Misty snapped her fingers, and turned to Ash.
"Now I remember what I was going to ask! Ash, do you have any mental concentration tricks that can be used on someone else?"
"Er… not that I can think of, Misty. Why?"
Misty sighed. "We're heading to that ridiculous Hop-whatever town next, see, and that means I have to deal with Psyduck again. And since he's basically either completely brainless or ridiculously powerful – or both – I dread it."
Ash shrugged. "Aspirin?"
Misty stared at him for a moment, then slapped her forehead with the palm of her hand.
"Don't know why I never thought of that…"
Brock nodded contemplatively. "Either that or Persim berries, if he's just permanently confused."
Either might work, but according to the scans I performed, Psyduck all have constant headaches – I think Misty's one was just unusually severe. Golduck aren't affected, though.
"So Golduck are unaffected by headaches… Hm. Perhaps the evolution is triggered by coming to terms with the headache, rather than the other way around." Ash dug into his bag. "Here we are, the Calm Mind TM that Sabrina gave me!"
Brock looked suspiciously at the disc. "I've never really understood how those work."
Pokémon are transmittable as data over the internet. The comparison is clear.
"Yeah, I suppose, but if so then how do you use one?"
…the only reference I can find on the 'net is "apply directly to forehead". But there's also a caution that it's better to use them as the instructional videos that are contained on them rather than directly in most cases.
"Got it. Hey, Dex, you still have that jailbreak you worked out in Isshu?"
That I do. Usage limit has already been removed, in fact.
"Good to know that's all been worked out. Now, onwards to Hop-Hop-Hop town." Ash made a face. "I think I just lost some of my self esteem by merely saying that."
Misty shrugged. "No great loss."
"So that's the problem. All the Pokémon are just falling asleep."
With a sigh and a thud, Riolu joined the list of Pokémon succumbing to the strange soporific aura of Hop-Hop-Hop town. Pikachu sniffed disdainfully, and gulped down yet another of the Chesto berries he had prepared. He knew it was coming, after all.
Ash smiled gently and changed into his cap, letting Riolu have the more impressive blue hat he had been wearing. The Dark subtype from the hat seemed to work in shielding Riolu, and he awoke soon after.
"Wow!" the local Joy said enthusiastically. "So that's all it takes to cure it?"
"I'd hardly say 'all'…" Ash muttered.
"Oh most astonishingly beautiful, nay, incomprehensibly wonderful-"
Misty removed her fist from Brock's ear. "Get to the point, Casanova."
Brock clambered back to his feet. "The hat's a special one that blocks Psychic powers. That basically proves it's a Pokémon doing this, or a powerful human psychic."
Pikachu raised a forelimb. "We could find out where to go by timing how long it takes Riolu to fall asleep when the hat's taken off in different locations."
Riolu cringed, clutching the brim of the hat in both paws. "But I don't wanna be a piece of scientific apparatus!"
Misty sent out her Starmie, which levitated into the air. "Or we could get Starmie to find the source."
Pikachu shook his head. "No sense of scientific discovery from you people."
The arrayed salarymen blinked as the door banged open. "What-"
Ash stormed in. "You people are irresponsible lunatics! Your answer to insomnia was not something like a pill or medication, or even just relaxing more, but to get a Pokémon to hypnotize you! Hello, Sleep Powder perhaps?"
"And to top it all off, you didn't even consider asking Cresselia, who would doubtless have been happy to help." Ash shook his head, some of the anger gone. "Regardless, you need to stop that, it's driving the children in the town bonkers and the Pokémon narcoleptic. Get a Butterfree… or perhaps anything at all that can learn Yawn. Or Spore. Or Grass Whistle. Or Sing… basically, there should be no need at all to resort to dangerously unshielded psychic powers."
Ash paused, checked something on his Pokédex, and sent out Ivysaur, who promptly put the entire room to sleep with a quick Grass Whistle.
As they left, Ash turned to Ivysaur. "What the hell is your family tree like, anyway, for all these moves?"
"I know of a Charmeleon, a Sableye and a Skarmony in there somewhere. It's more of a family Kudzu…"
"Okay, Psyduck, you remember us now?"
Brock shook his head. "Does that Pokémon know Amnesia, or is this natural?"
The stare shifted to Brock.
He shivered. "That's actually kinda creepy. Does he blink?"
Ash rolled his eyes, drew out the TM and slapped it onto Psyduck's forehead.
There's something coming past the shooting pain in my head, some new knowledge. It feels…
In some undefined way. But that's distant as of yet, wrapped up inside a package of instructions and mental code that seems to be requesting execution.
Well, it isn't as if my head could hurt any worse.
With a mental twitch of pain from the effort, he sent approval.
Execution of packet approved.
Engaging compartmentalization… developing mindscape… setting emotions/stimuli at one remove… done.
Okay, wow. Wow.
I can still feel the headache, but it's… separate. Kind of-
Access restricted. Confirm request of Attack class Psychics?
Oh, I see. Everything's separated, so I have to decide whether to use the headache and its' boost. Wow, that's quite some effect.
Misty fell over in shock.
Ash did a double take. "That actually worked?"
Yes. My word, it's nice to not have a permanent blinding headache.
Brock shrugged. "I'm certainly not complaining. And this means you have a more, er, stable Pokémon, Misty."
Except when I need to use an actual psychic attack. To get that kind of strength means going back to the pain. But I'm OK with that.
"Right!" Misty said, putting her hands on her hips. "Next for you, mister, is swimming lessons!"
Er, I mean, Ow the pain the pain my head is aching.
Ash snickered. "Nice try."
Brock cut off Dexter. "Next, we go and see Suzy, and hopefully I can borrow her Vulpix."
"You've really been looking forward to seeing her again, huh?"
"Both of them. Suzy is, after all, famous, and as for Vulpix… the little darling's an absolute powerhouse, but cute as a button. My Rock types and Crobat are great, y'know, but sometimes you long for a softer approach."
Ash looked faintly confused. "And you are looking for recognition from us why? We're both pretty focussed on battle. Now, if we were in a region with actual contests instead of elimination tourneys with faint themes, then you might get more of a following on that front." Ash then nodded. "Nevertheless, I take your point about Vulpix. I swear it took a week for my eyebrows to grow back."
Brock cradled Vulpix as the trio of humans left Scissor Street. Misty frowned slightly, muttering to herself, "I could swear that took longer last time…"
"Yeah, we seem to be done with Celadon a lot earlier than before."
Not quite. Brock, why not get Vulpix something from the department store?
Misty jumped. "Psyduck! Are you going to keep doing that?"
I hear James' Abra does it all the time.
Brock shrugged. "What do you say, Vulpix? Sound good?"
She considered for a second, then nipped his finger affectionately and barked an affirmative.
"Okay, so what do you want?"
Vulpix trotted along the aisles, searching for the right row. She knew it was supposed to be here somewhere, she'd considered this decision many times before. But now, with Brock again, she wanted him to succeed. She liked him.
So it was an easy choice.
Finding her objective, she cloaked herself in Safeguard and carefully took the Fire Stone in her jaws.
Brock's eyes widened, and he took it from her before her Safeguard wore off. "You sure?"
She barked. "Yes!"
"Well, I suppose it's your choice. Just give me a second to buy it."
Vulpix nodded in exasperation. "I told you I wanted this five minutes ago! Now just hand the stone over, okay? You won't change my mind, and I'm not making a choice I'll regret later. It's time for me to grow up."
Brock tried to say something, choked a little, and put down the Fire Stone.
Slowly, almost reverently, Vulpix trotted over to it. She closed her eyes, and gently pressed her nose against it.
She seemed to flow into her new form, her body enlarging from its' former tiny size and her tails wrapping around one another as a stream of fire licked her. When they unravelled again, there were no longer six short red tails, but nine beautiful long white ones, their tips tinted the orange that the rest of her coat had shed. Caged fire played over her form, accentuating her fur in a slightly unnecessary but very impressive display of Will-O-Wisp.
Upon seeing Brock staring, she smiled gently.
"It's still me in here, silly. And it doesn't look bad on me, no?"
Ash found his voice. "If you ever want to get involved in Contests, Brock… let me know so I can forfeit before the start."
Ash started as something flickered across his field of view. "What the-"
Meowth skidded to a halt on the other side of the road out of Celadon. "Lookin' for this?"
Oh brilliant. I've actually been stolen… kidnapped… I demand a lawyer! Both to resolve this situation, and determine if I count as property…
Meowth shook Dexter.
Shutting up now.
"Hey, give him back!" Ash shouted.
Okay, so you see me as a- Meowth bashed the Pokédex on the ground. Right, right, sorry.
James popped up from the bushes on that side of the path. "That's right, Ash! We've got your Pokédex! But it would be just cruel to take it without any warning, so here's the deal. Catch us if you can!"
The three travellers looked between themselves, and broke into a run.
James frowned for a moment at the trio closing in on him, then snapped his fingers.
Abra materialized in front of the party, and raised his arms. Too bad for you I can't get any peace until this is over. His eyes opened and flared purple. Psywave!
Ash took the brunt of the attack, grabbing Pikachu and Riolu as he fell backwards to stop them flying off. "Erf… damn. That was an air pulse as well as a psychic one, my Dark subtype hat's no help. We can't get past easily."
James winked. "I'll leave you to it then. Bye-bye!" He jogged off further down the path towards the Cycling Road.
Brock crouched over in the road, minimizing the effect of the air pulses. "Any ideas?"
Riolu raised his hand. "I could-"
"No, sorry, we might need you later on. I doubt he's going to be the only obstacle. Hmm… Misty?"
"I think you're the closest we have to a psychic specialist at the moment."
She nodded, and sent out both Psyduck and Starmie. "You guys up for this?"
Sure. Okay, everyone ready? Here we go. Starmie, go for any weak points that develop. I'm not going to be coherent enough.
Confirm activation of combat Psychics?
Psyduck clutched his head as pain flooded his world again, a massive pulse of psychic energy roaring forwards and shattering the Psywave.
Abra gestured, and a series of Light Screens formed in front of him, acting as a deep defence; he then fired out a Charge Beam, bouncing it between the mirrorlike Light Screens to deny his opponents a shot.
Psyduck was at this point incapable of any real skill, drawing deep on his boosted power he simply hammered forward Psychic attack after attack, each shattering a Light Screen with the sheer force – and also sending the Charge Beam wide as it tried to bounce off a 'Screen no longer there.
Starmie hovered above the rest of the group as they made a break for it, before Camouflaging and sneaking back.
The last of the Light Screens shattered, and Abra's raw psychic will clashed violently with Psyduck's. The two energies flashed against one another, sparks of power flying off the direct line between them.
Gradually Abra began to gain the upper hand, forming another shell of Light Screens and rotating them so no one was exposed to Psyduck's smashing attacks long enough to break. With this reduction in the power he had to expend on defence, he began to muster the energy to call for a Future Sight ball…
And was hit in the side by a Hyper Beam crashing through his weakened left defence, where the most recently harmed Light Screens were unable to interdict properly.
Turning angrily on Starmie, he slashed out a Thunderwave, then teleported behind it and launched a Charge Beam from point blank range.
Starmie fell to the ground, gem winking in the red distress signal of its' species.
Now for-eh? Abra looked around; no Psyduck.
Then he looked up - just in time to catch a Disable pulse - and saw, through the crackling energy that locked down his teleport ability, about a thousand gallons of water falling through the air towards him.
Well crap. Night night, see you in the morning…
Water hammered him into unconsciousness.
As they ran, Ash released his two Flying types and the trainers took to the air.
Jessie, watching from up ahead, shook her head. "Naughty, naughty… not at all kosher. Cubone! Smack Down!"
Cubone raised her arms and drew them back.
"My bones are the Earth, my skin is the Sky."
As Pidgeot blasted ahead of her wingmate, Ash saw it first. "Pidgeot, down!"
She reacted just a little too slowly, and the spinning shoulder bone hit her own left wing in the upper humerus with a sickening wrench, dislocating it and sending her into a barely controlled tumble.
Charizard fared a little better, incinerating the oncoming bone, but a followup shower of fingerbones tattered his wings and forced him down.
Ash returned both injured Pokémon to their balls and gave a heartfelt groan. "Brilliant…"
Riolu shook his head to clear it from the dizzying impact, and looked around. Catching a glint of movement, he launched an Aura Sphere into the air where it intercepted a Bonemerang aimed at Pikachu. Catching a vicious downward strike from a Bone Club in his palms, he kicked out at Cubone, knocking her back slightly. "I'll handle her! You carry on!"
Ash clenched his fist and nodded. The three trainers ran off, leaving the two small Pokémon to their duel.
"You think you can beat me? You're still young, little Riolu. Go now and get help."
Riolu replied by forming a Bone Rush staff in his paws. "I'm not going to. I can stop you."
She shook her head. "So noble. I was like that once. But what you have to realize," she spun her Thick Club in her own hands, "is that sometimes ideals are simply impossible. You have to be realistic."
She cast aside her club. "I will show you how outmatched you are by fighting you on an equal level."
"An equal level? What do you mean?"
She declined to answer, instead explaining by demonstration.
"I have wielded the past of thousands…"
Her own Bone Rush staff formed, and she looked it over critically. Then, shockingly suddenly, she lashed out with an overhand attack. Riolu spun his own staff into a two handed grip to knock it aside, and the fight was on.
Cubone was an expert at launching blows her opponent had to match bone to bone, or be unable to dodge. That kind of battering contest seemed to favour neither combatant, both being equally matched in strength and toughness…
Until Riolu's staff snapped.
"What?" He dodged away from the follow up blow that would have knocked him unconscious and formed a pair of short staves. "How did you do that?"
"It's simple. You are not truly able to understand the nature of a bone."
Riolu ducked, dodged and channelled a Force Palm into one of his staves, knocking Cubone back with the blow – but also causing that stave to shatter in turn. "Why is this happening- what do you mean?"
"As I said." Cubone wrenched the other stave out of his grip and snapped it. "You form your constructs out of simple, solid Aura, rather than using it as a base material for a more accurate form of a bone." She paused in her explanation to casually detonate the Aura Sphere he was spinning up with a conjured knucklebone, carefully crafting a Bastiodon skull with her off hand as a shield. "What I do is to exactly replicate the bone of the Pokémon I am basing my technique off. This makes it more able to resist impacts and able to be denser while still light. You cannot hope to match me."
Riolu closed his eyes, engaging his Aura sight. To his dismay, she was right – her crafted bones were exquisitely layered in solid honeycombed with air gaps, making it stronger and lighter than his own simple shapes at the same time.
"But what does that have to do with nobility?"
She looked up with haunted eyes. "Everything. My ability in this did not come from training, or study, or battle – or rather they were not the main catalysts. My entire family was killed not a year ago, when they had relied on me to protect them. That is what gave me this – that I have faced death so closely that I am halfway dead myself through sorrow. That is the only way to know your own mettle – to face into the abyss, and see what part of you stares back.
Serving life, understanding death, but on the razor's edge between the two."
Riolu was shocked. She had seemed so… well, not happy, but forceful, at least before. And now she had explained that lay in her recent past? "I'm… I'm sorry."
"Don't be. Learn from it and don't make the same mistake. You can't trust honour, it's not realistic enough."
At that last, Riolu felt his own inner fire blaze in indignation. "That's not true! I know so many people who have faced death, have even died, and none of them have lost that sense of righteousness! My trainer, Ash Ketchum, is a refutation of your ideals! He's kind, and generous, and never stops trying to do the best he can, and this despite one of the worst lives anyone's ever faced!" Riolu let his Aura flow through his body. "Maybe you're right that that's the only way to know yourself… but maybe you're wrong, too, and either way he's one of those people! And you're also wrong about my ability."
Cubone narrowed her eyes. "Oh?"
"It's true I don't have the kind of knowledge you have… but I know myself and my body, and that's all I need!"
She gave something of a smile. "Very well then, show me!
My past and future collide on the grassy plain.
I ask for only, the Bones of the Hills!"
And suddenly they were somewhere else.
Cubone gestured to the field of bones. "Well? This is the knowledge I faced down Darkrai's stare to win. How can you approach it?"
Riolu made eye contact with her, and reached for a bone to his left.
And as he took it, it came free from the ground like it had never been attached.
Her eyes widened. "How-"
"Simple. I said I understand my body. And that means everything about it, including the locked away potential at its' heart for the fires of evolution to sweep over it. And this bone is a Lucario one. The steel under the skin. It may be yours… but it's also, in every bit the same way, mine."
Riolu charged the bone with his entire Aura reserve, feeling it respond to his soul and accept it, and threw it overarm at Cubone.
She raised her shield to block, and was only partly successful. The shield was unbreakable by any conventional attack, but Riolu had made this attack unconventional. And while it still didn't break the shield, it sent her flying backwards into the curve of the rolling grasslands and the shield lip crashing into her forehead, stunning her into unconsciousness even past the skull armour.
As the forest outside Celadon reappeared, Riolu slumped forward into the grass.
I suppose I'll rest… for now.
AN: Two part battle!
This is the first time Ash and co. get to see just what the Rockets have been doing with their time. There probably won't be many of these, they take up too much time.
The inspiration for the Psychic fight was actually the Zeruel battle from Rebuild of Evangelion, strangely enough. And we now get to see more of Cubone's backstory. She's probably the most tragic character in the fic up to now.