Kushina glared over the expanse of beach sand as she waited for Ando to get his act together. Her childhood pal had led her and her brother to a deserted stretch of beach near where he lived. While she waited and Arashi made himself comfortable on the trunk of a toppled palm tree, he gathered his beasts which roamed free of any confinement.
"So," Arashi asked while he studied one of his pokéballs, "why did you stop sending postcards?"
"I stopped traveling," Kushina answered while she fought the urge to pace in anticipation. "I got a fixed address and started sending letters instead."
Her brother stared at her. "What letters?"
"What do you mean: 'what letters?'!" she snarled. "I sent at least one a year to the same address I sent all of the postcards!"
"I don't remember a single letter," Arashi said.
"The postal system must be broken then," Kushina growled.
This is bad, she knew. They're all completely out of touch with my life. And with Arashi freaking out for no reason with me getting married, how bad is it going to get when they find out about Naruto?
"Okay," Ando called out as he strolled onto the makeshift battlefield with a zigzagoon, phanpy, tropius, and typhlosion following after him in addition to his golduck and chatot. "We're ready. No money stakes…any other rules?"
"Three monster limit, no substitutions," she replied.
"Quick and dirty," Ando smirked. "Flip a coin to see who goes first?"
"No need," Kushina said and cracked open one of her own monster spheres, unleashing Crusher onto the sands. "I'm not afraid to make the first move."
Ando chuckled. "Palmer, you're up buddy."
The tropius lumbered out in front of Ando, its palm frond wings stirring slightly in the breeze washing out to the sea. It was the smart move to pit a grass-type against a water pokémon like Crusher. But Kushina wasn't overly concerned; her mind was firmly focused on kicking Ando's behind.
"Crusher, show that tropius your best scary face," Kushina instructed.
Her feraligatr obediently twisted his already fearsome face into something grotesque and frightening, which put a severe crimp in the flying plant monster's speed.
"Interesting," Ando muttered, puzzled. "Palmer, let's crank you up with sunny day."
The tropius glowed and the sunlight—already bright and tropical—intensified around them…and then the tree-like dinosaur creature flinched.
That's not the effect of chlorophyll… "Speed up with agility."
Crusher shook out his limbs and then raced towards his foe with boosted speed.
"Magical leaf!" Ando snapped, his laid-back air quickly disintegrating.
Glowing, razor-sharp leaves burst from the base of the tropius's wing-leaves and unerringly flew towards the charging feraligatr. There was no point in trying to dodge them so Kushina didn't waste her breath on it. Sometimes a certain amount of damage was the price for a victory.
Crusher grunted in pain as the leaves cut into his hide, but he didn't back down and sank his super-cooled fangs into the tropius's sinuous neck.
"Damn it," Ando cursed quietly. "Break loose with stomp!"
The tropius bellowed and lashed out, slamming its foot deep into the feraligatr's gut which dislodged Crusher's cold jaws and knocked him backwards.
"Slash and ice fang," Kushina instructed.
Her feraligatr immediately retaliated, clawing the tropius in the chest and then biting his foe on the other side of its neck with ice-cold fangs. Palmer groaned and slumped to the sand in defeat while Crusher loomed over him, panting. Ando grimaced and had to dig around in his pockets for the pokéball that he needed to pull his tropius off the field.
"Okay…" Ando tapped his chin thoughtfully for a moment before deciding. "Kappa, you're up."
His golduck looked a bit hesitant after watching his buddy get pounded, but he took the battlefield and slipped into a ready stance.
"Crusher, use crunch," Kushina ordered.
"Aqua jet," Ando said with a smirk.
Kappa shrouded himself in water and exploded forward with tremendous speed. The golduck crashed into Crusher before the feraligatr could react, bowling him over. Coughing and wheezing, Crusher managed to catch his foe by the shoulders before Kappa could back off and laid a vicious crunch attack on him.
"Zen headbutt," Ando said, still smirking.
Blue psychic energy gathered at the crown of the golduck's head before he slammed it into Crusher's body. The feraligatr staggered…and collapsed. Kushina was a bit surprised that he'd fallen so quickly; she figured that he could take at least one more good hit before folding.
I need to remember to look up what abilities tropius can have, she thought, recalling how the plant monster had seemed almost pained by the bright sunlight even though it looked strong.
"Alright," Kushina grinned dangerously as she called Crusher back. "It's time to smack you down!" She selected another pokéball. "Now it's—"
Kushina blinked and found a female pikachu had skittered onto the battlefield placing itself between Kappa and herself.
"That's not yours?" Ando asked, intrigued. "Is it wild, then?"
The pikachu turned around to wave at her and noted its blue eyes—
Aoi, what are you doing back here?!
Aoi's enthusiasm waned a bit when she saw Kushina's shocked expression.
She's not happy to see me?
It hadn't been easy getting back to the mainland. After persuading her male companion to help her, she had to keep needling him to make sure that he stayed with her while she searched for the human woman. Without him she had no way to get around the cliffs of the home island, and if she couldn't find Kushina she didn't want to stay on the mainland.
Just as he was about to leave her in spite of her jabs at his bravery, they came across the fight. They watched from the trees as Kushina's water monster took down the grass monster with a few powerful attacks. When the toothy beast was bested by the blue duck creature, Aoi took her chance, determined to be helpful and prove her worth.
Now it seemed like it was all a big mistake.
"If it's wild," the man commanding the monster duck said, "I wanna catch it. Pikachu are serious chick magnets."
"Ando," Kushina growled. "…No, I saw her first!"
"Winner takes the pikachu," Ando smirked. "Kappa, fury swipes!"
:Sure thing, boss!: Kappa croaked and jogged towards Aoi with the claws on his webbed hands bared and ready.
Aoi blasted a burst of electricity just strong enough to cause paralysis, but still suffered from one blow of fury swipes. It hurt really bad and she quivered in pain. But she would be brave like Kushina's other monster and not give up.
"Now thunderbolt him!" Kushina commanded.
The pikachu unleashed her electricity on her foe. Kappa withstood the first thunderbolt but Aoi took him out with her second. The paralyzed duck monster fell over, swirly-eyed.
:I did good, right?: Aoi asked, looking back to Kushina. :That was good?:
"That was a close one," Kushina muttered and waved her over. "Now if you'd just come over here—"
"Ah, ah, ah!" Ando scolded and wagged his finger. "No substitutions, remember? You used the pikachu; that's your number two." The man grinned nastily. "Sniffy!"
A little blue monster with stumpy limbs, floppy ears, and a long nose bounded out in front of him.
:It's my turn! It's my turn!:
:Here I come!:
Sniffy curled up into a ball and tumbled at high speed right at Aoi. She instinctively lashed out with her electricity, but her thunderbolt had no effect. Her lightning just bounced off the rolling attacker, and then he hit her.
And it hurt.
:Ow,: she wheezed, trying to shake it off.
But there wasn't much time to recover as Sniffy, still spinning, rolled around and lined up for another attack. Aoi again tried to stop him with a thunderbolt, but he tumbled on without feeling the electricity. And then he hit again…harder.
Why isn't it working?! Aoi wondered in panic.
"Electricity doesn't work on ground types," Kushina sighed. "All you can do is quick attack him."
Sniffy rolled around again, spinning even faster as he closed the distance. If he hit her any harder, she was sure that she would faint. If she fainted, she would lose, and she needed to win to prove her worth.
If my lightning won't work… She wobbled upright and gathered her strength for her best attack. :Take this!:
Kushina was resigned to losing this round. She'd meant to use Hikari, and the lanturn's water attacks would've handily crushed Ando's phanpy. But Aoi, as a pure electric type, could only triumph if she was many levels higher (which she wasn't) and had learned a special attack like grass knot.
But then, as the phanpy closed in for a third round of rollout, the pikachu glowed faintly blue. A wave rushed in from the sea, curled around the pikachu, and then gushed forward into the attacking ground monster. When the water washed back out to sea, Sniffy was flattened on the ground with swirly eyes while Aoi stayed standing and panting.
"…Wha?" Ando sputtered.
"What the hell?" Arashi muttered.
Kushina blinked, once, twice, and then pointed at Ando with a wild grin. "Ha!"
"You cheated!" Ando snapped as he struggled to gather his wits.
"How did I cheat?" Kushina snickered.
"Pikachus can't do that!" He whined.
"Obviously they can," she smirked. "Why don't you go to the library and look in the book: In the Yellow Forest…. It's got lots of nice pictures and simple words so you're sure to understand it."
Ando flashed her a rude hand gesture and gathered up his fainted phanpy before slinking off the field.
"Hehehe," Kushina giggled, unconcerned, and knelt down by the pikachu. "That was awesome!"
Aoi, though tired, was clearly pleased with the praise.
"Now I know I left you on Thunder Island," she said. "So you came all the way back here? You didn't want to stay with all your friends and family?"
The pikachu hopped into her lap.
"Okay…" If she really can manipulate water…I can make an exception for that. "Okay."
"What was that in the opening round?" Arashi asked from over her shoulder. "You never struck me as the type to do anything besides full-on attack."
"I hang out with the best," Kushina shrugged with a smug little smile. She gathered Aoi in her arms and stood up. "A few ideas rub off on me every now and then. If this fight had happened just after I left Whirlpool, it would all be about attacking."
"You hang out with the best," he repeated.
Silence fell between them as tiny waves brushed against the shore nearby.
"Will you ever come home?" her brother asked.
"I've thought about visiting," she answered.
"But you won't stay," he said.
"Of course you won't." He walked past her and down the beach towards Cove Town. "I need to get back to babysitting Akane."
She watched his back retreat from her sight…and she stuck her tongue out at it.
Why did I have to run into Arashi? Why not Kenshin? He was always the best…if a bit boring and dull.
Kushina stayed out on the distant beach for a while longer. With Arashi gone and Ando presumably off healing his battered beasts, she was alone. Rubbing Aoi's ear, she stared out at the placid tropical sea and thought.
If I do go back, it'll be after I marry. They'll have to suck it up and accept him then… Hopefully Minato won't get any grand ideas of visiting Dad and asking for his blessings or anything.
But how to introduce Naruto without lots of chaos, yelling, and ugliness?
She made a face.
And what the hell happened to all those letters I sent?! I put time and effort into writing those! Stamps cost money…and it's a pain to go out and buy more when you run out.
Something out over the water caught Aoi's attention and the pikachu called out and waved.
"Eh?" Kushina squinted. "What's that?"
It looked like photos she'd seen of ball lightning…sort of. Whatever it was, it was yards and yards out over the water. The yellow orb zoomed in nearly a straight line in the general direction of Thunder Island.
At Aoi's cries, the lightning orb made a loop before continuing on its way.
She thought about the children's book that Naruto had once loved so much. She thought about the pictures in the book where the little pikachus would ride cute little surf boards. She thought about the other pictures where the little pikachus would fly with the aid of colorful party balloons…
Kushina turned away from the sea now that the odd light was out of sight and headed for Cove Town and its pokémon center.
Surfing pikachu are believable, but a real flying pikachu? She snorted at the thought. That's just ridiculous!