A Time For Heroes

Chapter Twenty-Six – A Time For Heroes

Erik felt strangely warm within the glass dome as he hastily paced up and down the tiled floor, pondering his next move. Light emanated from gaps in the tiles, illuminating the room in a soft glow as sunlight pierced the body of water the dome lay in, further adding to the brightness of the arena.

Wallace kept his gaze fixed on the watertank, his eyes trailing his Luvdisc who frollicked around the colourful reefs. Erik had made his decision, if Dancer and Zap were now ineffective in this battle, and Soar and Bat unable to breathe without the apparatus, then he would have to use his own water types. He also couldn’t risk mega-evolution. A Mega Pokemon was wild and out of control, with powerful attacks. One loose blast of dark energy could shatter the tank they were in, trapping himself deep underwater.

Splash roared into action, bursting out of his Pokeball and snaking towards Luvdisc full of ferocity. Wallace’s Pokemon attempted to flee, but held no opposition to the Gyarados’s sheer speed. Splash grappled the Luvdisc within its coils and began squeezing violently until his opponent suffocated inside his vicelike grasp.

“Ugh,” Wallace squawked. “You may have aquatic Pokemon, but I’m the best water-type trainer in Hoenn!” he declared, a glint of pride within his eyes. “No, not just Hoenn, the World!” Wallace corrected himself. The Sootopolis Gym Leader picked the next Pokeball from his pocket, launching it into the sky for a Whiscash to release itself into the large tank of water.

Erik remained silent, his thoughts fixated on managing his Pokemon well enough to win this fight. He withdrew Splash, saving the Gyarados for Wallace’s tougher creatures and threw Seal into the fray. The Sealeo cut through the clear waters with ease, as Wallace’s Whiscash darted towards the plentiful rock formations which nestled themselves among the reefs.

Wallace’s Pokemon vanished within a plethora of rock outcroppings, and despite Seal’s numerous water pulses, some shattering rocks they hit and others ricocheting in all directions, the Whiscash was nowhere to be seen. Seal then attempted a different method, gliding through crevices and gaps in the rocks in an effort to sight his foe.

Whiscash proved his knowledge of the terrain, ambushing Seal from below and launching the Sealeo into an assortment of stone which exploded as Erik’s Pokemon thundered into the reefs. Wallace’s creature moved to attack its weakened foe, sending splinters of smashed rock shooting outwards as he launched pulses through the water at Seal.

The Sealeo reacted almost as the rocks were upon him, spinning out of the way as the reefs cracked under the pressure of the stone barrage. Seal launched a beam of ice at his foe, the attack freezing the water in a straight line and smashing into the Whiscash who recoiled at the blow, before attacking again.

The two embroiled themselves within a vicious conflict as shards of shattered stone flicked up into the oceanic air. Seal smashed into a reef, before recovering and launching a retaliatory strike of ice that cut deep into his foe, the cold biting eagerly at the Whiscash’s frail skin. Erik’s Sealeo faltered in his next move, battered and weary, Seal struggled to dodge a water pulse causing his trainer to withdraw him.

“I should see how Bat copes under the water, facing a Pokemon whilst it is weak,” Erik thought to himself, following through with his plan as Wallace tossed something high up into the air and into the tank. “What’s that?” Erik demanded, as the Whiscash smashed the thrown container with a water of pulse then drank up the innards.

“A full restore,” Wallace sang confidently. “A newly developed item shipped over by Team Rocket. It fully heals my Pokemon.”

“Made using Magma’s plans, I’d guess,” Erik grumbled to himself, realising how much danger Bat was now in.

Erik’s Golbat was lumbersome in movement and sluggish on the turn as Whiscash flew up the waters at speed to meet him. Bat plunged poisonous fangs into the creature, successfully managing to inflict poison upon it before being launched into the rocks. Erik again switched out his Pokemon, just as Whiscash prepared a finishing blow, and sent in Soar.

“Steven told me you caught a legendary Pokemon,” Wallace started as he saw the Latios. “I wasn’t impressed, I could catch one just as easily.”

Erik felt rage stabbing at him, but ignored the temptation to snap back, instead watching his Latios glide through the tank.

Soar moved almost unimpeded by the water, but instead of using the breathing apparatus at the bottom of the tank, he flew up out of the container for air before descending back into the depths. Soar’s psychic attacks were also unaffected by the water, the Latios easily frying the weakened Whiscash’s mind, leaving Wallace to send out his favourite Pokemon, Milotic.

Soar twirled through the water out of the way of several beams of ice launched by Milotic before one smashed into him. A stray blast of frozen liquid snaked through the tank and wrapped itself around Latios’s frame, encasing the legendary Pokemon within a tomb of ice. Erik quickly threw a Pokeball into the air, withdrawing Soar who was now frozen solid. His hopes of winning rested firmly within the coils of Splash as he sent his Gyarados out once more.

Two snake-like aquatic creatures locked themselves within a titanic battle as water pulses flew back and forth as barbaric bites countered beams of ice. Splash was propelled across the tank after being stricken by a water pulse. The Gyarados crashed into the glass next to Erik as cracks formed across the fractured glass surface. Erik temporarily feared for his life, but luckily the container held strong.

Wallace’s Milotic moved as elegantly as her trainer, gracefully moving her slender body as she honed in on her weakened target. Splash shot out like a bullet, meeting the Milotic with a vigorous clench of his jaws. The Gyarados then launched a different kind of pulse as he spat out the Milotic’s head, a pulse of dark energy. Remnants of the slivers of darkness left by his mega-evolution. The dark energy engulfed and swallowed the Milotic, before Splash sank to the reefs unconscious. Both Erik and Wallace were left with two Pokemon. Wallace led with a Sealeo, Erik following with Dancer.

Erik knew that his Pikachu had always been intelligent, so despite her disadvantage of being unable to use electrical attacks, he hoped that she would find a way of defeating Wallace. He watched on to see Dancer initially frustrated by the lack of her usually reliable speed and agility, but as she put on the breathing equipment, a glimmer in her eye warned Erik that his Pikachu had devised a plan.

After toying with her and mockingly allowing her to equip the apparatus, Wallace’s Sealeo moved to attack, attempting to smash Dancer against the now knife-life rocks that jutted from the bottom of the container. Sealeo closed in, before Dancer pushed herself backwards, removed her breathing equipment and deftly attached it to the Sealeo. As Wallace’s Pokemon struggled to remove the gear, Dancer launched waves of electricity towards her foe, the volts catching on the apparatus and frying the Sealeo within the contained charge.

Dancer moved to reattach the apparatus as the defeated Sealeo descended to the reefs, Wallace throwing a Seaking into the action thereafter and instructing his new Pokemon to maintain distance to avoid the trick for a second time. The Seaking immediately arrowed towards the rock formations, concealing itself within them.

“Finish this, Dancer!” Erik roared on his Pikachu, who endeavoured to oblige. Dancer removed the breathing equipment once more and let it sink slightly before launching bolts of electricity throughout the rocks, which, to her horror, absorbed the voltage. Seaking was fully protected from electrical attacks as Dancer reattached the apparatus once more.

Dancer tried again. She unclipped the gear and dropped it, allowing a few seconds for it to sink, then attacking with more electricity. Once more, the rocks absorbed her attacks to howls of laughter from Wallace. Dancer moved to swim back to her breathing gear, but was caught by a sudden movement. Seaking had emerged from the rocks and swam rapidly towards the gear, picking it up on her front horn before ascending to the surface and tossing the apparatus to her trainer.

Erik’s Pikachu moved downwards to grab another set of equipment, but was caught within Seaking’s circling movements. Wallace’s Pokemon had trapped her, and whenever she attempted to move, a sharp jab of the Seaking’s horn threw Dancer backwards.

“Dancer!”, Erik shouted in horror. As more and more air escaped Dancer’s lungs, he threw her Pokeball into the sky. “You can’t do that!” Erik followed as Dancer’s Pokeball was knocked out of the air by Wallace’s thrown item, the breathing apparatus.

“Go on then,” he chuckled. “Report me to the authorities!”

Erik growled before he grimaced, then he picked up the thrown equipment that had landed next to him. It had smashed on impact with the tiled floor and no longer looked usable. He glanced back to Dancer whose face had turned to a faint blue hue, she wouldn’t last much longer.

“Come on girl,” Erik whispered as Dancer faltered. The Pikachu gasped for air and instead gulped a mouthful of water. “Dancer!” Erik roared. “You can do this!”

The Pikachu looked her trainer in the eye and summoned a slight smile, before Erik saw a weak glimmer within her dark, beady pupils. Dancer mustered her remaining energy and fried the container with lightning, electricity surrounding the waters and defeating the Seaking within. Erik grabbed her Pokeball once more as Wallace collapsed to his knees, launching it into the sky and withdrawing his Pikachu to safety. He had won his final badge and was now able to challenge the Elite Four, and then, the Champion.

“Oh…” a solemn noise squeaked out of Wallace’s mouth.

“Hand over your badge!” Erik demanded, climbing back up the stairway onto the glass elevator.

“Here you go,” the despondent Wallace replied, taking the badge out of his trouser pocket and handing it to Erik after joining the trainer on the elevator. The two ascended through the aquarium in silence, Erik’s thoughts focused on the Elite Four.

The glass door creaked open before both Erik and Wallace stepped out. The Sootopolis refused to make eye contact with the victor once more as he skulked away sorely.

“Not going to say anything?” Erik teased. “Oh well, off to defeat the Elite Four for me, and when I become Champion, your Gym is the first thing I’ll take from you.”

“You idiot!” Wallace snapped back, the Gym Leader shaking as he lost his cool. “There is no more Elite Four!”

“What?” Erik wheezed, seeing Wallace stagger backwards as his eyes widened, like the Gym Leader had revealed a secret he wasn’t supposed to.

“Forget what I-”

“No Wallace, tell me what you mean by that!”

“Oh…It’s just…” Wallace began, before Erik closed in as the man backed away slowly. The Gym trainers surrounded their leader, stopping Erik from coming any closer.

“Wallace,” Erik growled, before he saw the man’s body expression visibly buckle under the pressure.

“Okay, okay!” he sang like a man who couldn’t keep a secret. “Giovanni had a couple of contingency plans in mind in case he was defeated during the Battle of Route 104,” Wallace bleated. “He knew he had such a hold on Hoenn that the only way you could unite and rally the region was if you became Champion.”

“So what did he do? He couldn’t stop people from challenging the Elite Four and Champion, there would be riots. Trainers who had grafted their whole lives, got eight badges and wanted to challenge would rebel against the authorities!”

“He knows this. Over in Kanto they abolished the Elite Four a couple of months ago, and introduced a new tournament, obviously fixed in Rocket’s favour. The winner of this knockout tournament would challenge the Champion to decide on who would be the new one.”

“So there’s now a tournament fixed by Rocket over here in Hoenn?”

“Well it would be too difficult to fix as our region is not yet under Giovanni’s thumb. Steven is in charge of making sure the right people get to the right places. And to make sure the tournament has finished by the time you arrive.”

“It’s already started?”

“I don’t know, I’ve been here holding you off. But what I do know is that they plan to host a tournament every few years, if you don’t win this one, you have no hope.”

Erik bolted from the room. He had his eight badges and he was going to make sure he entered the tournament before it began.

“I will need each and every one of you for this ‘Tournament'” Erik instructed his team who all lay outside their Pokeballs. A crisp wind fluttered through the grass before entering the cave’s open mouth as Erik and his team rested outside. Dawn had arrived as Bat twirled playfully in the open sky, the morning sun peeking through vast grey clouds and resting on Soar’s back, the Latios watching his trainer attentively. Dancer darted around flower beds, training her agility and honing her speed whilst Rocky, Seal and Splash all sat in front of Erik, nestled within the freshly cut lawns of Ever Grande City.

Whilst called a “City”, Ever Grande was little more than a miniature hamlet. A Pokemon centre rested next to the hotel where Erik and his team spent the night after a long day of battling and travelling. A score of wooden huts lined up along the cliffside where residents lived peacefully away from the populous, bustling areas of Hoenn. The only visitors they received were trainers wishing to pass through the cave to the north to challenge the Pokemon League.

The cave, or “Victory Road”, as it was known, loomed ahead of Erik dauntingly. The cavern itself was supposedly simple to navigate, but was infamously filled with tough trainers who were all looking to prove themselves against one another before they challenged the Elite Four. Erik guessed that they would be gone now, eagerly queuing for their place in the new “Pokemon League Tournament”.

Erik shook his head once more, he had lost count of the amount of times he forced himself to rattle away the poisonous thoughts which had made a home within his mind. Only one thing mattered to him now, and that was becoming Champion and fulfilling his father’s final wish. Doing that would stop Team Rocket and unite Hoenn to take the fight to Team Rocket in Kanto itself.

“We both know that the one you blame is yourself, and we both know that you’re right too,” Giovanni’s words pierced Erik’s mental armour. The Team Rocket boss wasn’t wrong, it was his own fault. May, Norman, Blaze and all the others. Gone because of his mistakes, gone because of his own weaknesses.

A roar from one of his Pokemon startled him. His other Pokemon joined in, a chorus of animalistic shouts had begun echoing around the cave entrance. Adrenaline gushed through Erik’s veins, he had to carry on for those who were still here.

Splash roared into the sky where Bat squawked merrily. Rocky shouted in Erik’s direction as Soar looped around in the air howlng passionately. Dancer strode up to Erik and grabbed his hand. She had turned from a contest Pikachu who hated the very notion of battle to one of his most reliable warriors. Erik looked to Seal, and had to shield his eyes.

His Sealeo was engulfed in a fiercely bright white light, and after a few moments, gone. In his place, a Walrein stood on his hind legs, with his flippers reaching out into the sky. The giant blue creature roared so vehemently his two giant tusks rattled violently. Erik’s Pokemon were with him, now was the time for him to march through Victory Road and onto the tournament.

The winding trails of Victory Road proved as easy to navigate as the rumours told, and as devoid of human life as Erik imagined. He had captured a Lairon within, naming it Iron and sending it to storage. Its evolved form, Aggron, would be a crucial addition to his team, but he didn’t wish to tinker with the settled party he took with him.

Daylight penetrated a gap at the end of the dirt road as boulders lined the edges of narrow corridors and slender pathways. Grey and brown blended together to compile the tediously monotonous stretches of road which Erik had traversed, but now he sighted sunlight once more, a fresh wave of relief breezed through him.

Victory Road had been a sharp upward rise, and the Pokemon League rested at the summit of a colossal cliff. Stepping out into the glaring sun, Erik felt a bitter wind bite at his skin. Shuddering, he forced himself onwards passed the cold. The cliff overlooked the ocean leading up to Mossdeep City, the island appearing microscopic from the sheer height Erik was standing as Wingulls and Pelippers fluttered nosily around him.

The Pokemon League itself consisted of a single, gigantic building which was a strange mix of stone layers, glass windows and metal support beams. As Erik’s vision ascended the many floors the building only appeared more chaotic, stone turned to brick and glass to more metal and although he could hardly see the buildings roof, Erik swore a battle arena rested upon it.

The small dirt road and surrounding patches of grass and flowerbeds that connected Victory Road to the Pokemon League were vacated, to Erik’s horror. He realised that this must mean that the tournament had already begun, Wallace was right. He stormed towards the automatic glass doors which slid open upon detecting the young trainer from Kanto in their midst.

The reception area was unremarkable, a square shaped room painted in oranges and reds with a dozen doors dotted around ahead of a pair of desks, both manned by a receptionist.

“I’m sorry Sir,” the lady behind the left desk spoke, an elderly woman wearing a colourfully patterned dress. “The tournament has already begun, I’m afraid you’re too late.”

“Which door leads to it?” Erik demanded, a flare of anger surging through him. After all he had done, after all he had been through, he wasn’t about to let a pair of elderly women stop him.

“The doors lead to many different arenas and battlegrounds,” the lady on the right said, she sported a set of plain black and white shirt and trousers. “I’m afraid we’re going to have to ask you to leave.”

“When did the tournament start,” Erik roared, to which the two ladies jumped backwards.

“Yesterday, but they’ve already completed the first three rounds. In fact, I think round four is beginning soon,” the first lady replied.

“Where?!” Erik shouted. “Which door?”

“Well,” the second woman spoke hesitantly. “There’s two battles-”

“Which door?!” Erik roared, advancing to the left desk and slamming his fists down. The lady on the right hand side pointed to a door behind her, to which Erik slammed through a turnstile which separated the desks and proceeded through the door.

He entered a huge stadium with a large mound of grass as the centrepiece. The mound sat on an island, with fours bridges leading off in different directions sat atop a deep, wide moat. To the east rested a field of sand, home to rocky outcrops. The bridge to the west of the mound rode off into a ruined stone two-story building, as slanted and chipped rock served as a defensive position for any Pokemon who dared enter.

Erik took a moment to stop looking horizontally, and gaze upwards. Whilst the arena was square, the top was dome shaped, and allowed a lot of space for winged Pokemon to maneuver. Erik returned his vision to the other two bridges, the one to the south leading to both him and one of the challengers. He recognised the man as Sidney, “Master of Dark Types”. A strange looking man who almost looked like a Pokemon himself, crouching as if he had a bung knee with a nothing but a red wisp of hair of his head. The bridge to the north bought Erik his greatest surprise. At the end of it stood Wally.

“Ahh, Erik!” A voice boomed through a tannoy system, causing Erik to notice speakers and cameras built into black concrete walls which lined the arena. “So nice of you to join us!” Steven’s iconic voice blared.

“Erik!” Wally shouted, finally noticing the trainer who had barged into the room. The battle had not yet started, as both Wally and Sidney rested hands on their belts, considering which Pokeball to choose.

“Steven!” Erik roared. “I challenge you!”

“Nope,” Steven responded. “You’re too late. Anyone who wishes to challenge needs to win five rounds before they do so. And these two have already won three of them.”

“Then give me five trainers to fight!” Erik demanded.

“No can do, my friend,” the tannoy responded calmly. “As we speak, Drake has just defeated Phoebe, and with Glacia losing to Sidney last round, only three trainers remain.”

“You’re a coward, Steven!”

“No, just like to play fair. How would all the other contestants respond if I tell them that I’ve allowed a trainer to skip two rounds! Preposterous!” the man responded sarcastically.

“Erik,” Wally shouted across to his friend. “Take my place. Norman tasked me with taking your place, but only if you failed. You showed me how to get this far, it’s only because of you I believed in myself enough to become as strong of a trainer as I have.”

“Ugh,” the tannoy responded to Wally’s suggestion. “There’s no stopping you, is there, Erik. I suppose I can allow you to enter the tournament as a late contestant, but you still have to survive five rounds, against the toughest five trainers.”

“So be it,” Erik hissed.

“Then first, you will have to face your friend. Wally. The winner will decide who takes his place in this battle, but as you will both know the battlefield afterwards it gives you an unfair advantage on Sidney. So the winner will face Sidney in his own personal arena.”

“But surely that means-” Wally attempted to counter Steven, before Erik interrupted.

“You can try and stop me using whatever means you wish, Steven, but nothing will stop me from defeating you!”

“Will shall see about that,” the tannoy replied, before static replaced Steven’s voice.

“May the best trainer win,” Wally declared to Erik, as Sidney left the room without a glance at Erik. Presumably to watch the battle through cameras and study both trainers’ fighting style.

“May the best trainer win,” Erik repeated to Wally, flashing his friend a slight smile.

The arena’s stale air threatened to suffocate Erik as he stood within its lukewarm embrace. He eyed Wally across the room, his friend’s fingers touching each Pokeball on his belt as the young man considered his first move. As he watched his opponent, Erik noticed something.

“Only five Pokeballs?” Erik shouted to Wally, realising that his foe had a Pokemon missing from his belt.

“I lost my Milotic last round,” Wally replied, his once frail voice now laced with confidence and belief. “They only allow you to change your team in storage after the first round, after that you have to stick with the six.”

“So the winner of this will face Steven with half a team left, I knew this was all fixed in his favour,” Erik hissed whilst eyeing the tannoy. “Does he even allow trainers to heal their Pokemon after each round?”

“Yes,” Wally replied, to Erik’s surprise. “A nurse will come in and look over the winner’s Pokemon, healing any survivors.”

Erik felt a tinge of suspicion as his friend’s words, but said no more. Now it was time to fight.

“To make it fair,” Wally called out once more. “How about we pick our first Pokemon at the same time and throw our Pokeballs together?”

“Fine,” Erik responded, picking Bat’s Pokeball off his belt. His Golbat was versatile and would be able to use the high domed ceiling to his advantage. They threw out their Pokemon together, Wally having chosen an Altaria.

The two waged war in the skies above the mound of grass, Bat using his superior agility to dodge the Altaria’s overwhelming size and power. Wally’s Pokemon breathed dragon fire, then launched a pulse of draconic energy which screeched passed the Golbat who had twirled out of the way. The pulse rampaged through the ruins, tearing through the large stone structure and sending rock fragments shooting off in a hundred directions.

Bat countered the Altaria whilst she was distracted by the ruins (which remained largely in tact in the aftermath despite Erik’s initial thoughts) by lodging poisonous fangs within the dragon’s skin. Erik’s Golbat clung on with all his willpower as the Altaria tried to shake him off.

“Ram him into the building!” Wally encouraged his Pokemon, who responded instantly. The Altaria flew towards the ruins, turning on her side so the Golbat attached to her would face the blow, and smashed into the grey-stone building.

The two fighters were lost to Erik’s vision as dust piled into the air above the ruin. More stone had collapsed on impact and a painful screech could be heard from both Pokemon as they smashed into the decaying building. Suddenly, Altaria emerged. With no sign of Bat.

Moments went by with no sign of the Golbat as Wally’s Pokemon swivelled in the sky, arching her bruised back and preparing to devastate the decaying structure with dragon fire. Erik knew Bat was still alive, he felt it within him. When he had lost a Pokemon before he had felt a soul-tearing pain deep inside him, but this time, nothing was present.

“Altaria finish him!” Wally commanded, recognising that the Golbat was still alive. His Pokemon obeyed, lighting the ruins with dragon breath as faint flames rose from the scorched stone roof. The Altaria followed with a series of draconic pulses, the power of which shattered the stone as more dust rose from the deteriorated rock.

“Hold on,” Erik whispered to himself, holding his hand to his heart.

“The supports!” Wally shouted in realisation. “Altaria, take out the supports!”

A moment’s hesitation followed as Altaria struggled to comprehend her orders, until finally she understood. Swooping down to the surface, she launched pulses of energy at the building’s failing support beams, which fractured before exploding under the pressure. The entirety of the ruins fell down upon the Pokemon who was hiding within.

“Bat!” Erik roared. “Not another. Please not another one,” he begged to no one as dust filled the entire left hand side of the stadium, the Altaria hidden within the cloud. A patch of dim discolouration lay within the smoke where the ruins once were, too bright to be Wally’s Pokemon as Erik considered why he had not felt the pain.

A screech echoed around the arena, emanating from within the dust cloud. As the smoke cleared, Altaria tumbled into the wreckage. A Crobat had its fangs piercing her skin.

“Bat!” Erik roared in glee.

“Altaria!” Wally shouted in horror, as his dragon-type crashed into the ground. The Crobat dislodged his fangs and spat bolts of poison at his downed foe, before the weakened creature finished the fight with a poisonous aerial bombardment, shooting streams and bolts of toxic liquid at his foe.

“I’ll get that Bat!” Wally roared, half fiercely, half playfully. It was clear to Erik both how much Wally respected him, and how much this battle meant to the young trainer. Almost as if Wally had been waiting for this battle for a long time, to prove to himself how far he had come.

Magneton was Wally’s next Pokemon, the steel and electric dual-type floated towards the centre of the battlefield in preparation for the Crobat. Instead, Erik recalled Bat and allowed Rocky to fight in his place.

“Blaze used to melt steel Pokemon with ease, especially Magnemites and Magnetons,” Erik remembered, bowing his head slightly as the thought evoked memories of his previous battles. “No,” he whispered to himself. “Now is not the time, I must defeat Steven and become Champion!”

“Magneton shock him!” Wally commanded his fighter, who immediately responded by launching electrical waves at the Camerupt. Rocky soaked them up as he absorbed the electricity within himself, before galloping off towards the mini-desert to his right. Erik’s Camerupt concealed himself within a small rock formation, anticipating the Magneton to follow him within.

“Don’t let him get away Magneton!” Wally barked towards his friend. Erik noting that his friend’s rashness, borne of his eagerness to defeat him, was costing Wally.

The Magneton floated towards the desert area, where he was met by violent shaking. Rocky had summoned a mini-earthquake by stomping down on the ground, mustering up energy and roaring as powerfully as possible. As the ground rocked vigorously, Rocky smacked stones with his front feet towards his foe. The rocks, coupled with the fierce tremors, fractured the Magneton’s metallic skin. Erik’s Camerupt finished the duel with fire, scolding Wally’s Pokemon with red-hot flames.

As Wally grimaced and tossed his next Pokeball into the sky, Rocky remained on the battlefield, disguising himself once more in the rocky outcrops to face his next opponent, a Roselia.

“Don’t let him ambush you!” Wally yelled to his grass-type, who cowered slightly in fear of her fire-type opponent before tentatively advancing towards the sandpit. Roselia lifted her flower covered arms into the air, before lowering and pointing them at narrow crevices in the rock faces. Beams of green light erupted from the flowers, honing in on cuts and holes within the rockfaces in direct straight lines.

Rocky remained stoic as beams smashed into rocks surrounding him, bellowing fiercely in an effort to hinder his opponent. Roselia ceased her onslaught as the Camerupt remained unharmed, lifting her arms into the air once more then lowering them, targeting the rocks Rocky concealed himself behind.

Leaves like razors severed rocks as if they were made of paper. A howl of pain burst out of the outcrops as leaves planted themselves within Rocky’s skin. As the stones fell to pieces, Erik’s Camerupt was left facing down the Roselia with no cover as Wally’s creature stopped to regain her breath.

Rocky bellowed once more, a resounding roar that vibrated Erik’s ears. The Camerupt stamped his four feet robustly on the floor launching a flamethrower out of the twin holes on his back. The flames shot upwards, arced, then crashed into Roselia, consuming Wally’s Pokemon whole.

“No!” Wally yelled after losing yet another Pokemon. He was down to his final two with Erik yet to lose a single fighter.

“Are you holding back?” Erik asked suspiciously, the question had been nagging him since the start of the battle.

“Yes,” the tannoy system blared into life once more. “Wally, are you holding back?” Steven’s voice blustered.

“No,” the young man replied stubbornly. Erik could sense the frustration emanating from him.

“You seem like an entirely different trainer to the one who won his first three battles. There was a man who was calm, confident and full of belief. Now we have a boy barking orders and looking desperate. No wonder you’re being thrashed,” Steven said mockingly. Erik knew the Champion was trying to fire Wally up, he wanted the two to decimate each others’ teams.

“Shut up!” Wally screamed at Steven, sounding like the young boy he used to be. “I’ll show you!” he added, as one hand reached for another Pokeball on his belt, the other clasped something within his pocket. Erik couldn’t tell what.

Wally quickly released the object in his pocket from his grasp, sending a Delcatty onto the battlefield. Erik responded by withdrawing Rocky who had taken a few hits, and releasing Seal, the newly evolved Walrein promptly leaping into the moat that surrounded the mound of grass.

Delcatty strived to detect her opponent in the depths, struggling to identify the Walrein who was submerged deep within. Wally’s Pokemon crept cautiously as she descended the grassy knoll, tip-toeing gently as neatly trimmed blades of grass brushed her paws. A soft scent filled her nostrils as the flower smelling aroma temporarily distracted her from her task. It was then that the Walrein struck.

Seal surfaced, water spraying harshly in all directions as the Walrein punctured the Delcatty with an enormous pair of tusks. The ice-cold fangs sunk deeply into Wally’s Pokemon as her trainer gasped in terror.

Delcatty squealed in agony as the cold tormented her insides. Seal vanished within the river once more, before emerging within moments, this time summoning the waters around him to wash away Wally’s creature. Seal suffocated the Delcatty within a watery tomb before the Walrein slammed his bulky frame into her, defeating his foe. Wally was down to his final Pokemon as he returned a hand to his pocket.

“You’ve been quiet?” Erik questioned his opponent after noticing Wally remaining eerily silent during the last battle. “You alright?”

“I can’t hold anything back against you anymore,” Wally replied. “I can’t lose my Ralts.”

“Then don’t hold anything back,” Erik replied sternly. “I know I won’t.”

He withdrew Seal, releasing Splash in his place. Wally released a Gallade from his remaining Pokeball, the final evolution of a male Ralts.

“Your dad gave me something to make sure I won this tournament if you failed. I know you think you’ve won this fight, and that all I am is your backup incase you didn’t make it. But Norman also told me to be your final test if you did succeed, so that we both knew you were strong enough. And I refuse to lose my Ralts!” Wally declared, pulling a strange object from his pocket.

“Wait!” Erik roared. “Don’t use that!” he urged his friend who clasped the megastone in his hand. But it was of no use. Wally had made his choice, and now pointed the stone towards his Gallade who screeched in agony.

Erik retaliated the only way he could, by mega-evolving his own Gyarados.

The iconic black cloud shrouded Wally’s Gallade within its midst. Within moments, two ruby red orbs penetrated the darkness, piercing through the fog and meeting Mega-Splashs’s own. Emerging from the cloud, the Mega-Gallade had doubled in size, and where he was once green and white, the Pokemon’s body was now coal-black. Although his head kept the same colour scheme, piercing red eyes aside, the green dull blades on his arms had transformed into black and red knives. He also now sported a crimson cape that clung to his shoulders and trailed along the floor.

Mega-Gallade sprinted towards the other Mega Pokemon, the Mega-Gyarados responding by launching himself at the onrushing foe and leaping towards Wally’s creature. Mega-Splash was quicker, wrapping his coils around the Mega-Gallade before tightening his grasp on his opponent as the Wally’s Pokemon attempted desperately to wrench free. Mega-Gallade deflected a savage bite with one sword-arm then cleaved through Mega-Splashes tough skin with the other. A roar of pain erupted from Erik’s Pokemon before the Mega-Gallade began a barrage of slicing punches. Mega-Splash recoiled with his punctured skin throbbing, as his tormentor continued his ceaseless assault.

Mega-Splash shot a beam of ice from his gaping mouth, the attack smashing into the mound and leaving a pathway for the Mega-Gallade to ascend. Wally’s Pokemon leapt off the ice path and onto the Mega-Gyarados neck, where he began pummeling his foe once more.

“Keep it up!” Wally shouted to his Pokemon in encouragement.

“Idiot,” Erik growled quietly, knowing that Wally’s Pokemon would never acknowledge his trainer’s words. It was also how Erik knew he was helpless. He had no way to advise or reinvigorate his Pokemon, so when Mega-Splash de-evolved into an ordinary Gyarados, he prepared himself for the worst.

“Splash,” he whispered as the Gyarados turned to look his trainer in the eye. “I’ve lost you too.”

“Yes!” Wally howled. “I’m going to win! Now, Ralts,” he said, attempting to command his Mega-Pokemon. “Finish him.”

His Pokemon obliged, but not due to his trainer’s calls. Erik looked away and clutched his chest with his hand as the soul-tearing pain screeched across his body, ripping through his heart. The bond between himself and Splash had been strong.

“Now, Ralts, go to the top of that mound and wait for Erik’s next Pokemon,” Wally instructed his Pokemon, who turned sharply at the attempted command. “Ralts?” Wally squeaked, as his Mega-Gallade began advancing towards him, blades raised in the air. “Ralts! What are you-” Wally began, before the onrushing Gallade was within inches of himself, a deafening roar echoed around the room.

Erik looked to his Mega-Latios. He had made certain to keep the Masterball in his grasp as the sight of Mega-Soar evoked heart-shattering memories. He envisioned the scene again which had remained prevalent within his mind, where the Mega-Latios disintegrated Blaze within one of his dark energy blasts.

He was snapped out of his thoughts by his Pokemon grappling the Mega-Gallade and ascending to the highest point of the room.

Vicious swipes by the Mega-Gallade cleaved deep within the Mega-Latios, piercing Mega-Soar’s skin and forcing the fearsome beast to endure as he attempted his lethal assault. Erik’s Pokemon rose to the roof as Mega-Gallade continued its desperate assault, waving his arms in a furious attempt to slice into his foe and save himself, most swings missing completely, but the rare blow connecting and causing a shrill cry to erupt from Mega-Soar. The Mega-Latios rose as high as he could, then dropped his foe from the perilous height. As Mega-Gallade tumbled to the ground, Mega-Soar launched a dark energy blast which engulfed Wally’s Pokemon, who then smashed into the mound of grass and dirt below. The Mega-Gallade de-evolved as Mega-Soar moved to eliminate any remaining life within Wally’s favourite Pokemon.

“Ralts!” he screamed at the top of his lungs. “No!”

Mega-Soar ignored the trainer’s calls, and prepared a final dark energy blast.

Erik launched the Masterball into the sky, saving his friend’s Pokemon at the decisive moment. The capsule consumed the Mega-Latios just as the beast was about to unleash its attack, de-evolving the monster within.

Wally sprinted over to his fallen Pokemon and clutched the weakened Gallade, whispering in his friend’s ear as beads of sweat dripped from his forehead. Erik could sense the relief in the young man, losing his “Ralts” would’ve hit Wally as hard as the loss of Blaze hit himself.

“Thank you,” Wally gasped. “And good luck. With everything you’ve been through, you deserve this,” the young trainer followed as Erik approached him, offering him a hand as Wally climbed back to his feet.

“Erik wins round one!” Steven declared over the microphone. “As per the rules, I shall allow you to be healed by our nurses and choose one of your Pokemon from storage to replace that Gyarados. But from now onwards, no replacements! After healing, please proceed through the first door on your left once in the reception area to face Sidney.”

“Bring it on,” Erik growled, picturing the faces of those who sacrificed himself so he could get this far. “It’s my fault you’re all gone. But I promise you. I shall unite this region and save Hoenn for you all.”