A/N: And…done. The twins' backstory will be explained in the main fic once I actually get around to writing it.
If I get around to writing it. Maybe when my muses take a vacation…
BTW, I'm ignoring the "when traded" part. Natural evolutions are far more fun…or stone induced.
As for the badge…this is a divergent fic. Otherwise the badge telly gets thrown off. :)
*sigh* Fifteen pages. No wonder it didn't finish the day it started…like I was hoping it would.
The Marion City Gym
Chapter 5 – The Moonlight Badge
'Cloyster, I choose you!'
'Cloyster?' Brock repeated. 'But then…Cloyster has beaten Pikachu in the past.'
'After Natu weakened it,' Koji replied. 'However, I'm not Cloyster's trainer so I can't battle with him as well as Koichi can. You can know all the attacks a Pokemon can do, but you can never really know what they're truly capable of.'
'True,' Brock nodded. 'Either way, this will be interesting. I'm just concerned as to whether Pikachu can last against two fresh Pokémon.'
'I hope so,' Misty mused. 'Ash isn't going to give up.'
And he certainly wasn't.
'Surf,' Koichi responded.
The little feet made ripples in the seeping water as a larger bout rose up.
'That's not a good idea with the water falling towards your Pikachu,' Koichi commented.
'Huh?' Evidently, he hadn't been expecting the bolt of thunder to hit the wave and diverge , scattering sparks all over the wet ground. 'Dodge!'
'Clam your shell,' Koichi said at the same time. Apparently, the other half of the field was having the same problem.
Only, Cloyster's shell was enough protection and Pikachu was slipping in the water.
Pikachu jumped and slid. The result was a few more burns on its body.
'Pika,' Pikachu responded, getting up again.
Koichi regarded the electric mouse, then nodded. 'Supersonic.'
All humans automatically blocked their ears. Pikachu's drooped, but with four paws on the floor, he was somewhat restricted. The next lot of Toxic Spikes caused far more damage.
'Pikachu!' His ears were still buzzing, but Ash shrugged it off. 'Quick attack, then your most powerful Thunder.'
Cloyster opened its shell as Pikachu's cheeks sparked.
The attack hit the shield.
'Brock, what does Reflect do again?' Misty asked.
'It sends damage back to the user, but…' Brock paused. 'All the water is going to impact things. It's not going to be a direct reflection.'
Brock was right. Wayward sparks shot across the water, and since Cloyster's shell was open for the attack, it had little defence.
'The spikes act as lightning rods,' Koji pointed out. 'It simply depends on how strong Pikachu's thunder is.'
It was strong, especially for a Pokémon about to faint from exhaustion. But the end result was that neither could continue battling.
'Pikachu and Cloyster are both unable to battle. Since the challenger is out of Pokémon that can battle, the battle goes to the Gym Leader.'
'That was harsh Koichi,' Koji frowned, sitting on his brother's bed as Chansey took care of the Pokémon that had battled outside.
'Why do you say that?' the elder twin returned, changing out of his shikifuku.
Koji half-glared at the other. 'You battled harder than you usually do.'
'Hmm…' Koichi pulled his shirt over his head. 'I guess I did. He was a strong opponent.'
'Don't you think he deserves the badge then? Gym Battles aren't meant to be impossible.'
'It's not impossible. His Pokémon are capable of beating mine; it was just a case of unpreparedness. That's the downside of battling two different people with the same Pokémon.'
'You use two different Natu's to confuse trainers.'
Koichi plopped onto the bed with a laugh. 'That I do. Real life isn't written in stone, even for Pokémon capable of seeing the future.'
'And people,' Koji replied. 'I take it that's how you knew about that Team Rocket?'
'Koji, I wasn't born with that abili-'
'Actually, you were,' Ryuu interrupted, coming into the room with a knock. 'I thought you might like to know all the Pokémon are fine. They're just resting.'
'That's good.' Koichi smiled. Koji took the opportunity to sneak in a yawn. It was nearly two in the morning after all. 'But-oh.' He shook his head. 'I thought that was instinct.'
'Mind filling me in?' the younger twin asked. To an outsider, he would sound annoyed, but his family knew him well enough. 'Preferably before I leave today.'
'Before or after the pillow fight?'
Koji answered that question by whacking his grinning brother over the head with the pillow.
'I can't believe Koichi didn't even have to use his forth Pokémon,' Ash muttered, staring at the ceiling. 'He's good.'
'You know,' Brock mused to himself. 'I wonder if he has some precognitive ability. Didn't his grandfather mention something of the sort? And he didn't look particularly surprised by anything that happened –'
'Except the tail incident,' Misty interrupted.
'I dunno. He seemed more concerned than surprised. But that does make it hard to beat him, if he can anticipate any move the opponent throws at him.'
'Any move…' Ash said thoughtfully with a frown. 'And come up with a counter.'
'You sound like you're coming up with an idea.'
The aspiring Pokémon trainer swung his legs off the bed and quickly laced up his shoes. 'Yep. See ya.'
'Hey, wait a-' The water Pokémon trainer shook her head. 'I hope he knows what he's doing.'
Marion City was nice, but Ash was ready to leave with a badge in hand, and his battle plan was all mapped out by the time he challenged the Gym Leader again.
'Same rules as before,' Ryuu announced. The field was exactly the same, except it was daytime and Koji had left the day before. 'Both trainers may use four Pokémon, but only the Challenger is allowed to substitute during the battle.'
'Got it,' Ash said, then waited to see what Pokemon Koichi started out with. He hoped it was Natu, but as he'd changed Cloyster's position once, it was possible he wouldn't do so.
And he was right. And disappointed when the Gym Leader brought out Ninetales.
'Oh oh,' Misty murmured. 'Ninetales first up.'
'I think Ash was hoping for Natu,' Brock mused, watching the young trainer frown slightly.
'Which one?' the female asked rhetorically.
Brock shrugged, before blinking as Muk appeared. 'Muk?'
'So he went to Professor Oak.' The red head nodded. 'I wonder who else he switched out.'
'Well, I'm betting on Snorlax,' the aspiring breeder said. 'After all, we know a frontal attack's no good. Or a sneak attack.'
They turned to watch the match.
'Sludge bomb Muk!'
The female fox glowed, the sludge bouncing right off the pearly skin.
So even Ninetales was guarded against straight attacks, Ash thought.
'Poison Gas,' Pallet Town's trainer quickly countered.
There was a pause. 'Whoops,' Ash muttered as the smoke caught fire. 'Muk! Flatten yourself on the ground!'
Koichi looked surprised at that, before grinning. 'Clever.'
'So precognition isn't perfect,' Brock realised. 'He can probably only tell one attack or action at a time, so countering a counterattack can catch him off guard.'
'Well, at least Muk is fine,' Misty said. 'On the downside, Ninetales is perfectly fine as well.'
Ash pondered about his next move. Smoke screen was dangerous. Sludge bomb was useless. Unless…
'Sludge bomb!' he commanded again.
'Safe guard,' Koichi countered.
'Move in Muk.'
Blue eyes watched the poison Pokémon's every move.
'Swallow it and smother her!'
Muk opened his mouth, pressing forward.
Koichi's eyes widened, then his expression settled with a wince. 'Keep it up Ninetales.'
Muk came nearer, its body beginning to turn red from the heat. Smoke filtered out of its mouth, feeding the flames until its slimy body moved to cover Ninetales' face.
And Ninetales slid out from the grasp.
Ninetales didn't look too pleased about its new stalker and send a Flame Thrower back. But she was tired. And so was Muk.
'Poison Gas!' Ash tried again. 'Then Sludge Bomb.'
'Counter with Flame Thrower.'
The Sludge Bombs met the bursts of flame, and it seemed like each was trying to shoot the other out of the air. The smoke made it difficult to see, but the attacks still sailed over the field…until –
'Now Muk!' Ash yelled, and the poison Pokémon was suddenly smothering the fox.
'Safeguard!' Koichi yelled hurriedly.
They waited patiently.
'Get off Muk,' Ash said eventually. If the Safeguard worked, no amount of smothering was going to cut it.
Of course, Safeguard doesn't supply an infinite air supply, so the fox had fainted.
Koichi recalled his Pokémon with a murmur of thanks, withdrawing a new Poke-ball and summoning Cloyster.
'I guess Muk can't smother Cloyster,' Misty sighed.
'Ash is going to have to make do,' Brock responded. 'Muk's too far gone to recall.'
What the Pewter City Gym Leader said was true. If sludge could sweat, Muk'd be doing it.
And so make-do Ash did. Or attempted to do.
'Supersonic,' came the reply.
'Supersonic?' Misty repeated. 'Doesn't sound slow down when there's more stuff in the air?'
'I guess it doesn't matter in this situation,' Brock replied. 'The sound waves are still making Muk confused.'
He was right. The toxic Pokémon was rapidly turning his head this way and that. A moment later, he had kneed over, too dizzy to continue.
Ash recalled Muk and debated on his next Pokémon. Snorlax was his secret weapon…and he preferred to be rid of Cloyster before that.
But how was the question.
'Pika,' Pikachu said, jumping onto the field.
Well, there was that decision made.
'You sure Pikachu?'
'Pika Pika,' Pikachu replied, patting its chest.
'Pikachu verses Cloyster,' Ryuu announced. 'Begin!'
'Reflect,' came the counter.
Pikachu's eyes narrowed at the return.
'Quick attack Pikachu.'
'Pika!' The electric mouse shot through its own thunder and rammed the glow with a wince.
'Reflect stays active for five turns,' Koichi explained. He still didn't look like he was struggling in the battle, although he had made allowances for small surprises. 'Supersonic.'
Pikachu was forced to back away from the shield.
Well, that's three turns. Ash counted. Two more to go.
With the call of the final attack, the shielding orb fell, but each spike came so close to Pikachu that there was no time for a counter-attack.
'Pikachu, stand and take it.'
The next spike hit.
The wave of water was, however, unable to hold back the large surge of electricity. But Koichi appeared to know that as he recalled Cloyster before the Thunder hit.
'Cloyster has been withdrawn from the match. Pikachu wins.'
'Pi-ka,' Pikachu panted, as Natu appeared before it.
'So the fourth Pokémon will remain a mystery till the end,' Brock muttered. 'I wonder if it's that Gardevior.'
Misty blinked at the field. 'Did Pikachu just get knocked out by an Aerial Ace?'
Apparently so, and that left both trainers with two Pokémon each.
Ash decided it was time to call out Snorlax…which left a dumfounded expression on the normally smooth face of his opponent.
'Snorlax?' he repeated, staring between his little Natu and the heaviest currently known Pokémon. They made quite an interesting pair, but Natu wasn't built for any sort of power battling.
He wouldn't be surprised if Aerial Ace did nothing more than a feather's flick. But he ordered one anyway.
Ash wasn't taking any chances, and the shield absorbed the blast.
'Try a Psychic!' Koichi ordered.
'Can Natu lift Snorlax?' Brock wondered.
Apparently it couldn't.
Koichi was evidently running out of options. 'Sunny Day, then Aerial Ace.'
Snorlax scratched the centre of his forehead where the other's combined attack landed.
The Gym Leader sighed. 'Natu, return.'
'Natu has been withdrawn from the match,' Ryuu announced. 'The Gym Leader has only one Pokémon remaining.'
Koichi pulled out his last Poke-ball. 'Kadabra, go!'
'He's not using Gardevior?' Brock questioned, before finally spotting the silent female in the shadows. 'Oh.'
Misty followed his gaze and laughed. 'Wouldn't you like to have a woman like that?'
Brock went read. 'Misty!'
'Snorlax verses Kadabra. Begin!'
Nothing happened. Both seemed to be waiting for the other to make a move. But, of course, Ash wasn't so patient as to wait for very long, and eventually ordered an Ice Punch.
'Psybeam,' Koichi countered, the blast hitting the large Pokémon in the face, befuddling it slightly so that the strike hit the dirt instead of its target.
'Keep up those Ice Punches Snorlax.'
The Pokémon lumbered all over the place, slow and off balance thanks to Psybeam's confusion effect. The field slowly turned into a sheet of ice…which only served to throw Snorlax further off balance.
Eventually, he fell with a hard thud that rocked the arena.
'Teleport,' Koichi told his Kadabra, and it appeared in the air, touching down by the time the shaking had stilled.
Of course…the humans had to make do with the trembling field.
'He couldn't have teleported us?' Ash grumbled.
Koichi laughed at that. 'I don't think Kadabra can control Snorlax's body with Telekinesis as well as the rest of us.'
That statement sent warning bells through the minds of the spectators, but it was too late.
Snorlax rose a few inches into the air, but that seemed to be the limit of Kadabra's power as sweat began to trickle down his brow.
'Has Ash won?' Misty wondered. 'Kadabra can't do much if it can't control Snorlax's movement.'
She was proven wrong when the Pokémon began to glow, then morph.
'What the-?' she gasped.
'Kadabra's evolving.' Surprise laced the Gym Leader's voice. The form lengthened; a second spoon appeared.
Ash pulled out his Poke-dex. 'Alakazam, the Psychic Pokémon and the evolved form of Kadabra. It is highly intelligent and capable of instantly identifying its foe's weakness.'
'That doesn't sound good,' Ash muttered, before grinning. 'This is an awesome match.'
He ignored the little voice in the back of his head, pointing to the outcomes of his previous one.
'Alakazam' Koichi ordered, recovering from the dues ex machine of sorts. 'Psychic.'
'Alakazam's Psychic isn't strong enough either,' Misty murmured, watching Snorlax rise just a little higher. 'That's a relief.'
'I wouldn't count Koichi out yet,' Brock replied. 'Looks to me like he's got something up his sleeve.'
'Teleport,' the Gym Leader ordered at that moment, and both Pokémon vanished…only to appear high in the sky.
Both Pokémon hung a moment in the air, before hurtling towards the ground.
'Gardevior, you might want to lift us up.'
The blue aura suddenly surrounded them all to hover mere inches from the surface…save the battling Pokemon.
'Snorlax, try a Hyper Beam!'
Unfortunately, Snorlax hit the ground before he could manage it, and the impact left him out cold.
'Snorlax is unable to battle. Alakazam is the winner.'
'Ash now has only one Pokémon left as well,' Brock mused. 'And how is he going to beat Alakazam?'
'Alakazam does look tired though,' Misty pointed out.
'I just hope it doesn't know Recover.'
After all, that had been the main reason for the troubles during Ash's second match against Sabrina and her Kadabra.
'But what Pokémon can Ash use?'
'Hmm…I'd say Noctowl would be the best choice.'
And that was what Ash chose.
'Noctowl verses Alakazam. Begin!'
Ash waited. But this time, Koichi did not.
'Alakazam, use Recover.'
The sweat lacing the newly evolved Pokémon's forehead vanished as the small hunch straightened. Within seconds, he was ready to fight again, moustache quivering.
The nocturnal Pokémon was ready to fight as well.
And then they both waited…until Koichi gave in with a grin.
'So you figured it out huh,' he commented. 'But, to be honest, when it comes to a battle…I still like to win. And there are very few ways to win without attacking.'
'How can you win without attacking?' Ash asked, confused.
The smile turned somewhat sad. 'You run.'
Alakazam vanished for a moment, and both Pokémon and trainer tried desperately to find him again.
'There,' Ash yelled, pointing. 'Peck!'
Alakazam vanished again.
Misty face-palmed. 'That kid just did the complete opposite of what he said.'
'That's true,' Brock mused. 'But if he really wanted to win, he would have used his strongest Pokémon. I'm sure Gardevior is stronger than Alakazam; she's more experienced and fully evolved after all. And surely Meganium, being fully evolved and a starter type, is stronger than some of those others. But being a Gym Leader isn't about that, and I don't think that's what he meant by "winning" either.'
'But that's going to tire Noctowl out,' Misty pointed out. 'And Alakazam can regain its strength using Recover…even if it's not limitless.'
'I think Koichi is just wondering what Ash will do in response,' Brock replied. 'After all, with all those pecks, it must be difficult to try and guess a counter-strategy.'
'He sure is an interesting strainer,' the red-head sighed. 'I still don't get him or his battling style.'
'It certainly is a slippery one,' the Pewter Gym-leader agreed. 'But Koji did mention his brother's a difficult person to understand, and he is one of those people who gets along better with Pokémon than humans.'
'You'd never know just by looking at him.'
Brock shook his head. 'I think you would. His eyes didn't change much since we first met him, even when he smiled and laughed and talked…or even battled. He can be lax about his facial expressions because he doesn't particularly care what others think about that. Not care in the sense of being apathetic, but care in the sense that it's not "special". Maybe he likes being a Gym Leader because, once the battle is over, the trainer moves on. There are no rivalries formed, no friendships carried – most challengers are forgotten over time, but the memories of the Pokémon and the battles themselves remain.'
Misty tilted her head a little. 'When you're not obsessing over girls, you get some pretty deep ideas,' she said lightly. 'But you sound somewhat sad.'
Brock shrugged. 'I guess I'm just missing my brothers and sisters is all. But all the people we've met are important to me too, and I want to go on meeting new people…and Pokémon – and most definitely beautiful girls!'
Misty face-palmed. She should have known the "deep" Brock was too good to last. But still…Brock did have a point. Koichi might be a nice person, but he didn't seem particularly fond of company. He had his family: a grandfather and a twin brother. He had his Pokémon. He had a few friends; there had been a photo in the living room, including funnily enough the two boys they'd run into in the previous town. And the children he taught…but then again, children were so innocent and naïve that they could almost be like Pokémon, in a sense. Or animals. They were so much easier to interact with.
Then she shrugged to herself, refocusing on the battle. She may have hated the everlasting attention of her home-town, but to others, there was no place like home. And as for people…she couldn't blame him. Back when she was younger, she hadn't really gotten people either, much less her sisters.
Heck, she still didn't quite get them. At least Koichi seemed to have a good relationship with his brother…even if they didn't live together for the most part.
Back on the field, Noctowl had finally released a Confusion attack, to which Alakazam countered by raising his spoons and utilising a small Psychic. It couldn't go any farther; the two Psychic powers grappled momentarily in the air before falling for lack of substance.
That's when Ash noted his victory key.
'Hypnosis!' he yelled.
'Close your eyes and use your spoons,' Koichi responded.
'Use whirlwind to counter, and then dodge.'
Noctowl followed the orders to a 't'.
'Alaka,' the psychic Pokemon replied, not opening his eyes. Listening carefully, he could sense the owl Pokemon in the sky, ducking this way and that in an effort to confuse him. The whirlwind made it somewhat difficult to tell by mere hearing alone, but his senses (particularly the sixth) were far more developed than that.
'Confusion!' Ash countered, and Noctowl stopped his movement momentarily before picking it up again.
This time, the attack blasted Alakazam back.
'Alaka,' Alakazam groaned, stumbling slightly.
'All right,' Misty cheered from the sidelines, Pikachu adding his support. 'Alakazam's confused.'
'Psybeam, go!' Koichi called, raising an arm.
The attack managed to score a hit, albeit not a direct one.
'On great,' the red-head groaned. 'The idiot finally catches a break and he loses it.'
'Now use Recover.'
Ash held his breath, before breathing a sigh of relief when it failed.
'The confusion effect.' The lips twisted into a frown of concern.
Noctowl wavered in the air; it appeared he was either too confused or too tired to manage the attack.
'Noctowl! I know you can do it!'
The brow began to glow blue.
It exploded with energy.
'Psychic Alakazam,' Koichi commanded, and the Pychic waves battled the Confusion in the air. It wasn't as well coordinated as the first attempt where it had succeeded in blocking its effect; the attack slipped through cracks in the armour, causing the fox-like humanoid to roar in pain.
By the time the attack was done, both Pokemon were on the ground and nearly spent. Neither though were unconscious.
The owl hooted, struggling to get up. On the other side, the pair re-enacted the actions.
'Can you continue?'
Noctowl gave a reassuring hoot, but his actions spoke otherwise. On the other side, Alakazam made it onto one knee…before it slipped out from under him as the other one struggled up.
'Can the Pokémon continue battling?' Ryuu asked, looking from one to the next.
Koichi's blue eyes regarded Ash and his Pokémon for a moment. He knew Alakazam could fight if they really wanted to, if they had a wish to fuel them that extra power. But they didn't, and Ash Ketchum had well and truly earned his badge, and so the Gym Leader recalled his Pokémon.
'Alakazam is unable to battle. Noctowl is the winner.'
Noctowl collapsed at that moment, having overspent its energy on the successive Confusion attacks and the repetitive "pecks" before.
Ash went over to his Pokémon. 'Thanks Noctowl,' he whispered, petting the feathers. 'You did a great job.'
'Indeed.' Koichi's shadow fell over them as he knelt down. 'You and all your Pokémon battled hard. Very rarely do I see such complete trust between a trainer and their Pokémon.'
He straightened up, taking something out of his robes and holding it up to the light. The crescent moon gleamed as the sun's rays bounced off. 'The Moonlight Badge.'
'Uhh…' Ash reached out, before frowning slightly. 'Why did you recall your Pokémon? Cloyster and Natu…and maybe Alakazam –'
'Gym Battles are different from normal battles,' Koichi carefully explained. 'It is a Gym Leader's duty to push a trainer beyond their comfort zones in a match, but not to push their own Pokémon in a situation that serves no purpose. In a regular League match, I would have the option of swapping out my Pokémon; Cloyster would not have been able to take another electric attack, even with its shell. Natu's attacks were all but inaffective against your Snorlax. All me keeping those Pokémon in would have done was prolonged the match, knocked out my Pokémon and exhausted your own. Sometimes, the more important parts of a battle –'
'Is knowing when to end it,' Brock finished. 'Koichi's right; he would get nothing out of pushing to the point of damage for a victory; you proved yourself in that match. You, on the other hand, have a dream to fulfil, and you're one step closer to it.'
'You're right.' Ash grinned, taking his new badge and showing it to Pikachu and the revived Noctowl. 'So guys, what do you think?'
Noctowl hooted his agreement as well.
'It certainly was a close match,' Misty pointed out, almost raining on the Pallet trainer's parade.
Koichi smiled at that. 'Those are the most fun.' His eyes shone in the light.
'They sure are,' Ash agreed…before jumping as Gardevior suddenly appeared behind the Gym Leader.
'Gardevior says that the next time you guys come through Marion City, you'll have to challenge the two of us to a match.'
'You've got yourself a deal.'