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Proving Grounds (PG-13)


Bewear my power
Chapter 21: Strike

The dusty winds of Orre drifted across Phenac City, speckling the once-spotless city with bits of sand and dirt. A black mark on its cleanliness record was the least of Phenac’s concerns, however. People and their Pokémon, the latter bearing agonizing battle scars, barely clung to consciousness as their bodies laid flat on the ground. Some buildings were afflicted with scars of their own, large holes having been blasted into them and rubble decorating the streets.

The most devastated building, however, was Anoch Kadir’s home. It was larger than most due to his wealth, but that only added to the miserable state the house was in. The front wall, along with sections of the roof, had been completely obliterated, and the house had all but collapsed upon itself. Anoch’s body—battered, beaten, and burnt as it was—somehow managed to escape death by crawling out of the wreckage. One shaky hand reached out, as if to grab something.

“Dray…kus…you—” Anoch grunted, only for unconsciousness to finally take hold of him.

The man he knew as “Draykus”, however, was currently occupied with other affairs. His Conkeldurr and Hydreigon faced down a man with long purple hair and a white jacket, whose chosen two Pokémon had fallen before his eyes. The purple-haired man gritted his teeth, realizing that his fall would most likely mean the end of Phenac. His opponent, however, merely heaved a disappointed sigh.

“Really?” Nobunaga sighed. “This is the best that Phenac City has to offer? You are supposed to be Justy, the head of the Prestige Precept Center, where trainers from all over Orre flock to learn about the intricacies of battling. And yet, here we are, with your six Pokémon handily defeated…by my two.”

“I’m still going to stop you, Governor!” Justy declared angrily. “I don’t know why you’re doing this, but I won’t let you destroy the very region you swore to protect!"

At this, to Justy’s shock, Nobunaga merely chuckled.

“I’m afraid my reasons would be beyond your comprehension, boy,” he laughed. “Now, stand aside. I wish to see just what you’ve been teaching in your ‘Pre Gym’.”

He made to advance, but Justy did not move. The Pre Gym Leader steeled his gaze, scowling fiercely at his foe.

“Very well,” Nobunaga sighed. “Conkeldurr?”

The colossal Fighting-type simply swung one of its pillars and knocked Justy aside, sending his body careening into Phenac’s outer wall. With the Pre Gym Leader’s now-broken body out of his way, Nobunaga advanced into the semicircular building known as the Pre Gym. Inside, he was met with a less-than-warm reception: young children huddled in a corner with a teacher wrapping her arms around them as best as she could, the teacher herself glaring viciously at Nobunaga, and a group of angry trainers staring down the supposed governor of Orre.

“Heh,” Nobunaga smirked. “Are you going to battle me, now?”

“We’ll do better!” one of the trainers declared. “We’re going to defeat you!”

The trainers sent out a multitude of variegated Pokémon, each one distinguished by its unique shape, size, and typing. Although team balance was clearly part of the students’ studies, Nobunaga was undaunted in the slightest. In fact, he actually heaved a bored sigh.

“Hydreigon, use Draco Meteor,” he said flatly.

The three-headed beast reared up, a swirling light gathering upon its stomach. The center of the heads pointed skyward and opened its mouth, releasing a single sphere into the air. The sphere split into a plethora of smaller spheres, which rained down upon the Pre Gym Pokémon like a torrent of meteors. The meteors viciously battered the opposing Pokémon, their types being of no help to them. All the Pre Gym trainers gasped upon seeing their Pokémon beaten so easily with but a single attack, and fell themselves shortly after due to a shockwave caused by Conkeldurr’s fist striking the ground.

“No wonder Derak sought to flee this city,” Nobunaga muttered, ignoring the ruptured floor and broken bodies that lay before him. “Had he remained here, his potential would be squandered into nothing.”

“Wh…what do you want?” one of the trainers groaned weakly.

Nobunaga smirked and approached the trainer, Conkeldurr in tow. The Muscular Pokémon pinned the bottom of one pillar onto the trainer’s stomach, and Nobunaga’s sinister smirk grew upon seeing the fear in the trainer’s eyes.

“Heh heh,” Nobunaga snickered. “You want to know what I want? Very well, then. What I want is information.”

His smirk suddenly vanished, replaced by a frown. His eyes narrowed, and the entire expression of his face went from sadistic mirth to deadly serious.

“There is someone I must visit if my plans are to succeed,” Nobunaga said, his voice calm and his tone authoritative. “What do you know about Team Plasma?”


Although Derak had long since moved on from Celadon City, Melissa Armare remained. She stood in the sprawling city’s department store, perusing the wares available to her. Spray bottles filled with colored liquids lined the shelves, as did various types of Pokéballs and even some exotic stones. Melissa’s gaze lingered on the stones for a moment before she produced a Quick Ball.

“All right, Eevee,” she said, “let’s get a look at you.”

The Evolution Pokémon appeared in a flash of light, testing its once-injured leg. It smiled, realizing that it had been healed. Melissa, however, simply looked at her P*DA.

“Let’s see…moves are pretty basic, but that’s fixable,” she began. “I can teach you Shadow Ball to cover any problems with Ghost-types, like I did with Noctowl. Hold on, your ability is Anticipation? Who throws away an Eevee with an ability as rare as Anticipation?!”

Eevee perked up, ears twitching at the incredulous tone in Melissa’s voice. Hope welled up in its chocolate eyes. This trainer saw value in it; could she be better to it than its previous trainer?

“Well, with that in mind, let’s figure out what to evolve you into,” Melissa continued, poking at screens on her P*DA. “Espeon, Umbreon, and Sylveon need me to baby you, so those are out. I’ve got Fire-type coverage with Growlithe and Water-type with Buizel, so I don’t need Flareon or Vaporeon, and the same goes for Grass-type with Leafeon thanks to Chesnaught. That leaves Jolteon or Glaceon…hmm. I’d like to have a Raichu like Lieutenant Surge, so Jolteon might need to go on the backburner. Maybe Glaceon? It would need me to put you in an area with certain conditions, but I’ve heard there’s a recently-discovered evolution stone that can do the job.”

Eevee tilted its head, curiosity in its gaze as it studied its new trainer.

“Whatever the case, your evolution’s going to need to wait,” Melissa finished, tucking away her P*DA. “It’s time we moved on.”

“Vee!” Eevee nodded. Melissa seemed to ignore the gesture as she silently recalled Eevee and turned to leave.


A week passed before Derak and Mr. Vagabond arrived at their next destination. It was a city, but it appeared to be rather rural. The houses were generally small and spaced apart, with nature itself set between them. There were a small number of larger buildings, but otherwise the town was fairly unremarkable.

“This is where the fifth Gym is, right?” Derak asked. “Fuchsia City?”

“If I remember correctly, yes,” Mr. Vagabond nodded. “The Gym here focuses on Poison-type Pokémon, so to get done with this quickly, you should focus on Psychic-type and Ground-type attacks.”

“You said that Echo’s Zen Headbutt was Psychic-type, right?” Derak asked, holding his Zubat’s Pokéball. “Well, that’s one guy I’m definitely going to be using.”

“As if you have any choice in the matter,” Mr. Vagabond snorted. “You have only those three Pokémon, remember?”

“Eh, if I find another one that’s all right with this whole trainer thing, I’ll let them tag along,” Derak shrugged as the two entered the Pokémon Center.

“That would require an inordinate amount of luck, boy,” Mr. Vagabond grunted. “From what you told me of what occurred in the Celadon Mansion, you appear to be relying too much on what is determined to kill you.”

“Yeah, just figures that I’d get stuck up against a psycho Rotom that wants me dead,” Derak sighed bitterly.

“At least try and get a Ground-type Pokémon,” Mr. Vagabond suggested as the two trainers sat down at a table. “There should be one or two available in the Safari Zone.”

“…the what?” Derak blinked.

“Ugh, that sheltered upbringing of yours,” Mr. Vagabond muttered. “Very well. Here in Fuchsia City, there is a reserve where the native Pokémon are rare, even outside of Kanto. Trainers are free to enter this reserve, dubbed the ‘Safari Zone’, and capture up to thirty Pokémon using special Pokéballs provided by the management.”

“So…it’s a nature reserve…where people catch Pokémon?” Derak said slowly. “What’s the catch? I mean, there’s got to be one in there somewhere.”

“As far as I know, the ‘catch’ is that you cannot battle the Pokémon you wish to catch,” Mr. Vagabond answered. “Assuming that you find a worthwhile Pokémon, all you can do to capture it is throw a ball and hope that it works.”

“…that’s kind of stupid,” Derak blurted.

“Agreed,” Mr. Vagabond sighed, “but it is also your only option at the moment. The Safari Zone is open right now. Go there and capture a fourth Pokémon. You may well need it against the Fuchsia Gym Leader.”

“All right,” Derak said as he made to leave. “I’d say ‘wish me luck’, but we both know how that’ll turn out.”


Shortly afterward, Derak pushed his way into the Safari Zone with a large bag in hand. Within the bag were, as Mr. Vagabond had earlier described, thirty Pokéballs with a dark green upper half. Despite having sufficient ammunition, Derak only grimaced as he made his way into a forested area.

“Whose bright idea was it to give the cranky old receptionist a gun?” Derak muttered. “Ugh, anyway, let’s get down to business…”

As his first endeavor for finding a suitable fourth Pokémon, he pushed aside part of a bush and peered behind it. A Pokémon was indeed there: a small purple dinosaur-like creature with small ears, a stubby tail, and what appeared to be a black plate atop its head. The Pokémon looked at him with its beady black eyes, studying him inquisitively.

“Kang?” the Pokémon squeaked.

“Hey, little guy,” Derak said, pulling out his P*DA. “What are you supposed to be?”

Kangaskhan,” the Strategy Memo reported, notably showing an image of the small purple dinosaur within the stomach pouch of a larger brown one, “the Parent Pokémon. Normal-type. Kangaskhan protects its child by keeping it in its pouch, and will never back down from a fight if it means safeguarding its offspring. Strangers should not approach the child while it’s playing outside of its pouch; its mother will always be watching nearby.

Derak paused for a moment, a worried frown crossing his features as he looked from the small Pokémon to the differing image in the Strategy Memo. “…I just approached the child as a stranger, didn’t I?”

“Khan!” a deeper voice cried, and out of the forest stomped a larger, brown-colored version of the small purple dinosaur with a pouch on its stomach. “Kangas-khan!”

“Uh-oh,” Derak gulped, backing away from what was apparently the brown dinosaur’s baby. “Okay, look, I’m backing away, I have nothing to do with your baby!”

Derak had managed to back several feet away, and the brown Pokémon ignored him as it approached its baby. A tender smile overtook the parent’s aggression as it lifted the baby into its pouch, much to the infant’s pleasure.

“Um…excuse me? Kangaskhan?” a timid female voice ventured. A familiar purple-haired girl came into view, a Safari Ball in hand.

“Khan?” Kangaskhan blinked, ignoring Derak as it turned to face Teresa. It immediately began sizing her up, attempting to determine if she would be a threat.

“I…I’m a trainer, and…I’ve, uh…always admired how you…protect your baby…with your life,” Teresa said slowly. “Could you…if it’s not too much trouble…could you come with me? I…I need help…my Pokémon need help…from someone like you.”

The Parent Pokémon seemed to consider this for a moment. It looked Teresa over once more, eventually judging her to be of decent character. With a friendly smile, Kangaskhan nodded.

“Really? You’ll…you’ll do it?” Teresa gasped, and Kangaskhan nodded again. “Th-thank you…Kangaskhan.”

Teresa nervously reached out with her Safari Ball, and gently tapped the mother Kangaskhan’s forehead. The saurian parent was promptly absorbed into the Safari Ball, its child going with it.

“Whew,” Derak sighed in relief. “Hey…it was Teresa, right?”

“Huh?” Teresa blinked. “Uh, oh…yes, it…it was.”

“Thanks,” Derak said. “I probably wouldn’t have made it out alive if you hadn’t caught that Kangaskhan.”

“Oh…well…you’re welcome,” Teresa said nervously, fiddling with her fingers. “Erm…if it isn’t too much trouble, could you…uh, maybe…help me get out of here? W-when you’re done here, that is, I…wouldn’t want to…inconvenience you.”

“Uh…okay?” Derak blinked. “Anyway, I still need a Pokémon, so I guess we’re moving on.”


Back at the Pokémon Center, Mr. Vagabond sat alone at his table, taking another swig from his canteen. Once the canteen left his lips, he heaved a ragged sigh.

“Knowing the boy, I may need to enter the Safari Zone myself,” Mr. Vagabond muttered bitterly. “Doubtless he will have somehow gotten lost…and still be without a fourth Pokémon.”

“This just in!” a newscaster cried on a television mounted in the upper corner of the lobby. “A mysterious black Pokémon has been spotted in the skies of Kanto! Eyewitnesses claim that this is no ordinary Pokémon, but in fact a Legendary Pokémon!”

Mr. Vagabond’s eyes widened. A black Legendary Pokémon? He spun around until he located the television, which initially displayed a woman in her twenties sitting at a desk. The picture soon changed to a somewhat blurry image of what was presumably the Pokémon in question.

“This is an image taken on an eyewitness’ cell phone,” the newscaster explained. “It appears that someone is riding atop this Pokémon across the Kanto region.”

Mr. Vagabond was oblivious to the second half of her explanation, however. All he saw was a shape from his memory: a huge black dragon with enormous bulky arms and legs but comparatively tiny bat-like wings, its most notable feature being the large generator-like tail protruding from the dragon’s rear. Mr. Vagabond only uttered a fearful whisper at the sight of this beast.



In the Safari Zone, Derak and Teresa continued on their expedition. Teresa was always looking around nervously, as if fearing that something aggressive would burst out of the bushes. Derak, however, continued to stop every now and then, peering into small areas.

“So…you, uh…still need a new Pokémon…right?” Teresa asked.

“Pretty much,” Derak replied. “Hey, I think I see something over there!”

The two soon came upon a small field-like area, where a rhinoceros-like Pokémon rammed its armored body into a large rock, smashing the boulder into pieces. The Pokémon was a dull grey color, with a single small horn and clawed toes at the end of each of its four short legs. Its blood red irises were just as intimidating as the large ridge coming out of the rhinoceros’ spine.

Rhyhorn,” the Memo identified, “the Spikes Pokémon. Ground-and-Rock-type. Rhyhorn is powerful enough to shatter skyscrapers with its charges, but its small brain makes it very dense. When it charges, it often forgets why it began charging in the first place, and it will only run in a straight line due to how difficult turning mid-run becomes with its short legs.

“Maybe…maybe you can catch that Rhyhorn?” Teresa ventured. “The Safari Balls...well, they work better if you’re…closer to the Pokémon. Maybe you can…?”

“Maybe,” Derak replied, scratching his head. “I’ve heard Ground-types are pretty good against Poison-types, but—”

He was cut off by a sharp whistle that quickly caught the Rhyhorn’s attention. There, on the other side of the small field, stood Elliot Trey, casually leaning on a tree and smirking arrogantly. The boy with multiple personalities made a beckoning gesture with one finger, which managed to send the Rhyhorn into a violent rage. The Spikes Pokémon quickly charged towards Elliot, smashing anything that got into its way as it barreled towards him.

“Elliot,” Derak growled. “What in the world is he doing?”

Despite the Rhyhorn’s seemingly imminent impact with his body, Elliot did not move an inch from where he stood. Instead, he simply took a Safari Ball out of his pocket and waited for Rhyhorn to come closer. Once the Ground-type was a foot away from impact, Elliot reached out and casually tapped the Safari Ball against the Spikes Pokémon’s horn. Eyes wide in shock, Rhyhorn could do nothing to stop its absorption into the Safari Ball. Following the obligatory click that signaled a successful capture, Elliot clipped the Safari Ball onto his belt and left without a word.

“Great,” Derak growled. “That’s another Pokémon for him and one less for me.”

Teresa shrank back slightly, as if she feared Derak’s anger turning on her. The boy noticed this, and sighed.

“What are you worried about?” he asked. “It’s got nothing to do with you.”

“O-okay,” Teresa gulped. “Let’s…let’s just go. There…has to be a Pokémon for you…somewhere in here…right?”


In Orre, the same news broadcast that Mr. Vagabond saw earlier was seen by someone else. The mouth of this someone curved into a sinister grin upon seeing the mysterious Pokémon. He, too, recognized it.

“There you are,” Nobunaga grinned. “Heh…time to claim what was once mine.”


Back in the Kanto Safari Zone, Derak suddenly came to a stop. Before him were several damaged trees, either cut through or knocked over. Teresa gulped as she looked down, cringing as she saw a red liquid spattered on the grass.

“Oh, man,” Derak breathed. “What happened here?”

A sickly groaning could be faintly heard within the cluster of broken trees. The eyes of both trainer’s quickly widened. Derak was the first to run in, with Teresa lagging behind due to her unwillingness to see more blood. They soon found the source of the groans: a third Pokémon, this one resembling a humanoid praying mantis with a vaguely canine head and massive blades serving as arms. On the Pokémon’s back was a pair of what were once gossamer wings. Now, however, they were folded and spindled, clearly causing their owner pain.

“Scyyy,” growled the Pokémon, struggling to push itself up.

Scyther,” Derak’s Strategy Memo reported, “the Mantis Pokémon. Bug-and-Flying-type. Scyther is often seen leaping out of tall grass in sudden attacks. It confuses its opponents with quick, ninja-like movements that are said to be capable of cleaving the air itself in two.

“Rrgh, of all the times to act useless,” Derak muttered. “Hey…Scyther, hey, can you hear me?”

The Scyther’s blue eyes narrowed at the sound of Derak’s voice. The Bug-type turned its head and angrily spat something red at Derak’s feet, much to Teresa’s discomfort.

“Uh…okay, I’ll take that as a ‘yes’,” Derak said slowly. “Look, Scyther, you need help. Hang on, let me…”

He pulled out a Safari Ball, but Scyther’s eyes widened at the sight of the device. It pointed one bladed arm at Derak, still attempting to rise from the bloody patch it had left behind. The more it rose, however, the more wounds became visible: cuts, bruises, and small holes added to Scyther’s broken wings.

“Okay, that’s it, I need to take you to the Pokémon Center yesterday!” Derak said, aiming for a relatively unhurt spot on Scyther’s body and gently throwing the Safari Ball. The Bug-type glared at him viciously as its body faded into red energy, but Derak ignored it as he grabbed hold of the Safari Ball and dashed out of the Safari Zone as quickly as he could, Teresa following to the best of her ability.


“You again?” Mr. Vagabond groaned. “Why are you here?”

“I am here to challenge the Fuchsia Gym,” replied Nando, having just sat down at Mr. Vagabond’s table.

“With nothing but your Grass-types?” Mr. Vagabond snorted. “I believe I have a good idea of how your battle will go.”

“You are correct to believe that I may be at a type disadvantage,” Nando nodded. “You should not, however, count me out so quickly. As I am sure you are aware, types alone do not determine how a batt—”

“Nurse Joy!” Derak cried the second he burst into the Pokémon Center, Teresa barely keeping up with him. “Really messed-up Scyther! Needs help now!”

“Oh, my!” Nurse Joy gasped, taking the Safari Ball that Derak haphazardly threw onto the counter. “Did you find this in the—”

“JUST HELP IT!” Derak yelled. “It’s bleeding a lot! It needs help now!”

Nurse Joy hurriedly ran to the back, her Chansey in tow. With a final few pants, Derak collapsed on the ground, sighing as he thumped his head against the front desk.

“What happened?” Nando asked.

“We…we found a Scyther,” Teresa replied. “It was…very badly injured. Its wings…they were…”

“Messed-up,” Derak finished sadly. “Just like the rest of its body.”

“How did I know you would stoop to find the first bruised—” Mr. Vagabond began.

“I DON’T WANT TO HEAR YOUR STUPID CRITICISM!” Derak bellowed, his dramatic change in demeanor causing Mr. Vagabond to stop for a moment.

“Are you done?” Mr. Vagabond asked.

“…that depends,” Derak sighed. “Are you going to spit out garbage about how I shouldn’t have stopped for the Scyther, even after seeing that one of its wings was folded in half? As in, folded in a way that it shouldn’t have been at all?”

“Ah, I see,” Mr. Vagabond said. “If the injuries were that severe, then I suppose you did the right thing.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Derak asked. Teresa worriedly backed into a wall, anticipating that the worst would follow.

“I had assumed that—given your nature—you would have stopped to nurse the first injured Pokémon you saw, despite the fact that its injuries could be healed without human aid,” Mr. Vagabond explained. “In all honesty, I would have done the same thing as you if that Scyther was indeed in as poor condition as you claim.”

“Sure you would have,” Derak scoffed, leaning against the front desk.

“Hmph…believe what you want,” Mr. Vagabond grunted.

Derak merely stayed by the desk, looking back into the operation room. Minutes dragged on like hours as he waited for Nurse Joy to return with news of Scyther’s status. Once or twice her Chansey came in to retrieve a supply of some sort, but the nurse herself did not show for some time.

Eventually, however, she did return. The depression on her face brought worry to Derak’s mind, but upon noticing him, Nurse Joy smiled.

“Your Scyther’s been patched up, and should recover most of the way by morning,” she said.

“What do you mean ‘most of the way’?” Derak asked. “There’s a ‘but’, isn’t there?”

“I’m afraid so,” Nurse Joy nodded, smile fading. “Scyther’s wings were badly broken. They’ve been put in a cast, but they’re going to take some time to fully heal.”

“Can I see him?” Derak asked.

Nurse Joy nodded, and lead Derak back into a sort of waiting room. A large glass panel showed an unconscious Scyther lying face-down on an operating table, its heavily-bandaged wings pointed straight up.

“We had to anesthetize it,” Nurse Joy explained, “but other than that the only problem was the sensitive wings.”

Derak could only stare at the Scyther in the operating room. He could only imagine the level of pain it had endured by some unknown enemy…and the amount of time it would take to recover.

“Don’t worry,” Nurse Joy smiled. “It’ll be battle-ready by tomorrow. As long as it doesn’t use attacks that involve its wings, it should be fine.”

She turned and left just in time to avoid a dark glare from Derak.

I don’t care about his being battle-ready, he thought. I care about his being a hundred-percent for the sake of being a hundred-percent.

He slowly approached the window and placed a hand on it.

“Get well soon,” he whispered. “…Strike.”

With that, Derak trudged away. Once he had gone and the lights went out, however, Scyther’s body began to move. One blue eye snapped open, and only one thing could be seen within that eye.

The fires of pure rage.



Bewear my power
Chapter 22: Rage

The morning after Derak’s capture of Strike, his new Scyther, Fuchsia City’s lampposts slowly dimmed as they accepted the sun as their replacement. One lamppost, however, began to crackle with blue electricity. The electricity burst off of the lamp and merged into the form of a familiar red Pokémon.

“Tom?” blinked the Rotom from Celadon Mansion, looking around at the rural place its travels had brought it to. And then it began snickering mischievously. “Ro-tom-tom-tom!”


Derak was the first one up, immediately standing outside Strike’s operating room. The Scyther had not moved since yesterday, instead remaining in the operating room as its strength recovered. Derak anxiously waited for his Bug-type to recover, hoping that he could have a chance to come to an understanding with it. The circumstances of its capture had not quite turned out the way he had hoped for.

“H-hello?” Teresa stuttered as she approached. “I’m…sorry, I just…wanted to see how—”

“Don’t worry about it,” Derak shrugged. “Strike still hasn’t moved too much, but he’s obviously still alive.”

“That’s…that’s good,” Teresa nodded, moving alongside Derak so that she, too, could see Strike. “I’m…glad to hear that.”

“Okay, seriously, why do you keep talking like that?” Derak asked. “Why do you act like people would strangle you if you say one wrong word?”

Teresa swallowed hard, finding a sudden interest in her feet.

“It’s…well, it’s…a long story,” she stammered.

“I’ve got time,” Derak shrugged. “Don’t have much to do until Strike recovers, so I’ll be here all day if I have to.”

“O-okay,” Teresa nodded. “I’m…I’m from Agate Village.”

“The old people’s town up in northern Orre?” Derak blinked.

“Y-yes,” Teresa nodded. “But, my…my family was originally…from the Sinnoh region.”

“Oh, yeah, you used a Shinx in the Pewter Contest, right?” Derak asked. “Is that where you got it?”

Teresa nodded again.

“So why move to Orre?” Derak asked.

This time Teresa gulped again, her skin suddenly going pale at the thoughts she was made to relive.

“You okay?” Derak asked. “Hey, you don’t have to tell me if—”

“N-no, I…I need to do this,” Teresa interrupted. “Mr. Nando, he’s…he’s always telling me that I if I talk about it…it’ll get better.”

“So…you’re going to talk about it?” Derak asked.

Teresa nodded again. She took a deep breath and began her tale again.

“I…was born in Veilstone City,” Teresa said. “My mother was…a coordinator. I always thought she was great…I wanted to…to be like her. I…I never really wanted to…leave Veilstone. I…I was happy where I was.”

“So why leave?” Derak asked.

“I…I had another relative…living in Veilstone,” Teresa gulped, remembering the critical part of her story. “A cousin. His…his name was Paul. He lived…with his brother, Reggie. Sometimes we…we visited them.”

Tears began to well up in Teresa’s eyes.

“Those visits,” she murmured. “Those visits…were the worst times of my life.”

“Why?” Derak asked. “What about Paul and Reggie made those visits bad?”

“Paul…he,” Teresa muttered, her eyes still misty. “PAUL WAS A BULLY!”

Derak jumped at her sudden outburst, and was even more startled when Teresa began to slam her fists against the wall.

“PAUL WAS A STUPID, ROTTEN, NO-GOOD BULLY!” Teresa ranted, tears soaring from her eyes and her fists punctuating each word in her description of her cousin. “His father was never there for him, so he took it out on me! I’ve suffered because of Paul! Suffered!”

She propped herself up against a wall, allowing her eyes to freely release the liquid of sorrow.

“I’m so afraid,” she muttered. “Paul’s out there, somewhere…I know he is. I’m so afraid that I’ll find him, and…and he’ll…”

Teresa’s crying became heavier, and a green Poké Ball on her belt popped open. Her Chikorita emerged and leapt onto her shoulder, stroking her hair with its large leaf. Teresa slowly looked over at the Grass-type and smiled.

“Th-thank you…Chikorita,” Teresa smiled.

“Hey, Teresa?” Derak said. “Look…cross that bridge when you get to it, okay? If you do find Paul—”

The lights in the room suddenly powered down, leaving the two trainers completely in the dark.

“Uh, what just happened?” Derak asked.

“I…I don’t know,” Teresa answered. “The power just…just went out.”

A ceiling light a short distance away from them suddenly exploded, sending shards of glass showering everywhere. Another ceiling light followed suit, then another, until the one directly above Derak and Teresa spontaneously shattered. The two trainers jumped back in order to avoid the falling glass, along with some electrical sparks that fell with it. Derak looked up to find that blue electricity crackled from the ceiling light, and as if on cue, the electricity joined together to form a familiar Pokémon.

“Oh, no,” Derak groaned. “Not you again!”

Indeed, the Rotom from Celadon Mansion had returned. The Plasma Pokémon snickered at Derak’s reaction to its presence, as if finding his anguish amusing.

“You…know this Rotom?” Teresa asked.

“Remember when I went into Celadon Mansion?” Derak asked. “This thing tried to kill me there.”

Rotom snickered again, but out of the corner of its eye it saw the unconscious Strike lying in the operating room. A mischievous Cheshire grin crossed Rotom’s face as it put its two bolt-arms together, its body charging with electricity as it prepared to launch a Thunderbolt.

“Oh, no, you don’t!” Derak cried. “Wildfire, stop Rotom with Flame Wheel!”

A rolling ball of fire immediately burst out of Wildfire’s Pokéball, slamming into Rotom and knocking it to the floor just in time to prevent the Electric-type’s attack. The Plasma Pokémon gave itself a quick shake, however, and levitated into the air again.

“Chikorita…please, we need to help,” Teresa whimpered. “I need you…to use Razor Leaf.”

Chikorita eagerly leapt off of Teresa’s shoulder and spun its leaf around, releasing a flurry of sharp-edged leaves. Rotom, however, quickly darted out of the way, bouncing off several walls before landing directly in front of Chikorita. With a mirthful cackle at the Grass-type’s startled response, Rotom crossed its bolt-arms again and released a new Electroweb. Being at point-blank range, the Leaf Pokémon was easily caught inside, gritting its teeth as the net’s electricity surged through its body.

“Oh, no!” Teresa gasped. She made to try and work her starter free, only to receive an electric shock from touching the Electroweb.

“Great,” Derak muttered. “Wildfire, can you use Scratch to free Chikorita?”

The Chimchar nodded and complied with one swift motion. The Electroweb faded away upon being cut, much to Rotom’s disappointment.

“Tooomm, roh-tom?” Rotom whined in a tone reminiscent of a child whose favorite television show had unexpectedly ended.

“Sorry we can’t give you your sick thrills,” Derak spat. “Wildfire, use Flame Wheel again!”

Again Wildfire assumed its wheel form, but Rotom suddenly shot up to the ceiling. It bounced off of the ceiling and then the walls, its speed increasing as it gathered momentum. Wildfire began to panic, realizing the futility in trying to keep track of the Electric-type.

“We need to move, it’s too cramped in here for us to do anything!” Derak cried.

Teresa nodded and the two trainers began to flee with their starter Pokémon in tow. Rotom, however, stopped bouncing long enough to notice their retreat efforts. In response, it shot off like a bullet, leaving a trail of lightning in its wake.

“Hey!” Derak cried as he stumbled into the lobby. “We’ve got trouble, it’s—”

Derak was cut off when a bolt of lightning whizzed past his shoulder, Rotom itself materializing in the middle of the lobby.

“A Rotom?” Nando gasped.

“And not just any Rotom, I would wager,” Mr. Vagabond growled, preparing a Pokéball.

The Electric-type in question looked around, and upon seeing a greater amount of people, cackled hysterically.

“You will not be laughing for long,” Mr. Vagabond snarled. “Electivire, rise from the ashes!”

“Sawsbuck, let us assist them!” Nando added.

Each man’s Pokéball released a different Pokémon. The yellow sasquatch that was Mr. Vagabond’s Electivire cracked its knuckles, crimson eyes sizing up Rotom. Nando’s Pokémon was a brown deer-like creature with a tan underbelly, several small pink spots on its back, and pink flowers growing out of its dark brown antlers. The deer stamped one hoof, awaiting its orders.

“Stay back,” Mr. Vagabond growled, pushing Derak behind him. Wildfire halted itself at the lobby’s entrance, as did Teresa and her Chikorita. “We will handle this. Electivire, use Ice Punch!”

“Sawsbuck, please, use Horn Leech,” Nando said, somehow maintaining his composure despite the situation.

Electivire charged its fist with icy energy and swung for Rotom, but the Plasma Pokémon bounced aside with ease. Nando’s Sawsbuck, remembering the strength it had gained since its time as his Deerling, charged forth as its antlers began to glow a bright green. Rotom unleashed an Electroweb, but Sawsbuck’s horns simply tore through the net and crashed into the Ghost-type’s body. Due to its small size, however, Rotom actually managed to get stuck between Sawsbuck’s antlers, causing Nando’s Pokémon to become greatly distressed.

“Please, Sawsbuck, calm yourself!” Nando cried, noticing Sawsbuck’s frenzied attempts to shake Rotom free from its antlers. “Use Giga Drain, please!”

Although understandably uncomfortable with having Rotom stuck in its antlers, the voice of its trainer was enough for Sawsbuck to regain its composure. Its antlers again began to glow green, this time causing a green aura to course through Rotom’s body. The Plasma Pokémon winced as its stamina was steadily sapped away, though it managed to summon enough strength to discharge a Thunderbolt. The intense pain of having electricity surge through its horns was too much for Sawsbuck, and as its Giga Drain halted, Rotom managed to slip out of its antlers.

The Electric-type’s freedom was short-lived, however, as Mr. Vagabond’s Electivire leapt upon it with another Ice Punch drawn back. Rotom wailed in shock, its body taking on a strange glow for roughly half of a second. Electivire thrust its fist into Rotom’s body, but instead of falling to the floor in defeat, the Electric-type somehow vanished in a puff of smoke.

“What?” Mr. Vagabond gasped. “A Substitute? Then…where is the real one?!”

Electivire’s eyes darted about, attempting to locate its missing foe. Sawsbuck slowly rose to its feet, still suffering from an unpleasant headache brought on by Rotom’s Thunderbolt. For a moment, there was nothing. Rotom appeared to have completely disappeared, leaving behind only the damage caused by the battle. Nurse Joy carefully peeked up from behind the counter, trying to see if it was safe to reemerge.

“Is…is it gone?” Teresa asked nervously.

“That thing survived having Celadon Mansion collapse on top of it,” Derak growled. “No way something that crazy is going to give up that easily.”

Derak’s words seemed to be justified when a faint humming sound could be heard from outside. The humming became steadily louder, and the louder it became, the more it sounded like a running motor. And then, when it sounded as if it were just outside, it stopped. A tense calm descended on the Pokémon Center.

And then the storm ensued.

A hurricane of wind and leaves burst through the front doors, pushing back both Mr. Vagabond’s Electivire and Nando’s Sawsbuck. Wildfire tumbled into a wall, and Teresa’s Chikorita skidded back into its trainer’s leg. Most of the humans found ways to shield themselves from the windy assault, but what came in afterward was completely unexpected.

Rotom had returned, this time having possessed another appliance. Its appearance now resembled a sideways egg with two wheels on each side and a large cube in the back. Its antenna had grown a large bulb, and its eyes—along with its aura—had turned green. Underneath the eyes was a wide, sharp-toothed grin, and its bolt-arms had merged into a single scoop-like protrusion that emerged from the front.

“Oh, great,” Derak groaned. “Now it’s a lawnmower with teeth!”

“Tom-tom-tom-tom-tom-tom!” Rotom chattered rapidly, gnashing its teeth as it barreled towards Derak.

“Electivire, use Brick Break to stop it!” Mr. Vagabond yelled.

With speed defying its size, Electivire rushed between Derak and Rotom. Once the Plasma Pokemon’s lawnmower body was within range, Electivire brought its arm down, directly slamming the space between Rotom’s eyes. Rotom’s momentum dissipated as it winced in pain, stunned from the blow Electivire had landed.

“Now, Sawsbuck, we must finish this!” Nando cried. “Use Megahorn, please!”

The twig-like horns on Sawsbuck’s head began to glow a bright green, and the entire Pokémon charged towards Rotom. Knowing that its possession of the lawnmower had given Rotom a Grass-type’s weakness to Bug-type attacks such as Megahorn, Nando hoped that this would indeed be the final blow. Unfortunately, Rotom quickly shot out of the lawnmower and into the air, causing Sawsbuck’s attack to damage only the lawnmower. The device that Rotom once inhabited skidded in shambles towards the wall, with Rotom itself hovering in the air once again.

“I can see why you found this creature so vexing,” Mr. Vagabond muttered to Derak.

“So how do we beat it?” Derak asked. “It just keeps jumping into appliances nonstop.”

Rotom put its bolt-arms together and prepared another Thunderbolt, but its eyes suddenly widened. It stopped charging and looked past the counter with an inquisitive gaze. Derak blinked in bewilderment until he heard a single footstep down the hallway. The footstep was eventually followed by another, then another, all in slow procession. Something was slowly coming out of the back. Teresa clapped her hands over her mouth in shock once she saw what it was. Derak’s jaw dropped once he also saw it.

The source of the footsteps was his Scyther.

Strike stood there, bandaged wings pointing up at the ceiling, as it slowly looked around. Its intense blue eyes drifted from one individual to another, as if evaluating them. The Scyther stared darkly at Derak for a moment before its eyes fell on Rotom. Up until this point, the Plasma Pokémon had simply floated there, trying to determine how it was going to react to an injured Scyther emerging from the hallway. The first one to speak, however, was Derak.

“Strike?” Derak blinked. “What are you doing, are you nuts? You shouldn’t be out of—”

The Scyther silently pointed one of its bladed arms at Derak and sent him a threatening glare.

“Scy-ther,” growled the Bug-type before it turned its gaze back towards Rotom. It studied the Electric-type for a moment until it pointed a blade at the Plasma Pokémon’s body. And then Strike flicked its head in a beckoning gesture.

Rotom blinked in surprise at the gesture, but quickly recovered and burst into a fit of laughter. The Plasma Pokémon fired off a Thunderbolt, but in a sudden surge of speed defying its current condition, Strike was gone. Rotom spun around wildly in its attempts to locate its new Bug-type foe, only for Strike to appear out of nowhere and slash the Plasma Pokémon in an “X”-shaped pattern with both its blades.

“Strike, what are you doing?!” Derak cried. “You’re not fully--!”

“Enough!” Mr. Vagabond spat at Derak.

“But his Scyther is still—” Nando ventured.

“It seems to me that Scyther has things under control,” Mr. Vagabond said, “In fact…this particular Scyther seems to be more than capable of defeating Rotom, in spite of its injuries.”

Rotom had since recovered from the X-Scissor, and after a quick shake of its head, released an Electroweb. Strike simply scoffed and cut through the electric net with a single slash, causing the attack to fizzle into nothing. Rotom’s desperation had reached its peak by this point, and the Electric-type began to desperately look around for some kind of edge or escape. Upon spying the broken lawnmower, it quickly dove into the device again, regaining its new form and somehow completely repairing the lawnmower.

“Tom-tom!” Rotom chattered, snapping its teeth viciously.

Strike, however, was less than impressed with Rotom’s new form, and indicated as such with another scoff. Rotom growled at this, its typical mirth all but gone, and managed to unleash a Leaf Storm that hurtled straight towards the Mantis Pokémon. Strike smirked, as if finally seeing what it wanted, and crossed its blades in front of it. Some of the Leaf Storm blew past or nicked Strike, but the majority of it slammed into the makeshift shield the Bug-type had created. The second that the Leaf Storm ended, Rotom unleashed another Thunderbolt, though this time Strike made no effort to dodge. The Mantis Pokémon gritted its teeth as electricity coursed through its body, forcing it down onto one knee. Seeing weakness in its foe, Rotom rushed towards it with jaws open wide.

“Strike, no!” Derak cried. “Get out of there!”

Despite its seemingly-perilous situation, however, Strike smirked. Everything was going just as it had planned. All it needed was for Rotom to come just a bit closer.

Derak, however, did not understand Strike’s plan, and was busy fumbling for his lone Safari Ball. Just as he managed to find it, he stopped. Something was wrong.

“Uh, can I ask something?” Derak asked. “Why is there a faint red glow coming from Strike’s body?”

“That,” Mr. Vagabond smirked, “is why I told you to not interfere. I knew there was something unique to this Scyther.”

Rotom came closer to impact, its malicious grin back on its face as it cackled madly. Just as it was about to land the critical blow, however, the faint red glow on Strike’s body burned brightly. Rotom’s eyes widened, but it could not stop itself in time. The glow transferred to one of Strike’s blades, and that blade slashed Rotom across its face. The apparent impact, however, looked more like Rotom had been struck with a giant sledgehammer, seeing as the Plasma Pokémon was sent spiraling into a wall and out of its lawnmower body.

“Whoa,” Derak gasped. “What was that?”

“Reversal,” Mr. Vagabond replied.

“Brilliant,” Nando observed with a tone of admiration. “Reversal is an attack that becomes more powerful the worse the user’s condition is. Your Scyther intentionally injured itself in order to strengthen Reversal, knowing that it could do a significant amount of damage.”

“Roooh…Ro…ro-tom,” moaned the Electric-type target of Strike’s Reversal, wobbling in mid-air as it attempted to flee. Strike saw this, but did nothing to stop Rotom. As far as it was concerned, the Plasma Pokémon was already beaten.

“You will not be getting away from me!” Mr. Vagabond cried. “Electivire, stop Rotom!”

Rotom, however, was too quick for even the lunging Electivire. The Plasma Pokémon slipped into a light fixture once again, this time vanishing from the Pokémon Center altogether.

“Ugh, here we go again,” Derak groaned. “Watch, he’s going to pop right back in while possessing a toaster or something.”

“No, I believe that your Scyther has taught Rotom an excellent lesson,” said Nando. “Rotom will need to lick its wounds, which should provide us all a break from its mischief.”

“Yeah, ‘mischief’. That’s one word for it,” Derak groaned as he finally managed to rise. Wildfire came to his side, gingerly prodding its trainer’s leg. “I’m okay, little guy. I’m just glad that Rotom’s gone.”

“Char,” Wildfire nodded. Even it had to admit that Rotom was a problem.

“So…Strike?” Derak ventured. His Scyther made no indication that it heard him. “Thanks for scaring off Rotom and all…but you’re still injured. I mean, just look at your wings! They’re in casts, for crying out loud!”

Strike briefly glanced at its trainer, but otherwise gave him no acknowledgement. Derak sighed.

“Look, let’s just get you back on the recovery table, and—” he began, but stopped short when Strike pointed its blade in his face once again. The blade was practically touching Derak’s nose, much to the trainer’s discomfort.

“Uh…okay, sure, you’re fine,” Derak said quickly. “Just…don’t use attacks that involve your wings, okay? They’re still in pretty bad shape, even if the rest of you isn’t.”

“Scyy,” Strike spat as it withdrew its blade. The Scyther then walked out the front doors, heading outside and leaving everyone else behind.

“Uh…okay?” Derak blinked. “Well, this is a messed-up way to start off this morning.”

“I have had worse,” Mr. Vagabond assured him.

Derak did not respond, instead looking down at Wildfire. The Chimchar was staring at Strike’s departing back, wondering why the Scyther acted in such a manner.

“Might as well go introduce you and the others to Strike,” Derak shrugged. “I just hope that goes well.”


Outside, a black shape passed over the clouds that drifted above the Pokémon Center. The shape was colossal even at first glance, but only when it broke through the cloud barrier and landed behind Fuchsia City did it become truly visible. It was a massive red-eyed black dragon, with small bat-like wings and large hands that ended its long arms. The creature’s tail resembled a large cone-shaped turbine, and it was from atop this turbine that a mysterious man dismounted.

The man had long tea-green hair tied into a ponytail, all of which emerged from underneath a black baseball cap. He wore a white jacket over a black shirt, and tan pants upon his legs. The moment the man’s green sneakers touched the grass beneath him, a cube-like puzzle bounced as it dangled from his waist. Six Pokéballs attached to his belt also shook from the impact of his landing.

“Thank you, Zekrom,” the man said. “I need you to return to the Pokéball for now.”

The dragon nodded, having a prior understanding of the man’s reasons. It thus put up no resistance as it allowed its apparent trainer to recall it and place its Pokéball on his belt. One of the other Pokéballs, however, suddenly began to wobble violently. The man’s eyes went wide as he snatched the Pokéball off of his belt and held it between his hands.

“Wait, my friend!” the man cried to the Pokéball, apparently communicating with the Pokémon within. “I know you find it loathsome in there, and I understand! But you must endure just a bit longer!”

The ball continued to shake, exerting a significant degree of force against the man’s hands.

“Please, I know this is difficult, but you must trust me, just this once!” the man cried. “If you are always outside, someone is bound to notice your unique circumstances and indulge in selfish desires for power! I cannot allow Pokémon to be used so greedily, and neither do you!”

The ball stopped shaking after a moment, allowing the man to breathe a sigh of relief.

“Thank you,” the man said. “I understand that your patience is wearing thin, but we have just reached Fuchsia City. It is only a matter of time before you are given the freedom you deserve.”

With that, the man placed the renegade Pokéball back on his belt and trudged into Fuchsia City.

Will this be where black and white meet? the man thought. We shall see soon enough.



Bewear my power
Chapter 23: The P1 Grand Prix

A short while after Derak’s encounter with Rotom, the boy stood outside the Pokémon Center with his four Pokémon beside him. Wildfire stared blankly into space, waiting for orders as always. Echo, fittingly enough, hung upside-down from a tree, yawning as it basked in the shade. Brute stood with its arms crossed, eyeing Strike warily. The Scyther itself merely glared at Derak, occasionally glancing to its new trainer’s other Pokémon.

“Okay…introduction time,” Derak said. “Strike, this is Wildfire, Brute, and Echo. They’re going to be your partners, so you might want to try and get used to them.”

Strike silently rolled its eyes at the thought of receiving help.

“Everyone, this is Strike,” Derak said to his other three Pokémon. “He’s the new guy. You can do a handshake…well, actually, that’s kind of impossible with Strike, now that I think about it. Just…I don’t know, greet him somehow, just don’t touch the wings.”

At the mention of its injured part, Strike glanced back at its wings with a sigh. That was going to be a problem.

“Char?!” Wildfire cried, finding itself pushed forward by Echo’s head. “Char, chim char-char?!”

Echo’s only response was to communicate in a series of small screeches and gesture to Strike with one wing. Wildfire looked back at Brute, the latter giving the Chimchar an approving nod. The Fire-type looked down at its hand for a moment, and slowly reached it outward, in what Derak considered a momentous step.

“Yeah, that’s it, Wildfire,” he smiled. “Don’t be afraid, he’s…well, I’m pretty sure he’s not going to hurt you. Kind of.”

Wildfire nervously held its outstretched hand, but Strike looked down at it in disgust. The Bug-type made to turn away, but a familiar crab-like Pokémon with mushrooms on its back approached it from the exact direction in which Strike had turned.

“Ras, paras?” the crab rasped, waving a claw in greeting.

“Scy-therr,” Strike sighed with an irritated tone in its voice, putting one bladed arm beside Paras’ body. The Scyther then suddenly whipped its arm to the side, catching Paras with the flat part of the blade and launching it into a tree.

“Oh, crap, Paras!” Derak cried, rushing to the crab’s aid. “Seriously uncalled for, Strike!”

His Scyther merely spat at the ground, as if trying to show just how defiant it was going to be.

“Ugh, great,” Derak sighed. “Hey…you were from Melanie’s village, right? Sorry about that, Strike’s kind of…new.”

“Paras!” a girl’s voice cried, and as if on cue, Sarah Webb jogged into view. “Oh, hey, Derak! Is Paras all right?”

“Paras, paras!” rasped the Bug-type, nodding as best as its physiology would allow.

“That’s great,” Sarah sighed in relief. “You really need to stop wandering off like that. Return.”

The Mushroom Pokémon was reabsorbed into its Pokéball, but Sarah nearly dropped it when she saw Strike.

“Oh…my…Arceus!” Sarah gasped. “Is that a Scyther?! Is it yours?!”

“Uh…more or less,” Derak said slowly.

“Oh Arceus, it’s so cool!” Sarah cried. “Can I touch—”

“No!” Derak cried fearfully. “I…sorry, just…Strike here isn’t exactly great with people…or anything else, actually.”

“Scyyy,” Strike rolled its eyes, turning away from its trainer.

“Wow…sorry to hear that,” Sarah said. “So, if you don’t mind me asking, what happened to Scyther’s wings?”

“Don’t know,” Derak sighed. “I just found him with busted wings in the Safari Zone. I don’t know what did it to him, but I’m hoping I never run into them.”

Strike narrowed its eyes upon hearing this.

“Aww…I feel sorry for it,” Sarah pouted, somehow remaining oblivious to the loud retching noise that Strike made. “Well, it’ll be okay soon. I’m going to see if I can find a couple Pokémon in the Safari Zone, and one of the ones I’m looking for might be able to help with Scyther’s wings.”

Strike rolled its blue eyes once more. Neither human noticed, however.

“So, anyway, Derak,” Sarah said, “are you entering the P1 Grand Prix?”

“The…what?” Derak blinked.

“You don’t know?” Sarah gasped.

“Look, I only just got to Fuchsia and I’ve been kind of busy dealing with a psycho Rotom that wants to fry me like a piece of toast,” Derak sighed. “Mind explaining for me?”

“Okay, sure…hang on, I found a poster somewhere,” Sarah said. “Oh, here’s one!”

She walked over to a nearby house and removed a poster from the wall, then came over to Derak and displayed the poster for him. On it were several vicious-looking Pokémon engaged in combat within a wrestling ring.

“This is the P1 Grand Prix,” Sarah explained. “It’s a special tournament held every so often around Fuchsia City. The winner gets a golden championship belt.”

“A golden trophy, huh?” Derak said, crossing his arms as he began to think. He took the poster in his hands, reading it over for himself while Sarah continued to talk.

“Yeah, it’s awesome!” Sarah cried. “But there’s some rules for it. You can only enter with one Pokémon, and that Pokémon has to be a Fighting-type. In addition, your Pokémon can only use physical attacks, and if a Pokémon gets knocked out of the ring for too long, it loses. You should totally enter with your Machop, I’m sure it could win the whole thing!”

“…do I even want to know how you’re so sure of that?” Derak asked.

“Hey, Ash Ketchum started off even worse than you! …no offense,” Sarah added. “He entered the P1 Grand Prix with a Primeape, and won on his first try! I’m sure you and Machop could do really well, too!”

She looked over to the Safari Zone.

“Well, I might as well see what I can catch,” Sarah said. “Good luck in the tournament, Derak!”

The bug-loving girl then headed for the Safari Zone, leaving Derak behind. The boy barely noticed her departure, however, for he had other thoughts on his mind.

“Hmm…what do you think, Brute?” Derak asked his sole Fighting-type. “Think we can give it a shot?”

“Chop,” Brute nodded. Strike, however, looked at the Machop skeptically, seriously doubting its supposed comrade’s capabilities.


“So,” Mr. Vagabond began as Derak entered the Pokémon Center, the P1 Grand Prix poster still in the boy’s hands, “how is Scyther dealing with having you as its trainer?”

“Badly. What did you expect?” Derak sighed, handing Mr. Vagabond the poster. “Forget about that for a minute, Sarah handed me this. There’s a tournament around Fuchsia that I can enter Brute in.”

“And you believe that a tournament for Fighting-type Pokémon will help you train for the Gym?” Mr. Vagabond asked. “Despite the fact that Fighting-type attacks are not particularly effective against Poison-types?”

“Well…to be honest…I want the gold belt they’re offering,” Derak admitted. “I figure that, if I can show my dad a trophy that my Pokémon won, he might actually think twice about the whole ‘Pokémon-hating’ business. Plus, any training is good training, right Mr. Training-All-The-Time?”

Mr. Vagabond pursed his ragged lips. “Hmm…if you believe that this P1 Grand Prix will provide you with an ace in the hole when the time to battle Nobunaga comes, then this idea of yours may work out for the best.”

“Sounds good to me,” Derak shrugged. “Going to need to train Brute a little, though.”

“Indeed,” Mr. Vagabond nodded. “And I believe Electivire would be the ideal sparring partner.”

“I take it you want to get this over with?” Derak asked.

“You could say that,” Mr. Vagabond replied. “Now, let us begin. We need to work in as much training as we can before the tournament starts.”

The two trainers left the Pokémon Center, but as they did so, Nando and Teresa stood up from their own seats. Nando approached the poster and carefully read it over.

“What an interesting proposition,” Nando said. “Perhaps I shall enter the tournament, as well.”


It was a short while before the Grand Prix began, but Derak and Mr. Vagabond had managed to squeeze some last-minute training for Brute beforehand. A sizeable building on the outskirts of Fuchsia City had attracted an equally-large crowd of people, clearly indicating that the tournament would take place here.

“Wait, run that by me again?” Derak sputtered as he and Mr. Vagabond slipped into the crowd and made their way into the stadium. “You’re actually watching something that I’m doing?”

“Electivire and I put quite a bit of effort into your Machop’s training,” Mr. Vagabond answered. “I only want to see whether or not that effort was wasted.”

“Thanks, Mr. Confidence,” Derak sighed. “Hey, uh…could you watch the rest of my team for me once we get in? I want them to see this, too.”

“I suppose that would be fine,” Mr. Vagabond nodded. “Perhaps watching Machop’s battles will inspire them to put in a bit of effort, as well.”

“Not exactly what I was going for, but…I guess that works too,” Derak shrugged. “You know, you’re unusually agreeable today.”

“As impromptu as this event may be,” Mr. Vagabond said, “it may eventually prove worthwhile for when we battle Nobunaga. If this is what we must do to strengthen your Pokémon, then so be it.”

Derak simply shrugged and released three of his Pokémon. Wildfire, Echo, and Strike appeared alongside Mr. Vagabond, while Brute remained within its own Pokéball. As Derak approached the registration counter, Mr. Vagabond let out a sigh.

“I assume that I will have to play babysitter with the three of you?” Mr. Vagabond groaned. Only Echo made a vocal response, letting out a series of screeches with a rather offended tone. Wildfire stared into space once again, and Strike simply glanced at Mr. Vagabond for a moment. “Brilliant. Well, come on, then.”

He led the three Pokémon into the stands, where—despite the rather odd group they presented—they managed to find several seats. Mr. Vagabond sat down in one, but the Pokémon had other ideas: Echo flapped onto Mr. Vagabond’s head and lounged lazily atop his hood, Wildfire climbed into the back of the seat next to Mr. Vagabond’s, and Strike simply stood in the middle of the aisle.

“Hey, creep!” a jocular man barked at Mr. Vagabond, a large bag of popcorn in hand as he attempted to push his way past Strike. “Get your Scyther back in its ball, it’s taking up—”

The man’s popcorn suddenly went scattering everywhere, Strike having sliced the bag—and very nearly the man’s hand—in two. He stood there in stunned silence for a moment, only moving when Strike pointed a blade in his face. The man stumbled back onto his rear before scrambling away in panicked fright.

“Scyy,” Strike sighed, shaking its head. Humans were so overrated.

“Your trainer might object to that,” Mr. Vagabond remarked, earning a glare from Strike. Unlike Derak, however, Mr. Vagabond merely raised an eyebrow and studied the Scyther’s expression for a moment. “So…you want someone dead. And that someone, I assume, is the one who injured your wings?”

“Scy-ther?” Strike blinked.

“It may be on a Pokémon’s face, but I know that look,” Mr. Vagabond said. “I have seen it hundreds upon thousands of times…all of them in my own reflection. It is a look of rage…but it is not the sort of mild irritation that comes from running out of Potions or something mundane like that. No…the rage you feel, and the rage I feel, is because we each have been grievously wronged by someone…and we wish to avenge ourselves.”

“…Sccyyy,” Strike nodded reluctantly.

“How very odd that I find a kindred spirit in a Pokémon,” Mr. Vagabond observed, turning his gaze to the wrestling arena in the center of the stadium. “Oh, well…that is how the world works, I suppose.”

Welcome, one and all!” the announcer boomed, quieting the chattering audience down. “Today, you shall witness no ordinary tournament! This tournament is a full-on fight to the finish between the toughest Fighting Pokémon that you’ll ever see! I hope you’re ready for a big brawl, because this is the P1 Grand Prix!

“Ugh,” Mr. Vagabond gritted his teeth, quickly becoming irritated by the ear-splitting cheers of the crowd, “why did I agree to sit here with all these banshees around?”

Our first two Pokémon combatants are an interesting pair!” the announcer continued. “First up, a Machop—named Brute—entered by a trainer named…uh…well, he didn’t put his last name…or his hometown, so…well, let’s just give it up for Derak!

Mr. Vagabond smirked slightly, recognizing that—like on the S.S. Wailord—Derak had once again filled out paperwork as he saw fit. Down near the ring, the boy and his Machop trudged out from backstage, both approaching the arena. Despite the warm welcome he received, Derak merely raised a hand in acknowledgement to the audience. Brute, however, gave the crowd a more friendly wave.

His opponent, ladies and gentlemen, is…entering the ring now!” the announcer cried.

A green kangaroo-like Pokémon with red points at the ends of its limbs suddenly leapt into the ring, the mushroom cap on its head bouncing wildly as it landed. Its short arms burst forward in a series of quick jabs, and its long tan tail sported a ring of fungi around the tip.

“Bre-bre-bre-loom!” the Pokémon cried, bouncing from one muscular leg to the other and eagerly performing several more jabs.

Breloom,” Derak’s P*DA identified, “the Mushroom Pokémon and the evolved form of Shroomish. Grass-and-Fighting-type. The seeds on Breloom’s tail are made from toxic spores. It scatters these spores and throws quick, nearly invisible punches while its foe is hampered by the inhaled spores.

“So…who’s entering with this—” Derak began, but did a double-take upon seeing that Breloom’s trainer was none other than Nando. “Oh…great…we’re toast.”

“Do not sell yourself short,” Nando smiled encouragingly. “This match between us shall be on equal terms.”

“Yeah, because the battle between my team and your Lilligant was so equal,” Derak rolled his eyes. “Or maybe that one between your Deerling and Teresa’s Chikorita? That was pretty equal, wasn’t it?”

“Perhaps you doubt yourself too quickly,” Nando chuckled. “In this world, many things work in mysterious ways. I am certain that our battle will be no exception. Shall we?”

It’s Nando’s Breloom versus Brute the Machop!” the announcer declared as Brute climbed into the ring. “If our competitors are ready, then…BEGIN!

With that last word, the fight bell was rung, signaling the official start of the match. Breloom stamped its feet wildly, jabbing viciously as Brute looked on with a raised eyebrow. Nando could only chuckle at his Pokémon’s display.

“Very well, Breloom,” Nando said. “Let us sate your hunger for battle. Use Headbutt, if you please.”

“Brute, stop it with Vital Throw!” Derak yelled.

The Mushroom Pokémon lunged forward, its head bent down as if it were a battering ram. Brute stood its ground, however, and merely held its arms out. Breloom’s head slammed into the Machop’s palms, but only Brute noticed a small burst of powder erupt from the crimson bulbs on Breloom’s cap. Nonetheless, the Superpower Pokémon gripped its foe by the cap and swung it around, throwing Breloom across the ring and into the ropes on the opposite side.

“All right, nice job, Brute!” Derak cried. His jubilation turned to concern, however, when electricity spontaneously coursed through Brute’s body. “Wh-what? Brute, what’s going on!?”

And that’s Breloom’s ability, folks!” the announcer cried. “It’s Effect Spore, which—upon making physical contact with Breloom—inflicts a random status condition on the opponent. Looks like Brute just got a dose of paralysis!

Aw, great, Derak grimaced. As if we weren’t outmatched enough.

Breloom smirked as it watched Brute’s struggle to stand, believing fully that its victory was assured. Its smile faded, however, when a crimson hue spread through Brute’s eyes and a blood red aura surrounded the Superpower Pokémon’s body. Brute slowly rose to his feet with a grin, which all but destroyed Breloom’s confident swagger.

And it looks like Brute’s own ability has been activated!” the announcer cried. “The paralysis from Effect Spore has activated Guts, an ability that sends a Machop’s attack power through the roof once it’s been afflicted with a status condition!

“Ah, it seems the tables are beginning to turn,” Nando smiled. “Do not give up, Breloom. Let us try and turn the tables back. Use Mach Punch, if you please!”

“Brute, quick, use Poison Jab!” Derak cried.

Breloom’s fist began to glow, and in a sudden blur of movement, the entire Mushroom Pokémon had leapt towards Brute and attempted a punch. From the audience, Mr. Vagabond narrowed his eyes. Breloom had now completely stopped in front of Brute, as if the paralysis it had inflicted on the Machop had been turned back against it. After a moment, Breloom fell onto its back, a large purple bruise on its stomach from where Brute had managed to strike it.

Unbelievable!” the announcer cried. “Derak and Brute have defied all odds and won the first battle!

“We…won?” Derak blinked. “Holy…did we actually just beat Nando?”

“You certainly did,” Nando nodded as he approached Derak, his friendly smile still in place. “Your Machop is quite well-trained, my friend. I am proud to have contributed to its strength, even if my contribution was rather small.”

“Chop,” Brute shrugged, the glow in its eyes and its aura having faded away.

“Okay, pal, let’s get you fixed up,” Derak said as he led Brute backstage. “As thankful as I am for Guts’ saving our butts, the paralysis has to go.”

Mr. Vagabond leaned back in his seat as the crowd burst into applause, unable to help but smirk. Perhaps the boy did know what he was doing.

Will our next two competitors come up to the ring!” the announcer cried. “And now, ladies and gentlemen, it’s Croagunk versus Hariyama!

Mr. Vagabond looked down at the two Pokémon that were now in the arena. On one side was a small blue Pokémon reminiscent of a bipedal frog with large, flat teeth lining its mouth. On the other side was a colossal white humanoid Pokémon with three-fingered orange hands that were larger than even its own head. The latter of the two stamped its feet like a sumo wrestler, slightly shaking the arena with its bulk.

Croagunk simply sat and watched, slowly inflating and deflating the orange sacs on its cheeks.

“Croooa…croooa…croooa,” murmured Croagunk, staring into space and paying no regard whatsoever to its opponent’s display of strength.

Hariyama narrowed its eyes and lumbered forth, its body taking on a silver aura. Despite the massive bulk of its body, it somehow managed to jump into the air and position itself above Croagunk.

Could this be the end already?!” the announcer yelled. “If Hariyama’s Heavy Slam hits Croagunk, it’s all over!

Croagunk again paid no regard to Hariyama, instead casually glancing behind it. Its apparent trainer, shrouded in a brown cloak that obscured all features save the mouth, merely nodded. Croagunk looked up at Hariyama, watching the giant Pokémon come barreling down, and simply waited.

Just as Hariyama was about to crush Croagunk, the frog suddenly leapt backwards onto the ropes with speed defying its earlier lethargy. Hariyama crashed violently onto the arena, allowing Croagunk the opportunity to leap upon its back and thrust a Poison Jab into the larger Pokemon’s back. Hariyama let out a pained groan, but before it could get up and remove its attacker, Croagunk landed another Poison Jab in the same spot, and then another. One final Poison Jab later, and Hariyama’s strength finally gave out.

I don’t believe my eyes!” the announcer boomed. “Croagunk has somehow defied all odds and defeated Hariyama!

Croagunk slid off of Hariyama’s fallen body and landed back on the mat, its body taking on a white glow. Its body grew larger and more slender, and by the time the glow of evolution had faded, Croagunk’s appearance had noticeably changed. Its two orange sacs had now fused into a single red one underneath its throat, and its arms now sported recognizable hands that each grew a single hooked claw from the middle knuckle. Its yellow eyes glanced about the arena until they fell upon the evolved Pokémon’s trainer, and without a word to anyone, the mysterious cloaked trainer left with the Pokémon formerly known as Croagunk.

“Sccyy,” Strike smirked, scraping its blades together in anticipation.

“Do not even think about it,” Mr. Vagabond snapped. “If that Toxicroak can fell a Hariyama without so much as a word from its trainer, then you would have no chance whatsoever.”

Strike silently glared at Mr. Vagabond before turning back to the arena, deciding to observe some of the other matches.


After several hours of match observation, however, Strike was quite ready to force its head through a concrete wall. By its judgment, every fighter in the P1 Grand Prix was outright weak. Pokémon like Mankey and Pangoro fell in an instant against the mysterious Toxicroak trainer, and even Derak’s Machop was sweeping through Pokémon like Scraggy and Hitmontop with ease.

“Is this tournament done yet?” Mr. Vagabond groaned, evidently thinking on a similar wavelength as Strike. “I now remember why I never bothered with competitive circles. Too much bureaucracy.”

Strike gave him a nod of agreement, then looked down to the arena once more. Brute was currently engaged in battle with a blue dog-like Pokémon with a pair of black protrusions emerging from the sides of its head. The dog—a Pokémon called Riolu—thrust the palm of its paw forward in a shower of sparks, only for Brute to catch the Force Palm in one hand.

“Nice, Brute!” Derak cried. “Now, use Vital Throw!”

Given the smaller size of Riolu, Brute needed only one arm to swing the canine Pokémon around. After a moment of swinging, Brute released Riolu, sending it sailing into the ropes and into unconsciousness.

And, just like that, Derak and Brute have won again!” the announcer cried. “Give it up for one of the P1 Grand Prix’s greatest trainers!

“Oh, come on, I’m not great,” Derak sighed. He turned to Brute with a smirk, however. “You, on the other hand…”

“Ma-chooop,” Brute laughed, rubbing the back of its head in an embarrassed gesture.

And now, we’ve reached the final!” the announcer continued. “Please give it up for our mystery trainer and his partner, Toxicroak!

The frog hopped into the ring once more, the shrouded trainer remaining on the ringside.

“Looks like Mr. Vagabond has a cousin,” Derak smirked as he pulled out his Pokedex. “Anyway, let’s see…”

Toxicroak,” the Memo explained, “the Toxic Mouth Pokémon and the evolved form of Croagunk. Poison-and-Fighting-type. Toxicroak has a poison sac at its throat, and whenever it croaks, the poison in the sac is churned for greater potency. The poison secreted from its knuckle claws is so vile that even a scratch could prove fatal.

“Crroooaaak,” growled Toxicroak, inflating the sac as it clenched its three-fingered hands into fists, making as intimidating an appearance as it could.

“Ma-choop,” Brute narrowed its eyes. This one was going to be tricky.

“Hmph…well, what do you know?” Mr. Vagabond snorted. “It seems as if he is going to manage some practice for the Gym.”

Unbeknownst to the audience, another strange figure stood in the middle of the arena’s entrance hallway, watching the match alone. The green-haired Zekrom trainer slowly looked across the ring, silently examining each of the Pokémon. Although most trainers would be excited by such a potential clash, this one merely heaved a tragic sigh.

Both Pokémon are ready to take each other on!” cried the announcer. “So, without further ado, let us begin!

“Okay, Brute…we don’t have the Poison Jab advantage we had against Nando’s Breloom, so we’ll have to make do with what we have,” Derak said. “Let’s try Vital Throw!”

Brute nodded and charged towards Toxicroak, but the Toxic Mouth Pokémon was fully prepared. It crossed its arms, allowing a pale green glow to envelop its knuckle claws before it slashed at Brute. Although Derak recognized the attack as the same sort of X-Scissor that Strike used against Rotom, by then it was too late. Brute was knocked back a short distance, but quickly recovered due to his type’s resistance to Bug-type moves.

“Great,” Derak grimaced. “Okay, try Karate Chop!”

Brute made as if to attack, but Toxicroak suddenly rushed forward in a blur of movement and quickly knocked the Machop onto the mat. Brute tried to rise, but Toxicroak stamped its foot on the Superpower Pokémon’s back, pinning it down.

“Hey! Sorry I’m late!” Sarah Webb said, pushing her way to a seat near Mr. Vagabond. “What did I miss?”

Could this be the end?!” the announcer cried. “That Sucker Punch may have just given Toxicroak the win!

“Does that answer your question, girl?” Mr. Vagabond sighed.

“No…no way,” Derak murmured. “Brute, come on! We can’t let it end like this!”

Toxicroak was oblivious to the cries of Brute’s trainer as it drew back its fist once more, preparing its latest Poison Jab. Brute simply squeezed its eyes shut as it tried to push the frog off, but failed due to Toxicroak’s superior size. With the Poison-type looming over him, preparing the final blow, Brute could only remember the day it was abandoned…


“There, now,” smirked Elliot, Brute by his side as they both faced down a trainer. “That wasn’t so bad, was it?”

The trainer, a child who was clearly too young to own Pokémon, simply recalled the small yellow horse Brute had beaten.

“But, it’s not fair!” the child wailed, tears falling from his eyes. “My dad just told me to catch a Pokémon! I didn’t even want to battle to start with!”

“That, I’m afraid, is the way of the world,” Elliot shrugged.

“But my dad’s going to be so mad at me because his Ponyta got beaten up!” the child wailed.

“Grr…shut up, stupid brat!” roared Elliot as the Jason persona took forth, lunging for the boy with one fist drawn back. Before he could strike the child, however, something caught his fist.


“Machop!” Jason growled. “Let me go this instant!”

Brute steeled its gaze, tightening its grip on its original trainer’s arm. It nodded to the child, who quickly took the hint and ran away.

“You idiot!” Jason snarled, tearing his arm out of Brute’s grasp. “You do what I say, no matter what! Understand?!”

Brute only crossed its arms. Jason raised an eyebrow, but then his blue eye twitched. A twisted grin crept across his face.

“Ah…have we developed a conscience?” Elliot sneered. “I’m afraid that won’t do.”

He looked up to the sky, leaning on a tree.

“I have plans in store, Machop,” Elliot continued. “Many plans. And I fear that your behavior today…does not agree with them.”

“Chop?” Brute blinked. Elliot looked at it, his Cheshire grin showing every one of his teeth.

“Yes, non-violence against humanity is…detrimental, shall we say?” Elliot said. “And there is one person in particular who absolutely must be punished for his deeds. His punishment must be as severe as possible, everything from public humiliation…to execution.”

“Ma-chop?!” Brute gasped. Elliot only laughed a cold, disturbed laugh.

“Heh heh ha…you don’t know me at all, do you?” Elliot grinned. “Let us begin the lesson, then. I demand complete and utter obedience, regardless of my deeds or the moral convictions of others. And those who are unable to comply with my demands…”

He removed a Pokéball from his belt and placed it against a tree.

“Well, they say it’s better to show than tell,” Elliot smirked.

He picked up a rock the size of his hand, and used it to smash the Pokéball against the tree. Brute’s eyes went wide as it realized whose Pokéball Elliot destroyed.

“Look at you,” Elliot scoffed. “The ‘Superpower Pokémon’? Hardly. You can’t even stomach a simple act of retribution.”

“Choooop,” Brute growled.

“Are you angry?” Elliot smirked. “How adorable. You really think a miserable little runt like you can threaten me?”

Brute’s temper finally broke as it lunged for Elliot, roaring madly. It was stopped, however, by a flash of light and a prompt Water Gun that sent it sailing into a tree. Brute slid down onto the ground, and came face-to-face with Elliot’s Mudkip.

“Mudkip,” scoffed the Mud Fish Pokémon, arrogantly turning its head away and returning to its trainer’s side.

“You have to simply face facts, Machop,” Elliot smirked. “You are not only obsolete…you are, put bluntly, weak.”

Elliot turned and left, leaving Brute without a trainer…or a friend.


“Toxxiiiii,” growled Toxicroak as Brute’s memory faded away. It wound back its fist, preparing one last Poison Jab. “CROOOAK!”

“Brute, NO!” Derak cried.

Brute’s eyes snapped open. And, then, just before Toxicroak’s Poison Jab landed…

…a white glow enveloped Brute’s body.

“Brute?” Derak gasped. “What’s going on?”

I don’t believe this, ladies and gentlemen!” the announcer cried. “Looks like Toxicroak isn’t the only one who can evolve mid-battle!

Toxicroak was just as surprised as Derak, particularly when Brute’s body surged to double its original size and even outgrew Toxicroak. The Superpower Pokémon’s already-muscular body became even burlier, and its head developed a somewhat canine-like skull shape. The glow faded away, revealing that Brute had somehow gained a pair of underwear that already bore a champion wrestler’s belt, as well as crimson markings on its arm muscles.

“Maaa…CHOOOKE!” Brute roared, causing Toxicroak to shrink back in fright.

“Brute, you…you evolved!” Derak gasped. “Holy—this is—I have no idea what I can say, this is great!”

Brute glanced at its trainer with a smirk, flashing him the thumbs-up sign. Toxicroak clearly lacked the confidence the newly-evolved Machoke had, and even the Poison-type’s trainer gasped at this development. Both Mr. Vagabond and the Zekrom trainer looked on with interest, albeit for different reasons.

“Okay, Brute, let’s finish this!” Derak cried.

“Choke,” Brute nodded, cracking its knuckles. Toxicroak whimpered for a moment, backing up against the corner of the ring, but upon realizing that it had nowhere to run, its vicious demeanor—or at least an imitation of it—returned. It charged both of its fists with a Poison Jab and leapt into the air, but Brute simply stood still and waited.

“Croak?” Toxicroak blinked, already expecting a trap. Nonetheless, it plummeted downward and prepared its dual Poison Jab, only for shock to dominate its face when Brute caught both of its fists in its hands.

“Ma-choke,” Brute smirked, swinging Toxicroak around and throwing it into a far ring post.

Toxicroak gave its head a shake and scrambled to its feet, inflating its sac menacingly. Brute only chuckled and beckoned with one hand. Toxicroak blinked and looked over to its trainer, who nodded. The Poison-type prepared an X-Scissor, but Brute merely clenched one fist.

“Okay, we can do this,” Derak said. “We can totally do this.”

Brute smirked and closed its eyes. It waited to hear the sound of Toxicroak’s feet, and as it heard the Poison-type heading towards it, Brute also knew that it could win…for the sake of its new friendship. As if illustrating its newly-strengthened resolve, a fiery pink aura surrounded Brute’s body, burning violently.

“Is that…?” gasped the Zekrom trainer, eyes going wide.

Toxicroak charged forth, ignorant of Brute’s newfound skill, and leapt up for a final X-Scissor. Brute, however, opened its eyes just in time to see the Toxic Mouth Pokémon close in. The Machoke pulled one fist back, and then slammed it into Toxicroak’s stomach. The sheer force of the impact sent the Poison-type rocketing through the air and even out of the ring. Gasps rang through the entire arena as the unconscious Toxic Mouth Pokémon landed at its stunned trainer’s feet.

“No way!” Sarah cried. “Was that a Return?”

“So it would seem,” Mr. Vagabond nodded. “And a powerful one at that.”

The Zekrom trainer was just as stunned for a while, but when he saw Brute climb out of the ring and give Derak a gentle high-five, he smiled.

“This…this is what I’ve been searching for,” he whispered to himself. He looked down at the Pokéballs on his belt. “Can you all feel it? Only one thing could produce a Return so powerful…and I am glad to have witnessed it.”

“Brute, that was awesome!” Derak cried. “You evolved, you learned a new move…this is just too awesome!”

“Ma, ma-choke,” Brute laughed, crossing its arms.

“Okay, let’s take a look at the new you,” Derak said, pointing his P*DA at Brute.

Machoke,” claimed the Strategy Memo, “the Superpower Pokémon and the evolved form of Machop. Fighting-type. As a result of continuous workouts, Machoke has developed tremendous power, which it willingly uses to help people with hard labor as further muscle training. The belt around its waist holds back its energy, and is only removed when Machoke encounters an unstoppable foe.

Let’s give it up for Derak and his new Machoke, Brute!” the announcer cried, inciting a round of cheers and applause from the audience. “They have broken all possible boundaries, and become the new P1 Grand Prix champions!”

“Ugh, can we just skip the song-and-dance routine?” Derak sighed. “I just want to get the trophy and leave before the interview garbage starts.”

Brute smiled in amusement as it shook its head. Only Derak would act in this manner…

…but that was what made him the best possible trainer.


Later, after the presentation of the trophy, Derak held it in his hands as he sat in the Pokémon Center lobby. It was a colossal belt with a golden center, with the words “P1 Grand Prix” etched onto it. He stared at it for the longest time, and most of his Pokémon shared in the glory of his accomplishment. Echo laid upon its trainer’s head, wishing it had eyes to admire the belt with. Wildfire gently prodded the trophy belt, attempting to determine if such things were truly real. Brute simply leaned on a wall, much like its trainer did in most public settings, and smiled. Strike, however, rolled its eyes in disgust.

“Are you trying to find your reflection in that piece of junk?” Mr. Vagabond asked, evidently sharing Strike’s sentiments.

“Hey, it’s not a piece of junk!” Derak shot back. “This thing…when I show it to my dad, he’ll have to drop his whole ‘Pokémon-are-bad’ thing. He’ll see that, if they can win stuff like this…then he’ll have to let me get more from stuff like the League or other tournaments.”

“I suppose appealing to a businessman’s sense of greed would be the best way into his heart,” Mr. Vagabond shrugged.

“Yeah, especially because there isn’t much else I can appeal to,” Derak chuckled. “Speaking of which…whenever we find my mom…I need to show this to her, too. I’ll bet she’ll be happy. I’ll bet she’ll be proud that her son, even with such a lousy dad, became as great a trainer as her. I mean, she has to be a great trainer if my dad won’t talk about her, right?”

“Knowing your idiotic father, that sounds logical,” Mr. Vagabond agreed. “Now, let us move on to the Fuchsia—”

“Derak!” cried Sarah as she jogged up to him. “I saw you win! Your Machop—sorry, your Machoke—was awesome!”

“You really think I don’t already know that?” Derak smirked.

“Heh, yeah, what am I saying?” Sarah laughed. “You were the one training it, of course you knew it was awesome!”

Her expression turned from one of elation to a more somber look.

“That’s why…this is hard to ask,” Sarah said. “Derak, I need you to help me with something.”

“Uh…that depends,” Derak said. “What is it?”

Sarah responded by opening a Safari Ball of her own and revealing a small pink Pokémon that seemed fairly out-of-place on her bug-dominated team. Its egg-shaped body possessed a small, rosy-cheeked face as well as a large curl of hair. The Pokémon appeared to be wearing a large, dark pink diaper as well.

Happiny,” the Memo explained, “the Playhouse Pokémon. Normal-type. If it sees something small, round, and white, it will try putting that object in its pouch as a surrogate egg to raise. If it gets along well with someone, it may give that person one of its stored objects, but Happiny becomes upset if someone takes that object away.

“You know how all the Nurse Joys have a Chansey?” Sarah asked. “Happiny here evolves into Chansey through a strong bond with its trainer.”

“And you’re telling me this…why?” Derak asked.

“Because Brute’s new Return move becomes more powerful the stronger the bond it has with the trainer,” Sarah answered. “I—”

“Wait, hold on,” Derak interrupted, “they named a move ‘Return’, even though we already tell Pokémon to ‘return’ when we send them back into their Pokéballs? Really?”

“I, too, have wondered about that,” Mr. Vagabond added.

“Yeah, but this is why I need your help,” Sarah said. “I can’t get Happiny to evolve. I’ve tried everything: professional massages, vitamin drinks, and even a Soothe Bell. No matter what I try, I can’t get it to evolve, and the Strategy Memo won’t tell me what I’m missing.”

“Figures,” Derak sighed. “The only reason I keep using the thing is because I need at least some info on all the Pokémon I meet. But, what exactly do you want me to do? Give you tutoring or something?”

“Not really…this is where it might get a little awkward,” Sarah grimaced. She took a deep breath and spoke again. “Derak, I want to trade my Happiny for your Machoke.”

“…huh?” Derak blinked. “Wait, you can do that?”

“Trading Pokémon is a common practice among trainers,” Mr. Vagabond sighed.

“But…why would I want to give my Pokémon away?” Derak blinked. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

“Look, I know Brute just evolved, and I’m sure he’s going to be a real powerhouse on your team,” Sarah began, “but a Machoke can only reach its full potential if it’s traded to someone else. Please, Derak, you’re the one person I know who could do this the best.”

“But—” Derak began, but Brute put a reassuring hand on his shoulder and nodded.

“Even your Machoke knows that this is for the best,” Mr. Vagabond said. “Do not draw out your misery for any longer than you have to.”

Derak paused, looking down at the belt that he and Brute had won. He shut his eyes as he remembered how Brute had been a pivotal part of almost all of his Gym battles: Pewter City, Cerulean City, and Celadon City were the sites of those victories. And now, if what Sarah was saying was true, and that Brute could only reach his full potential if he was traded to her…

“Choke,” Brute grunted, giving Derak a nod of approval. “Ma-choke.”

“…okay,” Derak said quietly, his voice becoming almost a whimper. “Let’s get this over with.”

“Thanks so much!” Sarah cried as she recalled her Happiny.

Derak made as if to recall Brute, but stopped for a moment. He then wrapped the P1 Grand Prix champion belt around Brute’s waist, fastening it and backing away.

“There you go,” Derak said, trying to hide the liquid that was forming in his eyes. “Hey…do me a favor? …make sure that thing stays shiny.”

“Choke,” Brute nodded. Derak wordlessly recalled Brute, then held out his Pokéball, which Sarah promptly swapped for the one containing her Happiny.

“Thanks, Derak,” Sarah smiled. “I’ll take good care of Brute, I prom—”

“Just go,” Derak growled. Sarah blinked for a moment, realizing that she overstepped her boundaries, and quietly left.

“You will see your Machoke again,” Mr. Vagabond said. “If it helps…”

“I don’t care,” Derak spat. “Can we just go to bed?”

“…fine,” Mr. Vagabond said.

Derak was the first into the deeper parts of the Pokémon Center, where the beds were. Mr. Vagabond did not immediately follow him, however. Instead, he sighed.

One day, Derak, Mr. Vagabond thought. When you know the sort of suffering I have endured…you will know my story. And you will know that neither of us will be alone this time.

He then headed for the Pokémon Center’s rooms, unaware that the Zekrom trainer—watching through the window of the Pokémon Center—had been watching. The original admiration in his eyes was gone, replaced with a rage that defied his even temperament. One of the Pokéballs on his belt began to shake violently, and in response, he held up the Pokéball.

“Yes, my friend,” the trainer said. “It will soon be time for you to act out your desires. But not now…it needs to be fair, first.”


Meanwhile, the mysterious Toxicroak trainer quietly ducked into a wooden ninja’s dojo. No one saw this enigmatic figure slip inside, but everyone knew the building. It had a simple identifying mark: the word “GYM” printed above the door.