AN: Credit goes to Rarrar for reminding me. :P

The forest was on fire, and it wasn't his fault.

Growlithe nearly slipped and slid on the ground as he sprinted through the burning bushes, just in time to meet a flamethrower to the head. The sudden blow to his face brought around a second or two of disorientation, but it was nothing compared to the insta-boost of his fire reserves that the blow brought with itself. The flares of angry crimson in the burning bushes were siphoned into his purple fur as the six-foot tall, fire-belching machine with blackish blue fur seemed relentless in his pursuit of Red and his silly Mawile, the latter trying to hide behind the pecha-berry tree trunks from the behemoth's flames.

A rational person would have realized the folly of hiding behind a tree trunk when the entire ground was burning, but Mawile's very first description of Red had been 'dopey'. If nothing else, that fact kept Growlithe from gawking at his 'trainer's' attempts.

Or maybe it was the effects of having that shellder constantly chewing upon his hair. Maybe Shellder had chugalugged the liquids from Red's brain through his hairs? Growlithe wasn't an expert, but weren't those things put in there for a reason?

Not that he could bring himself to care about that too much. He was too busy guzzling on flames. Flash Fire, Red had called it. Something about a defensive adaptation that employed energy-absorption at the expense of physical damage. His fur was supposed to be charred and a lot of his stamina was supposed to be drained out to heal his fur back.

Bunch of senseless twaddle.

Instead, it was like an eat-all-you-want buffet. Growlithe whooped in joy as he met the typhlosion's flamethrower in the face, his purple fur hungrily gobbling every bit of the flame. And as he kept doing that, he felt something grow hotter and hotter within his belly. Like a fire that would grow and grow until something happened. What that something was, Growlithe didn't know.

But he didn't care much either, for it felt really good.

"Stop squirming, Mawile!" He heard Red say.

But the yellow creature had other plans.

The mawile pushed against her large, black jaw against Red's abdomen and leaped down to the ground, sprinting as fast as her tiny legs could catch her. The dragon-ling uncoiled from Red's shoulders and flew after it, while mawile had a conspicuously familiar black shield upon her right arm.

Growlithe blinked.

Nope. Reality was still broken. Shellder latched upon her right hand, and she waved it around and yelled out her warcry.

Which Typhlosion ignored. Completely.

Growlithe whirled around and juked left, just in time to meet the ball of angry-red that went zipping in Red's direction, engulfing the tree trunk he was hiding a moment ago.

Mawile launched her own version of a warcry, which sounded just as cute as every other of her squeaks, and rushed towards the fiery behemoth. But before she could so much as cross half the distance, something green and terribly fast attacked the typhlosion, raising a gale of dust. Mawile stopped midway, her warcry and battlelust lost in an endless stream of coughing, while the intruder, whom Growlithe recognized to be none other than Scyther, smashed his blades against the fire-type's deceptively thick fur.

"Mawile, fill the area with mist!" He heard Red exclaim.

The annoyed yellow creature let out a huff, but obeyed. Even to Growlithe's limited experience, that seemed like a good tactic especially since typhlosion's flames would only increase the mist when it came into contact with the freezing fog. Red had run Scyther ragged in trying to fight in Mawile's mist and fog— with tiny pellets of Hail thrown in if the petite fairy was in a bad mood.

Not to mention Scyther was the more agile one among the two and the constant eruption of flames from the typhlosion's back made it a sitting target.

A loud roar of anger mixed with agony escaped into the air.

The less rational part of Growlithe wanted to join into the fray. This wasn't one of those human-mediated play-battle. This was a deathmatch, plain and simple. It reminded him of how Growlithe had been, back in the lab with those white coats.

The lingering scent of that tangela he had bitten off as his first meal after gaining freedom flared against his nostrils.

The flame in his stomach grew just a little hotter.

No. Don't. Bad idea. The rational part of him coaxed. Scyther was fast and Typhlosion was strong. Trying to get into their fight would get him killed. His attempt at freedom, him surviving this madhouse that was Red's team— it would all be a waste. Besides, Scyther alone would—

This time, a screech emanated into the air, as Scyther was hurled through the mist, several portions of his body charred with flames— and flung into the ground, where he rolled and fell silent. Before Growlithe could even react to that, Mawile had hurled a speeding Shellder at the typhlosion, hitting it inches below its left eye. It hit the behemoth like a speeding truck, probably smashing through half the fangs on his left side. The typhlosion had fallen over to his right from the force of the sudden attack, and was slowly rising up, half of its face covered in thick blood.

Growlithe winced.

Mawile did a little jig, before she realized the battle wasn't over yet.

"RUN YOU FOO—" Growlithe yelled, but before he knew it, several hundred pounds of angry typhlosion came roaring through the nearly dissipated mist, its back a mini volcano in itself, belching waves of pure heat in all directions. It noticed Mawile and came for her, and brought down a fiery claw upon her tiny form.

He could hear Red's screaming in his ears, but his eyes didn't budge an inch from Mawile. He saw the petite thing raise her black jaw— massive for her size but hardly more than half of the typhlosion's arm, saw the sudden gathering of motes of energy gather over the black jaw as the behemoth's fiery claw slammed against it.

Mawile buckled and dropped down, her face forced down to the floor.

Her jaw held. But only just.

Typhlosion raised his paw again.

The world seemed to slow… Growlithe's limbs felt like stone. He wanted to save Mawile. But if he tried, he was going to die. He was no match for that beast. All that training on that damned treadmill, trying so hard to become someone that could fight like the rest of the team could, someone that could actually become strong…

It was all a waste.

His puppy eyes focussed on the typhlosion's fiery claw with laser-like intensity. Growlithe could belch out a small burst of flames. That would have as much effect on the typhlosion as scolding it. Growlithe knew his legs weren't the weak twigs that tired after walking for ten minutes. Hours upon hours of grueling training, healthy food and a somewhat insane company of freaks had done him some good over the last few weeks.

He was a Growlithe.

He could run.

But what would that accomplish? He needed to attack But fire would do nothing to the typhlosion. His claws would shatter before they could even tear through his skin. His fangs would break before it penetrated the monster's thick muscles. He needed something else.

Something fast.

Something corrosive that could melt even that fur.

Something so hot that even that fiery creature would feel it.

Growlithe's body was already moving. Faster and faster and faster he ran, and the flames in his belly became hotter by the second. The smell of rotting wood snared his nostrils, and a trickle of a strange power rushed through his veins, burning like never before.

He could see it.

He could do it.

His maw opened.

And what came out was—


A shaft of pale purple erupted out of his open maw and smashed head-first into the typhlosion's face.

Red couldn't believe his eyes. One moment he was running blindly towards the typhlosion, his mind stuck in a perpetual horror at what could happen to his starter, and the next moment, he saw Growlithe move like a freaking comet and shoot something pale and purple right at the beast. The beam of liquid light struck the fire-type on the neck and the left shoulder, eating through it, leaving a corroded, mangled, burnt tissue and ichor behind. Its rage forgotten, the typhlosion was down on the ground, clutching its face and neck and flailing around. Before he knew it, the tiny, purple puppy had skipped into the typhlosion's reaches and exhaled purplish mist out of its mouth. If the typhlosion's increasing screams weren't an indication, then the slow rotting of its face and arms was enough to prove the mist's corrosive nature.

Red went still.

Was this why that man had wanted Growlithe back so bad that he was willing to kill them for it?

Purple fur. Extreme regeneration. Enhanced fire reserves. And now this corrosive mist and that weird corrosion-fire fusion thing it had shot out earlier. Just what the hell kind of a Growlithe was this? Had the old man found out more about the puppy's powers with the tests he had run on him? Was that why he had given him the job of rearing it, going so far as to spend exorbitant amounts of money including access to enhanced Firestone technology?

So many questions, so few answers.

Red watched Mawile get up from the ground and rush towards the fallen typhlosion. With a furious cry, she raised her bruised jaw and slammed it against the fire-type's knee, smashing the girdle with one blow. Red winced as she followed the action with systematic precision, shattering its other knee and then its elbows.

Part of him wanted to call Mawile out on it. He wanted to return her to her pokéball and then admonish her about her lack of self control. He wanted her to know that vengeful actions had no place in a battle.

But he stayed his hand.

For this wasn't a battle.

This was a war. The typhlosion had come for her with the intention to kill. It was stronger than Red's entire team, minus Skarmory and Mia. And it would have killed Mawile with that previous hit if not for that timely Iron Defense. Taking Mawile out of the fight would rob her of her vengeance, of her spirit to dominate in a battle despite her overwhelming shortcomings. It would curb her bloodlust, but it would also utterly destroy the bond they shared.

Just because a knife is kept sideways, doesn't mean it's blunt.

Red glanced back at the battered form of the man who had uttered those words to him months ago. Cynthia's Milotic was currently cocooning him, with three concentric rings of water surrounding them, while a pulse of soft, greenish, healing energy emanated out of the beautiful water-type.

I stand by what I said, Old man. Unlike us humans, pokémon do not kill out of pettiness.

He turned back and approached the fallen creature. Growlithe had sunk his fangs into the creature's neck, tearing out its vocal cords with relish.

Red looked at Mawile.

She was bathed with splatters of the creature's blood.

Red did not hesitate.

Mawile, Growlithe, Scyther, Skarmory, they were all bloodthirsty monsters. But they were his monsters.

He'd not fail them.

He'd stand by them.

He glanced at Scyther, who was still down, screeching softly as his regeneration kicked in.

Red smiled. The bug was injured, but nothing it wouldn't heal from. Still, best not to delay. He started walking towards the scyther—

—and then a shadow of the blackest night came swooping at him.

"Stay still for a moment you son of a bitch!" Delia screamed, knowing full well that she couldn't be heard over the rumbling noises all around. Doubly so because the object of her frustrations— Proton's massive hydreigon had gone from fighting Arcanine head on to shooting up into the air and belching out triple attacks at the same time using its three draconian heads.

She had not been in the trainer business for many years now, having closed that chapter of her life. The encounter with Cyrus and its aftermath had taken those closed doors and thrown them open to the wind. Realizing that her son, her mentor and everything she had worked hard to achieve over the years was in absolute danger had only ripped off any possible bandages she could put on that wound.

"Capture it with Spatial Lock!"

Her Mr. Mime crafted six pairs of invisible walls, all of them approaching the hydreigon from different directions. Just a hit from one of them would have made the rest instantly lock in on the target and squash it like so much useless meat.

The dragon dodged it perfectly without looking. That was expected. Delia had long since worked out that the dark draconic beast had eyes on the back of its head. Or heads. Whatever. But that was okay, because two of those twelve shields formed right into the dragon's line of flight, and exploded about one feet in front of it.

The creature dove backward, its speed and grace impossible to her eyes. For a creature with such an utter lack of aerial symmetry, the hydreigon's skill in air was nothing short of extraordinary. The dragon not only ended up dodging the attack, but also managed to turn around and throw a bout of blue flames down in her direction.

"Dirty!" She yelled, quickly commanding Mr. Mime to deflect the oncoming attack with another barrier.

Meanwhile flickers of dull violet light kept coalescing around the dark dragon. Delia watched with a mix of revulsion and awe, as two of the dragon's heads managed to keep Orca on his feet— the one on the extreme left matching his flamethrower with its Dragon Rage, while the latter constantly shooting all kinds of wide-area attacks on the arcanine, causing the large, shaggy dog to constantly leap from place to place, alternating its attacks between Flamethrower and the occasional Fire Blast.

But it was the head in the middle that was the main problem.

Lightning crackled briefly in the air, as the dark dragon gathered its power from the world around it. The very air screamed and whined in protest, but the three-headed dragon was siphoning something out of it, something that left it utterly lacking. A strange, discordant humming sound began to emanate as a single sphere of intense blackness began to form in its maw.

Dark Pulse, if not something worse, Delia recognized. She needed to do something. The sandslash had the golem locked in combat, with the former entrapping the latter over and over by taking advantage of the terrain. She could have liberated Kaz out into the field, but the wide-area anti-teleportation ward would make the alakazam a sitting duck. That left—

"Mr. Mime, can you contain it?"

The barrier pokémon turned to give her a slightly weirded look, as if questioning her words. She could not blame it. Mr. Mime was after all said and done, a psychic fairy that specialized in barriers. Its abilities lay in the field of physical containment. A Dark Pulse, even a weak one, was the absolute antithesis of psychic, and did not have a physical presence in the natural environment. She might as well ask it to try scolding the hydreigon for all the good it did.

"Fine!" She scowled. "We do it the hard way then. Bring it down. Use gravity."

Mr. Mime let out a soft growl and raised all ten of its fingers and brought them down towards the ground in a particularly aggressive fashion, as a humongous force swooped downwards towards the ground. All three birds— Red's Skarmory, the girl's white eagle-like pokémon, and Proton's Corviknight— each let out a whine as they lost control and fell downward, completely caught up by the relentless pull of gravity. Even Orca felt it, given the whimper that escaped its maw as it tried to hold its knees together.

But the hydreigon?

It stood, levitating in mid-air, completely unfazed by the sudden attack. The motes of purple around it glowed with malevolence, merrily disobeying the law of nature. The dragon-head on the extreme right sent a dragon pulse at Orca, flinging the monstrous arcanine by several feet.

And that was not all.

The Corviknight— the damned thing that it was, somehow managed to resist the Gravity attack and swooped its way out, using its own momentum against Mr. Mime's power. Skarmory and the other avian weren't so lucky, and fell down to the ground.

Damnit. Delia cursed. Whatever the beast was up to, it was insulated from the environment. That Dark Pulse forming above it was not just counteracting against attacks of physical or fairy-type, it was practically concealing it away from any of their effects.

"Did you think it'd be that easy?"

Before Delia could even turn towards the voice, which she knew to be Proton, the hydreigon-head on the extreme right threw down a beam of pure purple downwards. Mr. Mime readily prepared shields to intercept it.

That was the mistake.

The attack wasn't made for Mr. Mime.

It was made for the birds.

Red and Cynthia's pokémon let out a soul-piercing screech, before they went still. Neither of them would be joining the fight anytime soon.

The Team Rocket Admin slowly sauntered towards her. "I admit, facing that Blackthorne brat was surprising. She's skilled, but has miles to go before she can be a true threat to me. And time is unfortunately what she won't get."

Delia's blood ran cold. "Did you—?"

Proton shook her head. "Unlike my father, I recognize potential when I see it. I'll have the girl Initiated, tame her and make her my subordinate. She'd be a good replacement for Travers. I wanted your brat to occupy that position but now— now I have someone better."

As those words left his lips, a second hydreigon rose into the air, an unconscious and bleeding Cynthia clutched in its claws.

"That gabite is well-trained. It'll be fun breaking both of them."

"You're going nowhere," Delia asserted. "I'll stop you."

"With what?" Proton sneered, "The Boogeyman's arcanine is stomped. The man himself? On death's bed. Your pokémon are weak, nothing compared to my own. But you're right. There's still something left."

He plucked out a whistle from his breast pocket and blew into it.

The Corviknight rose into the air.

"Kill the brat," Proton ordered, "Leave this woman and the trash for me and my hydreigons."

"And what about me?"

That voice came from behind her, where Sabrina had fallen down, unconscious from the Hyper Beam. But every bit of rationality that existed in Delia right now claimed that there was no way that voice belonged to Sabrina.

The monstrously loud voice rolled across the plain, and what it brought with it was light, and a storm.

Like stars they appeared, points of intense psychic energy no larger than a man's fist. Ripples spread from them, as if stones had been hurled into a lake of molten silver, and as the light grew, the world behind Delia was filled with it.

Psychic Slash. Psywave. Psycho Cut. Expanding force. Mindstorm. Psybeam— Delia couldn't even count the number of psychic attacks that were forging in the air, their lattices constructed out of nothingness by invisible arms, with all of them centering around Sabrina who was now standing up. Some of them were elaborately crafted beyond imagination, other deceptively simple, but each and everyone of those being the work of a master psychic craftsman. Hell, such creation was beyond even Kaz at the moment.

And Sabrina was a goddamned human.

Sabrina gestured, and a hundred shooting stars launched at Proton's second hydreigon. The sandslash was instantly disabled in mid-air for a quick second, just enough for the golem to squash it to bits by a downward blow.

Proton gritted his teeth.

"Golem!" Delia commanded, not once looking away from the TR Admin. "Break that Corviknight for me!"

The golem let out a dull, metallic roar, before retracting itself into its massive shell and dashed in the direction of its new prey.

"Now then!" Sabrina trudged forward, rubbing the trickling blood from her lips. "Where were we?"