Author's notes: I imagine that many of you, having clicked on this fanfic, are expecting a story – something filled with interludes and trainer interactions and all sorts of things going on around the background of the tournament which gives this fanfic its name. I am sorry to disappoint you. This fanfic is either an exploration of how much of a tale one can tell exclusively through pokemon battles or a thin excuse to string together a series of elaborately described battles with little concern for such things as plot or character development: it is more a sporting event than a story. If you've read one of my other battle fics, A Legend in Seclusion or Pokemon Battle, it will be something like that.
Also, I will be freely mixing in attacks from the TCG and personalities from Pokemon Special, although the video games are probably the strongest influence on this fic. Don't expect it to adhere too closely to a single continuity.
That said, unusual though it may be, I hope you enjoy this fic!
They had come from Kanto and Johto, Sinnoh and Hoenn, and three all the way from Unova. Sixteen trainers had entered, each region allotted three, yet only Kanto needed much in the way of extra preliminaries, for defeating all eight regional gym leaders in the space of a year was no easy feat when rematches were forbidden. Indeed, only two trainers from Hoenn had pulled it off, and both of them had legends on their side; the third slot fell by default to the strongest of the Gym Leaders, who was undefeated against all challengers this season.
Some distrusted each other. Cynthia and Cyrus would keep an ineligible pokemon out at night for fear of assassination, while Archie and Maxie made sure to bring a few of their minions as guards. Others couldn't be pried away from another. Red, Blue, and Green were thrilled that all of them had qualified, although they wished Kanto had a fourth slot: Red wasn't thrilled to have to eliminate Yellow in battle. And Silver and Crystal were similarly elated. A few more were acquaintances, coworkers, or simply rivals. Most, however, didn't know each other. The pokemon world, after all, was a big place, and this was the inaugural world championship, so it wasn't as though they had prior experience to draw on.
In later years, if the tournament was a success, and given the prestige of the trainers involved, the marketing budget, and the worldwide television audience, this blockbuster beyond blockbusters could not help but be a success, the sixteenth slot would go to the defending champion. This year, of course, there was no defending champion. Instead, Sinnoh had a fourth spot, in a manner of speaking, for the Azure Flute had been played and its call had been answered!
Then again, Arceus was far from being the only legend at the tournament. Great trainers have a habit of capturing great pokemon. Kyogre, Groudon, Zekrom, and Heatran had already shown themselves in the preliminaries, and who knew what other pokemon lurked inside the many poke balls sitting on their belts, waiting to be summoned when the moment was right?
The rules were familiar and yet strange. Trainers were allowed six pokemon total for the tournament, but could only use three pokemon in an individual battle, same as always, at least in the first two rounds. But rather than fighting on the plain battlefields they were used to, they would face a rotation of twelve arenas, and only one lucky pair would be fighting on anything familiar. The semifinals would be double battles, and the allowed pokemon would be therefore increased to four, and the tourney would finish with a 6-on-6 triple battle in which pokemon would not be restricted to four attacks.
To drag the tournament out and maximize television ratings, the battles would be two a day in the first round, then one a day thereafter. Theoretically, it could all be done in one day, but that wouldn't put it in primetime. The tournament was single-elimination, although group play might have dragged it out even more, but given that, despite Explosion, Perish Song, and a few other techniques, there were few ties in pokemon, it struck the organizers as redundant. In the event of a tie, trainers would instead fight a sudden-death, one-on-one overtime using pokemon who had not yet participated in the match. Were the triple battle to be tied, however, each trainer would instead choose one pokemon to be healed. Losing one and being eliminated was just more exciting, at least for the fans.
There were no brackets to fill out, no seeding, to the disappointment of many a fan. The matches would be random, and there was nothing to stop trainers who shared a region from meeting in the first round. Trainers would not even know who their opponents would be until the day of the match; officially because a true master had little need to prepare, in reality because the organizers - the regional elite fours, minus Unova's Caitlin and Alder, Sinnoh's Cynthia, and Johto's Karen - thought suspense would make it more exciting. Besides, they didn't want anyone getting overly confident.
And thus sixteen trainers came to stand before an enormous electronic scoreboard, wondering if their number would be called. Archie and Maxie of Hoenn glared daggers at one another, while Winona stood aloof from them, hoping they'd take each other out before she had to. Cynthia and Cyrus of Sinnoh did not speak, each of them focused on the silver haired, androgynous figure who had appeared when the Azure Flute was played – was their appearance even possible? But there was no getting around that this was in all likelihood Arceus in human form – yet what pokemon did the origin of all things choose? And worse, how could they beat such a powerful trainer? Palmer, on the other hand, was boasting about his invincibility, until Caitlin of Unova shot him a line about how he banned Arceus from his tower, although she herself likewise banned Arceus from her castle. Adler and N (he maintained his initial; Natural was just an awful name for him to go by) joked about their past, Silver and Crys chatted with Red, Blue, and Green like long-lost friends, while Karen gulped nervously as she looked over her poke ball – could her favorites really win against this kind of competition?
And then their faces came up on the board. Some would later suspect it had been rigged for an exciting opening match, although with trainers like these, exciting matchups were inevitable. The two of them had hoped to meet in the finals, but the first round was better than nothing. It wouldn't be their first match, but Archie and Maxie were more than ready to have another go at one another – the only question was whether the stadium and fans could survive such a fight!
They would have thirty minutes to rest, relax, and prepare, mostly so the announcers could hold a pregame show; trainers at this level didn't need much preparation. The other fourteen trainers made their way into the stands, which were protected from the fierce pokemon by an advanced psychic shield maintained by Sabrina of Saffron City and Tate and Liza of Mossdeep, along with their pokemon: another reason the matches were spaced out so much, for psychics were not replaced as easily as trainers. The organizers and fans alike nervously hoped it would hold, for Archie and Maxie were more than prepared to precipitate a tragedy for the title of strongest – even if they were even capable of stopping Kyogre and Groudon from doing likewise.
When Archie and Maxie finally made their way into the arena, the field had turned into a desert, sand whirling into both their eyes as they stepped into their respective trainer's boxes: raised steel platforms with stairs in the back, surrounded on three sides by a thin rail which bore a slight resemblance to the ones found in Viridian City Gym. They weren't common in pokemon battles, but in a match this tournament this big they needed something special.
Once they had climbed in, the two rivals caught sight of a Jirachi floating in the center of the arena in the midst of the sandstorm. "You guys should have something to fight for – something more than being the very best, like no one ever was," the Jirachi spoke in a high-pitched voice from its tiny mouth. "Whoever wins, I will grant them one wish," it declared, then vanished into the sand.
"Are you crazy?" Winona shouted angrily from her seat in the stands. "There are three trainers in this tournament who'd destroy the world as we know it if they win!"
Lance, from his organizer's seat in the front row, a column or so away, sank his head in a mix of fear and regret. "I had no idea this would happen. Jirachi... it was not the League Committee, but Jirachi who declared this. I'm sorry."
"Don't be stupid! Call off the tournament!"
"I..." Lance paused, "I can't. There's no telling what Jirachi would do then..."
While Lance, Winona, and people around the world shook in terror, Archie and Maxie stared at each other and smiled in the biggest grins of their lives. Despite their earlier defeats, their dreams were not yet over.
"Kyogre, go!" There was no questioning that Archie would lead that way – yes, it was predictable, but there was no shame in being predictable if the opponent had no way to stop it. And judging by how their last battle was going before Rayquaza intervened, Archie was convinced Maxie had no way to stop it.
"Crobat, come out!" Maxie responded with a mix of fear and hope – could this strategy really work?
Sand turned to sediment as the sandstorm suddenly ceased and a fierce downpour enveloped the arena, drenching the fans in the upper deck as the great leviathan emerged. Amidst the storm, a large, purple bat flapped its quickly waterlogged wings furiously, hovering in place.
"Crobat, Confuse Ray."
"Kyogre, Water Spout!" Maxie and Archie shouted simultaneously from opposite sides of the arena.
One of the few things more dangerous than a Kyogre in battle is Kyogre horribly confused as to where it is and who it is fighting. The Crobat struck first, its eyes turning red as it shot a strange ray at the enormous blue beast, the water level rising enough that it was now floating in a shallow pond where the desert had stood.
Kyogre swam around the arena in an awkward, erratic fashion, then attempted to ram the base of the stadium's stands while firing a narrow burst of water from its blowhole. It was aimed not at the enemy Crobat, but into the crowd; most was reflected back into the arena by the stadium's shields, but fans sitting on the upper deck were left soaked if not wounded. Kyogre, likewise, could only bounce off and roar in pain, although many fans swore they felt shaking and a few filed out the exits for fear of their safety.
From a strategic perspective, there was little reason to recall Kyogre at this stage. It was not badly damaged, and even a confused pokemon hit the target more often than not, although hitting one this relatively small and flying might be a little more difficult.
Regardless, Archie held up his poke ball, recalling his enormous pokemon, while his opponent did the same, enveloping his Crobat in a beam of red light.
Neither announcer understood. One would attribute his decision to the strange blue orb Archie possessed which tied him to Kyogre, suggesting he was as confused as his pokemon. The other would claim he was simply scared that the psychic shield would not protect him, because the trainer's box was not part of the stands. The stands were likewise full of scratched heads and baseless speculation – was it a ploy to save it for later in the match, was Kyogre only in there to set up rain?
If so, it didn't work, for the pokemon which emerged from Maxie's timer ball made the clouds part and give way to a piercing sunlight. A pond evaporated into a cloud of steam as the great red behemoth emerged from its poke ball, towering above the wet sand as a Sharpedo emerged on the other side, half-buried in the sand like a Garchomp.
"Groudon, Solarbeam!" Maxie shouted, pumping a fist into the air like his pokemon had already won.
"Sharpedo..." Archie began, hesitating. This was not the matchup he wanted; he hadn't expected Maxie to switch. As the light fell from the sky, he gave an order – the only one he could, with the time he had left. "Taunt!"
The Sharpedo made a series of aggressive gestures with its fins, communicating in a language of elaborate hand signals which only pokemon and experienced trainers seemed to understand, but the popped vein on Groudon's face left no doubt that it had got the message and was determined to beat down its opponent, tactics or no tactics. As the dark-type was engulfed in sunlight, it suddenly lost its bluster and cried out "Shaaaaaaar" in agony, then started to sink deeper into the sand, clearly unable to maintain its motion. When the red light of the poke ball shone upon it, only its fin could still be seen.
It wouldn't be the first showdown between these two pokemon, and it wasn't at the most climactic moment, but the fans roared with excitement all the same. Kyogre and Groudon were crashing once more. The steam cloud rising above the arena grew heavy with water at Kyogre's appearance, and turned into a rain cloud dumping water back into the arena.
"As strong as Groudon is, you can't possibly expect to beat Kyogre in the rain. Water spout!"
"Groudon, you know what to do." Maxie answered with a smile.
Kyogre dipped its head as the water level quickly rose – it was already up to the entirety of Groudon's enormous foot – then fired a jet of compressed water from its blowhole, hitting the ground-type in its enormous, forward-facing chin.
It should have been enough.
It had been enough, last time. Ruby and Winona would deny it, but Archie swore that before Rayquaza intervened, Kyogre's attack had defeated Groudon in a single strike.
Groudon shook. It struggled to maintain its footing. It opened its mouth to reveal a small sash of red and yellow, which fell to the ground and disintegrated into nothing. And then it roared defiantly, and its roar split the heavens with Thunder, and a lightning bolt emerged from the cloud right above Kyogre, then struck it with a direct hit which conducted through the leviathan's water-type body, denying it the use of its fins.
"A lucky hit." Archie scoffed. "And it won't be one I lose to." Kyogre opened its wide mouth, then chomped down on a green berry, and flapped its enormous flippers up and down, sending a large harmless wave Groudon's way. This wasn't Surf, just the ability to move.
Maxie gulped, giving a long, studious glance towards the Kyogre in an attempt to figure out how much damage the Thunder had done – did he still have a chance? It would all come down to this next attack.
"Hit it with another Thunder!"
"Finish it with Ice Beam!"
One blast came from above. The other was a direct attack. There were no crashing beams, no blocking each other and trying to fight back with more power, no dust to settle, just a beautiful chain of thundering yellow and frozen blue meeting at Kyogre, and then two fainted titans whose toppling shook the ground. This battle was a draw.
But Maxie still had two pokemon left, and Archie had one. Their battle was not yet over.
"Walrein, go!" Archie ordered, opening his poke ball to let an enormous light blue pinniped nearly as large as Kyogre emerge into the growing pool of water which formed the stadium.
"Crobat, your turn again! Toxic!" Maxie answered, lobbing its poke ball like a boomerang into the other end of the arena, letting it open, and catching it on the bounce. This wasn't simply to show off, however; by the time the Walrein turned its enormous body around to face it, the poison-type's fangs were already buried deep into the ice-type's back, pumping the uniquely potent venom which all Crobat carry (among the fastest-acting in the pokemon world) into its enormous body.
And Archie laughed. And so did his Walrein.
"What's so funny? Your last pokemon will be knocked out in minutes!"
"Take a good look at your Crobat's fangs." Archie answered, and the shivering, waterlogged Crobat opened its mouth to reveal two badly impacted teeth, no longer sharp enough to bite through anything living. "Ice Body. Walrein may look like flesh-and-blood pokemon, but they contain as high an ice content in their body as a Glalie."
"Crobat, return!" Maxie shouted, panic creeping into his voice as he looked over his poke balls. There wasn't much on his belt he could actually use. Camerupt, his star, had no choice but to sit out the match; its weakness against water made sure of that. Mightyena was scary-looking, but the only reason he really kept it on his team was sentimentality; it wasn't actually strong enough to compete with beasts like Walrein and Kyogre. Swellow was fast and powerful, but fragile, and with Crobat's teeth injured he didn't think it could finish the job.
So there was one choice. One stupid, crazy choice. As an Avalanche filled the field, ice falling onto whoever he sent out, team Magma's leader decided to bring out a fire-type after all. "Come out, Houndoom!" He shouted, and the hell hound brushed off the avalanche with relative ease; the weight of the falling ice balls hurt the smaller pokemon, but the cold didn't.
The rain, on the other hand, was starting to really hurt – and it didn't help that it was pounding for so long that the Houndoom was basically swimming to maintain its movement.
"You can't seriously expect to beat me with a Houndoom in the rain. Walrein, Surf!" The Walrein slapped its flippers on the ground, then began to gather water – like a child splashing someone at the beach, if the child was a giant creating 30-foot waves.
"I don't – at least, not in the rain." Maxie said, smirking. "Houndoom, Sunny Day!" With a roar to the heavens, the clouds broke once again, and the light of the sun shined like a laser on the wave, evaporating half of it before it even made contact with the black dog.
The rest carried Houndoom into the shield at the end of the arena, then plunging to the ground – if not for it, it would have crashed into the tenth row of seats. And yet it still stood.
"Houndoom, use Overheat!" Water became steam. A stadium, a cauldron. The gates of hell had been opened by a pokemon Cerberus and set forth flame to scorch the earth. The fans who once brought ponchos for the rain were now removing sweatshirts and coats and cheering the whole while. The ground was red. The air was red. The Walrein was scorched, its white mane burning as it growled and stomped through the sand to the arena floor in agony, cracking the ground with its fury.
No one had told it to use Earthquake, but all things considered that was probably the best play. When the heat cleared, a Houndoom was found hidden in the cracked ground, unconscious.
"Houndoom, return! Go, Crobat!"
"Crobat, protect!" Hail the size of Voltorb tumbled out of the sky at Walrein's command, yet the great pink bat spun around with its wings, dodging most of them and shredding the one which seemed like it would approach a direct hit. And Walrein stumbled, the poison beginning to work its effect.
"Team Magma shall triumph! Finish it with a Brave Bird!" Maxie ordered, and the Crobat spread its wings and dove the Walrein's way.
"Not. Yet. Ice Shard!" Archie shouted defiantly, as the Walrein spat an enormous icicle bigger than the Crobat it slammed into, who plunged into the giant ice-type with a force unjustified for its small size.
Two badly wounded pokemon faced one another, prepared for their next attack, and one collapsed from poison.
"Walrein is unable to battle! The winner of this match is Maxie!"
Maxie and Team Magma had won. For now.
They – he - still needed four more wins to take over the world. And there were plenty of trainers ready to stand in his way. Winona, leader of Hoenn's Gyms, and an old enemy almost as hated as Archie. Red, conqueror of Team Rocket. Cyrus – who knew what ambitions he held?
But at least he could rest for a week. Many wished to fight him. He'd be sure to give them a fight to remember.
Archie departed immediately after the match; he had no desire to stick around and watch others win. With a series of grunts, he began to make his way back to Hoenn; Winona called Ruby, Sapphire, and (awkwardly) Wallace to inform them to keep an eye on Team Aqua. She didn't especially expect anything, but with everyone who could stop him in the distant Indigo Plateau they couldn't be too careful.