but throw his head back and laugh as Hypno's dome comes down, letting him walk out into the ruined field to Grovyle, his Grovyle.

Grovyle reluctantly lets Lee sweep him up into a hug, crossing his arms and trying his best to look indifferent in the arms of his trainer. After a long second, Lee sets Grovyle down.

"I cannot begin to tell you how proud of you I am," Lee begins to Grovyle, his face starting to hurt from how hard he's smiling. "Not only do you go above and beyond in training, but you also get it done when it counts in battle. I thought for sure we were done for, but you clutched it, bud! You did it!"

Grovyle looks away but retains his smile. Lee is sure that if his reptile anatomy allowed it, Grovyle would have a dusting of embarrassed pink on his cheeks.

"Wow... that was insane."

Lee and Grovyle turn to see Zinnia walking up to them, looking dazed as she glances between them. She snorts, then the snort grows into a goofy full-belly laugh that restores her usual grin to her face. "I gotta say, I made a good choice following you."

The Zoologist rolls his eyes then looks behind Grovyle to see how Andre took his loss.

The boy sits on his knees in the sand, staring down at Absol's pokeball in his hand with shock. The lack of scowl, or sneer, or any other foul expression makes his face seem shockingly young. The maroon-haired teen's head bows and his free hand clenches around nothing. His shoulders begin to shake, from anger or what, Lee isn't sure.

Behind him, the other boy from earlier, his partner Benjamin, steps out of the crowd to place a gentle hand on Andre's shoulder. Benjamin's own face is set into a melancholic frown.

Andre suddenly rises and throws Benjamin's hand off of him before turning and quickly walking away.

In the sand where Andre was kneeling, there are several wet spots.

Lee just sighs and shakes his head.

"Hey! Dynamic Duo!"

Lee and Zinnia both turn, finding a grinning Brawly behind them. "We gotta crown ya! C'mon!" He says, turning and walking back to the lifeguard tower as Lee and Zinnia follow. He beckons them to come up the tower with him, stopping only long enough for Lee and Zinnia to hand off their pokeballs to the Chansey running the medical tent. When at the top, he grabs his microphone again.

"How did you all like that Brawl, everyone?" He speaks as if he didn't already know that answer.

The uproar of everyone below can probably be heard on the other side of the island. Somehow, there are even more signs in the crowd depicting Zinnia, Lee, and their pokemon.

'Fast artists, I guess?'

"I thought so. They'll be talking about this one for years." Brawly smiles. "It's my pleasure to crown Zinnia Draconid and Lee Henson our Dynamic Duo and champs of this year's Brawl on the Beach!"

Lee and Zinnia step forward, Zinnia with infinitely more pep than Lee as the tower lets him see just how many people were watching him. With a gulp, he waves to everyone and tries to look small as Zinnia openly relishes in the attention with a gleaming smile.

"Feel free to rest up here for a bit before going down to your adoring fans," Brawly chuckles as Lee steps back and takes a seat in one of the chairs in the back corner of the tower.

"Will do, thanks," Lee agrees easily. Then a thought strikes him. "Hey, Brawly?"

The Gym Leader perks an eyebrow. "Yeah?"

"How do you know that kid, Andre? He was giving you some ugly looks."

When Brawly's face darkens, Lee quickly amends his question. "No need to answer if it's personal, but he was a hell of a trainer and it's got me curious is all."

Brawly is silent for a moment, seemingly chewing on his words. "He... is a friend of the family, and we haven't seen eye-to-eye recently, is all," The taller man says. "He's stubborn in a..." Brawly stops short. "...In an interesting way."

Lee nods, not pressing further. "Gotcha."

The Gym Leader smiles again. "Oh, before I forget, you might want to hit up a drugstore with your prize money."


"Take a look at yourself," Brawly points at Lee with a snicker. "You're as red as a Corphish. Get the Rawst infused stuff, and you'll be right as rain in a day or two."

Lee looks down at this chest and arms, which are totally red from several hours in the sun. "Well shit."

"What? It couldn't have been that rad!"

In the blessedly cool motelroom he and Brendan share, Lee smirks at the young boy and tosses another toothpick into the air.

A glowing blade of green slices it cleanly in two.

"Explain this guy, then," He says, pointing to Grovyle, who stands with his Leaf Blade powered up and eyes closed. Lee throws another toothpick from the box he bought at the drugstore at Grovyle, and without opening his eyes, the gecko slices it in two with a flash of green

At the foot of the bed, Vulpix dozes quietly, her back and side wrapped tightly with bandages and a nurse's order to take it easy for several days. The feeling of her being actually asleep rather than unconscious is night and day, a soothing balm to his excitement-frayed nerves. Lee is silently glad her beautiful pelt won't scar up from the cuts.

Corvisquire, meanwhile, remains perched on the back of one of the chintzy motel chairs and broods as he stares outside at the darkened beach. All of Lee's attempts to pull him from his funk have failed so far.

Brendan groans and falls back into his bed, drawing his phone from his pocket as he does so. "Has anyone put it on the Battle Network yet?"

"You can try," Lee shrugs then winces when the action pulls at his sunburns. "There were a ton of people recording, so it's all going to be crumby phone vids. How did your search for an Aron go?"

"I don't wanna talk about it..." Brendan grumbles. "Geodude and Zubats for days, but not one Aron. I'm going back tomorrow."

"That's the spirit," Lee agrees, but something strikes him as a little odd. 'Not a single Aron? Weird. Oh well, that's tomorrow Lee's problem.'


About the author


  • Somewhere
  • Inventor of Sex 2

Bio: I am the inventor of Sex 2. Wanna waste your money?

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