• The site has now migrated to Xenforo 2. If you see any issues with the forum operation, please post them in the feedback thread.
  • Due to issues with external spam filters, QQ is currently unable to send any mail to Microsoft E-mail addresses. This includes any account at live.com, hotmail.com or msn.com. Signing up to the forum with one of these addresses will result in your verification E-mail never arriving. For best results, please use a different E-mail provider for your QQ address.
  • For prospective new members, a word of warning: don't use common names like Dennis, Simon, or Kenny if you decide to create an account. Spammers have used them all before you and gotten those names flagged in the anti-spam databases. Your account registration will be rejected because of it.
  • Since it has happened MULTIPLE times now, I want to be very clear about this. You do not get to abandon an account and create a new one. You do not get to pass an account to someone else and create a new one. If you do so anyway, you will be banned for creating sockpuppets.
  • Due to the actions of particularly persistent spammers and trolls, we will be banning disposable email addresses from today onward.
  • The rules regarding NSFW links have been updated. See here for details.

Well at least it gonna happen in his other fic.
From the pit in the BoC discord server, have some Lee/Ninetales shipping omakes.

Lee slipped quietly from the bedroom, leaving Ninetales snoring behind him on their bed. He closed the door gently and turned to the main room, shoulders drooping as he stared out into the common area with a sigh.

The three trainers had paid up for a slightly larger set of quarters this time to give them all private rooms with a shared living space. Which was good, Lee thought, because he really didn't want to talk to anyone right now.

The movements as he set up bowls and began filling them with food were mechanical as his hands moved without the benefit of conscious thought. His mind was far away.

It's been a year. Jesus.

He grimaced, feeling the scars tug as his face moved, and that only made it worse. For a moment he was back there again, feeling the burning heat, before his breath exercises kicked in and the flashback faded. The thought of so many faces that weren't lucky enough to escape with just some scars was not so easy to banish; Grovyle would get a little extra salt and water on his leaves today.

His hands made it to Ninetales' bowl, and a trickle of guilt fed into the miasma of sadness that completely filled his mind. The best thing that ever happened to me, he thought.

I'm glad you think so. A quiet voice said into his mind, and Lee jumped. Turning, he realized Ninetales was standing behind him. Her eyes met his and he felt her empathy creep over the bond like a warm hug, even as a part of him wanted to push it away. But is that all?

Lee felt part of the sadness sublimate into anger, felt the response vomit forth like bile before he could control his traitorous tongue. "I just... can't stop thinking about what I left behind. My mom is dead. The rest of my family is dead. My friends and colleagues are dead. My animals that I loved are dead. I'm all that's left. And..." He sniffed, feeling the burning in his eyes. "I'm...I'm starting to forget things. Small things. The memories just lose definition when I want to remember specifics. I wouldn't trade you and the others for anything, but that price..." He trailed off, feeling his guts churn.

Ninetales sat, bowing her head. From what I've read about memory, that's... accurate. She blew out a sigh that Lee felt. Time heals all wounds, Lee.

That phrase made Lee almost stumble back. Maybe it was the exact cadence of it. Maybe just the words themselves. Maybe it was how her voice changed into something that it usually wasn't. Maybe it was the moment. But for a second he was a boy again, sitting on his bed, crying as he was now, and the same words in the same cadence and the same voice dropped from the lips of his mother then as they did across his bond now.

Some of his emotions must have leaked back over the bond as he looked up to see Ninetales rearing back, ears pinned, and a look of surprise crossing her face. "Nine, that was..." He took a deep breath, feeling anger churn in his chest. "That was not the right thing to say. Not here, not now, and not with HER voice--"

He flinched as his hasty words and almost-shout hit home and Ninetales rocked with their weight, a flicker of pain across her face for a moment. They... just didn't fight. The novel experience of being angry at her mixed with sadness, frustration, and anger, and produced only shame.

Ninetales bowed her head again. Lee... I think you should take a walk. I think you need some time to think, and I don't know that I'm helping you right now. I'll feed Shinx and the others. Go.

Fighting with himself, Lee finally turned to grab his walking stick, wallet, and his bag. The shame reverberated with the rest of the memories in his heart as he stepped out the door, conscious of the undeserved empathy still curling around him with all its warmth. He took a deep breath and walked down the street with feigned purpose.


The city park was almost deserted at this hour. Lee made his way through the gates, his steps sure as he followed the route he'd looked up on the park website. His steps took him into a small forest, barely a copse, before he turned right and then left onto a winding trail that led up and up and up until the path itself widened as the sound of water filled his ears.

It had led him to the top of an overhang barely worth the title of "cliff." Below, water thundered through a short section of rapids on this stretch of the Hoenn River. The smell and sound of water was in the air, and Lee shrugged off his backpack as he made his way to the lip of the overhang. He sat, dangling his legs carelessly over the edge, and put his chin on both his hands as he stared unseeing at the river. Images flickered before him. People. Places. His big cats.

He didn't know how long he sat there, but the sun had risen well into the sky by the time he came out of the fugue, his eyes sore and his nose runny. He had been vaguely aware of people passing by, but none of them had paid him much mind. None were in sight now as he opened the bag, and drew forth the small bottle of whiskey in it and the shot glass.

His mind picked out a face, and he poured a measure of whiskey into a glass, holding it up to the sun. "Jupiter. Makiri. Mara. Sefu," he said quietly. "All the rest. I miss you. I wish I had another moment to tell you that I love you. To scratch behind those ears one last time. I don't know that anyone remembers you now on Earth, but I will never forget you and all I learned from you."

The whiskey burns on its way down, but the pain seems almost fitting.

He filled another glass. "Aasir," he said, and his voice choked for a minute as he felt a phantom hand rest on his shoulder for a moment in time. "I wish you were here to experience all this with me. I know you'd love to meet every one of my team. I wish I could give you Shinx to hold, just for a minute. Everything you taught me is something I get to use here, every day. I... I think you'd be proud of me."

He leans forward, tipping the glass forward, a libation of memory. He watches the amber liquid fall to mix with the water and vanish, and a weight lifts from his shoulders.

He fills the glass again. This time it's hardest, and his hand shakes as his vision clouds with tears. He blinks hard, swallowing the lump in his throat. "Mom," he said, voice quivering, choked and filled with pain. "I'm sorry, mom. I know that I drifted away from you. I know that you told me my degree was a waste of time and a dead-end job as a zookeeper wasn't worth it. Maybe in that world that was true. But I wish I'd been able to talk to you one more time, to tell you that I love you. I wish my last memory of conversation wasn't us arguing over my life decisions. And I wish you could see me now." The quivering in his voice eases. "I'm going to be something, mom. I... I think I could be a Pokemon Professor someday. That's a really, really big deal here. Some of the things that me and Birch have been working out... could change the world. I think you'd be proud of that. I..." He stuttered.

There was a long moment.

"I know that you nagged me for a while that I never brought anyone home to meet you. That I was never going to give you any grandchildren. That I couldn't be married to the animals and have no one at home." He sighed. "I... I just wish you were here because I have someone I'd bring home now. Someone who loves me more deeply than anyone else ever could. She loves me for me, and I love her for her. She's so talented. So smart. She's just... she takes my breath away, mom. I'd be so proud to bring her home to you, and sit her at the table with us."

He raised the glass high, but before he could drink it, a shadow fell across his lap and he glanced to the right, startled.

It was Ninetales.

She sat next to him, eyes focused on his, expressionless. Her tails fanned out in a pattern that very obviously did not reach out to touch him.

Lee, she said quietly into his mind after a long moment. ... I couldn't help but hear that. Did you mean it?

Lee sagged. "Of course I meant it." He said quietly, voice still choked and quavering. "I'm sorry. For earlier. I just..." his eyes burned, tear ducts empty, and he blinked heavily. "I wish that my world didn't have to burn for me to meet you, even though I love you more than anything. Today is for remembering."

Something brushed his back, soft and warm, and Lee relaxed as she folded him in her tails. I'm sorry that I hurt you with that memory. I... She took a long breath. I wish that you hadn't lost everything. I know that was the worst day of your life. For me it was the best one, because I met you that day, and I can't imagine life without you. She leaned against him, lending him her strength and warmth as he folded into her embrace like a wet paper bag. Can you explain something?

"Of course," he said, chest heaving still, even as the comfort of her presence encircled him.

What does it mean to bring someone home to your mother on... Earth?

Lee stilled, trying to find words. "It... it means that you... you're serious about that person. It means that you might make them a permanent part of your life someday."

A finger of invisible force touched under his chin and gently lifted his head. Ninetales' lips met his own as she folded him into a long, slow kiss. His hand found her forepaw, and for both a moment and eternity both grief and love existed, simultaneous.

Sometimes the most amazing things come from something terrible, Lee whispered across their bond, and felt the pain ease as she reached back across the bond with her love. Just as she had done all day, no matter what he had said. He felt her forgiveness wrap over him like a comforting blanket, felt the shame for hurting her shatter under its weight, as her warm fur pressed against his shoulder and her purr sounded over the din of the water.

They left the park side by side.

The hot Hoenn sun beat down at the flight of stone steps, warming them to the point that heat shimmered in some spots. It didn't matter to most of the hundreds-year steps, who didn't mind another hot day.

The ones near the top bore a passenger, and, judging by his heaving chest and sweat-soaked garments, he definitely did mind. His steps slowed, the strange stone dangling on a necklace bouncing less as he did, only for the comparatively tiny Vulpix balanced on his shoulders to sharply nip his neck.

The stone vibrated, a whispering voice coming from it. "I know you're tired, Terry, but we can't stop. It's part of the ritual."

The young man grimaced, but obediently picked up his steps. "I wish I knew what this even meant, Mini. People don't just... go up to the Temple. Only the Champion is supposed to, maybe the Elite four. And you just... take me in the front entrance and gave me the stone so I could hear your voice?"

"Are you saying you don't want to hear my voice?" The Vulpix's tone was teasing.

"No, girl," Terry said with a wheezing laugh. "I wanted an hour to talk to you. To really talk to you. Not play guessing games trying to figure out what you're telling me. I wanted to know why you decided to walk into my house when I was six years old, hop in my bed, and refuse to leave. I wanted to talk to you about how you're one of the most powerful Pokemon the schoolmaster had ever met, and you want to stay with me. I..."

"Shhhh," the gentle voice whispered as the little fox licked his neck. "Almost there. I promise, I will tell you anything you want to know."

As the last few steps loomed ahead, Terry put a hand to her head and she purred, rubbing against it as he struggled up them. He bent forward, blowing hard as he surmounted the last step... then gasped, startling upright. "Mini... what the fuck is going on? There's no goddamn temple!"

Before the two stretched not the towering stone edifice of the Temple visible from below and even on the stairs, but a simple stone patio, after which rested... a simple house, and a larger building that resembled a Pokémon laboratory.

Then the air itself wavered and Terry stumbled, falling to his knees in shock as a Ninetales the size of a small automobile materialized from thin air barely a handspan from them. Beside her stood a tall man, skin tanned by sun and hair bleached by it where it was not tipped in orange-red. Three ropey scars stood out on his face.

The most shocking part was the smiles on their faces, and how his little Vulpix jumped from his shoulders to trot to the apparitions, squealing "HI Mom! HI Dad!" And for them to answer, "Minato!" As the man swept her up in his arms and the giant fox-deity nuzzled her fur.

Terry's vision dimmed as his shocked body fell forward. The last thing he saw was the fox looking at him sharply, and a glow of purple.


He became slowly aware of himself again as cold suffused his head and a familiar little fox tongue licked at his nose. "Go 'way, Mini," he muttered. "Ten more minutes, then I'll get up..."

"Now is the time to get up, young man," an amused voice rumbled, and Terry's eyes shot open.

He was inside a comfortable, lived in room, slumped in a comfortable armchair. Shabby furniture, worn carpet, and a complete absence of electronics contrasted the neat rows of photographs lining the walls. Mini was sitting on his chest, staring at him with concern, but the tall man who had just spoken claimed his attention first. The man shoved a glass of water into his hand.

"Drink this first, since this tricksy daughter of mine decided to take you the long way around without even a water bottle."

Marco raised the glass of water to his lips and took a sip. Followed by draining it as his body reminded him how parched he was. He lowered it and the man refilled it from an old ceramic pitcher, chipped and faded. His glance lingered on the Ninetales sitting at his feet, next to the wooden chair the man had dragged over. The Pokémon noticed the stare and cocked her head at him.

Allow me to introduce us, a majestic voice rolled through his head. I am what you would call the Ninetales of the Temple. And this is my mate, Lee Henson. I see you've met my daughter, Minato.

Terry stared at both of them, conscious of his mouth hanging open. "I... I..." He sputtered. "This is crazy. There's no Temple, but you're its Ninetales. And if this is Lee Henson... he died a hundred years ago. And this can't be your daughter-- Pokémon and people can't interbreed!"

The man crooked a smile. "Well, I was born Lee Henson, and I think it's not changed in the years since. As for my daughter here, well, she came about when Nine and I decided one night that--"

Minato blew an Ember at him and he ducked with the ease of long practice. She stomped her foot. "Daddy! Terry does NOT need the blow by blow of you and mom's romps. You torturing me with how I came to be wasn't funny, either."

And to answer your other question, the Ninetales put in. I am indeed the Professor's Ninetales. The original. The Temple is a... construct. A way to conceal our home and my partner's longevity, while allowing us to continue our studies and consult with the current Champion should he need us.

"And to keep building your library, mom!" Minato yipped. "She has the best collection in all Hoenn," she confided to Terry.

Terry shook his head, head still spinning. "I guess... why am I here?"

"Because mom and Dad and me... we all picked you. And you've been devoted to me for ten years. I couldn't ask for a better trainer," Minato whispered through the stone.

"I don't know if you read about our discoveries in school, Terry, but..." The Professor said.

We were gifted with a special bond. Something that bound us, body and soul, heart and mind. We've spent the years studying it. Learning about it. And we now know how to recreate it. The Ninetales stared in his eyes, gaze unblinking.

"I invited you here, Terry, because I wanted to really be your partner." Minato pressed her muzzle against his neck. "I want you and I to be the next Champions of the League. I know you've wanted that for a long time, and if we bond... we can do it. If you want to be that much a part of me, and I you, that is."

Terry blew out a long breath, thinking. His eyes clouded over, and Minato made a startled sound as a tear fell from his eyes. He took a strangled breath. "Mini... what kind of question is that?" She stiffened as he went on. "You've been my best friend, my only confidant, for as long as I can remember. If... if you'd asked me yesterday I would have given anything to have that."

He looked up at the smiling man and Ninetales. "So, what do we have to do do?"


The tall man and the Ninetales waved as the younger duo descended the stairs, younger Ninetales' fur floating in the breeze as she snugged her tails to her trainer.

Lee put his hand on Nine's neck, drawing her close. Remember when that was us?

Her eyes glowed with love as she looked back at him. Like it was yesterday.

Fair warning, it's somewhat brutal.


Lee sat in the empty Pokecenter lobby, head in his hands as his mind replayed the battle over and over. Images of his team, battered and bloody, flashed across his view. The images that lingered most in his vision was a battered Ninetales, winning the fight with a pure blast of blue-red fire... only for the attack that had been launched before hers carried her into the air and against the psychic bubble with a crunch that could be heard outside the auditorium.

The sheer terror that had erupted afterwards was impressive. Leaving the Gym Leader behind, Lee had rushed her Pokeball to the centre. The nurse at the triage desk had gone truly white at the description of her injury and Lee had panicked when she slapped the button that paged "Trauma Team to Bay One," overhead. She'd taken the ball from him with a crisp order to stay calm and run into the back rooms, door sliding shut behind her.

That had been hours ago. Lee had approached the triage nurse multiple times, only to be told that Ninetales was still in surgery.

The worst part was, where Ninetales belonged in his head... wasn't. It was as if she'd never been. Even when she'd been unconscious before, Lee could sense her mind still, delve into her unconscious thoughts. But their bond had been silent from the moment of crunch.

He sat like that for a period of time interminable, until he heard someone call "Lee Henson?" His head shot up, and, trying to stay calm, he rose to follow the beckoning nurse.


The place they took him was a corner of a Pokecenter he'd never seen.

The room was significantly larger than the other rooms he'd been in, and very much separate from others. Two sealed doors, significantly reinforced, separated it from the outside. His escort had helped him into a special gown, passed him a face mask and gloves, and had him step through a scanner before they entered.

Lee's heart dropped into his shoes when he saw Ninetales' broken body. There were tubes and wires and medical machines and drugs everywhere. She had a tube in her mouth that breathed for her. Tubes under the tail- in both places, he noted with morbid fascination. IVs dangled from both sides of her neck, one siphoning blood and the other pouring multiple bags of medicine into her body. Bag after bag of multicolored medication was attached to tubes that seemed to dot her body at random. The worst was the two almost garden hose-sized tubes, both emerging from a gaping wound in her chest. Lee squinted and his face grew pale when he realized that her breastbone had been cracked apart, ribs spread to allow the tubes to enter her chest, and that he could see her flayed and quivering heart from the outside. He stumbled, and only Nurse Joy's iron grip on his arm was enough to keep him on his feet as she guided him to a chair.

Another, more senior one approached them, still surgically capped and masked. "Mr. Henson," a stern set of eyes met his over the mask. "Surgeon Joy. I'm glad to meet you."

Lee sunk his head into his hands. "Surgeon... What happened to her?"

The eyes softened with kindness, though grave. "It would probably be easier to say what didn't happen to her. She has broken many of her bones. Her heart and lungs were lacerated when her ribs broke, as was her spleen, so we have her on a continuous heart and lung machine. She had sizeable muscle damage which is straining her kidneys, so she's on continuous dialysis. She's lost a large amounts of blood. About the only good news I have is that her skull didn't take too much of a hit, but we do have some slight bleeding between layers of tissue inside the skull. If it gets much worse we will need a neurosurgeon."

"That... sounds horrible," Lee said, stunned.

To his surprise, the surgeon smiled. "It would be if it was you or I. Thankfully Pokemon are made of tougher stuff. And we've received a sizable amount of assistance from our donor fund. We have high grade artificial berry extract pumping to wound sites to speed healing, Ninetales blood being flown in from Kanto, one of the most capable Chansy healers in Hoenn is an hour out, and Goldenrod Academic Pokecenter's critical care team has been lending their expertise. The next 24 hours will be critical, but... there's a very good chance she will survive. Even thrive."

"The... donor fund?" Lee mumbled.

The surgeon frowned. "We have a fund to help support the care of critically ill Pokemon of newer trainers. They have access to resources that most centers do not. They were already deploying resources almost as soon as our help request went through."

Lee paused, confused, then shook his head. "I guess... never mind. Can I stay?"

Joy smiled. "Of course you can."

Annotated Trauma H&P


It was the evening, and Lee sat next to Ninetales, his hands kept safely away from the medical machinery. The nurses and surgeon had babbled medical jargon at him in cheery voices, which made him feel somewhat better. One Nurse Joy had firmly stuck a folding table and bowl of soup in front of him and commanded him to eat it in words that brooked no refusal.

It tasted like ash.


Days later...

Lee crossed the centre's halls with steady tread, nodding to Cammy the janitor and Elsie the chef as he did. They smiled sadly back at him. Donning the suit was a matter of practiced routine, and he slid into the critical care bay like a staff member, albeit one with a cup of strong tea in hand to counterbalance his exhaustion.

Many of the machines and medicines were now gone, a sign the medical staff had told him was positive. One worrying tube still remained. Embedded in her skull, it had been placed in the middle of the night by a neurosurgeon to reduce pressure in her brain after the bleeding had gotten worse. Compared to that, the breathing tube and IVs worried him little.

"Good morning Lee!" Nurse Joy smiled at him. "I've been reducing the sedative medicine we've been using to keep your Ninetales sleepy so she doesn't fight against our machines or hurt herself in her confusion. She's been breathing for herself for about half an hour now. I was going to lighten the sedation a little bit more and take the breathing tube out now that you're here and can help me keep her calm."

She punched buttons on machines, and Lee sat in his chair next to Ninetales, holding her paw in his hand. He felt it twitch as his palm contacted her pads, and a spike of adrenaline surged as he felt something in his mind...

But only static came.

Ninetales began to stir, and true to her word, Nurse Joy quickly undid fasteners, cut cords, and pulled the breathing tube out with a squelch. Ninetales coughed hard once, then twice, then calmed as she did... and to Lee's delight, her eyes sprang open, pupils tight and glazed somewhat, but still focusing on his face.


"Nine," he whispered. "It's OK. Just hold still. You got really badly hurt."

Love, can you hear me? I worried about you when the bond went silent.

* * .... ? !

She began to thrash and Lee sprang forward. "Love, love, it's OK! It's OK!"

The static continued, and Lee was alarmed to note a drop of blood from her nostril as it strengthened, until...


The word was staticky, but intelligible, and Lee smiled wide. I heard you!

Abruptly, her agitation ceased, and she relaxed back as if asleep. But her paw curled tight against his hand and gripped it like a steel vice.

Lee bent his head, sobbing happy tears, and pressed his face against her stomach, gripping her back with every ounce of strength in his body.
It really is nice to see all the fluff of Lee and Nine's relationship to finally leave the darkest pits of The Box it was made in x3

Alas, SB shan't see it that way.
Fie on them, I say!

In sadness, or happiness, Lee and Nine have something special between them, and you bring that out wonderfully, Forgo.

Just having some heartfelt moments between the two, helps pass the strain of the latest chapter cliffhanger.
Let alone all the other things you wrote :V
Act 2: Chapter 17
Want to support me? See https://www.patreon.com/fuggmann or https://subscribestar.adult/fuggmann. I have goals there that help my writing along and make it a richer experience for everyone. As thanks for donating, patrons get to see updates a few days early and suggest edits to the final draft before it goes live. If you want to keep up-to-date on releases, use discord code hive-of-degeneracy and opt in to the fic-updates role for a ping.

Lee gives the taller man a hard stare. "Maxie… You're under arrest for suspected terrorist activities. Come quietly."

Maxie sighs. "Pity."

In a flash of movement, a pokeball is launched from his hand. The ball snaps open midair, and the air becomes sweltering.

As the light clears from around Maxie's pokemon, Lee feels his shoulders drop in disbelief. "Fuck me…"

Standing before Maxie is a Camerupt, and it's an absolute Goliath of a pokemon. It must be seven, nearly eight feet tall from its hooves to the peak of its craggily volcano-like back humps. His dark red coat is crisscrossed by the occasional scar, with a deep, healed over gash across his brown muzzle being the most apparent. The miniature volcanoes upon his back are already belching black smoke and embers, making the air almost unbearably hot. The worst of all, though, is his eyes.

The camel pokemon's eyes are feral, focusing upon them all with a horrid, animalistic desire for violence within them. The bloodshot orbs lack that spark of clarity, of intelligence. It is as if the Fire and Ground-type… isn't even there.

'He may not be…' Ninetales sends a glance towards Maxie's Claydol, and Lee can feel her stomach churn. When Lee connects the dots himself, he takes a deep breath to prevent himself from being sick.

"Shit…" Zinnia whispers, her voice wavering in a rare moment of fright. Lee follows her wide, red eyes and tries not to curse himself.

Almost hidden against Camerupt's fur is a red, armored chest piece hanging around his neck. Within the crimson-colored metal, a fist-sized stone with the appearance of a marble is set with clasps. The crystalline orb shines with its own internal light, one that hurts to look at.

'A mega-stone…' Lee looks up, seeing the Keystone set within the frame of Maxie's glasses just as he expected. 'That was the one thing I was hoping wasn't accurate. I thought Courtney's Camerupt was a monster, but this thing changed the definition. God only knows how strong this behemoth must be after mega-evolving…'

Ninetales tenses up. Beside her, Shelgon growls and locks his yellow eyes with Camerupt's blood-shot browns.

Without any warning, Camerupt bellows with such volume and force that he blows away all the dust around his feet, then charges forward, moving far faster than something the size of an armored car should. It feels as if every one of his footfalls shakes the entirety of the volcano, because they certainly rattle both Lee and Ninetales to the bone.


"Move!" Zinnia calls, mirroring Lee's telepathic command.

Ninetales and Shelgon split, jumping away from the mammoth Camerupt, who passes through where they were standing a mere second later. Without so much as a word from Maxie, Camerupt turns and faces Shelgon, opening his mouth as he does so. At the same time, rings of light manifest around the camel Pokémon's massive body. With another ear splitting bellow, Camerupt's maw glows a brilliant silver, then a ball composed of compacted light is shot toward Shelgon like a tank shell.

At the same time, the rings of light around Camerupts body coalesce into knife-like stones. The stones violently vibrate in place before shooting towards Ninetales with a vengeance, homing in on her despite Camerupt's attention being elsewhere. The stones move with such swiftness that each one screams hideously through the air.

Ninetales' eyes bug out, and a frantic, mental urge from Lee forces her to wreath herself in Quick Attack and dive to the side. The barrage of stones is so quick, however, one stone still slices into Ninetales's leg and opens a gash on her thigh.

Lee winces, his own leg tingling in phantom pain.

"Shelgon, Protect!" Zinnia's hands are already clenched anxiously.

A mighty barrier of green surrounds the wide-eyed Shelgon in the nick of time. Camerupt's attack slams into Protect with a sound like a cannonball striking a gong, the impact sending a rumble to the ground. The ball of light deflects off and flies far into the sky, becoming a dot against the blue expanse above. Shelgon drops Protect a second later, and Lee is dismayed to see the Dragon already looks woozy from guarding against a single strike.

'What the hell was that?! Stone Edge? And Flash Cannon? Is Camerupt acting on his own? How did he fire off two differing moves in two different directions at the same time?'

Lee isn't given any time to ponder further as Camerupt, once again without an order, charges towards Shelgon like a runaway train. The gargantuan camel crosses the distance in less than a second, and with every step, a positively blinding cloak of spiraling energy builds around him. Lee's hearing is drowned out by the snapping and crackling of Camerupt's attack, but he still vaguely hears Zinnia shout something to Shelgon.

'Is that Giga Impact he's using?! Ninetales! Extrasensory!' Lee sends frantically. 'Slow him down!'

The vixen's eyes shine with fury, and bubbles of permeable psychic energy bloom to life in Camerupt's path. With any luck, the damage will throw him off-

Maxie's monstrous pokemon blows through the attack as if it isn't even there. All of the overpressure and under pressure from the rapidly expanding and contracting bubbles barely cause so much as a bruise on Camerupt's hide.

All Shelgon can do is screw his eyes shut and raise Protect once more.

Camerupt strikes the green shield and shatters it like glass.


Shelgon is thrown end over end, trailing blood through the air from a deep crack in his shell. When the orb-like Dragon finally rolls to a stop after several bounces, he's left prone upon the rocky ground, gasping for breath. His shell is littered with cracks, and is missing a few pieces. A piece of his shell even shattered near his face, pushing a shard into his cheek, which bleeds profusely.

Despite Shelgon laying prone upon the ground, Camerupt decides that his opponent isn't yet disabled. The camel pokemon snorts black, sooty smoke, and charges forward.

Lee watches the entire scene play out for him, as if it's moving in slow motion.

Camerupt moves with the speed of a truck with the gas floored.

Zinnia's face morphs into horror. Her hand moves towards her belt, towards Shelgon's ball, but it's too slow.

Shelgon can only close his eyes and brace himself.


With a yowl, Ninetales darts forward with Quick Attack and slams her whole body into Camerupt's side. Through her, Lee can feel the bone rattling sensation of smashing into a brick wall. Not even Ty was this tough!

Camerupt veers off course ever so slightly, giving Shelgon just barely enough time to push himself the rest of the way to safety with his remaining good legs. Camerupt, meanwhile, slams into a vacant snack stand, one branded to the cable car company. The stand explodes into splinters and twisted metal framework on impact, making Camerupt dig his hooves into the ground and skid to a stop. The camel turns his animalistic visage towards Ninetales and the still wounded Shelgon.

'Nine, are you okay?' Lee asks, feeling his entire right side ache in a dull manner. Camerupt doesn't look like he took any damage from Nine's Quick Attack. If anything, Ninetales got the worse end of the exchange.

'I'm fine…' Ninetales' reply is terse.

"Goodness, how rude of me." Maxie finally speaks up once more. The bastard has the gall to smirk as he pushes his glasses further up his nose. "That was rather unsporting. Perhaps you would like to change pokemon before we continue our bout?"

At his words, Camerupt goes still as a statue, staring forward vacantly.

Lee's self-directed disgust towards the idea of Ninetales slaying Maxie lessens considerably as he looks at the man's face. The scarred trainer looks at Claydol once more and purses his lips. "Is this some kind of game to you?"

Maxie's smirk rises just a bit.

"Shelgon, return!" Zinnia calls, thrusting the pokeball in her white-knuckled grip forward.

In a flash of red, Shelgon is sucked back into his ball, but not before he can snarl in protest.

Placing the ball back on her belt, Zinnia looks behind her. Following her eyes, Lee looks as well.

Tyrunt's challenging sneer is gone, replaced with bewilderment, as if he didn't believe what he just saw. Perched upon his head, Swablu's beak is dropped open in a human-like expression of surprise. Goomy…

The little slug-dragon is openly quaking, staring at Camerupt with terror.

Lee turns to Grovyle and Octillery.

Both the Grass-type and the Water-type wear grim expressions. Grovyle chews on his stick irritably, while Octillery's eyes are narrowed down into slits.

Shifting his twig in his mouth once more, Grovyle sighs and steps forward, a warble directed towards Ninetales leaving his mouth.

"Grovyle?" Lee asks, watching the gecko pokemon raise his arms, his wrist leaves shining and hardening into blades. He glances back at Lee with his yellow, slitted eyes.

'…He wishes to take my place, to act as a buffer so I may rest and be reserved for last…' Ninetales provides. 'He intends to act as fodder and wear-down Camerupt so mine and Octillery's chances of a victory can rise.' Lee can feel the kitsune's mind whirl as she thinks over all the different possibilities, and how she might deny her teammate, but in the end, Grovyle's simple yet sound reasoning is hard to find flaw with.

"Grovyle…" Lee curses inwardly over and over and grits his teeth. The thought of using Grovyle as a sacrificial pawn makes his conscience scream in protest, but the steel in Grovyle's eyes tells him it's already a lost battle on this front. "…Fine."

As Ninetales backs out of the impromptu battlefield, never taking her eyes off Maxie or Camerupt, Zinnia hisses through her teeth. "Swablu…" She grounds out reluctantly. "You're up."

The little blue bird leaves Tyrunt's head and flits into the field, landing next to Grovyle without any of her signature musical trills.

'We just need to hold out until Corvi gets back with help,' Lee tells himself, hoping and praying to whoever would listen that his crow would return soon. 'We just need to hold out until Corvi gets back.'

"Quite ready?" Maxie asks, an eyebrow raised. "Then let the melee continue."

Camerupt roars.

Brendan feels as if he is going to be sick.

Leaning against the "TE Extractor" device that Magma is so worried about, He looks around himself.

The perimeter around the lip of the volcano is surrounded by low level magma members, most with one or two pokemon at their feet. Some of them, namely the ones that he, Lee, and Zinnia battled and defeated, turn to look at him bitterly.

Tabitha steadfastly refuses to meet Brendan's eyes. The large man won't even look in his direction.

Turning to Courtney, Brendan finds her standing at attention and scanning the horizon for anything incoming. She notices him staring, and gives him a thin smile.

Brendan's stomach twists. It twists because of the girl at his side, it twists because of the disappointment radiating from his team, and most of all, it twists because of the words on his tongue, ready to fly as speedily as a Taillow.

'Marshtomp! Use Water Gun on the energy extractor! Blow it to pieces!'

The Birch heir hisses under his breath.

Just a few moments ago, his desire to please the girl who makes him feel so strange but good and his loyalty to his friends did battle one final time. It was a match where the winner takes all to settle the days-long conflict within him.

It was a battle won by razor-thin margins and with only seconds to spare.

His hurt at being considered childish and untrustworthy by Lee and Zinnia may yet sting, the reluctance of his pokemon drags him even further down, and Courtney still only needs to smile to make him feel lighter than air, but the events of the last few months flashed before his eyes over and over.

Meeting Lee and Vulpix.

His smiling dad giving him Mudkip's ball.

Meeting the annoying Dragon Tamer named Zinnia.

Learning new things under Lee.

Growing to look at Zinnia like the sister he never had.

Speaking to his dad on the phone and regaling the man with his adventures thus far.

Seeing new places, fighting in thrilling battles, watching his pokemon grow before his very eyes.

Just… Enjoying being together.

The realization of what he was going to turn his back on made him hesitate.

Then Lee's words turned that hesitation into dread.

"They intend to awaken Groudon and try to leash it like a rabid dog."

There was a terrible, undeniable consequence to the older trainer uttering those words. It sounded like utter insanity, summoning a Legendary pokemon, but Lee said every word without a hint of deceit or uncertainty. Brendan even watched Ninetales for her reaction.

He's not sure if either Lee or Ninetales knows, but the pair have tiny, nearly indiscernible tells when they communicate. Ninetales has a habit of firming up her stance whenever Lee speaks a lie or half-truth, as if trying to reassure him.

She did no such thing this time.

His heart ached, and even now, he's not sure he will recover, but he would have to… fight Courtney.

The older girl creates such a confused mess within the boy. She's pretty, kind, understanding, willing to sit and listen and hear anything he has to say, and she asked for so little in return.

Still, the heartbroken boy hardened himself, and in his mind, a plot was born. He would 'side' with Magma, and when the inevitable fight began, he would slink away, his pokemon in tow, and see about shutting off the TE machine that is supposedly pulling energy from the volcano. Once all was said and done, he would pull Courtney aside and ask her to explain everything, even throwing his pride away and using his father's name with the police if it meant keeping her out of trouble.

The more he thought about what Lee said… The more Magma's claims do seem to be too good to be true. How do they intend to control Groudon? What's the timeframe for the completion of the project? What sort of safeguards are in place to prevent lives from being lost? Once the land is rearranged, who gets to decide who goes where?

Deep in his heart, Brendan hopes Courtney can explain.

It was a moment after Lee spoke the name of the legendary Pokémon, that Brendan noticed Maxie the interloper from the corner of his eye. He dared not turn his head and give away that he saw a man in red hovering above the rest of them.

All of a sudden, his gambit to falsely side with Magma became so much more complicated.

A number of things keyed Brendan into what he might be dealing with in Maxie, and he liked none of what he saw. First, was Maxie's Claydol.

The seldom-seen pokemon made a great show of giving Maxie a psychic platform to stand upon, one perfectly square and without a single imperfection. His father's Ace, Medicham, can do such a thing with only the barest hint of concentration, but it's what Brendan didn't see that was all the more damning.

Being high above the walls and buildings, Maxie should have been subject to the wind. Yet, his voice carried perfectly fine and his hair and clothes remained unruffled at all without any apparent reason as to their perfection.

Brendan's mind raced, and he was glad he was already feeling ill, for his pale face wasn't out of place.

Claydol, as best as he can deduce, is likely arresting the airflow around the locale, or maybe even the entire volcano with a barrier of some sort. Such monstrous power and control is… Something he's only ever seen dad's Medicham accomplish.

'No wonder Maxie wasn't upset about Corvisquire trying to run for help…' Brendan gulps and hopes Lee's pokemon is okay.

As much as he hated it, as much as he wanted to do more, Brendan was left with only one real choice; go quietly with Courtney and Tabitha, turning a hopeless 3-on-3 fight into a hopefully more manageable 2-on-1. He knows that neither Lee nor Zinnia would agree to any sort of terms Maxie would set, and conflict would to break out.

Sure enough, bellows and the sound of crunching rock creates a great cacophony near the volcano visitor center, around the bend and just out of sight. Brendan clenches his eyes shut and grits his teeth, mustering the nerve to do what he must.

"So those idiots decided to fight?" Tabitha harrumphs and crosses his large arms. "They have no hope of defeating Leader Maxie, they're marching straight into their own deaths."

Alarm surges within Brendan. He turns and levels Tabitha with an uncomfortable stare. "Death? What do you mean by that? Maxie said that he would let them go!"

The large man sneers in reply. "Maybe they would have been sent off on their merry way if they had complied with the boss's conditions. Your scarred pal knows a lot of things that he shouldn't, and that's bad for Magma. He should've just kept his mouth shut if he wanted to leave without needing a bribe."

Somehow, Brendan doubts that the offer Lee and Zinnia received was a bribe.

The boy trainer turns and looks at Courtney, his eyes pleading. "Courtney?"

The smaller of the two magma admins draws in a deep breath and plants a smile on her face. "Don't worry, Brendan. Everything will be fine."

For the first time, her words do nothing to reassure him.

As the sounds of combat grow more frenzied, more violent, the Magma grunts around the group shift nervously. The handful of combat ready pokémon are all jitters, seemingly ready to jump out of their skins. Beams of light, gouts of fire, and shards of rock fly through the sky as if an all-out war is taking place between Maxie, Lee, and Zinnia.

'Maxie's Pokémon can't possibly be strong enough to take on Lee and Zinnia's at once, right? Lee beat Mister Moore, after all…' Brendan silently growls, once again reworking his plans. 'Maxie said that Aqua was on their way. Do I wait for those jokers to show up and then make my move? Do we go now? I don't know what to do…'

"Brendan?" Courtney looks at him with a frown. She slides one of her gloves off and presses the back of her hand to his forehead. "You're pale. Are you okay?"

The smooth hand against his forehead makes Brendan's insides turn to mush, but it's immediately soured when he sees Marshtomp's grimace, Mawile's teary eyes, and Breloom's resignation from the corner of his eyes.

"I'm fine…" Brendan murmurs, gently pulling her hand away from his head. He slides his backpack off his shoulders into the ground, unzipping it so he can reach inside, not all missing how Tabitha and several of the Magma grunts tense up. His hand wraps around the bottle of anti nausea pills he bought in Dewford. When he pulls his hand back out, revealing nothing but a pill bottle, the Magma members ease up.

The distant din of combat rings all the louder in Brendan's ears, reminding him of what is at stake. He turns to Marshtomp, who stares back with disappointed eyes. "Marshtomp?"

The pokemon grumbles, but pays attention.

'None of the Magma guys are acting jumpy. They probably think I'm going to ask Marshtomp for some water.' He steels his nerves one final time and looks back at the machine.

The boxy metal thing stands high, and is covered with lights and gauges that hold no meaning to Brendan. From its side, a terminal screen and a keyboard jut out, seemingly a last-minute addition. In the middle of the machine is a compartment covered by a glass door. Within, a curious gray stone sits upon a forked pedestal, glowing with a faint, rainbow light. The stone must be the centerpiece of the machine, though Brendan can scarcely puzzle out what it's supposed to do.

"Marshtomp…" Brendan takes a deep breath. "Water Gun. Destroy the TE machine."

His words are gentle, conversational, even, and that is probably why no one other than Marshtomp reacts right away. The mudfish's eyes suddenly regain their life, and without wasting a moment, he turns and opens his maw, blasting a violent stream of water at the energy extractor.

The blue rail of water hits home without any opposition, shattering the glass door and the rock behind it in a hail of shards. The Water Gun punches a hole clean through the back as well, making the contraption wail with warning alarms and viciously spark.

Brendan raises his arms to protect his face, wincing to himself when he feels a speeding piece of glass open a small cut along his bicep before bouncing off of his shirt. Scooping up his bag and zipping it closed amid cries of shock and dismay from the Magma agents around him, he hurries and sprints outside of the circle of red clad gangsters around him. His pokémon need no order and follow right along. The young Birch spares Breloom and Mawile a glance.

Breloom's usually dour face sports a tiny smirk.

Mawile, meanwhile, looks at him with a beaming smile and open admiration, a total shift from her depressive state a mere handful of seconds ago. The whiplash of a Fairy's ever-changing emotions is still a surprise to see. Mawile's smile then turns into something vicious and vindictive. As the little Pokémon is passing Courtney, Brendan's heart leaps into his throat when Mawile's second set of jaws lash out towards the magenta haired woman, gaping and ready to bite.

Courtney gasps, her hands rising in a futile effort to halt Mawile's attack.

'Mawile, no!'

…Only for the strike to be a feint. Mawile's jaws change course at the last second, instead chomping down on the pokeballs clipped to Courtney's belt. Mawile growls as she tears the balls free, and all three of the capsules shake in her grip, the pokemon unable to release themselves with Mawile holding the balls shut. Mawile then leaps to Brendan's side, looking up at him with her innocent smile back in place.

Brendan swears to himself that he nearly had a heart attack. 'Geez, Mawile. A little warning, next time?' The boy is well aware of how hypocritical such a thing sounds, even if he's simply saying it to himself, but he can't help but complain.

"Brendan?" Courtney asks, appearing totally lost. For the first time since they've met, Brendan hears her voice wavering. "What… What are you doing?" Her hand gropes the torn belt where her pokeballs used to hang, as if on instinct. The Magma admin seemingly shrinks on herself, and Brendan can feel his heart wrenching in his chest.

"You punk!" Tabitha is decidedly more upset, his face twisting into a rictus of loathing. "I knew this whole thing was a bad idea! Look at what you fucking did! This whole operation is a bust!" He takes a ball from his own belt and throws it into the air in one motion. "Kid or not, you're not leaving this volcano alive after that!"

Tabitha's pokeball opens, and Brendan recoils at the pokémon that comes out. In a flash of light, a Weezing rises and hovers at chest height.

The pokemon resembles a pair of purple, rocky meteorites fused together like conjoined twins, with one being larger than the other. Each body sports a pair of narrow eyes, fang filled mouths, and a number of protruding, overly large pores that acrid, yellow gas hisses out from. The pokemon groans, both mouths opening in duel tones.

Brendan blinks and swallows, but that does little to stop the sudden watering of his eyes or the itch within his throat, courtesy of Weezing's rotten, chemical stench. Often considered ugly, unpleasant, and requiring much more care and enrichment than a normal pokemon, Weezing are a rare sight outside of the teams of Poison specialists. When they are fielded, though…

"Weezing!" Tabitha growls. "Sludge Bomb!"

…They're a menace to deal with.

"Marshtomp!" Brendan is quick to counter, eyes locking on Weezing. "Water Gun! Dilute it!"

The surrounding Magma grunts finally come to their senses and quickly back away with exclamations of fright as the first attacks are called.

Weezing swells like a smog-filled balloon, then with a disgusting sound akin to retching, it spits a globe of dark purple ooze, which smokes as it arcs through the air.

Marshtomp responds in kind. He opens his mouth and fires a torrent of water, meeting Sludge Bomb halfway.

Water Gun and Sludge Bomb deflect off of each other initially, proving just how dense the orb of toxins is, and then Water Gun bites into the glob of poison, mixing with the sludge and turning into a watery mess.

The sludgy water drops to the ground, hissing. Even so diluted, the poison smokes as it eats into the stone of the volcano.

'Definitely don't want to get hit by that…' Brendan eyes the disgusting puddle in the middle of the makeshift battlefield with a frown.

"Weezing, Smokescreen!" Tabitha rapidly switches tactics after their opening attack fails.

Weezing draws in a deep breath, then from all of its open pores, dense black smoke pours out, forming a cloud and obscuring its form.

Brendan narrows his eyes. "Marshtomp! Foresight!"

"Taunt!" Tabitha orders hardly a second after Brendan.

'Damn it!' Brendan's eyes widen. "Marshtomp, don't fall for it!"

Marshtomp is already halfway through processing the first order when deep, raspy laughter booms from within the cloud of smoke. No one needs to know anything about pokémon speech to practically feel the concentrated mocking within each laugh.

The glow of Foresight fades from Marshtomp's eyes as the already hot-blooded mudfish is visibly overcome with seething anger. With a bellow that draws flinches from all the bystanders, Marshtomp charges headfirst at the smoke.

"Stop!"Brendan orders at the top of his lungs, but it's little use much to his dismay. Taunt has already worked its fingers into Marshtomp's brain.

Weezing bursts from the smoke with a nasty smirk on both of its faces, its head aimed low to smash skull-to-skull with Marshtomp. Its smirk is wiped right off its face when Marshtomp's clenched fist shoots out and crashes into its chin with bone-shattering force.

Rocking back, Weezing shudders from the titanic blow.

Brendan spares a moment to look at Tabitha, who seems totally unperturbed from his pokemon taking such a hit. If anything, the large man seems to have expected it.

Then without warning, another Weezing bursts from the slowly dissipating smoke, spinning rapidly like a top and coated in a dark aura Brendan has seen more than once on Lee's Ninetales.

'Payback?! But why would…?!' Brendan looks at the first Weezing and freezes. 'That's not another pokemon, that's Substitute! Can Payback even work when it's a clone that was hit?'

Substitute is a move Brendan wasn't expecting to encounter until deep into the gym circuit. The ability to create a clone, no matter how costly the energy requirement, is a complete game changer in a fight. The steep stamina requirement in the difficulty of mastering the move makes Substitute wholly unviable for anyone who isn't a cut above the rest.

The Weezing Marshtomp struck groans before losing cohesion, dissipating into multicolored balls of light and vanishing before everyone's eyes.

At the same time, the real Weezing smashes into Marshtomp with Payback on full-blast, folding the Water and Ground-type around its spherical body like a living cannonball. The wind is knocked from Marshtomp's lungs in a harsh gasp, and the mud fish is thrown end over end.

"Sludge Bomb!" Tabitha presses his advantage, his narrow eyes shining cruelly.

Weezing once more spits a noxious glob of purple, one perfectly aimed to hit Marshtomp midair.

"Correct course with Water Gun!" Brendan leaves out any further directions, not wanting Tabitha to anticipate where Marshtomp will land.

Marshtomp spreads his arms out and rights himself midair, shooting a stream of water from his maw and throwing himself out of Sludge Bomb's path. He lands harshly, but on his feet. Underbelly rapidly beginning to bruise, Marshtomp huffs through his winded lungs and lowers himself, ready to charge once more.

The missed Sludge Bomb flies past and splatters on the ground. The horrendous Poison hisses and fumes as it eats a deep divot into the rock.

'Weezing doesn't have any good options for dealing with a Ground and Water-type like Marshtomp…' Brendan mentally runs through all the documented moves that a Weezing can learn, grimacing slightly as he recalls moves such as Self-Destruct and Destiny Bond. 'Okay, Weezing doesn't have many good options for dealing with Marshtomp,' he amends. 'We need to stay out of the way of his Poison and expect more trickery. While Mawile is keeping Courtney's pokemon out of the fight, I only have Marshtomp and Breloom to rely on.' Brendan winces. The sounds of combat coming from Lee and Zinnia's way are only getting more brutal the more time passes. 'We can't waste time. Marshtomp and Breloom need to be as fresh as possible so we can help Lee and Zinnia. I guess we're pulling out all the stops here.'


The boy's heart leaps into his throat. Turning his head, he sees Courtney standing off to the side, looking at him with wide, frightened eyes. "Brendan," she begins again. "You… You need to stop! You can't be-"

The magma admin's words are drowned out by an earthshaking bellow from Marshtomp, who looks at the admin with open hostility in his beady eyes.

Brendan takes a deep breath. "We'll talk later!" He promises Courtney, before turning his attention back to the fight though not without great effort. "Marshtomp! Pulverize the ground with Muddy Water!"

Both Tabitha and Weezing watch carefully, an order clearly on the tip of Tabitha's tongue.

Marshtomp grins like a savage, then opening his mouth, he shoots a stream of murky water at the ground, a stream churning with such violence that the volcanic rock underfoot is pounded into sandy paste. The sediment groans and cracks as Marshtomp sweeps his stream around, swiftly turning the field into slick mud.

Halfway through, Tabitha finally calls for an order. "Sludge Bomb!"

Once more, Weezing swells, then expels a toxic glob from its mouth, one aimed squarely at Marshtomp.

Without needing any instruction, Marshtomp drops down low, letting the Sludge Bomb pass overhead. It splatters on the muddy ground, and Brendan can't help but grin at what he sees.

The Poison barely even bubbles in the mud. Muddy Water might officially be a Water move, but the name is muddy for a reason. All of the Ground energy still lingering in the watery sediment soaks up the Poison and neutralizes it magnificently.

Marshtomp gets the point immediately, and before he rises, he turns his whole body over once in the mud, coating him in a slick, anti-Poison armor.

If Tabitha realizes that his inaction was a blunder, then it doesn't show on his face. Instead, he barks another order. "Smokescreen!"

Weezing groans, and once more expels a thick cloud of black smoke, covering itself from view behind a rolling, black veil.

'What an awkward pokemon to fight. Can't get too close, or you risk taking a Poison move to the face or having to deal with Self-Destruct. There's also no limbs to break to hinder mobility, further encouraging a ranged fight, but that's where a Weezing is most comfortable.' Brendan narrows his eyes. 'Too bad we got you right where we want you.' The young trainer draws in a breath. "Marshtomp! Widen Mud Slap!"

Marshtomp dips low, partially immersing his arm in the mud below, then with a mighty heave, he sends a wave of speeding muck into the entire smoke cloud.

Meaty thuds echo over the volcano, and pained groans come from the smoke. A battered and dirty Weezing, whose rocky hide is lined with spiderweb cracks, emerges from the smoky cover to glare hatefully at Marshtomp. For an instant, Brendan takes his attention off of the fight and homes in on where Tabitha is paying the most attention.

The Magma admin is focused on Weezing, not the smoke.

'You expected me to think you'd pull the same trick twice in a row? You're not getting me with a fake-out that easily.'

"Marshtomp, Take Down!" Brendan has to keep his grin to himself. "Rush down the smoke where the real one is!"

Marshtomp roars, recklessly charging forward at the waning smoke cloud, drawing a malicious smirk from Tabitha.

Weezing, behaving like a clone might, passively watches the speeding mudfish, keeping his eyes on the pokemon all the while. The meteor-like pokemon slowly swells, preparing an attack.

'Gotcha!' Brendan can't help it and smiles. "Change target!"

Brendan's partner doesn't hesitate for an instant, instead coming to a stop on the muddy ground as if it weren't covered in muck. Instead, he turns and leaps directly up at Weezing, his body cloaked in an aura of white.

The smirk leaves Tabitha's face instantly, shock taking its place. "Sludge Bomb!"

Weezing spits a hasty, half power attack at Marshtomp, which lands true… then soaks into the mud covering the amphibian pokemon with barely a hiss.

Midflight, Marshtomp wipes the noxious slush from his chest and slings it into Weezing's face.

"Weezing, move!" Tabitha urges.

Weezing doesn't even get the chance to cry out about the mud irritating its eyes before Marshtomp slams into it shoulder-first like a missile, opening up numerous cracks along Weezing's hide. Marshtomp grins, then spikes Weezing like a ball with his fist, sending his foe tumbling to the ground. Toxic gasses hiss and sputter, escaping Weezing's ruptured flesh as the Poison-type falls gracelessly into the mud.

Marshtomp lands a second later, mud splashing around his feet.

Gasping for breath and eyes rolling in distress, Weezing doesn't rise back into the air, or rather can't rise back into the air owing to all of the lighter-than-air gas in his body escaping. Like a regular creature with a sucking chest wound, it's all the Poison pokemon can do to draw breath.

Rearing his head back, Marshtomp bellows up into the heavens at his victory, drawing flinches from everyone around. Murmurs filled with dread begin to flit through the air.

"D-Did this kid beat Admin Tabitha?"

"What kind of monster is that pokemon?!"

"Aqua is going to kill us all without Courtney and Tabitha!"

Weezing is engulfed in a flash of red, then is drawn back into a pokeball held in Tabitha's shaking fist. The large Magma admin places the ball on his hip holster and draws another one, his face contorted into an expression of absolute loathing. "You little shit…" He growls, staring down Brendan with a look in his eye that can only be genuine murderous intent. "You come up here, say you're gonna join, double-cross us at the first opportunity, then embarrass me like this?! You're going home in a bag!"

Marshtomp roars at the open threat, raising his arms and smashing them on the ground, rumbling the entire area as he stares hatefully into Tabitha's eyes. Brendan doesn't need to look behind him to know Mawile is seething at the threat, or that Breloom's usual aloof face is likely drawn into a deep frown.

Tabitha raises his next pokeball and throws it with a wild swing of his arm. "It was a mistake to come here, kid!"

From the pokeball, a Crawdaunt whose armor is crisscrossed in white, healed over marks, takes Weezing's place. The shellfish pokemon lets out a warbling cry and raises its pincers, snipping them together with the sound of steel grinding over steel.

Before either Brendan or Tabitha can call an order, the entire volcano is bathed in a harsh, white light, prompting screams of fright from more than one person and forcing everyone to cover their eyes.

From behind his arm and squinted eyelids, Brendan looks up.

In the sky is an entire sea of rolling flames, shooting hundreds of feet up into the air and stirring a hot gale over the entirety of Mt Chimney. The fire is simply... Unbelievable. Even Ninetales during her bout in the Lavaridge gym falls short of such a feat. As quickly as the flames came, they're gone.

'We need to hurry,' Brendan grimaces.

To call the ongoing battle anything short of absolutely disastrous would be a horrific understatement to Lee. It's only his adrenaline and quiet reassurances from Ninetales that keep his nervous breakdown at bay.

In the slagged, ruined courtyard of the Mt Chimney visitor center, Lee watches Octillery breathe in quick and harsh gasps, two tentacles clutching his right side, which is completely coated in ghastly, blistered burns. In the middle of one of his other tentacles, a shard of stone lays lodged, left pierced into his body lest he bleed out without it. Blood dribbles from his mouth, where his broken beak is no doubt aching.

To Octillery's left, Zinnia's Tyrunt is bleeding profusely from a split in his skull. The little dino's left eye is shut, owing to a painful bruise on his face, under which, he surely has an orbital fracture. He too is covered in burns, though not quite as terrible as what was inflicted on Octillery.

Across from them is Maxie's Camerupt, still standing like an indomitable monolith of fire and violence. The only visible wounds on his body are an already scabbed over slash on his flank, one inflicted by Grovyle, and a dirty bruise on his muzzle from Octillery's Octozooka. In one of his front legs are several of Tyrunt's teeth, dislodged after Tyrunt landed a Bite and was kicked in the head for doing so. It's difficult to tell if Tyrunt's attack caused any harm.

Grovyle paid for the wound he inflicted with interest, and Octillery just paid for his.

Every attack, every tactic, every trick tried, Camerupt would shrug off everything like a juggernaut, and did so without a single word of instruction from Maxie. Even through the animalistic rage hovering over him like a physical cloud, Camerupt pushed the offensive with unnatural focus and precision. The camel pokemon moved like a machine, executing unseen instructions to cause the maximum amount of harm he can with single-minded aggression. Despite the match being a two-on-one, Lee and Zinnia have been on the back foot the entire time.

Grovyle, despite his superior maneuverability and plethora of slashing attacks that could carve through even the greatest armor, fell after only inflicting a single wound. Camerupt whirled with supernatural reaction speed and bathed the Grass-type in an ocean of fire that lit up the entire sky once Grovyle's Night Slash connected. With such a wide attack, Grovyle had nowhere to go, nowhere to run.

There was a horrible moment where everything seemed to move in slow motion. Before Camerupt's Flamethrower even hit, Lee could see Grovyle's leaves wilting and his scales blistering. When the burning pillar connected, Lee heard Grovyle scream.

His body moving of its own accord, Lee frantically recalled Grovyle before the gecko's limp form could crash to the ground.

Swablu's fearsome Hyper Voice, an attack that can shatter rock and instantly incapacitate pokemon many times her size, was a mere annoyance to Camerupt. Despite the little bird's minuscule form and speedy flight, one Stone Edge volley left her bleeding out upon the ground and recalled back to Zinnia.

Octillery and Tyrunt have fared no better.

In the field, Tyrunt's head wound finally gets the better of him. With a whimper, the dino slowly begins to sway on his feet, his legs growing shaky. His one good eye stares up at Camerupt with equal parts juvenile defiance and instinctual fear, the latter of which slowly begins to overtake the former.

"Lee…" Zinnia grounds out. The tanned woman's face is pale, and her mouth is set in a thin line, not at all hiding how distraught she is. "I don't think Tyrunt can keep going. He's at his limit."

Lee shudders. "We all are, Zinnia. We all are…" He prays for someone, anyone out there to cut them a break. "Recall Tyrunt. Octillery is done, too. He can barely move, and I suspect he's taken some kind of internal damage."

Grimly, Ninetales steps forward. 'I'm ready, Lee,' she sends.

As one, Lee and Zinnia raise their pokeballs, and in twin flashes of light, the battered Octillery and Tyrunt are recalled with no fuss from either pokemon.

Across the way, Maxie allows the retreat with a small smile. The eco-terrorist's smirk has been in place the entire time, as if he's humoring a pair of cranky toddlers fruitlessly beating their fists on his leg.

Behind Zinnia, Goomy openly quakes now that he is Zinnia's final battle-ready pokemon. His black eyes stare at Camerupt with absolute terror. The little slug-dragon is shaking so violently, it's as if he's about to fall to pieces.

Ninetales notices, and with a grimace, reaches out to Lee once more. A conversation too fast for words takes place.

"Zinnia," Lee begins with a gulp. "Just recall Goomy and let us fight, okay?"

Inwardly, another conversation takes place. With Ninetales acting as a midway point, Lee feeds telepathic instructions to the Dragon tamer. 'If… when things go south here, Nine and I are going to try and hold them off. If Maxie tries anything rash, try to escape in the confusion.'

'Lee…' Zinnia's telepathic words are choppy and halting, owing to having so little experience with such forms of communication. 'What about you? I don't think-'

'Just do it.'

There is a flash of annoyance at being interrupted, but for once, Zinnia is cowed. 'What about Brendan?'

Lee sighs, painfully aware of just how much of a nightmare the situation has become. This fight, Brendan, Magma in general. Damn it all, why can't anything be easy? 'That's a bridge we'll cross later…' Zinnia is cut from the telepathy.

Backing up slowly, Zinnia steps towards Goomy. "Just take it easy, Goom," she whispers soothingly, bending down to pick the tiny dragon up. "Dolittle and Ninetales have this in the bag."

"Down to one, final pokemon?" Maxie asks, tilting his head and staring down at all of them. "You should have taken my offer. All that you had to do was agree to have a mere few hours of memory snipped away, and you would have been on your merry way." Maxie adjusts his glasses once more. "Surely, you realize that once you can no longer defend yourself, you will have no say in what measures I take to ensure the secrets of Magma remain secrets, correct?"

"Go fuck yourself!" Zinnia's reply is as swift as it is caustic.

Maxie clicks his tongue. "How unladylike."

Ninetales sets herself into a low, wide stance, hiding just how nervous she is with a hostile stare aimed squarely into the eyes of Camerupt.

Camerupt stares back with the same horridly blank look he's worn the entire fight.

'Hold nothing back, Nine.'

'Never,' Ninetales promises.

Once more, without any warning, Camerupt roars and accelerates into a red meteor.

Ninetales bounds forward as well, turning and dodging around Camerupt's headbutt with inches to spare. Eyes glowing with a sinister pink light, she turns her head and levels Camerupt with a full-power Baby-Doll Eyes.

The invisible, enfeebling rays, which would have nearly crippled another pokemon from the muscle weakness they induce, barely do a thing to Cameupt. The monster hardly even flinches. No, instead he turns and corrects this course, the dagger-like stones of Stone Edge manifesting around him in flashes of light. The stones quiver, then fly at Ninetales with a staccato of supersonic cracks.

The fox weaves around the stones with gritted teeth, but a few of the sharpened rocks are just too fast, too packed together, and she's forced to settle with near-misses that slice open small cuts in her pelt. One on her shoulder, another on her leg.

'Double Team! Then Feint Attack!'

Ninetales' body shines white briefly, then illusory clones flash to life all around her, including one right over top of herself. The illusions all bear their teeth and bristle at Camerupt as Ninetales, who fades from sight under a cloak of light-bending Dark energy, quickly pads her way to Camerupt's rear.

The camel pokemon snorts black smoke, then without bothering to pay any attention at all to the clones, turns and looks directly at the real Ninetales, who is still invisible. Bellowing, he stomps his hooves on the ground, shaking the entire volcano.

'Fuck! Claydol has to be helping him! Move!'

Ninetales drops Feint Attack and Double Team in favor of leaping straight up into the air, and not a moment too soon, as the ground underneath her violently cracks, shooting up spires of craggy rock that would have impaled her otherwise.

Camerupt growls. In yet another flash, he's surrounded by stone knives that shriek as they race up towards Ninetales.

The gold fox coats herself in the rolling corona of Quick Attack, and twists out of the way of Stone Edge midair, this time avoiding any harm. Quick Attack flares, and she falls back down to earth like a shooting star, aimed squarely for Camerupt.

With gravity aiding her, Quick Attack is so fast that Camerupt has no time to dodge or brace himself, and Ninetales slams herself down onto the back of his neck, using her whole body as a battering ram.

Camerupt doesn't so much as stumble, not even as the ground buckles and cracks beneath his hooves from the force of the blow. No, instead he whips his head around and smashes his skull into Ninetales like a wrecking ball, throwing her to the ground in a breathless heap.

Lee bites back a groan when his entire right side lights up with bone deep pain. He already knows Ninetales must have fractured at least one rib from the blow. 'That son of a bitch!' He takes in a breath through his teeth, unsure if it was Ninetales or himself who cursed.

'This isn't going well…' Ninetales huffs and surges to her paws, throwing herself out of harm's way when Camerupt charges her again. Lee can feel the pain that flares in her sternum from the movement. 'Have you any ideas?'

'Other than 'try not to die?' A few.' Lee can't help but snark to try and relieve his nerves. 'Pull in closer, love.'

Ninetales doesn't fight at all as Lee reels her soul a bit closer to his.

Together, their minds grow close, close enough that words begin to fail, just like in the fight with Ty. Lee's eyes constantly scan their foe and the field, feeding information and instructions to Ninetales. Ninetales, in turn, provides him constant feedback on everything for him to evaluate. Her stamina, her injuries, her own observations, anything he might find useful. Together, the pair become a near-seamless machine.

A frightful dance begins between nimble fox and mighty camel. Ninetales moves like lightning, leaping and sprinting amid illusions of herself, her eyes aglow with psychic power the entire time. Camerupt is battered over and over by psychic blows that would have reduced another pokemon into pulp. Ninetales' fire, her greatest weapon, is reluctantly held in reserve. With Camerupt's Fire-typing drastically reducing the effectiveness of any fire, Ninetales' flames would have wasted precious energy.

Camerupt, meanwhile, remains far too fleet-of-foot for a creature that must weigh an entire ton at minimum. The red camel whirls on his hooves and moves as if the rules of inertia simply don't apply to him, for he can accelerate to a dead sprint and stop just as suddenly. Ninetales' Double Team doppelgängers are entirely ignored, and even when Ninetales vanishes from the realm of sight, he remains locked-on to her like a missile. While Ninetales has no techniques especially suited to fight him, Camerupt is not in the same boat. Shards of rock, cracked slabs of earth, and even entire boulders are used as projectiles that would surely inflict horrific damage should they connect with Ninetales. Camerupt, likewise, refrains from any Fire attacks. Whether it's because Maxie thinks Ninetales' special ability is Flash Fire, or if he knows of her pyrokinesis, Lee can only guess.

Only once do Lee and Ninetales make the mistake of trying to redirect the attacks with telekinesis, finding that each projectile simply has too much speed and force to seize in time. For the error, a near-miss from Camerupt's Rockslide attack scrapes a raw patch on Ninetales' shoulder.

It's clear who is at a disadvantage.

Maxie's Camerupt endures strike after strike. Extrasensory rips at his flesh to cause little more than ruffled fur and bruises, Hex crackles over his existing wounds, hardly even breaking the scabs, what few physical attacks can be landed safely rattle Ninetales' injured ribs more than Camerupt, and Confuse Ray slow the monster down none.

Meanwhile, Ninetales has to use all her force just to evade injury. Her Quick Attack is pushed to its limits, and even when she turns into a gold smear rocketing across the ground, Camerupt is already leading his next attack.

In the back of his mind, Lee has to wonder, is this the difference between an Elite pokemon and everyone else? Do they even have any hope of winning? Moore, nor Tyson, nor anyone else have ever inspired this terrible, creeping helplessness that grips Lee like a full body chill, and it's made all the worse by the stakes.

He can only pray that Corvi returns with the cavalry soon.

As his third and final pokemon, a Houndoom, finally gives in to his wounds and falls to the earth with a piteous whine, Tabitha can only shake in barely restrained fury. The large man stiffly holds Houndoom's pokeball out, wordlessly recalling the Fire-type in a burst of red light.

'We did it…' Brendan's grin can't be overstated.

Tabitha's Weezing, Crawdaunt, and Houndoom all put up exemplary fights, each one backed up by Tabitha's skill as a trainer and a wide variety of techniques, but Marshtomp and Breloom felled all of them with only a handful of injuries to show for it.

In the field, Marshtomp throws his head back and laughs, raising his arms. The Water-type seemingly doesn't notice the red burns on his left arm, or is just too elated to care. They won.

At Brendan's side, Breloom and Mawile stand silently. Mawile's focus is still on keeping the pokeballs in her jaws shut, as all three of Courtney's pokémon have been struggling to free themselves from the capsules the entire time. None of them, however, can exert enough force from within their balls to overcome Mawile's steel-trap jaws.

Breloom, meanwhile, keeps a silent but attentive vigil on the rest of the Magma goons. The Grass-type's mushroom-like head and his left leg each sport a messy slash courtesy of Crawdaunt, but both wounds have stopped bleeding.

All around, the Magma agents stare at Brendan and his pokemon with a range of emotions on all their faces. The most common is abject horror, often with some form of disbelief. Others refuse to meet his eyes at all, instead hiding away behind their fellows or pokemon, who are equally stunned.

The young Birch gets the feeling none of them are going to hinder him going forward.

"Everyone!" Brendan gets the attention of both his team, and the Magma members around him. "We're going. And no one is stopping us…" He looks around, and every set of human eyes he meets looks away.


His breath hitches.

Turning around, Brendan can't help but feel a lump form in his throat.

He's done his best to ignore Courtney throughout the fight, but now there are zero distractions, and the look of complete devastation, of disappointment on her face…

…It hurts.

The magenta-haired woman steps closer, only to abruptly halt when Breloom coolly slides into her path. The hand she raised to reach out to him falls, clenching into a fist. "Why, Brendan?" She whispers, and those two words drive a knife into his chest. "I trusted you… I thought we were friends…"

I thought we were friends.

Zinnia spoke those same words only twenty minutes ago, and the boy gathers his nerves, remembering everything he nearly put on the line. 'Really?' A voice in the back of his head whispers. 'Everything still is on the line! Zinnia and Lee need help! Stop dawdling and hurry! Maybe they'll learn to trust you again sometime this decade if you say sorry for worrying them and help beat Maxie!'

Brendan sets his brow, and stomps on the Butterfree in his stomach. "I… I can't betray my other friends like this." He stares up at Courtney, eyes as hard as he can make them. "Maybe… Maybe you shouldn't be with Magma, Courtney."

The woman recoils with wide eyes, as if physically struck.

"I want to believe that Magma has a good cause, that everything you told me is true, but…" Lee's words ring in his head again.

"They intend to awaken Groudon and try to leash it like a rabid dog."

Again, even just thinking about what Lee said has a cataclysmic sort of weight to it, and brings forth even more memories, back when Lee revealed a bit more about his mysterious past.

"Gone. Completely burned to the ground."

"As far as I know, I'm the only survivor."

"The superweapons used means going back is pointless."

Lee spoke of Groudon and the devastation that befell his home in nearly the same tone, the same I-can-do-nothing-about-it lifeless calm. A shiver runs down Brendan's spine.

What if whatever happened to Lee's home happened to Hoenn? Was it a Legendary pokemon who burned down the faraway land?

Brendan looks up at Courtney once more. "Should anybody have power like that? Are people even able to handle power like that? I don't know, and the more I think about it, the more fishy the plan to awaken Groudon becomes." He admits. "If I'm being truthful, Courtney, then I didn't want to join Magma for their goals, anyway…" He looks at the ground. "I wanted to join to be around you."

Courtney's face remains frozen in shock. She shakes her head. "Brendan, hold on-"

"Before we leave this volcano, I'll give your pokemon back, but I can't let you impede us right now," Brendan turns away, beginning a steady march back towards the lift that leads up to the mountain. Beside him, his pokemon fall into step.

A hand reaches out to him as he leaves, but Brendan steadfastly ignores it, no matter how much his stomach twists.

The Magma agents part around them, and looking over to Marshtomp, the amphibian pokémon grins back. Stepping closer, Marshtomp claps Brendan on the back with a broad hand, his eyes shining in pride.

Marshtomp, ever faithful and supportive, eases Brendan's wounded heart. 'Buddy, I lucked out so hard when we met. You really are the best.' He smiles back.

Paying no mind to the Magma grunts and the disarmed admins, Brendan and his pokemon break into a jog, heading towards the sounds of fighting.

In the span of only a minute, they turn the corner around a wall of rock, stopping and scanning the goings-on with wide eyes.

Ninetales is the last pokemon standing, and she's engaged in a furious fight with Maxie's Camerupt.

A fight that she's losing.

The fox moves at such obscene speeds, it's as if she's teleporting from location to location, a flicker of yellow being the only sign that she's physically moving. She's constantly circling Camerupt and firing off ranged attacks as quickly as possible. The bolts and bubbles of psychic and spiritual power scream through the air and rip up the ground. Most of the attacks land true, striking Camerupt.

…Only for the behemoth to barely notice. The mussed fur and bruises Camerupt sports are the only sign that he's even being hit, in contrast to Ninetales' weeping wounds and the way she favors her left side. The massive Fire-type slings a tireless fusillade of sharpened stones and speeding rocks at Ninetales, interspersed with stomps of Earth Power, which makes the ground itself rise up and try to strike the fox.

"No way…" Brendan mutters, his mouth hanging open. When he notices, he shuts his jaws with a 'click'. "Ninetales… Doesn't really have a good counter for a Fire and Ground-type, does she?"

Even if the question is rhetorical, Marshtomp still shakes his head, as absorbed into the fight as Brendan is.

Maxie and his Claydol are still as calm as can be. The man, who is turned away, has his hands folded behind his back. Claydol is as unnervingly still as ever.

Behind Ninetales, Lee's face is screwed up in concentration. Sweat rolls down his red face, and the veins in his temples and neck are bulging. He never takes his eyes off the fight, and that might be why Ninetales is holding up as well as she is.


Brendan falters.

Zinnia stands just a bit behind Lee. Seeing the Dragon Tamer look so vulnerable strikes him somewhere deep.

'I thought we were friends…' The words used by both Zinnia and Courtney echo within his head.

'Focus, man! Mope later!' Mentally, Brendan reviews all the options they have.

They can sit here and wait for some type of opening, but who knows when that will be.

They can jump in and join the fight right now.


'May be scummy to launch a surprise attack like this, but we've gotta win!' Brendan turns to Marshtomp. "Okay, bud. I really wanted to save our new move to surprise Lee with a win over Ninetales, but I think we need to bust it out now."

Both Mawile and Breloom look at him in alarm.

Marshtomp blinks, then he grins, an eager croak building in his throat.

"Camerupt has a double weakness to Water, and this one is made to hit hard and fast, so lets do it!" Brendan smirks. "Marshtomp, Water Cutter!"

Marshtomp exhales, then clamping his mouth shut he breathed in sharply through his nose. Brendan hears water churning within Marshtomp's stomach, which then travels up his throat, causing his chest and neck to bulge far beyond what should be natural. Clenching his fists, Marshtomp lets his mouth balloon with water, pushing his cheeks out. The water pressure within the amphibian Pokémon continues to build, and just when it seems like he's about to explode, Marshtomp puckers his lips and throws his head forward.

A thin stream of water, no thicker than Brendan's pinky, lances out of Marshtomp's mouth like a laser beam. The sheer pressure behind the attack throws Marshtomp's aim off course, and the aptly named Water Cutter slices through a distant outcropping of rock the size of a man. The volcanic rock gives way as if it were butter meeting a hot knife, crashing to the ground and shattering.

The clatter of the falling stone produces a half-second lull in the fight between Camerupt and Ninetales, and that's all the time that Marshtomp needs.

Forcing his head down, Brendan's ace drags the beam down onto Camerupt, drawing the water diagonally from Camerupt's rear flank all the way to his front leg.

Blood bursts from the sudden, savage wound, painting Camerupt's side an even deeper red, and for the first time in the fight, Camerupt stumbles, but does not cry out.

Marshtomp cuts off his attack and coughs up the remainder of the water in his mouth, clutching his chest as he does so. With a groan, he wipes his now-raw lips tenderly.

Maxie turns on a dime, glaring down at Brendan from behind his rectangular glasses. "Having second thoughts are we? Or perhaps you were a Rattata from the very beginning?"

"Brendan?" Lee asks, staring at him with uncertainty. Behind him, Zinnia appears just as shocked.

Brendan grunts. "Give up!" He exclaims, pointing an accusing finger at Maxie. "We beat both of your admins and destroyed your machine! Whatever it is you were doing up here, it's failed!"

Maxie's face darkens. "I see," he grounds out, sounding as if he's mauling each word like a Houndour might a Mareep. "Well then, with no extractor to charge the meteorite, then I suppose I haven't anything to wait around for."

Charging a meteorite? What would that have accomplished?

Maxie's hand rises to his glasses, rubbing a curious rainbow stone set into the frame. "What a pain you've all been, but no longer. Perhaps it was foolish of me to indulge myself with you." The stone set within Maxie's glasses begins to glow.

"Shit!" Lee's voice carries over the entire volcano. His wild eyes meet Ninetales' for a split second. "Brendan, Zinnia, run!" He screams.

Just as Brendan begins to ask what exactly he's running from, Maxie's Camerupt is engulfed in the same rainbow colored aura as Maxie's glasses. The camel grunts and shudders, twisting and convulsing on his hooves as the glow becomes brighter and brighter. Just before the light becomes blinding, Camerupt throws his head back and roars in agony. The sound rattles Brendan all the way down to his bones, making him feel sick.

The light seemingly hardens into a shell around Camerupt, who is still making a terrible, pained racket. The roar begins to lower in pitch, and changes from agony into incoherent rage.

A crack forms on the glowing shell. And then another. And then the entire structure spiderwebs.

In an explosion that rips at Brendan's clothes and hurts his ears, the shell is blasted to pieces, and once he lowers the arm shielding his face, Brendan has to blink his eyes to confirm he's seeing everything correctly.

Standing there, where Camerupt was, is not a pokemon he's ever seen before.

Occupying the place where Camerupt was, is another camel-like pokemon. The mystery pokemon has the same light red coat of a Camerupt, the same head and face, and the same four hooved legs, but when it comes to stature, this is a completely different beast. Gone are the pair of volcano-like humps on its back, instead replaced with a single, taller hump that is actively leaking lava. Molten rock bubbles out of the rocky protrusion, slowly oozing down and catching on a number of dark, stone-like outcroppings on either side of the camel pokemon's torso. The beast is also far larger than what it replaced, as it has to be at least ten or more feet tall and weighing several tons.

The pokemon throws its head back, roaring again with such volume that the entire volcano rumbles, as if answering in turn. The noise strikes somewhere deep and primal in the young Birch, and he shivers without knowing why.

Then the heat hits, and Brendan recoils.

The entirety of the air around them feels as if it's drying up, and the boy has to blink his eyes to keep them from drying out. The back of his throat itches, as if parched, and every breath is unpleasant and gag-inducing from the sudden, oppressive heat and the overwhelming smell of sulfur. All of it emanates from the Camerupt-thing, whose hump is still dripping lava like a leaky faucet.

"No…" Brendan can barely hear Zinnia's dismay, but it's as plain as can be on her face.

"What-" Brendan stops and gulps, but his mouth remains like cotton. "What did you do?"

Maxie's smirk returns. "There is no use explaining Mega Evolution to the dead."

'To the dead?' Brendan feels his stomach turn cold.

"The setbacks suffered here today have necessitated a more aggressive approach going forward, I believe." Maxie muses, as if he didn't just casually speak of murder. "As such, I'm confident in ending our time together today in a permanent manner. Camerupt?"

The beast turns and stares at Maxie, its eyes devoid of any semblance of sentience.

"All of them must go. Have fun."

A rolling growl builds in Camerupt's throat, starting slowly then rising into a roar that he throws his head back for. Once more, the volcano underneath them rumbles in turn.

'Was he faking everyone out the whole time?'

Any questions along the lines of what in the world is Brendan doing are firmly shelved for now in Lee's mind, because after watching an Arceus-honest Mega Evolution before his eyes, merely living to see tomorrow takes precedence.

Mega Evolution is Pokemon's answer to things like Bleach's Bankai, or perhaps more famously, Dragon Ball Z's Super Saiyan, that being a temporary transformation to drastically increase one's power. The increase wasn't much in the games, enough to turn the tide of an uneven fight, perhaps. In the anime, it was inconsistent, but undoubtedly made the user stronger.

After watching Camerupt Mega Evolve, it's easy to see why it's not something just any old trainer is running around using. Although he can't feel it, Ninetales can.


Ninetales, his brave fox and the other half of his soul…

Is openly quaking on her paws.

Her red eyes are wide, her tails are frazzled, and her body is racked by shakes. She looks like little more than a feral animal backed into a corner.

Merely looking at Camerupt batters Ninetales's psyche, and by extension Lee's, with a deep, instinctual terror by way of utter wrongness. Something like Camerupt should not exist, cannot exist.

If, in terms of TE, Ninetales is a firestorm in the shape of a fox, then the mega pokemon across the makeshift battlefield is the living embodiment of a volcanic eruption. The Fire and Ground energy Camerupt wantonly discharges into the air is so thick that one can practically taste it, coating the mouth with the taste of ash. Were Ninetales to attempt to match the energy Camerupt leaks seemingly without knowing, then she would be drained dry in the span of a minute. Hell, the entire volcano is reacting to it!

The natural Fire and Ground energy within Mount Chimney must be reacting to Camerupt, as the previously sleepy volcano is spewing smoke and embers up into the air. As the seconds pass, the mountaintop begins to grow darker and darker, illuminated with a fell, orange light as the sun, even empowered by Ninetales' Drought, struggles to pierce the soot.

'Love, it's okay! Focus on me, not him!' Lee clumsily tries to wrap his mind around Ninetales' own like a buffer, attempting to deaden the awful aura that pushes down on everyone with heavy, searing hands. 'We can do this! Just keep it together.'

Ninetales' shaking slows, though only just enough to be noticeable. She draws in a shaking breath. Wordless thoughts run through her head, the most prominent being her biting his shirt, slinging him over her back, and fleeing as fast as her paws could carry her.

'Love, what about Zinnia and Brendan?'

The vixen has no answer.

"All of them must go. Have fun."

Lee realizes he missed the exchange between Brendan and Maxie sans the final line, and returns his attention outward, just in time for Camerupt to rear his head back and roar, shaking Mount Chimney all the way down to its foundation.

Camerupt turns his baleful eyes to Marshtomp, who is frozen in place, barely able to even draw breath. Brendan's ace, usually so fearless and confident, stares at Camerupt like a child faced with the bogeyman.

Unlike before, Camerupt can't accelerate instantly. His first step towards Marshtomp is lumbering, with the next one only a little bit faster , but each step Camerupt takes shatters the ground beneath him. In a handful of strides, the behemoth is bearing down upon Marshtomp.

Marshtomp can't even raise his arms to brace himself, and when Camerupt reaches him, the camel throws his head up, catching Marshtomp in the stomach with a medley of sickening cracks. The Water-type is thrown into the air, his eyes bulging. Then like a discarded toy, he comes back down, smashing to the ground with a single bounce. The mud fish gasps and wheezes, spitting an entire mouthful of blood.

"Marshtomp!" Brendan screams, his young face etched in horror.

Camerupt turns bloodshot eyes to the boy, violence glittering within, only to be distracted when Brendan's Breloom rushes him, striking him across the muzzle with an ineffective punch.

Behind Brendan, Mawile throws away a trio of pokeballs she was holding in her rear jaws, which remain inert when they bounce along the ground. Then she uses her now free teeth to bite down on Brendan's backpack and yank him away from Maxie's berserk pokemon. Brendan stumbles, but keeps enough wits about him to raise Marshtomp's ball and recall his disabled ace back to safety.

Breloom's lax expression is gone as he distracts Camerupt, replaced with a deep grimace. The mushroom pokemon throws paralytic spores from his cap-like head, strikes Camerupt with lightning fast punches wherever he can, and circles as best he can, keeping away from Camerupt's head. It's all for naught, however. His spores burn up into blackened powder the instant he casts them, and Lee can see the Grass-type wilting and burning just being near the camel.

Camerupt grunts. All of the lava dripping down his body glows a blinding yellow, then explodes outward in a burning wave of molten stone. When the lava hits the ground, it instantly begins to melt the surrounding rock, and if it's even possible, the air dries out even further.

Breloom tries to twist around the lava, but it's simply too much, too fast. A melted glob strikes him in the stomach, hitting with the force of a burning battering ram. All of the breath is driven from Breloom's lungs, and his face screws up in agony as the edges of the wound instantly catch fire. The fire begins to spread, and it's all Breloom can do to push the lava off of him, charring his two-fingered hands and pulling off the ruined skin of the impact site in the process.

"No no no!" Brendan's hand shoots out, Breloom's ball in hand. The boy's eyes are prickling with tears, but they simply can't fall in the oppressive heat. "Return! Return!"

In a flash, Breloom is returned to the relative safety of his ball.

Camerupt roars and stomps his hooves in fury, his anger palpable at the loss of yet another target. He turns to the now-petrified Brendan once more, only to bellow when Mawile rushes him down, her second set of fangs bared. Her crocodile-like teeth sink into Camerupt's neck, and in the midst of sobbing in mindless fright, Mawile tries to wrench Camerupt's head from his shoulders with her bite to no effect.

Her crying is silenced instantly when Camerupt raises a hoof and carelessly stomps upon her.

With all of the pokemon in his way removed, the camel stares down Brendan, who falls to his rear and tries to scramble away, his eyes wide and alight with panic, with the realization of his own mortality.

"Brendan!" Zinnia shrilly screams, reaching an arm out

'Nine!' Lee mentally screams right along with Zinnia.

Fast as can be, a nameless bolt of fire shoots from Ninetales' mouth, curving through the air and squarely striking Camerupt in the eye in a puff of embers.

The camel whirls around in fury, Brendan apparently forgotten. The camel begins his slow lumber, accelerating to full speed like a locomotive.

Ninetales tenses, shaking so minutely that only Lee notices. Then with all the speed she can muster, she moves, caring none for conserving her stamina or bothering with any trickery. She rushes across the field with frantic energy, her entire body glowing with how hard she pushes her powers.

Where Extrasensory caused bruises previously, Camerupt doesn't so much as blink now.

Hex finds no wounds to ravage, for the gouge Marshtomp inflicted on Camerupt's side healed over upon Mega-Evolving.

If Confuse Ray does anything, then it's not apparent.

Meanwhile, Camerupt's attacks are even more potent than they were previously. His Stone Edge flies with such velocity, that even the shockwave caused by a near miss is enough to batter Ninetales down to her core.

But everything Ninetales throws, Maxie's monster simply takes without a flinch. The sheer difference between the pair of pokemon leaves Lee's head spinning. He thought Ninetales was already beginning to reach into the upper echelons of the world.

How wrong he was.

If there is any upside to the fight, it's that Camerupt's speed suffered for his radically increased power. Ninetales is free to dart in and out, moving out of the way before the camel can mount a proper retaliation. The beast's patience is visibly waning, and Lee can only hope it means that he'll screw up in a way they can exploit, somehow. In the melee, Brendan recalled his brutalized Mawile and snuck his way around the perimeter of the field, returning to Lee and Zinnia's side. Whatever misgivings Zinnia held for the boy before are forgotten for now, as she clutches the shellshocked Birch to her side, shielding him from the madness with her body.

"Camerupt," Maxie begins, voice carrying over the chaos with ease.

Lee feels his blood run cold.

Maxie smiles, his expression devoid of humanity as Claydol hovers closer, a translucent psychic shield forming around them. "Use Eruption."

Camerupt groans. Within his body, something audibly churns and bubbles, then with a pained cry, he halts and falls to his knees. The miniature volcano upon his back rumbles.

Then it explodes.

The top of Camerupt's volcano erupts like a fire hydrant with its top unscrewed, spewing a simply unbelievable amount of ash, lava, and rocks into the air, forming a hellish cloud high above. As if that were not bad enough, the burning cloud halts, then coalesces into countless ashy stones with sizzling, molten veins within them, each one the size of a man's head.

'There must be hundreds of them…' Lee looks up at the looming attack, whatever hope he was holding onto washed away in a tide of cold realization.

They lost. All of them are going to die here.

There isn't anywhere to run to. What could they do? Run away and be shot in the back? Try to use the cable car? Even if they could get that far, there is nothing stopping Maxie from cutting the cable, leaving them to tumble to their deaths.

Trying to solve all of this on their own was such a mistake. How could they underestimate literal terrorists to such a degree?

Lee turns to Zinnia and Brendan.

Zinnia's face is just as ashen as his, and Brendan's last dregs of bravery have drained away, leaving him looking so small and fragile.

Whatever force was holding onto Eruption lets go, and the stones begin to fall, screaming like falling bombs.

For the first time in weeks, that day replays in Lee's mind.

'History really does repeat itself.' He looks over to Ninetales, who is just as frozen as he is. 'Nine… I love you. I'm sorry.'

Ninetales raises her head and screams as the thought crosses Lee's mind. The shrill sound is ugly, wounded, and so startling to hear from her from her 'No! No! No!' The wild mantra repeats over and over, breaking Lee away from the cold thoughts of demise. Ninetales points her maw skyward, a ball of fire coalescing and compacting itself within. The fire goes from red, to orange, to blue, finally to a bright white. 'You don't get to die here! You're not allowed! They're not allowed to take you away!' Screaming once more, she throws her neck, a gout of fire shooting from her mouth and up into the sky to meet Eruption.

Ninetales' Flamethrower is thin and beam-like, slicing through the air like a hot wire, and each falling orb of lava that meets it explodes into smoke, practically vaporized. The Flamethrower greedily sucks down Ninetales' already flagging stamina, but she doesn't seem to notice at all, instead shooting down everything as fast as she can. The single-minded fervor leaves Lee awed and… just a bit frightened.

Try as she might though, Ninetales is but one pokemon facing down hundreds of falling projectiles. She destroys a hundred, then another hundred, cutting their numbers by nearly two-thirds, but by then, the remainders are just too close.

One slips by, and Lee, so overloaded, doesn't realize it's bearing down on him until the flaming meteor is only fifty feet away. He looks up, his eyes wide.

A gold blur slams into his chest, throwing him away, but he scrambles to his feet a second later. That could only be-!

The meteor strikes his savior, exploding into a cloud of sharp, superheated stones and choking ash, but the explosion does nothing to drown out the tortured cry that follows.

Lee's entire body lights up in horrid phantom pain. His vision flashes and his legs give out, forcing him to his knees. He chokes, swearing he feels blood welling within his throat. When his vision clears and the waterfall in his ears finally begins to quiet after what feels like hours, he forces his neck to turn and take in the limp, bloodied form just a few yards away.

His own scream is all that follows.

Consciousness returns to Corvisquire like a bolt of lightning to the head. With a jolt, he spreads his wings and flaps, freeing himself from his awkward position laying wedged between a rock and…

He blinks as he rises into the air and settles on a rocky outcropping on the side of Mt Chimney. "What in the world?" He asks himself, looking around. "What happened? What was I lodged between?"

The corvid looks down at the rock he was lying against. There is nothing beyond it, so he should've tumbled down the mountain. With a frown, he reaches a wing out and pauses when he feels his feathers bend against thin air, as if there is an invisible wall.

Frown deepening, he draws his head back and stabs at the invisible barrier with his beak, only to wince when the wall holds strong and jolts his neck. He shakes his head. The last thing he remembers was speeding away on Lee's orders, moving as fast as he could before he collided with something headfirst.

'Did I hit this wall so hard I knocked myself senseless?' He grits his beak in annoyance, only pushing it back as he remembers the mission given to him. 'Damn it! What sort of devilry is this? The work of a psychic?'

He hops along the unseen border, continually testing it with taps of his beak, only to find no exits or weak points. With a sneer he holds out a wing, and in the shadow of his dark plumage, a single Pursuer takes form. Whipping his wing forward, he sends the little orb straight into the invisible wall.

The ball of caustic darkness splashes across the invisible barrier, doing… Absolutely nothing.

'That's…' He stops himself from saying 'impossible'. Nothing is truly impossible, not with enough strength. 'Improbable. What sort of psychic has enough might to do such a thing? None that I've ever met. Even Queen Furball's telekinetic hold falters in the face of Dark.'

It's just then that Corvisquire notices just how dark it is outside. Looking up, he blinks, mystified at the dark clouds covering the landscape. "That's… From the volcano? No, surely it hasn't become active…"

Then, over the rocky cliffs and walls, a scream pierces the silence, and it's a sound that cuts Corvisquire down to his core.

That was Lee's voice, and the anguish within was unmistakable.

Without a single further thought, Corvisquire spreads his wings and shoots up into the air, flying up over the mountain and homing back in on the place where he left his comrades behind. He's forced to fly low and breath shallow, as the dust in the air prickles at both his eyes and his throat.

Flying back over the cable car building, he stops, hovering.

Below him is absolute hell.

The terrain is torn asunder, the natural walls forming the way to the mouth of the volcano reduced to rubble. Blots of cooling lava dot the landscape, with one red hot glob setting fire to the roof of the visitor center. None of that is what has Corvisquire's attention, however.

No, it's his comrades below.

The Dragon Woman's bravado is dead and gone, replaced with an unnatural paleness as she shields the Birch boy behind her. The boy himself, usually so unflappable, clutches the woman like a lifeline. Neither of them have any of their pokemon called forth.

Looking a talonful of yards to their side, Corvisquire feels as if he was dunked into ice water.

Lee is kneeled upon the ground, his face contorted in shock. The man's expression stirs a terrible familiarity within Corvisquire, for he's certain that his own expression was the same when… When the Young Master fell for the final time.

Corvisquire gulps, following Lee's outreached hands, hands reaching for a form lying prone upon the ground.

A form of gold fur dyed red.

Ninetales lays upon the rock floor, broken. Blood leaks from her mouth, her nose, her ears, and from countless wounds scouring her body, some with razor shards of stone still digging into her flesh. A leg and more than one tail are twisted in the wrong direction. She struggles to draw breath, and Corvisquire's eyes lock on to the reason.

A stone shard, larger than the others, lays lodged deep within her chest. The edges of the wound are burned, cauterized shut, but there's no telling what sort of internal suffering she's endured. Without treatment, she'll…

Corvisquire tears his eyes away from the sight. Ninetales, one of the mightiest pokemon he's ever met… He can't even bring himself to say that she has been brought low. The terrible cold grows utterly frigid within his breast.

Did this… Did this happen because he failed the assignment given to him by Lee?

A hoofstep echos off of what remains of the walls, drawing the corvid's eyes.


A monster stands across from Lee and Ninetales, one coated in red fur and carrying upon its back an entire volcano. Every step it takes shakes the ground with such force that even the air vibrates. Try as he might, a shiver runs down the raven's spine, his nerve fleeing him and leaving him a small Rookiedee once more. Then Corvisquire notices just whom the abomination is lumbering towards.

It walks towards Corvisquire's fallen comrade and trainer, and in its eyes is murder. The monster opens its maw, and light begins to build within its throat.

Lee looks up at the Camerupt, his arms falling to his sides. The shock fades, replaced with weary resignation. He falls forward, hugging Ninetales to his body for comf-

No. Not to comfort himself. The man shields the fox with his own body, no matter how ineffective it will be.

The feeling of ice leaves Corvisquire's body, replaced with something much more intense and countless times more familiar.




Hate at Wally and Kirlia for opening his eyes and making him vulnerable.

Hate at Lee for taking a coward like him back.

Hate at Magma for causing this mess in the first place.

Hate at Camerupt and Maxie for daring to harm the man who forgave him, for daring to harm the pokemon who understands.

Hate at himself for being too damn weak to stop any of-

'No! No more!' Corvisquire grits his beak, pushing away the tears that threaten to fall. 'I will not lose another trainer! I will not suffer that pain again! I'm not weak! No one I love will die! Nevermore!'

He dives.


The heat of his fury rages through his core into his limbs. Euphoric strength and the certainty of steel overtakes him along with a cloak of grand, white light, That furious, raging heat begins to reforge all it touches.

His wings grow, each feather hardening and lengthening into midnight-hued blades.

Molten steel drips from his pores, turning feathers into peerless armor.

His beak and talons coat themselves in glimmering, razor-edged metal, forming keen weapons.

His body, so small and weak, practically explodes with wire-like muscle and bones as unyielding as bars of the finest steel. His form doubles, then triples in size.

Within his head, now clad in a helm of obsidian metal, comes the greatest change.

Gone is the raging, uncontrollable wrath that would warm him beneath his feathers. The undirected frenzy is quenched in cold focus, hardening into a weapon far sharper than any blade, and more unbreakable than any set of armor. With it comes beautiful clarity, and assured purpose.

Red eyes snap open under the shadows of a corvid-shaped helm.

"Corvisquire, foolish and hotheaded, is no more," the raven, now sized to dwarf a man, rumbles. "From his twisted remains, I am born."

Corviknight, newly evolved, pulls his wings even closer to his sides, his armor whistling sharply through the air as he dives like a missile.

"Let us see how you fare with a fresh opponent, cur," he narrows his eyes, targeting the Camerupt below and cruelly seeking out where his foe might be most vulnerable.

None of his will die.


Below are the names of some patrons who got to view this chapter early and felt like signing it. A huge thanks to them and everyone else who supports this story and everything else I write.

Tyric Gaias, Spice_King, puppy0cam, Drew6, Rikky-RollDatDough, Emilowish, TheGreatPapyroo, Rémi Planetace, Latscry, King Eevee, Chris N, Dead Bloodchief, Ash The Kitsune, Emeraldleafeon, Kdonmination, Cacophonix The Bard, OmegaEntertainment, Green0Photon, DJ Firefox, KaurisAzurai, WiseKitsune, Superbuchi, Peter D., Arcaryx, Zellcos, NobleDragonDuck, xydra22, Tzeneth, Nithalys, Regal Eagle, Javidom, Dropkick_Actual, Maestro, Sulphurcat, Berusella, Ranger, ShaRose, DNGDutchie, Grey, Soup, CMDR Dantae, artisticVulpes, Nikolaj, Derpydude9001, Hazel Kings, Majora, Thelon, TheTankiestTrain, Dicloniuslord, Ray, MidnightJayguar,Fabhar SleepyKamo, Zany Old Coot, Appl, Dusks_Lantern, Dankmuffen, Moonlit Chaser, LarsHuluk, demonmonkey89, Casual, GreenPhoenix, Autocharth, creativityfails, Cynicals, ncskeeter56 Strongraider101, Cat, Kammight, Vinohr, JustALurker, MrPerson0, AMeek, Russell Todd, Alex Faulkner, Moxie, Siver110, Moonnikill, Aegi!, BrokenOlive, speedyzman13, Himmel, Colby, Drakage, Kastor, Murtaugh
Last edited:
'He may not be…' Ninetales sends a glance towards Maxie's Claydol, and Lee can feel her stomach churn. When Lee connects the dots himself, he takes a deep breath to prevent himself from being sick.

"Shit…" Zinnia whispers, her voice wavering in a rare moment of fright. Lee follows her wide, red eyes and tries not to curse himself
God it gets even worse he is pulling Ore level shit and mind raping pokemon like the shadow pokemon of team Snagem.
"Marshtomp…" Brendan takes a deep breath. "Water Gun. Destroy the TE machine."
Bout god damn time you twit.

"All of them must go. Have fun."
Jesus Guy deserves a magma enema.
Oh this was bad ass lets hope he can turn the tides.
God it gets even worse he is pulling Ore level shit and mind raping pokemon like the shadow pokemon of team Snagem.
Jesus Guy deserves a magma enema.
Fucking Archie, where are you when you would be useful for once? Maxie seems way too powerful here, if he's this strong imagine how much stronger Groudon is.

Yeah, Evil Teams tend to be no joke.

There's a reason that they're only really defeated when the guys get like 7/8 Badges and are ready to go toe-to-toe with Champions and sweep Elite 4's.

When your plan has a non-zero chance of needing you to throw hands with God, your teams tends to be pretty damn swole.

On the other hand, there's a good chance that Camerupt is outright his Ace, with Claydol being powerful but specialised, since Camerupt is his Mega Evolution. So while strong as fuck, Camerupt is literally his most powerful pokemon and the one he's relying on to keep him from not getting vaporised by an angry God after he wakes it up from it's nap.
... I have to be honest, this felt like a bit much. One of Maxie's psychics being so powerful they can seal off the entire mountain? With so much power that a Dark-type attack from Corvisquire couldn't make the barrier so much as flicker? Megas are so horrifyingly strong and unnatural that other pokemon go mad from terror just seeing them?

It's the kind of vertical leap that removes all stakes for me, because either the story ends next chapter after Corviknight gets ripped in half by any of Maxie's pokemon or a miraculous coincidence results in them being able to crawl away half-dead with long-term injuries while Maxie's team suffers no real issues.

Maybe Corvi manages to miraculously punch through the barrier protecting Maxie and murder him, which breaks the mega evolution and Camerupt is revealed to still be badly wounded under it? It'd be a bit questionable, with how thoroughly that barrier stopped him cold before. But then, even if he manages that there's a berserk Claydol to worry about.

Also it really reads like Mawile is just fucking dead.
... I have to be honest, this felt like a bit much. One of Maxie's psychics being so powerful they can seal off the entire mountain? With so much power that a Dark-type attack from Corvisquire couldn't make the barrier so much as flicker? Megas are so horrifyingly strong and unnatural that other pokemon go mad from terror just seeing them?

It's the kind of vertical leap that removes all stakes for me, because either the story ends next chapter after Corviknight gets ripped in half by any of Maxie's pokemon or a miraculous coincidence results in them being able to crawl away half-dead with long-term injuries while Maxie's team suffers no real issues.

Maybe Corvi manages to miraculously punch through the barrier protecting Maxie and murder him, which breaks the mega evolution and Camerupt is revealed to still be badly wounded under it? It'd be a bit questionable, with how thoroughly that barrier stopped him cold before. But then, even if he manages that there's a berserk Claydol to worry about.

Also it really reads like Mawile is just fucking dead.
I don't know if this falls under 'miraculous coincidence', but with the Claydol hanging out out-of-ball, the Camerupt seeming to be at least semi-lobotomized, and the viscerality of the mons screaming 'UNNATURAL!', and the fact that if my memory serves, mega evolution being a very bond-heavy phenomenon, I was reading through with the impression that the Camerupt is a puppet being controlled via the Claydol.

So hitting the Claydol with enough Pursuers to even distract it, if I'm right, ought to have the Mega link destabilize enough for the crew to evac, if nothing else.
As for Pursuers not doing anything to the wall holding him in, I'm inclined to think that that's a cue that the wall isn't a Move. Because if it were a Psychic wall, there's no real way that it doesn't get disrupted without the mon's full attention.
But if it has a cheatyface tech bit that it's controlling to make it look like it's not spending all its attention on controling the lobotomized camel, that would make some sense to me.
... I have to be honest, this felt like a bit much. One of Maxie's psychics being so powerful they can seal off the entire mountain? With so much power that a Dark-type attack from Corvisquire couldn't make the barrier so much as flicker? Megas are so horrifyingly strong and unnatural that other pokemon go mad from terror just seeing them?

It's the kind of vertical leap that removes all stakes for me, because either the story ends next chapter after Corviknight gets ripped in half by any of Maxie's pokemon or a miraculous coincidence results in them being able to crawl away half-dead with long-term injuries while Maxie's team suffers no real issues.

Maybe Corvi manages to miraculously punch through the barrier protecting Maxie and murder him, which breaks the mega evolution and Camerupt is revealed to still be badly wounded under it? It'd be a bit questionable, with how thoroughly that barrier stopped him cold before. But then, even if he manages that there's a berserk Claydol to worry about.

Also it really reads like Mawile is just fucking dead.
To be honest I'm expecting Lance to show up in the fight. Because in the anime Lance was disguised as a Magma grunt.
Was thinking that with all that fighting. If Groudon was under that mountain. It would wake up and start a rampage.

As for the hax power of the Claydol Pokemon I was expecting Maxie to have done some research to it. So they can somehow control Groudon.
Was thinking that with all that fighting. If Groudon was under that mountain. It would wake up and start a rampage.
That would be bad, right under a volcano that would probably wipe out atleast two of the biggest cities in Hoenn and Fallarbor. I'm inclined to believe that Groudon and Kyogre are in their places in R/S, Cave of Origin and Seafloor Cavern.

Still, imagine if that Claydol could somehow lobotomize Groudon like they did that poor Camerupt? Really would need that protagonist power to help convince Rayquaza to help.
To be honest I'm expecting Lance to show up in the fight. Because in the anime Lance was disguised as a Magma grunt.

...I mean... if so, is he waiting for Lee, Zinnia, Brendan, and company to get some organs melted and limbs burned off first before he makes a dramatic entry, or is their current state of horrible injury suitable for a Big Damn Hero (read:What the Hell Hero) moment? Please understand, I'm not trying to disparage you or your theory; it definitely looks like someone or thing will have to come save the day somehow. I'm just not sure how satisfying that'll be story-wise, as we read about our heroes limping away bleeding.

Still, imagine if that Claydol could somehow lobotomize Groudon like they did that poor Camerupt?

That should probably be a hard no. Judging by the descriptors in the story, Legendaries are closer to gods or forces of nature than Pokemon, and while Claydol certainly appears to be ridiculously capable at what it does, being able to brainwash even Legendaries makes it too much of a ham-fisted plot device. I've always felt that mind control is a too overused, too convenient, and too abused Deus ex Machina ability for villains to have, and I feel it instantly degrades a story beyond repair if used too much or too often. Being able to brainwash a Pokemon into a painful and abnormal Mega Evolution, mind wipe people, and seal off an entire volcano with a Psychic barrier seemingly impervious to Dark attacks feels powerful and ludicrous enough. There's probably some sort of other shenanigans going on with Claydol to make it so powerful, but it already seems a bit much. Maybe it's a way to build it up as super powerful, then display the power of Legendaries with an instant loss against Groudon when it tries to do that?

It's the kind of vertical leap that removes all stakes for me, because either the story ends next chapter after Corviknight gets ripped in half by any of Maxie's pokemon or a miraculous coincidence results in them being able to crawl away half-dead with long-term injuries while Maxie's team suffers no real issues.

Can't really disagree. Look, I'll keep the faith and read what comes next; I've enjoyed the story so far, I'm happy to see Brendan shake out of the entrapment he was put in, it's nice to see Corvi evolve, I can't say there isn't dramatic tension, and the author clearly has a plan. I'm just not certain how much I'll enjoy reading another cycle of therapy and healing from grievous wounds and trauma, which seems to be the story trend; terrible stuff happens, get badly hurt, get a little stronger, terrible stuff happens again, etc. Honestly, this escapade seems to have been poorly thought out from the jump; I get the dire nature of what was going on, but I'm not sure why Lee didn't act as cautious as he usually does. He called his lawyer on what to say for the citizens' arrest, but no one else about the team of terrorists willing to kill children in order to kickstart the apocalypse via Groudon? Honestly, I expect the move after this to be "recover, then get the hell out of Hoenn while someone more qualified dismantles the extremely violent terrorist team".
That would be bad, right under a volcano that would probably wipe out atleast two of the biggest cities in Hoenn and Fallarbor. I'm inclined to believe that Groudon and Kyogre are in their places in R/S, Cave of Origin and Seafloor Cavern.

Still, imagine if that Claydol could somehow lobotomize Groudon like they did that poor Camerupt? Really would need that protagonist power to help convince Rayquaza to help.

Maxie is a mad man that is sure of himself and what we have seen does use psychic Pokémon to control his men. I would not put it pass him to believe his own hype that much.

I do not believe his Claydol is powerful enough to pull it off. At best he can piss of the Legendary Pokémon. Then again it's a different matter if the red dino is found when it's still asleep.
...I mean... if so, is he waiting for Lee, Zinnia, Brendan, and company to get some organs melted and limbs burned off first before he makes a dramatic entry, or is their current state of horrible injury suitable for a Big Damn Hero (read:What the Hell Hero) moment? Please understand, I'm not trying to disparage you or your theory; it definitely looks like someone or thing will have to come save the day somehow. I'm just not sure how satisfying that'll be story-wise, as we read about our heroes limping away bleeding.

Another possibility he's with Aqua in this cannon, somewhere else in the in the volcano (such as assigned to guard another spot on wrong side of the mountain barrier before it was raised).

Archie is easy as he should rival Maxie in terms of strengths, will provide and unintentional distraction. Not mention they believe he is on his way there anyway. But that would only mean trade Maxie for Archie as a problem. And even if Lee and crew escape and if Maxie escape with his power and base still intact, he will later be hunting down Lee and crew if only clean up loose ends and/or find the source of Lee's info.

Moore with how old his team and with Ty no longer being able to battle (unless he were push himself to death) would probably only handle himself as well as Lee. And that's if only Ty is able to battle.

I find Steven Stone and Wallace while both are champion tier trainers, I don't feel like they would be here. Wallace is very much unlikely to be there because he has a Gym to run and water show performance that is not but is a one man contest run in Sootopolis City. And Steven Stone being in the area feels too much of a Deus Machina. Now if he didn't punish Moore over Poke-Skype, I could buy that that he remained in the area to discipline Moore for endangering the spectators.

The only other outside help likely come is either Moore, Archie and Lance (If Ash was convinced have some of his old Pokemon to return to him). But "Covrisquire" never got word out. While in canon anime Ash (and TR, and shortly later Aqua) was in the area in the time frame, I don't think his current team could handle the events. Maybe if Ash had Charizard visiting to help out and/or given time to have Oak send some old Pokemon.
The only reason I say send him some of his old Pokémon is because the likes of Bulbasuar and Squirtle despite being stage 1s can keep up with Charizard if only lags slightly behind. And Charizard could handle or hold his own against Legendary Pokémon. Such as Unown Entei and later against Noland's Articuno, although with the former he lost.

So in short I can only see Ash helping out w/o plot armor and no Charizard, is that he brought over (in no order)

Squirtle (If Officer Jenny sent him over for the Gym battle.
Snorlax (Oak sent him over for gym battle, and he was strong enough to hold his own in the Battle Frontier)
Kingler (Either sent over as gym help or to help train Cirphish)
Totodile (If oak sent him over for the gym battle or train Corphish and if he had or quickly evolves and becomes more serious)

Unlikely to help out
Heracross and Bayleef unless they fight claydol and disrupt the control on camerupt who becomes disobedient/hates Maxie. I don't see how they would be useful or why they would be brought over to fight against a fire gym.

Thus I feel like Lance and Archie are the only ones who have a reason to be there and have the power to "help" (even if the latter it will not be his goal).

Another reason I want Lance to be there is for him to take on both Archie and Maxie (which could happen if Archie and Maxie has reason to believe Lance wants to stop both Kyogore and Groundon from rising), no matter how unlikely it would be.

And please note this is not taking into account of Groundon waking up and causing a rampage.
NOTICE: On Update Delays and How To Be Informed of Them
Not a chapter, but a quick notice. More than a few people were disgruntled with how long the last update took, and for good reason. I said it would take a few days at most when Act 2: Ch 16 dropped, and I intended it to be that way, but life got in the way. I won't get too deep into the details, but April was non-stop bad luck. From a broken tooth, to tax woes, to plain writer's block, it seems like it never ended. All of that caused a pretty terrible delay, and I wasn't the best at communicating it. I absolutely, positively hate making non-chapters like this, because I don't want people to see the notification, get their hopes up, then be let down when there is nothing new for them. To help combat both the problem of non-chapters and my admittedly bad communication, I wanted to give you all a few ways to keep an eye on everything.

First and most accessible is https://twitter.com/Bee_Fuggmann
I hold some distaste for twitter since it's de_dust2 for internet slapfights, but I know a lot of people have accounts just for lurking and whatnot. In light of that, I fired up an old account. It will mostly be official updates and the occasional miscellaneous post if it's gone unused for a while.

Next would be the community discord: Join the Hive of Degeneracy Discord Server!
There is a channel there just for writing updates. If you use discord at all, feel free to join in, as there is a talented community here, a Minecraft server, shitposters aplenty, and other time wasters. Or you can mute everything but the update channel if you just want to lurk. Your pick.

Finally, and probably most unreliably, is my Patreon: Fuggmann | Creating Transformative fiction and other things | Patreon
Patreon defaults to making every post patron-only, and I sometimes (often) forget to make general update posts visible to everyone. I'll do my best to remember, though.

Thankee much everyone for being patient.

Here is a tiny bit of Act 2: Ch 18 as thanks for taking the time to read this.

Act 2: Chapter 18

With the supernatural cool of chilled steel and the leashed, frantic energy of danger seeping into his mind, Corviknight analyzes his foe as he screams down through the air. Thoughts of a tactical sort supersede all else, and objectives take form.

Lee and Ninetales must be defended at all costs and evacuated as soon as possible

Brendan and Zinnia must be defended and evacuated.

Barriers and obstructions preventing evacuation must be removed.

Bystander casualties must be avoided where possible.

All foes must be disabled where possible.

From most important to least important, it all comes to him with lightning speed and assured confidence. A small part of him, a bit left over from his prior evolution, seethes at the notion of leaving such impudent opponents intact, but it's silenced swiftly. The most important aspects must take precedence, and that means none of his can die.


A mere second before impact, the mockery of a Camerupt seems to realize something is amiss and raises its head. Its eyes, small and bloodshot, don't seem to register the approaching danger.

A second later, Corviknight drives his beak into its neck with hellish speed and ferocity.

Users who are viewing this thread