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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.