In Her Image: a Pokémon RP

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"ALL RIGHT!! I knew you'd come around, kid. I gotta warn you though, I'm playing hardball from square one. ZANGOOSE, let's do it!"

Though Matt gulped noticeably at Remy's words, he still managed to sprout a grin as he reached to his belt. "Alright, I won't hold back either!"

The Jhoto native's fingers clasped an ordinary Pokeball, made notable only by the stylized flame set just above its button. "Spike, come on out buddy!"

As the ball bounced off the ground, a flash of blinding light burst into existence, quickly condensing into Matt's most faithful friend. The Cyndaquil shook his head as he solidified, his back bursting into a small blanket of flames as he braced for battle. "Quil!"

Together, Matt and Spike faced down Remy and Zangoose, ready to give it their all.

"Alright Spike, let's start this off right! Charge up a Sunny Day, and add in a Defense Curl while that's getting started. Then, hit Zangoose with a Flame Wheel!"

Spike let out an affirming squeak as he registered Matt's orders, already storing energy to brighten up the area.

Matt's first pick was Spike. Zangoose examined the Fire Mouse Pokémon in front of him. Must've been the weird one Sneasel mentioned. Zangoose had never met a Pokémon that refused to progress naturally.

Zan. Zangoose. Zangoose. Zan? Zangoose?

What use could it be to its Trainer if it refused to strive for strength?

"Alright Spike, let's start this off right! Charge up a Sunny Day, and add in a Defense Curl while that's getting started. Then, hit Zangoose with a Flame Wheel!"

"So that's how you're playin' it, huh? Fine by me. Zangoose! Start with a Swords Dance, then get in and Slash. Use a Quick Attack to try and finish it off."

Zan.

The curt nod meant Zangoose had deemed this strategy sufficient. It began by slashing the air in what seemed to be practice motions. Whatever it was, it looked quite graceful, and ended with the Cat Ferret Pokémon settling into a stance that would make its attacks even more powerful.

"And that, was ol' Zangoose's Swords Dance. I never get tired of seeing that."

Spike began by intensifying the flames on its back, until the surrounding area became much more arid. With a drier battlefield, the scorching hot flames Spike was capable of spewing would be all the more devastating.

Zangoose was feeling a bit hot under the collar but that wasn't going to stop him, it was time to go on the offensive. With blinding speed, it lunged at its opponent, baring its infamous claws.

*SLASSHH*

With a powerful swipe, Zangoose sent Spike tumbling backwards. Struggling slightly to get up, the small Fire-type was nevertheless still in the fight. For the next move it was going to brace itself with a Defense Curl. Spike curled up, leaving nothing but the flames on its back pointing outward.

Zan...

Such a pitiful display. Unable to attack convincingly, it curls up like mere prey. How was cowering like this going help its Trainer?

Zangoose was a blur as it sprinted off into a Quick Attack. It took mere fractions of a second for it to reach the curled up Cyndaquil and tackle it, sending it flying once again.

The Defense Curl did its job to soften the blow, but Spike was at a clear disadvantage. It got up as the flames on its back burst into a raging ember. Blaze had been activated. For Matt this was both good news and bad. On one hand, the upcoming Flame Wheel was going to be a doozy. On the other, Spike was on his last legs already. If this next hit didn't take Zangoose out, Spike's battle was over.

Spike jumped up into the air and started spinning, allowing the flames from its back to engulf it, turning the diminutive Fire Mouse into a spinning ball of fiery hell. It hurtled towards Zangoose and connected with its foe. The Sunny Day and Blaze made the attack all that much stronger, slamming a singed Zangoose into the ground.

Panting of near exhaustion, Spike slowly backed away from its opponent. Did it work? Did Matt's risky gamble pay off?

Zan... Zangoose.

It wasn't. Zangoose felt that one, that much was certain, but it wasn't enough. Zangoose was up and waiting for orders. Remy let out a long whistle in admiration.

"Wow. Risky stuff! Almost paid off too. Zangoose must've felt that one, eh brother?"

Zangoose merely scoffed.

"Hahah. Playing tough guy I see. Okay, let's finish this! Use Pursuit. If it's still standing after that give it another Slash for good measure!"

Zangoose was in its stance again. For Matt and Spike, it was fight or flight.
______________________________________________________________________________________________

Tom and Trapic set out to look for a new "test dummy" when out of the grass came... Trapic!? It was a Shieldon, a living, breathing Shieldon. Something was off though. The color was slightly wrong. Suddenly a girl's voice could be heard.

"Gummy! Where'd you run off t-! Oh!"

Surprised to see Tom, the girl stopped in her tracks. She must've been around 17, dressed in a pink dress and wearing a white ribbon in her hair. She was quite cute. Snapping out of it she introduced herself.

"Oh, I'm sorry. I'm Ada and this is Gummy, my Ditto. Pleased to meet you."

Looking around, she continued.

"Um, are you here to train too? I've never seen you around."

Kusari slammed the wild Spinarak with one of its pincers. The attack connected but Kusari was in unfamiliar territory with this attack. That and Spinarak had double resistance to Fighting-type attacks. While it managed to hurt the wild foe, the battle was not over with that. The Spinarak was angry now, and turned to show the pattern on its back at Kusari. At first, there was nothing. Then, all of a sudden, the Skorupi started seeing the pattern as a face that kept getting bigger and bigger, causing it to panic and fall down from the tree. It was Night Shade.

Brrrrriiiiiiing. Brrrrrrriiiiiing.

"Guh...wah?"

Daria's eyes creaked open, revealing a darkened ceiling. She sat up, rubbing her eyes as the persistent ringing continued. She looked around, surveying her hotel room. Things were about as messy as they were when she first unpacked herself on arrival. Her team were all gathered in their usual spots, asleep and unaware of the pesky noise. She recognized it as her Pokegear, still located on the pillow on the other side of her bed. She snatched it up, not bothering to check the number calling as she answered groggily.

"Uh... whozis?"

"Yo, sis."

That got her attention. Her jaw dropped. "Dirk?!"

"Naturally." replied the stoic voice of her little brother. Daria's excitement went into overdrive.

"Hey, little man, what're ya doing?! How's it been since I left?!"

"Dunno. Started my journey, remember? Hardly time to check in on the folks."

"Well, ya must've passed Pewter City, right? Or haven't ya reached that yet?"

"Oh, I reached it. Rolled through about three days ago. You were right, Sis, the Pewter Badge IS pretty shiny."

"What, ya got your badge already?!" she asked, overjoyed. "Congrats, little bro! Where ya at now?"

"Cerulean. Just waltzed out of the gym, dancing in the streets and waving around my new Cascade Badge like Arceus himself came up and took a holy dump right in my hands. And I just had to go and smear around all the blessings to everybody I met."

That one... gave her a bit of pause. Dirk had always had a very offbeat sense of humor, and to this day Daria wasn't quite sure how to react.

"Er..." she trailed off, her face faulting. "that's... great?"

"No, it's not. I've got a pile of legendary ass remnants in my hands. This is awful."

"So, is this why ya called, bro? Talk to me about Pokemon feces for a couple hours?"

"No, actually. I saw your match."

Daria's excitement swelled again. Dirk had called to congratulate her? That was so sweet of the little guy--

"You sucked."

A sound not unlike a glass pane shattering would have been heard by any nearby Psychics. Daria could feel an eye twitch. "What did you say, bro?"

"You heard me, sis. Watched you flop up and down the stadium like a mentally deficient Feebas. Frankly, it was kinda pathetic. You were even embarrassing ME. People were walking by, looking at the little kid down on his knees bawling his eyes out in shame in front of the TV, going 'He must be that girl's kid brother. Poor son of a bitch'."

The Pewter Fist could not believe what she was hearing. Her natural response was, of course, anger. "You... little... t-TWERP!"

"Oh dang, that's one for the swear jar."

"Shut your little midget face before I shut it for you!"

"How? By punching through a phone connection?"

"YES."

"Maybe next time, Sis. I just wanted to know... what in the hell were you doing that fight? You know better than that, or else my name is Shirley. And it's not. Toxic on a Zangoose. Oak killed himself just so he could spin in his grave over that one. I mean, I know your opponent's... type isn't really your thing, but do you have to just ignore the fight to go scanning the crowd for hot rump every time? His psychotic Primeape knew more about what was going on than you, and I'm pretty sure I actually saw its brain leaking out its ears. Or maybe that was Slagger's caramelized enthusiasm just splattering everywhere when he hit the dirt?"

Daria was sitting in silence on the side of the bed by now, unable to respond. All she could do was remain trapped in her thoughts, wishing horrible horrible things.

"You were the luckiest winner in the whole block. And two guys won by default."

"OK, ya know what Dirk? SHUT UP. I'm not gonna take crap from my kid brother, because he's gotten a little taste of freedom and thinks that means he's king! I can still kick your ass seven shades'a blue, and ya can count on exactly that the next time I see ya!"

"I certainly hope so. Trust me Daria, I want nothing more than to see you succeed. You know, so you stop bringing shame to our family and all. I'll be rootin' for ya."

Click.

Daria's arm slumped down, barely holding on to her Pokegear. She sighed, and looked up at the window. The blinds were pulled, and Spiegel was still relaxing on the windowsill, fast asleep. She looked back at the bathroom; Gemini's door was still closed, and Jet remained under the sink. Of course, Slagger was curled up at the edge of her bed, safely in his dreams.

That was just what she needed to see, and a faint smile tugged at her lips. "...Maybe I'll go to a park or something."

"Spike!"

The Cyndaquil dimly registered his trainer's panicked cry, as he struggled back to his paws. Panting for breath, Spike stared at his foe with a one-eyed gaze, his other eye having swollen shut after taking Zangoose's vicious attacks. His entire tiny frame felt like a single giant bruise; if it hadn't been for his Defense Curl, there was no doubt that Spike would already have fainted.

Nevertheless, the fire-type absolutely refused to back down. Locking eyes with Zangoose, Spike managed to choke out a few grunts, "Cynda cyn... Quil."

He may not have been the strongest, the fastest, or the smartest Pokemon around; he had no disillusions about his strength. But there was much, much more to being part of a team than just having sheer brute force...


While Spike was struggling to his feet, Matt was already reaching for his Pokeballs. Spike had done enough; it was time to get his buddy out of there. "Spike, retur-"

"Hahah. Playing tough guy I see. Okay, let's finish this! Use Pursuit. If it's still standing after that give it another Slash for good measure!"

It took all of an instant for Matt to realize the severity of his mistake, but there was no way to repair it now. A horrified expression crossing his face, the helpless trainer watched as the red beam and Zangoose each raced towards Spike, hoping against hope that the light would make it there first. Of course, it didn't.

With one final, pained cry, Spike was tossed into the air by the force of Zangoose's Pursuit, the Cat Ferret allowing itself a ghost of a grin as its foe fell into the depths of unconsciousness. A mere second later, the Pokeball's beam made contact with Spike's limp form, recalling the passed-out Cyndaquil. "I'm... I'm sorry buddy."

Matt mournfully stared at the Pokeball still clasped in his hand; this wasn't how he had wanted it to go. He had expected Remy to be tough all right, but for Spike to go down so fast... "Heh. You weren't kidding when you said you were playing rough, huh?"

Matt made a note to treat Spike to something good after visiting the Pokemon Center, but it was no use crying over fallen comrades now. Not when there was still a battle going on. As he reached for his next Pokeball, the lad eyed the Zangoose; despite its tough air, there was no way taking Spike's attack had left it unscathed. A Normal-type that used a Dark move...

"Persephone, it's your turn now! Come on, let's make Spike proud!"

"Gas gastly!"

"Alright girl, you can do this! Confuse Ray, followed up by Hypnosis!"

Caleb watched as the Shadow Ball went slightly off target, hoping that the Ralts wouldn't be effected to bad, when an Ariados yanked it out of the way with a Spider Web. In its place, out stepped a man who would be the stereotypical depiction of a cowboy. Suffice to say, Caleb was annoyed at this recent development. To ensure their safety, he quickly returned Sebastian and Raiden to their Pokéballs.

"Hold on there, fancy feller. That there Ralts fetches quite the price at the casinos out in Unova. I'm terribly sorry 'bout the inconvenience but I means to take it for m'own." The man said as he looked up at Caleb with a satisfied smirk.

"Now wait just one second their cowboy, what makes you think that I'm going to let you walk away so easily with that little Ralts. How about we settle this fair and square with a Pokémon battle. You win, the Ralts is yours, I win, and I get a chance to catch it. Deal?"

The Pineco was knocked into the tree that had served as its resting place before being rudely disturbed by the pair before him. The aforementioned pair mystified him. The trainer had wanted to flee and the Cubone had refused to fight. But now? The Ground-type had clearly held back and yet his one strike had nearly knocked Pineco's lights out. He was on his proverbial last leg. Who were they? Who was so strong yet didn't wish to fight?

Wavering on unconsciousness Pineco only barely registered the white and red ball flying towards him.

Pineco dissolved into light and disappeared into the pokeball. The ball shook a few times on the ground, but then calmed down. Pineco was caught.

Rupert picked up the now occupied pokeball. It was a strange sensation, catching your first pokemon in seven years. The Kanto trainer had honestly never thought that he would ever catch another pokemon. He felt... bigger somehow. If a trainer was at least partially defined by his team then it stood to reason that this new catch had expanded Rupert's identity. Since arriving in Goldenrod and fighting Tom, his self-image had slowly changed and this newest member of the team was the first visible sign of this change.

Cubone walked up to his trainer and looked up at him a bit quizzically. Rupert stopped staring at the pokeball to give Cubone a reassuring smile.

"I'm okay, Cubone. I told you. I get it now. Me wanting to postpone catching... I was just being a coward again. It's all well and good wanting to be a better trainer, but when push comes to shove I freeze up. Maybe the image of the trainer I want to be is just too comforting... What if I really put my heart into this and fail? Then I wont even have that image anymore. Then all I would have is the cold reality that I'm just not that good a trainer. But I get it now. It's not about being the best. It's not even about being really good. It's not about choosing the most optimal team members or being as effective as possible. It's just about doing your best with what you have. Heh. After all... That's what you've been doing with me for years, right?"

Cubone looked approvingly at his trainer. The self-deprecation was quite unnecessary (however true) but he was happy with Rupert's development. The trainer was starting to look more and more like the person Cubone once thought he was; the person who had saved him all those years ago.
Then things felt like they got too sappy, so he decided to smash a rock with his club.

"BONE! Cuu! Cu!"

"Ha ha! Alright, alright. No more emotional stuff. Got it. Thanks for giving me the push I needed though. Just wish it hadn't been quite so painful..."

Rupert gingerly rubbed his abdomen. It still hurt something fierce. Cubone gave him a look that said: "Pfft. Pansy."
Still clutching the ball containing his newest catch Rupert then said:

"So... You wanna try this again?"

And so trainer and pokemon ran of to find another tree to headbutt.

"Oh, I'm sorry. I'm Ada and this is Gummy, my Ditto. Pleased to meet you."

"H-Hi.. No problem, Uh... The name's Tom, and uh, this is my Shieldon Trapic."

The girl was quite pretty, and Tom was almost instantly enamored. He was stuttering worse than Rupert.

"Um, are you here to train too? I've never seen you around."

"Oh! I-I'm actually in the tournament. Live in Sinnoh. Uh.. I actually lived in um Ecruteak for a while.. Got my first pokemon here.. And one or two badges... Uh..."

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Intimidated by the sudden night shade, which really wouldn't have done too much damage, Kusari tried to back away, but ended up falling out of the tree, with a large screech.

"SKOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOR!!!!"

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"SKOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOR!!!!"

The sound of Kusari's scream snapped Tom out of his infatuation.

"Oh no! Sorry, but that's my pokemon in trouble! I gotta go!"

Running as fast as he possibly could, he soon found himself kneeling next to Kusari. The fall had done more damage than the Spinarak itself did, but a good moo moo milk later and the Skorupi was back on her feet. That's when he saw Rupert lobbing a pokeball towards a small blueish pokemon. Smiling to himself, Tom walked over to where he and Ada had been talking, telling Kusari to pinch him if he fell too hard.

And so it was that at the last minute, Spike would retreat rather than face its defeat. Zangoose wouldn't have it. It raced the PokéBall's beam and used Pursuit, slamming the small Pokémon down to the ground. Pitiful.

"Heh. You weren't kidding when you said you were playing rough, huh?"

"Nope. I wanna see what you can really do. That tactic was great. If Spike was a Quilava, I doubt Zangoose would be standing now."

Matt's next Pokémon was his Gastly, Persephone.

"Okay Zangoose, use Pursuit on this one! Shouldn't take long."

Zangoose obliged and set after the Ghost-type, slashing it for some nasty damage. Dark-type attacks always felt nasty, but the Gas Pokémon wasn't that weak. Its eyes began to glow with an eerie light, and as the gaze caught Zangoose's attention he felt his mind slipping. As the light faded, Zangoose was confused.

"Mmmh... Annoying... Zangoose! Keep it together man! Use another Pursuit!"

Zangoose managed to concentrate for the small while it took for it to attack Persephone a second time. As the attack connected, Persephone was becoming less than pleased with the beating she was taking. Its eyes started glowing yet again, this time a dull blue instead of yellow. Zangoose couldn't avoid the Ghost-type's gaze and soon fell asleep.

"Well darn. Ey! Zangoose! Wake up!"
______________________________________________________________________________________________

"Now wait just one second their cowboy, what makes you think that I'm going to let you walk away so easily with that little Ralts. How about we settle this fair and square with a Pokémon battle. You win, the Ralts is yours, I win, and I get a chance to catch it. Deal?"

The poacher just sighed.

"I damn well knew you weren't gonna make this easy on me, fancy boy. Fine then. We goin'ta have ourselves a duel. Who ever wins gets to capture that there critter. Ariados! You're up first! Start with a Shadow Sneak! Spin some Spider Web to keep the target in battle and then go for a Leech Life!"

Riadosss!

"Heh. You're gonna regret this, boy. That thing is of no real value to you. Why would you risk your own Pokémon for something you don't even own?"

The Ralts in question wasn't going anywhere. It was constricted by Ariados' Spider Web, just a few feet away.
______________________________________________________________________________________________

Cubone was in charge of deciding which trees to Headbutt. It went for another.

*THOOM*

Nothing. Maybe that one?

*BONK*

Nope. What about...

*SMACK*

Zilch. This was getting annoying. That one!

*BOOM*
*SMACK*

A Pokémon tumbled down, hitting its head on Cubone's on the way down.

H... Hoooooo... Ho-Hoooooot...

After taking a while to regain its bearings. The Hoothoot stood up and looked at the Trainer in front of it quizically. What did he want? Why was its slumber disturbed?

Hoothoot/Female/Lvl 14
Ability: Keen Eye

Moves:

-Tackle
-Growl
-Forsight
-Peck
-Uproar
-Hypnosis
______________________________________________________________________________________________

As Tom returned from retrieving Kusari, he found Ada still standing at the same spot. Her eyes had widened at the knowledge that Tom was competing in the tournament.

"The tournament!? Wow! That's so cool! And you're here to train for your next match?"

The girl was visibly excited at the notion that she was talking to a great Trainer. She took a look at Tom's rare Pokémon, followed by a glance at her own and with the wiliest yet cutest smile, said.

"Wanna battle?"

"I damn well knew you weren't gonna make this easy on me, fancy boy. Fine then. We goin'ta have ourselves a duel. Who ever wins gets to capture that there critter. Ariados! You're up first! Start with a Shadow Sneak! Spin some Spider Web to keep the target in battle and then go for a Leech Life!" The cowboy ordered the Long Leg Pokémon to attack whatever Caleb brought out, but Caleb knew which one to use. He pulled out Angelique's Pokéball.

Riadosss! The spider screeched as it began to attack

"Heh. You're gonna regret this, boy. That thing is of no real value to you. Why would you risk your own Pokémon for something you don't even own?"

"Perhaps its because I know what I'm doing, that I actually care about the Pokémon that I train. And more to the point, I know what I can use to beat you. Come on out, Angelique." Caleb remarked with a sense of pride, as the Starling Pokémon burst out of its ball, and flew high into the sky, ready for orders.

"Angelique, use Quick Attack then follow up with Aerial Ace. Strike down that spider!"

"Staravia!" Angelique squawked, signifying her response to the attack, and began to carry it out.

"Wanna battle?"

"Ow!"

Making sure that her job would be done well, Kusari maintained a tight grip.

"Well, we're both here to train, and battling another trainer is definitely the best way to do that. So.. Uh.. Ow! Sure!"

Kusari however was worried that this new crush Tom had developed would have a negative effect on his battling.

"Well darn. Ey! Zangoose! Wake up!"

Matt breathed a sigh of relief as Zangoose fell asleep. Today had just not been his day; he couldn't believe he'd forgotten Persephone's innate weakness to Dark moves.

Still, things were certainly looking up now. "Alright girl, do your thing! Dream Eater!"

"Well darn. Ey! Zangoose! Wake up!"

Sav watched on as an avid spectator of the match. The previous fight, Spike had proven no match for Zangoose's speed and strength, however fiery mouse had put up quite a fight, knocking down Zangoose's health with a powerful singing Fire Spin. As Remy had also remarked, if Spike had been a Quiliva, it probably would have been the victor.

Matt's new found trickster strategy with Persephone however, seem to be playing to all the Pokemon's strengths, with it's mesmeric stare both confusing Zangoose, and lulling it to sleep, although not until it had damaged Persophone with super effective move.
Matt now had the upper hand, and could now afford to go on the offensive, with the optimal move...

"Alright girl, do your thing! Dream Eater!"

"Yes Matt! Go for it, you can do this!"

Sav was on her feet willing the novice training on all the way, giving her full support. Remy would hopefully not hold a grudge, she wasn't picking a favourite or anything.

*SMACK*

Headbutting trees turned out to be akin to playing the lottery as an awful lot of them were empty. After a bit of perseverance and a lot of now half-naked trees, Cubone and Rupert finally got some results. A round shape fell straight onto Cubone's head. This didn't seem to bother him much though; partly because of his skull mask but mostly because the creature was feathered. The duo just watched as it managed to get back on its feet (its one foot actually) in an ungraceful manner and squawked.

H... Hoooooo... Ho-Hoooooot...

Oh, it's a... well, I don't really know what it is. Some sort of owl pokemon? I could actually really use a flying type. Let's try this again then.

"Okay, Cubone..."

Cubone flexed his muscles in anticipation.

"Return."

"CUUU?!"

"Come on, Cubone. You heard me. I'd rather not use False Swipe if I can avoid it. I mean, beating a pokemon senseless in order to catch it should be a last resort, right? Haunter knows plenty of good status affecting moves. I'd like to try those out first."

With that Cubone was withdrawn to sulk in his pokeball on his own while Haunter was released into the fray. This did however give the Owl Pokemon ample time to attack should it wish to do so. Haunter, although initially excited about being called out, was immediately annoyed by the sun and before giving any thought about his opponent moved over to a spot where the tree gave him a bit of shade. When he first saw the Hoothoot though he perked right back up. It was a Normal-type. Haunter could just tell. He loved teasing the normies.

"Alright Haunter, um... Oh, right. Start with Scary Face. We don't want it running away now. After that just go for Hypnosis and keep at it until it falls asleep. I'll be ready."

Rupert was digging through a pocket trying to find a Great Ball. Haunter didn't really know what was going on, but he needed no excuse for scaring the living daylights out of someone.

"Perhaps its because I know what I'm doing, that I actually care about the Pokémon that I train. And more to the point, I know what I can use to beat you. Come on out, Angelique."

The poacher looked on as Caleb's Staravia entered the fray.

Darn... A Normal type... And a Flyer to boot...

"Angelique, use Quick Attack then follow up with Aerial Ace. Strike down that spider!"

Angelique was the faster of the two so its Quick Attack would hit first. The Flying-type was but a blur as it struck the enemy Ariados from the air.

Ariados would counter with Shadow Sneak, its shadow contorting and stretching to ensnare Angelique and hurt her... To no avail. The Normal-type Staravia was completely oblivious to the attack and was now ready to carry out its master's next order.
With blinding speed, Angelique dove at the Long Leg Pokémon, swiping it with her beak and shooting back upwards at breakneck speeds. Turning back just as fast, Angelique delivered yet another strike.

Ariados struggled to remain on its feet after such a damaging attack, but it wasn't about to bow out just yet. Spewing out some Spider Web at Angelique, Ariados made sure to keep its foe in battle. The next move was Caleb's.
______________________________________________________________________________________________

"Well, we're both here to train, and battling another trainer is definitely the best way to do that. So.. Uh.. Ow! Sure!"

Ada let out a giggle as she motioned her Ditto, Gummy to take the stage.

"Great! I love fighting challenging opponents, so don't go easy on me now, you hear? I'll start with Gummy. You know the drill! Get in there and use Transform!"

The little pink blob bounced into the soon-to-be battlefield and began stretching and contorting into whatever Tom would throw out first.
______________________________________________________________________________________________

"Alright girl, do your thing! Dream Eater!"

"Yes Matt! Go for it, you can do this!"

Cheered on by Savannah, Matt's next move did not please Remy.

"Well damn..."

Inching ever closer to Zangoose, Persephone started inhaling deeply. Like only a creature with no lungs would be able to. An eerie aura filled the area as Persephone seemed to inhale some sort of energy from Zangoose, healing itself in the process, largely negating its Trainer's previous mistake. Zangoose, however wasn't looking so hot. The pained expression of having its dreams ravaged and ripped from his being raced across his face, before its eyes shot open, only for the Cat Ferret Pokémon to fall to the ground. Persephone had taken Zangoose out.

"Hah. Now THAT'S what I'm talking about, kid! Awesome moves! Now... Who to send out next?"
_______________________________________________________________________________________________

"Alright Haunter, um... Oh, right. Start with Scary Face. We don't want it running away now. After that just go for Hypnosis and keep at it until it falls asleep. I'll be ready."

Haunter complied happily, twisting its face into a horrendous visage that sent a wave of pure terror washing over the small owl-like Pokémon. The attack decreased the foe's speed, but would not prevent it from trying to escape. Hoothoot tried to counter with a Tackle, but it just phased through the Ghost-type, who responded with a chilling laugh as its eyes began to glow with a dim blue light. Hypnosis did its job. Hoothoot was now asleep.

Haunter was having a ball battling the Hoothoot. When the Owl Pokemon's eyes opened wide in fear (which considering how big they were beforehand made Rupert fear that they would pop out) Haunter could barely maintain his spooky persona; sensing the Hoothoot' fear filled him with a child-like glee. When Hoothoot went for a tackle in her desperation, the Ghost-type made sure to stand perfectly still. He loved this part. No way was he even going to try to dodge. Seeing the normies try to attack him only to have their silly fleshy limbs go straight through him was hilarious. The Hoothoot did not disappoint: she went flailing through him, looking equally confused and terrified. Haunter couldn't be happier. Releasing a chilling laugh that he had been practicing for several years now, he put the small feathered 'mon to sleep.

Just a few steps away Rupert stood ready. Haunter had enjoyed that just a little too much for his liking, but at least he had followed his trainer's instructions. Rupert immediately let the Great Ball fly. This was all going according to plan so far. He felt almost like one of those proper Ace Trainers... right until the Great Ball nearly missed the Hoothoot. The ball landed some inches in front of the sleeping Flying-type and only activated when it rolled over with its momentum and just barely touched her foot.

Sigh. Why is it that everyone else can throw these balls like their name is Babe Ruth? Did I miss some sort of class growing up?

Rupert decided to forget about his less than stellar throwing arm and focused on the Great Ball that now contained the Hoothoot. He really hoped that this worked.

As gummy squished itself in front of Ada, Tom decided that since Trapic and Kusari had already done some training, it was Kalmia's turn. Taking out her pokeball, he hesitated to think to himself.

You know... Gummy is a pretty cool name. But I feel like I know it from somewhere... Oh! That's right! I ran into someone with some sort of.. I think it was called a sandile? That was named Gummy. I wonder why though..

"Anyway, Kalmia! Turn up the heat!"

Wow that sounded so stupid... What's she gonna think..

"HOUNDOOM!"

Caleb watched as Angelique dodged the Ariados's Shadow Sneak, then attacked it with a Quick Attack; following up with an Aerial Ace, this had almost crippled the Long Leg Pokémon, but it was still standing after the assault, managing to fire off some Spider Web. Angelique tried to fly away, but found it herself not being able to leave.

Damn, it appears we are staying put for the time being; although I get the feeling that this cowboy is up to something, better keep it up. His Ariados looks like it still has some fight left in it. Caleb thought to himself, trying to come up with a strategy to defeat the spider.

"Angelique, use Double Team, then follow up with another Aerial Ace."

"Star." Angelique sqauked and began to carry out her trainer's commands.

"Hah. Now THAT'S what I'm talking about, kid! Awesome moves! Now... Who to send out next?"

Matt's mouth split into a grin as Zangoose collapsed to the ground, his enthusiastic cheer ringing out once more, "Alright, way to go Persephone! You did great girl!"

"Gas gastly!" The Gastly's response was accompanied by a mocking tongue wag directed at her passed out foe; who said you had to be evolved to be strong, huh? She and Spike were perfectly capable, thank you very much.

However, despite their temporary victory, it was clear that Persephone had taken quite a bit of damage from that fight. Even draining some of Zangoose's mental energies wasn't enough to correct the damage Matt's error had wrought, and a quick examination of his Pokedex confirmed the trainer's suspicions. If Remy went with his Sneasel next, and he had no reason not to, then Persephone would be in trouble. She'd done well; time to give her a quick rest. "Alright Persephone, that was awesome. Time for a break now, okay?"

"Gas."

Her gaseous form collapsing into a crimson sphere of light, the Gastly returned to her Pokeball without complaint. It was time for Matt to bring out his ace in the hole. "Ventus, you're up!"

Rupert would soon forget his less than manly throw as the Great Ball proved more than adequate for the task at hand. Three shakes and a snap. Hoothoot was his.
______________________________________________________________________________________________

Ada stared, wide-eyed at the foe in front of her as Gummy twisted and molded itself into a perfect copy of Kalmia. Ignoring Tom's awkward attempt at a one-liner, she wowed.

"Wow a Houndoom, huh? It looks so strong! Well, here goes... Gummy, start with a Thunder Fang, use Smog right after and then another Thunder Fang!"

Dooooooom!

Gummy complied as jolts of electricity started forming in its fangs.
______________________________________________________________________________________________

"Angelique, use Double Team, then follow up with another Aerial Ace."

The poacher had no illusions about how this fight was going down.

"Aw well... This round is yours, pretty boy. But Ariados is goin' down swingin'! Ariados! Use Fury Swipes, then Constrict!"

Angelique flew at amazing speeds once again, darting around the clearin leaving afterimages of itself behind. Ariados moved to take a swipe at the elusive opponent.

Only to fail. Angelique wasted no time, switching from defensive to offensive in the blink of an eye. Swooping down, hitting the Long leg Pokémon, going up and swooping down on it again.

DOSSSSSSS!!!

Ariados hissed in pain as it collapsed to the ground not having hurt its opponent at all. As it fainted, the effects of its web wore off as well, allowing Caleb's Staravia to be recalled. However, it also freed Ralts, allowing the small Psychic-type to escape into the tall grass.

"Well, slap me on the knee and call me Sally! I done forgot about that... *sigh* Oh well... I can still beat you up though. Electabuzz, you're up!"

The next Pokéball opened up revealing an Electabuzz swinging its arms, getting charged for battle.

Elelelelcctttaaa

Your move, pretty boy.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________

With Zangoose down, Matt expected Sneasel to be Remy's counterpick to Persephone, and thus switched her out.

"Ventus, you're up!"

"Hah! Great! Now let's see if we can't get that stubborn bird to listen to ya, eh kid?"

Remy reached for a whole new PokéBall this time around. A Johto specialty, the Lure Ball.

"Ok buddy, it's your turn to shine. Go, Tentacool!"

...Tenttacoool...

"Okay Tentacool, start with a Supersonic, then give that Pidgeotto a taste of your Acid and then use Bubblebeam!"

"... Then another thunder fang!"

"Alright Kalmia! Let's do this! Start it off with Bite, and once you get a firm hold, send out a thunder fang, and then use ember! Try to stay close so the copy can't use smog without a chance of poisoning itself!"

I'm pretty sure that transform doesn't copy abilities, so hopefully ember will work. We just need to get her to use it on me, so flash fire will kick in!

The sight of Angelique soaring up high into the sky, and then swooping down at a blinding speed was both elegant and beautiful. As it darted around the Long Leg Pokémon, it began leaving after images of herself, to try and confuse the spider.

"Aw well... This round is yours, pretty boy. But Ariados is goin' down swingin'! Ariados! Use Fury Swipes, then Constrict!"

Ariados then began taking swipes at the Starling Pokémon, only to fall prey to an after image. This appeared to be its end, as Angelique swooped down to deliver several consecutive Aerial Aces.

DOSSSSSSS!!!

Afterwards the Long Leg Pokémon hissed in pain, collapsing to the ground, and very much annoyed that it was unable to hurt the Staravia. The Spider Web that it laid soon disappeared, giving a chance for Angelique to be recalled; it also managed to free the Ralts who was stuck on a tree, who then quickly escaped into the tall grass to hide from the battle.

"Well, slap me on the knee and call me Sally! I done forgot about that... *sigh* Oh well... I can still beat you up though. Electabuzz, you're up!" The poacher remarked, then tossing out another Pokéball, revealing a battle ready Electabuzz.

Elelelelcctttaaa

" *sigh* I've got nothing that would have a type advantage over that Electabuzz. Angelique would get knocked out fairly quickly, and Sebastian doesn't have the physical power to take it on. Guess it leaves me with my two strongest Pokémon."

"Return Angelique, this is a battle not meant for you." Caleb shouted, as he instantly recalled Staravia to her Pokéball. He then pulled out another with a flame covered pattern.

"Raphael, show them your passion for battle." He called out, as the fiery ball went spinning into the air, and out came a Combusken; which landed gracefully and followed up with a series of kicks and flames.

Comcomcomcomcom... Com-bus-ken!

"Alright, concentrate yourself with Focus Energy, then attack with Ember."

Darius sat atop the Goldenrod Department Store, basking in the rays of the sun that shined through the sparse clouds in the sky. He leaned back in his chair, balancing it on the two back legs while he swung his own on top of the cafe table. He closed his eyes and just let his surroundings take him in, food smells and sounds all around, incessant chatter dwindled away to nothing but a slight buzz on the edge of his hearing, and the pipe in his mouth gave him one thing to concentrate on. At least until he heard a familiar voice again.

"Oh, look, here's Dairy, just sitting back in the sun. You do know that's how people burn right? And with you wearing such a pink shirt, it's really unbecoming, you know."

He jerked up, but fell backward in his position, turning over backwards, eyes wide and blinded by the sudden shift from relative dark to sunlight. He rubbed his eyes and had somehow managed to keep ahold of his pipe without breaking the stem in two or his tongue.

"Hey, Lu. How's the shopping going?"

"Oh great, I got enough, don't you think?" She gestured behind her at a Hariyama obviously over weighted with bags upon bags of things. How did she always do that kind of thing so quickly? Go from carrying nothing to...well, still carrying nothing, but having everything?

"Uh, yeah, I think you've got...enough?"

Lucie grabbed her multi-neon hair and shoved it into her hoodie, making the cat ears glitter in the sunlight.

"Anyways, what're you still doing here Dairy? I thought you had some friend you were up here meeting, didn't you?"

"Yeah, gave her that TM, seemed to calm her down a bit. Not sure if she's still angry or not."

"Oh, Dairy, you spent your whole childhood in that Day-Care and you know everything there is to know about your types and how to care for Pokemon, but you know so little about people. It's one of the things we all loved about you. Just did what you wanted."

"Well, I suppose it's about time I start heading for the stadium, I've been up here long enough. You want help on the way down?"

"Sure Dairy, here, Hairy, give him a few bags."

The pokemon shrugged off a few bags and gave them to Darius, who immediately crumpled under their weight before struggling to his full height and walked to the elevator, which they took to the ground floor, and left. Luckily the inn she was staying at wasn't that far from the Department store. He dropped the bags off and left after a quick hug, though she still had that little thing with digging her nails into his back, but then again, she did that with everyone.

He arrived at the stadium, just as people were beginning to line up outside. Remembering Daffy and Knuckles, he let them out of their pokeballs and let them walk along with him.

"Okay Tentacool, start with a Supersonic, then give that Pidgeotto a taste of your Acid and then use Bubblebeam!"

"Come on Ventus, pull through! You've got this!"

The Pidgeotto was unable to respond immediately, his thoughts temporary thrown into disarray by Tentacool's ear-piercing shriek. Luckily, the confusion didn't stick around for long; after a few seconds of clearing his head, Ventus let out an energized cry. "Rrrrrooo."

"Alright, that's how you do it." Matt grinned as Tentacool prepared its next attack; now it was their turn to deal some damage.

Rustle rustle

"Ventus, time to hit him back! Use"

Rustle

"Uh... Use Qui"

Rustle rustle rustle

"...Does anyone else hear that?"

The Great Ball was lying in the grass innocuously, silently staring at the young man still holding his right arm out in the approximation of a throw. He looked a bit like he was about to start a recital of 'I'm a Little Teapot'. Rupert relaxed from his awkward pose, finally realizing that (much to his surprise) the Hoothoot was in fact caught. This had all gone awfully smoothly.

"Ye... yeah! Wuhu! See that, Haunter? We have a new team member. Y-you did great."

The Ghost-type shot him a slightly worried glance that seemed to say "Wait, what?". Haunter had clearly not understood what the purpose of this fight had been, and the though of new team members apparently confused him greatly. It had just been the three of them, Rubert, Cubone and Haunter, for years now. They weren't a team; they were a unit. Unlike the aforementioned Ground-type, Haunter had no problem with the status quo. Seeing Rupert become stronger, both as a trainer and as a person, couldn't be farther from his mind. Heck, he liked Rupert as he was. He was so easy to scare!

The trainer picked up his newest acquisition with a smile. This had been a good day. Successfully catching pokemon for the first time in seven years (two of them at that), and having an genuine epiphany about the trainer he wanted to be. Not bad. And the day wasn't even over. He still had the tournament to attend...

Great galloping Gravelers! The tournament! Am I late!? How long have we even been out here? I can't miss Tom's match!

With that Rupert called back Haunter and headed straight for Goldenrod at a brisk pace, though not without making a mental note of visiting the nearest PokeCenter. He didn't like leaving Pineco in such bad shape. It made him feel guilty.

Matt and Remy continued their battle unabated, caught up in the heat of conflict. Unseen, some distance away, sat a silent fan. Daria watched the two of them go back and forth with their attacks, trading blow for blow in--for Matt--a very impressive display. She had considered going up and cheering them on personally when she stumbled across them. A refreshing walk in the park was all she'd really wanted, but a battle could be just what she needed. Still, when she'd tried, she felt a great repulsion in his stomach. She couldn't be certain Matt wouldn't blow up at her when she arrived; worse, she might have broken his concentration. It'd be a shame for him to slip up 'cause I showed up...

And on top of that, who was to say what Ventus would do if he knew she was present? She needed to know for sure, that he would be an obedient Pokemon even when she wasn't around to breathe own his neck.

So she cheered in silence, laying on his stomach in the grass as she watched the battle unfold. She was content to stay for a while, when she heard a noise from off to her left.

rustle rustle

"Hrm?" she grunted, looking over at the source of the noise.

I'm pretty sure that transform doesn't copy abilities, so hopefully ember will work. We just need to get her to use it on me, so flash fire will kick in!

Both Houndoom were on par in just about every conceivable way, but Gummy was the first to make a move, lunging at Kalmia and pouncing on her. The copy then sunk its electrified fangs into Tom's Houndoom's neck, the Dark Pokémon stifling a yelp as the current made its way through her body. Kalmia's body convulsed as the paralysis kicked in, but the demonic hound didn't back down, instead moving in for a Bite.

Kalmia pushed the copy onto its back, pinning it down and going for the throat. The attack connected but only managed to slightly hurt the disguised Ditto. Ada and Gummy did indeed repeat Tom's earlier mistake, releasing a cloud of Smog at point blank range, engulfing both combatants in the toxic gas. Kalmia wasn't about to do the same mistake twice, however, managing to hold her breath just long enough to avoid the poisonous effects, only taking negligible damage from the attack.

Gummy was not so fortunate. Letting go of Kalmia, the Transform Pokémon coughed and retched as it felt the poison coursing through its body, sapping away at its health. Kalmia wasted no time. Fighting the crippling paralysis, it jumped at her foe once again, this time charging a Thunder Fang and sinking the attack into Gummy's side, making the copy howl in pain. Kalmia let go of the fake Houndoom, her killer instinct telling her that the opponent would flinch.

And flinch it did. Gummy continued to convulse in pain as both the current and the poison took their tolls on it. Kalmia spewed some Ember for good measure, doing little damage but ensuring that the foe would be on its last legs. Gummy wasn't looking good. Ada on the other hand was beaming with excitement.

"Wow! I guess you aren't in the Tournament's semis for nothing, huh? Gummy, we're not done yet, use Thunder Fang again! Follow it with a Bite!"
______________________________________________________________________________________________

"Alright, concentrate yourself with Focus Energy, then attack with Ember."

"Oooo! A Combusken, eh? Mighty feisty critters, all right. But ya'll goin'ta need at least a Blaziken to put this here feller down... Electabuzz, start with a Light Screen, then use ThunderPunch and end on a Shock Wave!"

Electabuzz immediately started creating some sort of barrier. It was clear like glass but the Sun's reflection and the small jolts around it betrayed its presence. Raphael's Special attacks would not be as effective now. Raphael was busy charging as well. Tapping into his inner strength and getting pumped for the next attack.

There was, however the problem of the next attack. Electabuzz looked strong, and elemental punches were known to be formidable attacks. As a Fighting-type, Raphael knew this all too well. Electabuzz started spinning its left arm to charge up the attack. As the voltage became satisfactory, the Electric-type rushed to meet its opponent, the Young Fowl bracing itself for the blow.

The attack connected. Raphael's body convulsed as his opponent brought down its fist, first striking with a punch, and then discharging the electricity. As the attack relented, a slightly charred Raphael dropped to his knees, panting and wincing in pain. Using a "wing" to help itself up again. No paralysis. At least there was that. The half Fire-type gathered an Ember and let fly. The Ember was a big one, engulfing the Electabuzz in flames as opposed to just pelting it with a few projectiles. The Focus Energy had paid off. Unfortunately it was going to take just a bit more than that.

Electabuzz was not happy to get singed by this upstart chick. Spinning both its arms furiously, the Electric-type charged another attack. Bringing its arms down to a halt, it released a flurry of electricity in a wave that was virtually impossible to dodge. Raphael took another dose of jolts and sparks. Leaving behind a badly hurt Young Fowl. There was something else there, however. Raphael's eyes burned with determination and the air around him began to heat up. Blaze had been activated. The poacher smiled slightly.

"Huh... Now it's gon' get interestin'."
______________________________________________________________________________________________

"...Does anyone else hear that?"

Remy snapped out of his "battle mode" as Matt suddenly interrupted the heated battle. Something was indeed rustling around in the nearby bushes. Remy, Matt and Savannah looked at the shaking greenery expectantly. Unbeknownst to the trio, Daria was also waiting to see what had paused the battle.

The tension was tangible.

Here it comes! Remy thought as he gulped audibly.

*RUSTLE RUSTLE SHFF*

Wooop. Woop. Per Per Wooper.

A Wooper. A Wooper had just sauntered out of the bushes and smack dab into the middle of the battlefield. Ventus could do nothing but land and stare incredulously at the little twerp who had just interrupted his battle. Tentacool, however didn't seem to mind. In fact, his expression barely changed at all since coming out from its Lure Ball.

The tiny amphibian just stood there, bobbing its head from side to side. It was as if it was utterly oblivious to the various humans and Pokémon around it.

Woooop Woooooop!

Wooper/Female/Lvl 15
Ability: Water Absorb

Moves:

-Water Gun
-Tail Whip
-Mud Sport
-Mud Shot
-Slam

Caleb felt pained as he watched Raphael taking numerous electrical attacks; but felt a brief moment of joy as the Ember attack came out as a huge fireball that impacted the Electabuzz with speed. The electric type then span its arms wildly, creating the powerful, and almost impossible to evade Shock Wave. This caused the Young Fowl to hurt even more, but then came a white hot glow from his eyes, as the air around them began to feel warmer; Blaze had been activated again.

"Huh... Now it's gon' get interestin'." The poacher remarked with a smile.

"That it will cowboy." Caleb remarked in response, and upon feeling the heat, removed his coat, showing the respectable attire that he wore underneath. Brushing back his hair, Caleb began to plan. Raphael meanwhile managed to pick himself up, and glared furiously at the rather smug looking Electabuzz who had his arms crossed.

"Raphael, bring down his wall of glass with Brick Break, then fire off another Ember."

"Woop wooooop. Woooop!"

Well. This was certainly an unexpected development.

"Um..." Matt found himself struggling through his broken concentration, digging through his disarrayed thoughts to find some kind of reaction. Unconsciously scratching the back of his head, the bemused trainer blankly stared at the interloper, his mouth opening and closing as he looked for the right words.

Ventus, on the other hand (Claw?) had no such difficulties. With a restrained growl, the Pidgeotto hopped and flapped his way over to the Wooper, intent on putting the distraction in her place. Just what did she think she was doing, barging into the middle of a battle like that? Shit was on the verge of going down, and she just come in and wrecked the entire atmosphere! "Pidgerrooo! Rrrrooo, pidg pidge, rrrrooooooo!"

It was no exaggeration to say that Ventus towered over the newcomer. Standing at nearly three times the Wooper's height, Matt's Pokemon didn't stop until he stood directly in front of the water type, his keen eyes narrowed as he waited for a response. Whatever excuse this upstart had better be a good one, or else he was gonna

"Wooper!" The oblivious Pokemon, instead of replying to Ventus, merely walked around him, straying further away from the bushes she had emerged from, the same carefree smile spread across her face as she enjoyed her little stroll. Ventus, meanwhile, was currently rendered speechless. Did she... did she just ignore him?

It was only after seeing the unadulterated look of shock on the Pidgeotto's face that Matt finally decided on his reaction: laughter.

"Oh dear Lord," he managed to choke out between bursts of chuckling, "Ventus, buddy, you gotta see the look on your face right now! It's just like that time you found out your attacks don't work on Pers - ohgodIcan'tbreathe."

As Matt was lost in his paroxysms of laughter, Ventus finally found the mental willpower to be affronted. Glaring daggers at his trainer, (Who happened to be doubled over as he attempted to refill his empty lungs) the Pidgeotto took to the air. Landing in one of the park's many trees, he began to preen his ruffled feathers, doing his best to ignore Matt's slowly fading guffaws. It looked like the battle was effectively ruined anyways; might as well try to ignore the annoyances and enjoy the sunshine.

"Hahahahaha... hah." Wiping the last of the tears from his eyes, Matt stood back up, smiling apologetically at Remy and Sav. "Hey guys, sorry about the interruption, but... Well, after seeing something like that, I've gotta try and catch that Wooper. Good God, haven't laughed that hard in ages."

Well, seeing as how Ventus probably wouldn't be of much help, there was really only one choice Matt had left. Of course, he would've gone with her anyways.

"Alright Persephone, break's over! Come on, time to make a new friend!"

As the Gastly once more materialized out of the blinding light, her toothless grin even wider than the Wooper's. "Gas."

"Okay, make sure to take things easy. Don't want to knock her out, right? Start off with a Night Shade, and then Hypnosis until she falls asleep!"

"Wow! I guess you aren't in the Tournament's semis for nothing, huh?"

Blushing at the compliment, Tom barely heard Ada's orders to Gummy.

"Gummy, we're not done yet, use Thmmfff again! Follow it with a Bfff!"

Even though Kusari had pinched him, the daze lingered which resulted in him stuttering out his orders to Kalmia with a stupid grin on his face.

"Ok Kalmia use s-smog when the d-ditto gets close to you and then uhm, uh, try to just.. uh... g-get out of the way before you g-get hit or something.... Oh and use ember again too."

Kalmia however stood where she was, confused. She could tell that the usual fire Tom had when battling had been extinguished, and was wondering why. Being paralyzed as well made it difficult to move at a speed faster than a Jumpluff with a fifty pound weight attached to it. Only after a warning from the Skorupi did she snap back to the fight, with barely any time to react as the transformed ditto was nearly on top of her.

The pale young trainer winced at the sunlight as he stepped out of the PokéCenter. His pokémon were now in top form again, but the same could not be said for himself. Putting aside the fact that his midsection was still hurting from Pineco's Tackle, Rupert also felt a bit dumb. He had let his nervous disposition get the best of him again. Rupert had hurried back to Goldenrod thinking that the tournament could start at any moment, but there were actually a few hours to kill before the next match.

Stupid. Why didn't you just check your Pokégear? It could have told you the time. I always do this when I get nervous. I never stop and think. That probably doesn't reflect well on me as a trainer... huh?

Rupert had flipped open his Pokégear only to see that it wasn't turned on. This could be attributed to the fact that its owner wasn't the most sociable person on the planet; Rupert regularly left the device off, completely forgetting about it. This did however set something straight in Rupert's head: he had been nurturing a nasty feeling that he had forgotten something and he now remembered what. As he switched the Pokégear on the little display confirmed his worst fears: 23 missed calls. They all came from the same number which Rupert recognised immediately. They had been trying to reach him yesterday evening and this morning. Rupert had to call them back. This was long overdue. He steeled himself and chose to lean against the Pokécenter's wall too for good measure. He might need the support. With a gulp he made the call. They picked up before the dial tone could sound twice.

"H-hi, mom."

Using the PokéCenter for support had been a sound decision. The shriek of jubilation that emanated from the PokéGear nearly blew Rupert off his feet. Silph Co. really made quality products; it was a wonder that the noise didn't rupture the small gizmo's speaker.

"R-real nice hearing from you too, mom."

Rupert's family was made up by what you might call some pretty hardcore trainers. His grandparents (on both his mother's and father's side) had met whilst out on their respective pokémon journeys, as had his own parents. Though they had long since settled down, it was safe to say that Rupert had grown up in a very trainer happy home. This was also why the young man had always felt a bit like the black sheep of the family. Never having much of an interest in pokémon growing up, Rupert couldn't help but feel like an outsider. That's not to say that there had ever been any pressure on Rupert to become a trainer, far from it. His parents had been very understanding about the boy's fear of the critters, but growing up in a household consisting of nothing but trainers couldn't help but leave a mark on him.

The Pokégear had to be held at arm's length now that the jubilation from Rupert's mother had turned into chastisement for not calling them earlier.

"I-I know. I'm sorry. I'm really sorry. It's just that... well, things happened here."

There was no need to tell his parents about Looker, Eres, crime gangs and helping the police. No need to make them worry any more than necessary. Besides, if they told him to come home Rupert wasn't sure if his resolve to help Looker wouldn't falter.

"Yeah. But... um, s-sorry for losing the match. Cubone really gave it his all too..."

What followed was a full five minutes of both parents yelling into the speaker how proud they were of him. Win or loss, they could tell that he had really gone all out in the match against Tom. For the first time in his life he had taken a battle seriously, and they couldn't be anymore pleased.
Rupert's eyes got a bit misty. He hadn't expected this reaction.

*Sniff* "T-thank you. I... we tried hard, yeah. Thanks."

Wow. They always believed in me huh? Well, I won't disappoint them. You'll see. I'll become a proper responsible trainer.

"Huh? Yes. Y-yeah, Cubone's fine now. He's... what? No. No, mom. No, I'm not putting him on the phone! He is not my guardian! I-I'm his trainer and... and an a-adult!"

The conversation soon moved onto when he was coming home and whether or not he was staying for the remainder of the tournament. Rupert turned quiet now. It would be difficult to tell them this. He was their only son. It needed to be said though.

"Um, actually... w-well, I'm c-considering not coming. H-home, that is. I-I'm considering not coming home. After everything that's happened... I sort of have a new p-perspective on things, you know? I was thinking about maybe... (Here it came) going on a pokémon journey of my own."

The Pokégear was dead quiet. Rupert nearly checked to see if they had been disconnected when a great wail sounded from the device. It faintly reminded Rupert of Darius' Whismur, if her voice dropped a few octaves. Once again he was happy to have his back to a wall.

"D-dad!? Dad, are...? Dad, are you crying? Dad? Dad, put mom back on the phone."

His mother's voice sounded like her own eyes weren't completely dry, but this didn't stop her from launching into another symposium about how proud they were of him. Rupert could hear his father in the background yelling something that sounded like "My little boy's become a man!". Suffice it to say that his parents approved of him undertaking a pokémon journey. They had feared that Rupert would never realize his full potential as a trainer.

After another few minutes on the phone, under which Rupert had to promise his mother to change underwear regularly and his father had parted with some training advice that he probably felt was sagely but didn't make much sense to Rupert, parents and child said goodbye and Rupert could snap his Pokégear shut again. He let himself fall against the wall to a sitting position. That had been draining. It felt good though, knowing he had their blessing and support. He felt a bit sad knowing that this meant that he probably wouldn't see them again for some time, but it felt right. The prospect of undertaking a pokémon journey all on his own scared him something fierce. Seeing strange lands, battling strange people and catching strange pokémon? This was exactly what he had been trying to avoid his entire life. And yet Rupert knew that he had to do it. It was the only way he was going to grow as a trainer. He couldn't promise that he wouldn't give it all up at the first sign of trouble, but he was going to do his best.

And with that the Kanto native set out for the stadium, a nervous grin adorning his pale face. He might as well patrol the stadium until the tournament started again. That's basically what Looker had asked them to do, right? Keep an eye out for trouble.

Daria watched the bush with baited breath, when out hopped... a Wooper.

Her mouth was drawn taut, trying very hard not to rip all the muscles in her jaw from the stretching grimace she was pulling. A Wooper. Seriously. Seriously?

"OH, COME ON!" she shouted, leaping from the bushes. "I got spooked by a freaking WOOPER?!"

She was about to launch into a tirade, when a fact presented itself in her mind. She had just stood up, from the bushes where she was hiding. Standing erect, she was significantly taller than the bush, so anyone looking her way would spot her plain as day.

Matt and Remy were staring at the Wooper not four feet from her.

She looked over, and sure enough both of them were giving a mighty good look in her direction.

"Aw, jeez."

"Ga, gastly!"

The air around Persephone seemed to warp and shift, traces of dark pink and purple coloring bleeding out from the Gas Pokemon. As she charged up her Night Shade, the space surrounding the Gastly slowly became charged with bizarre, unearthly energy; anyone standing close enough to Persephone could feel their hair standing slightly on end.

Unconsciously, Matt found himself chewing on his bottom lip. His eyes flicked back and forth from Persephone to the somehow-still-oblivious Wooper, the ghost of an anticipatory smile flitting around his mouth. Though he'd been a trainer for the past few years, catching new Pokemon was something Matt had always struggled with. Hell, the last time Pokemon he'd caught (Persephone, for those who might be wondering) was a total accident! (It's a funny story; you should totally ask him about it)

But even as his typical waves of self-doubt and fear surged through his thoughts, a certain... lightheartedness embraced Matt. Maybe that battle with Remy had gotten his blood flowing, maybe it was the Wooper's downright silly antics, but Matt, for the first time in a long time, felt like he could really do this. He could catch this Pokemon, not thanks his step-dad's guidance, not thanks to luck and accident on his side, but thanks to his skill and hard work. He could do this, he felt great, he-

"OH, COME ON! I got spooked by a freaking WOOPER?!"

Oh. There was Daria. Over there in the bushes.

And now she was staring right at him. With a half-horrified, half-embarrassed grimace on her face. One that was probably extraordinarily similar to the look that had just hijacked his face.

Well. Fuck.

Okay. No need to panic. It was just Daria, right? Probably the most badass, battle-ready, energetic, and downright awesome trainer he'd ever meet. The one who had gone out of her way to help him out yesterday when he'd been confronted by Jack. The one who had proven herself to be the strongest battler he had ever met. The one who had been nothing but friendly, enthusiastic, and inspiring.

Also the one that he had yelled at, for (In hindsight) no damn good reason.

Yeeeeeeeeeah. He couldn't do this.

"Oh, um, h-hi! ...Daria..." Matt managed to stutter a greeting, a clearly forced smile awkwardly splayed across his face, "I... um... H-how're things? ...In the... b-bushes..."

Oh god, had she been watching him? While he was battling Remy, and screwing up EVERYTHING? God dammit, this just kept getting worse and worse! What, it wasn't enough that she thought he was an asshole? Now she was going to think that he was an INCOMPETENT asshole! At this point, was it even possible for things to get worse?! Granted, he supposed that if she had seen him last night, then...

Before he realized what he was doing, Matt reached up and grabbed the brim of his hat, yanking it down so that his eyes could see nothing but the green fabric. "I... uh, I..."

Oh for crying out... Just say it!

"I JUST WANTED TO SAY, THAT I'M VERY, VERY SORRY FOR THE WAY I ACTED LAST NIGHT."

It took Matt a moment to realize that he was shouting. Cursing under his breath, the lad adjusted his volume to more reasonable levels before continuing, his hat still pulled over his eyes, "I had no right to criticize you for training Pokemon the way you see fit. Even if I think that different methods should be used. You need to do what you think is right, and what works for your team. It's not my place to tell you what to do, and I'm very, very sorry."

After a moment of inaction, Matt bent at his waist, bowing awkwardly in Daria's general direction, his tight grip on his hat ensuring that the accessory would not fall off. "I hope that I did not offend you, and if I did then I am very, very sorry."

In the silence that followed the apology, it was almost possible to hear the blood rushing to Matt's ears and cheeks. The kid looked like a sunburned tomato, he was blushing so much.

Oh God oh God oh God. Um... There's no place like home, there's no place like home, there's no place like home.

"Raphael, bring down his wall of glass with Brick Break, then fire off another Ember."

A cocky smile made its way to the poacher's lips as he let out a mocking sigh.

"Boy, that'd be a damn sight scarier if you chicken weren't already at the check-out desk... Electabuzz! Finish 'em with a Shock Wave!"

Electabuzz complied, charging up another Shock Wave and sending it towards Raphael who could do nothing but take the hit. This was it. No way he'd be able to stand up after this one. The fledgling fighter could feel his consciousness slipping as the vicious current passed through every muscle in his body until it finally stopped, and Raphael fell to the ground. He could still move. If he could just...

Ralts! Ra-Ralts!

It was the Ralts from before. For whatever reason it had come back, and was now standing between Electabuzz and Raphael, as if wanting to protect the Young Fowl Pokémon from further harm. The poacher scoffed.

"Hmph. Well I'll be. True to their protective nature. Looks like this 'ere Ralts wants to come with you... Electabuzz, come on back!"

As the Electric-type returned to its owner, Neil turned away, adjusted his hat and walked away.

"I'll let ya off the hook this time, pretty boy. But you best not cross me again, ya hear?"

Sure that the poacher was gone, Ralts turned towards its saviors. Using its Confusion, it fished out an Ultra Ball from Caleb's pocket and placed it in his hand.

Ralts! Ral Ralts!
______________________________________________________________________________________________

At the park, the gang was surprised (for want of a better word) to see that their little match was interrupted by a small, spaced out Wooper. Remy couldn't say a word. He just looked on bemused as Ventus and Matt went about their shenanigans with the small Water-type.

"Hey guys, sorry about the interruption, but... Well, after seeing something like that, I've gotta try and catch that Wooper. Good God, haven't laughed that hard in ages."

Matt's adamant proposal snapped Remy out of his trance-like state. The kid was really coming out of his shell. Battling and laughing like he was among old friends. It was nice to see.

"A Wooper, huh? I say go for it, kid. That one sure doesn't seem to lack personality."

Remy said with a chuckle. Not that he needed to. Matt had already switched Persephone in and given his orders to keep that Wooper catchable.

And that's when Daria appeared.

"OH, COME ON! I got spooked by a freaking WOOPER?!"

Remy almost died of sheer fright when Daria's booming voice came out from the bushes nearby. It was Matt, however, who reacted to her presence the strongest. The fire in his eyes quickly extinguished as a very long, very awkward apology took place.

Poor kid, he really took last night's events hard. And with this interruption I don't even know if that featherbrain obeys him yet or not... Do the right thing here, Daria...

"Uh... Matt..."

While Matt's conversation was focused elsewhere, Persephone had taken the liberty of applying her otherworldly charms onto the no longer oblivious Wooper. The Water-type's disposition had changed from happy-go-lucky to utterly horrified and catatonic, as the gaseous Ghost-type scared the daylights out of it with Night Shade and now toyed with it before using Hypnosis on her hapless victim, putting it to sleep and awaiting Matt's little bowing exercise to be over so they could move on.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________

"Ok Kalmia use s-smog when the d-ditto gets close to you and then uhm, uh, try to just.. uh... g-get out of the way before you g-get hit or something.... Oh and use ember again too."

It was too late for Kalmia despite her colleague's warning. Gummy had pounced and now bit Tom's Pokémon's back, releasing the savage discharge of electricity into her body. Kalmia's legs gave out and she hit the ground. Gummy had won this one.

"Yay! We won this one! Way to go Gummy. Come on Tom, were you asleep or something?"

Tom's distraction was proving to be counter-productive. Something had to be done if he wanted to win this.

Daria's face was one of stunned silence, drawn taut with utter shock, both at her own stupidity and the precarious situation she found herself in. Matt had a similar expression as he struggled to form words.

"Oh, um, h-hi! ...Daria..." Matt managed to stutter a greeting, a clearly forced smile awkwardly splayed across his face, "I... um... H-how're things? ...In the... b-bushes..."

Daria didn't respond verbally. Her moth opened slightly, revealing gritted teeth. They jostled back and forth a bit as she tried to say something, but all that came was a furious blush on her cheeks. Her left hand raised just a few inches, as if making a motion, but Matt was whispering something to himself. He tucked his face away under the brim of his hat. Confused, Daria tried to take a step closer. Then, he practically screamed at her.

"I JUST WANTED TO SAY, THAT I'M VERY, VERY SORRY FOR THE WAY I ACTED LAST NIGHT."

Daria's eyes shot wide open.

"...What?"

"I had no right to criticize you for training Pokemon the way you see fit. Even if I think that different methods should be used. You need to do what you think is right, and what works for your team. It's not my place to tell you what to do, and I'm very, very sorry."

She froze in place, listening to Matt stumble over himself trying to apologize. Her face was difficult to read, but her lower lip was twitching repeatedly. She saw him bow, and her mouth dropped open slightly, trying to process what she was seeing.

"I hope that I did not offend you, and if I did then I am very, very sorry."

She lowered her head. "Matt... no..."

Daria advanced from the bushes, taking short steps in an awkward rhythm, as if she were struggling to remember how to move her legs at all. She stopped only two paces away from the boy, her head lowered and her eyes staring at the ground. She took a heavy breath, lifting and then shrugging her shoulders.

"No...you should--shouldn't apologize. Ventus is, erm, your... Pokemon. I didn't have any right to threaten him like I did. You can... you can train your Pokemon however you want."

She grappled with every word, fighting to make the words come out right. It was not lost on Matt how difficult it was for her to articulate herself like this.

"I was--I was wrong. I saw you were out here, and I wanted to... watch you fight. But I was afraid you were still mad at me so--so I hid." She scratched the back of her head nervously. "I... I'm the one who should be apologizing."

Daria bowed her head, a small frown on her lips. "I'm sorry."

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