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Gazing at his own concentrated face in the bathroom mirror of his and Brendan's hotel room, Lee drags his razor up his neck and through the last line of shaving gel on his face. He runs his thumb through the now-smooth spot as he rinses his razor in the running faucet, smiling as he does so.

It's been a few days since his first session with Mable, and he's been feeling… good. Lighter. Just, happier in general. Getting everything off his chest and letting Brendan and Zinnia in on how he's truly feeling takes just a bit off his shoulders. The days have been spent training in preparation for the battle with Wattson, while the evening hours have been spent with his pokemon simply relaxing or enjoying exploring Mauville with Brendan and Zinnia.

In regards to training, Vulpix effortlessly learned Flamethrower from Zinnia's Shelgon after watching closely, though her efforts to learn Iron Tail have been… less than fruitful, to put it nicely. Grovyle's first custom move is now in the works, being a modification of Bullet Seed that instead fires a wide shotgun blast. Once more, Grovyle's savantesque battle abilities showed themselves. After only a few days, their efforts to deconstruct Bullet Seed and rebuild it with a higher projectile count are already showing results. Meanwhile, Corvisquire has been busy mastering Pursuers with an almost concerning fervor between bouts of physical training.

'Today is going to be a full one,' Lee muses as runs his hands under the faucet and scrubs his face clean. More than once he has to pause to wipe the steam from his recent shower off of the mirror. 'Corvisquire's physical, Brendan's match with Wattson, my match with Wattson, a trip to the Mauville mall, and a proof of concept meeting with that Silph rep. Jeez.'

His time since learning just how TMs were created wasn't spent idle. After a few nights of research, he made a phone-call to the Silph branch in Mauville to pitch a potential run of powerful and custom moves copied to TMs. Initially, the rep on the phone wasn't interested, forcing Lee to reluctantly wave his clout as a Lab Trainer around, enticing the rep into arranging a demo. If all goes well, Silph Co will hold a spot for him and sell copies of his team's moves once he has something exciting to copy.

Vulpix's Convergence and Corvi's Pursuers were off the table, but that doesn't mean he can't use them as examples.

Lee looks at the left side of his face in the mirror, rubbing a finger over the smooth burn scars. If there was any silver lining to them, then it'd be the less time spent shaving. He traces the one cutting from his hairline through part of his eyebrow and eyelid, then the one from his temple to the corner of his mouth, thanking his lucky stars that he wasn't blinded.

Stowing his razor in the open toiletry bag on the corner of the sink, Lee looks down to make sure he's presentable, finding that his jeans and black undershirt haven't vanished, then tosses the bathroom door open, letting the steamy air escape into the cool hotel room.

As he steps out, Grovyle and Corvisquire, who stand by the window quietly conversing, pause to look at their trainer.

Up on Lee's bed, Shinx is too busy playing with Vulpix to acknowledge Lee. The kitten hunkers low, wiggling her rear and kneading the covers with her claws as she keeps her large yellow eyes on the fox just a few feet away.

Vulpix stands still, waiting for Shinx to strike with a patience that the kitten simply can't match. Her aloof, unruffled appearance invites a challenge. She even raises a leg to scratch her ear in open dismissal.

Shinx tenses, then leaps across the bed in one bound, tackling Vulpix and sending both tumbling in a tangle of limbs. With flailing paws and gnashing teeth, the two scuffle for only a moment before Vulpix gets the upper hand and positions herself over Shinx. Shinx makes the mistake of trying to flail and worm away when Vulpix pins the kitten's lower body with a straddle, so when she exposes her neck, Vulpix dives in.

The Electric-type freezes as Vulpix's teeth just barely touch the fur of her throat. "Merow?"

The vixen holds her stance for a moment, then releases Shinx, letting the kitten scramble to her paws and get ready to pounce again.

As silently as he can, Lee creeps up to the bed and lays his hand across Shinx' back, making her jump and zap his hand with a few static-like pops. She looks over her shoulder and arches her back into his hand as her trainer gently scratches her, purring lovingly all the while.

"Having fun?" He smiles when Shinx answers by standing on her tippy-toes to get more contact with his hand. "Ach! I've only had you for two and a half weeks and already you're getting so big. You used to fit in my hands when I put them together." He turns his gaze to Vulpix. "Thanks for playing with her, love. I know you're not normally one for roughhousing."

Vulpix shakes her head and smiles. 'I've n* issu*s pl*ying *ith Shinx. A gro*ing cub needs sti*ul*tion, aft*r all.' She says. '*ou're t*king Corvi**ire fo* his physica*?'

Lee nods as he takes his jacket from its place hanging off the bed and shrugs it on, then he glances over to the raven pokemon, who stiffens. "Ready, Corvi?"

With palpable reluctance and a grimace so intense that Lee fears Corvisquire might crack his beak, the bird pokemon nods his head.

"Hold down the fort, m'kay?" Lee nods to Vulpix and beckons to Corvisquire with his hand as he shoulders his backpack. "Let's head on out."

Corvisquire hesitates for a split second, then bounds along after Lee.

Together, they leave the hotel room and take a silent elevator ride down to the lobby, then scoot past the groups of people and pokemon checking in and out. From there, they take a straight path from the city proper out to an outskirts training field that looks to have seen better days, avoiding distractions all the while. The walk is silent, almost uncomfortably so. Corvisquire doesn't even take the time to look around condescendingly or sneer at anyone they pass. When they find themselves in a small, sun-lit training field overrun by foliage, they both stop.

"Looks like as good a place as any, yeah?" Lee smiles down at Corvisquire. "Do you want-"

Corvisquire spreads his wings and lifts off with one single flap, quickly taking to the air and vanishing over the treeline.

"-to set up here?" Lee blinks. "What? Is he checking the area? It looked plenty-abandoned."

Lee leans his back against a tree and taps his foot, waiting for Corvisquire to return. 'I guess that makes sense. He's been real cagey about his physical. Whatever he has to hide must be big.' Lee frowns in worry. 'I hope he's alright…'

One minute turns into five, and five turns into fifteen. The zoologist checks his phone to see the time nervously. 'Corvi? How far are you checking?'

Fifteen minutes turns into thirty, so he sits down and rests his back against the trunk of the tree behind him. An hour passes, then two. Lee's phone rings, but he dismisses the call without looking, not wanting to spook Corvisquire.

At the three-hour mark, his phone is ringing so incessantly that he finally looks, finding Zinnia's number flashing on the screen. Reluctantly, he answers and holds the phone up to his ear. "Hello?"

"Lee, where are you?" Is her first terse question. In the background he can hear the dull roar of people packed in a tight space. "Brendan and I came back to your hotel room and didn't find you. Brendan is battling Wattson now and your match is right after! If you don't show up, then you'll get skipped! Where are you?"

"I'm out in the woods waiting for… waiting for…" Lee grits his teeth as the unpleasant reality sets in. "Corvisquire ran away."

"What?"

"Corvisquire ran away!" He almost yells. Betrayal crushes the light feeling in his chest, simply leaving him frustrated. "He wanted his physical to be away from prying eyes, and when we got out to the middle of nowhere, he took off! I've been waiting for three hours!"

Zinnia is quiet for a moment. "Shit, Lee. I…" She sighs. "Look, I can't say a cynical part of me didn't kind-of expect this, because that bird was trouble from day one. Sometimes it doesn't matter how well you treat a pokemon, they're ungrateful. They're just as flawed as people, you know."

"That's not-!" Lee stops himself short of a tirade and takes a deep breath. He stands and begins to pace. 'I know Corvi. Whatever secret he must have must be terrifying for him to share. I know that feeling well. He'll come back.' Even with the rationalization, doubt still digs its fingers into him. "He'll come back. I know it. I have faith in him…" Lee clenches his hand into a tight fist.

Zinnia sighs. "And that's fine, but circling back around to the other issue at hand here. Your match is soon and unless you want to wait around for…" Lee hears her pull her phone away from her face and tap a few buttons. "...Eight days for a rematch, then you need to get over here. I brought your pokemon with me."

Lee looks up at the sky, hoping to see a blue and black shape overhead, but he finds nothing to his dismay. "I'm on my way…"

Slowly, he trudges his way from the training field back to Mauville proper. Several times he looks back to the field, and then up to the sky, but Corvisquire is nowhere to be found. 'He'll be back.'

Deep in his heart, Lee knows this was always a possibility, but what possessed Corvisquire to flee like that? Fear of the physical? Fear of Lee discovering something during the physical? Was this all premeditated? What could it be? All the bird had to do was ask to be freed, and no matter how reluctant Lee felt, he would oblige. Confusion and hurt swirl inside him as he passes people on the street heading towards the Gym. He looks up at the Mauville Gym as it comes into view.

The building is the same standardized Gym design as the Rustboro and Dewford Gyms, being a high-walled and likely reinforced dome. He doesn't give it much more thought and pushes open the doors, walking into the reception area. Just as he walks in, he can hear a buzzer in the arena rattle the walls.

"Manectric is down! Brendan Birch and Marshtomp did it! The Challenger is the winner!" The muffled voice of the announcer rolls through the walls, followed by thunderous applause.

Despite the day so far, Lee smiles, happy that Brendan pulled a win and earned his 3rd badge.

At the front desk are two receptionists, one a teenage girl, and the other a scraggly teen boy sending shy looks to his co-worker. The girl perks up and stows her phone away as Lee approaches. "Hello, sir!" She greets politely. "Are you here as a spectator or a challenger?"

"Challenger," Lee says absentmindedly, still pondering over the situation with Corvisquire. "Lee Henson is the name. I should be next. I just need to get my pokemon from a friend watching the last match."

The receptionist nods and looks down at her computer screen before smiling. "Sure thing! The arena will be letting out for clean-up here shortly, so just hang tight for your match!"

With a nod, Lee turns and finds a seat in one of the chairs along the wall, silently mulling. He gives the psychic thread to Vulpix a tug, only to find it muted behind the walls of her pokeball.

'What could Corvi have to hide?' Lee rubs one of his eyes with the heel of his hand. 'He's an ornery thing, and probably had a previous trainer, I know that. He's proud, too. I've never seen him strike someone who won't fight back no matter how pissed he is, and never has he shied away from a challenge. I've given him ample opportunity to run away before, so why now? Was it… something I did? Or did the thought of the physical really spook him that much?' Lee looks up and out at the window towards the clear blue sky. 'Corvi…'

Over the next few minutes, the arena spectators file out from the large double doors against the back wall leading to the battlefield, all of them chattering excitedly about Brendan's match. A Mudkip in the arms of a little girl still looks utterly enthralled by what he's seen, meaning Marshtomp likely gained a new fan.

Finally, Brendan and Zinnia walk out. On Brendan's face is a megawatt grin, one wholly justified by the Dynamo Badge he's rolling between his fingers. They're stopped once or twice by people from the crowd offering congratulations or wanting pictures with the Birch heir, but they make their way to Lee as soon as they spot him.

"Lee, you missed it!" Brendan groans. "That was one of the closest matches we've ever had! Wattson doesn't mess around. You figure a guy who has like, three jobs wouldn't have time to train his pokemon, but his Manectric nearly smoked Marshtomp even with a bad type match-up!" The boy rubs his eyes. "If I ever see the move Flash again, it'll be too soon."

"Yeah, sorry about that," Lee runs a hand through his hair, silently noting that he's due for a cut. "I took Corvi out for his physical this morning and… he ran away."

"Wha?" Brendan blinks. "He ran away? Why?"

"That's a question I'm still asking myself," Lee leans back and stares up at the ceiling, hurt and confusion still twisting around in his gut. "I don't know. We got to the field, I asked if he was ready, and he flew away. Zinnia, you said you have my pokemon?"

Wordlessly, she reaches into her bag and withdraws three shrunken pokeballs and drops them into Lee's waiting hand.

He clips Shinx' ball back into his belt and enlarges Vulpix' and Grovyle's balls before popping both open. With the usual flash of light, the fox and the gecko take form in front of him.

Vulpix immediately reaches her mind out to his like she usually does after an absence, and Lee feeds her everything. Her eyes widen in shock, then narrow in the same cold fury that she previously reserved only for Zinnia.

Grovyle looks at Vulpix with some alarm, not even needing words to feel the hostility rolling off of her.

"Love, calm down," Lee reaches a hand out and runs it through the tuft on Vulpix's head, pausing her dark thoughts. "I'm sure he had some reason… And who knows? Maybe it was just never meant to be." Admitting such a thing stings Lee's pride as a trainer and makes him feel foolish for pouring his heart out to the corvid pokemon. He looks over to Grovyle, who looks between them with confusion. "Corvisquire ran away, Grovyle. I'm not sure that he's coming back."

The wood gecko at first appears befuddled, but then he hisses as his face twists itself to a hateful mask. He clenches his fists, tightens his jaw around his twig, and the leaves along his wrists hum dangerously, glowing just the slightest green.

Lee rests his other hand on Grovyle's head like he does Vulpix when he sees a few of the people milling about in the Gym reception room eye Grovyle nervously. "Easy, Grovyle," Lee murmurs. "No need for that."

With obvious reluctance, Grovyle takes a deep breath and crosses his arms, letting the half-realized Leaf Blade power down. His face still retains a stormy expression, however.

Vulpix looks up at Zinnia expectantly, as if waiting for something.

"What's with the look?" Zinnia frowns down at the fox. "No, I'm not going to dress Lee down when this clearly wasn't his fault. Stop it!"

The vixen sniffs and turns her head away.

"You're not taking this as something that's your fault, right?" Brendan asks Lee unsurely. He rubs the face of his new badge with his thumb. "I knew Corvisquire was a grump, but maybe it went even deeper than that? I don't see how he could be upset with you."

Lee says nothing for a moment, gathering his thoughts. "I… No, you're right." He shifts in his chair, suddenly uncomfortable. "I treated him as well as I could. If this is how it ends, then I suppose there's nothing else to be said." The words are bitter on his tongue, and part of him still wants Corvisquire to return, but he stands up and smoothes the wrinkles in his jacket in a half-hearted distraction. "I hope he'll come back."

By now, a new crowd is beginning to flow in from the front door and into the spectator seating for the next match. The receptionist who greeted Lee waves him over as her partner, the scraggly boy, frantically checks and scans the tickets of everyone else.

"Let's take it from the top, okay?" Lee tells his diminished team. He briefly reaches into his bag, pulling out the neckerchief with Grovyle's Miracle Seed sewn into it and passes it to the reptile pokemon, who ties it around his neck. After, Lee raises Grovyle's ball in his hand. "Ready?"

Both Vulpix and Grovyle nod, but before he can recall the wood gecko, Vulpix asks him a question laced with worry. 'Are y*u okay?'

He smiles. "Fine," he lies. "Return."

Grovyle dissolves into red light and is pulled back into his ball. Vulpix, meanwhile, hops onto his shoulders. From her, Lee is fed worry for himself between the waves of borderline hate aimed at Corvisquire for his betrayal.

With such an intimate view into Vulpix's mind, he knows she's barely stopped to ponder why her once-teammate fled. To her, it's something that can't and won't be forgiven anyway, so it's little use to dwell upon it.

'Please just hold your judgment, love,' he urges. 'We don't know everything. Maybe he'll come back and explain.'

Vulpix huffs. No words are needed to relay her doubt, but she dials back on her open contempt regardless.

"Good luck, Lee!" Brendan grins. "Wattson usually opens with a Magnemite or a Magneton, so be ready!"

"Don't think too hard about everything, Dolittle," Zinnia smiles and pats his arm, giving it a short squeeze before letting go. "Whip some ass. The kid and I will be rooting for you all."

Lee returns their well-wishes with a small smile of his own. "Thanks you two."

The Birch heir and the dragon tamer both get in line to get seats while Lee and Vulpix follow the receptionist.

The Gym receptionist quickly takes them back into the holding room between the reception area and the arena. The little room is barren other than a watercooler, a chair, and a table where several lapel microphones sit charging on docks.

"Here you are!" The cheery girl takes one of the mics and hands it to Lee. "Do you need any help?"

"I think I've got it, thanks," Lee dryly replies, clipping the mic to the collar of his shirt and stuffing the receiver in his pocket. He fingers the wire running between them. "Wattson is a busy guy, yeah?"

The girl nods, making her curly hair bounce. "Yep."

"You know if he's got an email or some time to talk? I've got a prematurely born Shinx, and some expert insight on Electric-types would be nice."

"A Shinx?!" The girl's eyes light up. "Oh! Do you have any pictures? I've always wanted a Shinx!" She freezes, then lets out a nervous laugh. "S-Sorry, that's not very professional of me, is it? I can get you one of Mister Wattson's cards if you like."

Lee smiles in amusement and pulls his phone from his pocket. "I've got a few pictures." The small talk doesn't do much for his nerves, but yet another distraction is welcome. "Here, if you'd like to look, I don't mind."

The zoologist lets the girl gush over how tiny and adorable Shinx is for several minutes until the PA system in the arena crackles. "The next match is another heavy-hitter, everyone! Today, Wattson will battle rising star Lee Henson, Professor Birch's other Lab Trainer!"

The roar of the crowd passes through the wall easily.

"Henson has won over Rustboro's Roxanne and Dewford's Brawly going all out, can he keep it going with Wattson? Only one way to find out! Please give a warm welcome to Lee Henson!"

"That's our cue," Lee says, locking his phone and dropping it in his pocket.

"Good luck, Mister Henson!" The receptionist girl cheers before leaving to return back to her post.

With a sigh to stay his nerves, Lee pushes the double doors to the arena open and steps out.

The crowd cheers and applauds as he steps up to the trainer box at the edge of the rectangular arena. Across the way stands Wattson, the Gym Leader.

The man is in his older years, with a balding head and a full beard of white. Under the beard is a wide smile, and his eyes are framed by laugh-lines. His rotund form is covered by a yellow jumpsuit, the top half of which is covered with a brown jacket.

"So, you're Lee Henson?" Wattson asks, his voice carrying over the loudspeakers. "Hahaha! Another big up-and-comer here to challenge me, and so soon!" He grasps his belly as he laughs. "Ah! There's that Vulpix who is already putting Fire-types three times her size to shame! This is going to be an electrifying battle!"

"You know of her?" Lee asks as he steps into the center of the marked-off trainer box, his own voice echoing over the crowd. On his shoulder, he can feel Vulpix's surprise at being called out.

"Of course I do, son!" Wattson's smile becomes knowing. "We Gym Leaders talk, you know! You and young Brendan were the first ones on our radar!"

The people watching Ohh and Ahh over the unexpected revelation, but Lee forces himself to not focus on them, delegating the crowd to just be background noise.

"Really?" Lee mulls. "Interesting."

The referee standing off to the side of the battleground, a man wearing the classic black and white striped referee uniform, finally steps up and clears his throat, silencing everyone. "This official Gym challenge is between challenger Lee Henson from Littleroot and Gym Leader Wattson of Mauville." He begins, gesturing to each trainer as he introduces them. "This match will be a two-on-two single battle, and only the challenger may substitute. This match will be over when all pokemon on one side are unable to continue. Trainers!" He looks between Lee and Wattson. "Select your first pokemon!"

Lee grasps Grovyle's ball and enlarges it as Wattson reaches in his jacket and withdraws a worn Great Ball.

"Your friend Brendan eked a win out over my longtime partner, Manetric." Wattson comments with an approving nod. "I wanted him to battle you, but my poor boy is just a little too banged up. Luckily, his wife is just as good!" Wattson draws his hand back and tosses the blue pokeball in his hand. "Let's show 'em, Jolteon!"

The Great Ball bursts open, dumping a mass of light on the ground that quickly takes a spiky shape. As the light fades, it leaves behind a blinking Jolteon.

Jolteon, one of the many forms of Eevee, scents the air and shakes herself with a curious Murr? Her yellow fur and the white tuft circling her neck stand up in long spikes that crackle with an electric charge. Her black eyes shine with experience that she gazes upon Lee with no wariness, yet no dismissal.

'Jolteon, one of the fastest pokemon in the world. Our only saving grace here is how frail they are. Grovyle should be able to put her down with just a few solid attacks.' Lee licks his lips and whips his own pokeball up into the air without any announcement.

High up, the ball pops open and releases Grovyle, who lands in a crouch in the arena. He stands in one smooth motion and crosses his arms, locking eyes with Jolteon.

The barriers around the arena shimmer to life, locking the pair of pokemon in.

"First match! Jolteon versus Grovyle," the ref raises his arm and chops down. "Begin!"

"Quick Attack!/Quick Attack!" Both Lee and Wattson call at the same time.

Both pokemon become blurs instantly, crashing into each other in the center of the arena only to bound away and re-engage a split second later in another part of the battleground, creating a staccato of thuds and whacks. It takes only a second, and Lee barely sees it, but Jolteon moves just a bit faster and slams her head into Grovyle's stomach, driving the breath from his lungs and forcing him to jump back to Lee's side of the field. He grimaces and clutches his stomach.

"Pin Missile, Joltie!" Wattson presses the advantage.

The spikes of fur on Jolteon glow a brilliant white, then she crouches low and shakes herself. A split second later, a barrage of needles shoot out of her spiky coat, each one whistling as it cuts through the air in homes and on Grovyle with agonizing intent.

"Detect!" Lee orders, already feeling himself beginning to sweat. "Leaf Blade to deflect the rest!"

Grovyle's eyes shine yellow, and like a dancer he weaves around the white needles intent on turning him into a pincushion. He ducks, dips, dives, and contorts his body into shapes that would break the limbs of a lesser pokemon. His wrist leaves hum and grow rigid, then he starts slicing through every needle heading his way with supernatural precision as Detect slowly begins to fail. His eyes twitch, desperate to blink, but he resists the urge lest he lose Detect entirely.

Jolteon's eyes narrow in concentration as she continues the seemingly endless tide of needles. Before Grovyle's Detect and Leaf Blade can run dry, the glow in her fur fades.

"Bullet Seed!" Lee orders as soon as he sees the last needle shatter against Leaf Blade.

Grovyle's mouth opens, and out comes a volley of near super-sonic seeds that scream towards Jolteon.

The Electric-type needs no order to dodge, instantly moving and dodging around the shots with furious footwork. She jukes left and right, stopping on a dime and redirecting herself every time Grovyle's aim catches up and begins leading the shots again.

"Not bad at all!" Wattson laughs and cheers. "Okay, Joltie. Let's get serious!"

'Well fuck.'

"Shock Wave!"

Jolteon's fur crackles once more, showering the area around her in sparks. Then with a cry, a lightning bolt as thick as a man's wrist jumps from the electrified aura around her body and strikes Grovyle instantly, making the gecko cringe as the volts run through his body. Unlike the odd, physics-defying lightning of other pokemon moves, Shock Wave is quite literally instant, hitting Grovyle before Lee or himself could think of retaliating.

"Give 'em the old hit-n-run!" Wattson pumps his fist.

If Jolteon was fast before, then she's easily twice as quick now, jumping all over the arena as a blur of yellow so fast that her features all simply meld together. She stays in a single spot for just a scant second each time, just long enough to fire another Shock Wave with a growling cry and practically teleport to a new angle.

It's all Grovyle can do to shield his head with his arms and grit his teeth each time he's zapped. The bolts are by no means weak, and the damage is rapidly adding up even with his Grass typing cutting the damage from the Electric attacks.

'Fuck! Jolteon must be even faster than Andre's Absol!' Lee grits his own teeth right along with his pokemon just remembering the monster of a pokemon. "Use… Use Feint Attack! Move!"

A sickly aura of purple-black diffuses from between Grovyle's electric burn-spattered scales, then he simply vanishes from view. A second later, a Shock Wave scorches the ground where he was standing.

"Huh? Feint Attack? I didn't realize that a Grovyle could learn that." Wattson hums. "Stay wary, Joltie. Oh! And don't let him touch you!"

Jolteon bounces lightly on her paws, keeping her head on a swivel and turning her ears every which way, waiting for Grovyle to reappear. All the while, she keeps her coat circulating with electricity, making little arks rise up between the points of her spikes.

'He should be close enough… Please work.' Lee breathes out a tense sigh. "Seed Blast!"

Just several arms lengths away, Grovyle reappears on Jolteon's right with his mouth wide open. His throat bulges as his mouth glows a yellow-green, then with the thunderous report of a shotgun, he shoots a wide net of seeds like buckshot.

Jolteon's eyes widen and she's in motion before the first seeds are even fired, but the sheer wall of projectiles means that a number of them still clip her leg, one even lodging itself in her flank and drawing blood. She springs away, but lands awkwardly and keeps her weight off of her wounded side.

'Nice!' Lee grins as the match finally begins to turn around. 'Good luck running circles around us with a lame leg.'

"Uh oh…" Worry crosses Wattson's aged features. "Looks like we can't dally. Joltie! Agility!"

Jolteon sways on her paws, a pink haze materializing from nowhere and sinking into her skin.

"Grovyle, Qui-!"

"Baton Pass, Joltie!"

"-ck Attack!"

Grovyle flies forward like a meteor wreathed in an aura of white, but before he can reach Jolteon, she's sucked back into her pokeball through the barrier. At the same time, another pokeball in Wattson's jacket levitates on its own and pops open, once again completely bypassing the battlefield barrier to drop another pokemon into the exact spot where Jolteon was.

Thwack!

Grovyle recoils and clutches his bleeding skull when he runs face-first into a levitating Magneton. He wipes away the blood running down into his eye and hisses as he gazes up at his opponent.

The new pokemon in Jolteon's place is far more object than animal, being three steel balls seemingly welded together in a triangle pattern. Each 'body' sports a single large eye, two phillips head screws protruding without a visible hole except for the top body, which has an additional screw on the top of its head. Most notably are the two U shaped magnets on each body, which twist and turn as the pokemon hovers.

Occupying the same spot where Jolteon once was, Magneton soaks up the remaining pink residue of Agility in the air. The pokemon buzzes and hums threateningly, jittering from the sudden speed boost.

Suddenly, things seem to have taken a turn for the worst.

"Is that even legal?" Lee questions, looking at the ref. "That doesn't count as a substitution?"

The man simply nods. "Baton Pass is a legal move in the Hoenn Gym Circuit. It does not violate bans on substitutions."

"Hoho! Let's see how you get out of this one!" Wattson chortles. "Magneton! Take Down!"

The Steel and Electric-type shudders in place, then zips at Grovyle with devilish speed, aimed to crash into him like a speeding train.

"Detect!" Lee quickly orders, mentally telling himself to not panic. "Move!"

Grovyle's eyes shine, and he ducks just in time, letting Magneton sail overhead and crash into the ground, throwing up a plume of dirt and dust.

"Get 'em again, Magneton!" Wattson calls. "Slow 'em down with Metal Sound if you have to!"

Magneton shoots up out of the cloud of dust and hovers ominously over the battlefield. It convulses, seemingly trying to pull the different units of his body apart, then from the pokemon comes a positively ear rending sound akin to metal being twisted.

Lee grimaces and covers Vulpix's ears for her, making her relay a grateful flash of emotion even as her eyes twitch from the god-awful noise.

Grovyle clutches his ears, but refuses to open his mouth in a scream that would go unheard anyway. His eyes glow again as Magneton rockets down at him, but he blinks as blood seeps from the gash in his head and runs down into his eyes once more.

Magneton smashes into Grovyle like a runaway truck, and even with the slight ringing in his ears, Lee hears the telltale crunch of shattered bones.

The gecko pokemon flops along the ground like a ragdoll, before coming to a stop on the ground, unmoving. He coughs, staining the dirt under his mouth red.

Off to the side of the field, the referee shakes his head and waves an arm before the buzzer overhead sounds. "Grovyle is unable to battle. Wattson and Magneton are the winners of round one!"

The crowd erupts into cheers. In the nosebleed section of the right side, Lee can see the shocked faces of Brendan and Zinnia. The tribeswoman realizes that Lee is looking at them rather quickly and elbows Brendan, forcing the boy to school his face into one of encouragement.

Lee quickly holds Grovyle's ball out and shoots the return beam in the instant the barrier around the field goes down. In a flash of red, his pokemon is returned to the safety of his ball. The last son of Earth clenches his eyes shut in directionless irritation, easing only when Vulpix noses his cheek with a quiet, encouraging murmur.

"Phew!" The old Gym Leader wipes his forehead with the back of his hand. "We really had to pull out some tricks there. You and your pokemon are really something, Lee!"

The praise eases some of the sting of the loss, but only some. "Thank you," Lee mutters. He rases Grovyle's ball to his mouth, quietly whispering; "And thank you, Grovyle. I'm proud of you for giving your all." He replaces the ball on his belt.

"Challenger Lee, please select the second and final pokemon from your team!" The referee calls.

'I've only got one to pick…' Lee thinks to himself. "Alrighty, love. Time to take names." He points his arm out and lets Vulpix springboard herself from it and into the arena. Once her paws touch the packed dirt floor, the protective barriers rise again behind her.

The vixen eyeballs the floating Magneton with open hostility, eager to burn off the frustration from the vexing day.

'We're going to need to go hard and fast,' Lee sends his thoughts to Vulpix. 'Magneton is still completely undamaged, and although hurt, Jolteon is still ambulatory and thus dangerous. We're going to attack, use every dirty trick we can, and only sneak in status moves when we can, all right?'

Vulpix physically nods, flaring her tails and lowering herself into a ready stance. The sunlight pouring through the windows begins to intensify, growing into angry rays that heat the arena up with Fire energy.

Lee feels a tickle in his head and behind his eyes. After a second to focus, he widens his end of their connection, letting their senses overlap. The nausea and slowly growing ache in his skull from processing a body and a half worth of input is ignored, tempered by an angry sort of determination that both man and pokemon share.

"Match two, Vulpix versus Magneton!" The ref chops his hand down again. "Begin!"

'Flamethrower.'

A gout of flame bursts from Vulpix's lips before Wattson can even complete the first syllable of his order. Even rocking a speed high from Jolteon's Agility, the Flamethrower is just too sudden to avoid for Magneton, who screeches and instinctually swerves away when the fire.

"Whoa, nelly!" Wattson exclaims, his eyes widening. "Magneton, use-"

'Flamethrower again.'

Vulpix breathes in, and out comes fire fueled by fury.

Another Flamethrower with zero warning engulfs Magneton, who once again zips out of the way, only to let out another metallic screech as the fire instead bends sharply at Vulpix's will to follow.

"Magneton! Listen to my voice! Use Sonic Boom and blow the fire out!" Wattson's voice begins to grow dire as genuine confusion and distress blooms in his face.

For a moment, Lee falters, feeling as if this is cheating. A mental tug from Vulpix pulls him back into focus.

'The poi*t of the*e Gym batt*es is to overc*me them w*th whatever r*sources we h*ve. We're being t*sted.' Vulpix sends to him. With their minds so close that the border between man and pokemon is beginning to become blurred, her 'voice' is crisp and audible. 'If Baton Pass i*n't cheating, th*n our bond isn't che*ting eit*er.'

'Maybe you're right…' Lee steels himself and pours his focus back into the battle. 'Fine then. Sorry, Magneton, but we're taking that badge.'

Magneton shivers, and for a split second his body pulls itself into three pieces before the magnetism between them pulls them back together. The reunion of the three bodies is so violent that a shockwave of air rockets towards the snaking flame still pursuing Magneton.

Vulpix and Lee both grasp the flames as one, and together split it into six separate streams that scatter around the Sonic Boom attack, which misses entirely and hits the ground with a violent bang.

The broken Flamethrower then reforms into a pillar of burning orange that engulfs Magneton once more.

After taking three super-effective attacks in a row and now glowing a dangerous, superheated red, Magneton warbles and falls to the ground with a loud clatter, it's eyes becoming unfocused and it's magnets going limp.

Wattson doesn't seem to believe what he's seeing and runs a hand along his mostly bald head.

The referee seems unsure of what to do after witnessing the stomp of a battle, but eventually he clears his throat and raises his arm, making the buzzer overhead sound for the second time in the battle. "Magneton is unable to battle! Vulpix and Lee are the winners of round two!"

The onlookers go ballistic.

People give standing ovations, and more than one cell phone is raised and taking pictures. High up in the stands, Brendan is one of the most enthusiastic, standing with both arms raised and yelling even if his voice is drowned out.

The battlefield barrier goes down, and Wattson absently recalls his cooling and unconscious Magneton. "Well," he works his jaw, seemingly trying to find words as he puts the ball away and pulls Jolteon's ball out again. "Those are some new tricks if I've ever seen any. And that anger you've got on your face! Sorry if I struck a nerve, but the last thing I want to do is make this as easy as falling off a log. I've got a duty as Gym Leader to make sure that youngsters who take up the mantle of pokemon trainer end up strong."

Lee sighs and rubs the bridge of his nose with a thumb and forefinger, feeling the headache from delving so deep into Vulpix's psyche slowly grow worse. "It's not you, Mister Wattson. Today has just been a crummy day is all."

The old man laughs. "Here's hoping a good round three will make your day a bit better. Okay, Joltie! Back in ya go!" The ball leaves his hand and pops open, dropping Jolteon back into the field.

Jolteon still stands without any weight on her right hind leg as she inspects the arena, her eyes moving to the craters that Magneton created, then to Vulpix.

"Round three! Vulpix versus Jolteon!" The referee announces. "Begin!"

'Baby-Doll Eyes, then Ember in a wide net.'

Once again, Wattson can't even call an attack before Vulpix's offensive is already flying. The vixen's eyes glow a cloying pink, and Jolteon yelps as her legs suddenly begin to shake with weakness.

Vulpix then spits out a fireball that erupts into Embers the instant that Baby-Doll Eyes strikes. The Embers all spread out, guided by Vulpix's pyrokinesis, then descend on Jolteon like a swarm of furious insects.

"Discharge!" Wattson is much faster to catch on this round. "Blow 'em away!"

Jolteon howls as electricity explodes out of her in a wide dome of radiant yellow. When the Embers hit Discharge, they explode brilliantly.

When Discharge doesn't halt, Vulpix zooms to the side with Quick Attack at Lee's behest, rushing for the corner of the arena the furthest away from Jolteon. By the time Discharge makes it to Vulpix, it's lost a significant amount of power and merely stings rather than incapacitate. Vulpix barely winces, but Lee twitches from the phantom sensation of essentially being tased.

"Quick Attack, go!" Wattson points a finger as he orders Jolteon. Gone is his jovial expression, instead replaced with one of focus. "Don't let her stay at range!"

Even with a lame leg, Jolteon blitzes across the arena with such speed that she leaves a trail of dust in her wake, aiming to smash her skull into Vulpix.

'Hold.'

Vulpix's eyes narrow, then using Lee's eyes to double check everything from another perspective, she takes a deep breath and a ring of fire around her paws begins to burn.

'Now!'

A barely withheld Fire Spin churns to life around the vixen, then bursts up into a whirlwind of fire that Jolteon barely aborts running into. The eeveelution still has enough traction on three paws to near-instantly stop and bound away to the center of the arena before Fire Spin consumes her. After the miss, Vulpix drops Fire Spin and lets it fade into hot air and embers, disgruntled.

"Isn't this a pickle… Can't get too close, can't be too far," The Gym Leader grunts. "Joltie! Lightscreen!"

A protective barrier of pink energy covers Jolteon from head to toe, and Lee silently curses himself for not having Vulpix interrupt it. 'Fucking swell. If that works like it does in the game, it's going to cut a huge amount of damage out of special attacks.'

"Sorry to do this when you have a bum leg, girl, but hit-n-run with Extremesp-"

Alarm surges through Vulpix and into Lee. 'Fuck no! Flamethrower! Give it everything you have!'

Vulpix's mouth opens and out pours a pillar of bright orange flames. With the frantic pace of their collective thoughts, time itself seems to slow down for Lee and Vulpix, revealing a disheartening fact.

Flamethrower isn't going to make it in time. Jolteon is already tensing and glowing with a bright, almost blinding corona of white. Her face is set in a grimace as she coils all of her muscles, her injured leg included. Even if Flamethrower were to land, Lightscreen might bleed off enough damage for her to simply keep pelting the much slower Vulpix with attacks.

For all her pyrokinetic control, Vulpix has never once caught a speeding Corvisquire when he was using Extremespeed, barring saturating an entire area in hellfire. Trying to catch a Jolteon? It simply isn't happening,

In a less frazzled, less distracted state of mind, Lee might have simply had Vulpix use Feint Attack as Grovyle did, then try to attack Jolteon from an unexpected angle, but now...

He tries desperately to think of something to let them win this. He can't use items, he has no substitutes, he has no special gimmicks to use… or?

With his bond to Vulpix deepening by the day, Lee has found himself strangely aware of things he couldn't even conceptualize before being a trainer. Things like his own senses and how they truly all tied together, or how a language might work without words, or even the enigmatic thing known as a soul. With his eyes just barely cracked open, possibilities already present themselves to him.

So when he mentally seizes Vulpix's connection to him and drags it deep inside himself, passing his mind and instead tapping into the body, he's only half surprised when it works.

The blazing Flamethrower, now empowered by two bodies worth of stamina, surges like a jet and burns so hot that the innermost core of the flame blazes a brilliant blue. It crosses the arena like a beam, engulfing Jolteon only milliseconds before she jumps and splashing against the rear barrier in a wave of bright orange and blue.

Several people in the crowd scream as the heat bleeds through, raising the temperature in the room several degrees.

After only a second, Vulpix shuts her jaws, ending Flamethrower.

Standing shivering and coated in burns in the midst of a charred trench in the floor, Wattson's Jolteon lets out a piteous groan and collapses to her side. Swaths of her spikey fur are burned away, leaving reddened, blistered skin that would surely be worse if not for her Lightscreen.

"Holy moley…" Wattson mutters as he wipes his sweating brow. "That was… quite something."

Above, the buzzer sounds.

"That's it! Jolteon is unable to battle! Challengers Lee and Vulpix are the winners!" The referee waves his arms over his head.

Like they did last time, the crowd goes absolutely wild. Camera flashes light up the spectator seats and people stand to cheer.

Lee groans as he slowly pulls his mind away from Vulpix's. As her senses vanish, suddenly only being able to see in a single direction feels confining, and he feels dull without her ears or nose to pick up everything he misses.

As the invisible walls around the battlefield drop, Wattson recalls his injured Jolteon and begins the walk to the center of the field, still appearing mystified by the outcome of the battle.

Lee slowly trudges out to meet him, feeling the effects of something so rash as using his own body to fuel Vulpix's attack. His limbs feel as if they weigh a hundred pounds each, and he's beset by the same weariness one might feel after running a marathon. 'Yeah, we're going to save that move for emergencies.'

'You h*d bet*er,' Vulpix huffs, pressing herself to one of his legs to help steady him. 'Th*t wa* reck*ess. Did you e*en *n*w w*at was g**ng to hap**n?' Her telepathy is choppier than usual in her displeasure, and between the reduced quality and the lethargy gripping his brain, it takes a bit longer for Lee to decipher what she says.

'I had an idea, and it worked out. You said we need to use everything at our disposal, right?'

'Yes, e***ything *e c*rr*ntly h*ve at ou* disp*sal, not unt*ste* t*chniques t*at risk y*u.'

"Mister Lee, I gotta say you really surprised me there," Wattson says as they finally meet in the middle of the now scarred and pockmarked battleground. He looks around at the myriad of divots and burns. "You really are one to keep track of. As proof of your victory over the Mauville Gym, I'm happy to present the Dynamo Badge to you!" The man grins and holds out the little golden badge between his fingers.

Lee takes it and smiles tiredly. "Thank you."

"Haha! It's my pleasure!" Wattson's jovial tone returns full force. "Now, go get some rest after you see the front desk about your prize money and a Shock Wave TM. You're pale as a ghost!"


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Topic: Newcomers to lookout for this year (Pinned)

In: Boards ► Hoenn ► Ever Grande Conference

RunThatBack (Mod) (Original Poster)

Posted On July 5th 20XX:

Hey guys, it's that time of the year again. New blood is coming to Hoenn in record numbers. There are hundreds of new trainers this year and a ton of trainers from abroad, so lots of new teams to see and compete with. Last year was underwhelming considering the EGC winner Tanya Willis could barely stand up to E4 Sidney and got wiped, but this year already has tons of potential and the year has only been open for about a month and a half. Keep fanboy/girling to a minimum and if you really have to start a thread for individual trainers in Boards ► Hoenn ► Indiv Trainers. Rules are the same as last year for the Big Watch list. If you think you should be on the list and aren't, that sucks. Go make waves then complain. Note that this is for Newcomers to the EGC, so if you don't see your favorite here and they've competed before, check the Veterans thread. ANYONE CAUGHT ASTROTURFING THEMSELVES WITH A SOCKPUPPET ACCOUNT WILL BE BANNED.

EDIT #1: So far, our list in no particular order is:

Val Forrest (link)

Clark White (link)

Ash Ketchum (link)

Brendan Birch (link)

Katie Huffman (link)

Tyson Rhyn (link)

Lee Henson (link)

Kai Morrison (link)

Andre *no surname* (link)

Gavin Freed (link)

The links will take you to their respective profiles. Opening the thread for replies and debate.

(Showing page 1 of 98)

G_Freed (Verified Trainer)

Replied On July 5th 20XX:

10th place? C'mon, I think I'm better than that! I toasted Norman Maple EZ!

BaldQuillfish

Replied On July 5th 20XX:

G_Freed - Lol. Beating Norman Maple's kiddie team with a Machoke isn't impressive. Also nice reading comprehension.

G_Freed (Verified Trainer)

Replied On July 5th 20XX:

[Deleted]

RunThatBack (Mod) (Original Poster)

Replied On July 5th 20XX:

G_Freed - Cool it

UNDERMAN!

Replied On July 5th 20XX:

Katie is taking it this year, no doubt. I live in Lilycove and I've seen her battle firsthand. It's game over.

LuvMachineMKIV

Replied On July 5th 20XX:

YES KATIE IS FINALLY TAKING THE CHALLENGE AAAAAA MY QUEEN.

Umbreon778

Replied On July 5th 20XX:

Gavin going for the get deleted any% lol.

KLMK

Replied On July 5th 20XX:

Birch has huge ups on this. His dad probably trained him and gave him a monster-ass starter Mudkip. It's already a Marshtomp.

chatot_radio

Replied On July 5th 20XX:

Who is andre

Umbreon778

Replied On July 5th 20XX:

Chatot_Radio - A Dark-type trainer who has been in Dewford for years. He beat Brawly's RT like 3 days ago with a type disadvantage.

(Showing page 2 of 98)

V_Marlo (Verified Trainer)

Replied On July 5th 20XX:

KLMK - Yeah I've watched this kid's battles. He's got like a 90% win rate. Insanity. I guess you can get huge numbers with the power of nepotism.

BurningRightHand

Replied On July 5th 20XX:

V_Marlo - It's not really nepotism. He's good at battling. Even strong pokemon fail with a bad trainer. He's unique… Unlike you.

UNDERMAN!

Replied On July 5th 20XX:

V_Marlo - Thats nothing. You want to see suspicious numbers? Go look at Lee Henson's win-rate. It's hovering right around 95%. Methinks he's a ringer the League hired to spice up this year after how awful last year was.

V_Marlo (Verified Trainer)

Replied On July 5th 20XX:

BurningRightHand - [deleted]

RunThatBack (Mod) (Original Poster)

Replied On July 5th 20XX:

V_Marlo Global Rule 3. Stop it.

BaldQuillfish

Replied On July 5th 20XX:

Has the League done that before? Sounds like a juicy conspiracy.

Brik-e-brack

Replied On July 5th 20XX:

No Underman is just having vivid dreams again.

UNDERMAN!

Replied On July 5th 20XX:

Bruh the man is a ghost. He came out of nowhere got hired by the regional lab got a roster of rare mons and started sweeping. Does that not sound suspect? (Now that I've said this his handlers monitoring the thread are going to tell him to take a dive)

KazuoKandy

Replied On July 5th 20XX:

UNDERMAN! - Have you seen that vulpix? Thats not a pokemon you get from some league breeder, she looks like she was hand-raised.

BaldQuillfish

Replied On July 5th 20XX:

KazuoKandy - Missed the point of what he said, airhead. No one said he got his pokemon from the League.

(Showing page 3 of 98)

L_Blackthorn (Verified Trainer) (Kanto Champion) (Johto Champion)

Replied On July 5th 20XX:

Be ready for Ash Ketchum.

SunnyBun

Replied On July 5th 20XX:

OMFG LANCE IS HERE

Brik-e-brack

Replied On July 5th 20XX:

L_Blackthorn Senpai please notice me

Umbreon778

Replied On July 5th 20XX:

Ketchum confirmed for OP

G_Freed (Verified Trainer)

Replied On July 5th 20XX:

DUDE

V_Marlo (Verified Trainer)

Replied On July 5th 20XX:

L_Blackthorn - Marry me

I_Sora (Verified Trainer)

Replied On July 5th 20XX:

Yooo I looked at Ash Ketchum's battles. This kid has had a ton of hype moments and his Pikachu smoked Andre's Absol in one hit. L_Blackthorn do you know this kid?

DukeOfJuke

Replied On July 5th 20XX:

POSTING IN CHAMP THREAD POSTING IN CHAMP THREAD POSTING IN CHAMP THREAD ASH KETCHUM IS TAKING THE GOLD


...And it derailed from there for a solid seven pages, which suits Lee just fine because he's already stopped caring. He sets his phone down and looks around the hotel room.

Brendan is sitting huddled with Marshtomp, Breloom, and Mawile on his bed. Marshtomp is still sporting cuts and abrasions upon his body from his battle earlier today, but in his usual fashion looks wholly unbothered. Breloom looks as tired as Lee feels, and he wholly understands considering the mushroom pokemon is missing part of his left claw, which is sure to be an uncomfortable healing process. His other claw has a number of cracks sealed with shiny medical glue. Mawile, meanwhile, is unharmed, as she didn't participate in the Gym battle today. Together, the four idly flip through the channels on the TV, pretending the awkward atmosphere in the room isn't there.

In the chair beside the window, Zinnia sits with Swablu in her lap, busying herself with silently helping the cotton-bird pokemon preen her wings. Both the dragon tamer and bird are too absorbed in their tasks to pay much mind to anything else. Alongside the chair sits Shelgon with his eyes closed, either asleep or meditating.

At the foot of Lee's bed, Shinx soundly sleeps alongside Goomy after her afternoon meal. The kitten could feel the tension in the room when she was let out of her pokeball and needed to be rocked to sleep after her meal, as she was simply too restless otherwise. Even then, she needed her friend Goomy by her side to truly find restful sleep.

Vulpix is laid across Lee's lap, silent comfort radiating from her warm body into his with something more active just a word away.

After leaving the Mauville Gym and dropping Grovyle off for an overnight stay at the Pokemon Center, Lee powered through his exhaustion to walk back to where Corvisquire ran off so he could wait for a bit longer.

Corvisquire never showed up.

The rep with Silph Co was given a call and agreed to a rescheduling, leaving Lee the rest of the night to himself, though his friends seemed determined to not leave him alone.

With a sigh, he lifts his phone again.

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Topic: Lost: Corvisquire

In: Boards ► Hoenn ► Sightings, Trades, Lost/Found

L_Henson (Verified Trainer) (Original Poster)

Posted On July 9th 20XX:

Lost: Corvisquire. Roughly 3'3" tall. Surly disposition and very battle competent. No distinguishing marks or nickname. Last seen near Mauville today. If seen, please ask him to return to his trainer in Mauville. Potentially violent, so do not engage. Still in my care, just lost.

"You did everything right."

Lee sets his phone down and looks over to Zinnia, who stares back at him with her serious red eyes. "Did what right?"

"Everything with Corvisquire," she drums her fingers on the arm of her chair. "You did everything right. When it comes to being a loveable goody-goody and caring for pokemon? Dolittle, you're second to none. Don't sit there and mope over an ungrateful bird when today was a huge win in the Gym."

Lee dips his hand into his pocket and withdraws his Dynamo Badge. He raises it to the light, watching it glint beautifully.

Today doesn't feel like a win.

END CH