AGNPH Stories

The Dimensional Balance Saga by Arcane_Reno


Story Notes:

Starts off clean, but later chapters get naughty. :P And no, this is not a Harry Potter crossover!

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Chapter 14: A Rock and a Hard Place

Chapter 14

A Rock and a Hard Place


"So where is this' friend" of yours Master Shawn?" Cheri asked, as they entered the poké centre lobby.

Shawn stifled a yawn, still feeling a little tired from their busy evening. He and Cheri had certainly made the most of their time together! Although, he also felt extremely relaxed and at ease, for the first time since the encounter with Nash. He wasn't about to be lulled into false security though. He still wore his emergency shield like a second skin, despite the small power drain, just like he would in his own world.

"Not sure at the moment," he said, taking a casual look around the lobby. No sign of Marek just yet. "He'll probably show up pretty soon, but we never set a definite time to meet up."

"I'm curious to meet another wizard that's like yourself. You ARE sure he's not like that other one…" she trailed off in a growl, eyes narrowing slightly. "Right?"

Shawn chuckled. "No, like I said, I've known Marek for a few years. He's on the same side we are." Still, Cheri's words sent an odd flash of suspicion through him. "Of course, I suppose there IS no way to be one hundred percent sure he's not dark" No, enough of that! That's just paranoia talking. If Marek were dark, we…d have discovered it by now. There's no way we…d have not had trouble in the DBW, a dark wizard wouldn't just work there FOR us. And if he were dark, why would they send HIM after me? They…d send someone stronger."

"Well, I just want to be sure."

"And out of curiosity Cheri, how would you tell?"

She looked up at him with a huff, seeming irritated. "I don't know, but" I want to protect you as much as I can. Bad people sometimes smell" different. Like your" doppelganger? Is that the word? " Shawn nodded. "Okay. Like him. He smelled" off."

"I already told you though, he's not fully human. That's probably why." Shawn doubted that, if magic were unable to discern between dark and light wizards, sensitive smell would be able to. Unlike Nash, most dark wizards were just ordinary wizards who worked for the Lone One. They didn't wield a palpable, elemental Dark energy. Dark wizards hid themselves well, but almost ALWAYS avoided any more than minimal contact with those on the other side. That was pretty much their only common trait.

Catching a dark wizard was really a matter of luck. Suspicions and rumours, that was all they had to go on most of the time. The only way to truly tell was to catch one in the act, which usually stemmed from putting a suspected wizard under long surveillance. The dark wizards were an insidious blight, one that was difficult to uproot.

He felt the little worm of suspicion start to wriggle again. "No! No witch hunts! There's no possible WAY Marek is dark. If he was, he's been working against his own side all these years, and they don't work like that."

She whined softly. "Maybe. I guess you would know better than I would, but can you blame me for being a little nervous?"

He ruffled her headfur reassuringly as they made their way towards the care unit, to pick up Kirin and Hina. "No, of course not Cheri, I understand. But I'm pretty sure about Marek. If he were a bad person, I think I…d know by now. He's definitely been working for the good guys, for almost as long as I have, so I don't think there's any cause for suspicion." The thought of the rather timid wizard being dark was ludicrous. It was as likely as the chief being dark, or any of his friends.

She smiled finally. "You're right of course. I'm sorry. It's just that, where your safety is concerned" After seeing what" Nash" did to you" I'm a little paranoid. I know you can take care of yourself better than I can, but still…"

He grinned back at her, marvelling at how she assumed she would be able to prevent a dark wizard from hurting him, without a care for her OWN safety. Of course, he hadn't told her just how close Nash had come to actually killing him. He still didn't know how he had been able to survive this time. By all logic, Nash should have won. Had this dimension cut his power somehow? Even though he hadn't come through a gate?

"Well, thank you my dear, but I think we're safe with this one. You'll see for yourself when you meet him."

She nuzzled against him lovingly. "I know. I'll be nice, I promise."

He leaned into the gesture, giving her a one armed hug. Now wasn't the time for such dark thoughts, they had a gym battle to worry about. He…d already had a little "war meeting" with Marty and Jasmine, as Cheri and Marty had their own breakfast in the room, figuring out what moves Jasmine knew, and deciding just how to take on the gym challenge. They would have to battle a few of the gym acolytes first, before taking on Roark. Each gym had their own rules to play by, to make it as difficult a challenge as possible.

He nodded in return to the welcome of the nurse as they reached the counter, handing her his trainer card.

"I…d like to reclaim my Jolteon and Eevee please."

"Certainly, one moment sir."

She gave a quick curtsy, before disappearing into the back of the medical wing, returning moments later with Kirin and Hina in tow.

"Good morning Master, Cheri, how was your night?" Kirin said, Hina running up and snuggling affectionately against the Arcanine's legs. Cheri rumbled happily, nuzzling the little Eevee in return, a slight mischievous grin coming over her muzzle. "Oh, our night was' GREAT! Even without much sleep." She licked her lips suggestively, glancing at Shawn with half-lidded eyes.

Shawn felt heat rising to his face at the thinly veiled innuendo, especially in light of their conversation the night before, trying to shut out Kirin's knowing, girlish giggle. "Honestly, Cheri has no sense of privacy!" At least the Jolteon had the grace not to tease about it.

He briefly wondered just what might be going through her head right now, in light of what Cheri had revealed last night. He hoped her heat wasn't bothering her too much, he didn't want her to act rashly, and then later regret it. He felt a little nervous, almost like a kid on his first date, wondering if she was going to drop the question on him.

"Good morning Kirin," he said, trying to keep up a semblance of normalcy for the nurse's benefit, although she seemed caught up in observing Cheri and Hina together, a small smile on her face. "How was Hina?"

The nurse brought herself back to the present, assuming he was asking her, overriding what Kirin started to say with, "Oh, the Eevee? Yes, she checked out just fine. The only thing we found was a slight excess in energy levels, which is a little strange in an Eevee that seems as young as this one. Nothing harmful, just unusual. It is consistent with poké mon nearing evolution, which seems unlikely seeing is she is not yet mature. It could just be she's stronger than average."

"Excess energy levels? Interesting…" Kirin looked a little irritated at being cut off, but apparently decided not to speak further in front of the nurse. "Hmm, looks like there's something else though." Aloud, Shawn said, "That's good to hear then. Thank you for taking care of her."

"Our pleasure sir, I hope you continue to exercise such good sense when it comes to the health of your partners. Now, if there is nothing else…" A couple of other trainers had walked up to the other end of the counter, waiting patiently.

"No, that's everything, thanks," Shawn replied, receiving a final, hurried curtsy, before the nurse went to attend to the other customers.

"What was it you were about to say Kirin?" Shawn asked, leaning down to give Hina a scratch behind the ears as she greeted him with a nuzzle.

The Jolteon looked a bit troubled. "Well, this morning, when I woke up…" she glanced at Hina briefly. "She had more of those flecks in her fur. There weren't a lot of them, but they were still there. They disappeared on their own though, before the nurse came back for us."

"She did? Still? Hmm. How did they disappear?"

"They kind of just" evaporated, as I watched."

Hina nodded happily, seeming to suddenly tune in to what they were saying. "Yup! I figured out how to make the dark go away sis!"

"What?" Cheri and Kirin asked simultaneously, echoing Shawn's own unvoiced surprise.

"What are you talking about Hina?" Shawn asked, leading them towards the cafeteria.

"The dark was there, but I made it go away! It's like what you showed me sis!"

"Like I showed you what?"

"The dark goes away if I push on it with the other stuff!"

Kirin and Cheri looked just as perplexed as Shawn felt.

"What dark are you talking about Hina?" Shawn asked, trying to decipher the little poké mon's excited explanation.

Hina growled in frustration, her ears wilting a bit. "The dark! The inside dark! It's scary, but I can make it go away now!" She seemed extremely pleased with herself.

A light bulb went off in Shawn's head. "You're saying there's dark inside you?"

She looked a little scared once more, making Shawn regret the question a bit. He had to get to the bottom of this though. "Yeah" I don't like that dark! But when I push it, it doesn't try to get out anymore."

Cheri rumbled something under her breath, which Shawn briefly caught as, "Ghost…"

"Master, do you know what she means?" Kirin asked, getting another growl of frustration from Hina, as her apparently obvious explanation was once more not understood.

"I" think so," Shawn replied slowly. "But I'm not entirely certain. Hina, is the dark still there?"

She shivered. "Yes' it always comes back, but it's quiet when I push it. I want it to stay away though!"

Shawn nodded, finally making sense of the jumbled meaning. "Alright Hina, it's okay. The dark can't hurt you, remember? Just keep" pushing it, and it will be fine."

She nodded, perking back up a bit. "Okay!"

Kirin and Cheri looked at him expectantly as they entered the cafeteria, waiting for him to translate what had just transpired on the short walk. He took a moment to gather his thoughts, dropping into the cracked vinyl of one of the empty booths. The cafeteria was almost empty at the moment, the tinny sound of muzak coming from recessed speakers lending a homely feel, despite the cliché cheesiness.

A few trainers, some also with poké mon, occupied scattered tables and booths, but it was largely deserted, the morning already being late enough for the early risers to have continued on their way. Hina hopped up beside Shawn, curling up in his lap, Kirin and Cheri sitting patiently on the floor.

He sighed, massaging his temples. Having to think about complex magical principles before even having breakfast was a bit taxing. It could be boiled down rather simply though, without getting into the more technical part.

"Okay, from what I understand, Eevees are rather unique poké mon, with a DNA structure that can be affected by outside influences. Those influences shape their power aura, changing it from Normal to something else. Make sense?"

Kirin nodded. "Yes, like the evolution stones."

"Exactly. Normally that is limited to great stores of unused energy, like the evolution stones. But" the energy that Nash used on Hina" is pure Dark energy, nearly identical to that which Dark types use."

Hina shuddered, looking up at Shawn. "I don't like that dark! It's scary!"

He stroked her soothingly. "It's okay Hina. That dark is gone now, this'this is something different, and it's not a bad thing."

He was interrupted by the arrival of the waiter, the man looking a little annoyed about having to manouvere past Cheri and Kirin. "And what can I get for you?" he asked flatly.

Shawn put in his order, with an extra plate of bacon to share, Cheri licking her lips in anticipation of the treat. The man was the very image of long-suffering customer service, scribbling the order down and stuffing the pad back in his pocket. "Right, it'll be out shortly," he said, leaning away from Cheri's thumping tail, muttering as he walked away. "Seriously, nobody reads the sign!"

Shawn glanced briefly at the indicated sign, feeling a bit sheepish for so flagrantly disregarding the "One poké mon only please" policy. "Oh well, at least I'm not the only one." One of the other trainers standing by the entrance had a Shinx and a Buizel vying for his attention, while a girl at a table across the way was sharing breakfast with her Gardevoir, a Mightyena lying under the table waiting for any crumbs.

"So" you were saying?" Kirin prompted, bringing him back to what he had been talking about.

"Right, sorry. Anyways, if Hina has dark energy inside her, that means that she inadvertently absorbed some of Nash's raw Dark power. By absorbing it like that, her aura turns it benign. The fact that she isn't hurt by it is evidence that it's just a raw power, not residue of an attack. And no Cheri, it doesn't have anything to do with Jasmine's hypnosis."

Cheri growled softly. "That's good, because if she did anything to hurt Hina…" she left the threat unspoken.

Shawn sighed. "Cheri, you need to cut Jasmine some slack. She didn't mean to cause any harm, she was just doing what she thought was right."

Cheri's ears flattened. "I suppose so, but I don't trust her yet. She has to prove she's not going to cause trouble."

"I don't like that she hypnotized Hina, but she doesn't seem bad to me," Kirin said. "I think she's just not too used to interacting with others."

Cheri smiled at her. "I guess that could be it dear, but I'm going to keep a close eye on her until I'm sure."

Shawn groaned inwardly. His mate wasn't going to let Jasmine off the hook easily it seemed.

Hina looked up at Shawn, her eyes wide. "Can we make the inside dark go away Master Shawn?"

Shawn gave her a little cuddle. "Hina, the inside dark is your own energy now, and if you want to, you can use it safely. Your aura has drawn it into itself. And I think that means you could use it to evolve if you wanted."

"She…d be an Umbreon then, right?" Kirin asked.


Hina was shaking her head vehemently, eyes looking a bit misty. "But, if I don't push it, the dark is scary!"

Shawn frowned, pondering the dilemma. On one hand, having Hina evolve into an Umbreon was ideal, as that was what he had been hoping for. On the other, she wasn't really ready to evolve yet, and she still had the fear of the dark from what Nash had done to her. In her mind, the dark energy was the same thing.

Of course, she might also be feeling extra sensitivity towards its nature, since Nash had attacked her with his energy. Dark energy was negative, and she could be sensing that too somewhat, on top of her fear of the dark. He knew what it felt like to feel that negative power, and it would be a bit frightening if you didn't know what it was, even if you couldn't be affected by it.

"Hina, if you don't want to use it, then don't. Using it won't hurt you, but I'm not going to make you do it if you don't want to. If you keep" pushing it, it will eventually go away." From what he could gather, she was somehow using her Normal energy to suppress the Dark energy, and if she kept doing that, the Dark energy would eventually dissipate, unused.

She perked up a bit at this, although she still looked a bit worried. "Thanks Master Shawn! I don't want the dark…"

"So, she's safe from it then?" Kirin asked. "It's basically evolution energy?"

"As near as I can tell, yes. It's harmless, although I don't think she's ready yet in any case."

"No, she won't grow anymore if she evolves now, even if she did want to, but I know you won't make her," Kirin said with a smile.

"Of course I won't. And she doesn't have to evolve into an Umbreon if she doesn't want to, we can always look for another evolution stone or something." Shawn was glad the mystery was solved now, even though his hopes of having a Dark poké mon on his team were effectively stalled. He was hardly going to force the little Eevee into something she didn't want though.

Cheri was smiling. "See? This is part of what makes you such a great master! And mate…"

Hina snuggled against him, bringing a grin to Shawn's face. "Yeah! He's nice!"

The mutual affection was interrupted by the return of the waiter, bearing Shawn's breakfast, extra bacon included.

The conversation shifted to lighter things after that, Kirin and Cheri discussing how they thought Hina's continued training should go. Shawn largely left that to them for now, as they had more experience in how a younger poké mon needed to grow, only weighing in on points of strategy. Without the ability to use Normal energy himself, he couldn't help her learn new things quite as fast as they could.

With three eager poké mon, the bacon disappeared faster than an ice cube in a volcano, despite the fact that they…d already eaten. Kirin giggled as Shawn tried valiantly to fend off Hina's unspoken pleas for his own piece, finally giving in to the pull of the puppy eyes.

"You have to let Master Shawn have some too Hina."

"But it's so good!"

Cheri let out a rumbling chuckle. "Ha! Even the great wizard poké mon master can't resist a cute face."

Shawn winked at her. "Sure, I couldn't resist you either, could I? Oh no, you've found my weak point!"

She smirked, licking her lips and giving him a sultry look. "Mmm, I think I found a few more last night. And finding those" weak points' is MOST enjoyable."

Shawn felt heat rising to his face at the innuendo, Kirin's giggle not helping in the slightest. He played along though. "Really? So is that when you can't stop your leg from kicking? Or when you're moaning my name?"

She responded by rearing up and snatching a piece of his toast, wolfing it down with a perfectly innocent expression. Shawn sighed ruefully, looking at the meagre remains of his breakfast, Kirin's laughter continuing at his expense.


Just as they finished up, Marek wandered into the cafeteria, looking a little lost. Shawn waved him over as he stood, the now sparkling clean plates abandoned on the table, Hina hopping down to join her sister and Cheri.

"Good timing Marek, we were just about to head out."

"Yeah, sorry I'm a little late, I'm glad you didn't wait to have breakfast," he said, looking a bit sheepish. "I slept in a bit."

"That's alright, you're still adjusting to the shift. You're ready to go, right?"

"Yeah, I…" he trailed off, eyes widening a bit as Cheri made her presence known, rising stealthily and padding up to him with predatory grace. The Arcanine transfixed him with a penetrating gaze as she inhaled deeply, nostrils quivering as she took her time examining his scent.

"Um" hi?" he said in a somewhat strangled voice, looking a bit intimidated by the large poké mon, who was doing a good job of looming over him, despite the fact that he could see over her head.

"Oh yeah, sorry, Marek, this is Cheri, Cheri, Marek," Shawn said amiably, resisting the urge to laugh.

Cheri nodded affirmatively, apparently satisfied with her inspection at last, her serious expression melting into a canine grin. "Hello Marek."

"H-hi," he stammered, backing away a bit.

Cheri giggled impishly. "I see what you mean Master Shawn. Well, glad to have you with us Marek, sorry if I scared you."

"Um, I'm okay. You just" surprised me," he said, recovering a bit. "D…ai stiho Cheri."

Shawn chuckled, wondering what Marek would think of Cheri's preferred method of saying hello to HIM. "She has a knack for" surprising greetings."

Cheri looked back at him with a wolfish smile. "Hmm, I have a reputation to protect after all."

"That you do."

"So" now what? We go to this gym thing?" Marek asked, looking a bit relieved now that Cheri wasn't staring him down.

"Yes, you'll get to see how battling works firsthand," Shawn said, pulling out Cheri and Kirin's poké balls.

"And watch Master Shawn crush the gym leader!" Cheri added.

Shawn grinned, Cheri's enthusiasm a little infectious. "Something like that. Alright team, let's go!"

Shawn grinned as Marty returned to his ball once more, as the third and final gym trainer, the guy he had talked to yesterday, also proved to be little obstacle to the Marstomp.

He shook his head in wonderment, bouncing the poké ball containing his defeated companion on the palm of his hand. "Wow, that was' fast. You really are the real deal dude, but good luck with Roark, he's not even in the same league."

Shawn glanced up towards the raised platform at the back of the gym, where the aforementioned gym leader stood, waiting patiently for his challenger. The inside of the gym looked like it had been hewn out of rock, likely constructed with the help poké mon that the gym acolytes favoured. It wasn't quite as large as it had looked on the outside, but had enough space for several battles at once.

Shawn glanced over at his little support section, giving a little wave as he headed towards his final test, seeing the look of subdued awe on Marek's face fading a bit, now that Shawn and Marty were taking a short break from steamrolling over their opponents.

Cheri had a huge smile on her muzzle, letting out a little howl of victory, Kirin also calling out her support. Hina simply watched inquisitively for the most part, but had also seemed to get into the spirit of it during the actual battle, her little voice joining the others when Marty had taken out the last trainer's Nosepass. The three of them were sitting out, being extremely disadvantaged against the rock type. If it came down to it, he could always call them up from where they were, and this way, they got to watch.

Marek had been a bit surprised that Shawn had to face other trainers before getting to battle the leader.

"That seems a bit unfair. Isn't battling the leader the whole point?"

Shawn had just shrugged, agreeing somewhat, but understanding the purpose of it. "Yeah, but the point is really to test you and your team. They do that by stacking the odds."

On top of having to face preliminary battles, the gym leader also got the privilege of observing how his challenger would fight in advance, yet another advantage of home court.

Not that Shawn had given Roark much to go on, these first three battles had all been over quickly. Even though he hadn't been in training for all that long, the fact that Shawn could teach him his abilities, rather than having to figure them out on his own, meant that Marty was already quite the formidable battler. He hadn't had any trouble with taking down the Rock types, usually requiring no more than a single move.

As Shawn ascended the short flight of stairs to meet the awaiting gym leader, the man gave him a slow, almost condescending clap. "Bravo, bravo. You've certainly given my underlings a few things to chew on."

Shawn studied the man as he crossed the painted lines on the floor, the entire platform just a little wider than the defined borders of the league standard distances for battles. He looked to be maybe in his early to mid thirties, dressed in heavy gray coveralls, a mining cap affixed to his head, long red hair springing out from underneath.

He pushed his glasses up into proper place, a huge grin of anticipation on his face. "You have no idea how many kids I've seen waltz in here, water poké mon in hand, thinking they can take me out with no trouble. You're the first one I've seen in a while who could actually make a good attempt. I'm looking forward to this. The handle's Roark by the way, in case you didn't know."

Shawn gave him a half salute. "So I hear. I think I've got a few tricks up my sleeve for you Roark. My name's Shawn, and I intend to make far more than an "attempt…."

Roark chuckled. "That's the spirit! Feel free to use up to six if you like, if you have that many. I'm only going with three though."

"Oh, I think I'll be okay without six," Shawn said, feeling confident. He had no intention of needing the help of those watching from below.

"Hmm, well, we'll see. Whenever you're ready." He gestured to the trainer's circle, drawing a poké ball from his belt.

Shawn nodded, taking his position and pulling out Jasmine's ball. Marty could likely win three straight, but better to soften up the competition a bit first. Roark wouldn't start with his strongest.

The gym was oddly quiet, faint sounds of heavy machinery from the nearby mine coming through the walls, all the others inside the gym watching the two face off.

The timer on Shawn's poké dex hit zero, a loud chime sounding to signal the start of the match.

"You're up Jasmine. Go Mismagius!" Shawn had learned that it was considered common courtesy in battles to call the species of the poké mon you were choosing, as nicknames were no indication.

"Show them our strength, Graveler!"

The two poké mon appeared in between the trainers, Jasmine giving off her haunting cry as she stared down her opponent, a violet shimmer surrounding her as she shook off the effects of stasis. The Graveler's stony visage split in a huge grin as it considered its foe, slamming its fists together, exuding the confidence of an experienced fighter.

Roark took the first move, shouting out, "Rollout!"

"Jasmine, evade and wait for it to uncurl, then use Confuse Ray."

"Yes master," her voice came faintly into his mind, her focus on the rolling Graveler, little chunks of loose gravel and dust thrown up around its whirling form, the vibrations from the rolling attack making the floor seem to shudder. He mentally grasped onto the voice, keeping the telepathic link open as much as he could. That could be handy later, but if he didn't keep it open, she would be forced to re-initiate it every time.

Just as it came within striking distance, Jasmine hovered smoothly to the side, the Rock poké mon passing by its target harmlessly, Jasmine's "skirt" rippling as she moved. The Graveler was forced to uncurl to regain its bearings, turning back towards the ghost, the positions on the battlefield now reversed, as each poké mon faced its own trainer beyond their opponent.

"Defense Curl!" Roark yelled quickly, as Jasmine's gems glowed, powering up the Confuse Ray.

Jasmine's beam of crazily distorted light met only hardened skin, as the Graveler obeyed the command barely in time, tucking into a stony ball once more.

"Interesting. He's forced himself to use one of his four moves for a defensive one, but he blocked the Confuse Ray."

Recovering, he called, "Psybeam!"

Jasmine took on a look of intense concentration, assaulting the rock type with invisible waves as it once more set itself on its feet, its eyes screwing shut as the Psychic waves buffeted it.

"Just endure it and use Rock Blast!"

Jasmine's attack was brought to an abrupt end, as the Graveler heaved several of its loose rocks at her floating form, sending her flying backwards with a soft cry, her focus on attacking giving her no time to dodge.

"Now what?"

"Shadow Ball," Shawn said confidently. Jasmine's aura had taken slightly more damage than the Graveler in that exchange, but this battle was nowhere near over.

Jasmine's mouth twisted slightly, as she summoned the pure ghostly energy from her inner being, the orb forming rapidly in front of her. The dark blob launched out at the rock type, Roark ordering, "Rollout!" to dodge it, the attack just grazing his poké mon.

"Evade, and use Shadow Ball again," Shawn called calmly, as the first one exploded impotently against the barrier surrounding the battlefield.

Jasmine floated gracefully to the side, the rolling poké mon not coming close to hitting her, building up her attack as she turned to track it.



As the Graveler uncurled, facing Jasmine once more, it pulled its arm back to throw, a small surge of dark power building up around something in its hand.

It hurled the thing at Jasmine with a loud grunt of effort, just as the ghost let loose with the Shadow Ball.

"Evade!" Shawn called mentally, knowing it was already too late.

The two attacks collided in midair, but passed right through each other, Jasmine starting to move, but having no time to properly react due to the effort of her attack. Each poké mon was struck squarely with the hurled spheres of energy, the Graveler wincing slightly, but bearing the blow solidly.

Jasmine's aura decreased sharply, as she was once more sent spinning wildly away from her foe, her lightweight body easily hurled by the physical attack. Whatever that move was, it was of the Dark type, judging by how much damage it had done.

"Hypnosis!" Shawn called, hoping to bring things back on even ground, hoping she hadn't been shaken up too much.

"Defense Curl!"

The Graveler recovered first, rolling into its protective ball, the rocky surface of its back guarding its more vulnerable face. Jasmine needed an extra moment to shake off the shock of being hit, a slightly dazed look on her face.

"Are you alright?" Shawn sent, feeling a flash of concern for his poké mon, who was getting quite the test for her first real battle. He knew she had fought other poké mon before, as she had referenced "training" her abilities, but was unsure of how much experience she really had. She was fairly strong though, on a roughly equal level with the Graveler.

"Do not" be concerned" with my well-being" just" command," she replied, her ethereal voice seeming a bit unsteady, but facing her foe still.

As the Graveler held its defensive position, about to roll to its feet again, she set herself once more, a determined expression setting in her eyes, preparing to execute Shawn's command.

"Wait for it, don't attack yet."

"Hold it Graveler!"

Both poké mon froze, Jasmine's violet body seeming to shimmer slightly as she readied her attack, which she needed eye contact to pull off. Unlike Psychics, who could tap an opponent's mind more directly, Jasmine's hypnosis wasn't quite so polished. Although, it was just as effective.

Roark grinned. "I thought as much, it seems were at a bit of a stand-off," he called.

Shawn glanced at his poké dex, checking the health feeds. Jasmine could probably only take one, maybe two more hits, whereas the Graveler could likely take two or even three from the ghost. But if he ordered her to switch attacks, there would be an opening for Roark to take advantage of, as she let go of the unused hypnosis.

A slow smile crept onto Shawn's face, feeling adrenaline seeping into his blood. This was a real battle indeed. THIS was what facing a gym leader was all about! There was a palpable tension in the air, both trainers watching for the smallest opening to use, the next attacks likely deciding the outcome of the battle.

"Jasmine, can you change that energy into a Psybeam?" Shawn sent.

Her mental voice sounded strained. "N-no, they're too different."


"A-as you wish."

Through the open link, he could feel her focus, as she struggled to mould the built up energy into something else.

All at once, the energy burst out in every direction, Shawn shuddering as the quick jolt of psychic power passed through him, seeing Roark wince a bit as well. Even though the attack had diffused, the Graveler was close enough to still bear the brunt of it, tumbling backwards out of its curl in surprise, its aura dropping a little lower.

"Shadow ball!" Jasmine could move faster than the other poké mon, as long as she didn't get caught in the middle of an attack. Shadow Ball was her fastest move, and Shawn knew she would be able to have time to dodge the counterattack.

"Rock Blast! Finish it!"

"Float over it!" Shawn sent, as the blob of ghostly power hit the Graveler's chest, catching it in mid-throw, the gooey looking energy seeming to splash against its rocky skin.

She managed to make it in time, hovering a little higher, the disturbed air from the powerfully thrown rocks making her skirt ripple as they passed under her.

"Shadow ball. This one should do it."

Jasmine didn't break her focus to respond, her lips parting slightly in a smile as she gathered the power.


"Back up!"

Jasmine floated backwards as she fired her attack, the rolling poké mon wobbling as it was struck, the attack getting spun off to the side, not quite doing enough damage to end the battle.

"Now evade!"

She spun sideways, the Graveler bouncing on a loose rock, passing within inches of her. With a thunderous crash, it impacted the railing surrounding the platform, its progress abruptly halted by unyielding metal.


Jasmine let out a haunting, unearthly cry, her eyes widening with an oddly fearsome expression as she let loose with the final blow, the Graveler stumbling back from the - now dented- railing.

"Rock Blast!" Roark shouted, although he surely already knew it was a lost cause.

Sure enough, the Graveler wobbled as it tried to turn, the last of its aura draining away from the battering of the Psychic attack, collapsing onto its back with a loud sigh.

Jasmine nodded approvingly, bowing her head in exhaustion. "How was that master?"

"Fantastic!" he sent, impressed with the skill she showed, given that he hadn't had a chance to actually train her yet. In the background he could hear the cheers of his team, Cheri letting out another howl, even though it was Jasmine in the ring.

She turned towards him with a small smile. "I am happy to have met your approval."

Their brief exchange was interrupted with a chuckle from Roark.

"Not bad kid," he said, returning his downed poké mon. "But you haven't won yet. This battle isn't over."

Shawn felt his competitive spirit surge, recalling the weary Mismagius. "No, it's not."

It was time to bring out the big guns.


Marty set himself firmly, staring down the pokémon across from him. He had never seen one like this before, and it looked pretty strong.

The Onix had been a familiar foe, and while it was more powerful than the others he had faced, it had still gone down fairly easily. This was it though, everything he and Shawn had been working towards came down to this! One more pokémon standing between them and their victory!

He felt his roiling power surging and crashing within him, filling him with its deep, reliable wellspring of strength. And then there was the other, the firm, solid, more subdued and steady energy, the power of the ground beneath his feet. He was ready at any moment to summon a torrent of quenching water, or a staggering blast of earth. It was incredible! He felt" alive! Battling beside Master Shawn" Testing what he had learned against new foes' It was the greatest feeling in the world! Nothing could stop them!

"Come on Master Shawn! Let's go!"

It was as if his thought broke the moment, the tension releasing in a surge of adrenaline as the two trainers simultaneously shouted their commands.

"Mud Bomb!"


Marty winced involuntarily as the spiky, gray and blue pokémon's maw gaped, letting out a horribly high pitched sound, making him involuntarily clap his hands over his tiny ears, even as he focused his Earth energy.

He felt his aura waver from the sonic blast, making him more susceptible to damage. The next attack was going to hurt. Quickly, he moulded the blob of mud that was building in front of him, some coming from his reserves, the rest from the accumulated grit on the floor, until it was about the size of his head. Like a falling star, the great wad of muck sailed through the air towards his foe, mere seconds after its attack petered out.

"Zen Headbutt!"

The Rampardos lowered its head, Marty…s Mud Bomb impacting its broad shoulders. It stumbled slightly from the blow, sticky mud dripping down over its barrel chest, but it wasn't enough to break its attack as it charged forwards, a glow building up around its stony cranium.

"Surf dodge!"

Marty's grin widened, gleefully pulling on the power of his inner Water element, barely paying attention to the pokémon charging towards him.z88; 'Yeah!'

He released the attack half formed, using the -- considerably smaller than normal -- blast of water to jet aside from his opponent's thundering attack, just like his trainer had taught him.z88; The tail end of the gout of liquid caught the rock type with a glancing blow, as it tried unsuccessfully to change direction.z88;

"Ancient Power!" the gym leader called, as his pokémon faced Marty once more, an irritated look on its face at being so handily sidestepped, its hide now glistening wetly in places.z88; A glow built up on its hands, disturbingly large chucks of rock cracking and breaking out of the floor, rising up in front of it.z88;

"Mudshot the rocks!"

Marty once more drew on his reserves, blasting the nearest whirling boulder fragments with as much force as he could, managing to halt their scything flight.z88; Several still made it through, sending him tumbling backwards with a grunt, not doing a lot of damage, but disorienting him.z88;z88;

"Again Jaxon!" Roark called, as Marty clambered to his feet once more, not letting the hit keep him down.

"Surf," Shawn called, his voice sounding perfectly calm, his obvious confidence in Marty's abilities steadying the pokémon's own poise.

This time, Marty had enough time to react, concentrating his Water element to summon the liquid to his aid, the great wave of water flowing forward as another salvo of sharp edged rocks flew towards him.z88;z88;

The wave was enough, overwhelming the Rock attack, carrying the stones back towards their caster, the larger pokémon scrambling to get out of the way at its trainer's command.z88;z88;

'We have him now!'z88; The fully powered Surf made the Rampardos struggle for balance, protecting its head from the jagged rocks hidden in the attack, the miniature tsunami eroding its defences.


"Mudshot! Don't let it get away, it won't take much more!"z88;

The larger pokémon was already in motion, clods of dirt flying as it burrowed rapidly, flashing claws pulling it down into the very battlefield they fought upon.z88;z88;

Marty felt a flash of determination.z88; No!z88; They weren't going to let them have a chance at winning this!z88; He fired the blast of sodden soil, as the Rampardos dove for safety.z88;z88;

Too late!z88; Its feet just cleared the attack, diving down into the ground as Marty himself would into his native element.

"Focus Marty, we've got this!z88; Concentrate your Water Gun, shoot it into the hole!"

"Alright Trainer Shawn!" he called in reply, not really sure what his trainer had in mind.z88; Wouldn't the attack be too late?z88; Still, he hustled over to where the Rampardos had vanished, charging the attack.z88;z88;

Already, he could feel the ground beneath his feet trembling, and he put on an extra burst of speed. "Will I make it?" z88;z88;

"Now!" came the simultaneous shouts of the two humans, just as the Marshtomp reached the edge of the pit.

Marty reared his head back, releasing the most powerful Water Gun he had ever made, a jet stream not so different from the ones Shawn could produce blasting into the miniature crater.z88;z88;

At the same time, the Rampardos came bursting up from below, having had to backtrack to follow Marty's progress across the battlefield, hitting the Marshtomp with full force.z88;z88;

Just as Marty's Water Gun came sailing out if its tunnel like a geyser, catching it dead centre.

It let out a grating cry as it tumbled with Marty, the two of them crashing down together, the air forced out of Marty's lungs with the impact. The other pokémon was in far worse shape though, kicking its legs and shaking its head as it attempted to roll to its feet.

"Do we really need to take this all the way Roark?" Shawn called. "Your pokémon is done."

The Rampardos finally managed to struggle to its feet, wobbling off balance.

The gym leader was silent for a moment, before letting out a chuckle. "Ha, you know, most trainers wouldn't show that courtesy to their opponents."

"I'm not most trainers."

Marty only half listened to the exchange, his focus on both his opponent... and this sudden surge in the energy within him, his heart pounding. 'Is that...'

A red beam of light lanced across the battlefield, Roark recalling his exhausted companion, a huge smile on his face.

"And THAT, not winning this battle, although you have done that as well, is what makes you deserve the badge. Kid, you're alright. I-"

The words cut off, as he seemed to notice what was happening to the Marshtomp. Marty's limbs trembled, the energy inside him roiling and bubbling, his vision blurring as every nerve in his body seemed to light up with new life.


He could feel his body stretching, growing larger, muscles flexing and contracting, power exuding from his innermost being. Shawn's words fell on deaf ears as the glow of evolution surrounded the Marshtomp, the outside world seeming to disappear.

Marty squeezed his eyes shut, an exultant grin splitting his face, even as his visage changed in structure. The glow intensified, going nova for the briefest of moments, tingling delight spreading through his entire body, before fading into nothingness once more, leaving a changed pokémon in its wake.

"Yeah! I did it Master Shawn!" The exultant commotion from his team-mates watching from below indicated their thoughts on the matter.

There was a moment of silence, before Shawn let out a war whoop. "Yeah! Way to go Marty!" Their victory had suddenly taken a back seat, as the human strode forward to greet his partner, now not seeming quite so tall from Marty's newly increased stature.

"How do you feel Marty?" Shawn asked, the grin on his face surely matching Marty's own.

"Amazing! I feel... Wow! Just think of what you can teach me NOW!"

"Heh, well, I'll have to get creative. You can reach beyond your old limits now."

"Yeah! I can't wait!" He could feel the power inside, seeming to glow with vitality, which had seemed like a great pool before, and now felt like the sea itself.

"Hate to interrupt, but I have to give you this," Roark said with a smile, as he joined the pair of them. He was holding a small piece of metal out to Shawn, giving the Marshtomp a friendly pat on the back as he passed.

Marty beamed at the unspoken praise. This man had been their toughest opponent yet, but he and his trainer had still done it!

"This is the coal badge," Roark said, Shawn taking the small trophy and shaking the man's offered hand. "Like all gym badges, it contains an aura, that will allow you to command the respect of wild pokémon more easily. Each badge you get will increase the effect of the aura. This aura is a copy of the very Onix that my great-grandfather trained, and will allow you to command pokémon up to level thirty or so with no problems. Of course, something tells me that that isn't a problem for you." He glanced at Marty as he said this, a brief look of curiosity on his face.

He shook his head, leaving whatever question was on his mind unasked. "I have to say, I haven't seen a trainer and pokémon bond as strongly as you obviously have with your partners very often. Keep your current attitude, and I can easily see you becoming the champion."

Shawn chuckled, Marty nodding his head vehemently in agreement with Roark's statment. "Well, thanks, but I have other goals in mind. At the moment, it's enough to just help my team grow. In the future though, who knows?"

"Hmmm. Well, whatever your 'other goals' are, you might find this comes in handy," Roark replied, pulling something else from his pocket. "This is TM seventy-six, and contains the move Stealth Rock. It's not the most powerful move out there, but it deals damage to any of your opponent's pokémon as they come onto the battlefield, and can put them off balance from the start. I'm sure you'll find a use for it."

"Great, thanks!" Shawn said, accepting the extra gift.

Marty clapped his --now considerably larger-- hands together. A new move to learn!

Roark tipped his hat accepting the thanks with a nod. "My pleasure. I wish you good luck on your journey Shawn."

Shawn gave him a salute, holding up Marty's pokéball with his free hand. "I'd say the same, but I'm doubting you're going anywhere anytime soon."

Roark laughed. "Yup, I'm here to stay. The mine takes up most of my time, and I can't let kids get that badge TOO easily! Imagine if one of those kids you steamrolled on the way up here was the leader!"

"Ha! Well, one day maybe. They WERE disadvantaged from the start after all, facing Marty," Shawn grinned at Marty, the newly evolved Swampert glowing from the praise.

"Definitely. You two are going to go far alright. Don't be a stranger, okay?"

"I'll do my best. C'mon Marty, what do you say we get you and Jasmine patched up?"

"I feel great! But okay!"

With a final wave at the smiling gym leader, Marty felt his awareness fade, the contented sleepiness of the pokéball wrapping itself around him.

'Nothing can stop us!'

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