Chapter 4

"The stage is set, world champion" a mocking voice rang out from across the grassy battlefield.

Ash's opponent swiftly snatched a pokéball from his richly-black trainer belt and expanded it without missing a beat. Carefully eyeing Ash, Xavier arrogantly launched his first choice into the clear blue sky. The time-weathered ball flashily released Xavier's first choice, which pleasantly surprised the young champion and his yellow partner.

"Butterfree, attention!" came the swift command from the dominant voice of Xavier. His Butterfree soared high into the air before diving down towards the hard, unforgiving soil. Naturally, it pulled up at the last possible second and hovered mere inches above the ground before softly planting itself on the compact turf.

"A…Butterfree? You are going to challenge me with a Butterfree?" Ash skeptically queried his opponent. Ash silently laughed at the notion that he had thought this trainer was strong. "Apparently, this guy just got finished training a Metapod in the Viridian Forest." The teenage champion humorously mused. Ash's attitude grew infectious as it leeched onto Pikachu's persona. In all of the difficult battles, deadly trials, and painful tribulations, it seemed that facing a Butterfree was a joke put on by Xavier.

"Pi! Pika Pi!" the yellow Mouse Pokémon a cackled as it rolled on the ground, rendered helpless by the comicality of this absurd choice by Xavier. Normally, Pikachu and Ash would have the utmost respect for any strangers or acquaintances that challenged them, with exceptions to malevolent organizations like Team Rocket. However, the dramatic build-up that resulted between Ash and Xavier's miniature conversation seemed to fall short of the expectations of Ash and his Pikachu.

Xavier, however, was not fazed by the antics of his immature opponent. "Laugh all you want, Ketchum. There is not a single Pokémon on your team that can defeat even one of mine! If you don't believe me, send out your first choice and I'll show you…"

Still skeptical, Ash tossed his pokéball into air and called out, "Squirtle, I choose you!"

A radiantly white beam of light conformed into the shape of Ash's Squirtle. Once the Tiny Turtle Pokémon completely materialized, anxious determination was present on the expression of this Squirtle. The Pokémon knew that this was an important battle and, from what it heard within the confines of the pokéball, this one was going to be fairly simple, especially against a Butterfree.

"Squirtle, squirt?" Ash's partner murmured in confusion. For such a high-stakes battle, it seemed strange that this kidnapper would use such a weak Pokémon to start off the match.

"C'mon Squirtle, let's show him what we can do!" Ash encouragingly shouted across the field. "I want to beat him before dinner so that my mom can make me some food!" As if on cue, Ash's stomach emitted an audible growl that seemed to have rung throughout the field; upon hearing this, Ash and his Pokémon started to chuckle amongst each other. This may have been a serious match, but that could not change the personality of Ash and co.

Across the field from Ash, Xavier snarled towards the young champion's antics. "I wouldn't be so cocky if I were you…" Xavier said as he twirled his Pokémon's pokéball. "Honestly, I was looking forward to this for quite some time. Show me what you got, Ketchum!"

"I'll do more than that! I'll wipe that smug smirk off your face!" Ash hotly retorted. "Now Squirtle, use Hydro Pump!"

The Tiny Turtle Pokémon, with an intense glare set on the opponent, quickly retreated back into the shell and fired off an incredibly potent Hydro Pump from the opening of the shell where the head was supposed to be. The power was so great that the recoil from the attack launched Squirtle into the air; expecting this, Squirtle came out of the shell and lightly landed on the battlefield. The Hydro Pump was quickly closing distance as Xavier readied his next command.

"Tch. Butterfree, blow those sprinkles away with a Gust attack!"

Ash was slightly taken aback at Xavier's interesting choice of a move. "Gust isn't strong enough to blow away a Hydro Pump, no matter how powerful the Pokémon is. What is he doing?" echoed the thoughts of the young champion. Ash brushed off his thoughts and rededicated his attention to the combat.

Despite Ash's prior thoughts, this Butterfree was no slouch. Xavier's Butterfree tightly pulled back its wings and thrust them forward, sending a deadly blast of wind to counteract the Hydro Pump. The wind cycle moved quickly as Xavier smiled and watched the events unfold. To Ash's surprise and dismay, Squirtle's Hydro Pump was successfully blasted away by the windy Gust attack, resulting in a light drizzle upon the battlefield from what remained of the attack.

"How is that possible!" Ash's thoughts raced through his mind. He couldn't comprehend what just happened, but he knew that he could not afford to give his opponent anymore chances to counter his attacks. "Squirtle, use Hydro Pump again, but with more force behind it!"

"Squirtle, Squirtle!" the Tiny Turtle Pokémon answered in response. Once again, it retreated into the shell and launched another Hydro Pump directly at Butterfree. The Butterfree looked upon the incoming attack lightly, giving Ash's Squirtle almost an amused look. Just as before, Xavier commanded another Gust attack, which provided the same results as the last clash.

"I don't understand…a Butterfree cannot reach this level of raw power. What's this guy's secret?" Ash inwardly reflected as he watched his Squirtle start to pant from the energy expended with those Hydro Pump attacks. "I know Squirtle is giving his all out there…I guess we will have to try a combination attack!"

"Ash Ketchum!"

Ash swiveled his head towards Xavier. "What is it?"

"Allow me to educate you…as I use this battle to explain why I'm even doing this in the first place." Xavier said, focusing his clear-cut eyes towards the young man across the field. "First and foremost, you are aware of the Pokémon World Government, correct?"

Ash gave his opponent a quizzical look due to the nature of the question. "Of course I know about it. Being a part of the P.W.G. is going to be my responsibility soon."

Xavier paused for a mere second, and then continued his train of thought. "Do you know about the actions of this particular organization?"

Ash slightly winced towards the end of Xavier's sentence. The Pokémon World Government, in his opinion, should not be affiliated with the same word that can describe all of the evil organizations that have ever existed, such as Team Rocket. However, Ash brushed it off and replied, "The Pokémon World Government ensures that the balance between humanity and Pokémon. They are pretty much the overseers of the world."

Xavier nodded towards Ash's last statement. "Yes, they are the overseers of this world. But you don't know them like I do, Ketchum. The prosperity, the peace, the joy…it's all a clever façade."

Xavier angrily clenched his fist fists, and then pointed accusingly at Ash. "They are a ruthless bunch when it comes down to it. They are will willing to sacrifice others in order to remain unharmed. They also have absolutely no problem depriving others in order to fulfill what they think should be fulfilled."

Xavier scowled at the last sentence in particular. "…in fact, I am one of the victims of that very last point! The Pokémon World Government controls everything, including resources. Many regions across land and sea are kept under the wraps due to their current pitiful state of existence! 'Keep the world ignorant and happy!' That is the mantra of this so-called government.

Ash looked on in terrible confusion as Xavier continued his tirade. "It's a terrible dictatorship that no one in the five major regions knows about!" he furiously finished, feeling sickened by merely discussing it.

"You are crazy! The Pokémon World Government ensures peace and harmony!" Ash immediately shouted in response.

"Oh trust me; I'm no conspiracy-theory lunatic. Far from it, actually…" Xavier cynically laughed, smoothing out the words of his sentence. "You'll see soon enough. I plan to expose the wrongdoings of this government and its insidious 'system' that warps the minds of so many ignorant citizens. Then, with the power bestowed upon me, I shall take my revenge on the malevolent officials who made my life a living hell!"

"I've never heard of such nonsense in my entire life! This guy needs to be in some serious therapy. He's a danger to himself and to everybody around him." Ash thought to himself.

"You probably still think I'm crazy. I can't change your mind; that much I know for sure. However, I can give you a fair warning." Xavier said, pointing to the adolescent champion.

"A warning?" Ash questioned, giving Pikachu a lost expression. Pikachu simply shrugged; it didn't know what Xavier meant either.

Xavier disregarded Ash's confusion and continued. "If you decide to stand in my way…that will mean that you stand for the very thing that I am after. This will, unfortunately, make you a target for my revenge list. Do we have a gentleman's understanding?"

"I can't say that I believe everything you've just said, but you seem to have a passion for what you want. That much…I can respect." Ash responded, giving his opponent a defiant look. "However…I cannot allow you to destroy the fine line between peace and order. I will defeat you, here and now!"

"Pika, pi!" Pikachu confidently agreed as it showed off some electrical sparks. Seeing this, Xavier simply gave a mere chuckle and shook his head in disappointment.

"If there was anyone who could see the light, I thought that it would be you, Ash." Xavier sadly replied. Suddenly, the young man stood tall and boldly shouted, "But if that's the case, let this match continue!"

The battlefield was starting to become more than just a high-stakes match; it was becoming the physical manifestation of the rivalry between these two powerful trainers. It seemed as though the wind began to intensify due to the radical clash between Xavier and Ash's silent standoff. The tension mounted until it seemed as if the air could be cut with butter knife…and that is when Ash decided to make the silence-breaking move.

"Squirtle, I know those Hydro Pumps require a lot of energy from you, but I also know that if anyone can do it, it's you! Quickly, use Hydro Spin!" Ash triumphantly commanded.

Xavier's raised his eyebrows in curiosity upon hearing Ash's order to Squirtle and began to muse what that attack could possibly be. "Hydro Spin, huh? Sounds interesting, Mr. Ketchum…by all means, play your best cards."

"Squirt!" Squirtle promptly acknowledged. It began to speedily sprint towards Butterfree as the Butterfly Pokémon looked on in naïve curiosity.

"Be ready for anything Butterfree!" Xavier commanded to the bug type Pokémon. He knew that he very well could've told Butterfree to dodge, but he had a feeling that it wouldn't have mattered. Butterfree nodded towards Xavier and braced itself for whatever might come from this small combatant.

After gaining enough speed, Squirtle leapt into the air and retracted into the shell. Once the Tiny Turtle Pokémon was fully inside the shell, it began to spin rapidly and shot for a direct beeline towards Butterfree.

Xavier couldn't help but feel somewhat baffled to as how this was the "Hydro Spin" Ash was talking about. "This just looks like an ordinary Rapid Spin attack…hmm. I'd better not get careless, especially now!"

"Now Squirtle! Do it!" Ash suddenly commanded to his trusty Squirtle.

Upon hearing Ash's voice, Squirtle began to randomly rotate the angle of the Rapid Spin attack so that the shell was no longer circularly spinning. Once it range, Squirtle jettisoned a Hydro Pump from all of the openings of the shell, which resulted in a Hydro Pump from all angles. The whole battlefield was starting to turn into mud by the showers of water that came from Squirtle's Hydro Spin; even the surrounding foliage began to drown under the amazing volumes of water coming from Squirtle.

Xavier decided now was the time to act. "Butterfree, blow it away!"

Butterfree tried to blow away the water, but when it came from all of those angles, that was much harder to do. The water also protected Squirtle from being affected from the wind that Butterfree was producing, which in turn allowed Squirtle to get closer and closer to Butterfree. Although the water blasts were weaker in power, due to the fact that their power was spread throughout all of the shell's openings, they still had a powerful effect on the Butterfly Pokémon. Eventually, Butterfree's wings became soaked with water and dropped to the ground like an anvil.

Squirtle landed on Xavier's side of the battlefield and looked back to see the effectiveness of this particular attack. Squirtle was pleased and gave a thumbs-up to Ash, who returned the thumbs-up. Noticing his Butterfree struggle to get airborne again, Xavier couldn't help but faintly admire Ash's tactic. He did not expect Ash to attack indirectly with such a high-powered water-type attack.

"I guess he isn't an idiot when it comes to battling."Xavier amusedly thought, giving his Butterfree an apologetic look. "Sorry to do that to you, but I had to see what Hydro Spin was. Now I can rest easy…and I defeat this troublesome turtle!

"That was smart of you, Mr. Ketchum." Xavier complimented to the young champion as he continued to watch his Butterfree use great effort to get back into the air. "You are well aware that a Butterfree with wet wings is a near-useless one. I suppose that I have underestimated you to a certain extent."

Ash promptly smirked and arrogantly proclaimed, "Of course I would know! I had a Butterfree too when I was starting out my journey as a Pokémon trainer. I know the ins and outs of a Butterfree's strengths and weaknesses."

"In that case, this will come as to no surprise to you." Xavier said as he saw his Butterfree rise to its feet. "My Butterfree doesn't need wings in order to be victorious! Butterfree, use Psychic!"

Butterfree's eyes glowed azure as it focused its energies towards Squirtle. Soon, Squirtle's body became surrounded in an ominous sapphire light and was slowly lifted off the ground and into the clear sky.

"Toss that turtle high in the sky and follow up with Hyper Beam!" Ash's opponent cried out victoriously. Xavier knew that this would finish the match instantly; Ash would experience a taste of just how powerful his Pokémon really were.

"Free, free!" Butterfree obediently responded.

"Don't let it control you Squirtle! Use Ice Beam at Butterfree!" Ash commanded quickly, anxious of how this match could turn out.

However, Squirtle was in no position to move. The Psychic grip on Squirtle was much too powerful to overcome, no matter how desperately Squirtle struggled. Ash could feel sweat starting to form, as if he was the one struggling; Ash had never seen a Psychic attack that could completely immobilize Squirtle like this, even against the most skilled of Psychic type Pokémon! The power that Xavier's Butterfree possessed rivaled that of his most powerful Pokémon.

"This is bad…really bad! Still, I can't give up hope yet!" the young champion desperately thought. Despite the frantic circumstances, Ash had already come up of another plan. "Squirtle, wait out the attack!"

Xavier scoffed at Ash's command and crossed his arms disappointingly. "Throwing in the towel, are we? I thought that the champion would be a bit more of a challenge…shame. Butterfree, the stage is yours!"

"Freeee!" Butterfree cried out as it powered up Psychic to ready for the big hurl. Once completely powered up, Butterfree launched Squirtle into the air. Squirtle was still going upwards when Butterfree dropped the Psychic began to gather energy for a Hyper Beam attack within the antennas.

Waiting for this opportunity, Ash shouted, "Squirtle, use Hydro Pump and aim towards Butterfree!"

Squirtle, hearing Ash's command, fired off yet another Hydro Pump attack towards Butterfree. The recoil from the attack pushed Squirtle further into the sky by a generous amount while the attack gained momentum due to the planet's gravity.

"You made a huge mistake, Xavier!" Ash called out to his opponent. "Squirtle is now out of range of any attack that you can make. In addition, your Butterfree will have to stop charging to dodge or counter my Squirtle's Hydro Pump. That will leave your Butterfree wide open!"

To Ash's great surprise, Xavier flashed an arrogant grin and replied, "Oh, is that a fact? You underestimate my Pokémon's power! Butterfree, use Hyper Beam…NOW!"

Butterfree mimicked Xavier's confident attitude as it just finished charging the Hyper Beam. Upon hearing "NOW", Butterfree's antennas rocketed out a Hyper Beam attack. However, this Hyper Beam attack was not like any Hyper Beam that Ash had ever seen. It was… uncharacteristically narrow. It was like that of an Ice Beam attack but with a golden-brown color instead of bluish-white. It was nothing like the Hyper Beam Lance's Dragonite uses…or any Pokémon, for that matter.

"That is strange…what kind of Hyper Beam is that?" Ash said under his breath. "It doesn't look nearly strong enough to overcome Squirtle's Hydro Pump, let alone reach Squirtle…"

The Hyper Beam and Hydro Pump quickly closed the gap that separated Butterfree from Squirtle. Ash held his breath in anticipation, while Xavier crossed his arms and looked on, extremely confident in his Butterfree's attack. When it came down to appearance, it looked as if Hydro Pump would overcome Hyper Beam. But once the two attacks collided, a flash of steam appeared where the Hydro Pump had been, while the Hyper Beam continued to push its way towards its target. Butterfree's attack did not slow an inch after coming into contact with Squirtle's Hydro Pump; in fact, it almost seemed to have gained more power from the collision. Squirtle anticipated, at the most, a draw between the two attacks; what the Tiny Turtle Pokémon saw instead was a deadly beam of pure energy heading right for it. And since Squirtle was in midair, there was no possible way to dodge the attack.

"W-w-what!" Ash stammered in disbelief. "Squirtle, use Withdraw to protect yourself!"

Xavier laughed at the adolescent's incredulity and shouted, "It's useless, Ketchum! No shell or shield can block against this particular Hyper Beam!"

"What does he mean by 'this particular Hyper Beam'?" Ash suddenly pondered. Within seconds of Xavier's last statement, Ash unexpectedly felt a terrible feeling of what was going to happen next.

Butterfree's attack continued on course until it struck the outer shell of Squirtle. The contact made it seem like it would push the Tiny Turtle Pokémon away, but something even more unusual happened. From Ash's standpoint, the beam seemed to have gone through Squirtle's shell instead of blasting into it. The Hyper Beam seemed to have frozen Squirtle's shell in the air for a brief moment before the beam dissipated into thin air. After what seemed like an eternity, Ash's Pokémon began to plummet towards the ground.

"What…is this?" Ash questioned himself, clearly stupefied by the events that were unfolding in front of his very eyes. "This…Hyper Beam isn't supposed to do that!"

Overhearing Ash's amazement across the field, Xavier decided to clarify what made this Hyper Beam so deadly. "Oh Ash, as you can already tell, this Hyper Beam is anything but ordinary. I'm not one for theatrics, so I trained my Pokémon to strike quick and powerfully. Why bother having a gigantic and seizure-inducing Hyper Beam…when I can have a Hyper Beam, so concentrated in power, which can go through anything? This particular attack attacks not only the outer flesh of the Pokémon, but also the inner mechanisms. Like…oh, say…the heart. It probably doesn't help that your Squirtle's size was roughly the same size of the attack."

Ash could only stare in horror as he saw his unmoving Squirtle hastily descend to the unforgiving turf. Ash whipped out Squirtle's pokéball and tried to call the Pokémon back inside, but Squirtle was moving too quickly for Ash to get an accurate lock on.

CRACK!

A nasty cracking noise rang out from the center of the battlefield. Squirtle had landed on the back of the shell, which had prevented the Pokémon from suffering further injuries. But upon contact to the battleground, Squirtle's shell had begun to split. In a completely quiet arena, the only sounds that persisted were the slowly inevitable cracking of Squirtle's shell and the soft beating of Butterfree's now-dry wings against the stillness of the airy atmosphere. The battle between these two was clearly finished. Butterfree was, undoubtedly, the victor.

"…Squirtle?" Ash hesitantly called out, seeing if the Pokémon was still conscious…or even alive. Both trainers waited to see if Squirtle would move or make some sort of sound. Once it became clear that Squirtle wasn't going to wake up, Ash ran up to his Pokémon. "SQUIRTLE!"

Squirtle did not make a single sound as to indicate if whether it was still alive or not. It simply lied there, scorched by the burning intensity of Butterfree's Hyper Beam attack. Xavier pointed to what was left of the valiant water-type Pokémon and said, "This is what happens to those who stand in my way. I did not want to do this, but I had to make my point clear. I'm not joking around…and I will remove my opposition in the most 'effective' manor."

Xavier then looked at Ash to see how he would react. Ash looked defeated and unsure of how he should progress from here on out. Xavier shook his head in pity for Ash and said, "Recall your Pokémon. That shell will not continue to break inside the confines of the pokéball. Then, you can go to the Pokémon Center and have the nurse look at your Squirtle. Although by the looks of things, I wouldn't hope for a full recovery…"

"Squirtle…return."

A red beam of light engulfed Ash's Squirtle. As the pokéball pulled Squirtle back into its confines, Xavier sensed a new outbreak of calmness break out over Ash. Xavier expected the young champion to be furious, depressed, or even vengeful; what he got instead was a composed Ash, one that seemed to have aged several years in the past few moments. Ash walked back from the center of the battlegrounds back to his side. He looked at his yellow partner, who was currently sharing Ash's sense of calmness.

"Pikachu…it's your turn." Ash serenely told his yellow companion. According to Ash, he had to end this battle as soon as possible in order to get Squirtle some medical attention. The fastest way to do that was to send out his strongest Pokémon, Pikachu.

Pikachu took in a deep breath and assumed a battle stance, charging electrical energy in its sacks while waiting for Xavier's next choice. Xavier knew that Pikachu had to be Ash's strongest, so it was only fair that he play the same game.

"Ash…" Xavier called out. "I'm well aware that you intend to try to end this battle quickly, but you'll have no such luck. Butterfree, return!"

A subtle expression of surprise showed up on Ash's calm demeanor. Ash considered Butterfree to be one of Xavier's strongest Pokémon; what could he possibly have up his sleeve now?

Xavier placed Butterfree's ball back onto his belt and carefully selected another pokéball…one that seemed even older than Butterfree's. He enlarged the ball and tossed it into the air, saying, "Braviary, attention!"

The pokéball released Xavier's second choice, Braviary. The Valiant Pokémon did not imitate Butterfree's flying spectacle upon release; rather, the Pokémon simply landed on the ground and folded back its wings, waiting for orders from Xavier. Xavier looked upon Braviary with pride and said to Ash, "This is my most powerful Pokémon, Ash. If you truly are who you think, here is your one chance to prove it. Forget the six-on-six…this is the deciding match."

The atmosphere of the battle seemed calm…yet alert, rather than filled with nervous tension. Both the trainers and their Pokémon quietly waited for the right opportunity to strike. The wind rustled across some fallen leaves as these two trainers gauged the situation and clarified their thoughts.

"I am what the 'system' has created. I stand for the people who cannot stand. My goal to wipe out this corruption shall be realized. The ends more than justifies the means…"

"I must save the people that mean the most to me. I…I can't let Squirtle's bravery be in vain! I will defeat this heartless trainer and continue to protect people from dangers like him!"

"Pikachu, finish this!"

"Braviary, let's end this!"


Lot of work went into this chapter. I'm new at battling scenes, but trust me, I'll get better! Until next time, reviews would be most appreciated.