Chapter Twelve – Survivors

Leaf clambered through the hut’s creaky door and collapsed in heap covered in sweat and tears. The air was cool and moonlight lit Route 8 in a dull gleam whilst silence swept over a scene of horrific sorrow. Blue followed through the doorway and walked rigidly as he failed to come to terms with the loss of Wally and whatever news Giovanni had told him.

“Wally,” Leaf cried whilst her body trembled.

“Come on,” Blue spoke softly. It had been just over thirty minutes since she had barged into the house to find Wally’s life fading but the pain still strung as fiercely now as it first had.

“I can’t…Wally,” she whimpered in response and Blue offered her a hand to help her stand but she just batted the offer away.

“I know,” Blue mumbled. “I know. We’re all that’s left now. Me, you and Gramps.” His words prodded Leaf’s heart like a hot iron and reminded her of how far they’d all fallen.

“You,” Leaf said with an unintentional sharpness. “Why are you alive?”

“What?” Blue spluttered, taken aback by her sudden change in tone. “What do you mean?”

“Why did they just poison Wally?”

“Archer switched my drink with Giovanni’s.”

“Why? That makes no sense?” Leaf climbed feebly to her feet as if her accusations suddenly gave her soul the power to live on.

“Archer said something to do with orders? Don’t know from who.”

“Someone’s above Giovanni?” Leaf considered. It would make no sense and go against everything they knew about Team Rocket.

“Archer is the governor of Kanto so technically he is?” Blue aired his thoughts and stared up to the night’s sky.

“That weakling is just Rocket’s puppet and Giovanni controlled the strings,” Leaf glared at Blue who continued looking upwards. She deeply pondered Wally’s final words; “Giovanni…is…Sakaki…Blue…Razzo,” but with no success.

“I never thought anyone was above Giovanni. Maybe Courtney or Silver have taken over,” Blue wondered.

“Courtney is too loyal and Silver too afraid,” Leaf decided. “Who’s Sakaki,” she asked about the clearest part of Wally’s words. “Giovanni is Sakaki”, but who was ‘Sakaki’. The answer to the riddle could be the clue that solves the mystery

“That’s what Archer called Giovanni during the meeting,” Blue responded. “Didn’t think it meant much at the time though.”

“What does it mean? Sakaki?” Leaf said with a calmer tone. “A code? An Alias?”

“Not one I’ve heard,” Blue replied. “Baffles me how we know so little about Rocket.”

“Indeed,” Leaf sighed. She thought about the last two words; ‘Blue’ and ‘Razzo’. The former could either be referring to her friend or the colour but the last was the biggest unknown of all. Also, were the two words linked or were they separate? She decided against asking Blue lest the words in some way pertained to him.

“So with Giovanni gone,” Blue continued. “What do we do now? Who heads up Rocket?”

“And what is ‘Sakaki’,” Leaf carried on. “We’ll find out who heads up Rocket as we progress.” She tried to focus her thoughts on the future in an attempt to avoid Wally crushing her soul.

“Hello?” Blue spoke clearly, causing Leaf to turn to him. He had answered a call on his PokeNav. “The news? Why?” he said with a worried look. “Okay, cheers Gramps, see ya’.”

“What’s that about?” Leaf asked whilst Blue switched the screen to the news.

“Friends,” Archer bellowed to the gathered press who thrust cameras in his face and microphones to his lips. He stood against a brick wall in an unknown urban location with two men in suits flanking him. “I have called an emergency press conference to bring you all grave news indeed.” A hubbub rose from the audience who whispered theories to one another.

“Silence!” It was Gabby, the chief reporter, whose voice sounded loudest to quieten the press officials.

“That was quick,” Blue startled Leaf by whispering sharply. He was right, she thought, it was almost as if the press were gathered beforehand to await their governor when he left the hut.

“He must still be close by.” Leaf began to move forward. “Celadon!” she exclaimed.

“Or Saffron City,” Blue corrected her and referred to the region’s capital city which lay directly at its heart and not far from where they stood. “Or Lavender maybe. Hard to tell from the brickwork.”

“We should split!” Leaf said in a raised voice.

“That’s three locations and there’s only two of us,” Blue said. “And he could’ve always have flown off aback a Pokemon.”

“Oh,” Leaf replied despondently and turned her attention back to the news announcement once Archer had finished thanking the press for appearing on such short notice and addressed the watching population by asking them not to panic or be rash about the forthcoming news.

“The ‘Resistance’,” he hissed and made no effort to hide his distaste for the group. “The terrorists which rock our region and threaten to crush our stability. The criminals whose goal is to tear down your reliable government and who we believe are a splinter group of Team Rocket,” he lied. “Have slaughtered our esteemed Foreign Minister Giovanni. They’ve poisoned him in his own home and next they will not just come for me, but you and your families as they pave the way for Rocket to terrorise our beloved Kanto.” Jeers like venom spat from the audience who now bayed for blood.

“Liar,” Leaf growled.

“Yep,” Blue nodded. “Nothing we can do about it. He’s not revealed our names yet.”

“To protect the integrity of the Champion tournament,” Leaf surmised. “We’re both through to the last sixteen.”

“Who are they?!” a highly disgruntled member of the audience roared.

“Name the villains!” another added her voice.

“Please,” Archer settled the audience by speaking softly and lowering the palms of his hands to hush the crowd. “This is not the time for the common folk of our region to try and be heroes. These are highly dangerous operatives and have no qualms in killing innocents if need be. I beseech you all to leave the action to our own agents like the wife of our fallen hero, Courtney, who will personally lead the counterterrorism task force.” Cheers of approval sounded at the mention of the Defence Minister’s name.

“They think we’re special,” Blue said and smiled. “Cute.”

“Now to more cheery news,” Archer continued. “The Champion of Kanto tournament has reached its national stage where anyone can face anyone!” Murmurs of discussion sounded at the next pressing topic as people debated the tournament and who they thought would win it.

“Which means we’ll face each other,” Leaf speculated to Blue. “Can’t run away from each other now.” Archer continued his speech by reeling off a list of names. From former Champion Lance, who the audience erupted with glee for, to Giovanni’s son Silver who remained a mystery to the crowd as shown by the silence which greeted his name. Leaf winced as Archer reached the final four names.

“Blue Oak,” Archer bellowed.

“Here we go,” Leaf sighed.

“Will face Leaf Fuguri,” Blue imitated to Leaf’s discontent.

“Will face,” Archer said with a pause for the slight cheers of Blue’s name. He had a small following thanks to the fame of his grandfather. “Sabrina Bellelba.” Huge roars of support sounded for the former Saffron City Gym Leader who was to face Blue in the next round.

“Wow,” Leaf gasped. “Why?”

“I don’t know,” Blue said with a slight smile.

“And in the final round!” Archer roared. Leaf gulped and felt a sinking feeling in her stomach, like a stone dropping through her chest to her belly.

“Maybe they’ve expelled you,” Blue suggested unhelpfully.

“Leaf Fuguri, the unknown warrior from Hoenn,” he spoke to disprove Blue’s theory.

“Will battle with the most popular candidate for Pokemon Champion in our region. A woman who you all know and love,” anticipation swept over the crowd in a growing buzz. “Courtney Razzo!”

“That’s why,” Blue sighed, having realised why he and Leaf weren’t drawn together. Courtney was to eliminate her from the tournament personally.

“Razzo,” Leaf whispered, remembering Wally’s final words.

“What did you say?” Blue strained to hear her.

“Courtney is in charge of Rocket now,” Leaf figured. “Wally had it all worked out. Courtney killed Giovanni!”

“Why did he think this?” Blue asked with a quizzical look upon his face.

“I don’t know what gave him the idea,” Leaf continued. “But it’s her name, Razzo, that he mentioned. She expected Blue to reply but got nothing from him. He had turned off Kanto National News and now stared into the sky as if he knew something she didn’t. “Well?” she snapped.

“Let’s go,” Blue said solemnly and strolled towards Saffron City to where Sabrina awaited. Leaf let him leave and allowed herself to collect her own thoughts before searching for Courtney.

Flecks of rain fell on Leaf as she treaded cautiously above the wind-whipped ocean which raged savagely as if it desired to swallow her whole. The wooden bridge swayed in the breeze and creaked eerily before the walkways conjoined together at several wooden platforms that were lifted from the ocean on strong supports. Leaf counted three such open platforms along the manmade Route 12 that connected Lavender Town from the south to Route 13 that lay at Fuschia City’s eastern entrance. She sighted the second Route from the first wooden platform with its rolling grasslands and slight rises then flicked her attention back to fix on the woman who stood upon a second platform across the next bridge, Courtney.

“Welcome, welcome,” the widow gleefully announced, her demeanour displaying the impression she hadn’t cared for her late husband at all. “Come join me on my island paradise!” she said, referring to the wooden platform. The specks of rain had now turned into a light shower and formed a thin mist above the sea’s surface below the walkways.

“Just you?” Leaf nervously trekked across bridge and looked around to search for any sign of Rocket backup for Courtney, strangely sighting none.

“Oh yes only little old me!” Courtney cocked her head to the side to examine Leaf before a curious look plastered across her face. “You’ve caused us a lot of hassle.” She giggled as her face lit up once more. “But today is the day that Courtney solves this problem herself!”

“You don’t look at all unhappy at your husband’s death,” Leaf aired her thoughts once she had reached Courtney’s platform. All three of the wooden islands were large enough for both trainers to stand at either end whilst their two Pokemon fought although Leaf doubted the platforms could withstand heavier creatures or exceedingly ferocious fighting. Courtney had picked this battlefield for a reason.

“My husband’s death?” Courtney looked confused for a moment but the act was just a ploy. “Oh!” she burst into hysterical laughter.

“It’s funny?” Leaf spoke with curiosity.

“Funny funny funny!” Courtney replied and clenched her sides which ached with laughter.

“You planned it all didn’t you?” Leaf began her accusation. “You ordered Archer to switch Giovanni and Blue’s drinks so you could take your husband’s place at the top of Team Rocket. Or maybe your son, Silver, now runs it?” The allegations only seemed to fuel Courtney’s mirth. Her amusement was in contrast to the rain-battered scene as the platform became slippery and Leaf had to struggle to maintain her confident stance.

“You’re so clueless,” Courtney chimed in an attempted melody. “You’ll soon be…err…Blueless!” she finished. “Wait,” she stopped her laughter suddenly and placed her index finger on her chin. “Who’s Blue?”

“Blue Oak?” Leaf snapped and grew irritated at Courtney’s apparently feigned stupidity.

“Blue…Oak…?” Courtney thought for a moment then burst into a chorus of giggles once more. “Oh, that guy,” she said and laughed. “Oh Leaf. Poor poor Leaf,” she said with amusement. “We should really do this more often. I haven’t laughed so much. Since. Oh,” she placed her finger back on her chin and thought again. “Oh since I found out that Wally was dead!” She burst into hysterics and all Leaf saw was a crimson red that clouded her vision. She charged at Team Rocket’s supposed new leader but slipped and fell on the platform to more laughter from Courtney.

“Wally,” Leaf thought to herself as her anger turned to agony of the soul. “I can’t fail you,” she spoke softly. “We will defeat Rocket. Your spirit lives on with me and your Eevee,” she tried to speak confidently but her voice failed her. “But,” she spoke to herself whilst climbing to her feet. “I miss you,” she finished and swept a lone tear from her cheek then placed her hand on Wally’s Pokemon’s capsule. She had named him Heiko, after his ex-trainer.

“Ooh,” Courtney chirped once she had seen Leaf grasp a Pokeball. “A battle on the bridge. A battle between Rocket and the Resistance. This is it, little Leaf, this is where it’s all decided.”

“Shut up and fight me,” Leaf growled once her temper had reached its end.

“Oh I will. I will. I will.” Courtney grabbed a Pokeball and released an Electrode onto the platform. The spherical Pokemon was a flash of red and white as it rolled around the island in an apparent taunt to it’s opponent and Leaf knew that the electric type held the advantage in the wet conditions. She released Heiko onto the battlefield and faltered slightly once she spotted the misery in the Eevee’s eyes. Pokemon felt the loss of their trainer, especially if they had a strong bond, more painfully than any other.

“Oh and Leafy girl,” Courtney spoke whilst Leaf returned to her position at the edge of the battlefield. “If you think you have a chance today,” she smiled and pulled a pouch from her pocket. “Consider these.” The Rocket boss unfurled the bag then lowered it to reveal the contents to Leaf. Four stones, rocks from another planet. But these were different to Megastones despite having the same origin. These were named ‘evolutionary stones’ and were clear in colour with a certain hued symbol in the centre which denoted the type of Pokemon it’d forcibly evolve once linked to. Although, whereas a Megastone forced a Pokemon to transform into a creature of pure evil, an evolutionary stone would morph the Pokemon in a more natural way and the effects would be permanent rather than temporary.

“Time to fight,” Leaf growled and received a wry smile in response.

Heiko arched his back whilst rain battered him and soaked his caramel fur, rolling down his small face and getting caught in his bushy, cream coloured mane which enclosed around the neck of an Eevee. He glanced at Leaf with bulging brown eyes which were enshrouded with anguish before stumbling towards the Electrode on four short legs.
Courtney bounced on the spot and seemed to move with some sort of rhythm like a hyperactive child unable to keep still. She looked from the battle to Leaf constantly as if she were both studying her opponent and goading her at the same time. The Electrode remained motionless whilst its foe nervously approached then burst into life once the Eevee was within a few inches and prepared to pounce.

Heiko watched as Courtney’s Pokemon became a flash of crimson and white, rolling rapidly around him in a full circle whilst sparking electricity which caught the slick surface of the wooden floor. Flares of volts threatened to flick up at Heiko but caused no more than a small, distracting shock.

“Kill it,” Courtney commanded savagely. “Kill it, kill it, kill it!”

Thus far her Electrode had played on its opponent’s weakness. It had exploited Heiko’s timidity by rolling around in a blur and sending feeble shockwaves towards the Eevee to cause fear and apprehension to surge through Leaf’s Pokemon, but now its trainer was ordering a different method of attack. A reckless but relentless assault, and the Electrode obliged.

Heiko almost squealed then fled as Courtney’s Pokemon charged after him but his short legs were incapable of escaping the much faster Electrode. The electric-type rammed him down to the ground then charged up an electrical strike which would current through the standing water which had puddled on the platform and electrocute the prone Eevee.

“Heiko come back!” Leaf called out to Wally’s old Pokemon with Sap’s Pokeball in her hand to replace him but her Eevee chose to panic instead. Heiko returned to his feet in the nick of time as the electrical attack sparked fiercely in the puddle where he had been. The Eevee began to dart hastily across the battlefield in blind fright, somehow managing to avoid a series of electrical waves.

“Stop messing and kill it!” Courtney demanded of her Pokemon. She had stopped moving now and her face had scrunched up into a scowl as she impatiently awaited the death of Leaf’s Pokemon.

“Heiko,” Leaf tried again. “Get back here quick. Before I lose both you and Wally.” The name of her recently departed friend caused a surge of agony to clutch at her heart but the word was like an electric shock to her Eevee. Heiko’s ears pricked up at the name of his former trainer and caused him to firstly turn his head towards Leaf, then gallop towards her and back into safety whilst Sap took to the battlefield. “It’s okay,” Leaf whispered to Heiko who had slumped to the ground in sorrow. “It’s okay,” she repeated whilst feeling her body tremble through her own sadness.

Sap attempted to released spores but her pollen was simply washed away by the pouring rain. Courtney burst into hysterics at seeing the Gloom’s singular tactic fail followed by her Electrode charging up yet another electrical attack and releasing the energy towards the statuesque Sap. Thousands of volts smashed into the Gloom who had entrenched himself by spreading his feet apart. The electricity surged through his body but the flower atop and the roots that served as his veins just absorbed most of the damage to fizzle out the attack.

Courtney as well as her Pokemon stood aghast with gaping mouths and remained clueless as to their next move. Sap made the decision by charging towards the Electrode who quickly rolled out of her way and fell straight into the Gloom’s trap. She whipped out vines and caught the evasive Electrode by surprise, but instead of lashing him with the attack she instead wrapped the whips around its spherical frame.

“Go Sap!” Leaf roared encouragement to her Pokemon who swung her opponent from the platform to a splash followed by a fizzing sound. Water sparked for a moment whilst Courtney’s Pokemon was electrocuted within the ocean’s depths then all that followed was a victorious silence.

“Ahh well,” Courtney chirped and began dancing to an invented beat. “I’m not impressed,” she declared of Leaf. “A scaredy wimp and an ugly plant,” she remarked of her opponent’s Pokemon. “I still got my stones,” she gloated and released a Fearow from its Pokeball. “And strong strong strong Pokemon!” Her latest fighter soared above the battlefield with an impressive wingspan and even larger beak which looked as if it could drill through a brick wall. The dirty-brown coloured Pokemon shrieked in the skies, a shrill sound which caused the hairs on the back of Leaf’s neck to stand on end.

“Come back Sap,” she ordered her Gloom. Even without the weather, her grass type would be at a severe disadvantage to an aerial foe as fearsome as this Fearow. “Time to fight fire with fire,” she shouted towards Courtney before realising she was speaking about two flying types who had nothing to do with fire.

Feather shot up towards her foe. Despite lacking the sheer size of the Fearow, she was more agile in the skies but looking at the comparative wingspans, Leaf doubted even her Pidgetto’s speed against Courtney’s Pokemon.

“Kill it you big beast. Why haven’t you done it already!” Courtney chided her Pokemon for no apparent reason. “Use that fancy beak of yours and whack it out the sky!” She seemed almost unpreturbed by the rain lashing down upon her and soaking both her clothes and hair. In fact, she seemed to be enjoying the blustery conditions.

Feather swerved a peck which was more like a drill attempting to pierce its target then retaliated with a bash of her own beak. The two became locked in a duel of swiping and dodging and rose ever higher into the sky until they were likely rapidly moving black dots in Leaf’s vision. One fell rapidly as if it had been plucked from the air and began to plummet towards the ocean. Leaf’s heart skipped a beat then leapt for joy once she had seen the Fearow tumble with Feather keeping within close proximity but unable to keep up with her opponent’s fall.

“Keep cheering Fuguri,” Courtney snapped. “Keep cheering,” she said then smiled menacingly and Leaf’s heart sank. It had all been a ruse.

Feather screeched as she attempted to flap her wings to generate enough speed to escape but the Fearow was too quick. Courtney’s Pokemon had feigned the fall and rapidly corrected herself to rise back up and drill her beak through the Pidgeotto then strike her with a powerful wing to send Feather crashing into the ocean where she met her end in the raging sea. Pain gripped Leaf tightly and almost refused to relinquish its grasp on her until she sighted the glee on Courtney’s face which led agony to transform into anger.

“They’re falling, falling, falling,” Courtney sang. “Like the rain. Leaf’s Pokemon are falling, falling falling.”

“We’ve lost one each,” Leaf growled and reached for Fin’s Pokeball, ready to unleash the Gyarados’s power.

Fin roared, a monstrously frightening sound with seemed to reverberate with the oceans waves and strike fear into Courtney’s Fearow. The Gyarados sank into the ocean and disappeared from sight leaving his opponent nervously searching the raging water for sight of the titanic Pokemon.

“Ooh a big scary monster,” Courtney said and giggled. “I want one! How’d you get it!”

“Out a bin,” Leaf recalled picking the Magikarp’s Pokeball from the trash then giving it patience, time and support in order for her Pokemon to eventually evolve into this fearsome creature. She doubted Courtney would allow a Magikarp the same affection. The widow looked at Leaf curiously as she tried to decipher the meaning behind her words then shrugged her shoulders and returned her gaze to the ocean once she had failed to do so.

“Fearow get down there!” she screeched to her anxious Pokemon. “It won’t come out with you cowering up there like a coward!” Her imposing bird cautiously lowered itself until the angry waves almost reached out of the sea to grab her and that was when the Gyarados chose to strike.

Fin shot out of the ocean like a monster attacking its prey and crunched his enormous jaws into the Fearow’s long neck before dragging the bird into an oceanic tomb.

“I definitely need to get me one of those!” Courtney strangely laughed at her Pokemon falling in battle then stopped suddenly and stamped a foot. “Not fair!” she groaned. “Really not fair.” She stopped for a moment to glare at Leaf before pulling out both a Pokeball and a stone encrusted with a red flamed centre. “I know!” she exclaimed. “Prepare for the end Leafy girl.”

“You’re losing,” Leaf taunted her. She was trying with all her willpower to keep focused on the battle and leave the other issues that plagued her mind to one side for now despite feeling like she was mentally breaking.

Fin eagerly awaited his next foe with confidence and belief surging through him. Courtney released a Vulpix to stand atop the platform with herself and Leaf. The fire type whimpered as rain struck her, she was a small fox-like Pokemon with brown skin and six puffy orange tails. Courtney walked up to her Pokemon and pressed the stone to the Vulpix which hissed and smoked upon the touch.

A bright white shroud encased the Vulpix in reaction to the stone to begin the process of a forced natural evolution. The light morphed to twice the size it had been previously then dissipated for a Ninetales to emerge. The newly evolved Pokemon featured white-gold fur contrasted by menacing scarlet eyes. Her most dazzling feature, however, was the long and bushy nine tiles protruding from her hind with were tipped with orange.

“A fire type?” Leaf snorted. “In the rain to face a water type?” she had to hold back a laugh at the supposed ignorance shown by Courtney.

“Think you’re smart and clever don’t you?” Courtney snapped back. “Well you’ve never met a Ninetales.” Leaf glanced back to the aforementioned Pokemon who glided gracefully across the slick surface of the platform to perch herself directly in front of Leaf. “They’re clever, very smart,” Courtney finished. “You my girl, are not.”

Leaf grimaced as she realised the Ninetales’s plan. The fox-like Pokemon slank towards her then peppered the Gyarados with barrages of flame which sizzled in the rain. Fin avoided the attacks easily and watched them fizzle harmlessly into the ocean but that was all he could do. If he shot a jet of water towards Courtney’s Pokemon then the Ninetails would either dodge the attack which would then strike Leaf directly behind her, or be struck by it and clatter into Leaf. Either way, Fin could not risk his trainer’s safety with a ranged assault and Leaf had no room to manoeuvre on the wet platform unless she retreated to the bridge where the Ninetails would surely follow.

“See,” Courtney exclaimed whilst jumping gleefully. “See I told you! Clever clever clever.”

Fin had been forced to move close to the platform now where dodging the balls of fire proved difficult as many painfully hissed when they collided with his skin. Unless Leaf thought of a plan, the Gyarados would be forced to come right up to the platform whilst withstanding constant attacks, then carefully grab the Ninetales from it using his jaws. But even with that strategy he’d leave himself too exposed. “Unless,” Leaf thought aloud. She nodded to Fin who shared her thoughts.

“You talking to your Pokemon?” Courtney giggled. “Some sort of internal communication?” she burst into hysterics. “And they say I’m crazy!”

Fin dived into the ocean, waited a few seconds then burst from within to the Ninetales initial dismay. He released a powerful stream of water from within his gullet that collided with the temporary dazzled fire-type who rocketed back towards where Leaf stood. Or had stood. Leaf had dived out of the way and watched the Ninetales fly passed her whilst she landed on the soaked wood with a thud and into the ocean below.

“What why how?!” Courtney gibbered. “How what?” she finished blabbing with her mouth agape and eyes widened. “Even I saw that one coming!” She stamped her foot again.

“No you didn’t,” Leaf said and smiled. “My Gyarados is annihilating you.”

“Not fair!” she screeched. “Not fair, not fair, not fair!” she said with increasing irritation. “I want one of those!”

“You couldn’t raise it,” Leaf nodded at Fin to remain as her fighter to await their next opponent.

“What you mean?” Courtney growled. “You think you’re better than me Fuguri?” she continued angrily. “Well let me tell you something. You’re nothing Leaf. Just a pawn in a game. A game you’re losing!”

“What do you mean?” Leaf said patiently, feeling as if Courtney was about to spill crucial information.

“Oh just you wait and see Leafy girl,” Courtney replied with a mocking smile. “You know nothing. You think you know everything. But you have everything wrong.”

“Tell me,” Leaf said, the anticipation was causing her body to tremble. “What do I have wrong?”

“As if I would spoil the surprise,” Courtney howled with laughter. “But I will tell you this. Your friends are your biggest enemies. Not me. Not us.”

“Who?” Leaf said, puzzled.

“All of them! All you have left.” Courtney laughed.  

Leaf felt anger surge through her at the word ‘left’. The remembrance of Wally poured both sorrow and rage into the pit of her stomach. “Let’s get this over with,” she spoke with unconcealed hatred towards her opponent. “Next Pokemon.”

“Gladly.” Courtney smiled then winked towards Leaf. She whipped out another stone, this time with a yellow lightning symbol in the centre and pressed it against a Pikachu she had then released. The light came again and transformed her Pokemon into a Raichu, a creature who had orange skin with black ears and tail which featured a lightning bolt shape on the end. It had bright yellow spots on each cheek which was where it generated, stored and released electricity from.

Fin roared at his new opponent and ducked inside the ocean to conceal himself from Courtney’s Pokemon. The Raichu swaggered arrogantly towards the platform’s edge and placed his hands against the wooden barrier and waited whilst electricity sparked and trickled from his cheeks.

“Here we go,” Courtney eagerly yapped.

Leaf’s Gyarados shot out the ocean once more with his jaws wide open and ready to either swallow the Raichu whole or crunch down upon it with his enormous teeth. Courtney’s Pokemon released the stored electricity all at once and aimed directly into Fin’s gaping mouth.

“No,” Leaf whispered. The entire sky seemed to light up at the power of the shockwave and the falling rain was replaced by sparks which trickled from above. The sound was like a thunderstorm booming around the entire world which stopped as suddenly as it started to be replaced by silence as Fin’s lifeless body sank back into the ocean.

“The beast is down!” Courtney announced and howled with glee. “They’re falling, falling, falling,” Courtney sang once more. “Like the rain. Leaf’s Pokemon are falling, falling falling.”

“No,” Leaf repeated. She had bet it all on Fin who had seemed invincible since his evolution but now she had lost him as well as Feather. “Dino,” she whispered as she plucked her Ivysaur’s Pokeball from her belt. “You’re the one I can always go to in my times of need. Well, I need you now.” She planted a soft kiss on her Pokemon’s capsule before opening it to allow Dino onto the platform.

Her Ivysaur looked nervous and Leaf knew that the Pokemon, whose bond was so strong with her it was almost visible between them, had channeled her pain from all the recent failures and losses they had both endured together.

“Kill the pest!” Courtney ordered her Raichu who obliged dutifully. Her electric type was faster than Dino as it approached him. It was more agile than him as it danced around him. It was stronger than him as it bullied him with force before batting aside his vines. “Easy!” Courtney screamed with every hit that Dino received.

“What would Wally do,” Leaf asked herself as her Ivysaur sustained more pain. Dino had collapsed to his hind legs now as both his strength and will failed him. Raichu charged up a killing blow whilst continuing to lash out with fists and a whip-like tail. “No,” Leaf corrected herself. “What would Erik do,” she thought. “I’ve lost them both. I’ve lost so many friends. And now I’ll lose Dino.” She would’ve cried but all she felt now was apathy, it had all become to much and the fall of her beloved Ivysaur would be what pushed her over the edge. Dino turned his head and locked eyes with his trainer and Leaf presumed he saw the despondency and defeat in her eyes. Because he refused to allow it.

A bright white light engulfed Dino.

Leaf closed her eyes then shielded them with her hands. When she opened them Dino was enormous. The blue-green beast stood on four legs with a wide body which squeezed Leaf, Courtney and Raichu to the edges of the platform. The bulb on his back had fully sprouted to reveal a red flower supported by a thick trunk and giant leaves whilst Dino’s mouth appeared to be able to fit two or three Raichu inside. The Venasaur roared a sound which seemed to shake the foundations of the planet.

“Woah,” Courtney gasped in awe of the creature which Leaf guessed surely weighed at least half a ton by both its sheer size and the fact the platform now creaked and groaned as it struggled to contain the weight atop it. “I’m just gonna go stand over there,” Courtney said so softly her voice was almost a whisper before backing off the platform and onto the bridge, then picking up the pace to a brisk walk towards the section of land that flanked Fuschia City. Leaf creeped after her with her vision locked on the tentative and terrified Raichu.

Courtney’s Pokemon charged up an electrical attack and used its voltage to shock Dino but even with the pouring rain conducting the current the Venasaur just shrugged off the assault. Dino slammed its wide skull into the Raichu to fling his opponent over the edge and into the sea.

“Go Dino!” Leaf barked in encouragement. She had now overtaken Courtney and had began racing towards the grassland because the platform splintered and cracked painfully.

“Can the beast swim? Or will the big fat monster sink?” Courtney chuckled and released a Nidorino onto the bridge before pressing a stone against it and sprinting towards land where she joined Leaf on the grass verge that overhung the sea.

Light appeared then disappeared just as quickly and revealed a Nidoking as Dino’s challenger. The intimidating Pokemon stood on two hind legs and featured a large, thick tail. A ridge of spines like spikes protruded from its lilac skin at the back with plates like armour painted white across its chest and stomach. The most alarming feature of the beast however, was not the frighteningly muscular arms or powerful jaws, but the sizable venomous horn above its furious-looking eyes.

A cracking sound bellowed across the ocean as if the sea itself was breaking. Then, as Courtney had intended, the platform collapsed and bought the two connected bridges plummeting with it alongside both the Nidoking and Dino.  

Timber and rope were greedily swallowed whole by the ocean as Route 12 was partially destroyed and the bridgeway linking Lavender Town to Fuschia City was torn asunder. Dino flailed in the water alarmingly, his inability to swim combined with his burgeoning weight left him straining to remain afloat.

“Over here,” Leaf shouted to her Pokemon, her voice snapping the Venasaur to attention.

“Kill it!” Courtney snarled a few paces away from where Leaf stood. Her Nidoking was faring much better in the water and looked almost like he was able to surf the waves towards his struggling opponent.

Dino lashed out vines towards the grass verge where Leaf stood and tied the whips around large rocks which jutted from the edge and began to haul himself towards the shore. Leaf backed away and took a look behind her at the freshly cut fields which turned to gentle rises and soft slopes until it reached Fuschia City which appeared as a small dot in the distance.

“No,” Courtney screeched at her Pokemon as it climbed the rocks with ease and lifted itself onto land. “You’re meant to kill the fat thing whilst it’s in the water,” she batted at her Pokemon weakly. “It’s struggling, go get-ah!” She sighed when she sighted Dino hoisting himself onto the grass verge. “You big stupid purple idiot!” she chided her Pokemon who looked at her innocently.

“Dino.” Leaf smiled to her Venusaur. “Let’s win this.”

Leaf’s Venusaur charged and attempted to use his skull as a battering ram to force the Nidoking over the edge and back into the raging sea. Courtney’s Pokemon grappled onto Dino but skidded along the floor because despite all his strength and mass the poison-type wasn’t powerful enough to fully stop a rampaging Venusaur. The Nidoking was forced back to the edge where he teetered treacherously over the side and whined nervously as he struggled to hang on.

“Uh oh,” Courtney uttered as she watched Dino lash at her Pokemon with vines before releasing sleeping spores towards his opponent. The Nidoking was too focused on the Venasaur and allowed the pollen to first enter his system and then shut it down, sending the poison-type into a slumber. The unconscious Pokemon tumbled off into the ocean where it swallowed the Nidoking whole.

“You’re down to your final Pokemon,” Leaf laughed at Courtney who twinged irritably at the barb.

“Even if you beat me,” Courtney snapped. “Which you won’t!” she screamed then returned to a more calm posture. “All your friends will still betray you! You’re nothing and have nothing and will be nothing! Nothing!”

Leaf ignored her and recalled the exhausted Dino into his Pokeball and released her new capture, named Belly, onto the fields behind her. The Snorlax groaned tiredly as if he had just awoken from a deep slumber. His huge cream-coloured stomach wobbled as he stood at an enormous height, he was even larger and heavier than a Venasaur. Much heavier, Leaf noted as he scratched his navy-blue skin with sharp claws.

“Another fatty!” Courtney screeched. “Your team is all fatty.” She summoned her last Pokemon, a Poliwhirl, and affixed a stone with an ocean-blue centre in the shape of a water drop on the creature.

When the brightness faded a Poliwrath lurked by the verge’s edge. A water and fighting dual type, the blue-skinned Pokemon featured white hands which looked like boxing gloves and a white belly that had a black spiral swirling around it constantly which was slowly hypnotic to look at. Both legs and arms were corded with powerful muscles which now pounded the Snorlax who cried out at the pain which his gigantic stomach only partially absorbed.

“This is it!” Courtney screamed in glee as her Poliwrath circled the motionless Snorlax and pounded the hefty creature constantly. Then Belly collapsed, purposefully. He fell atop his opponent and smothered Courtney’s Pokemon entirely. The Poliwrath fought in vain to escape but slowly suffocated within.

“This is it,” Leaf said and smiled towards Courtney. “You lose and I win.” Leaf looked to the Rocket leader who slowly back away and shouted more threats.

“You’re done, Leafy girl,” she promised. “Done done done. You’re nothing. You’re done,” she repeated over and over before slowly breaking into a sprint and fleeing into the distance.

“What next I wonder?” Leaf whispered to Belly who had now fallen asleep atop the defeated Poliwrath. “The quarter finals,” she spoke to noone. She had reached the last eight of the tournament, but Wally’s death still lay unavenged. Erik was still held captured and many questions were no closer to being answered. But it was Courtney’s latest revelation that began to slowly haunt Leaf. “You have everything wrong. Your friends are your biggest enemies. All your friends will betray you.” The rambling of a mad woman or hidden truths that lay within her blustering words. Leaf was undecided.