"It's much warmer down here than it was up around Snowpoint," Ash called. "I guess maybe that's why they call Snowpoint, well… Snowpoint!"
"Right!" Brock agreed, as Flygon banked a little closer to Pidgeot so they could talk more easily. "And why they call this Sunyshore."
All three of the flying Pokémon – Flygon, Pidgeot and Latios – pulled up a little, to hop over the last of the mountains over Sunyshore, then began to descend into the bay.
Each of them did it in a slightly different way.
Flygon was the most conventional, shedding altitude and speed smoothly together so he could alight in the park not far from Sunyshore Gym.
Pidgeot showed off a bit more, accelerating so she could flash past the base of Sunyshore Tower before pulling up in a climb. Flaring her wings, she deliberately stalled, then dropped nose-down and did an aileron roll that left white trails off her wingtips.
Arriving right next to the gym, she alighted for her trainer to get off.
"Bit over the top, isn't it?" she asked Latios, who'd just stopped stock still in mid-air directly over the gym before descending like a landing UFO.
"You're one to talk," Latios said, shaking his head.
"I appreciate it," Dawn assured him, giving him a pat. "You're a good friend."
Question, asked Shiny Mesprit, appearing out of Dawn's bag.
"I've got a question as well," Dawn said, shrugging her backpack off and looking at him. "Why are you even in there? If Barry sees you he's going to come up with a whole new type of crazy theory."
I asked first, the Shiny Mesprit said. So I should be answered first. That is manners. Manners are important.
"Is this what it's always like for you, Ash?" Dawn asked. "I shouldn't have to ask, but… somehow, I do."
"Having a Legendary hiding in a bag is kind of new?" Ash said, thinking. "It might have happened a couple of times."
What does it mean that this was beeping? Shiny Mesprit added, holding up an egg container.
"Oh, that means it's about to hatch," Brock said. "It's not beeping though."
Muted it, Shiny Mesprit said. Did not want to disturb Latios during a difficult landing.
"That's… technically a concern," Latios hedged, as Dawn took the egg container and undid the top. "But not really, not with the training my sister and I have been doing the last few years."
Still, the Shiny declared.
Dawn's egg wiggled back and forth a bit, then glowed, then suddenly there was a giant bird standing there.
"Oh, huh," Dawn said, looking up at the Pokémon that was about a foot taller than her. "A Skarmory?"
"Hi!" the Skarmory said, in a voice which translated into an alto. "So, um, it's nice to meet you?"
She fluttered her wings, which made a sort of chiming sound. "I've been listening for a while, obviously, that's how eggs work, but I didn't understand most of it."
"Good luck with that," Brock told her. "We sometimes have trouble."
"Welcome to the world," Piplup said, offering a flipper. "I'm Piplup. I'm in charge around here."
The Steel-type bent down, looking at him, then up at Dawn. "Is he?"
"He likes to think he is," Dawn said.
"This really isn't the sort of support I expect someone to give their boss," Piplup noted critically.
Skarmory sniggered, then bounced from foot to foot. "So, where's Ash?"
"That's me," Ash said, holding up his hand.
"Huh..." Skarmory mused. "I thought you were a Lucario, for some reason."
"We get that a lot," Pikachu confided.
Lucario emerged from his Pokéball. "Well, he does know all those Pokémon moves," he said. "And I am Ash's trainer."
"Can that happen?" Skarmory asked. "Is this another of those things I missed?"
"He's being facetious," Pikachu told her.
"...sorry, I don't know that word."
As Pikachu tried to explain, an odd-looking vehicle scooted up to them without any engine noise. Then the door opened, and Volkner got out.
There was nobody else inside, but the vehicle drove away as soon as Volkner shut the door.
"You must be Ash Ketchum," he said. "I was wondering when you'd turn up!"
"Huh?" Ash asked. "You were waiting for me?"
"Of course I was waiting for you," Volkner replied. "You've done amazing things for the Electric-type – and for automation – so the only reason I'm not just giving you my badge straight away is that I want to see what battling with you is like."
Update, said a synthesized voice. Current power usage at fifty-six point three percent of total capacity.
"Thanks, Minerva," Volkner said. "I won't need an update until after the end of the Gym battle, though."
"You keep track of how much power the city's using?" Brock asked.
"I want to make sure that there's always enough power to go around," Volkner explained. "And to see when the power usage is the highest compared to generation. If it's during the day, we need more solar panels, but if it's at night then we need something else."
He took a tablet out of his pocket and waved it at the Gym doors, which beeped and opened. "So, come on – let's get on with it!"
"Huh," Pikachu said, as Volkner led the way into the gym.
"Something unusual?" Lucario asked.
"Just that last time around he was kind of… less willing to battle?" Pikachu asked, then shrugged. "We did change a lot."
"It sounds like he's got a Porygon, that might be part of it," Latios said. "Weren't there basically no Porygon around last time?"
"Yeaah," Pikachu agreed. "That's… kind of my fault, I think."
"You must be very good at battling," Skarmory said, looking around her with great interest. "Do all humans live in buildings like this? I've never actually seen the inside of a house before."
"This is more of a gym than a house," Lucario told her.
"I thought Pokémon could see through the sides of their eggs before they hatched?" Brock asked. "A little bit, anyway."
"Yes!" Skarmory agreed, bobbing her head, then looked a bit embarrassed when her feathers scraped on the side of a door. "Oops… and yes, we can! So I've seen a lot of the inside of Dawn's bag!"
"...that is a good point," Dawn admitted.
The main battle room of the Sunyshore Gym turned out to be circular, a lot like the shape of the building itself, and had seats around the outside separated from the main battle area by a wall.
"I think we'll be using the trainer spots up here," Volkner said, waving, and two of the seats around the outside flashed green. "I suspect you'd be okay on the main battle floor, but I wouldn't be."
"I do kind of have a reputation," Ash admitted, looking around. "How durable is this place?"
"It's modular," Volkner told him. "There's some spare parts underground. The servos to bring them up to the surface do need a lot of power, but that's what spare capacity is for."
He tapped his tablet, and a virtual image of Ash's known Pokémon appeared.
"This will be a match with, hmm..." Volkner began, then paused.
A swipe on the tablet screen, and the Pokémon were separated out by Type. Then another, and Volkner scrolled down to the Electric type.
"Four Pokémon," Volkner concluded. "At least half of them must be Electric types."
Pikachu glanced up at Ash.
"Are you sure he's reading that right?" the Electric type checked.
Ash frowned. "Pikachu's got a point… you know that means you'll be battling both him and Raikou, right?"
"Of course," Volkner replied, sounding vaguely offended. "Why else do you think I asked? I'd have said six Pokémon if you'd found a third Electric-type."
"Well, okay..." Ash said.
He was about to ask Dexter for a link, but his enhanced Pokédex just projected a similar virtual map in front of him.
Raikou is already contacted, Dexter informed him. You'd better pick your other two choices.
"And after Volkner's somewhere else!" Pikachu added.
He glanced up. "I know there are cameras in this place, but it's the principle of the thing!"
"Ready?" Dawn called, a few minutes later.
"Isn't that my job?" Brock checked.
"I've been watching you do it," Dawn countered. "It's not rocket surgery."
Brock gave her an odd look. "Do you mean rocket science or brain surgery?"
"No, I mean rocket surgery," she told him. "As in, it's not got an almost unavoidable risk of everything going horribly wrong."
"Ready!" Raikou announced loudly. "Now come on, cry havoc and let slip the dog of war!"
"Merely quite a high risk," Dawn amended.
"I've chosen my Pokémon, so I'm ready," Volkner said.
Dawn slashed her hand down. "Then begin!"
The moment Dawn officially gave the go-ahead, Raikou burst into motion.
Volkner's Pokémon hadn't even come out of the Pokéball yet, so there was nothing to attack, but Raikou started running at speed around the edge of the battle arena. He was watching as the Pokéball actually sent out its passenger – a Luxray – and immediately changed course to go charging in. "Tally ho!"
Luxray sprang into the air, sparks crackling around him, and passed over Raikou's high-speed Tackle attack. Undeterred, Raikou spun around and blasted out a Thunderbolt, one which Luxray countered with an electrically charged paw of his own in a Spark attack.
The resultant explosion knocked Luxray back a bit, but the feline landed on his paws before crouching slightly – tail lashing – and launching into motion again.
Raikou broke into a run as well, not letting Luxray attack him on the other Pokémon's terms, and shrugged his shoulders as he moved. One of the signs in his bundle slipped neatly clear, and he juggled it into his muzzle before sliding around in a turn and swinging it at Luxray.
There was a terrible hissing-buzzing sound, Luxray's jaws flashed with incandescent blue-white flame, and he bit the sign in half. Both halves caught fire instantly, and Raikou let go of the handle before the flame could travel up to reach him.
"Blighter!" he bellowed. "Oh, calamity!"
Luxray's jaws clashed, the hissing and buzzing continuing, and then he jumped at Raikou. Raikou darted to the side again, but this time he suddenly felt clumsy – like he hadn't quite jumped when he meant to.
In fact, it was more like everything felt slightly off. His muscles, his senses… Raikou was entirely unsure what was going on, but he knew he certainly wasn't a fan.
"Get back here!" Luxray demanded, sparks flashing over his fur, and he boosted his movement with a snap of electrical bleed-off. Raikou countered by using Extremespeed, charging right back in again, but when Luxray darted around to the side Raikou wasn't quite able to react in time.
He should have reacted in time, but it was like his reflexes needed recalibrating.
"What's going on?" Ash asked. "Raikou's having trouble, and he shouldn't be… Pikachu?"
"There's a lot of electrical interference going on?" Pikachu suggested.
He held out his tail, moved his ears, and his cheeks sparked slightly. "Yep."
"So..." Ash began, thinking, then Raikou ran all the way across the arena in a blur of blinding speed.
He skidded to a halt just before reaching the far wall, turned, and roared. "Cad!"
Luxray used Charge, electricity fizzing over his fur and leaking out of the points of his mane, and then – the very moment that Raikou began to attack again – Luxray reactivated his strange, hissing Fire Fang. He jumped into the air with a burst of electrically-boosted strength, then fired a Discharge down at the ground as Raikou gathered himself for a spring, and though the attack itself shouldn't have done anything to Raikou it did seem to have a strange effect.
Raikou's leaping pounce went off wrong, and he missed connecting with Luxray entirely – something which made him shout something rude – before crashing into the ground after not-quite-landing-right.
"Plasma!" Pikachu realized, as Luxray landed lightly and Raikou rolled upright. "It's the Fire Fang – or, it's not the only thing doing it, but the Fire Fang is part of it."
"Isn't that that organization N was part of?" Ash asked, but he was already opening Dexter up to check what it actually was.
"Stop doing that!" Raikou demanded.
"Doing what?" Luxray asked, snickering.
"You know very well what!" Raikou countered. "I don't, but you do, and that's good enough for me!"
"Raikou!" Ash called. "Luxray's making electrical interference – can you ignore your electrical senses?"
"So that's what's going on," Raikou grumbled. "Be like trying to ignore your paws..."
He focused a Shadow Ball in his mouth and fired it at Luxray, and the other Electric-type didn't try to make him miss with a quick burst of electricity just before he fired.
Instead Luxray's entire fur lit up with lines of hissing plasma, and the Shadow Ball went completely berserk – flying up into the air, pausing, then slamming into the ground and exploding.
"And what the deuce was that, then?" Raikou asked, simmering.
"Plasma stealth!" Volkner told him. "By flooding the air with charged ions, the attacks become charged as well and they can be-"
"That's not a thing!" Pikachu interrupted. "That's not how plasma works, and it's not how stealth works!"
Volkner checked his tablet, then shrugged. "Empirical evidence seems to disagree."
"This feels like he's cheating, by thunder!" Raikou declared, and began barraging a continuous ripple of Shock Wave attacks at Luxray. Each one of them was a different variant, one of them a seeking arc of lightning that coiled and struck like a live thing, then the next was an expanding sphere of electricity and the one after that a flat plane that moved towards Luxray like a flyswatter.
Each one fell apart as Luxray pulsed his plasma countermeasures, the sudden surges and dips in electrical interference sending the successive Shock Waves scattering in all directions, and Raikou grumbled before slapping the ground with his paw – only to nearly pratfall over from the effects of another static pulse.
"I'm starting to dislike you," Raikou announced airily, breaking into a run around the edge of the arena – but going nowhere near as fast as he could, in case Luxray decided to try and make him run into a wall.
"Raikou!" Ash called. "Rest!"
"You mean give up?" Raikou demanded. "Never!"
"No, the move, Rest!" Ash clarified.
"Oh, right," the Electric-type realized.
He crossed his eyes for a moment, then his eyes closed and he started snoring.
"That was quick," Lucario said. "Why is he still running?"
"Entei told me once that they do this on long ocean journeys," Pikachu supplied. "It must be kind of worrying if you're on a ship and a snoozing Legendary Beast goes past, though."
"He hasn't woken up yet..." Volkner said, half to himself. "That must mean Ash is planning something."
That sounds likely.
"Be ready to react, Luxray," Volkner added. "This is going to be something unexpected."
"Sleep Talk!" Ash ordered, and Raikou used Extremespeed. Because of how he happened to be moving in a circle, he surged forwards straight into the retaining wall with a crunch.
"That wasn't very effective..." the Gym Leader heard Ash's Lucario say, as Raikou wobbled a bit before ending up facing towards the middle of the gym.
He had to admit, it hadn't been what he expected. Though it had at least got Raikou to turn around.
Ash ordered Raikou to use Sleep Talk again, and this time the Legendary used Thunder. A blast of electrical energy flicked out towards Luxray, went wide as Luxray repulsed it with a plasma burst, and blasted a small hole in the floor.
"Make a note, Minerva," Volkner said.
Booking appointment with refurbishment company.
"Now, Luxray, use Plasma Fang," he added, and Luxray loped forwards.
"Sleep Talk!" Ash called.
Luxray's movements slowed, and he watched for a moment as Raikou began moving forwards for some kind of physical attack. He gave it a second, then released a static burst, and Raikou wasn't thrown off in the slightest.
Even though Luxray had been meant to be ready for anything, he'd still expected the disruptive effect to actually work on Raikou. The fact it didn't meant that Luxray was caught by surprise, and Raikou's sheer momentum bowled him over before he was able to recover and dart out of the way.
"Stay distant," Volkner advised. "Use plasma stealth to block ranged attacks, and keep hitting him with Thunderbolts. He can't keep going forever."
Minerva flashed up a reminder that sometimes the Legendary Beasts would run the length of the country to deliver urgent messages.
"Right," Volkner admitted. "It might take a while."
"Sleep Talk!" Ash instructed.
Raikou fired out an Aura Sphere, which Luxray burst with a flash of electricity, and then Ash's Pokémon blinked a couple of times and shook himself.
"Awake again!" he announced loudly. "Don't suppose we won yet?"
"Afraid not," Ash admitted. "I do have this other idea, though."
"Well, I'm all ears," Raikou mused.
"Flood your own fur with electricity," Ash explained. "Copy his trick – make enough static constantly that it's just white noise! Then you can fight physically, and it'll be annoying but there won't be any flashes!"
"Now that's something I can get behind!" Raikou boomed. "If there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's how many problems can be solved by shouting loudly enough!"
Lightning crawled over his fur, and a sort of shivery feeling filled the air.
Over by the side, Skarmory spread her wings and looked with interest at the static patterns forming on them.
"Is this usual?" she asked.
"Not… really," Dawn replied, looking back and forth between Skarmory and the battle. "Though it might be normal for Skarmory. I've never really interacted with one much before."
"It's sort of tingly," Skarmory said, then carefully brushed her wingtips together. There was a pop and a sizzle, and she fell over backwards.
"Are you okay?" Dawn asked, going to help pull her back upright before immediately realizing it wasn't going to help more than very slightly.
"I don't think I'm bad," Skarmory told her carefully, shifting to get a foot underneath her and push herself back upright. "But I won't do that again when my wings are tingly like that. I learned something today."
Dawn chuckled. "That sounds like a good lesson, I suppose."
"There!" Raikou declared, now almost hidden behind fluffed-out fur that was emitting sparks and buzzing almost constantly. "Now we fight like real mon!"
He crouched and charged, each step sending out a continuous staccato crackle of discharges, and Luxray's fangs flashed with fire as he charged in as well.
Every time they made contact, there was a flash-bang as both lost some of their accumulated charge and the electrical pulse hurled them away from one another. Raikou landed and skidded as his paws ran on the smooth floor, slowing his movement before pelting back into the fight again, and Luxray's claws scraped a little as he used them to shed excess speed more directly.
Both Pokémon started fast and got faster, the explosions of discharging electricity more frequent, and for almost twenty seconds they snarled and clashed back and forth trying to gain a decisive advantage.
Then there was a particularly loud bang, and Raikou disappeared upwards through the roof.
"...huh," Ash said, closing one eye so he could see through the roof. "Does that count as a ring out?"
"Hold on, that's in my rules somewhere," Volkner replied. "Minerva?"
Before they got a response, Raikou came right back down through the roof again. He landed directly on top of Luxray with a thundrous boom, shaking the ground, and shook himself before stepping off and laughing.
"Good fight!" he announced, then poked Luxray with his paw. "You okay?"
"Luxray is unable to battle," Dawn said, looking closely. "But who won?"
Going through the roof when it is not opened qualifies as ring out, Minerva informed them, sounding regretful. That is because you need to say you are doing it in advance. Otherwise the repair bills would be more extensive than they are.
"Well, it's an unusual sort of defeat, but I'll allow it!" Raikou declared, and poked Luxray again. "Do we need some sort of electric spatula?"
Volkner simply used his Pokéball to Return Luxray, and that sorted things out so that there was no longer a Luxray on the field.
"So… I'm going next, right?" Pikachu asked.
"Not yet," Ash told him. "I don't want it to be two Electric-types, then two non-Electric types, it'll make it obvious to him when I'm sending out what Pokémon."
"But-" Pikachu began.
"You realize that if you don't look at least slightly happy about that you'll make the strategy not work?" Lucario pointed out.
"I guess," Pikachu admitted, perking his ears up. "Besides, I'm still getting a battle today, so there's that!"
Ash reached for one of his Pokéballs, and looked up. "Ready?"
"Of course," Volkner replied.
Ash promptly threw his Pokéball, which rose high into the air before bursting, and Volkner sent out his own Pokémon a little more sedately at the same time. That meant Ash's Metagross finished materializing just after Volkner's Pokémon, which was a low-slung Galvantula with static discharges around its forelegs.
"It's kind of strange to think that a Pokémon like that evolves from a tiny Joltik," Pikachu said. "It's not all that high, but it is big and broad."
"And… begin!" Dawn called.
Ash's Metagross promptly advanced, their four legs stomping in an alternating pattern, and lashed out with a Meteor Mash attack at Volkner's Galvantula. The Electric-type countered by raising one of his own legs and kicking out, electrical currents curling around it, and the two legs met with a flash.
And both stopped.
"That doesn't seem normal," Lucario said, leaning forwards as the two pseudoarachnids wrestled back and forth, limbs trembling slightly with neither of them able to get the advantage. "There's no way that Galvantula is that strong."
"Sorry, but you have met me, right?" Pikachu asked. "Or Brock's Happiny? Small Pokémon can be very strong."
"No, I get it too," Ash added.
He pointed at the ground, which was creaking slightly where Metagross slid their other three legs across for better leverage… and wasn't creaking where Galvantula's legs were.
"Then – oh!" Pikachu realized. "It's those coils of electricity!"
"Look out, Metagross!" Ash called. "That Galvantula's making an electromagnet!"
"Fire!" Volkner ordered.
A pulse of Discharge ran through the coils Galvantula had already set up, and the much smaller Bug-type launched Metagross backwards and flipped them over.
Metagross' eyes glowed, catching themselves before they crashed to the ground, and flipped over to land with all four limbs touching down gently at the same time.
"Stay at a distance," Ash added. "Those electromagnet attacks might be short ranged, so that would help!"
"Confirmed," Metagross both said and broadcast. The X-shape on their face lit up, and they fired out a Psychic attack that made the air visibly ripple.
Quick as a flash, Galvantula fired String Shots at the ceiling. The two cables shot up and stuck in place, and Galvantula pulled himself up and out of the way before detaching one cable and leaving the other in place.
He spat a Sticky Web at Metagross, then used another jet of String Shot to pull himself onto the nearest wall and stuck there at right angles to the ground.
Metagross tracked across to face Galvantula like a swivelling gun turret, X-shape still glowing, and raised a leg before punching to volley a Psyshock right at Galvantula.
By the time the attack landed, Galvantula had left the area again. The impact blew out one of the panels on the gym wall, but the whole of the wall under that panel sort of shifted – each wall panel moving up by one, with a new one coming out from the point where the floor reached the wall to fill in the gap that formed there.
"That's kind of neat," Ash said, then returned his attention to the battle.
"I am having difficulties," Metagross informed him, sounding somewhat embarrassed about the fact, and used a pulse of Psychic to clear out the Electrowebs and Sticky Webs starting to surround them. "Close in combat problematic. Ranged combat problematic. Options?"
"I think..." Ash began, then snapped his fingers. "You know Sandstorm, right? Then use it!"
Metagross duly used Sandstorm, starting out by summoning a rock with Rock Tomb before crushing it to tiny pieces with a single stomp. That gave them the raw materials to turn into a psychically-controlled sandstorm, one which filled most of the arena with flying grit and particles.
"Your job is to say when the battle stops?" Skarmory asked Dawn, looking at her and then out into the sandstorm.
"Yeah, or, it can be," Dawn replied. "It's kind of like that, but these two are both really experienced so they can handle some of it themselves."
"I was wondering how you were going to be able to see what was happening!" Skarmory told her.
She spread a wing out, watching as the feathers passed through the edge of a telekinetic barrier (courtesy of Mesprit, or possibly Latios) and began to tremble as particles from the sandstorm hit them.
"That feels interesting," she informed Brock, Dawn, and anyone else who was listening. "It's also tingly, but in a different way to the static."
"Steel types like you don't take damage from Sandstorm," Brock told her. "It helps you out, instead of making things worse for you."
As he spoke, Metagross launched a Psyshock attack, and Galvantula used String Shot to dodge. It didn't seem quite as efficient as before, but it still let him get out of the way, and Brock frowned.
"The only question is what Ash is going to have Metagross do now," he went on. "The sandstorm needs to be denser to hide what Metagross is doing, but if it gets that dense Metagross won't be able to see Galvantula either."
"Make the sandstorm stronger!" Ash called. "More grit!"
There was a crunch noise, sort of like gravel being ground against itself, and the sandstorm duly got thicker.
"Ash can see through solid objects," Dawn pointed out. "But we can't. I… think I might not be able to call this one."
"You're going to need to act like the weaker Pokémon, and do ambush stuff," Ash said, trying to explain to Metagross the realization he'd come to.
The swirling sound of sand in the air was loud enough that he wasn't sure if Metagross could hear him, but that was about the only way to prevent Galvantula from hearing him.
"And keep the sand up," Ash added, raising his voice this time. "Be ready to attack in front of you when I say."
Lucario sniffed. "This whole seeing through solid objects thing seems kind of impolite. I won't stand for it."
"So how are you going to fight your next battle?" Pikachu asked.
"I'll make a major sacrifice, and not wear a blindfold," Lucario informed him.
Ash tried not to grin, focusing the majority of his attention on the Pokémon in the sandstorm.
Metagross was slowly turning left and then right, stomping one way and then the other, and Galvantula was mostly staying on the ceiling.
Or… almost on the ceiling. Ash looked closer, seeing that Galvantula was actually suspended by a String Shot rather than actually on the ceiling itself, and frowned before coming to a sudden decision.
"Gravity!" he called. "Then attack!"
Metagross used Gravity, and Ash went oof as he felt his weight suddenly double before his boots could compensate. The sand in the sandstorm rippled a bit, some of the heavier grains raining out as they abruptly weighed more than the wind could support, and Galvantula's String Shot snapped under the extra load.
The sound of the snap was lost in the rushing rumble of sand grains suddenly landing, but Metagross knew when they had intensified the gravitational force in the arena and they knew how much it had been increased by. That gave them a model of how much Galvantula had fallen, and since Ash had said to attack in front of them there was only one place where Galvantula could be.
Metagross lashed out with a psionically-enhanced Stomp, pushing their Psyshock through it in case it was out of direct contact range, and kicked Galvantula into the far wall.
"Ouch," Pikachu said faintly. "That sounded painful."
"It looked painful," Lucario replied.
"I thought seeing through solid objects wasn't polite?" Pikachu asked, curious now.
"I'm sometimes quite bad with manners," Lucario countered.
"Galvantula?" Volkner asked, then paused. "Okay, it looks like Galvantula can't battle."
"Metagross wins that match!" Dawn called. "Can you get rid of the sandstorm so we can see what's going on?"
"And turn the gravity down again," Pikachu requested.
"Okay, so now the choice is whether to use you in this battle or the next one," Ash said, thinking about it.
"Well, even if this one's a victory and it doesn't involve me, I'll still be doing an important part of the battle," he decided. "Because Raikou lost."
Raikou exploded out of his Fast Ball. "Only on a technicality, blast it!"
"I will," Pikachu assured him. "I kind of want to show him what the Electric type can really do. But… well, you pick, Ash."
Ash nodded, then held out one arm for Pikachu to climb onto and got a Pokéball in the other.
"I'm ready," he said.
"Good," Volkner replied.
"Both of you send out your Pokémon on three," Dawn told them. "And I mean on three, not one-two-three-go. One, two, three!"
Ash threw his Pokéball, and Glalie came out of it in a flash. Volkner's Pokéball burst open as well, this time seeming to just flip over and get a lot bigger as an Electrode came out.
"Ballin'," Glalie announced, a blue light glowing between his horns.
"Begin!" Dawn added, and Electrode promptly spun up before bursting forwards in a charge.
It pulsed a ring of electricity around itself, jumping into the air, and Glalie yelped. His horns glowed more brightly, and an ice Talonflame burst out of the point of connection to smash into Electrode.
That was just enough to prevent Electrode hitting Glalie himself, though the Electric-type did promptly use Discharge and some of the omnidirectional electrical burst caught Glalie regardless.
"Make sure that ice is as dry as you can make it!" Ash reminded Glalie.
"I see – oh! Two!" Glalie called, making two Ice Geodudes to drop at Electrode. Thunderbolts flashed out, smashing them both, and then Electrode followed up with a Shock Wave that reached out for Glalie like a living thing.
Ice crashed, forming a solid barrier around Glalie that deflected the attack, and Electrode kept firing attacks which Glalie countered with increasingly large spherical barriers.
"Those don't look much like Pokémon," Lucario observed critically.
"They're Voltorbs!" Glalie told him, voice muffled by the ice. "Now, take this!"
The what-was-apparently-an-Ice-Voltorb shattered into snowy fragments, and where it had been was a nearly-transparent and beautifully realized ice sculpture of Groudoun.
"...what," Electrode asked, looking at the sculpture hovering overhead.
"No, watts are for electricity!" Glalie told him, and dropped the mass of ice.
It hit with a massive crash, shaking the arena floor and sending icy shards in all directions, and Ash flung up his arm automatically in case any of the shards actually hit him.
A long moment later, he lowered it to see what had happened.
The floor was a complete mess, mostly because of smashed and fractured ice everywhere – tons of it – and smaller flakes of what wasn't quite snow were drifting down throughout the gym arena.
And, in the middle of it, was Volkner's Electrode. Buried in a snowdrift and quite clearly not moving.
"Can Electrode continue battling?" Dawn asked, waited a few seconds, then swept her hand across. "Good enough for me. Glalie wins that one!"
"I feel like something didn't go quite right there," Glalie mused.
"Actually, this brings back memories," Pikachu reminisced. "Rustboro, for instance."
"Minerva, can you clear some of this up?" Volkner requested, holding out his Pokéball and returning Electrode.
Indeed, Minerva agreed, and the central area of the gym floor trembled. The tiles making it up all moved independently, tilting and lowering to form a well shape, and the ice went sluicing down into the internals of the Sunyshore Gym.
"That's all going to the drains?" Volkner checked, and got an affirmative tick symbol on his pad. "Okay, then that just means I need to have my final Pokémon ready."
He swept his fingers back up the pad screen, and the floor returned smoothly to the original configuration before locking the tiles in place.
"This should be interesting," he added, picking the appropriate Pokéball. "Raichu!"
"Okay, here we go," Pikachu said, ears twitching, and jumped down from Ash's shoulder. He tucked into a roll upon landing, pushed himself back upright with his tail, and slid for a little before coming to a halt.
"Show off!" Lucario heckled.
"Are you going to keep doing that for the whole battle?" Pikachu asked him.
"Technically I haven't done it for any of the battle yet," Lucario said, deftly using Counter. "But when you get started I'm sure I'll do something."
"Everyone's a critic," Pikachu grumbled, then faced his opponent.
Volkner's Raichu wasn't an Alolan Raichu, which was good news, though (as Pikachu himself could say from experience) that didn't necessarily mean no psychic powers or anything.
He raised a paw and gave Pikachu a cheerful little wave. "Hi."
Pikachu waved back, then slid into a good stance.
"You both know how this works," Dawn called out. "Begin!"
Raichu immediately used Agility, blurring forwards and twisting to bring his tail around in an Iron Tail attack. Pikachu brought his own tail up to block, also using Iron Tail, and the two attacks collided with a fizz and a fat pop that sent blue electrical sparks everywhere.
Pikachu reached out to grab Raichu's tail, but the other Electric-type was just about too fast to let Pikachu get a grip. It slipped through his paws, then Raichu's paw came in in a Brick Break and Pikachu blocked it with his own.
Blue Aura glowed around him, rising off in little wisps like mist off a pond, and Raichu didn't have the same advantage but was still in excellent condition. He simply had more mass, as well, and the fighting went back-and-forth three or four times in a complex blur of close-in paw-to-paw combat before Pikachu finally got a break – using his tail and hindpaws for leverage, he knocked Raichu into the air, and followed after him quickly enough to knock him back to the floor with a slam.
"Magnet-!" Volkner called, and Raichu used Magnet Rise quickly enough that the field was coming up before he hit the ground. It didn't let him get away from the attack scot-free, but it did reduce the impact, and he bounced once before landing on his hindpaws and collapsing the field.
"Let's try ranged," Volkner added.
"Oh, good," Pikachu grumbled. "Someone with more than one plan."
He channelled Aura to his paws and broke into an Agility-boosted sprint, chasing after Raichu because Raichu didn't want to keep fighting him close-in, but his opponent was very nearly as fast as he was.
Two blurs went chasing all over the arena, the orange one jinking to the side or bouncing in unpredictable directions when it reached a wall or ceiling and the yellow one following with quicker cornering and faster sprints once it realized where the orange one was going.
"Aura Sphere, Pikachu!" Ash called. "Chasing him like this you're not getting a chance to actually attack!"
"Point taken!" Pikachu agreed, sliding to a halt. He raised his tail, switching it back into Iron Tail, then formed an Aura Sphere in both paws – half his attention on Raichu while he did, in case the other Electric-type was going to try something.
Raichu had stopped moving once Pikachu had, taking up a position at the other end of the fighting area. His cheeks sparked as he watched Pikachu, but he seemed content to see what was about to happen.
That made both Ash and Pikachu suspicious.
After a moment's thought, Pikachu threw the Aura Sphere anyway – hurling it high into the air – and followed up with a Swift attack, sending a dozen stars hurtling through the air at once so they came in to converge on Raichu just after the homing Aura Sphere arrived.
Ash almost missed what happened next.
As the attacks got closer, Raichu used Light Screen – forming a half-seen shield of translucent energy to protect himself. Then little bolts of electricity like Thundershocks pulsed out, staccato rapid-fire, first dispersing the Aura Sphere into a cloud of unfocused Aura and then hitting and shattering every last one of the Swift stars.
"Okay, what just happened?" Pikachu demanded, then yelped as Raichu decided to return fire. A Signal Beam shot out, then another, and Pikachu dodged both of them before starting to jink back and forth instead of just standing still.
"He stopped the attacks with little shocks of electricity," Ash replied.
"All of them?"
"I know," Ash said. "That's what happened, though."
"Right," Pikachu decided.
He spun around to face the near wall and batted away Raichu's latest Signal Beam attack with an Iron Tail, then slammed two Aura Spheres together to create a cloud of seeker spheres. They spread out and began to home in, and Pikachu combined two more Aura Spheres for a second cloud.
Finally, he lashed out with a Shockwave just as the seeker spheres were about to arrive, picking the fastest variant he had, and both he and Ash watched closely.
"That's working, I think!" Ash said. "The first ones hit his Light Screen, then the rest got blocked with thundershocks."
"Right!" Pikachu decided, and formed a Counter Shield – the interlocking lattice of bolts forming a dense enough grid that Raichu's Signal Beam counterattack couldn't get through. "I know just what to do now!"
"This is always a treat to watch," Latios squeaked. "Some of the others back at the ranch are watching now."
"Really?" Dawn asked, surprised. "So… that must mean Latias is there? Who's at Altomare?"
"Suicune, I think," Latios said.
He thought for a moment, then nodded – not that Dawn could see that. "The canals were getting a bit smelly, so she suggested she could clean them out. It's nice of her."
Pikachu formed the familiar three rings of electricity, interlocking them like a set of gimbals, and spun them around in a complex pattern.
"Is there any actual specific pattern he uses?" Brock asked. "Maybe Dexter knows."
"Pikachu's done this move enough that maybe Volkner knows," Dawn replied, then frowned. "Actually… hold on. Volkner has to know this move exists. He doesn't look worried-"
"Now!" Volkner called.
Raichu's tail stood straight up, and he pushed a massive pulse of voltage through it. The same waves of static Luxray had been producing earlier came out, but there was also a staccato rhythm of more intense spikes which produced visible corona discharges.
Over on Pikachu's side of the field, something went wrong. Each pulse came when two of the rings for Volt Crash were overlapping, and the stutter of electromagnetic hash threw off Pikachu's timing… then the innermost two rings locked together and started moving like they were just one ring.
Pikachu could barely tell what Raichu was trying to do, let alone work out how to stop it on a moments' notice, and the whole Volt Crash move unravelled a second later in an explosion that liberated all the built-up energy at once.
Pikachu was right at the focus.
"What the – what just happened?" Ash demanded, his arm flung half-up in automatic reaction, and closed one eye to see through the smoke – sighing in relief when he saw Pikachu still there, though his Starter didn't exactly look like he'd had a good time. "It just exploded!"
Analyzing, Dexter announced, holographic overlays forming on either side of his main screen. One showed the last second or two before the explosion again, the other showed just the rings of the Volt Crash and paused at the moment when two of them locked together.
Well, that explains it, the Porygon-Z said. Pikachu suffered from gimbal lock.
"I guess that means he can't use Volt Crash in this battle," Ash decided. "Pikachu, are you doing okay?"
"I think so," Pikachu replied, then coughed. "You'd think I'd be more used to being inside an explosion."
His cheeks crackled, and a rush of static charged up all the particles in the dust clouds around him. They repelled one another and rushed apart, most of them going all the way to the edge of the room, and Ash finally got a good look without having to use Aura.
Pikachu's fur was kind of a mess. It stuck up at odd angles – it looked like he'd been electrocuted, in fact – and there were a few scorch marks around his cheeks, which made Ash wince at the sight.
"Signal Beam!" Volkner ordered promptly, and his Raichu sent out a Signal Beam at Pikachu. It got close before Pikachu restarted his Counter Shield, blocking the attack with a web of interlocking lightning bolts, and Pikachu snorted.
"Nice try," he informed Raichu, then looked over at Ash. "Okay, so saturating the defences didn't work… any ideas?"
"Well, if I were in the battle as well I'd throw you at him," Lucario suggested.
"I could try firing myself, but with how this battle's been going I'd launch myself through the roof," Pikachu predicted. "Still, it's an option?"
Ash was thinking hard, but coming up blank.
It was pretty obvious by now that Volkner had been researching both Ash and Pikachu, plus a lot of the rest of his team, so if Pikachu pulled out one of the other moves he had which was a rarely-seen trick the most likely outcome was that Raichu knew how to counter that as well.
...which suddenly made at least part of the solution really obvious.
"Pikachu!" Ash called. "We're going to have to put together something new! Use Agility and get moving fast, and keep that shield up!"
Well, now you know that you are managing to push Ash Ketchum, Minerva observed.
"That is true," Volkner agreed. "How current is the building insurance?"
We are insured against anything to do with currents.
Volkner blinked. "That's… not quite what I asked, but it does answer my question. Thank you."
"Aura Sphere, Pikachu!" Ash called. "Lots of little ones, delayed impact!"
Pikachu waited a moment before following the instruction – just long enough to fend off a blast of Signal Beam which hit his Counter Shield – and spun up two Aura Spheres, one in each paw, before smashing them together and throwing the resultant cloud of nascent miniature Spheres directly away from Raichu.
"Now close in!" Ash added. "Connect yourself to him with Shock Wave, and close the distance!"
"Oh, right!" Pikachu replied, realizing what Ash was going for, and skidded around in a tight turn before darting after Raichu. The gym Pokémon started to run as well, just like before, but this time Pikachu had an advantage – he wasn't the only one chasing Raichu, and he kept an eye on the fusillade of glowing Aura Spheres he'd launched while lashing continuously at Raichu with Shock Wave bolts.
If there'd just been the cloud of spheres, Raichu could have run at full speed away from them to give him longer to fight them – letting him hit some of them with deliberately aimed Thundershocks, now his point defences weren't working, or simply spacing out the impacts on his Light Screen. And if there'd been just Pikachu, Raichu could have run and jinked and kept himself far enough from Pikachu just like before.
But with both, Volkner's Pokémon had to compromise. And he compromised by suddenly halting halfway up the wall, a reversed Magnet Rise field flaring up around him to let him shed all his speed at once, and lashing his Iron Tail out to cut the thread of Shock Wave attacks streaming towards him from Pikachu.
That gave him back his point defences, for just a moment, and almost half the seeker spheres exploded in an instant. The other half hit his Light Screen, breaking through it and a few of them hitting him hard enough to blast him clear of the wall, and then Pikachu arrived and hit him with a Force Palm that knocked him across the room.
"Start using coilgun evasion!" Volkner instructed.
Electrical rings formed in Raichu's flight path, no more than two at any one time, but as Raichu passed through each one his trajectory changed. It stopped him from hitting the ground at all, and he started bouncing though a ring again and again to stay away from the walls.
"I think I need to tell Pachirisu about this," Piplup said, folding his flippers. "She'll have him done for copyright or something."
"You what?" Buneary asked.
"Noctowl said something like it once," Piplup clarified. "It sounded entirely repeatable."
"Okay, hmm..." Pikachu frowned, and threw another Aura Sphere before following it up with a cloud of seekers and a coil of Shock Wave. Raichu's new tail trick was enough to keep his electrostatic defences up, though, and almost none of the attacks actually reached the other Electric-type.
"Pikachu, new plan!" Ash called. "You know what happened when you used Volt Crash?"
"I'm not going to forget it any time soon," Pikachu replied, a bit sharply.
"Well, we're going to do it deliberately," Ash said. "He can experience it this time!"
Pikachu blinked, baffled, then swallowed and started building another Volt Crash.
While it was still in the process of forming he broke into a sprint, running at the wall, then kicked off to start running up the wall instead.
"Um..." Volkner began, not sure whether to tell Raichu to start disrupting or not.
Pikachu pushed off from the top of the retaining wall with a burst of Aura, aiming directly for Raichu, and Volkner's Electric-type boosted in a different direction instead of bouncing straight up again. Pikachu followed, using his Light Ball power source to form a boost ring of his own, and all three rings of the Volt Crash wobbled crazily as they passed through before settling back down again.
Each time Raichu used a boost ring, even though he collapsed it before Pikachu got there, Pikachu did the same boost and closed in slightly. He kept his Volt Crash building, slowly and carefully coiling up power – then suddenly backflipped, pushing his static-shrouded tail against one of the rings, and pushed it with a flare of energy so the whole assemblage of coiled currents went whizzing towards where Raichu was going.
The Sunyshore Pokémon spotted it too late, which meant the mass of unstable currents got caught up in his electrical field and began following him.
"This is not a good day," Raichu decided, then spotted that Pikachu was now coming at him in a pincer movement – paws glowing blue for an Aura Sphere.
The Volt Crash exploded at about the moment they made contact.
Dawn slowly lowered her hands from over her ears.
There were little static charges fizzing around all the room, a few of the modular panels were twitching, there was a hole in the roof again, and most of the floor was bent down in a single massive crater.
In the middle of the crater, distinctly unconscious, was Pikachu.
"Okay, um… wait, where's Raichu?" she asked.
The question was answered a moment later, as Lucario burst into motion. He jumped, passing underneath the latest hole in the roof, and caught Raichu before the Electric-type hit the ground.
"Out cold," he reported, lowing the other electric mouse to the ground, then walked down into the crater to retrieve Pikachu.
"So… I guess if they both got knocked out, it's who got knocked out first?" Dawn asked. "Do we have any footage?"
Her Pokétch buzzed, then projected a ghostly image in mid air.
First it showed the flash of the explosion, and the two Pokémon going flying out of it, then slowed down and began advancing in what would have been frame by frame if there'd been any frames.
Looking closely, Dawn saw that Raichu hit the roof and broke through – probably knocking himself out, and certainly going ring out – while Pikachu was still about a foot from impacting the ground.
And he was surrounded by a blur of electricity, reflecting a last-second Magnet Rise.
"Good enough for me," Dawn declared. "Ash wins!"
"Normally we don't need a referee's decision, here," Volkner said, as the hidden machinery twitched and started to move the panels back into place. Several of them went away to hide behind the walls and floors, damaged enough that they'd need repair, and more fresh panels took their place.
Perhaps that is because normally you are not fighting the most random person in the country.
Is that actually a thing? Latios asked, revealing himself from stealth right next to Volkner.
A vote was held in Competitive Battling Journal about what people think of various trainers, Minerva told him. Your trainer was rated most random, with twenty-seven percent of the vote.
"That's less than I was expecting," Volkner mused.
Random was a write-in category.
Minerva's screen cycled through two other settings. Repairs complete. You should really go and give Ash your badge.
"That's right," Volkner realized. "And make sure my team is okay, that too."
A set of graphs popped up on the screen, this time, along with Minerva's avatar – a Porygon with an owl feather pattern vector-mapped on top. The Pokémon who are unconscious are stable. Yes, including Raichu.
Volkner nodded his thanks, and rummaged around for a gym badge.
"Do you fully explain to all of us before we sign up about the regular explosions?" Lucario asked, putting Pikachu into Ash's outstretched arms. "Because I don't remember getting the pamphlet."
"That's because there wasn't one," Ash replied. "This kind of crept up on me."
"By which you mean…?" Lucario checked.
"I should probably have seen it coming from a mile away," Ash replied.
"With how big the explosions usually are, a mile isn't enough," Lucario snorted, then looked more closely at what Ash was doing.
He'd retrieved his spoked-wheel pendant, and put it on top of Pikachu. As Lucario watched, Ash put his hand on top of the pendant, and closed his eyes to focus.
Nothing happened for a few seconds, then there was a faint golden glow. It quickly intensified, holding for about five seconds before blinking out like a lightbulb, and Pikachu stirred.
"I was kind of hoping that would work," Ash explained, as Pikachu shook his head and blinked away his haziness.
"I don't want to add that to the repertoire except for absolute emergencies," Pikachu announced.
"Ash!" Volkner said, making them all look up, and Ash swapped Pikachu to his shoulder with one hand while using the other one to catch an incoming Beacon Badge.
"That was a good battle," the Gym Leader added. "I'm guessing that's your last Badge needed?"
"Yeah, though I'm not sure what we're going to do until the Conference," Ash mused.
"It's less than a week, Ash," Brock told him, walking over.
"...oh, right?" Ash said, a little surprised. "I must have lost track of time."
"You already lose track of space, so if this keeps up we might end up anywhere and anywhen in space and time," Pikachu noted.
He shrugged. "Still. Maybe I can invent something."
As they filed back out of Sunyshore Gym, Dexter beeped. Incoming call from Mawile.
Ash flipped Dexter open, and waved as the Porygon-Z projected a view screen. "Good afternoon, Mawile!"
"Afternoon, Dad!" Mawile replied brightly. "I was wondering if – oh! Is that a new Pokémon?"
Skarmory tilted her head a little, then jumped so more of her was in view of the camera. "You mean me?"
"Yep!" Mawile agreed.
"I think she's probably going to be one of my Pokémon, unless she objects," Dawn volunteered, and Skarmory nodded. "She just hatched today."
"I haven't met many Skarmory," Mawile said. "Oh, if you just hatched today, can you try flying?"
"Good question!" Skarmory replied, and spread her wings with a sound like she was unsheathing a dozen swords at once. She jumped, flapping hard, and hovered there for a long moment before slowly dropping back down again. "Hey, this is easy!"
She turned her attention to Dawn. "Let's see if I can lift you as well! Hold your arms up and grab onto my legs?"
I think I'd better make sure I'm ready to catch, Latios 'pathed. Just in case.
"Great!" Mawile said, and rummaged around for a bit before finding a checklist.
She paged through it to the appropriate piece of paper, and checked one off with a smile of satisfaction.
"Is that your checklist of Pokémon to help fly?" Ash asked.
"Yep!" Mawile agreed. "They don't all have to be tricky ones!"
Putting the list away again, she frowned for a moment before brightening. "Oh, yeah, I was wondering about how you're going to be doing the Pokémon League soon, and if you wanted my help with training some of the Pokémon back at the ranch?"
"If you want to help, that's great," Ash told her. "It'd mean more Pokémon get personal attention."
"That's what I thought!"
Well, there's Ash's eighth Sinnoh gym badge.
Eventually you have to deal with someone who's studied you extensively.
Also, 300 chapters. Neat.