Yo!

Not a ton to say regarding the story this chapter, but there is some stuff regarding the next update of this story in the AN at the end, so read up on that if you want to know!


Chapter 19


Opelucid's Gym was quiet when she and Cynthia arrived the following morning. Bianca wasn't sure what it was she was feeling as they stepped in, and began their preliminary efforts towards getting her yet another Gym Badge.

"Alright," Cynthia cleared her throat. "First off, what's your strategy here?"

"Use Milotic and Bagon's ice and dragon-type moves to super-effectively attack Iris' team, while never giving her the opportunity to strike back at me with similarly effective moves."

"And in the event that things don't go to plan?"

"Switch into Leavanny and use it's typing to tank any electic and grass-type moves for Milotic, and any dragon-type moves for Bagon. Milotic switches in to tank fire-type moves for Leavanny."

"Good. It's a solid base to build off of. Obviously, any plan is going to require adapting in real time, but I think yours is at least built for that."

Bianca nodded her head, happy to hear that from someone whose opinion she trusted as much as Cynthia's.

"Right… well, I guess it's time we got this show on the road." Cynthia spoke. "Good luck, Bianca."

She smiled at her mentor, and then stepped forward.

Iris was there to meet her, sat in an elegant throne with a draconic motif. She stood from out of it as they approached, and instantly, any sense of intimidation that the admittedly heavy atmosphere of the gym gave off was obliterated as Iris' lips split apart in a beaming smile, and she waved giddily towards the both of them.

"Good morning, guys!"

"Good morning, Iris." Bianca smiled.

"I'm super pumped!" She declared, bouncing up and down as if she were warming up for exercise. "This'll be a helluva' good time!"

Bianca smirked, even as Cynthia stood off to one side, and their officiator – an older gentleman who looked like he'd been with the gym for longer than Iris had been alive – stepped up, and cleared his throat.

"This battle will begin once both parties are ready." He declared.

Bianca nodded her head, even as she went through somewhat of a pre-battle ritual, and shut her eyes. She wasn't quite sure why, but… she wanted to say a few words to Hilda, that day. Wanted to talk with her, speak to her, communicate with her somehow.

No matter where she was, she wanted her to hear what Bianca had to say.

Hey, Hilda. She remarked mentally. I'm going to face Iris, now, just like you said I would all that time ago. It's… the situation is a bit different. I'm not anywhere close to becoming the champion, and Iris gave up the position herself. But even so… even so, I want you to watch me. I'm going to make you proud.

It was a tall order; for her, of all people, to make Hilda proud. She… she was doing better these days in terms of mental health, but even still, she didn't quite believe she was capable of such. Hilda's expectations had been so grand and vast, and Bianca herself was just…

She was small, and weak, and feeble. She couldn't possibly live up to Hilda's words in that letter.

So how? How had Hilda thought she could? How had she looked at Bianca, at the failure she'd become, even then when the letter had been newly written a decade ago, and come to such a conclusion? How had she had such faith in her?

…No, this wasn't helping her to feel more confident about the battle at hand. If anything, it was sapping at her resolve, making her doubt herself.

That was the last thing she needed.

So, she looked up. She saw Iris standing there, waiting for her, and she forced herself to take a step forward, so that the two of them occupied the arena that they would be sending their Pokémon into.

"I'm ready." She lied, for it was all she could do.

"As am I." Iris called.

The officiator nodded his head, cleared his throat, and then, with a practiced ease, slung his hand down.

"Begin!"

"Go, Fraxure!"

The Pokémon that appeared was the second-stage in the Axew line. A dragon through and through, albeit not a fully-evolved one. It wouldn't be hitting nearly as hard as something like a Haxorus, for example.

Bianca decided to play things safe in the beginning. She reached down towards her waist, gripped one of her Pokéball's, and said, "Go, Milotic!"

Her Pokémon gave a melodious cry as it landed upon the field of battle, it's serpent-like body undulating upon the dry land.

She would take the initiative.

"Milotic, hit it with an Ice Beam!"

Her Pokémon followed her orders immediately, gathering frost at its mouth before launching a blast of ice forward. Iris, to her credit, had evidently expected as such, and she called out to Fraxure, "Protect!" before the move could land.

A blue forcefield appeared around Fraxure, and the Ice Beam bounced harmlessly off of it. Bianca clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth, but accepted the fact that the opening hadn't gone her way.

Then again, it wasn't as if things were going terribly, just… neutral.

Of course, that was when Iris flung things on their head.

"Fraxure, Dragon Dance!"

Her pulse quickened, and the match, it seemed, was already heating up. Dragon Dance was a set-up move, and one of the most powerful in existence. It didn't just make the Pokémon who'd used the move stronger, but faster as well.

She needed to counter it. Quickly, or else things were going to get out of hand rather soon.

"Milotic, Ice Beam!"

As Fraxure had just used a move, even if it was speeding itself up, it wouldn't be able to dodge an immediate response. One of the downsides to set-up moves was that they left the Pokémon that used them vulnerable.

A rather dangerous walk along the knife's edge.

Fraxure took the hit, but remained standing afterwards, growling under its breath as Iris hummed victoriously.

"Fraxure, let's get in there and hit it with a Dragon Claw!"

"Milotic, another Ice Beam!"

She had more moves in the tank, of course, one being Hydro Pump, and another being Iron Tail. Even so, that didn't mean either were a better choice than what she'd been using thus far. Ice Beam was what she'd have to rely on.

…Or at least, she wanted Iris to think that.

Her ace in the hole wouldn't be used here on Fraxure, for it wasn't going to be Iris' own ace. She was confident in that.

That final fourth move… she was saving it for the Haxorus she knew was coming.

Fraxure struck the oncoming Ice Beam with its glowing purple claw, and there was a brief scuffle as the two Pokémon's powers faced off. Bianca was confident that a Fraxure that hadn't Dragon Danced would not have been able to power through Milotic's Ice Beam, and yet…

This one could.

The ice split apart, and Fraxure leapt through it. Iris called out to it to use another Dragon Claw, and Bianca understood that, even if it cost her the element of surprise, she had no better play but to utilize Milotic's hidden power.

"Milotic, hit it with a Blizzard!"

Iris' eyes widened, and Bianca knew why. Blizzard was an incredibly powerful, if somewhat gimmicky move to use. Ice Beam was the far more reliable, and that was simply because it was effective at almost any range.

Blizzard became much less so the more far apart two Pokémon were.

But at the range that Fraxure had leapt into, directly in front of Milotic?

That was a prime position.

Milotic reared back, and then unleashed the torrent of wind, and snow, and ice upon its foe. Fraxure cried out, even as it was buffeted back to the ground, and lied entirely still, its eyes spinning.

"Fraxure is unable to continue!" The officiator called, confirming what they both knew.

That was one for Bianca.

3 Pokémon to 2.

Milotic hadn't taken a hit, even, and that was a definite advantage for her. The problem, of course, was that her Haxorus would know Blizzard was coming, now. There would be no baiting it into close range as she'd been planning to, and then unleashing the move upon it.

"You did good, buddy!" Iris called to her Pokémon as she withdrew it back into its Pokéball, before setting it on her waist and drawing another. "Alright, let's see how you handle this!"

"Go, Noivern!"

The Pokémon that appeared before her was one that Bianca had scarcely seen before. She knew, vaguely, of its existence, but had only actually observed one in person on scant occasions.

The bat-like dragon cried out as it stretched its wings, before taking to the skies, hovering just above the battlefield.

"I picked up Noivern here while I was out adventuring in Kalos," Iris spoke, smiling as the Pokémon did rolls in the air above her. "I bet you didn't see this one coming, did you?"

No, Bianca hadn't. She'd honestly gone in expecting the same team that Hilda had once faced off against. A Fraxure, a Druddigon, and a Haxorus.

This was new. And not at all in a good way for her.

It seemed that Iris really had changed after all.

"Let the battle recommence!" The officiator called out, and Bianca almost swore under her breath, caught in her own ruminations as she'd been.

"Noivern, fly higher in the air, and gather energy!"

It was something she hadn't at all expected, but instantly, Bianca felt she understood what it was that Iris was planning.

Solar Beam.

A fiercely powerful technique, gated only by its inability to be used without first taking in energy. It was similar in a way to Hyper Beam, another move she'd had Milotic using up until she'd replaced it with Blizzard for this battle, albeit with the delay coming before instead of after.

And unfortunately, it was something she was concerned Milotic couldn't answer.

She reached out, and recalled her Pokémon back into its ball. "Good work, Milotic."

Iris seemed to have expected that, for her face quickly morphed into one of victory.

Why, though? Solar Beam was something that another member of her team countered almost perfectly. She reached towards that Pokéball, and threw it out towards the field.

"Go, Leavanny!"

The Pokémon hit the field, and instantly, Iris' hand flew down, her excitement almost boiling over.

"Got you! Noivern, hit it with Sky Attack!"

Bianca understood the colossal mistake she'd made far too late to truly do anything about it.

She'd assumed, of course, that Noivern had been planning on using a Solar Beam. It was a move, after all, that made sense given the context, and one it could learn. It would have, after all, likely been more than enough to knock Milotic out in one singular blow.

But she'd not been aiming for Milotic, for her sweeper.

She'd been aiming for her pivot. For her fallback plan.

And there was nothing Bianca could do about that now.

Noivern blitzed forward, almost disappearing from view as it streaked down from the ceiling above. Its body glowed with an almost heavenly aura, and power seemed to radiate from off of it.

Leavanny didn't stand a chance.

The hit struck dead center, given that Leavanny hadn't at all been ready for such a strike, still processing the situation it had found itself in. And being a bug and grass-type, it held a quadruple weakness to flying.

Her Pokémon struck the mat below without so much as a single chance to impact the battle.

"Leavanny is unable to continue!" The officiator called out, and Bianca understood that despite the fact that she'd taken the early advantage, she was now officially losing.

She forced herself to reign in her emotions as best she could. It would do her no good to panic about an even 2-2 split. Surely, Iris had caught her off-guard, and she'd taken Leavanny, her pivot, entirely out of the fight before it could do anything at all, but that didn't mean her chances were null and void.

She still had a decent shot at this, and she was going to make sure she took advantage.

She reached back towards Milotic's Pokéball, and threw it back out onto the field. It was clear the Pokémon was somewhat surprised by this revelation, given it had been recalled no more than a minute ago, but… well, it clued in quickly enough.

And the battle began again.

"Noivern, hit it with a Boomburst!"

"Counter with a Hydro Pump!"

The two moves collided in the center of the arena, and sent water scattering to the far reaches of the Gym, falling down upon them like rain from out of the clouds. Bianca bit down on her bottom lip, knowing two things above all else.

One, that Noivern's Boomburst was a major problem. There were few moves as potent as it, given its tremendous power, and there were even fewer moves that could claim such power without severe drawbacks. It hit nearly as hard as Hyper Beam, and without any time to cool down.

Two, that Milotic could not keep up in such a war of attrition. If Noivern continued to use Boomburst, then eventually, her Pokémon was going to be worn down.

Which meant that if she wanted to win this, she needed to get a bit bold.

"Milotic, close in on your opponent!"

Calling the maneuver risky was perhaps an understatement. Boomburst was, much like Blizzard, far more effective at close range, before the sound waves had the time to dissipate in power. Up close and personal, it was doubtful Milotic would be able to tank a single hit from the devastatingly powerful attack.

The same, however, was more than true about Blizzard.

Where Bianca was surprised, however, was in the fact that Iris made no effort to command her Pokémon to back away, to fly high into the air, as Bianca had expected. She'd assumed she would play to minimize the chance of Blizzard connecting, forcing Bianca to take potshots with Ice Beam from the ground while Noivern did the same with Boombursts from the air.

And yet, instead, Iris smirked, and held out her hand.

"Noivern, close the distance yourself!"

What? Bianca mentally questioned. Why would she…

It only occurred to her what it was Iris' plan had to be, again, too late for her to rectify her mistake. She was against a champion-level opponent, and she'd made the error of thinking that Iris wouldn't use the intellect that had gotten her there upon her.

She knew what it was that Bianca had in the final slot of her team. She knew the only Pokémon remaining for her to defeat was Bagon, and that her Haxorus, likely the final Pokémon in her own roster, could easily handle it.

So even if Noivern traded evenly here, even if this ended up being a 1-for-1 exchange… this was almost a guaranteed victory from here on out for Iris.

Check and mate.

Even still… the best move Bianca had at that point was to simply play the exchange out. Knight takes Knight.

"Milotic, use Blizzard!"

"Noivern, Boomburst!"

The two Pokémon fired off their respective moves, and the resulting explosion was catastrophic. When the icy smoke cleared, both Pokémon were down for the count, just as Bianca had known they would be.

Just as Iris had planned for them to be.

Bianca was caught. The situation was, at best, bleak. At worst…

At worst, it felt like she'd already lost.

"Both Pokémon are unable to continue!" The officiator announced, and both she and Iris retracted their Pokémon, before sending out their final team members.

"Go, Bagon.

"Let's get 'em, Haxorus!"

Just as she'd anticipated, there it was. The final member of Iris' team, and her ace in the hole.

Haxorus stood tall upon the field of battle, towering over her own Bagon as it stared its opponent down. Bagon, to its credit, didn't shy away, and instead growled up at the larger dragon with all that it had.

It was just a shame that what it had was worth so little.

I'm sorry, Hilda. She shook her head, already writing herself off. I couldn't… I couldn't live up to your expectations. I'm just… I'm just not good enough.

It was the truth, the naked, unadulterated truth. There was nothing to be done. No final card to play.

All that was left to do was to play the scenario out. To face off against Iris' Haxorus, likely last a single hit, and then lose.

"The competitors may begin when they are ready!"

This was it, then.

"Haxorus, let's wrap this up early!" Iris called, already preparing to end things in a single stroke. "Hit it with an Outrage!"

A powerful dragon-type move, Outrage's only true downside was the fact that it locked the Pokémon into using the move, and that after it had used it multiple times, it caused confusion. A problem that might have emerged, were the situation that Haxorus was facing not one it could, and likely would, end without delay.

…But… but maybe Bianca could somehow stall it? If she could make it use the move a second time, if she could keep Bagon standing until it drove itself into confusion, then…

Then was it possible she could win? Was there a sliver of a chance?

She…

Though I must provide a word of warning; I believe there are two figures who will one day come to challenge you. Two figures who will have what it takes to surpass you. My friends, Cheren, and Bianca. I ask that that you prepare yourself for their inevitable appearances, and when the time comes, that you face them with everything that you are.

…How could she bear to face Hilda someday and not know that she'd given it everything she had? How could she look her best friend in the eye, not having given a hundred and ten percent?

She wasn't done. Not yet. She couldn't be.

Bagon looked back to her. In its eyes… in its eyes, she saw a fire alike to the one burning in her own heart. A will to keep going, despite the odds, despite the horrible things that may lurk for them on the horizon.

She couldn't betray that look.

Wouldn't.

"Bagon, use Rock Tomb!" She shouted, and immediately, a plan began to take shape within her mind.

She just needed to hold Haxorus off for another usage of Outrage. Once it had begun, the Pokémon would be locked into the move. It couldn't do anything but blaze ahead. And surely, if it hit, it would be more than enough to take Bagon out. But…

But if she could keep it away…

Haxorus glowed with an aura of purple and orange, an almost sickly thing, that radiated power. Then, in the next moment, it charged with reckless abandon. Bagon's stones struck it, and the ground around it, but the Dragon ignored the attack, ignored the damage it had taken.

Bianca swore as it, instead of diverting itself around the stones Bagon had laid down all around it to slow it, instead charged right through them, as if they hadn't been there at all.

It charged at Bagon, made right for it.

"Bagon, use–"

And it made contact before Bianca could say another word.

Her eyes widened, and her breath caught. Bagon sailed through the air, buffeted backwards by the weight of its opponent's attack, and the mass behind it.

It hit the ground some ten meters behind that, and kicked up a cloud of smoke as it did.

Bianca couldn't say a thing.

Couldn't bear to.

It was over. It was done.

Bagon wouldn't have been able to tank such a hit. Wouldn't have been able to keep going after what it had endured. Wouldn't be able to get back up, and try again, knowing the impossibility of what it had to do, of what lied ahead of it.

It couldn't. It couldn't possibly–

And then the dust cleared.

And stood within it was her Bagon.

Bianca felt as if her heart ceased to beat for a single moment.

It was battered, and bruised, and roughed up worse than she'd ever seen it. It shook where it stood, almost as if the very act of getting up, of pushing itself off the ground had been too much for it.

And yet… and yet it stood, regardless.

How, Bianca found herself wondering, could it do such a thing? How, after what it had been faced with? How, after life had done nothing but throw it defeat after defeat, curve ball after curve ball, had it managed to find the will to push itself off the ground, and refuse to give up?

In that moment, seeing such an unfaltering drive, seeing herself reflected within her Pokémon, it was all Bianca could do to allow the tears to flow down her face.

Bagon turned to her. Its body shook. Its legs quaked. It seemed like it was running on the fumes of cinders.

Yet it saw her expression. Saw the way she cried; saw the way it had inspired her…

And it smiled.

Then its body was encompassed by a brilliant white light.

Bianca was not alone in reacting to that. Across the arena from her, she heard Iris gasp, and she could barely make out the officiator, who had previously been getting ready to call the match, putting down his arm, now watching intently again.

Somehow, even if she couldn't see her directly, she knew Cynthia was smiling.

Bagon's shape changed, even as Haxorus, still Outraging, charged towards the glowing white Pokémon.

Bianca felt panic well up within her, felt herself want to shout out to her Pokémon, which had begun to grow, and to evolve, and to change into something that was still it, but different, stronger, faster, and…

And then her heart stilled, her breathing regulated out. Her eyes narrowed, and her vision focused.

She couldn't betray such resolve.

Wouldn't.

As the white light faded, and her newly evolved Shellgon stood from out of it, Bianca's mind moved at a mile a minute. She stretched out her own hand, mimicking, almost, the motion that Iris had made earlier, and shouted, "Shellgon, Protect!"

Her Pokémon, as if working in time with her very movements, with the motions of her soul, responded.

It called up a barrier just as Haxorus' body collided with it. The barrier wavered, and it shook, but ultimately, it held.

And it was enough to send Haxorus spiraling back, its own momentum used against it. It fell to the ground, but rose soon after, not yet done, not yet finished raging.

But…

Its eyes were muddled, its body wavering.

It was confused.

And Bianca saw the opportunity she knew she would not get a second time.

"Shellgon, let's do this! Hit it with a dragon breath!"

Her Pokémon called out its assent, even as a purple and yellow breath poured from out of its face. It washed over the reeling Haxorus, forcing the Pokémon, again, backwards.

"Try and snap out of it, Haxorus!" Iris called to her own Pokémon, seeming almost desperate, their roles reversed. "Don't give into the confusion!"

Yet as much as Iris wished for her Pokémon to not be fooled, it was clear it couldn't quite manage it. It turned towards where it thought Shellgon was, and it outraged yet again. But unfortunately for it, that was merely one of the rocks that Shellgon had created earlier with its Rock Tomb, and this time, without the speed and momentum it had built up, its head crashed into it.

It hurt itself in its confusion.

Bianca needed to act, needed to take advantage of the situation. Shellgon, in time with her, was already moving.

She looked to it, and as if it understood everything that she was planning through that meeting of their eyes alone, the end of its front leg began to glow with a draconic power.

"Shellgon," She yelled out, "Hit it with a Dragon Claw!"

Her Pokémon leapt into the air; The energy allowing such she knew now the identity of. Of course, the evolution would've given it a bit of power, but even so, Bagon had seemed so very weak, almost on death's door.

Through will alone, Shellgon powered through.

Its claws connected, raking down Haxorus' form. Weakened, battered from every angle, confused, Haxorus was unable to handle the attack. Its body shook, teetering but not falling.

Bianca waited on bated breath, as did the entire Gym, it felt like.

And then, like a great tree finally meeting its end, Haxorus fell to one side.

"Haxorus is unable to battle!" The officiator gave a resounding cry. "The winner is… Bianca!"

Bianca felt, in that moment, a joy almost indescribable. She'd never once felt as she did, then, so accomplished. Without thinking, she charged into the arena, scooped up her Shellgon – and wow, were they heavy! – and hugged it against her.

"You did so well!" She laughed out, the tears rolling down her cheeks again. "I'm so proud of you!"

The Pokémon gave a cry at that, before, without much aplomb, it went limp in her arms, entirely spent.

"Rest well, buddy," she told it as she recalled it back into its Pokéball. "You've more than earned it."

As she finished saying that, she was bombarded by another figure, and practically taken off of her feet.

"Gah!"

"Oh, you did it, Bianca!" Iris laughed, and she was so happy that one might've thought that it was her who'd won the battle, not Bianca. "I wasn't going to go easy on you at all, but I was rooting for you the whole time, and then–" She laughed, airily and freely. "She was right! You beat me after all!"

Those words from Iris of all people… she didn't know why, but the tears falling down her face came quicker, heavier. She found herself curling her lips into her mouth to try to keep herself from bawling, but she knew she had at most seconds.

And it was then that Cynthia arrived, pulling her into an embrace, and whispering, "Well done, Bianca."

And that was what did her in. She held onto Cynthia, the woman who'd helped to make all of this possible, and she sobbed into her coat.

It was, for perhaps the first time in her life, a joyous thing.


End Chapter 19


Bianca takes the victory alongside Shellgon, and evolves as a trainer - hey, symbolism!

Now, as for this story, I'm going to be taking a break from writing in general for a while. Probably a month? Maybe less - honestly, it will probably be less - but at least a week or two. I just want to focus on other things atm. I'm going to post one chapter of my other story currently being updated, and then take some time off.

Hope you guys enjoyed the chapter, and I hope you're enjoying the story in general! Sorry I'm taking time off constantly lol.