July 26th, 2010
Photoshop and drawingtablet

PCBCOS Entry: Round 3
Entrants: Sandy Gano and team
Opponent: Aka Kanda and his team (Edowaado)
Theme song: Link

Chapter 6
"After dark all cats are leopards"


Aka's smile flashed over the full width of his face this time, revealing his teeth in the process. He had to a certain extend managed to predict his opponent's reactions, and it was paying off big time. The two most powerful creatures on the field were now disqualified and both had been on Sandy's side. Deep down he was a bit disappointed too. Aka had thought that perhaps she would have changed her usual tactics in this particular fight, seeing how he had a certain reputation for being a trickster. She had also been a bit quick to withdraw her injured monsters from the match, possibly because her heart wasn't really in this fight, but Aka thought she probably could have pushed both dragons just a little bit further if she had wanted to. He leered at her and saw the worried expression on her face as she looked back. The young man was almost trembling with excitement. Here he was, just a coordinator going toe to toe with yet another champion. If he managed to win this fight, would that mean he was even stronger than the Black Dragon? Aka had great respect for the masked coordinator, but the thought of besting him was enough to send his heart racing. Wouldn't that be something?

Athens Runner, also knows as the Black Dragon, was Aka's idol. Athens himself fought Sandy Gano during the Black Tourney. Their fight, although dominated by Sandy, had more or less ended in a draw. Of course, at the time both she and Black Dragon had fought with their full fury, thinking it was a matter of life or death. Aka remembered the story as Athens had told it to him three years ago. Today's match was very different, he knew that. Sandy would not risk her Pokemon for the sake of victory, but even that played well into his strategy. Against all the odds and even against his own expectations he actually stood a chance of winning here. All that stood, well, sat in his way was a Persian who hadn't budged since the beginning of the fight. Aka licked his lips and his eyes darted back to Sandy who continued to cast him concerned glances.

"You recalled you Pokemon quite early," Aka said, guessing at what had her worried, "A bit earlier than I expected, but I think they'll be fine. Heheh." His opponent hesitated and avoided eye contact for a moment. What, that wasn't what she was worried about then? He raised an eyebrow as he studied her more carefully. The white-haired girl grabbed her fluttering hat tightly when a particularly powerful gust of wind blew by, which seemed to bring her back to her senses. She tucked the Safari Ball containing her Dragonite back into her bag and shrugged at him.

"They've had worse," she said flatly, "I think their pride is damaged most of all."

Aka chuckled. He had seen that. Both dragons had seemed particularly confident at the beginning of the fight. And as the battle progressed he had seen their expressions change from annoyance, to shock, to rage and finally to disbelief. That was the problem with Pokemon raised to be brutal powerhouses, the kind used by most regular trainers. They always expected their fights to be over quickly, based on how powerful their own attacks were. So much so in fact, that they'd usually rush in to end a match swiftly, forgetting to also keep tactics in mind. It made them predictable. It made things easier for lower-level Pokemon, like his own to counter their attacks. Kyris and Cinder had worked relatively well together, it had to be said, but they did not operate anywhere near on the same tactical level as Goldi and Pory.

And then there were the ace trainers themselves. They were just as predictable, often choosing Pokemon with a type advantage, instead of taking other factors into account as well. Sandy had displayed a little more sense by also taking the environment into consideration, sure. But Aka had even managed to predict that, had accounted for her choosing flying types for this fight and he had chosen the perfect counters. Sandy's third choice had been an oddball to him. Up until the final moment he was unsure which Pokemon it would be, but he did know it would be another BT survivor. So he had chosen his trusty Raticate to deal with that fighter, knowing that as soon as he mentioned the BT to Reaf he would choose to talk to the opponent rather than fight them. Reaf had played along brilliantly too, catching on to his trainer's plans as soon as he noticed the Dragonite was in trouble. It had just been too perfect. Nothing thrilled Aka more than a well executed plan, and he couldn't stop grinning like a madman.

"Well, I have to admit, that was well played," Sandy said. Aka's mind lagged as it processed this new turn in the conversation. His smile faded a little. Had she actually paid him a compliment just now?


"I said, well done!" She shouted, apparently thinking he hadn't heard her right. She shrugged again and smiled a little sheepishly. "You played into the internal dynamics of my team. And of myself, for that matter. That was pretty clever."

"I uh... well, I've seen how you fight," Aka stammered, recalling the battle against the MC. He had paid close attention to how she fought, which tactics she favoured, what risks she took, and which moves she used and how. As a result he had a pretty good idea of how Sandy Gano's mind worked when she battled. He shrugged and looked at her. This was confusing. At this point most people would become angry with him and accuse him of cheating, of abusing the emotions of the Pokemon on the field and of playing into the opposing trainer's desire to keep their monsters safe from harm. Aka knew he was a manipulator, but he had never actually been complimented for it before, especially not mid-battle. Now that someone was telling him he'd done a good job, he suddenly felt his shy side returning. But it also felt good somehow. It felt right.

With his cheeks flashing red, Aka suddenly felt the intense desire to downplay his own achievements. To tell Sandy it wasn't all THAT great what he had just done. After all, didn't he just rely on tricks to win? Even though this particular match was a pretty straightforward fight, rather than some elaborately orchestrated scheme of his, he still wouldn't have won in a straight up test or strength and skill. Aka kicked the concrete and stared down, hoping that the battle would continue soon so that things could return to normal. It didn't occur to him that ordering his Pokemon to attack would sort that out for him.

"Well, studying your opponent is always a good idea if you're the underdog. And so is strategic thinking," Sandy said, "It's easy to forget that as you get stronger." She thoughtfully rubbed her chin with her hand, and then grinned again. "I think you'd make a very strong trainer some day."

"Uhm..." Thanks? Somehow Aka found himself unable to actually thank her out loud.

Mercifully the Magnemite leader floated in between them. "THE MATCH IS NOT OVER. PLEASE REENGAGE IN 30 SECONDS, OR FACE DISQUALIFICATION."

Shaking his head, Aka forced himself back into the reality of this fight. He was in a match against a former champ and, oh yes, he was winning. Whatever Sandy wanted to say, it could wait until after the fight was over.

"Listen," he said, "I'd like to have a real match out of you, Sandy. Do me a favour: try to win!"


Tail wrapped around his feet, Tarim observed the Crobat, the Porygon and the Raticate, as well as their young trainer behind them. Up until just now the young kid had had a slightly crazed look on his face. The look of a maniac who smelled blood. The tomcat had often seen that same expression on Fang's face and he knew from experience that was usually bad news. But as his own human spoke with the kid, he had seen the insanity melt away, reducing him to just your average flustered teenager, blushing, grinning like a Mightyena being scratched behind the ears, and unable to maintain eye contact. Perfect. Tarim was quite convinced that his trainer didn't have it in her to wage psychological warfare on an opposing trainer, but she had unwittingly done just that. In this unfocussed state the young man would be nowhere near as effective at guiding his three Pokemon.

In the background the Magnemite droned its warning to continue the battle within 30 seconds. It was time to work his own magic, he decided. Reaf seemed a little distracted by the state of his trainer and was grinning and blushing just was madly, as if Sandy was paying her compliments to him. Goldi was also affected, but less so. She still lay sprawled on the floor, resting her wings after sustaining Kyris' Thunder Wave attack. Every now and she'd twitch a little as electricity sparked off her body. The Porygon, which seemed to respond to being called 'Pory', held its bulging eyes fixated on the Persian. It was difficult to tell whether it was even paying attention to the conversation between the humans.

[Well, that was fun to watch,] Tarim said with a huge Cheshire grin. [Those dragons, were they full of hot air, or what?]

They just stared at him.

[So I guess it's three against one now,] he added nonchalantly. [Seems a bit unfair, if you ask me. Are you guys sure you don't want to call in your three buddies for backup?] With a flick of his left ear he indicated the Golduck, the Hitmonlee and the Venusaur watching from the sidelines. [Maybe that would even things up a little, what do you think?] With a sly smile he waited for their reaction.

[Is that supposed to intimidate us?] Reaf asked in an unimpressed tone. [We just beat your two partners. Aka says they were among the most powerful fighters of your entire team! And... he also said you are the weakest.] He revealed his incisors with his ratty grin as he made that final statement. Tarim wanted to claw that smirk right off his skull.

[Well, technically you didn't do anything,] he calmly said to Reaf, completely ignoring the insult. [Your flying cousin over there and the machine did all the work. But let's be honest here, those dragons were so incredibly full of themselves, barging in like they'd settle it all by themselves.] Tarim spat. [A pack of Rattatas could have caught them off guard if they had half a brain,] he said, [by besting them you've proven just that: together you guys have half a brain.] The Persian waved a paw in the air. [Poor little love birds,] he said melodramatically, [they never stood a chance! If they had only underestimated you guys slightly less.]

[S-shut up!] Reaf shouted, clenching his little fists. [If you think you can do better, then go ahead! Give it your best shot!]

[Don't let him vex you,] Goldi warned as she pushed herself up a little. [He's just trying to get under your skin, now get ready!]

Before Reaf could reply, both their trainers interrupted them.

"On your feet, Tarim!" Sandy ordered.

"Reaf, Icy Wind! Goldi, Confuse Ray! And Pory, use Lock-On!" Aka called.

Rats, they're gonna try to pile status problems on me, Tarim realized as he jumped back. Already his opponents were on the move. Pory's head jerked in his direction, eyes glowing greenish and remaining fixed on him as it began evaluating his movements and calculating his next manoeuvres. Reaf and Goldi both opened their maws, exposing sharp teeth and gaping black windpipes. But Tarim wasn't worried about their choppers. Something far more dangerous would come from those mouths and he wasn't about to stick around for that to happen. Dashing away at break-neck speed, he felt the chill of the Icy Wind attack brush through the fur of his tail and his nether regions as it just missed him. The Confuse Ray also harmlessly passed behind him, but from the corners of his eyes he could see the Porygon was still observing his every move as it quietly hovered back up, higher and higher. Tarim knew that once that thing had gathered enough data and decided to attack, it wouldn't miss. Which moves would it try to bombard him with? Zap Cannon wouldn't be able to paralyze him, as it had done with Cinder. The Persian's Limber ability would protect him from that, but the attack itself would still hurt, especially if Pory really did have the stat-boosting Download ability. Though it was probably safe to assume the Porygon also has other blast attacks at its disposal. Whatever it would be, it would most likely hurt like heck.

Better to nip that crap in the bud right now, the Persian thought. It was time to prioritize. [Hey you!] He shouted at Pory as he sidestepped to avoid an attack from Goldi. The Porygon did not appear to react. [I must say, I'm impressed by your firepower! And those shields are pretty good too!] Tarim's mind raced as he tried to recall everything he knew about machines and computers. Sandy sometimes mentioned this sort of stuff, but he hadn't really been paying that much attention.
[So uh... Yeah, it's quite something. You must be pretty good at multitasking, huh? How much RAM are ya packing? 16 or 32?] He jumped over Reaf as the rat raced in for a frontal assault. [Megabyte, I mean?] Tarim clarified. [I keep forgetting which operating system comes standard on you guys, you know. Was it Windows 98 or 95? It's the one that keeps crashing a lot, I think...] He saw how the Porygon's head jerked sharply to the right, as it fixed one of its eyes on him and angled its head down. Jackpot!

[Yeah, my bad. You're a slightly older model, aren't you?] The cat said innocently as he landed again. [Not like... what are they called again, your evolved forms? The sleeker, sexier models? Ah well, I forgot. So it's Windows 95 then, am I right?] Pory's head swirled 180 degrees, exposing its other eye and glaring through it. It repeated this several times; left, right, left, right. If there was such a thing as machine rage, Tarim thought this had to be it. It took skill to Swagger an inanimate object, and the Persian was quite satisfied with his own handiwork. He gloated as he saw the purple glow of confusion (and rage) rise in the machine's optics.

"Snap out of it, Pory!" Aka shouted, but it didn't seem to have any effect. Rising a little higher and angling its quivering frame down, the Porygon started to spin its little triangular legs faster and faster for a Zap Canon attack. Tarim could already see small arcs of electricity sparking away as the annoying whine of charging dynamos made him flatten his black-rimmed ears. Excellent, he thought, knowing full well that charging the attack would take the Porygon quite some time.

[Take this!] Reaf yelled as he attacked Tarim from the side, his incisors glowing from the Hyper Fang attack he was about to unleash. Before he could bury his teeth into the Persian's hide however, Tarim was already on the move, side-stepping to let the rat pass and tripping him with an expert swipe of his paw. Reaf tumbled along the floor, kicking and clawing to regain control. He landed flat on his back and was about to spin round, quick as greased lightning, only to be pinned down by the tomcat.

[You're getting a bit annoying!] Tarim hissed at him between clenched teeth, lips pulled up in a mean grin. [Don't forget your place on the food chain, snack!] For a moment the Raticate froze in terror, before snapping out of his natural state of fear and struggling to get free from the predator's grip. The Persian growled as he adjusted his position to maintain his grasp on the twitching morsel. He could only faintly make out the sound of flapping wings approaching from behind, but Tarim did not move just yet. Reaf was trying to sink his sharp teeth into a paw and the cat swatted him over the head for it.

"Now, move Tarim!" He heard his trainer call. In an instant he pushed off with his powerful, already braced hind legs. Every coiled muscle in his back and haunches contracted powerfully, launching him off the rat and away from the floor and almost sending him into a back flip. His tail swung wildly to maintain control. Shooting just past him like a purple arrow was Goldi, dive bombing the exact spot he had occupied just a second ago. Though he didn't see it happen, he heard and could vividly imagine the Crobat crashing headfirst into the Raticate she was trying to save. Landing lightly on his feet, the shock of the impact dissipating through his flexible spine, Tarim turned tail and ran. Normally he would have stood there and gloated for a while, but there was no time for that now. As he ran he heard the Porygon's circuits strain, the dynamos reaching their highest pitch yet; Pory unleashed his furious attack straight down. Jumping behind one of the vent towers and poking his head around the corner to watch, Tarim just caught how the attack slammed straight into the Raticate and the Crobat, their limbs all tangled up together and desperately struggling to get away.

Both trainers leaned back and covered their faces to protect themselves from the dust kicked up by the blast wave. The spectators had been far away enough to void being blown off the rooftop altogether, but Tarim could hear the man with the leather jacket muffle a curse as he swallowed a mouthful of dust. Pory silently hovered over the blast area, apparently aware it had made a bit of a mistake there. It's little legs dangled in a defeated manner as it inspected the havoc it had just wreaked. The roof was scorched black from the attack, but seemed structurally intact. In the epicentre of the attack they could all see Goldi lying on her stomach. The large Crobat twitched a little, but did not move. Some distance away stood Reaf, shaken but otherwise unharmed. He had, Tarim guessed, apparently gotten away just in time. The feline casually strolled out of his hiding place and licked a stray tuft of fur on his chest back into its correct position. Impeccable. That's how he preferred his fur.

"How was that possible?" the young male trainer asked, "Why did Pory attack them?" He seemed more surprised than shocked or upset.

"Well, technically your Porygon didn't attack your Pokemon at all," Sandy explained. "He was aiming for my Persian, but Tarim confused him before he finished his Lock-On. So he couldn't keep up with Tarim as well as he normally would have. It messed up his timing."

"I see," the boy responded contemplatively, "So Goldi got hit because she landed where the Persian used to be, and Pory just couldn't adjust quick enough. And Goldi was slowed down by paralysis, so she couldn't escape like Reaf."

"Yep. Pretty much."

The young man suddenly looked up at her, a look of astonishment of his face. "Wait, you planned this! You knew this would happen?"

Sandy crossed her arms. "Well, I didn't know how it would unfold exactly, but... Taking team dynamics, and the emotions and personalities of the Pokemon into account..." She smiled as she left the rest of the sentence unfinished. Tarim lashed his tail in annoyance. Why was she taking credit for his hard work? All she had done was tell him to move when the Crobat dove in. BIG DEAL! The young man closed his eyes and smiled, shaking his head a little.

"I used to be pretty good at this fighting style, you know." Tarim's human said. Oh PLEASE, the cat thought as he rolled his eyes. He didn't know how much more he could take of this.


"Well, I suppose Zap Canon is too dangerous to use as long as Pory is still confused," Aka said. Sandy couldn't help but agree with him. It was a good thing that the attack was not a combustible blast, or else the roof would have been in far worse shape by now. She slightly cringed as she thought of the repair bills involved.

"Better to use something which doesn't require too much aiming then," the young trainer continued, "Pory! Spin and use Signal Beam! That way!" He pointed at Tarim who had casually slumped back down in a sitting position. Sandy quickly realized what a mistake that was.

Pory's reaction was immediate, despite its confusion. It pivoted its body so that it was pointed at the Persian and slightly angled down. Spinning around its axis it blasted a brightly colored Signal Beam attack from its angular nose cone. The attack's natural weaving motion was amplified by the Porygon's own spinning manoeuvre as it sped along. A wide funnel of vibrant energy shot straight at the flabbergasted cat. There's no way he can dodge that, Sandy realized, and the other Pokemon aren't there to use as shields. She hoped Tarim would react fast enough.

The Porygon's attack hit the rooftop of the building, creating a blinding flash of light. For an instant it seemed to outshine the sun itself, and it was reflected in the ample glass covering the surrounding skyscrapers. Everyone had to shield their eyes from the optic assault.

"That's what a coordinator can do in a battle," Sandy heard Aka say. She didn't have to see him to know he had that slightly crazed look on his face again, but somehow this didn't really worry her any longer. She glanced up at where Tarim had been a few seconds ago. He was no longer there, and she smiled.

"Maybe you should take a look at how your Porygon is holding up," she said, as she glanced over at Aka. High above their heads, higher than any cat could ever hope to jump, Pory was flying erratic circles. A creamy cougar had latched onto its back, his claws scraping away at the machine's pristine paint job. The cat's weight was forcing the panicking machine down.


Tarim breathed sharply between his teeth as he tried to hold on to the frantically struggling Porygon. The darn thing was so small and slippery. It was difficult get a good grip on its body, especially since it was trying to spin its head 180 degrees around to Signal Beam him straight in the face. His shades, which were once again balancing on his nose, would likely protect him from being blinded as they had just now. But no accessories could protect him from the actual damaging part of the attack, or from the possible side effect: getting confused. So as he was holding on to Pory's back, Tarim used one front paw to keep its head in check and point it anywhere except at him. Pory twisted again and attempted to shake him off. Tarim's tail flashed wildly for balance, as his claws scraped yet more paint off the Porygon. The Persian didn't quite fancy being flung off his quarry. Cats always land on their feet, that's how the saying goes, but it doesn't mention that cat feet can still break and shatter upon impact if the drop is too high. And they were pretty darn high up. Fortunately they were dropping fast and, Tarim grinned as the thought raced through his mind, as long as he had his personal Porygon-cushion he'd be fine. It wouldn't be the softest landing in cat history, but that was not important right now.

The rooftop was closing in fast and Tarim braced himself. With a dull thud they impacted the tiled surface, which cracked from the force. Still the Porygon struggled. It was facedown on the floor, pinned by the giant feline, but its fighting spirit was unbroken. Pory was a hardy little thing, the Persian had to admit it. Panting he lifted a clawed paw up in the air.

[I heard you guys like to combine moves.] He said. [I actually rather enjoy getting creative with my attacks too, I call this one the 'Thunder Claw'. Heheh.] As he spoke the air around his extended paw cracked and flared as it was charged with electric energy. His claws aglow and energized, Tarim slammed it hard against the back of the head of his prey. Pory shivered and trembled as the attack reverberated through its body, then lay still, its eyes staring out but seeing nothing. The cat got up and glowered at the two remaining Pokemon. Goldi was still on the floor where she had fallen. She was only barely able to prop herself up with her front wings, while Reaf stood a small distance away. It was clear he would charge if Tarim attacked the Porygon again. The Persian cast him a sly smile.

[Don't worry,] he said, [techno-butt here is done. I have no reason to pummel him further.] Tarim sauntered away from Pory while maintaining eye contact with the Raticate. Reaf was the only fighter who hadn't sustained injuries so far. Hitting the roof, Tarim had to admit, had hurt him quite badly as well, but he was not about to show that he was hurting.

He heard the opposing trainer trying to call his Porygon.

"He's not going to get back up any time soon," his own human said, "Pory is offline now. It's the electricity that caused it."

"How?" The other trainer asked. "Electricity has never affected him like that before. His own Zap Canon must be much more powerful, and it never bothered him."

"Well, I think," Sandy pondered, "It's because Tarim combined his Thunderbolt attack with Slash. Slash damaged the outer shell and then the currents damaged the inner circuits. No offence, but Porygon is a slightly outdated model. They don't have surge protectors installed into their circuitry, so their only protection are their outer shells."

Immediately another machine-like Pokemon appeared next to Sandy. It vaguely resembled the Porygon Tarim had just beaten, but it was smaller, sleeker and shinier and in seemed to balance on its tail. The Persian recognized it as the blue Porygon-Z which always accompanied the man he and Aiko had trounced a few days earlier.

"You are correct!" It droned as it seemed to puff up its shiny little chest. "Surge protectors do not come standard on the Porygon 1.67 models, of which your 'Pory' is a copy. I took the liberty of scanning your Porygon as it fought, sir. System details show it has had zero updates or upgrades, and frankly its operating system is missing a few security patches. You might want to look into that." Tarim could detect a very definite condescending tone as the creature spoke, and he almost fell sorry for insulting Pory earlier. Frankly said, he had a soft spot for underdogs.

"Err, thanks..." The young man said sourly as he recalled his Porygon.

"Of course, evolution would instantly solve all of these issues," the Porygon-Z happily continued, apparently glad to be of service.

"I'll... consider it."

Before it could continue its sales pitch, a Magnemite flew in front of the Porygon-Z. "SIR," it said, "PLEASE REFRAIN FROM ENTERING THE FIELD OF BATTLE WHILE THE MATCH IS IN PROGRESS."


"H4X!" Apparently the thing's trainer was now getting involved as well. "Stop pimping evolution to the poor kid," he said, "If he doesn't want to, he doesn't have to evolve that little guy, now get back here!"

Sullenly H4X hovered back to its trainer and the Magnemite turned to the trainers. "PLEASE PROCEED."

"Sure thing," Sandy said, focusing her attention on her opponent again.

"So I guess Kinata told you I like to combine moves, huh? Or maybe Isaac?" He asked with a grin.

"No. Well, yes, but I already knew that," Sandy replied. He didn't seem to understand, so she explained: "Remember, I've been in the BT too. I know how you coordinators think... Although," she added with a smile, "I don't really think that combining moves is the prerogative of coordinators. Plenty of trainers do it too, you know."

"I see. I guess I underestimated you then, but it's still two against one and don't think I don't see that limp in your Persian's left hind leg!" The kid threw out his arm in a commanding gesture as he spoke, "Go Goldi, Reaf!"

Immediately the two creatures sprung into action. The Crobat was swift, despite its injuries and paralysis, Tarim noticed. Apparently it had taken some time to recover its strength while he was busy fighting Pory. Goldi flapped her wings to become airborne, while Reaf jumped on her broad back.

"Double Team!" their trainer called out.

The air around the Raticate shimmered briefly as suddenly its contours became rough and undefined. Around him, and above and below mirages seemed to appear, duplicates of Reaf which quivered and shifted like hot air above a baking rooftop. All the copies were vaguely see-through, and Tarim could see the contours of clouds and buildings shining through them. Reaf opened his mouth and let out a challenging: "Rrrrraticate!!" Even the sound of his call seemed to be duplicated. Tarim's ears twisted and turned to pick up the signal, which appeared to be coming from every direction. The Double Team also affected the Crobat Reaf was riding, as she too now had many doppelgangers flying through the air, each with a small rat neatly perched on its shoulders.

[Perfect...] Tarim sighed. He hated Double Team with a passion. Well, unless he was the one who got to use it, of course.

[Dodge THIS!] Goldi shouted, and she fired her Confuse Ray at the Persian. He only had a split second to react as the ghostly light approached him from all directions. There was no way to just dodge this, so he arched his back and pointed his head down. Opening his mouth and closing his eyes, Tarim focused his inner energy and concentrated it in the back of his throat as if he was about to roar like a Raikou. But his maw would not be producing sound waves. The slight pulling sensation told him the tiny wormhole was forming quickly, the exit being in his mouth and the entrance in the nearest body of water he could find. A lake, a river, the city's drainage system; anything would do. He grinned as he felt the pressure of the water build, he could practically taste the stuff. Manipulating it with his energy to build up the pressure even further, he shot the powerful jet from his mouth. It slammed hard into the floor and the recoil launched him to dizzying heights, easily clearing the Confuse Rays.

Water Pulse was awesome like that. Tarim knew that most humans thought water-type attacks involved the users drinking tons of water beforehand. Often they were dumbfounded when they discovered that the Pokemon involved had no water-storing parts included in their anatomies. The Persian didn't understand why they would even come up with a dim-witted theory like that. It wasn't just impractical, not to mention inelegant, it also failed to explain why a water Pokemon never seemed to run out of water. Humans could be so dumb sometimes, refusing to believe that nearly all Pokemon had special powers, however limited. Almost all of them had psychic abilities of sorts, or could even manipulate the fabric of time and space to a moderate degree. It just required practice.

Tarim stopped the watery jet and flung out his paws for balance, hoping that the wind would not pick up any time soon. One gust of wind could easily fling him off the building now. Below him he could see the many Crobat and Raticate eyes look up in disbelief as he soared over their heads. Now they knew how he had gotten to the Porygon, and Tarim was certain they wouldn't fall for this trick again. He'd have to be quick.

Hurriedly he scanned the many illusions below him. Already they were swarming to get an attack in on him as soon as he'd land. Tarim would just have to beat them to it. Quickly his eyes darted from one Crobat to the other. One of these was paralyzed by Kyris' Thunder Wave. At some point this would show. It just had to! He felt himself falling already, knew that the landing would really hurt now that he had nobody to take the brunt of the impact for him. Involuntarily he tucked in his left hind paw, the one he had pulled when he dragged the Porygon down. Landing on just three paws, however, would just hurt those three limbs more.

No. There's no time to worry about that now! He forced his mind back onto finding the Crobat. Faster and faster he fell, and the ground came ever closer. At least now he was unlikely to be blown over the edge by the wind. It would take a hurricane to fling him that far. Concentrate! Suddenly one Crobat caught his attention. As it flapped, Tarim noticed it twitch. A slight pause in its steady wing beat as it grimaced, then it beat its wings a few more times to regain the altitude it had just lost by flinching. There was his target! Twisting in midair, flinging his flexible spine in a sharp bend to face the duo, Tarim unleashed the full fury of his Thunderbolt attack. He could just make out Goldi's shocked expression before his attack reached her and her passenger. In an instant the illusions vanished. They briefly shimmered as if trying to hang on to this reality, before they all faded away. With the ground closing in fast, at least Tarim was sure he had picked the right target. Now he just hoped that holding out all four paws like a flying squirrel on one of its kamikaze leaps had slowed him down enough. The ground shot up and Tarim automatically went through the motions of landing. Front paws landing first, held close together, he immediately bent his elbows and his shoulders, letting the energy flow through his paws and into his spine. The hind paws soon followed and also went through the same energy dissipating movements. Straightening up on somewhat shaky legs the Persian lowered himself in a sitting position.

[Well, that was fun. Don't you guys think?] He panted. Being hurt didn't bother him as much as losing, so Tarim was feeling cheerful. A little further away from him Goldi and Reaf were lying piled on top of each other. Goldi was clearly worst off, but she was still conscious and eying him angrily. Reaf was slowly scrambling to his feet. The cat had to admit they were tough little buggers.

[What do you guys say we call it quits, huh?] The Persian offered. [I think I've proven my point, you guys have proven yours. Sort of... No need for me to hurt you even more.] He just couldn't help rubbing a little salt into open wounds sometimes.


"I think that just about does it, don't you think?" Sandy asked Aka. "Want to go hop on over to a Pokemon Centre and get them healed? Then maybe we could talk afterwards."

Aka did not respond and just seemed to stare at his two Pokemon. He once again had that strangely focussed look in his eyes and the corners of his mouth were pulled down in a determined frown. He looks, Sandy thought, as if he's studying them? What is he looking for? Confused she looked as the Crobat and the Raticate, before looking back at Aka again. She thought she saw him nod slightly, but before she could react he pointed at them.

"I think we could go just a little bit further before we do that," he said, grinning madly, "If you don't mind, anyway. Goldi! Use Toxic on Reaf!"

"Wait, what?"

The Crobat whirled around, facing her unblinking companion. She opened her mouth with a loud shriek and spat purple goop in his face. The Raticate squealed in response and tried to rub the acidic substance from its eyes and its nose. Sandy could see it cleared its eyes almost immediately and it sharply gasped for air, then it dropped on all fours and wretched. Toxic had hit home alright. The poor thing was poisoned. Sandy closed her mouth and just observed how Aka withdrew the exhausted Crobat from battle. Reaf took a few wobbly steps towards the surprised Tarim. He wanted to fight! Not a single glance at Aka, not one gesture suggested that the Raticate felt betrayed by his trainer.

This too had been planned.

"Aka?! What in the world?!" Steve shouted from behind her. He had stood up on the air-conditioning unit and was clenching his fists like a professional boxer. "I thought that rat was your favourite!" He shouted, shaking his head. Apparently even a fervent mammal hater like Steve thought this was over the top. Sandy looked over her shoulder at him. Kinata quietly sat beside Steve with her hands on her lap. She looked uncomfortable, but seemed to understand what Aka was up too as well.

"Reaf is my most trusted partner," Aka said, his eyes were almost shooting manic fire now, "which is why I'd only trust him to do this for me."

"There are actually a few good reasons to put a status problem on your own Pokemon," Sandy told Steve. She did her best to remain calm on the outside, but her heart was racing. She didn't like these kinds of extreme battles, but apparently Aka wanted one. "The question is, why would you take the risk? It's just a match, Aka."

"I already told you, I want a real fight out of you," Aka stated, "Just like... Just like when you fought Black Dragon."

Sandy paused and stared at him. Her match with Black Dragon during the BT had been a particularly ugly one. She didn't like to think about it. Blinded by the MC's illusions and smokescreens, she and Black had mistaken each other for monstrous enemies, rather than recognizing each other as allies. They had battled as if their lives depended on it.

"Why?" She said. "What do you hope to gain from that?"

"Peace of mind," he said. His tone was dark as he peered into her eyes. He suddenly shuddered and looked away. "I was weak back then. I needed others to help me with... everything... So useless." Aka's eyes narrowed as for a moment he seemed almost furious. The hand in which he held Reaf's Pokeball clenched so powerfully that his knuckles turned white from the strain. Reaf turned to look at him. "Too weak to protect myself, or my friends." Aka gestured at the small rat, quivering in front of him. From the corners of her eyes, Sandy thought she could see Aka's other Pokemon stir, but they remained silent.

"It was not your fault that your Raticate died that day, you were just-..." A stern look from Aka broke her off.

"Maybe," he said, "but that doesn't help me at all. The only way I can get over that is if I know I fulfilled my promise."

"Your promise?" She asked suspiciously. Sandy couldn't help but feel dim when he stared at her with those intense eyes. She felt as if there was this entire secret life going on behind the façade Aka chose to show them. Aka was crazy alright, but he seemed to have a very distinct purpose.

"All this crap I've survived," Aka spat out the words, "I always wondered WHY I survived it, you know? Why didn't I just die? But then, what would have been the point? Nezumi's sacrifice would have been a waste. Everything... everything all of you guys did for me, would have been for nothing. So I made a promise. I'd keep on living, no matter what!"

His face contorted a little as he seemed to recall not only the events which unfolded during the BT, but other traumas as well. It reminded Sandy of when she had once asked him about his friends and his family. It had been shortly before they confronted the MC. "Saur is my only friend now," the boy had said shyly, hiding behind the reptile's broad shoulder.

"Well," Aka said, shrugging as if he was shaking off a bad memory, "There's a problem with that. I've always been weak. What good is it to be alive if you're too pathetic to ensure it stays that way? What if another MC comes knocking and we're all forced to fight for our lives again? What if I lose everything again?" He gave her a long hard stare, and she knew where this was going. "It would be an insult to everyone who sacrificed themselves for me," he said, "So I must be strong. I must prove to myself that I am strong, and that next time… I can take care of myself. That I can and will do anything in my power to keep myself and my friends safe." He gestured at his remaining Pokemon.

"And that's where I come in, huh?" Sandy said. He nodded.

"Well then," she said as she shook her head and looked at him. She even managed to smile. "I guess we'd better get it over with then. That Raticate of yours looks as if he's about to puke his guts out, and the longer we wait the more Toxic will kick his tail."

Aka agreed and turned to Reaf. Sandy shook her head again. Such a dangerous and foolhardy game this had become. They were taking so many risks. But, Sandy told herself, I have a bag full of supplies to heal everyone up. Besides, despite his manic appearance, she noted, Aka seemed to know his boundaries. He knew full well he was treading a fine line here. The Pokeball he was still clenching in his fist told her more than enough. He wouldn't let any harm come to his Raticate, no more than she would let anything hurt Cinder and Kyris. Maybe, she thought, he hasn't changed all that much after all. Yes, he seemed insane at times. Yes, he took great risks, and yes, he was a trickster. But he wasn't cruel or unfeeling. She had seen how he silently consulted his Pokemon before poisoning Reaf. It had been a little bit like earlier in the fight, when Tarim had let her know he could handle the match on his own. Aka had the full consent and support of his Pokemon. They would do anything for him, knowing that he would only drive them so far. He was still Aka. That little boy was still in there somewhere, and realizing this somehow made all her worries slide of Sandy's shoulders.

Now she just had to make sure nobody got killed.

Previous: Chapter 5
Next: Chapter 7

If you're confused about Aka's reasoning, try reading up on this. It's sort of based on that. I hope I got Aka in character enough here.

Two things:
1. Writing Aka is freaking fun.
2. Writing Tarim is freaking fun.

Don't know why. Maybe it's because they're both somewhat deranged. I'm weird that way.

Steve xIOTAx
Kinata SabakuNoKinata
The Magnemite crew was first introduced by Athens025, and later expanded upon by BentoDS

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