Chapter Nineteen – Fate

He had helplessly observed his Raticate be possessed then killed by his own Pokemon on board the SS. Anne. He had watched Wally die and Erik be broken by Team Rocket. He had found out the truth of his lineage and the revelation that his entire progress through the tournament had been prearranged rather than through his tiresome efforts and his own capability. He had discovered that his own father had caused so much pain and suffering to himself, his sister, his friends and everyone in Kanto. He still felt sorrow whenever he remembered his late mother, Aria. And now Okaido had watched both his Pidgeot and his Exeggutor fall in battle to his half-brother, Silver, in the Test Centre’s arena. Where Giovanni fell and Erik had revealed his new self.”

He thought to himself why he still persisted in his quest to become Champion on almost a daily basis. Initially it was to prove himself to everyone, to show his family, friends and more importantly, himself, that he was the strongest trainer in Kanto. But now that all seemed futile. He now failed to feel the same desire or need to prove his prowess.

A violent roar distracted him from his thoughts. He watched Silver’s Crobat twirl through the air to avoid a flamethrower from his Charizard then swipe at his fire-type with poisonous fangs, which only narrowly missed their target.

Okaido felt a searing urge to become Champion of Kanto still, though he struggled to pinpoint the exact reason. He had remained resilient to his father’s promises and later, his coercion but again, he didn’t know why. He felt lost inside himself and couldn’t detect any motivation or reasoning for his feelings or actions.

“Yes!” Silver howled with glee. His Crobat had plunged poison fangs into the Charizard who tumbled from the sky in a screech of pain as the venom seeped into his bloodstream. Okaido felt a sear of pain as his closest friend struggled under the toxic torture and slightly panicked as fear of losing Erik’s former Pokemon pulsed through him.

It had been difficult for Okaido to bond with the fire-type initially. When he had obtained the Pokemon as a Charmander two evolutions beforehand, the fire-type had been linked with its former trainer, Erik. The Charmander had been keen to rekindle the bond between itself and its former trainer but Okaido had slowly managed to turn the problematic relationship into a strong bond between the two of them through respect, friendship and eventually, compassion. And now his Charizard was having the life drain out of him as the Crobat sunk his fangs deeper into the dragon-like Pokemon’s soft belly.

Okaido closed his eyes. He wasn’t just in a battle with his half-brother Silver here. He was in a battle with himself. This was why his Charizard was struggling.

Beforehand, Okaido had felt invincible. His confidence mixed with his raw ability, courage and intelligence formed a formidable trainer. But the war in his own mind which started with the death of Wally and continued to this day had made him unsure and hesitant.

“Why do I persist?” he asked himself, refusing to open his eyes and view the carnage. His invisible link with his Charizard enabled him to feel his Pokemon’s health rapidly fading. “Maybe Erik is right. Maybe the only way to proceed is to stop pain and loss. Why do I want to be Champion? Why do I keep going? There is no reason.”

“Because you care,” a voice entered his mind. Wally’s voice. He remembered the words his young friend said to him as his life was leaving him back inside that hut when Sakaki had revealed the truth to the two of them. Words that until now, Okaido had buried within his memories as the horror of Wally’s passing haunted him. “You act like you only think about yourself. But you don’t. You care. You can’t choose who your parents are or what life you’re brought into. But you can choose what you do with it.” Tears began to stream down Okaido’s face. “You don’t want to become Champion to prove yourself to everyone,” Wally had said fiercely. “You want to become Champion so you can make this world a better place. To stop Team Rocket, unite the region and be a hero. You want people to love you because your mother died when you were young and your father was never around. That’s why you act like a jerk, because deep down, you just want to be loved because you feel like your parents never loved you.”

“Charizard,” Okaido whispered as his Pokemon suffered. “Charizard!” he shouted. “Enough messing around. You get up off that floor now and you help me become Champion! We’re going to make this world a better place and you!” He pointed to Silver, knowing that through sharing genetics and the same lack of love and care, that his brother must at least partially feel the same way. “You are not going to stop me!”

Leaf stood atop her podium and stared across the field of grass at the stand opposite her which remained empty. She awaited her competitor in the final battle to become Champion as the sun began to set on Kanto. Citizens of the region hastily took their seats as the stands around the stadium began to burgeon and the noise levels steadily rose. The screens at either end of the stadium still displayed the six-pointed grey star and a timer set at 5:00 but remained ready to tick down as soon as her foe took their place on the opposite podium and both contestants released their first duelist. Once the timer hit zero the battlefield would then switch randomly between the eighteen types of Pokemon and the arena would resemble an advantageous battleground for each individual type.

She thought of her Pokemon, the four which remained. Dino, Belly, Club and Loch were both healed and refreshed in order to be fully fighting fit for the final battle. She hoped for good luck in the stadium’s ever-changing type and that her Pokemon would pull through in the vital moments.

Belly had been resilient in any battle and jolly outside of it. Club had almost overcome the death of her mother and succeeded in her quest for vengeance. Loch was a gift from the Servants and Leaf thought of him as a remnant of what little good was left in her mother. Dino was Dino. Her most valued friend and closest ally. The Pokemon she could rely on no matter what and the only family she felt she had left.

Leaf remained desperate to become Champion. She could unite the region as Erik had done before her and use it to stop Lyra from unleashing Mewtwo and destroying it. She would then allow Okaido and Samuel Oak to govern Kanto together with her and the triumvirate could bring peace and serenity to a region beset by suffering.

A door opened and slammed shut at the far end of the arena. A cheer erupted from the crowd which had filled the stands to the brim. Then Leaf’s opponent ascended the podium and their eyes met.

“You ready?” she asked him.

“Always,” Okaido replied and smiled.

“We’ve come so far,” she called across. The fans around the stadium stood in silence, used to taunts and insults from the competitors but were now faced with a duo embracing a mutual respect.

“And lost so much,” Okaido replied.

“We’ve always fought side by side,” she said and the audience seemed confused by their combined speech.

“But now at the end we must face each other,” Okaido said solemnly.

“We share the same goals. Whoever wins this battle shall unite Kanto and bring peace to it.”

“The winner will remove the corrupt Archer from power and elect a fair and just governor.”

“We shall purge the remnants of Team Rocket from the region and put smiles on the people’s faces,” Leaf said and closed her eyes. The dream felt so close.

“But first we must decide between us who shall perform all this. We must battle to justify our right to save Kanto,” Okaido said and the audience remained confused but through murmurs of agreement they seemed on board with the duo’s plans.

“Because we are the Resistance,” Leaf announced to gasps from the audience. “But we are not the enemy. We are your friends. We took down Team Rocket who were led in secret by Giovanni and Courtney.” She knew that all the cameras around the stadium would be broadcasting their messages to the region.

“Gabby was truthful,” Okaido said and the audience grew bored. They had come here to see a battle not a speech. They began a chant of “Fight!” repeated over and over.

“We shall give you what you desire!” Leaf bellowed. “Both now and after this battle!”

“May the best trainer win!” Okaido shouted.

“And no holding back!” She felt goosebumps on her skin and her body trembled with excitement. The threat of her mother loomed over her but her entire focus was now on the forthcoming battle. She grabbed a Pokeball from her belt and then released it into the battlefield. Okaido threw in his own.

The timer began to tick down from 5:00 as both Loch and Gyarados faced each other on a plain of grass. The final battle had begun.

Loch slithered whilst Gyarados writhed along the field and both appeared uncomfortable and lacking mobility outside of their element. Leaf thought to recall Loch and unleash Belly into the fray but remained cautious as the arena’s type could change to anything. Both Pokemon carefully approached the other and unleashed water blasts not designed solely to injure, but to test their opponent.

The majority of the audience murmured in discontent, uninspired by the initial caution exhibited from both water types who continued to unleash probing assaults on another. Okaido’s Gyarados recoiled slightly at one of Loch’s attacks to show the first sign of faltering from either Pokemon. Loch attempted to press the advantage by closing in on his foe but in doing so fell into the trap. The Gyarados had fooled Loch with a feint and now whipped his head towards the Lapras and crunched down with powerful jaws that ricocheted harmlessly off Loch’s grey shell.

The crowd roared at the battle now. They watched Loch swerve out of the way of Gyarados knife-like teeth aimed at his neck then saw a retaliatory beam of ice from the Lapras narrowly miss and smash into the thick glass pane which separated the arena from the crowd to gasps and applause. The timer ticked down to two minutes as all present took their guesses at what type the stadium would transform to.

Gyarados pressed his newfound advantage and swiped his jaws downwards again and again to nip at Loch’s neck and face. His teeth plunged into their target then released constantly as Leaf’s Lapras received painful blow after savage attack. Loch saw only one option, retreat. He managed to slowly turn amidst more agonising bites then spat out a beam of ice which formed a path for him to slide along, almost back to his trainer.

“I’ll switch you out,” Leaf said to her Pokemon who had returned to the front of her podium but received a shake of the head from Loch in response. “But-” she began, but before she could finish her sentence Lapras shot out ice to freeze a blast of water from the Gyarados mid-air.

“Finish this!” Okaido encouraged his Pokemon who attempted to use the path of ice to follow the Lapras but instead just slipped and fell in a tangle on the floor. That was when Loch seized an opportunity. Leaf’s Pokemon burst out ice like a frozen flamethrower and spread the frozen water across where the Gyarados straightened itself back upright. To find itself trapped on a field of ice.

“Got him!” Leaf said confidently. Any blasts of water from the Gyarados now would be frozen solid and the beast had no answer to Loch’s ice attacks.

“No you haven’t,” Okaido responded and looked to above Leaf’s head. She wondered what her friend had seen then realised suddenly as Loch’s face turned from a picture of glee to a stare of horror.

The whole arena rumbled as the timer hit zero and the six pointed star flipped on the screen to an orange flame. The ice melted as fires licked up the sides of the stadium and a steady stream of lava carved through the grass which turned to molten rock which spread across the battlefield. Magma spat from the river which flowed through the arena’s centre and hissed as it fizzled out on the rocks. Both Pokemon struggled in the intense heat of the arena. But whilst the Gyarados, who was now set free from his ice trap, sweated and toiled, Loch almost collapsed from exhaustion.

The Lapras attempted to shoot a beam of ice towards his foe but the attack simply melted before it reached its target. Leaf tried to shout encouragement but found the words stuck in her throat. She then attempted to think of a plan to counter the treacherous arena but before one formed in her mind the Gyarados unleashed a blast of water which steamed and sizzled through the air then scorched the Lapras, who then collapsed.

“No!” Leaf squealed and watched as the Gyarados struggled to muster enough energy to continue his assault. But he had no need to. The soul wrenching pain tore through Leaf like a knife. A mixture of pain, exhaustion and hopelessness had consumed Loch and left him lifeless on the molten ground. A roar erupted from Okaido’s fans in the crowd, of which he seemed to have far far more than Leaf the foreigner.

“Oak! Oak! Oak!” screamed the chant from the gathered ensemble. Leaf felt despondent. She clasped onto the edge of the podium as sweat trickled down her forehead both from the heat and the panic which had set in.

“Keep fighting Leaf,” Okaido said gently, his voice almost lost in the roar of the flames and hissing lava. “You’ve come so far. You don’t stop now.”

“You’re right,” she replied in a raised voice to ensure her friend heard her words. “To the end!” She weakly grasped Belly’s Pokeball and released the Snorlax onto the battlefield, feeling that the normal-type would fare the best in these conditions. She thought that Okaido may switch Pokemon to one that suited the arena but saw his doubt as the battlefield could change to anything.

Sweat poured off the panting Belly who slammed his large stomach like a drum to taunt his opponent. The sound of slapping fat resounded around the arena louder than even the roar of the flames or the chant of the crowd. Then the Snorlax charged. A slow but relentless run towards the Gyarados who sent sizzling streams of water through the air towards the onrushing Belly but the attack simply smashed off the Snorlax’s stomach to what seemed like no avail, although bright red burn marks appeared on the beast’s belly.

Belly leapt towards the Gyarados before slamming his body into the water-type then rolling off and grappling the writhing creature, trying to force it into the stream of lava below. The fatigued Gyarados laboured in his efforts to survive whilst edging ever closer to the lethal stream of magma below. Fire spat up and sizzled off its skin as Belly managed to have almost half of the Gyarados’ long body teetered over the lava.

“Saved again!” Blue shouted joyfully.

“You lucky-” Leaf began, before seeing what type the arena had changed to and gasped. The orange flame flipped around as the fires around the stadium died and the lava disappeared. The symbol on the screen changed to what Leaf had feared more than any other. A blue droplet of water.

The arena filled with water like a fishbowl as two small islands of rock rose on either side near both trainers’ podiums. The newly formed mini-ocean must’ve been deep, because Leaf could no longer spot neither Gyarados nor Belly anywhere.

Long, anxious moments passed until suddenly, the Snorlax’s head appeared above water as he desperately gulped oxygen. Belly’s respite rapidly ended as he was dragged back down into the depths. More vital seconds passed until Okaido’s Gyarados gracefully leapt out of the water to presumably gasp in air itself, its body in the shape of a crescent as it jumped out then returned just as quickly to the depths. Then another long wait.

Leaf closed her eyes. If she couldn’t see what was happening then she’d try to feel it. She awaited that soul-tearing pain that accompanied the loss of a Pokemon. A hush had also swept over the crowd who waited in anticipation for Belly’s defeat. A few more seconds passed and Leaf felt nothing. It was Okaido who informed her of the result.

“No!” he screamed then clenched his chest as jeers and boos resounded from the audience. Leaf guessed that she had no fans at all. But that didn’t matter, because Belly had resurfaced and was gulping in oxygen by the mouthful. The Gyarados had somehow been defeated in the depths.

“Belly can swim!” Leaf declared to Okaido and the audience who seemed shocked at the fact a Snorlax could swim.

“So can my Rhydon!” Okaido said in response and unleashed his next Pokemon onto one of the small stone islands. The large grey creature appeared to be immensely powerful. It looked to be constructed entirely out of rock with a ridged spine and armoured plates across its body. It had two small but muscular legs with a sweeping tail and its head featured a protruding spike above a much large horn.

The Rhydon leapt into the pool of water where it began to trade blows with Belly whilst both Pokemon spent the majority of their energy trying to stay afloat. The duo struggled with mobility through the mini-ocean but still managed to weakly swap punches, headbutts and horn attacks as they failed to generate much power behind their strikes within the water.

“Come on get lucky again!” Okaido shouted as the timer ticked down to a minute with both Pokemon still attempting to gain an advantage on the other. The crowd once again grew impatient and discontent at the pathetic pummeling that both contestants provided them. The minute seemed to drag on for an hour before the arena once again switched types. The droplet of water twirled around on the screen to be replaced by a purple skull and crossbones. Poison.

The water drained from the arena and was replaced by a sickly-yellow colour dirt which flicked up dust. Large pits of purple poisonous liquid emerged around the stadium that bubbled and hissed violently and black sludge began to ooze down the sides of the arena’s walls.

Rhydon and Belly grappled each other, trying to wrestle their opponent into one of the pools of poison which spat toxic liquid that acted like an acid and burned each fighter. Belly seemed to edge his opponent on strength but Okaido’s Pokemon could poke at the Snorlax with his sharp horn, leaving the two evenly matched.

“Disengage!” Okaido commanded his fighter who read his trainer’s thoughts. The Rhydon released his grasp then rapidly dodged out of the way of Belly who stumbled slightly, enough for Okaido’s Pokemon to sweep his tail around and trip the Snorlax who tumbled next to a pit of poison which spat acid at the fallen creature. As Belly struggled to his feet with acid burning him and the intoxicating fumes rising from the pit causing him to lose his balance, the Rhydon charged, horn first.

Leaf closed her eyes and awaited the feeling. She considered her final two Pokemon, Dino and Club, could they win her this fight? Okaido still had Rhydon as well as his Alakazam and Charizard. She was outmatched. Still she waited. She heard a grunt and a shrill cry of pain as the duo collided but no pain came just yet. She refused to open her eyes, she couldn’t watch. She heard a huge splash as one of the Pokemon hit the liquid. Then it came. The pain hit her like a truck and pulled at her heart as if it was being torn out of her chest. Belly had fallen, and the crowd loved it.

Roars of jubilation met rumbustious applause and cheers as Blue took the lead once again. He had three Pokemon remaining compared to Leaf having just Club and Dino, and it would be the former she turned to first. She had lost many friends in the past few hours. Saur, Venom, Loch and Belly had been close to her, especially the latter two, and she felt agony stabbing at her chest as she remembered her fallen allies.

Now only two of her Pokemon remained. Club and Dino were her favourites, the ones she had always felt closest too and she was unsure if she’d be able to mentally cope with losing both her Marowak and Venusaur as well. She released the former into the poisonous field of battle.

“Pull through for me, Club,” she whispered. “This is it. Everything we have been fighting for,” she said louder. “If we win this fight then we can destroy the Archer and the remnants of Team Rocket. We can finally achieve your vengeance.” Club heard her words although she didn’t turn her head. She eyed up the Rhydon as toxic liquid hissed, bubbled and spat then charged at her much larger opponent with bone club raised.

Club bashed the Rhydon with her club, using her superior speed to avoid punches and horn drills whilst continually smashing her weapon against Okaido’s Pokemon. But to Leaf’s dismay the club harmlessly ricocheted off the Rhydon’s rocky skin. Club stopped her assault for a brief moment to consider her approach and it was then that her opponent seized the opportunity.

Rhydon grasped Club in its two thick arms and lifted her from the ground. Okaido’s Pokemon span on the spot then released its held captive to launch the Marowak across the arena. Club flew over the first pit of poison which seemed to try and reach up to grab her as it spat acidic liquid which singed and burned her. She landed just past the pool with a crash then rolled helplessly with the momentum towards another poison pit.

“No!” Leaf squealed. She held her hands to her mouth and tears formed in her eyes as Club tumbled towards the lethal pool. The Marowak’s eyes widened as she sighted her impending doom. However, instead of accepting her fate, her fight was not yet done. She reached out with her bone club and used it to scrape across the ground as a counteracting force. She slid towards the pit but her bone club achieved its desired effect and stopped her just before the pool to Leaf and Club’s simultaneous sigh of relief. But their joy was short lived.

Rhydon had followed her plight. The beast loomed above the Marowak and collected her in his arms once more, ready to launch her into the poison pit. Leaf clenched her fists and felt the sweat trickling down her face as the crowd roared in anticipation. Then Rhydon swung his arms back with Club clenched in his hands and threw the Marowak to her doom.

“No!” Leaf once again screamed as time seemed to turn to slow motion as her friend fell. They locked eyes as the Marowak stared into her soul. Club’s fight was still not yet done, she hadn’t achieved her true revenge yet, not until Team Rocket had been perished from Kanto. But as she tumbled towards the pit, the chance of vengeance was to be stolen from her.

“No!” Okaido howled. “You lucky-” he began before realising that Leaf was benefiting from the same twist of fate as he had earlier. The timer had reached 0:00 and the skull and crossbones flipped on the board to a cyan-coloured snowflake. An ice-type arena.

The pit of poison froze over where Club bounced off the sheet of ice with no more than a painful bump. Ice began to cover the entire ground and started to snake up the walls of the arena. Small icebergs rose from the sheet of ice and icicles began to form on the arena’s roof.

Rhydon pummelled the ground where Club had been as the Marowak slid out of the way. His titanic fists smashed against the ice but to Leaf’s surprise, no cracks appeared within the solid sheet.

Club used the lack of friction to skate across the arena at frightening speeds but failed to control her direction and ending up crashing into icebergs more than once. The Rhydon struggled to hold his footing at first but slowly managed to stand upright without slipping, however, he still remained immobile. This is where Club could press her advantage.

The Marowak tentatively gained control of her movements and continually swiped at the motionless Rhydon with her bone club, causing no damage but succeeding in unnerving her foe. Club slid in for another strike but by this time the Rhydon had gained more control of himself and grabbed the Marowak as she closed in for the assault. He lifted her so the two duelists were face to face and seemed to consider what he would now do with his captive. Club reacted by launching her bone-club at the Rhydon’s head but to Leaf’s surprise, she missed. The club flew harmlessly away as the Rhydon seemed to formulate an idea with Okaido’s instruction. He held the Marowak below his foot and moved to stomp on her. His bulk combined with the solid ice below would surely crush Club below his stamp. Leaf just smiled.  Because Club had won the duel.

Icicles rained down like hail from the ceiling and pierced the Rhydon from all angles as the Marowak took refuge underneath the beast. Her bone club hadn’t missed at all, she had launched it at the icicles on the roof and like a boomerang it now returned to her and she slid out from underneath the collapsing and defeated Rhydon.

Stunned silence swept across the audience once more. A few jeers and boos tried to cut through the feeling of tension throughout the stadium. Both finalists were left with their final two Pokemon.

Okaido appeared devastated with the loss of his friend but forced himself to carry on through sheer willpower. He released his Alakazam into the battlefield as the timer ticked down to just thirty seconds left of ice. Club and her psychic type opponent, the final evolution of Kadabra, waited cautiously in a seemingly mutual agreement to allow the timer to tick down and change stadium type. Both in hopes that the next arena would benefit them.

After a few moments, the cyan snowflake flipped over to reveal a circular head with two large and round holes for eyes. Two ghostly hands appeared underneath the head which was black on a field of dark purple. The sheet of ice disappeared and the walls turned black whilst all the lights flicked off to leave the arena in darkness. A glass pane rose up above Leaf’s podium where from her side of the glass she could see the arena through infrared panels which granted her vision of the scene. She assumed that the crowd’s side of the glass wall would have the same viewing capabilities, as would Okaido. But for Alakazam and Club, they were in total darkness. Eerie and disturbing sounds began to echo around the arena which would further unnerve both fighters within. The screens were lit up at either end of the battlefield so that both contestants and crowd could see the timer ticking down.

Alakazam, as a psychic user, took full advantage. Leaf knew that the Pokemon could sense Club’s presence and that Okaido’s psychic type would also know that the Marowak would be nervous and disoriented within the darkness. So the Alakazam used mind tricks to further the damage.

Club screeched in agony and collapsed to the ground. The Marowak refused to look up and see whatever image was being conjured up to her. The image, Leaf knew, would be her mother.

 “Stay strong, Club!” Leaf bellowed but her words seemingly failed to penetrate the blackness as her Pokemon clasped hands to her head and attempted to shake out the terrifying visions. Leaf tried to imagine the horrifying sights her friend must’ve been seeing. From the memory of her mother dying or the Marowak seeing her parent chide her for the path she had chosen.

“Now attack!” Okaido roared in encouragement to his Pokemon. The Alakazam had twisted and tortured Club’s mind and now it was time for the psychic-type to strike. Okaido’s Pokemon launched a wave of psychic energy which was invisible to the naked eye but seemed to strike the Marowak and send her sprawling across the floor in the darkness. The Alakazam followed its strike with a lilac-coloured beam of energy which surged into Club as she lay stricken and helpless on the ground.

“Come on!” Leaf shouted to her ailing fighter. “Don’t let the mind tricks defeat you. We have been through so much! We just need this one final push then vengeance will be ours!”

Her Marowak responded to her words as she always did. Club clambered weakly to her feet when her foe resumed its psychological assaults then stopped in horror at something Leaf failed to see. Club looked terrified at whatever invisibly loomed over her. Leaf’s Pokemon had always overcome any challenges set before her through sheer willpower and a desire for revenge but whatever image the Alakazam had conjured up was now crushing Club’s spirit.

Leaf closed her eyes and tried to see what her Marowak was seeing. What could Club be so spooked by that she appeared to be frozen in place.

“Could it be the Gengar that had killed her mother?” Leaf asked herself. “No, because that would fuel my Club’s rage.”

She opened her eyes tentatively to see the Alakazam continue its assault by following up with more purple beams and invisible psychic waves which sent Club sprawling across the ground again. She knew her Marowak must surely be close to defeat.  

“Could it be the scene of her mother’s death replaying over and over?” Leaf thought to herself once more. “No, because again that would fuel my Club’s rage. And it couldn’t be the image of her mother either for the same reason. What could steal her spirit? Nothing so far has completely crushed her like this.”

It was as the Alakazam approached the Marowak that Leaf realised and gasped in shock. Club attempted to climb to her feet and failed, her strength had been depleted and her willpower sapped.

“No,” Leaf whispered. “After all this time.” She leaned forward and pressed her hands on her podium for support. “The one thing that has kept my Club going hasn’t been a quest for vengeance or a desire for revenge,” she said in realisation. “The defeat of her mother broke her, but it wasn’t her willpower or her anger that caused her to get back up and keep fighting.” She watched as the Alakazam pressed its hands to her Marowak’s skull. For a moment Club seemed to regain sight as she stared straight at her trainer with tear filled eyes. Then smiled.

“She’s smiling,” Leaf said and felt her own eyes fill with tears. “Because what kept her going wasn’t vengeance. What picked her up wasn’t a desire for revenge. What saved her from perpetual darkness wasn’t her fight against Team Rocket. It was me. Because I became her new mother. She wanted to fight for me. She’s smiling to say thank you.” Tears streamed down Leaf’s face as the light faded from Club’s eyes and the Marowak passed from this life to join her real mother in the next.

Leaf collapsed to her knees and wallowed in her fits of tears. All this fighting to save a region so corrupt and she was losing all the friends she had made doing so. She had made so many sacrifices and was now only left with one Pokemon. Her closest and oldest ally, Dino. And if she felt like she was in so much agony inside that her heart wanted to burst out of her chest to escape her pain. She couldn’t bear to think what anguish would torment her if she lost her Venusaur as well.

She looked up through tear-blurred vision and saw that the timer had stopped as it awaited her next challenger, allowing her a brief moment to compose herself before she battled Okaido with her final Pokemon.

“Leaf,” Okaido shouted. “I’m sorry, I really am.” He waited a few moments for a response but Leaf was too downtrodden to reply. “Once we unite this region we can stop all this pain. I know this final battle is horrific. We are both losing all our friends simply to entertain. But to save everyone it’s something we have to do. However horrible it all is. These people will only respect and follow a Champion!”

“Save everyone,” Leaf whispered to herself and thought of Lyra’s impending release of Mewtwo. “I can’t stop now,” she said and clenched her fists and gritted her teeth. “For Club,” she started as she slowly climbed to her feet. “For Belly, for Loch, for Saur and for Venom.” She clasped Dino’s Pokeball in her hand then launched it towards the blackness. “For Heiko and Wally. For Erik and Archie. For everyone we have sacrificed and lost! It can’t all be in vain. I need to stop my mother and save this region.”

Dino roared in approval of her speech where the Alakazam began to play the same mind tricks he had on Club to the Venusaur. It had the same initial effect. Leaf was unsure of what her friend was seeing but Dino began to shake his head violently in a futile effort to expel the dark thoughts. She presumed her Pokemon was seeing the faces of those they had lost during their journey, allies, friends and family.

“Come on Dino not you too,” Leaf whimpered. “Please not you too,” she began to sob quietly but somehow it was as if her Venusaur heard her. Dino snapped out of the psychological stranglehold as the timer hit zero and the arena began to morph once more.  

The symbol flipped to an aqua-blue sphere with a white feather in its centre to denote a flying-type arena. The darkness receded to be replaced by a blinding brightness by a huge light on the roof resembling a sun. The walls changed back to see-through glass as an enormous hole appeared in the floor which encompassed the entire arena aside from two islands of rock which stemmed from below and held both Pokemon aloft.

Dino and Okaido’s Alakazam were isolated to their two tiny islands where any fall would be lethal. Leaf’s opponent looked tempted to switch in his Charizard who would prosper in the open battlefield before realising that his Alakazam was unable to leave the zone of battle and return to his side.

Dino tried to shift his weight to balance himself better on his rock but the island was so small he had to remain almost motionless in fear for slipping and falling. The Alakazam had slightly more room to maneuver as his slighter frame enabled it to balance itself. The psychic-type then launched its psychological tirade in an attempt to disorientate and destabilize the Venusaur. This time, however, Dino was ready and able to push through the mind attacks.

“Go Dino!” Leaf screamed in encouragement to her oldest friend who responded by shooting out leaves like razor blades towards the Alakazam in an effort to push his foe off its island. Okaido’s Pokemon simply danced to avoid the razors, his slight frame agilely spinning aside of any lethal leaves before he resumed his mind attacks.

Dino closed his eyes as the strain became ever more demanding on him to push away the mental torture. The Alakazam seized his advantage and launched invisible waves and psychic beams of energy in an relentless assault towards the Venusaur. Dino’s feet began to slip off the edge as he struggled to resist both physical and mental strikes pummelling him.    

“Please Dino,” Leaf whimpered. “Please don’t fall. I can’t lose you too. I won’t be able to bear it.” Her oldest friend remained resilient in the mind but his body was also receiving constant assaults. Dino was edged further backwards as an invisible wave smashed against him. Then a psychic energy beam crashed into his body causing him to teeter further over the edge. After the Alakazam pushed the onslaught further with another beam, Leaf’s Venusaur slipped. His rear legs dangled over the side so he whipped out vines which wrapped around the island’s far side as he held on with all his might.

“Keep going!” Okaido shouted. Dino released a plethora of razor leaves once more in an attempt to buy himself some time. His desperate attack resulted in the Alakazam being shifted off balance and momentarily stop his dual assault of mind and body. Dino climbed back onto his island and Leaf breathed a sigh of relief as her Venusaur returned to fragile safety.

“And again!” Okaido roared and his Pokemon obliged. The Alakazam resumed his assaults but this time Dino responded. He launched more leaves towards the psychic-type who simply danced around them. But the distraction worked. Okaido’s Pokemon’s focus was fixed on the initial assault, so much so that Dino could whip out vines and wrap them around his foe who seemed unaware of the counterattack until it was too late. Dino held his victim within his grasp then succeeded in dragging the Alakazam off his island by using his vines and then released Okaido’s Pokemon to plummet to its death.

“No!” Okaido screamed in both mental and physical agony.

Both duelists were now reduced to their one remaining Pokemon as the timer froze at nine seconds left. It would be Dino against Charizard in an arena of an unpredictable type and the winner of the battle would ensure their trainer became Champion of Kanto.

Okaido’s fiery serpent flapped his wings and for a moment Leaf thought the Charizard was going to launch an aerial assault of flame, tooth and claw but instead the creature aired caution and awaited the change of arena. That was a mistake.

The timer hit zero and the symbol in the screen’s centre turned once more. The light blue morphed to an emerald green and the feather transformed into a leaf. The arena was to become a grass-type battlefield which would heavily favour Dino.

A floor of mud and grass rose as vines began to climb up the arena’s walls. The Charizard hovered above what now was a small forest in the battleground’s centre as long grass sprouted to cover the rest of the arena. It grew so large that it concealed Dino within as his opponent soared blindly above the vegetation.

Leaf had watched the growing grass conceal her Venusaur and now observed Okaido’s Pokemon anxiously search the undergrowth and miniature forest for any sight of its opponent within the perilous plants. The fire-type glided around the stadium and kept a keen eye for any sign of movement. Then it came suddenly and painfully. Leaves shot out from within the long grass which cut and tore at the Charizard’s skin before vines whipped out and lashed at it like a cane. Okaido’s Pokemon wailed as the vines wrapped around his frame then attempted to pull him down into a grassy tomb.

“Break free!” Okaido cried as his favourite friend writhed and wailed in a futile attempt to escape the vines which were wrapped around the dragon like a snake. Dino pulled with all his might in his efforts to drag the Charizard to his level and was slowly succeeding. “Or don’t,” Okaido said calmly to Leaf’s initial puzzlement. Her confusion swiftly eroded once the Charizard realised his trainer’s plan.

Dino’s opponent suddenly allowed himself to be slowly pulled towards the grass where he turned in his prison of vines to face the Venusaur’s position in the undergrowth. Then he unleashed fire.

Whilst the advantage of the grass type arena was that it featured a plethora of trees which formed a miniature forest and swathes of long grass for Pokemon to conceal themselves and grass types to thrive. The downside was how flammable the stadium had become. Now faced with the Charizard’s storm of fire, the entire arena burst into flames.

Dino released his grip and ran as fire soaked the grass and spread like a disease of smoke and heat. The Venusaur sprinted to the only safe refuge that hadn’t rapidly been engulfed by flames and entered the forest. Fire licked up and spat at the trees which slowly joined in burning like the grass but thankfully for Leaf, at a much slower rate. This enabled Dino to hide within the trees whilst the Charizard hovered above, adding fuel to the fires underneath him.

Woodsmoke caused Leaf to cough and splutter as sweat poured off her, both from the tension and the heat. She watched her Venusaur nervously back away from the roaring flames as the treetops burned and leaked spits of fire onto the forest ground where the flames sizzled and died on the floor of mud and dirt.

Face with such a perilous prospect, a Pokemon would usually prefer to dig in and survive the remaining two minutes on the timer. Dino, however, attempted to counterattack. At first he shot leaves towards the Charizard but the razor-like plants were simply incinerated by the flames as they tried to pass through the treeline. The Venusaur then attempted to launch spores of sleeping powder to rise into the air but again, the attack was stopped by the fires in the treetops. As the vines were part of him, Dino knew he couldn’t use his whips to attack the Charizard as he would only damage himself in the process. So instead, the Venusaur spread out his feet and began to collect energy from the flames.

The Charizard had thus far failed in his efforts to attack his foe through the tree line as his flamethrowers had been buffeted by the flaming treetops. Okaido’s Pokemon had also attempted to swoop in from the sides but struggled to maneuver through the trees and risked leading himself into an ambush. Whilst the flames which engulfed the arena had saved the Charizard from certain extinction, it had also caused an apparent stalemate between the battling pair.

Until a beam of solar energy crashed through the trees and smashed into the hovering fire-type. Dino had used the energy emitted by the flames and transformed that solar power into an attack of his own. The beam had surged through the treetops and collided with the Charizard with such force that Okaido’s Pokemon was launched through the air where he crashed into the glass pane at the arena’s side. He recovered just in time for the timer to hit zero and the arena to change once again.

The symbol switched from emerald green to yellow as the leaf changed to a lightning bolt. Flames died and were replaced by an aluminium floor and the vines on the walls were taken over by volts of electricity visibly flowing through the walls. The metal surface only took up a large portion of the arena because underneath the floor lay a pit of electricity which sparked and growled as it greedily awaited either the Venusaur or the Charizard as its victim.

The Charizard had landed on the metal as it panted heavily. Dino had wounded his opponent greatly with his solar attack but without the required energy, he was unable to assault his foe with another beam. Instead, the Venusaur whipped out vines, wrapped them around the Charizard then lifted the fire-type into the air where he attempted to use the solid metal flooring to his advantage.

Sparks flicked up from underneath and Leaf knew her Venusaur must’ve been tempted to launch the Charizard towards the electrical pit but she knew that Dino didn’t have the strength to hurl Okaido’s Pokemon that far. The fires from the grass arena had sapped away most of Dino’s vigor, so instead the Venusaur chose to slam the Charizard onto the metal flooring.

Leaf and Okaido gasped in unison. The metal surface wasn’t a floor at all, it was a plate. And the metal plate creaked and groaned treacherously before lowering suddenly. Leaf thought the aluminium was going to plummet into the electrical pit with both Pokemon on board but luckily it stopped just short. The plate held on by a whisker just above the lethal voltage where sparks and bolts of electrical energy now zapped upwards and spilt onto the metal flooring.

In his panic Dino had removed his vine shackles from the Charizard who now feebly rose up into the air and burst flame towards the Venusaur. Dino recoiled as the fires scorched him and retaliated with razor leaves which tore at his opponent who flinched and threatened to plummet to the surface but somehow still held himself upright.

The battle held perilously close as both Pokemon’s energy stores were almost entirely depleted and one wrong move would send one of the two duelists plummeting into the pit of electricity below.

“Use your aerial advantage!” Okaido commanded his fighter.

“Stay strong,” Leaf pleaded with Dino as hopelessness began to reach up from the pit of her stomach and crush her heart. Because Okaido was right, his Pokemon held the skies and that was all that mattered. The timer still had just under three minutes left and she doubted either Pokemon would survive the entirety of that. This was it now, the final arena for the final battle between the two duelist’s favourite Pokemon.

In response to his trainer, the Charizard soared above the creaking surface. The fire-type swooped down from above and use his weight to crash into the metal plate which groaned ominously and teetered to the side. One more blow would send the floor plummeting into the electrical pit.

The Charizard rose into the air once more where Dino desperately tried to stop his foe with razor leaves but the fire-type incinerated the attack with flames, then dropped again. Okaido’s Pokemon hoped to smash into the surface feet-first then bounce off the metal plate which would then be electrified and Dino would have no escape.

“Dino!” Leaf screamed as her heart attempted to burst from her chest and the audience roared in anticipation. The Charizard swooped once more and aimed for the metal plate as tears filled Leaf’s eyes and Okaido watched on mournfully at his friend’s demise. Dino’s foe neared the plate and he released one final roar, a mighty sound which shook the arena and threatened to lower the flooring itself. He whipped at vines in a desperate last attempt to save himself and to everyone’s surprise, he did. The vines wrapped around the Charizard just as he was about to crash into the plate and suspended him just above the surface.

“Charizard!” Okaido cried out. Dino attempted to hurl the Charizard into the pit of electricity below but failed to muster the energy to do so. Leaf froze and the world turned to slow motion once more. Because the Charizard unleashed a flamethrower. The fires scorched Dino’s vines and caused the Venusaur to withdraw them as he wailed in agony. The Charizard, having been released from their grasp, now tumbled towards the metal flooring where his weight crashed into its surface and sent the plate plummeting into the electrical pit with both Pokemon on top.

“No!” Both trainers screamed in synchronisation. The crowd roared and screamed. Not only because of the carnage and mayhem, but because the Charizard had managed to flap his wings and escape the pit.

Hundreds, if not thousands of volts streamed into Dino who was held in paralysis as the electricity tortured him. The large grass-type and Leaf’s best friend was rendered helpless as the life was torn from him. Okaido’s Charizard limply rose up high and swooped around for a final breath of flame which, combined with the electricity, would extinguish the life from Leaf’s immobile Venusaur.

“Fight back!” Leaf screamed in between sobs. “Fight back! Fight back!” she pleaded, but her Venusaur could neither hear her nor move as the electricity strangled the life from him. She looked at the timer in desperation but still over a minute remained, far too long for her Pokemon to withstand.

Leaf thought back through her journey. She began as a young girl from Johto who travelled to Hoenn to do some good. From the warrior that had emerged in Kanto where she had made friends, then lost almost all of them. She remembered Erik and what had happened to him. He had been a force for a good and a fighter to save the world. Now he was a villain who tried to remove loss from the world because of all the pain he had been through.

She looked back and remembered Wally. A bright young trainer who just wanted to make friends and do some good like she did. He was taken from the world because he was just a pawn in Giovanni’s game. She looked to Okaido and remembered the arrogant young trainer he used to be. A boy who wanted to prove a point was now a man just wanting to do some good. All of them, Erik, Okaido, Wally and herself. They all strived towards the same goals, to help people and release the region from Team Rocket’s tyrannical stranglehold.

Then she thought of herself, and all she had lost. All the friends she had made and lost in battle to fight some war against Team Rocket that didn’t matter to her as much as her friends did. She had lost so many. The likes of Fin, a hopeless Magikarp who had turned into her saviour. Or Fury, the Mankey who fought savagely just to impress her. Or Rex and Fang, the young lovers she had taken from their homes just to fight in some meaningless war. Of Club, the Cubone she had rescued who had seen her as a hero. But deep down Leaf knew she wasn’t one, she wasn’t the hero this world needed. Just another pawn in the game.

She looked to Dino. Her favourite Pokemon who had been with her the entire journey and had never left her side nor let her down. He was moments away from being taken from this world, simply because Leaf wanted to prove herself as the best trainer.

Her mother was set to destroy this region and all she had done was remove Team Rocket from power. Her friends, human and Pokemon, had made so many sacrifices. They had thrown their lives down to help Leaf in her quest to make the world a better place and as she watched Dino perish, she realised that their was one sacrifice still left to make. Because there was only one option left.

“I surrender!” Leaf announced and recalled Dino into his Pokeball. It was against the rules to do so but she didn’t care. She had forfeited the battle.

Okaido was the new Champion of Kanto and Leaf skulked from the arena with Dino nestled safety in his capsule.

 As the clock struck midnight across Kanto, Lyra would be unleashing Mewtwo on the world. All Leaf could do now was prepare. For she would be the final sacrifice.