Lurking in the Shadows

Chapter 51: Christmas in Marquis

“Hey, sis! It’s Christmas morning!” In the sisters’ hotel room, Lindsay was shaking her older sibling, trying to awaken her.

“Huh… Wha?” Lisa groggily murmured as she forced herself awake. “What is it?”

“Lisa Kimberly Lynn Northwood, how dare you forget what today is!” Lindsay yelled, her hands on her hips.

“Jeez! Okay, okay, I’m up! I still don’t know why you’re getting excited over it. It’s only…” She turned her head to view the alarm clock on the nightstand. The red digital numerals read “7:15.”

“Quarter past seven?! Ugh, well, I don’t think I’ll be getting back to sleep now,” Lisa muttered as she threw the floral-print covers off of her and stumbled over to the bathroom.

“I cannot believe this… Granted, it IS Christmas morning, but it’s just the two of us in a hotel room…”

Coming out of the bathroom, Lisa was still in her pink nightgown. “Okay, Linds, why did you have to wake me so early?”

“Let’s call Mom and Dad and tell them, ‘Merry Christmas!’ Come on, get your phone!”

“I doubt they’re even awake yet…” Flipping open her cell phone, she dialed her parents’ phone number. She was greeted with her father’s voice.

“Hello, you have reached Douglas and Brooke Northwood. We are unable to take your call, but if you wish, you may leave a message for us and we will contact you as soon as we are able to.”

“Hey, guys, this is just me, wishing you a merry Christmas! Hope to see you soon!”

“We both miss you! Please call back soon!” Lindsay yelled into the phone.

“Hmmm,” Lisa murmured as she put away her cell, “I wonder where they could have gone off to this early in the morning… Oh well, they did give us some presents before they left, so I guess we could open them, since I doubt I’ll get back to sleep now.”

“Yay, presents! Let’s open them!” Lindsay began jumping up and down in excitement.

“Well, here’s what Mom and Dad got us,” Lisa said as she pulled two envelopes from her bag. “Let’s see what’s inside.”

The girls’ presents from their parents were gift cards – Lindsay’s were for Target and Lisa’s were for the Choice family of hotels, which included the Quality Inn they were in now.

“Oh, excellent! This’ll help us pay for our room here! Then again, I just got the earnings from my tutoring company, so we should be good as far as money goes.”

Lindsay handed a package to her sister. “And here’s my gift to you. It might not be the fanciest gift in the world, but you’ll like it!”

Lisa opened up the gift from her sister to find a six-pack of white pantyhose. She yelled, “Aww, thanks, Linds! However did you know?”

“Well, duh. You go through a pair a day, practically. I figured you could use some spares.”

“Well, I could definitely use some pairs as backup! Thanks a lot!”

“Oh, before she left, Sadie got us both some gifts,” Lisa said as she took two white boxes from her backpack.

“Oh, shoot!” Lindsay shouted. “I forgot to get her anything!”

“Nah, don’t worry about it. I got her a little something, and we can just say it’s from the both of us.” Both sisters opened their packages to find pearl jewelry – a bracelet for Lisa and a necklace for Lindsay. Both girls’ presents had their names engraved on them.

“Oh, wow! It’s so beautiful! I wonder if they’re handmade? I think Sadie did mention something about making jewelry in her spare time.”

“I don’t know, but I think it’ll look great on me!” Lindsay exclaimed as she put on her new present. “So, how does it look?”

“I think it looks really pretty! How about mine?” Lisa asked, showing her sister her arm with her new bracelet.

“Aww, it’s so cute! But anyway, sis, you did get me a present, right?”

“Well, of course! Now Linds, I had to dig into my college savings account to buy you this gift, so you better like it! Here, Merry Christmas.” The gift that Lisa handed over was not particularly large, and the younger girl eyed it for a moment before tearing it open. Inside it was a plain white box. Continuing, Lindsay opened the box and ripped apart the bubble wrap to reveal a brand new pink PDA.

“Wow, sis, it’s one of those electronic-y gizmos that you have! Thanks a lot!” The nine-year-old hugged her older sibling. “But what do you mean, you ‘had to dig into your college savings?’ I thought you got a free ride!”

“Well, I did, and that’s why there’s so much money in there! Anyway, that PDA there has a built in Pokédex so you can begin learning about the Pokémon you see!”

“Awesome! Thanks! You’ll have to show me how it works!”

After a brief lesson on how to use the Pokédex function of the PDA, Lindsay was eager to try it out. “Hey, sis, send out Persian so I can test this out!”

“Okay,” Lisa replied, walking over to her bag and taking out a Luxury Ball. In a flash of red light, the beige cat appeared, yawning and stretching out her legs.

“Hey, Merry Christmas, sweetie.” Persian looked at her trainer and quizzically tilted her head. Lisa continued, “Hey, I just got Lindsay a new Pokédex and she wants to try it out. Could I get you to stand right there for a minute?”

The cat yawned and nodded slowly. Lindsay aimed her new PDA at the Pokémon.

“Persian, the classy cat Pokémon. Persian complements its elegant looks with its speed and stealth, with the ability to walk silently and strike with incredible agility and precision.”

“Wow, it really does work! Thanks, Lisa! Thanks a lot!”

“You’re welcome!” Lisa glanced over at Persian, who had fallen asleep on the floor. “Okay, I’m going to call Persian back. Like somebody else, she was suddenly woken up. But unlike that certain somebody else, she can get herself back to sleep in a hurry.” With that, the feline disappeared back into her black sphere.

“Well, jeez, sorry for wanting to celebrate today with my favorite big sister…”

“You mean your only big sister…” Lisa was interrupted by her cell phone ringing. Taking it off of its charger, she flipped it open and turned it on.

“Hello?” Lisa said into her phone.

“Hey, Lisa? It’s Sadie! Merry Christmas!”

“Hi! How are you doing? Merry Christmas to you, too!”

“So, how’d you like the present I made?”

“You made this bracelet yourself? I love it! It’s beautiful! What about your gift? It isn’t handmade or anything, but…”

Lisa was picturing her gift in her mind – a pastel green dress adorned with purple and blue flowers and a purple ribbon around the waist, along with a white hat with a purple ribbon and bow, identical to her own. “I mean, the outfit I picked out for her was so cute! How could she not like it?

“I love the dress! I just have to wear it for a Contest sometime!”

“Now remember, that dress looks best with a cute pair of white pantyhose!” Lisa giggled.

“Of course! It’s kinda tough being without your family on Christmas. I know the folks who run the Pokémon Center are having a big Christmas dinner later, but it’s just not the same.”

“Yeah, I know the feeling. I’ve got a Christmas dinner with the local Gym Leader this afternoon, but until then, it’s just me and Linds. So, what have you been up to lately?”

“Well, they had a Contest in this place called Vermillion City where the ship was docked. I didn’t do too well since I had no practice time at all…”

“Yeah, kinda like my last Gym battle, where things didn’t go as planned. But, I do have some good news. Remember Thrash, that terrorist group I told you about?”

“Yeah,” Sadie answered. “What about them?”

“Well, I’m happy to report that they’re no longer a threat. But defeating them was probably the biggest challenge of my life.”

“Wow, really? Do you want to tell me what happened?”

Lisa let out a sigh. “Not really. I saw something there that I hope I never see again. The very thought of it still haunts me…”

“Oh. Sorry for bringing it up… Yeah, I just needed someone to talk to. I already tried Rena and got her voice mail, and Mom said she’d be calling a bit later.”

“Yeah, it’s kinda lonely at the Quality Inn, too…”

Sadie laughed. “Always with the hotels, huh?”

“You know it! Anyway, I tried calling my parents earlier, and got their machine. I’m hoping they try to call before we leave for that dinner this afternoon.”

“Don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll call. After all, they probably miss not having you and your sister around on Christmas, too.”

“Thanks. I’ve been training really hard these past few days, as I’m going to be having a match against two Gym Leaders at the same time. It looks like it’s gonna be pretty tough, and if I don’t win, I don’t know that I’ll make it into the Pokémon League.”

“Whoa, sounds like the pressure’s really on, now. I really hope you’re able to win that battle. Good luck to you, Lisa!”

“Good luck to you with the Contests, Sadie!”

“Thanks! Now later, make sure you let your Pokémon out and give them a nice meal. They might not understand what ‘Christmas’ is, but I’m sure they’ll appreciate a good meal. Especially Walrein.”

Both girls laughed. Lisa said, “Okay, I’ll let them out after our dinner tonight. There’s this field behind the hotel that’s perfect for that! Well, anyway, I guess I better see if I can get us any breakfast from the lobby, so we’ll talk again later…”

“Wait,” Sadie asked. “Is it okay if I talked to Lindsay for a bit?”

“Oh, sure! I’ll give her the phone.”

“Thanks a lot!”

“Hey, Linds, Sadie wants to talk with you for a bit. I’m going to be headed down to the lobby. Hopefully they’ll still be serving their continental breakfast today – and hopefully there’ll still be something left.” As she handed her cell phone off, Lisa took her room card and headed downstairs.

“Hey! Lindsay! Merry Christmas! How have you been?”

“I’ve been doing pretty good! Merry Christmas to you, too!”

“So,” Sadie asked, “how’d you like your present?”

“Oh, it’s beautiful! Thanks a lot!” Lindsay replied while fingering her new necklace. “Oh, sorry I couldn’t get you anything…”

“Hey, don’t worry about that! So, I hear your sister got herself mixed up in a pretty bad situation.”

“Well, she really hasn’t told me too much about it. Mostly she’s been doing some serious training in this park in back of our hotel. Sometimes I’ll watch, other times I’ll just stay in the room and watch TV.”

“Wow, looks like whatever happened really got her into training hard! Must’ve been serious.”

“Well, from what I’ve seen, she’s really going at it. She’s even got her Jolteon shooting out Thunderbolts while riding on Flygon’s back. It’s interesting to watch those two working together, that’s for sure!”

“So, her Vibrava finally evolved, huh? Great! That’s awesome!”

“Sadie,” Lindsay hesitantly began, “c-can I ask you something?”

“Oh, of course you can!”

“Well, it’s just that I’ve been thinking. I’m planning on starting my own Pokémon journey next year, and I’m wondering how I should go about it.”

“What do you mean?”

The young girl said, “See, I’ve watched Lisa earn badges by battling in gyms, but I also really enjoyed watching you in that Contest. So I’m kinda wondering which of the two I should try – or even if I could try doing both.”

Sadie thought over the question for a minute. “Hmmm… It certainly is possible for folks to go after both the Gyms and the Contests, but from what I heard from my friend Rena, the two require a different style of training, so it might be a bit hard. As for me, I’ve tried for both, but in Kanto I’m going after Contest ribbons only.”

“How long have you been training?” asked the young girl.

“About a couple years now. Why do you ask?”

“I’m just trying to figure out if a new trainer like me can juggle both. Since you’re more experienced, I guess I better do one at a time, at least for now.”

“True, you should probably take it easy your first year. I know I did.”

“Thanks. But, which one – Contests or Gyms – do you think I should be doing?”

“Sorry, Lindsay, but I can’t answer that for you. It’ll be your journey, and your Pokémon, not mine. I can’t tell you what to do.”

“Well, thanks anyway. I do have another question, though. I think Lisa told you that we don’t have Contests in our region.”

“Yep,” Sadie answered.

“Well, I know for a fact that I want to start in a region where I can do both, so I can choose one or the other.”

Lisa returned to the room with a bagel, waffle, and some sausage on a plate, as well as a Styrofoam cup filled with orange juice. Seeing that her sister was still talking with Sadie, she set Lindsay’s breakfast on the nightstand before heading back downstairs to get her own.

On her phone, Sadie said, “Well, Sinnoh, that’s where I’m from, has both Gyms and Contests. You could try there.”

“Really?” Lindsay perked up. “What’s it like there?”

“It’s a bit tough to get around in. Sometimes towns are really far apart and you have to camp out and rest…”

“Well, I don’t have a problem with that. Lisa does, but I’m not her. I can camp out just fine when I need to. Actually, I’d like to be in a region where I can camp out if I wanted to.”

“Are you sure you and Lisa are related?” Sadie asked with a laugh.

Lindsay chuckled as well. “Sometimes, I can’t believe we’re related either. Oh, well, she’s a good big sister, even if she is a bit annoying sometimes.”

“Anyway, when are you planning on starting?”

“Well, I turn ten in September, so I figure soon after that. But, yeah, I think Sinnoh would be a great place to begin training!”

“Awesome! Well, I think I heard that the Kanto Grand Festival will be at the end of July, so I should definitely be in the region by then! If you want, I can help you out in the early going, and I’ll ask my friend Rena if she’ll help out, too!”

“Oh, that would be great! Thanks a lot!”

“No problem! Anyway, before you start, you’ll have to take a short test to get your trainer’s license. It’s not too bad, just the basics. After that, you just get a starter Pokémon, and you’re set to go!”

“Oh, wonderful! I’m really looking forward to it! Sinnoh… I can hardly wait to head out there!” Lindsay was excitedly bouncing on the bed, with a big grin plastered on her face.

“Oops, my mom’s trying to call. I better go! Good luck to you, and Merry Christmas! Tell Lisa I said good-bye!”

“Okay, Merry Christmas to you, too!”

As she shut the cell phone, Lindsay wondered aloud, “I wonder where Lisa is right now? Oh, well, I guess I can see what’s on TV.”

Flipping on the television, the young girl was hit by ear-splitting yelling.

“It’s Christmas time, and what better time than now to seek litigation against those who have caused you injury? That’s why I, Larry ‘The Knockout’ Jones, am broadcasting live from my offices on Christmas Day! It’s time for my annual Christmas special, ‘Lawsuits and You: Receiving Maximum Cash Awards!’ After all, nothing embodies the true spirit of Christmas quite like suing someone who has wronged YOU!”

“Ugh!” Lindsay scoffed as she shut the television off. “Not even the ‘Kia of Greer’ ads back home are as annoying as this guy! Where’s my big sis?”

In the hotel’s lobby, Lisa was enjoying a breakfast of waffles and sausage at a table. Finally finishing eating, she took another cup of cranberry juice and headed back up to the room. Opening the door, she said, “Sorry for taking so long, Linds, but I saw you were still on the phone, so I decided to eat downstairs.”

“No, that’s okay. So, what do we do now?”

“Well, Melissa wanted us to come by her house for a Christmas dinner, but it’s a bit too early yet. I think I’ll try to get some more sleep first.”

Lindsay let out a huge yawn. “Yeah, me too, I guess.”

Following a nap, Lisa and Lindsay set off for Melissa’s house for their Christmas dinner. After waving to the desk clerk and telling her, “Merry Christmas,” the sisters left the lobby of the hotel.

Outside it was overcast and a bit chilly, but nowhere near freezing. Only a light breeze was blowing, unlike the past few days. It actually felt a bit warmer, despite the lack of sunlight. The ground was not covered in snow, showing the asphalt and concrete that made up the city’s commercial district. All of the restaurants on the business strip were closed, as were the Target and Sunoco gas station. The Harris Teeter grocery store and Hess station, as well as all of the hotels, remained opened, though few cars were parked in their lots. Not exactly a ghost town, but the action had died down from the past few days.

Looking dejectedly at the bare concrete, Lindsay whined, “Oh, man! I was hoping this year I’d finally see a white Christmas! This weather’s not that much different from South Carolina’s!”

“You serious?” Lisa asked. “Do you realize the effects snow and ice have on driving? Reduced tire traction, reduced vision, longer stopping times! In fact, that reminds me of a song…”

“In the snow, driving’s not nice
Better watch out for that black ice
Oh, what a pain
It’s far worse than rain
Drivin’ in a winter horror land!”

Lindsay simply sighed. “Whatever, sis. I personally think it would be lovely to look at the land covered in a layer of sparkling white…”

“Yeah, and all those beautiful dented fenders and cracked windshields. White Christmas? Please, give me a black and gray Christmas any day!”

The younger girl didn’t even reply, merely throwing her hands in the air out of frustration. Just then, both girls jumped up, a loud crashing noise taking them by surprise. The sound of screeching tires and the crunch of metal pierced the air, startling the sisters out of their wits. Lisa and Lindsay were frozen in shock for a few moments, until they finally recovered their senses.

“Jeez! What was that?” Lisa yelled out.

The sisters spun around to see a three-car accident. A red Nissan Maxima had plowed into the side of a white Toyota 4Runner. The SUV was lying on its left side while the front of the sedan was crumpled. The back of the Nissan was also smashed in, as a black Honda Civic with obnoxiously big chrome rims had rear-ended the red car. The traffic signal at the intersection showed that the driver of the SUV had the right-of-way.

“See, sis? Don’t blame the snow for traffic accidents!”

“Shut up,” muttered Lisa. She pulled out her cell phone to report the accident, but police cars were already arriving on the scene as well as an ambulance. “We’ve still got to stick around and tell the police what we saw here…”
*******

After a bit of walking, the pair arrived at their destination. Lisa and Lindsay rang the doorbell at a large brick house on the outskirts of Marquis City. The three-story residence had a wrought-iron fence surrounding the freshly-cut yard. Shrubs were growing around the perimeter of the house. Parked in the driveway was a familiar sight – a vintage Mercury Grand Marquis Colony Park station wagon, colored red with wood-grain trim adorning the sides and rear tailgate.

The older sibling was wearing a purple windbreaker jacket over a blue floral dress. The younger sister had on a pink coat and her purple dress. A brown-haired young woman in a charcoal-colored business suit greeted them. “Ah, so glad you could make it to our Christmas dinner. Wouldn’t want you two to celebrate the holidays alone, after all!”

“Sorry we’re late! We got caught up in an accident,” Lisa said.

“Oh, no! Are you two okay?”

“Relax, relax. We weren’t involved; we just saw what happened and had to give the police a statement.”

“Well, that’s good to hear. Please, come on in.”

Melissa let the two into her home, where three others were waiting. Wendy was dressed elegantly as usual, this time sporting a floor-length black gown. Also in the house were Alexis and Shannon, both dressed in Santa hats and coats. A large Christmas tree was in the living room, with opened gifts scattered throughout.

“Please excuse the mess.” Melissa explained, “I had a Christmas celebration with my family earlier today, but they’ve gone out to visit my grandmother for today. However, I decided to host a little Christmas party for everyone who helped in the Thrash raid. Unfortunately, many couldn’t make it.”

“Really?” Lisa asked, rubbing her forehead. “I wonder where they might have gone off to.”

“Well, Amy and Ein said they wanted to get back to the university with some things they recovered from the investigation. Tony said he was called to some region that I can’t remember the name of – begins with “C”, though.”

“And what about Lorelei?”

The Gym Leader let out a laugh. “Well, she just said she couldn’t make it. No further explanation. Well, we’re wasting time. The turkey’s almost ready and soon we’ll be able to eat! How about everyone take their seats and I’ll serve?”

Melissa headed into the kitchen while the others took their seats at the dining room table.

A few minutes later, she emerged from the kitchen carrying a plate with a steaming hot turkey resting on top of it. She asked, “Alexis, Shannon, and Lisa, can I get the three of you to bring the rest of the food in here?”

“Sure thing,” Shannon answered as the three girls got up from their seats and headed into the kitchen to pick up the side dishes.

Soon, everything was in place for dinner – turkey, corn, vegetable salad, dinner rolls, mashed potatoes, even a batch of fries at Lisa’s request. As Melissa lit the candle atop the table, she asked, “Now, shall we eat?”

As everyone began to eat, Lisa turned to Alexis and Shannon. “So, have you two gotten the badge from Melissa yet?”

“Um, Lisa, we need to tell you something,” Alexis replied.

“Okay, what is it?” the girl asked before eating a piece of her turkey.

“Remember how we told you we met that old guy trying to blow up Reed’s Gym?”

As her mouth was still full of food, Lisa nodded.

“Well,” Shannon continued, “After we beat Reed, we met Lorelei for the first time. There, she convinced us to become trainees in the Pokémon League’s Enforcement Division. We’re not collecting badges anymore; we’re training directly under Lorelei to get the skills needed for that job.”

“Y’know, Lisa,” Alexis interrupted, “you’d be perfect for that job. After all, your experiences with dealing with Thrash…”

“Yeah, but I plan on doing some graduate work when I go to school again.”

“Even better! Unlike collecting badges, where you’re constantly on the move, you can remain at home, or, in your case, on campus, until you’re needed. And if you happen to be too busy to accept a mission, they’re quite understanding. An extra bonus is that they’ll transport you to wherever you’re needed.”

“Well, if I can do that and still attend school, I might think about it… After all, it would provide some excitement for my Pokémon, who probably won’t be too interested in watching me study all the time!” The teen let out a short burst of laughter.

“Yeah, no offense, but Pokémon don’t really seem like the type of creatures that would be interested in calculus and trigonometry,” Alexis told her.

“Anyway… guess where I want to begin Pokémon training next year?” Lindsay chimed in.

“Um, Port Wentworth, Georgia?” Lisa replied.

“Yeah… No!” Lindsay shot an annoyed look at her older sister. “Actually, another friend called us this morning. I was able to talk with her and…”

“Davidson, North Carolina! Or is it Chambersburg, Pennsylvania? Perhaps Phenix City, Alabama?”

“Ugh… Ignoring my incredibly annoying sister, that friend convinced me to begin training in her home region. It was something that began with an “S”… Oh, it’s on the tip of my tongue…”

“Swansea, South Carolina!” Lisa yelled.

“Not to be rude,” Melissa said, “but please be quiet and let your sister think!”

“Sorry…” Lisa’s face turned red and she sank into her chair.

“Please, continue.”

“Sinnoh! That’s it! That’s the name of the region! Anyway, if Mom and Dad approve, I’ll be heading there once I turn ten to begin training a Pokémon of my own!”

“Sinnoh?” Alexis began scratching her chin. “Lexy, have we heard of there before?”

“Wasn’t that where that Galactic incident took place? You know, the one Lorelei told us about.”

“Oh, yeah! I remember it now! Well, Lindsay, congratulations on that, and hopefully you’ll be able to train in relative peace and safety! Good luck!”

“Thanks! From what I learned from Lisa, I think I’ll have a really fun time!”

“Just stay out of trouble, okay?” Shannon said.

“Well, I’ll try, all right!”

“Anyway, Wendy,” Lisa started, “I’ve wanted to ask you about the whole Contest conspiracy thing. I’ve heard from Bernie and Reed that you were involved in that mess, too.”

The posh Gym Leader took a sip of her tea. “Indeed. My son, who is currently training elsewhere, was kidnapped while waiting for his Pokémon at a Center. Well, the kidnappers wasted no time in contacting me with their ransom demands.”

“Really? How much did they want?” Lisa asked.

“I don’t remember, but it was well over a million dollars. I could have easily paid it right then and there, but the Pokémon League instructed me not to. They were launching an investigation into it, especially since my son was kidnapped after Bernie’s brother and Reed’s daughter were abducted. We were immediately suspicious since the kidnappings occurred right before a Contest was held in the same city where the person was abducted.”

“Yeah,” Alexis said. “I think I remember Lorelei telling us that that was her first mission after leaving Kanto’s Elite Four.”

“I think I do recall that she played a part in our investigation, as well as a young coordinator…”

“Lauren Prevost, correct?”

“Yes, I believe so. But she was really at the crux of the operation; Lorelei, the other Gym leaders, and I were positioned to pounce as soon as Lauren was able to get backstage and confirm the actions of the Contest administrators. Then we made our entrance and engaged the perpetrators in battle. While their plan was certainly cunning, their battling skills left something to be desired, especially against a former Elite Four member and three Gym Leaders.”

“Whoa, that sounds pretty serious. Though compared with Thrash…”

“They were nothing compared with the threat that Thrash posed. They were simply out to get money and steal Pokémon, presumably to sell them for even more cash.”

“Now, Lisa,” Melissa said, “we need to set a date for our battle. Wendy said she will not battle you until after the 27th, and I will respect her wishes.”

“Actually, I’d like to hold off until the 29th, if possible. I really need to make sure both me and my Pokémon are ready for battle.”

“Understood. We shall wait until then. In the meantime, I would like to have you and your sister stay here. I imagine the hotel is doing a number on your budget.”

“Well, I don’t think money would be too much of an issue, but then again, I’d like to not have to spend any more than I have to. So, I think we’ll take you up on your offer. What about you, Linds?”

“Yeah! It was really nice staying here that night you went to wipe out the bad guys, so I’d be happy to stay again!”

Lisa smiled. “All right, it’s settled, then! We’ll stay with you until we’re ready to move on to the next town! Thanks for offering!”

“You’re welcome. But, actually this is the last town before the Pokémon League. The entrance to the league’s headquarters is just north of town, so this is your last stop.”

“Well, I don’t want to intrude, but…”

Melissa sighed. “After the second of January, the League headquarters opens up their housing for trainers to begin moving in. You’re welcome to stay with me until then.”

“Oh, okay! Thanks a lot, and we’ll try not to be too much of a burden. But I thought the League tournament didn’t start until the 15th.”

“It doesn’t, but some trainers like to arrive early and use the League complex’s state-of-the-art facilities for last minute training.”

“Sounds like that could be a good idea for us, too. Now, will the League be housing us free of charge?” Lisa asked.

“That’s correct. From the second until the day after closing ceremonies, you’ll be able to stay at the apartments there for free. It’s a service they provide to all participants in the tournament. Even if you lose, you’re still invited to stay and watch the remainder of the battles and participate in the closing celebration.”

“Well, hopefully I won’t be beaten too quickly…” Lisa smiled and rubbed the back of her head.

“Now, don’t worry about that. What will come will come.”

“Yeah, sis, you’ll do great!” Lindsay added.

“Thanks, you guys! Of course, I still have two more badges to earn first!”

“Indeed,” replied Wendy. “But if you trust in your Pokémon’s abilities and your own, that should give you the strength to prevail.”

“The important thing is to have the full support of your Pokémon. And just by seeing how they behave around you, I’d say you’ve already got that covered,” said Alexis as she spread some butter on a dinner roll.

“Thank you. So, what will the two of you be doing after this?”

Shannon finished eating a piece of her turkey before answering. “Well, we wanted to stay and watch your Gym battle at least, but tomorrow Lorelei’s taking us somewhere for some “real-world training.” It might be another mission, I’m not really sure. But, we’ll be sure to keep in contact!”

“So will I! Okay, let’s eat up! If I’m going to be staying here, I do need to get the rest of the stuff from my hotel room and check out first, and I’d like to get that done before dark.”
*******

Melissa’s dark red 1975 Mercury station wagon pulled up under the Quality Inn’s front canopy. The Gym Leader waited in the car while Lisa and Lindsay walked inside the five-story facility… only to meet a familiar adversary.

“Well, hello, Lisa,” a disheveled brown-haired young man muttered as he adjusted the wide-rimmed spectacles on his face. “Remember me?”

“Yeah! You’re that Reggie dude who keeps challenging me to amusing but simple battles of skill and wit! What’s up?”

“It’s time for the final showdown between us!” Reggie said nasally. “And this time, I shan’t lose!”

“So, what’s the game this time?”

“Calculate the Greatest Common Divisor,” answered Reggie. “Lame title, I know, but it’s something even you can comprehend. Not that a noob like you stands any chance of beating me!”

“Lindsay,” Lisa muttered as she handed her younger sister her hotel room card. “Gather your stuff and my stuff, then wait for me in there. I’ve got some important matters to take care of. Nobody insults my mathematical prowess and gets away with it. Now go.”

Giving her older sister a puzzled look, Lindsay took the card and headed for the elevator.

Lisa turned and faced her nemesis. “Bring it on.”

“You asked for it, Lisa! 1,290,542 and 890,973! Go!”

As a stunned desk clerk looked on, Lisa answered, “The answer is one. Now, try 6,581,388 and 5,099,123.”

“You’re not serious, are you? Answer’s seventy-three. Anyone knows that! Let’s see if you know the GCD of 23,682,960 and 387,791,265!”

“Five hundred fifty-five. Not too bad. Let’s see how you like 80,847,187 and 3,406,807!”

“It’s one,” Reggie answered. “How about 4,105,498 and 790,523? What is their GCD?”

Lisa sighed. “Once again, it’s one. Can we stop with the coprime numbers for awhile? Like, maybe 60,987,474 and 78,609,351?”

“Oh, fine. And the answer’s three. Bet you can’t get this one, though! 2,169,195 and 2,793,210!”

“Ooh, a challenging one! But, the answer is 29,715!” After her opponent grudgingly nodded, she continued, “Try 29,190,588 and 9,031,596!”

“Uh, oh…” Reggie hesitated and began sweating.

“Come on, hotshot,” Lisa taunted. “We’re all eager to hear your answer!”

“Um… they’re both divisible by four… Um, fifty-two!”

“Ha! Wrong!” Lisa shouted, pumping her right fist into the air. “The answer is eighty-four! You know, like the lumber company! Better luck next time!”

“Damn you! Hear me well, someday I will beat you!” With his face red from anger, the nerdy fellow stormed out of the hotel. The older woman at the front desk shrugged and returned to her paperwork. Fortunately, nobody else had walked into the lobby during the “battle.”

“Well, that’s over. Hopefully my Gym battle coming up will be as exciting…” Lisa mumbled to herself as she pressed the button to call the elevator down to the lobby.
*******

Lisa sat at a computer in Melissa’s spare bedroom. Lindsay was in the room too, stretched out on a queen-size bed with a fluffy white comforter. With family photos and heirlooms set atop a large wooden credenza, the room had a more homey atmosphere than the girls’ hotel room had. The younger sister wasn’t really paying attention to her older sister, instead focusing on whatever caught her attention – from the dark red curtains to the brass light fixture on the ceiling, to the paintings of landscapes hanging on the walls.

Lisa was focused on the computer screen, looking at something that caught her attention. “Look at that finely chiseled body, that elegant stance…”

Needless to say, these comments attracted the attention of Lindsay. The young girl rushed over to see what her sister was salivating over. Getting a look at the monitor, she let out a disappointed sigh. “Oh. It’s just a car.”

“What were you expecting it to be?” Lisa asked, a puzzled look on her face. “Anyway, this isn’t just a car. It’s a 1984 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency Brougham, power cloth seats, power windows, stereo cassette, ice cold air conditioning, 350 V-8, and only sixty-seven thousand miles! It’s going for only seven thousand dollars, too! Don’t you think this would be perfect for me?”

“But, you already have a car, sis!” Lindsay yelled from the bed, where she was lying down once again.

“Yeah, I know, but I need one I can take to college with me! I can’t have college kids putting dents on my baby, now can I?”

“Whatever, sis… you and your cars…”

“Oh, that reminds me… I gotta check to see if I’ve been accepted to any schools yet!” After several minutes of clicking through websites, Lisa sighed. “Now here comes the hard part.”

“What?”

“I’ve got eight schools who are offering me full scholarships and employment. Now I have to decide which one I want to go to… and what I’m going to do with my Pokémon when I do start in the fall…”

“Any schools in this region?” Lindsay asked, sitting up on the foot of the bed.

“Yeah, two of them. Fourtix University’s main campus in Bluefield and their Marquis City campus, located right in town. The other six are back in the States, in the Southeast.”

“Well, which one are you going to attend?”

“I don’t know right now, Linds,” Lisa answered as she turned off the computer monitor and walked over to a recliner in the corner of the room. “I still have a few months to decide that. Anyway, I guess we’ll see what’s on TV.”

A news report was showing on the television. “It was announced today that Fourtix Pokémon Center Franchise Systems Incorporated will be pulling all JoyBots from the region’s Pokémon Centers. This news comes after reports of a flaw in the robots’ construction that has resulted in fires and explosions. The company is facing lawsuits from those injured in the explosions and will likely be forced to file bankruptcy in the fallout.”

“Hmmm… I wonder who’ll be taking over the Pokémon Centers after all this. Anyway, at least those creepy robots will be gone. Okay, I wonder what else is on.”

A few channels later, Lisa found something to watch. On the screen was a familiar bald scientist with dark sunglasses. “Awesome, it’s ‘Professor Blaine the Science King!’ It’s been forever since I’ve seen this show!”

“So you see, once I put this switch in the ‘On’ position, this metal bar connects these two ends of wire, completing the electrical circuit and illuminating the light bulb you see here. It is in this way that electricity is put to use. Now, for a Pokémon-based take on how electricity works, let’s turn to my colleague and special guest, Lieutenant Surge!”

A muscle bound man dressed in camouflage military gear walked onstage. “Okay, troops! To understand how Pokémon can harness and use electricity, it’s important to know how electricity works in the first place! So, I hope you’ve been paying attention!”

Lisa was now fully engrossed in the program. “Man, I’ve gotta get this show on DVD!”

Chapter 52: Gym Battle Double Trouble!

Lisa – wearing her familiar blue dress and green blouse – entered the Marquis City Pokémon Gym. Lindsay followed her big sister inside, wearing her purple floral dress. As she made her way into the lobby, the teen reflected on her intense training in local parks, as well as Melissa’s expansive backyard while the Leader was over at her Gym. Lisa had not been told the battle parameters, so she had her team practice both single and double battle strategies, including having Jolteon ride on Flygon’s back.

The lobby of the Gym was a car museum of sorts, with four automobiles on display. Three of them were Mercury Grand Marquis models – a red 1975 four-door, a light beige 2005 “30th Anniversary Special Edition” sedan, and a 1991 wood-paneled Colony Park station wagon, especially notable since it was one of the very last Grand Marquis wagons to have been manufactured. The fourth car in the lobby was the Grand Marquis’ smaller cousin, a 1976 Mercury Grand Monarch Ghia sedan.

Lisa spent a considerable amount of time examining and admiring the four vehicles. Lindsay grew increasingly impatient, looking intently at her watch while tapping her foot on the floor. Eventually she let out an exasperated groan and walked over to her sister, grabbing her by the arm and dragging her toward the door.

“Hey! What do you think you’re doing, Linds? These cars are works of automotive art!”

“Look, you can go ga-ga over them all you want – AFTER your battle! Now come on!”

Through the doorway was a small waiting area. The two Gym Leaders, along with Wendy’s apprentice Craig and a teenage girl who was most likely Melissa’s assistant, were there to greet the sisters.

The redheaded teenager wore a plain red dress. “My name is Zoey, and I am Melissa’s sister and match officiator.”

“Nice to meet you,” said Lisa as she shook Zoey’s hand.

Melissa, wearing her dark gray business suit, told Lisa of the Gym’s policies. “First off, if your sister will be watching the match, she needs to go through that door and find a seat in the stands,” she explained as she motioned toward a red steel door marked “Spectators.”

Lisa held up her right hand. “Wait, we’re going to be battling in front of an audience?” Looking like a deer caught in the headlights, her mouth and eyes were both opened wide. “Nobody mentioned this to me!

“Yeah, you’ll be doing all of your Pokémon League battles in front of a crowd, so why not get used to it here? All of my battles are held so that anyone from the town who wants to can watch. And, do we have a record crowd today! They’re really pumped up because not only is this the last Gym battle before the Pokémon League starts, it’s also the first time they’ll get to see two Gym Leaders in action!”

Wendy, in a pink evening gown, saw Lisa’s legs shaking and spoke up. “Do not worry, Lisa; battling in front of a large crowd is not something I do often either, but I am sure the both of us will be able to focus on the task at hand.”

The teen nodded, trying to disguise her nervousness. “Okay, then! I’ll try my best to give this audience a battle they won’t forget!”

“Oh, and Lisa?” “We will head out to the arena first, but we’ll need you to wait here until you hear the announcer call your name. Then you may proceed through the double doors in front of you and make your way to the field. Understood?”

“Yeah…”

As the Gym Leaders and their assistants left Lisa in the waiting area, Lisa’s heart began racing. “Oh, man! This sounds like a big event! I hope I’m ready…
*******

Over a loudspeaker, an announcer’s voice began addressing the crowd. “Today marks the final match that will be held here at the Marquis City Pokémon Gym for this year! And, boy do we have a good one for you, ladies and gentlemen! We have a special guest Gym Leader who will be battling as well as our local Gym Leader! From the exquisite island resort of Regency City, please welcome the elegant maiden who has soared to great heights with her mastery of Flying-type Pokémon! Introducing… Wendy!”

The wealthy Gym Leader made her way onto the battle arena, with Craig following behind her. She was welcomed by loud clapping and cheering as she waved to the crowd.

“And now, please welcome your hometown heroine, a young woman who has proven herself to be adept with various types of Pokémon as well as a wide variety of battle tactics! Give it up for Marquis City Gym Leader, Melissa!”

Thunderous applause exploded from the stands as the local Gym Leader made her way to the field, accompanied by her sister and officiator.

“And last but not least, it’s the young trainer who will be taking on both of these highly skilled trainers! All the way from Anderson, South Carolina, in the United States, please welcome Lisa Northwood!”

Right on cue, Lisa emerged from the waiting room, welcomed by cheering from the spectators sitting on the bleachers that encircled the field. Looking around, she noticed that the ceiling was much lower than in any of the other gyms she had been to – maybe eight or nine feet high at best. “I wonder how Wendy’s gonna handle flying here?” Snapping back to attention, the girl quickly took her place on one end of the arena.

“Lisa,” Melissa started, “Wendy and I had a discussion on how we would handle you facing both of us at once. You’ll be taking us on in a best-of-three series of singles rounds – the first trainer to win two rounds will be declared the victor. Battles against Wendy and against myself will be counted separately. Neither trainer may substitute Pokémon during a round; however, the challenger must substitute her Pokémon after each round regardless of the outcome.”

Wendy said, “I shall battle you first, then Melissa, and we shall alternate like that. As for me… Come, Altaria, and dazzle the competition!” The Gym Leader stepped up and gracefully pitched her Pokéball.

“Flygon, it’s your turn to solve some equations! Let’s go!” Lisa also performed a sweeping underhand toss to throw her sphere.

Immediately upon being released from its Pokéball, the sky-blue Pokémon uncurled the cloud-like white wings from around its body. Flapping the wispy-looking appendages, it began to take off. But it was not acquainted to the low ceiling in the gym, finding it difficult to move around within the confined airspace.

Likewise, Flygon found herself without a lot of room to maneuver within the confines of the Gym. As the green Dragon-type flapped her thin, sharply angled wings, she began to fly around, but with her feet and long tail dragging on the floor. Through her bulging red eyes, her vision remained locked on Altaria as it dived in for the first strike.

As Flygon barely dodged her attacker, Wendy said, “Well, it looks like both our Pokémon are eager for battle. Let’s not disappoint them. Altaria, Dragonbreath!”

“You got it! Flygon, time to do like we practiced! Fly up and prepare to strike!”

The green dragon spread her green wings wide and began to gain as much altitude as she could within the Gym’s confines. Altaria did the same, loosing orange clouds from its beak as it pursued its opponent. Flygon led it through a gauntlet of quick turns and abrupt changes in altitude, getting grazed by a few errant Dragonbreaths in the process. Despite wincing after each impact, she continued her game. The spectators’ eyes could barely keep up with the erratic flight paths of the battlers as they simply watched in silence.

“Okay, now!” Lisa shouted.

In one smooth motion, the green Pokémon stopped, turned her body around, and charged headfirst at Altaria. Her head slammed directly into the large body of the bird, knocking the wind out of it. The force of the blow sent the blue creature reeling backward, but it managed to stay in the air. Shaking its head quickly to regain its composure, Altaria dived in at Flygon, but she was quick to dart left and avoid retaliation.

“I must admit that was a pretty clever move, Lisa,” Wendy called out. “It looks like you have learned much about airborne combat since our last battle. But it’s not over! Altaria, use a Peck and Wing Attack combo!”

“Okay, Flygon! Steel Wing!”

Flygon got off the first strike, cutting her opponent across the torso with a wing bathed in white light. Despite a new diagonal scar on its body, Altaria was quick on the draw, getting right in Flygon’ face and pecking her repeatedly between the eyes. The bird extended its fluffy white wing in preparation of a Wing Attack, but Flygon was not going to take any more. She shoved one of claws right into Altaria’s sky-blue gut, jostling loose some feathers. The pecks to the head left numerous red marks on the green Dragon-type’s angry face.

“Altaria, use Dragon Claw!” Wendy yelled while extending her ring finger.

Didn’t she try that trick during her last battle?” Lisa warned Flygon, “Careful, it may try a long-range attack. Be on the lookout.”

Altaria made no immediate move to swoop in at Flygon, so the green Dragon-type held back as well, keeping her bulging red eyes glued on her adversary. After what seemed like forever, Altaria finally made its move, opening its beak and releasing an orange gas. Flygon was not taken by surprise by the long-range attack, flying right to dodge the Dragonbreath before coming at Altaria with claws extended. She delivered several slashes to Altaria’s body before a Wing Attack finally forced her back. But she pulled off a Dragonbreath of her own – and caught Altaria off guard. The thick, amber colored smoke struck the bird directly in the face, causing it to lose altitude. All the while, Lisa smiled with her hands on her hips. She would not fall for the same trick twice.

“Altaria! Sky Attack time!”

“Quick, use Dragon Claw! That thing can charge up really fast!” Lisa warned.

Heeding her trainer’s caution, Flygon wasted no time in rushing toward her opponent, claws glowing brightly. With Altaria still charging, she swiped it multiple times, not giving the other Dragon-type a chance to pull off its Sky Attack. With each slash, more blue feathers and chunks of white fluff were sent flying off Altaria’s body. Flygon finished her flurry of swipes with a swift kick to Altaria’s underside. With a final pained chirp, the blue bird nosedived to the floor of the Gym.

“Good work, Altaria, but I guess you couldn’t take off in here,” said Wendy plainly as she called back her Pokémon.

“All right! You were awesome, Flygon!” shouted Lisa as she summoned her dragon back into her Pokéball. “Melissa, you’re up!”

Craig announced, “Lisa wins this round and currently leads one battle to zero. Leader Melissa, please step forward to begin the next round.”

“Okay, Lisa, you better be ready to play this game! Misdreavus, go!” Melissa pitched her next Pokéball into the fray by tossing it over her head.

“Oh, I’m ready to find your game’s Bayes-Nash Equilibrium! Walrein, now!” Expanding her mathematical comments into the realm of game theory, Lisa sent out her next Pokémon.

With a haunting, high-pitched screech, Melissa’s tiny ghost prepared to take on whatever its opponent would send out. Floating in midair, the ghost’s green-black form bore an effeminate face complete with large, piercing red eyes. The wily little Pokémon was simply a head and a small bit of neck, complete with a red pearl necklace that gave off patterns of flashing light. Misdreavus’ purple-tipped “hair” billowed behind it as it moved about rapidly.

The huge blue Ice-type let out a bellowing roar as he appeared in a flash of red light. With his massive ivory tusks ready to strike, the Pokémon began slamming his thick tailfin on the Gym’s floor. The tuft of fluffy white fur on his face completed Walrein’s chilly, wintry look. His movements were sluggish because of all of his blubber.

“Time to go all out! Walrein, use Ice Beam!”

Melissa smirked. “Going all out? I’m cool with that. Let’s begin with a Shadow Ball!”

The Ghost type was faster on the draw, quickly gathering dark matter in front of it and firing a concentrated sphere toward Walrein. Although he took a direct shot to the face, with the Shadow Ball exploding into chunks of black energy upon impact, the massive mammal was undeterred. A crystallized blue beam came flying out of his mouth, also hitting its target right in the face. Misdreavus was quick to recover from the shot, despite still shivering from Walrein’s chilly reception.

The small Ghost-type began emitting a high pitched yell. Walrein squinted his eyes and let out loud howls. The combined noise caused everyone – the audience, the judges, even the battling trainers themselves – to cover their ears. Once both Pokémon had finally quieted down, the people within the Gym slowly moved their hands from their ears.

“That Screech was probably to set something up. Keep on your guard, and try to confuse it with Water Pulse. That may buy us some time.”

“Oh, you’ll soon see what we’re planning. Misdreavus, another Shadow Ball.”

Lisa figured that Walrein would be better off delaying his attack so it wouldn’t be interrupted by his faster opponent. “Wait for it to attack first!” she shouted. “Then go ahead and nail it!”

Heeding his trainer’s warning, he waited to begin prepping his Water Pulse. He raised his left front flipper to cover his face, letting the black projectile hit. Afterward, he began gathering water within his mouth, watching as Misdreavus was preparing another Shadow Ball.

Once again, Misdreavus was able to fire off its attack first. But this time, Walrein was able to release his own strike before being struck. The pulsating wave of blue water passed beneath the sinister black sphere, and both attacks found their targets. The Water Pulse succeeded in soaking the dark gray Ghost-type while the Shadow Ball once again exploded into particles of dark matter upon hitting Walrein’s fin. However, Misdreavus did not appear to be confused in the wake of the assault, just drenched.

“Nice, Walrein! Let’s try an Ice Beam this time!”

“Time to take this to the next level! Use Curse and Toxic!”

Circles of purple light appeared underneath both Pokémon as Misdreavus’ eyes began to give off an eerie red glow. Unsure of what his opponent was doing, Walrein shot off a chilling beam of crystallized ice. The wily Ghost-type was able to launch its next attack seconds before the Ice Beam made impact, causing the floating specter to shiver as ice crystals formed on the pink tips of its hair. Misdreavus’ own attack was a ball of purple slime, but it was noticeably smaller than a Sludge Bomb. Upon striking Walrein, the sphere was absorbed by his body, giving off toxic purple bubbles in the process. Several seconds later, the hefty Ice-type let out an anguished howl as the violet ring reappeared underneath him. His skin began taking on a darker tone and he was finding it difficult to hold his head up, as it began to droop lower and lower.

“Excellent work. Now we’ve got her cornered! Shadow Ball, Misdreavus!”

Seeing her Pokémon bathed in the ghostly purple glow, Lisa knew she needed to make a decisive move. “The clock’s ticking. Okay, Walrein, like we practiced! Use your secret weapon!”

Gathering a growing mass of black energy in front of it, Misdreavus prepared to launch its attack. Meanwhile, Walrein took a deep breath and inhaled, causing his cheeks to puff up even more than usual. As soon as the ghost released its Shadow Ball, the Ice-type exhaled a huge blast of flash-frozen air. The massive Sheer Cold encased everything in its path in a thick layer of ice, including the incoming Shadow Ball. But the airborne Misdreavus floated up to the ceiling and only felt a cool breeze rush past instead of being turned into an ice cube.

Uh, oh, it missed! This looks bad!” Lisa’s body began shaking as she grabbed her dress and squeezed it tightly in her fist.

With Walrein exhausted from both the failed Sheer Cold and the effects of the poison and Curse, Misdreavus was able to send another Shadow Ball his way. The giant walrus was in no condition to dodge the attack, and the black sphere hit him directly in the face and bent his head backward. With a howl of anguish, the massive mammal collapsed onto his side.

“Oh, no! Come back, Walrein!” Lisa shouted while tugging on her dress. The exhausted Ice-type disappeared from the arena in a flash of brilliant red light.

“Excellent performance, Misdreavus. Come back.” The Ghost-type also vanished from battle.

“I declare Melissa the winner of this round!” shouted Zoey. “Lisa currently trails zero to one. Wendy, you’re up again. Please step forward and release your Pokémon!”

“Looks like it’s me again! I shall now choose Skarmory!”

“Okay, then! Weezing, next equation! Go! We can wrap up Wendy’s badge with a win here!”

Flapping its thin pink wings, the silver bird emitted metallic squeaking noises as it took flight. Swooping around the battlefield, it seemed somewhat disoriented at the fact that the roof in the Marquis City Gym was lower than that in Regency City, where it was used to battling. Despite being leaner than Altaria, it appeared Skarmory was more apprehensive about its new setting. The Pokémon had to lower its long neck to have enough room, and even then its thin talons scraped the ground occasionally.

Weezing also went airborne, emitting large amounts of gray smog as she shrunk one head while inflating the other. The purple dual orb looked at her foe with her eyes partially shut, and had to dodge left to avoid a preemptive wing strike. Out of retaliation, she blew a thick cloud of blinding black smoke into the face of her adversary.

I know Fire Blast’s the only thing Weezing can do that’ll harm Skarmory, but it’ll definitely do a number on it…” Pointing at the shining bird, Lisa yelled, “Hit it with Fire Blast!”

“Skarmory, Steel Wing!”

The metallic bird looked around a bit, trying to get a feel for its surroundings. With her foe distracted, Weezing thought she could get the jump on it. She began generating heat within her body by rapidly pumping up one of her heads while deflating the other in quick succession. The Poison-type quickly got off her attack, but Skarmory looked up at the right time and flew to the left to avoid it. The wide, five pointed flame formation barely grazed Skarmory as it rushed past.

Now with a better sense of its environment, Skarmory dove in at Weezing. Still exhausted from unleashing her failed Fire Blast, Weezing was helpless as the steely bird delivered three piercing slashes with its wings, before following up with rapid pecking. The Poison-type threw her body at the attacker out of desperation. This caused Skarmory to relent in its assault, but did little damage to its metallic skin. In contrast, Weezing’s purple porous body showed three sharp gashes as well as several puncture-type wounds.

“Okay, then! Weezing, how about a repeat performance? But let’s try blinding it with a Smokescreen first!”

“Nice try with Fire Blast there, but one won’t be enough! Blow that smoke away, then unleash a Drill Peck!”

The toxic orb released thick black fog from the pores on her purple skin. In response, her opponent began flapping its wings to dissipate the dark cloud. With both parties able to see clearly, they wasted no time in attacking. Weezing once again alternated the sizes of her two heads to build heat within her body, but she wasn’t able to launch her attack as quickly as before. Skarmory’s sleek silver form rotated rapidly in midair as it dived toward Weezing with its beak aimed right at the Poison-type.

Weezing was still able to fire off her attack before Skarmory could reach her, torching the bird with massive balls of flame and leaving black marks all over the steely Pokémon’s silver body. Despite being torched, Skarmory remained in formation, drilling its spinning beak directly between Weezing’s eyes. The crowd rose to their feet, awed at the resilience of Wendy’s Pokémon. Both heavy blows left the combatants pausing to catch their breath.

“Weezing, use Fire Blast!” the teenager shouted.

“Cut through it with your Steel Wing, Skarmory!”

The shining bird flew toward Weezing with both wings stretched straight out to either side. Weezing was alternately shrinking and expanding her two heads in order to prepare her heated attack. However, previous uses of the attack took their toll. The razor-sharp pink wings of Skarmory cut gashes into the Poison-type’s circular purple body as it flew past. By the time Weezing fired off her flaming assault, her foe was already behind her.

Both Pokémon turned around to face each other again. With its beak poised for a good pecking, Skarmory once again swooped toward its opponent. In a last-ditch effort to slow the steely bird long enough to unleash a Fire Blast, Weezing blew a thick black cloud of smoke in front of her. Despite the dense Smokescreen fog surrounding its target, Skarmory’s metal beak found its mark, leaving a deep puncture wound in its wake. Weezing let out low-pitched groans as she fell to the floor.

“Oh, no! Sis lost this battle!” Lisa could clearly hear her sister’s voice above the cheers of the audience.

“Don’t worry about it, Weezing. That was a tough opponent. Come back and rest.” Trying to keep her head held high despite her disappointment, Lisa returned the Poison-type to her containment sphere.

“Nice work out there, Skarmory. You may rest up now.”

‘The victor of this round is Leader Wendy. The challenger and Leader are tied with one win each. Melissa, it is your turn once again.” Craig motioned for the other Gym leader to step forward.

“That means I’m next! Go, Bellossom!”

“All right! Then I’ll derive this one using Metagross!”

A diminutive green Pokémon took to the field next, smiling sweetly as it twirled around like a ballroom dancer. Its spinning made the green and yellow petals on its lower body flutter like an evening gown. Two red flowers graced either side of its head, similar to how Lisa used to decorate her hair with two faux daisies when she was younger.

Lisa’s Metagross sharply contrasted Melissa’s Pokémon. Nothing cute and little here – the towering, four legged mechanical Pokémon easily eclipsed its opponent, gazing down on it with its glaring red eyes. The huge gold ‘X” plastered across its face did nothing to make this giant look more gentle. The mirror-like finish on its body had been polished and waxed to perfection and emitted a bright glow, like the bumpers of the cars in the lobby.

“Okay, Bellossom, we’re in a tough spot! But let’s lead off with a Petal Dance!”

“Nail it with Metal Claw!” Lisa commanded.

Twirling about like a flowery ballerina, the tiny green Pokémon unleashed a flurry of razor sharp pink petals from below its skirt. Metagross slowly advanced on its foe, lumbering right toward the flying projectiles. Though it took a direct hit, Metagross emerged unfazed. Every petal that had hit the Steel-type merely bounced off its chrome body and landed harmlessly on the floor. The mechanical Pokémon extended its right front leg and slashed Bellossom diagonally across its body, causing the small creature to cry out as it winced at the blow. Metagross’ attack left a sizable scratch mark on the plant’s body, but showed no signs of wear itself.

This one’s almost too easy!” Pointing at the injured Grass-type, Lisa shouted, “Now give it a nice Psychic blast!”

Melissa clenched her teeth. “We won’t be beaten so easily! Time to hit you with a Solarbeam!”

Still dancing about, Bellossom began to gather yellow energy atop its head. Seeing an opportunity to get in a quick strike, Metagross closed its eyes and focused its powerful mind. Waves of mental energy converged on Bellossom. The Grass-type yelled out as the nearly invisible attack gave it a massive headache – and caused the gathered Solarbeam energy to dissipate. With its opponent still reeling from the last attack, Metagross blasted it with another Psychic, further compounding the pain. Bellossom clutched the sides of its head as the second strike hit. But the little Pokémon managed to weather the two Psychic hits, remaining upright.

Winking at her Pokémon, Melissa called out her command. “Okay, Petal Dance!”

Why’d she wink?” Lisa wondered. “Could she be trying to trick me? After all, Petal Dance won’t work well on Metagross…” Lisa warned her Pokémon, “Watch out, it could fire off any attack from any direction!”

Bellossom began doing its twirling dance, which Lisa knew was the precursor to any number of attacks. She was hardly surprised when a cloud of thick powder emerged from beneath the Pokémon’s leafy skirt. But she still didn’t know if her Pokémon was onto this game plan.

“Metagross, it’s a powder attack!”

The Steel-type was already on to Melissa’s game, though. It closed its vivid red eyes to focus its mental powers. The hulking machine-like Pokémon used a Confusion attack to take control of the particles and telekinetically sent the powder right back to the sender like a letter without enough postage. The cloud of spores descended upon Bellossom, instantly putting the Grass-type to sleep as Metagross continued to make its way toward the opponent. Raising one silver leg high in the air, the metallic Pokémon brought the hammer down on the snoozing Bellossom, delivering a single, devastating blow from above.

From the stands, Lindsay’s smile grew huge as she let out a loud, “Woo-hoo! Awesome attack, sis!” The crowd in the stands cheered loudly as this round came to a close.

“Hmmm… I guess Bellossom couldn’t do much against a Metagross,” Melissa conceded as she called back her fainted green Pokémon.

“Nice Meteor Mash there,” said Lisa to her towering Pokémon before recalling it. “Well, looks like both of our battles have come down to the final round.”

“Indeed,” Zoey stated plainly. “Lisa wins this round and ties things up, one to one. Wendy, get ready for your final round!”

“My final Pokémon. Our final battle. Ready? Dodrio, you’re up!”

“Okay, Jolteon, let’s do a little problem solving!”

Having realized that her flying strategy wasn’t going to pan out here, Wendy sent out her one Pokémon that wouldn’t have to worry about it. From a brilliant flash of red light, a tall and lanky bird Pokémon appeared. Although each of its three heads wore a different facial expression, they were otherwise identical – made up of a ball of brown feathers and a long, slender beak. The bird’s body was brown and spherical as well. The creature’s pink tail feathers waved back and forth as Dodrio began running rapidly around the arena using its long legs to gain momentum.

Jolteon came out to play with his spiky yellow fur already crackling with electricity. As his white collar stood up on end, he squinted his black eyes to try to get a lock on his fast-moving target. With his hind legs were bent and ready to spring him into action, he prepared to strike fast and hard.

“You know what to do! Thunderbolt!”

“Type alone shall not guarantee victory, Lisa! Start off with Agility!”

The triple-headed Pokémon began darting around the battlefield in a seemingly random pattern. Jolteon and Lisa had a hard time keeping their eyes on the rapidly moving Pokémon, as did the spectators. The Electric-type was hesitant to charge up electricity for an attack, knowing fully well he would likely miss.

“Now!” was Wendy’s next command.

Almost instantly after its trainer’s one word order, Dodrio rammed directly into Jolteon’s right side, knocking the yellow Pokémon onto the floor – hard. But Lisa noticed that Dodrio was now open to an attack.

“Jolteon! Zap it!”

Without even getting up, the spiky creature quickly released a yellow blast of electricity from his fur. With an ear-splitting squawk, the flightless bird cringed as its entire body was lit up by the Thunderbolt. After the hit, Dodrio staggered a bit, giving Jolteon enough time to get back on his feet.

“I let my guard down once, it won’t happen again! Use Agility again, Dodrio!”

She’s probably gonna try to draw this thing out by having Dodrio give Jolteon the run-around.” Lisa calmly gave her Pokémon a simple command. “Be patient.”

As Dodrio once again began dashing around the arena at a blinding pace, Jolteon just stood there. Seeing Lisa’s strategy, a smirk formed on Wendy’s face.

“Ah. I see now. Change in plans! High-speed Fury Attack!”

Dodrio continued its frantic pace, but now it was making passes close to where Jolteon stood – close enough that it was able to make a quick jab at the Electric-type every time it rushed past him. The spiky yellow Pokémon cringed and yelped with each hit, and Lisa realized that she had to change tactics.

“Okay, try to use Thunderbolt as it passes by you! And try an Agility of your own!”

Jolteon saw the brown blur that was Dodrio come toward him again, and he tried to shoot out a Thunderbolt to stop the bird in its tracks. The attack struck the floor behind the target and Dodrio got off another hit. The Electric-type took only a second to shake off the sting from the attack before it began darting across the field. The battling trainers and the audience now saw brown and yellow blurs moving about, with the occasional bolt of crackling lightning being fired off.

Eventually, Dodrio slowed down, and Jolteon followed suit. Though both Pokémon were out of breath and panting heavily, Lisa’s Pokémon found the energy to strike Dodrio with a small blue shot of electricity. The bird’s body began to stiffen and tense up, with Wendy glancing worriedly at it.

“All right! Nice Thunder Wave! Now we won’t have to play this cat and mouse game any longer! Okay, time to hit it with a Thunderbolt!” Lisa cracked a smile. Wendy could no longer play her hit-and-run game.

Curling her left hand into a fist, Wendy muttered, “Oh, perfect… Dodrio’s paralyzed… We’ll have to switch to the direct approach… Fine, then! Tri Attack!”

Dodrio moved its three heads so that they formed a triangle, all the while gathering energy within its beaks. Jolteon was also charging up his own attack, building up electricity on the tips of his fur. The Flying-type was a touch faster, firing off yellow, blue, and red beams from each of its heads. The Tri-Attack slammed directly into Jolteon’s head, causing the Electric-type to recoil.

Instead of releasing his electricity in a concentrated blast, small yellow sparks were shot off by Jolteon in all directions. Lisa had to jump backward to avoid a few of the errant electric bolts, and landed hard on her rear. Dodrio had to leap over some sparks as well, but its landing was much more graceful. In the time that it took Lisa to pick herself off the floor, Jolteon had launched another assault – but this time the Thunderbolt found its mark – turning Dodrio into a brilliant flash of yellow light and sparks. The triple-headed bird somehow managed to stay on its feet, and even let out angry cries in the wake of the attack.

“Tri Attack again!” shouted the Flying-type Gym Leader.

Lisa brushed off the dust from her dress. “How about a charge? Thunderbolt!”

Arranging its heads in the triangle formation, yellow, blue, and red energy formed in Dodrio’s beaks. The tri-colored attack emerged and shot directly at Jolteon, who had already charged his fur with electricity. His jump to dodge the incoming Tri Attack was timed almost perfectly. The energy beam passed under him, only grazing his feet. This did not deter him at all, as he loosed a crackling shot of yellow sparks.

Dodrio began sprinting to the left and avoided the strike. But as all three heads watched Jolteon’s attack harmlessly light up the air, it ran headlong into the wall, putting a dent in the drywall. The long-beaked bird stumbled about in a daze, with its heads swaying back and forth dizzily. Jolteon took advantage, and this time his Thunderbolt would not miss. Dodrio found itself encased in a sparking yellow glow as it let out pained high-pitched cries. With its brown feathers now blackened, the bird fell over on its side.

“Nice move, sis!” Lindsay yelled. The older sister responded by doing a little victory dance.

Craig announced, “Lisa has won this round and has secured two victories. After the final battle with Melissa, she will be awarded the Sky Badge. Now, please prepare for the final round!”

“So, our battle has come down to the final round as well. Perfect! I battle twice as hard when I’m under pressure! Nidoqueen, let’s get started!”

“Sine and tangent and then cosine, victory will soon be mine! Persian, go!”

A blue Pokémon stepped up to battle, with its large ears twitching. Stomping its two massive feet, the creature let out a loud effeminate roar. The short, stubby horn on its snout was likely not used for battle; its powerful limbs looked more suited to that task.. Its body appeared to be more heavily protected, however, with smooth scales. Two noticeable beige “breasts” gave the creature a feminine look, but her intent glare was like that of a mother fiercely protecting her young.

Squaring off against the Poison-type was Lisa’s feline starting Pokémon. The cat’s freshly groomed beige fur glistened under the arena’s stage-like lighting. Letting out contented meows, she licked both front paws before extending her claws. She carefully and methodically moved about, looking for the right angle to spring into action.

“Your Persian appears to be well trained. We shall soon see exactly how well trained it actually is. Nidoqueen, show Persian the Sludge Bomb gauntlet!”

“I don’t like the sound of that! Be prepared to jump and dodge!” warned Lisa.

True to the attack’s name, Nidoqueen began firing off Sludge Bomb after Sludge Bomb. Each slimy projectile was coming in right at Persian. If she wanted a shot at her adversary, she would have to get past all of them. Ready for the challenge, the cat started off by sidestepping to the left, barely avoiding one purple ball. She followed that up by several acrobatic jumps, crouches, and sprints, each maneuver getting her past one more projectile and one step closer to her target.

Finally in the clear, Persian made a jumping lunge toward Nidoqueen, but the beefy Pokémon had another surprise waiting. A single Sludge Bomb caught the feline off guard, exploding into a purple mess all over her face and knocking her backward. She managed to land on her feet in typical cat fashion. As Persian was trying to wipe the gunk from her face, Nidoqueen was charging in for another hit. Her face was only half clean, but she could see enough to jump right and avoid being steamrolled by the big Poison-type.

“I’m impressed by your Persian’s agility, but it’s time to put it to the test! Dig underground!”

“Water Pulse! Let’s go!”

The hulking Poison-type bent down and furiously swiped at the Gym floor with her claws. Nidoqueen was somehow able to slice through the tile and concrete and make her way underground. The cat ran over to where her opponent had retreated and took a deep breath. She launched a steady stream of water into the hole in hopes of flooding it and forcing Nidoqueen out. Sure enough, deep, echoing howls could be heard from within the hole, and it didn’t take long for a soaked Nidoqueen to reappear, with Persian ready to blast her with another Water Pulse.

Despite taking another drenching shot of liquid fury to the face, Nidoqueen held her ground and remained on her feet. In fact, the blue beast even managed to jump high into the air, crashing down right on top of an unsuspecting Persian. Both the crowd and Lisa gasped at the surprise Body Slam, and Lisa’s fidgety hands finally did the dastardly deed – ripping a big hole in her white pantyhose.

Oh, man! Not another pair! And they had lasted so long, too!

“Nidoqueen! Superpower!”

“Quick, Persian! Hit it with an Aerial Ace before it pulls it off!”

The blue creature’s fists began glowing white as she rushed toward a crouching Persian. The cat was watching her foe’s movements and waiting for the time to strike. Silently, she launched herself into the air, with her claws at the ready. Nidoqueen saw this move and stopped dead in her tracks, positioning her glowing fist so that it was right in front of her face. If Persian wanted to get off a blow to the head, she’d have to withstand a hard right hook to her own face.

Persian noticed the change in strategy, and moved her limbs and head to change the trajectory of her descent. She sliced Nidoqueen across the upper torso, ducking her own head so that she flew completely beneath her foe’s fist. Leaving red scratch marks across the Poison-type’s stomach, she landed on all fours behind her. Staggering in the wake of the Aerial Ace, Nidoqueen’s own attack was halted. Still, the beefy Pokémon was able to shake her head and regain her composure.

“Time to pull out all the stops! Earthquake, now!” Melissa shouted.

“Get ready to jump as soon as you see that coming,” advised Lisa. “Or else it’s gonna hurt…”

The Poison-type was not about to let Persian dodge her attack, however. To this end, she first shot out a single heaping glob of purple slime, catching the cat off guard. The attack literally blew up in her face, leaving her blinded by the thick, sticky sludge. As Persian tried to wipe the gunk off herself, Nidoqueen launched herself into the air.

“Here it comes!” Lisa shouted in a panic.

But her Pokémon was too preoccupied with cleaning the slime off to heed the warning. Nidoqueen came crashing to the ground, shaking up the entire room as a massive tremor ripped through the arena. Persian was knocked off her feet and landed hard onto the shaking floor. For the second time in the battle, Lisa found herself stumbling and landing on her rear. The beige feline was slow to pick herself back up, but quick to retaliate once she did so. As her opponent taunted her, she flung a barrage of coins at her before blasting the shiny projectiles with a powerful stream of pulsing water. The combined force of the accelerated coins and the Water Pulse was enough to cause Nidoqueen to stagger and fall much like Lisa had only moments before. Now it was Persian’s turn to taunt, as she let out several low growls and smirked at her foe as she got off the floor.

“Nidoqueen, Mega Kick! Go!”

“Wait for it to get close, then hit it before it hits you!’ shouted Lisa.

Shifting her weight from side to side, Persian waited for her opponent to strike. Hoping to catch the watchful cat off guard, Nidoqueen waited before making her move, charging in at Persian. As the blue Poison-type closed in, she pulled her right leg backward in preparation for the strike. Seeing this, Persian stretched her right front paw out to the side, with her claws gleaming. Each of the combatants struck the other simultaneously, with the cat swiping Nidoqueen’s stomach as the other’s foot made contact with the left side of her face. Each Pokémon’s attack caused the other to be knocked backward.

Now at opposite ends of the arena, both Pokémon still stood, though both were wiped out. Their heavy breathing and numerous battle scars told the tale of this intense bout. Nidoqueen attempted to take a step forward, but fell flat on her face. With her eyes closed and she remaining motionless, it was clear Nidoqueen was spent. Melissa knew this and called her back.

Zoey held up her right hand. “Nidoqueen is unable to battle! The winner is Persian. With two out of three wins by the challenger, I declare that Lisa has earned the Diamond Badge!”

Lisa knelt down next to her Persian and began rubbing her head gently. “Thanks a lot. You were great out there. Hey, I’m going to let you get some well-earned rest now.”

After Lisa called back her Pokémon, she approached the center of the battlefield where both Gym Leaders were waiting.

Wendy was the first to address the winner. “Lisa, I had reservations about your training skill after our first battle, but seeing your performance today has convinced me that you are truly a capable trainer. Therefore, I confer upon you the Sky Badge.” Reaching into her ruby-studded handbag, Wendy pulled out a square badge with an illustration of a blue sky and wispy white clouds. “This is officially yours,” she continued, placing the object into Lisa’s hand. “I hope to see you soar even higher in the future.”

Melissa spoke up next. “Lisa, you’re certainly not without your quirks, but the bond you share with your Pokémon is tight. You were able to work harmoniously with them, and therefore were able to realize victory today. As recognition of your achievement, I shall present you with the Diamond Badge.”

True to its name, the Diamond Badge was shaped like – and glittered like – a diamond. “Thank you,” Lisa said as she took the badge and bowed before both Gym Leaders. “It was a pleasure to battle you both.”

The announcer who had introduced the battle gave closing remarks. “Once again, let’s give a hand for all three battlers! And congratulations to Lisa, who has earned two badges today!”

The spectators applauded one more time as the battle was officially brought to a close.

After meeting up with Melissa and Lindsay in the waiting room, Lisa told them, “Hey, you two go on back to the house. I’ve still got some business to attend to here.”

“What business?” asked Melissa, raising an eyebrow.

Taking out her digital camera, Lisa smiled and answered, “There are four cars in the lobby that are waiting for me.”

The Gym Leader chuckled. “Well, it’s always nice to see young ones taking an interest in classic cars. Just be careful not to touch them.”

“Heh, you don’t have to worry about that. I don’t let anyone else touch my car, either.”

“Really? What kind of car is it?” Melissa asked.

“It’s an ’89 Chevy Caprice Classic with the LS Brougham package. Wonderful car, and I’ve done my best to keep my baby in mint condition.”

“Yeah, she cares for that car more than she does me,” Lindsay said.

“Shut it, Linds! Anyway, if you want, you two can go on ahead.”

“Okay,” said Melissa as she and the young girl headed out of the Gym. “But, Lisa, I must say you have impeccable tastes in automobiles.”

“Aww, thanks!” Lisa called as she rubbed the back of her head and smiled.
*******

Back in Melissa’s house, Lisa and Lindsay were relaxing in the guest bedroom. The older sister was sprawled out on the bed while her younger sibling sat in a recliner in the corner of the room.

“Oh, man, that was tough today! Linds, I’m beat! At this rate, I don’t know if I’ll have what it takes to make it through this League tournament…”

“But sis!” Lindsay shouted as she jumped out of her seat. “You’ve come so far! You can’t just quit now! I won’t let you!”

“Okay, calm down, Linds! I’m not gonna quit! I’m just saying that it’s starting to get really tough on me, especially after going through the deal with Thrash not too long ago! You’ll learn to understand when you begin training and battling yourself – it takes a lot out of you! Man, it actually makes me miss the days of being an RA; even with the fire alarms at three in the morning and all those freshmen getting drunk, it never took this much out of me!”

“Sis…”

“Don’t worry, I fully intend to battle through the League with all I’ve got. But after that, I’m taking a break from training. I could use it, and I think my Pokémon would appreciate the break, too.”

“Hey, are you gonna let your Pokémon out?”

“Later, I’ll do it. Right now, I just want to rest up and maybe see what’s on TV.”

Flipping on the television, Lisa browsed the channels until she came across a news report.

“Today marks the second day of the trial of Bartholomew Tyson “Bart Sy” Junger, former head of the Thrash Brotherhood and its affiliated religious sect, the Church of Hirojuto. Most of the other members of the organization have pleaded guilty and have agreed to testify against their former boss. Three notable exceptions are co-conspirator Ardos, the subject’s father Thomas Junger, and former team administrator Frederick Tomlin. Ardos and the elder Junger are currently being tried separately, and Tomlin has already been tried and convicted after an earlier arrest.”

“Wow,” Lisa mused. “They wasted no time in getting the guy put on trial.”

“Bart Sy, forty, currently faces charges including murder and aggravated cruelty towards Pokémon, and faces a life sentence if convicted. He is considered an extreme flight and escape risk, and is currently being held at the Supermax prison on Citadark Isle…”

Lisa picked up the remote and turned off the television. Getting off of the bed, she turned to Lindsay. “I’m gonna head to the backyard and let my Pokémon out and feed them. You want to come?”

“Of course, sis!”

Chapter 53: A Different League

“It is with great pleasure that I welcome all of you to the thirty-second annual Fourtix Region Pokémon League tournament! This is the venue where champions have been crowned, legends have been born, and dreams have been realized! I, Chester McLean, will be heading up the commentary for this year’s event, and from what I’ve been told, this looks to be one of our most exciting tournaments yet! Two hundred and fifty one trainers have earned the privilege to battle here by defeating the region’s ten highly skilled Gym Leaders. They are the best of the best, and have come to prove their mettle against one another.

“Each trainer must compete in a preliminary round where they will be scored on their battle ability. The top hundred and twenty-eight will move on to the actual tournament, which will be carried out in single elimination brackets. Now, for some opinions on the favorites to win, I’ll turn it over to our analysts, Tyron Howell and Ovid Richardson!”

“Thank you, Chester. Of course, there has been much speculation on which of the over two hundred trainers will rise to the occasion. The combatants here range from ten year old rookies to experienced veterans approaching seventy. With such a wide variety of trainers, experiences, and tactics, it’s impossible to know exactly how these battles will play out.”

“That’s true, Ovid, but I think there’s one trainer that’s clearly favored over everyone else to win this year. Naturally, I’m talking about last year’s champion, Terence Mason.”

Lisa’s face turned red and she began grinding her teeth upon hearing that name. “Great… so that punk’s here, too…

Tyron continued, “Terence has not lost a battle since the Worldwide Pokémon Championship nearly a year ago. He’s proven that he can prevail in battles regardless of what his opponents throw at him. It is that skill that has earned him many fans and admirers, and he’s my choice to win.”

“Indeed. While there is a chance of an underdog victory, Terence has proven time and time again why he’s the top ranked trainer and why he’s such an obvious favorite to win this year. Now, back to you, Chester!”

“Thank you. Now, our competitors here are vying for more than just fame and recognition. The top four in the tournament will earn big cash prizes, with the winner being awarded twenty-five thousand dollars! The top four will also earn two other important privileges – the opportunity to battle our region’s own Elite Four, and the chance to represent our region in the Worldwide Pokémon Championship!

“But, of course, most trainers will tell you that the most important reason they’re here is to show off their Pokémon and prove themselves and their partners in battle against their fellow trainers. And you’ll see a lot of that here, trainers taking great pride in their Pokémon, eager to show others just how tight their bonds with their battling partners are. And each of them will get their first chance to do that tomorrow, during the preliminaries. But for tonight, we’ll be giving everyone an opportunity to relax and get to know some of their fellow competitors. And that concludes our opening ceremonies!”
******

The “apartments” at the Pokémon League headquarters were more like oversized hotel rooms with a small kitchenette unit located across from the bathroom door. Otherwise the layout – with two queen beds side by side facing a wooden chest of drawers and a modestly-sized television set – was little different from the multitude of hotel rooms that Lisa had stayed in. The décor of the room had a Pokéball theme, with the iconic capturing spheres printed on the curtains and bedspreads, as well as bright red carpeting and doors. Lisa had commented before that the room was “gaudy as heck, but fairly clean and comfortable.” The sisters were each sprawled out on their own bed when a knock was heard at their door.

Lisa climbed out of bed and slowly trudged over there, looking through the peephole. Upon seeing who it was, she opened the sloppily-painted red door and let two girls in the room. One had brown hair, the other black, Both wore blue jeans and heavy sweatshirts.

“Lauren! Kim! Long time, no see! Well, more so for Kim.”

“What do you mean by that?” asked Lauren, folding her arms across her chest.

Lisa blushed. “What I mean is, um… I haven’t seen Kim since the big party in Plum City. We’ve met more recently, on the ship. That’s all.”

“Oh, well then, I guess I can understand that.”

After giving Lisa quick hugs, both girls sat down on the small red couch sandwiched between Lisa’s bed and the window. Lisa asked, “Are your rooms this tacky and red, too?”

Lauren nodded as Kim answered, “What I don’t get is, how do they expect us to get to sleep with so much bright red all over the place? I mean, I know they’re going for the whole Pokéball theme here, but…”

“You two just get here today? I’ve been in Marquis City taking care of some business, so I’ve been here since the second,” Lisa said.

“Yeah, we just finished unpacking and decided to drop by your room. Anyway, we talked with Alexis and Shannon a couple days ago and they filled us in on what went down with Thrash and all,” replied Kim.

“Yeah,” Lisa mumbled as she sat on the foot of her bed. “It’s really a shame that they couldn’t be here, even as spectators, but duty calls, I guess.”

“I know,” Kim said, pulling out a stick of gum. “They would have done very well here, I think. Anyway, how are you doing, Lindsay?”

“Oh, pretty good, I guess. I’ve been watching Lisa train her Pokémon, and they’re looking really good! I can’t wait to see her in action!”

“Anyway, how about we all get some dinner a little bit later? The dining hall here actually serves some pretty good food,” Lisa suggested.

“Okay, sounds like a plan! It’s been a tough last couple of weeks, training and preparing for this tournament,” Kim answered. “I would’ve liked to stay near the League site in Marquis City, but there just aren’t any good training spots in the area. I had to backtrack to the caves outside the Safari Zone to do my training!”

“Yeah, and I just hung around Sphinx City and trained with the Gym Leader there,” said Lauren.

“Wait, didn’t you still have to get the badges from Wendy and Melissa first?” asked Lisa.

“No, I actually cleared all the gyms about three months ago. Before we met on the ship, I’d been wandering about, training in various locales. But, I tell you, no matter where you train, it takes a lot out of you and your Pokémon.”

“Oh, I know!” Lisa replied, wiping her forehead. “I’ve been practicing day and night, and even in the rain! I know I want to make sure my team gets enough practice in, but I’m getting worried I’m pushing them too hard…”

“Sis,” Lindsay interrupted, “I’m sure if your Pokémon felt you were pushing them too hard, they would have let you know. Right now, I think they’re just really excited about battling here.”

“You’re right… Still, I would like to give them a chance to rest, y’know?” Lisa glanced over at her yellow handbag, where her Pokéballs were.

“That’s probably a good idea,” Kim said before letting out a yawn. “Jeez, looks like I’m tired, too!”

“We’ll probably turn in early tonight, because we’ll all have to get into battling mode starting tomorrow,” Lauren added.

“So, anyway, Lisa, do you have any plans for after this tournament?”

“A nice long rest, first of all!” Lisa said, giggling. “But sometime, I do want to return to college. Masters degrees don’t earn themselves, you know. The question is, though… what to do with my Pokémon while I’m in school. I could send them to Dr. Sequoia, but I would think they would miss me.”

Kim heaved a sigh. “It’s definitely not an easy decision. It’s weighing your wants and needs against those of your Pokémon, and it’s probably the toughest decision a trainer will make. I mean, these are partners who have been by your side. You’ve developed a connection with them. And making a decision to leave them behind is never easy.”

“Yeah… I mean, I definitely don’t want to leave them behind, but I may not have a choice. So anyway, what are you two planning to do afterward?”

Lauren was the first to answer. “Well, I’d like to maybe get back into Contests. I think the Contest on that ship, especially that final round battle against your friend really got me motivated to try them again. I’ve never been to the Hoenn region. I’m thinking of heading out there after this.”

Kim was twirling her long black hair around her finger. “Me? Well, I was planning on training here again for next year’s tournament. I know some trainers like to move on to different regions, but this is my home. I like it here, so why should I leave?” She stretched out her arms and yawned again. “Wow, I am really getting sleepy! What do you say we get our dinner now?”

“Works for me,” said Lisa as all four girls got up and headed for the door. As Lisa went to open it, she began coughing loudly.

“Sis, are you okay?”

“Yeah… I think…”
*******

“And the winner is Flygon! With this win, Lisa Northwood moves into the top thirty-two, overcoming a late-battle comeback by Dan Poulsen!”

Flygon flapped her wings, standing victorious over a fallen Alakazam. The yellow Psychic-type did leave its mark, though; the dragon’s green body was covered with the marks and scratches of battle. Even after the battle was over, she still clutched her head; the headache-inducing effects of a last-ditch Psychic still causing her pain. Both trainers recalled their battle-weary partners before heading to the center of the field. Lisa met the redheaded young man and used some hand sanitizer. She had sneezed a couple of times during the battle and wasn’t sure if it was a cold.

“Congratulations,” Dan said, extending his right hand. “That was a great battle.”

“Yeah, it was,” Lisa replied, shaking hands with the young man. “You almost had me at the end.”

“Hey, Lisa? I think that dress is kinda cute,” Dan mumbled before walking away.

Lisa glanced down at her outfit – her pink dress with red and purple flowers on it, and a pair of black leggings. Her face turned red for a moment before she returned to her senses.

She met Lindsay at the exit to the grandstands along with Kim and Lauren. “Hey, sis, you were great out there!”

Lisa blushed again as she rubbed the back of her head. “Aww, thanks, sis! But it was my Pokémon, really!”

Kim said, “Hey, guys, how about we grab a bite to eat?”

“Awesome! I could use a break!”

The foursome walked over to the dining hall and placed their orders. While they waited for their servers to arrive with their food, they began to discuss the day’s battles.

“Wow, that battle sure surprised me!” Lisa started. “I took out his first two Pokémon easily, but then his Alakazam… it easily wiped out both Weezing and Jolteon, and almost Flygon as well!”

“Just goes to show you that you can’t ever let your guard down.”

“You’re one to talk, Kim! You could’ve beaten your opponent in your sleep! I mean, you ripped through his entire team with just your Espeon!”

Kim replied, “Yeah, but my battle before that was a toughie! So there!”

Lauren laughed. “I suppose you’re right. But today, Delcatty really came through for me, standing up to that girl’s Machamp and taking it down. I think some of the dodging moves I taught for Contests really helped today!”

“Looks like it did,” Lisa said. “I was really impressed by both of your battles today! Hey, girls, think we can all make it to the top four?”

“Sure! I’m ready to go all the way! I’m sure if we all do our best, we should be able to make it, no problem!”

“To a top four performance for all of us! Let’s take the League by storm!” Lauren shouted as she pumped her fist into the air.

“To a top four performance!” yelled Lisa and Kim as the three of them stood up and high-fived each other.

As they took their seats again, Lindsay said, “Good luck, you three! Do your best! I’m rooting for all of y’all!”

Lisa let out another sneeze just as their food arrived. After wiping her hands with her sanitizer, she unwrapped her hamburger and grabbed some of her fries. “Okay girls, let’s eat!”
*******

Lisa groggily got herself out of her bed. “Ohhh… my head…” She did not look well; her face was flushed and red and she let out several loud coughs in quick succession. So far in the tournament, she had made it to the quarterfinals, but after each battle, she had felt a bit more ill. After barely beating a fellow named Eddie yesterday, she had immediately gone back to her room with a throbbing headache. Placing her hand on her forehead, she felt herself heating up. “Oh, great… not a fever, too…”

She stumbled over to the computer and took her seat. “I’m probably going to just forfeit this match… I do not feel like battling as I am right now.” Turning it on, the first thing that came on the monitor was a screen that detailed her next match. What she saw instantly made her change her mind. The smirking face of Terence Mason was right there, taunting her.

“Change of plans! I’m not gonna back down from this guy, no matter how cruddy I feel!”

Her yelling had woken Lindsay up. “Huh, sis…” Getting a good look at her sister, her eyes suddenly opened wide. “Lisa, you look horrible!”

“Yeah, and I feel even worse,” Lisa answered before sneezing loudly. “But I have to battle today. This is one fight I can’t back down from.”

“Are you sure?” the younger sibling shouted. “You look like you’re in no shape to battle!”

“I know, I know,” Lisa said, grabbing her blue floral dress and a pair of white pantyhose and heading into the bathroom. “But this is something I have to do.”

A few minutes later, Lisa emerged from the bathroom. Slipping her green cardigan over her dress, she began coughing again.

“Sis, please don’t push yourself too hard! I’m really worried.”

Now putting on her white hat, Lisa told her, “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine. Now come on, I’ll need you in the stands cheering for me!”
******

“Chester McLean here! Ladies and gentlemen, the quarterfinals of the Fourtix League Tournament are now upon us! Eight trainers will battle for a place in the prestigious Top Four and for all the benefits afforded to those in that very distinguished group! Today’s battle features our star champion in the blue corner! Please welcome the invincible Terence Mason! Compiling a 148-0 record during the regular season and during this tournament, he’s been ripping through the competition! His all-out battling style has earned him tons of victories and even more fans, and he’s looking to score more here today! Now only one trainer stands between him and Top Four status!”

Amid an explosion of applause, screaming, and chanting of his name, Terence made his way toward his trainer’s box. Sporting a shaved head, black shades, red hoodie, and numerous gold chains around his neck, he waved and blew kisses toward the uproarious crowd.

“And now, his challenger in the red corner! This young lady has surprised us all, making it this far in the tournament after coming in as a relatively unknown entry aside from her exploits against the Thrash Brotherhood. Her 56-8-1 record might not be that impressive, but she’s definitely stepped up her game. Still, it’ll be a nearly impossible task to topple our returning champion! Please welcome the self-proclaimed ‘Calculus Queen,’ Lisa Northwood!”

Lisa’s entry was not met with nearly as much applause as her opponent, and her walk to the trainer’s box was not as graceful either, as a sudden coughing fit nearly made her trip. Though the grandstands packed with boisterous fans had always been a bit intimidating and unnerving for Lisa, the effect was made many times worse now by her fever and headache. Finally making it to the box, she thought, “Why is everyone against me and for that guy?

“Hey, Lisa!” Terence shouted. “You don’t look too good! Why don’t you just give up and save yourself some time and embarrassment! There’s no way in hell an idiot like you can beat me!”

“I may be sick, but I will mop the floor with you!” Lisa retorted before coughing loudly.

“Oh, you’re sick, too? I was referring to that butt-ugly outfit you’re wearing! You look like a freakin’ tool!”

“Oh, now you’re gonna get it! Nobody insults my outfit! Bring it!”

“Please. I intend to make this an easy victory for me! Tyranitar, you’re up first! Show no mercy!”

“Walrein, let’s get this equation solved! Now!”

Terence’s Pokémon was a fearsome dinosaur-like creature covered in hard, olive-green scales. A row of razor-sharp spikes running along its back looked poised to puncture the skin of anything that dared to try and attack it from behind. Roaring loudly, Tyranitar stomped about on its hind legs as its thick tail violently swayed from side to side. A blue diamond-shaped area in the center of its torso appeared to be the only part of its body not protected by armor, and Lisa knew she would have to target that area to do any significant damage.

Walrein’s entrance was marked by a loud, deep bellow. With both his imposing tusks and the white fur on his face letting off a soft glow, he moved his massive blue body toward his opponent before launching first strike – a pulsating stream of water. The huge walrus watched as his attack struck Tyranitar dead center – but his confident look soon became a stunned expression as the monstrous Pokémon emerged seemingly unscathed.

“Okay, we have Walrein versus Tyranitar, and the action’s already heating up!” shouted Chester from the announcer’s box.

Terence began laughing. “You’ll need to do better than that! Tyranitar, crush that thing! Mega Punch!”

“Ready to chill out? Ice Beam!”

Tyranitar began charging headlong at its icy opponent, its fist extended and ready to strike. Walrein took in a deep breath and shot out a crystallized blue beam from his mouth. The frozen ray hit Tyranitar right in the gut, but the creature’s armor-like skin rebuffed most of the damage and allowed it to continue on its path. Being too slow to dodge the attack, Walrein took a hard right hook to the face. The force of the impact sent him sliding backward about a foot and a half. A red bruise was now visible on his face, contrasting with the snowy white covering.

“You thought an Ice Beam would do anything? You stupid or something? Now, Tyranitar! Show her an Iron Tail!”

“I’m getting tired of your attitude! Time to end this now! Walrein, unleash a Sheer Cold!”

Roaring, the hefty walrus exhaled a chilling blast of wind, instantly freezing everything in its path. The only problem was that Tyranitar was not in its path. Catching wind of the situation, it had quickly swiped at the ground and dug a deep hole.

“Well, that didn’t work!” yelled Lisa, grabbing at her dress nervously.

Tyranitar reappeared a few feet away from Walrein, blasting through the ground accompanied by a deafening roar and flying chunks of earth and Astroturf. It swiped its tail at the Ice-type before he could react. With the tail glowing a bright white, the strike left its mark across the front of its target. Lisa had to do something, and fast. Her Pokémon was howling out in pain, and it didn’t look like he could take much more.

“You okay? All right, let’s go for a Water Pulse!”

“Hahahaha! No way! Nail it with Brick Break, then finish it with Hyper Beam!”

Curling its right hand into a fist and pulling it back, Tyranitar began a headlong charge at Walrein, who was preparing to stop his foe right in its tracks. A pulsating ray of concentrated water was launched from the walrus’ mouth and hit the rushing green Pokémon directly in the gut. But even the forceful Water Pulse failed to knock Tyranitar down; in fact, the attack did nothing to slow the beast’s charge, though it did let out a loud roar upon impact. Approaching Walrein, Tyranitar extended its fist, slugging him right in the face and leaving him with another swelling bruise.

While Walrein tried to regain his senses, his opponent was charging amber-colored energy in its mouth. Seeing the imminent danger, the Ice-type tried to fire quick volleys of Water Guns to interrupt the attack. But he was a half second too late. His opponent had already fired off his Hyper Beam, which easily sliced through the shots of water and struck Walrein in the face. As her Pokémon howled out in pain, Lisa whipped out a Pokéball and called him back.

“No! Walrein, you did well, but you need to take a break. Return…” Coughing again, Lisa called back her injured Ice-type before placing her hand on her forehead. “Ugh… this battle is doing nothing to bring down this fever…”

“Did you see that? Too easy!” Terence boasted.

“Okay, looks like Lisa’s Walrein is the first to go down! But what Pokémon will take its place?”

The crowd could be heard cheering and chanting Terence’s name. “Ah, do you hear that? This audience is anxiously awaiting your defeat! Now, come on, don’t keep the nice people waiting!”

After another coughing fit, the girl looked up, her face red from either anger or her fever. “You asked for it! Metagross, go!”

Easily the largest Pokémon on Lisa’s squad, Metagross used its four hefty legs to carry its huge silver body to meet its opponent. Watching Tyranitar carefully through its vivid red eyes, the big Steel-type poised itself to strike. Despite Metagross’ intimidating size and the fearsome-looking gold ‘X’ crisscrossing its face, Tyranitar refused to back down.

Over the PA, the next set of battlers was introduced. “Okay, we have Tyranitar and a silver Metagross! Wow, this is looking to be one intense bout!”

“So, you think that’s gonna be enough to stop me? Not a chance! Use Earthquake now!”

“Okay, Metagross, let’s show them how we calculate! Metal Claw!”

Using its powerful legs, Tyranitar jumped into the air as its opponent began lumbering closer. Metagross knew it couldn’t avoid the impending Earthquake, but it had another plan. Tyranitar landed and triggered a ground-shaking tremor, but Metagross was quick to swipe at its opponent with the claws on one of its legs. The beast groaned in pain and clutched its stomach where the attack had made contact. Tyranitar staggered and quickly fell to the ground. Both battlers were shaken up by the still-rumbling Earthquake. The Steel-type shuddered but stayed on its four feet.

“Nice move, Metagross! Now follow up with an Earthquake of your own!”

Terence smirked. “So predictable. Tyranitar, Body Slam!”

The machine-like Pokémon slammed both of its heavy front legs on the ground, triggering an intense quake that shook up the entire battlefield. But Tyranitar had already jumped into the air to avoid it. It landed directly on top of Metagross, standing on top of the metallic Pokémon and letting out a triumphant roar. The Steel-type’s legs began to wobble, struggling to support the extra weight of its dinosaur-like adversary. But as soon as Tyranitar jumped off of its body, Metagross was ready.

As Tyranitar prepared to launch another attack, the Steel-type raised one leg and slammed it forcefully into Tyranitar’s torso – directly targeting the blue area unprotected by its rocky green armor. The blow knocked the heavy Pokémon back several feet, with a wide-eyed Terence watching in disbelief. Tyranitar crashed hard into its trainer’s box, causing it to shake violently. Terence had to brace himself against the box’s handrails to keep on his feet.

“Nice job out there! Let’s keep it up!” cheered Lisa, giving her Pokémon a thumbs up before letting out a series of loud sneezes.

With Tyranitar slumped against the trainer box, both Terence and his fans looked on in stunned silence. “How? I don’t see how you beat Tyranitar! But don’t you dare think this will go unpunished! Tyranitar, come back! Slaking, you’re up! Don’t let me down!”

“Incredible! Lisa’s taken down Terence’s mighty Tyranitar! Ask anyone who’s faced it – that’s no easy task! But now he’s sent out his Slaking to take on Metagross!”

Letting out a yawn, a massive mammal appeared on the field, its body covered in fur of various shades of brown. With its head resting on one hand while it scratched its belly with the other hand, Slaking did not appear to be especially motivated. But Lisa recalled her prior experience battling a Slaking, back when she took on Bart Sy and Ardos back in their laboratory. She knew that her opponent was capable of some truly devastating attacks.

“Now, I’ll end this! Slaking, use Earthquake!” Terence commanded, pointing at the huge Steel-type.

“Metagross, try a Psychic to interrupt that attack!”

Slaking let out a loud yawn as it lay on the field, not making a move. Closing its red eyes, the steely Pokémon began focusing its mind on the head of its adversary. Soon the giant mammal was clutching its head in pain and crying out. With Slaking temporarily stunned, Metagross stomped both its front legs on the ground, causing the earth beneath it to rumble. Slaking had barely shaken off the headache-inducing Psychic when the Earthquake hit, toppling the beast onto its back.

Lisa pumped her fist in the air as she looked at a fuming Terence’s face turn bright red. “Awesome move! Now let’s hit it with another Psychic!”

“What the hell? How dare you! Don’t think I’m down and out yet! Earthquake, now!”

Slaking, in a sudden burst of speed, sat up and slammed both of its arms on the ground. An earth-shattering quake followed, causing the big Steel-type to shake and shudder, its hefty legs wobbling and barely able to keep it supported. But Metagross was able to remain standing, even unleashing its own mentally charged attack on its opponent. Slaking again was subjected to a massive headache, letting out pained roars as it grabbed the sides of its head.

“Time for the finisher! Fire Punch!” Terence shouted, pointing at Metagross.

“I’m ready to wrap this up, too! Meteor Mash!”

Slaking just remained in place as it watched Metagross lumber toward it, giving its opponent a sly smirk. The Steel-type answered by slugging the overgrown sloth right in the face with a well-aimed strike with its leg. Slaking reeled from the attack, but quickly regained its composure. Rising to its feet, the huge mammal suddenly blitzed toward Metagross. The usually lazy Pokémon’s speed took Lisa by complete surprise.

“Whoa!”

Slaking delivered a devastating punch directly to the center of Metagross’ ‘X’, sending small red embers scattering in the wake of the attack. Its strike came with enough force to send the metallic Pokémon sliding clear across the arena before slamming into Lisa’s trainer box. Metagross’ face wore the scorch marks from the fiery hit.

“Sorry, but it’s not lights out for me yet! Psychic!”

“You need to learn when to quit! Another Fire Punch!”

With its eyes intently targeted on the hefty mammal, Metagross unleashed powerful waves of mental energy. Slaking just watched and yawned until a throbbing Psychic-induced migraine caused it to howl out in pain.

“Ugh! Don’t just lie there! Do something!”

“Do something, huh? Okay, one Meteor Mash, coming up!”

Once again, Slaking merely watched as its metallic foe lumbered toward it, but did little else besides let out some grunting sounds. This allowed Lisa’s huge Pokémon plenty of time to nail the Normal-type directly in the face, sending it tumbling end over end before crashing into the trainer’s box.

“Impossible!” bellowed Terence as the crowd grew silent once again. “Whatever! It’s time for me to bring out the big guns! Salamence! Attack!”

Growling menacingly, a huge lizard-like dragon emerged from Terence’s Pokéball. The creature’s body was covered in green skin that gave off an odd shimmering glow. Lumbering toward the center of the battlefield on all fours, the beast kept its massive red wings folded behind its back. The monstrous Pokémon slammed its tail on the ground in a show of power, but Metagross did not seem to be impressed by its scare tactics.

“Well, things don’t look good for Lisa now. Terence has brought out his pride and joy – an ultra-rare shining green Salamence! It’s his pride and joy, and arguably his strongest Pokémon! How will Lisa deal with this fearsome Pokémon? She might be up two Pokémon to one, but Metagross can’t take much more!”

Lisa sulked. “Great… Even the commentator is doubting my chances…

“He’s right! Give up now, and you won’t have to endure this! Earthquake!”

“Fine!” Lisa snapped. “But first I’d like you to taste a little combo we came up with! Implement Protocol Number 268!”

Emitting humming and creaking sounds, Metagross began stretching its four legs straight outward as its body began to rise above the battlefield. Now floating a few feet off of the ground with its legs spread out in a raised horizontal position, the Steel-type’s movements became significantly faster. It blitzed toward Salamence, who had stomped the ground and triggered a massive tremor. Thanks to Metagross’ airborne antics, the Earthquake rumbled harmlessly beneath it as it closed in on its stunned foe.

The hovering Steel-type began spinning rapidly in midair, knocking Salamence in the face repeatedly with each of its four outstretched legs. The winged Pokémon’s head recoiled after each strike, only to get hit again, over a dozen times in all. The attack relented only after Salamence swiped at its foe, sending the spinning Metagross flying off. But the levitating machine was able to regain control of itself before it hit Lisa’s trainer box. A bruised Salamence now glared angrily at its opponent, stomping the ground and roaring loudly.

“Electromagnetic energy at work! How do you like them apples?” Lisa taunted, hands on her hips.

“Your little tricks won’t work this time! Fire Blast!” Terence yelled.

“Maybe you’ll like this little trick better! Hyper Beam!”

Still levitating, Metagross began gathering energy directly in front of its gold “X.” Salamence wasted no time, gathering flames at its mouth. Both attacks were fired almost simultaneously, with the brilliant amber Hyper Beam slicing cleanly through the center of Fire Blast’s five-pronged star formation. Each move found its respective target, with the fiery attack grounding and badly charring Metagross.

Although the Hyper Beam was locked on Salamence, the Dragon-type had another surprise in store. Before being hit by the incoming energy ray, it had managed to unleash an Earthquake. And with the Steel-type’s flight cancelled, it got badly shook up even as Salamence was knocked backward by the impact of Hyper Beam. The green dragon emerged from the assault with a few more scars. Metagross, however, lay motionless with significant burn marks on its face.

“Oh, no!” Lisa yelled, nervously pulling on her dress. “Come back, Metagross…” After more coughing and sneezing, the teen withdrew her fainted Steel-type from the battlefield. “Okay, Persian, it’s crunch time now. Let’s go!”

The cat stretched out her carefully groomed beige body, her tail fully extended. She let out a determined meow as she unsheathed her claws from her front paws, ready to pounce. With her red jewel glittering like a ruby, she growled at her winged adversary.

“Well, Lisa’s hopes of victory are now riding on her Persian’s shoulders! Let’s see what it can do against this fearsome Salamence!”

“That ’s your last Pokémon? Oh, please! Dragon Claw!”

“I’m deflating that ego of yours right here and now! Now, Aerial Ace!”

Salamence spread its wings wide and prepared to swoop in at Persian with its claws glowing. But the wily cat wasn’t going to make it easy. She leaped into the air and drew first blood, cutting a diagonal scar across Salamence’s face and causing the reptilian dragon to crash land on the field. Persian landed on all fours behind her adversary and flung a barrage of coins toward it.

“How did you… Grr, I’ll show that stupid cat of yours true pain, straight from the depths of hell! Fire Blast!”

“I’m really getting sick and tired of hearing your insults, and I don’t know how you have this many supporters! Slash attack, Persian!”

Preoccupied with rushing at her foe, Persian was caught off guard by Salamence’s fiery attack. The massive, five-pronged flame formation completely engulfed her, halting her in her tracks. Lisa could only yell out, “Persian!” as she watched her Pokémon being overcome by the intense fire, her heart racing and her legs shaking. Terence, meanwhile, laughed triumphantly.

“Looks like it’s all over… huh?”

When the fire and smoke cleared, Persian was there, encased in a green protective barrier. She had managed to throw up the shield in time to avoid the brunt of the damage, only receiving slight singe marks on her body. But still, her once perfectly groomed fur was now charred, and someone would have to pay the price.

“Damn Protect! Survive this attack! Dragon Claw!”

“With pleasure!” Lisa spat. “Water Pulse!”

“Fool!” Terence taunted. “Water won’t do much of anything against my Pokémon!” Lisa merely smirked at this remark.

Persian made the first move, letting loose a pulsing blast of crystal-clear water. Though the attack drenched the dragon, Salamence took it in stride, and even laughed at its opponent’s seemingly futile effort as it flew toward Persian. But as it prepared to strike, it instead slashed itself across the face, leaving a deep red scar. The dragon landed and began glancing around the stadium as if it was in a daze.

“Wha… What the hell happened?”

“Nice job! Now, while it’s wet, use Thunderbolt!”

Nodding at her trainer, Persian began charging electricity on the surface of her body. She released it all in one concentrated blast of lightning, aimed directly at a still-confused Salamence. The winged beast did nothing to dodge, and was promptly lit up by the intense yellow sparks given off by the powerful electrical assault.

“Cheap shot!” Terence screamed. “Blast it with Hyper Beam and let’s end this!”

“Hahaha. Lost your confidence? “Persian, Dodge Dynasty that Hyper Beam then let ‘em have it! Slash!” After issuing her command, she held her chest and began coughing.

Quickly working to neutralize the situation, Persian leaped at Salamence, carving a deep scar across the dragon’s back with her claws. Angrily grunting and growling, the shining green creature slammed its tail into Persian, knocking her down. She was quick to scramble to her feet and launched a black energy sphere at her foe, striking it from behind. Seemingly unaffected, Salamence turned around to face its nemesis, roaring loudly and stomping its feet.

“Now, taste true pain!” shouted Terence.

“Aerial Ace, Persian! Sine and tangent and then cosine, victory will soon be mine!”

Both Pokémon went airborne, Persian by using her powerful hind legs to jump, and Salamence by flapping its broad red wings. Although Persian was first to strike with a diagonal midair slash across Salamence’s face, the winged dragon merely laughed tauntingly.

“This one move’s all I need to end this! Launch it now!”

Seemingly out of the blue, a brilliant Hyper Beam was fired out of Salamence’s mouth – Lisa had not seen it take the time to gather the energy first. Persian was also caught off guard as the all consuming energy from the attack completely engulfed her and sent her flying clean across the arena and crashing into Lisa’s trainer box with a deafening thud.

“Oh, no!” she cried. The force of the hit knocked Lisa off her feet. Still on her rear, she saw her Persian lying motionless. Ripping huge holes in her white pantyhose, she nervously yelled, “Persian, please get up!” Her frantic fidgeting was interrupted by loud coughing.

“Hah! It’s hopeless! You’ve lost! Now, finish this with Dragon Claw!”

Her body was scorched and scarred, and she was breathing heavily. But she wore a look of determination on her face, narrowing her eyes and growling softly. Seeing her Pokémon struggle to her feet, Lisa yelled, “Not yet, I haven’t!” The girl gritted her teeth. “Grr… I want to implement my trump card, but I need to give Persian a chance to recover…” The cat was now standing, but her legs were wobbling and she appeared exhausted.

“Your Pokémon’s got guts, I’ll give you that much. But it’s all over! Swooping Dragon Claw!”

Salamence took to the skies as its claws began giving off a white glow. After encircling its foe a few times, it dived down for the final blow. But one quick jump to the right saved Persian from defeat. And when she landed this time, there was no more quivering. The short lull gave her enough time to catch her second wind, and she looked intently at Salamence, who had landed after its failed attack.

“Try it again! One more hit and it’s over!”

“I think it’s time! Now Persian, Protocol Number 479!”

Nodding, Persian began charging up her next attack just as Salamence took to the skies once again. Sparks appeared on the surface of her body as she carefully watched the dragon’s flight pattern. At a precise moment, she let loose a rippling stream of water. But this was slightly different from her previous Water Pulses. Midway through the attack, she had also launched a Shadow Ball, and the black energy sphere was now embedded within the watery wave. As a final ingredient to the mix, she zapped the water with a Thunderbolt, electrifying the water and causing yellow sparks to crackle as the whole concentrated assault approached a dumbfounded Salamence.

The savage power of the three elemental attacks struck as everyone grew silent and the crowd rose to its feet in shock. The Electric/Water/Ghost hybrid attack slammed into the dragon from below, soaking it, zapping it, and disorienting it. As the massive Pokémon began to nosedive to the ground, Lisa winked at her Pokémon. The cat proceeded to hurl a flurry of golden coins at the beast as it continued to descend. Salamence landed with a loud crash, letting out a pained roar. To everyone’s surprise, it somehow got back onto its feet. Both Pokémon now stood facing each other, panting heavily. Each one wore the battle scars of a long and drawn-out battle.

The giant dragon stumbled about before its legs gave way, sending it crashing to the ground. The referee began his count. “One… Two… Three! Salamence is unable to battle! This match goes to Persian, and the winner is the red corner, Lisa Northwood!”

“Awesome! We won!” Lisa pumped her fist in the air as her Pokémon did the same with her right front paw.

Terence, meanwhile, threw his sunglasses to the ground and began stomping on them in frustration. “Dammit! How the hell did this happen? Impossible! I can’t lose!”

After a few moments of silence, the audience erupted into cheers, chanting Lisa’s name. “Thanks, everyone! Great job out there, Persian! You deserve a nice, relaxing rest now.” She called her battle-weary Pokémon back into her Luxury Ball before being hit with another coughing fit.

Meanwhile, an enraged Terence was clenching his fist, muttering, “So… even my fans betray me…”

The two battlers approached mid-field to shake hands, as was customary. As she walked out to greet the young man, Lisa rubbed some antibacterial sanitizer on her hands so she wouldn’t give Terence her cold. But as she held out her right hand, her opponent curled his into a fist and pulled it back. Before the girl knew what had hit her, she was lying unconscious on the field, a large bruise on her face. Referees were quick to restrain her attacker and escort him out of the stadium.

As he was being led away, Terence shouted, “Fine! Enjoy your victory! But you’ll get yours someday! That, I know for a fact! I’m outta here!”

Medical personnel were quick to swarm over the motionless girl. Lindsay had sprang out of her seat in the grandstands and ran out onto the field to check up on her sister.

“Lisa! Are you okay? Can you hear me? Lisa!”
*******

When Lisa came to, she was lying on a bed in the League’s medical center. Lindsay and a male nurse were seated in her room, along with two Gym Leaders – a young brown-haired woman and a middle-aged lady with bright blond hair.

“Melissa? Elektra? What are you two doing here?” Lisa groggily asked as she slowly sat upright in her bed. A bandage was now on the right side of her face where Terence had punched her.

Elektra said, “We were watching the battle when we saw you get attacked. We decided to escort you to the medical center and make sure nothing happened to you on the way.”

“Yeah, sis, they watched over me too and told me not to worry.”

“But congratulations on making it to the Final Four!” Melissa said. “I hope you don’t mind if we don’t shake your hand right now.”

“No, it’s fine.” Lisa began to cough.

Elektra told Lisa, “We’ve taken your Pokémon to get healed of their injuries. I’m placing your Pokéballs in your purse over here.”

“Thanks,” Lisa mumbled as the older woman placed two Pokéballs and a Luxury Ball inside her yellow handbag.

“Lisa,” the nurse said, “it looks like the swelling from that bruise is going down and I don’t think it’ll be a problem for you. However, you’ve caught a pretty nasty cold. You’ve got a fever, your sinuses are pretty bad…”

“Not to mention I’ve had this headache since morning…”

“I don’t think it’ll go away for a few days yet, so you’ve got to make a decision on whether you want to continue battling with that cold.”

Lisa got out of her bed. “I’ve decided. I’m… going to forfeit my next match. I barely made it through this one without fainting, well, at least until that guy punched me. With this cold getting worse, I don’t think I can make it through another…”

“Okay, Lisa. We’ll let the officials know. I’m sorry to hear it, but I also don’t want to see you push yourself too hard,” Melissa told her.

‘Wait!” Lisa called back. “Can you do me a big favor? Can you have Lindsay stay in your room, at least until I get over this cold? I really don’t want her to catch it.”

“Sure thing, Lisa,” Elektra answered.

“Bye, Lisa! Get well soon!”

“I’ll call you in the room later!”

As the two Gym Leaders and Lindsay left the room, the nurse turned to Lisa. “You’re clear to return to your room, but I just got word of the other three trainers who moved on to the semifinals. Do you want to know who they are?”

“Yeah, I’d like to know!”

“Let’s see,” he said, looking at his cell phone. “Looks like their names are Wesley Weaver, Kimberly Harris, and Lauren Prevost.”

“Lauren and Kim made it, too? Awesome!” Lisa cheered before being cut short by a sneezing fit. “Thanks a lot! I think I’ll head back to my room now. Thanks for everything.”

As the girl made her way back to her room amid the other trainers and spectators, her head was hung low. “Sorry guys… but it looks like your poor, pathetic trainer has let y’all down again…”
******

“In other news, former terrorist leader Bartholomew Tyson Junger was sentenced today to four consecutive life terms in prison. He was convicted on twenty-four charges including four counts of murder, two counts of aggravated cruelty toward Pokémon, and several counts of conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism. Prosecutor Evan Evers had this to say:”

“The convicted party, Mr. Junger, has committed some truly heinous crimes against society and nature, and has used extreme violence in his attempts to carry out his terrorist agenda. It was absolutely vital to convict him on the charges against him, and to impose a punishment of this severity. The public can rest assured that this man will no longer pose a threat to their well-being. This also serves as a warning to others who are contemplating large-scale terrorist plots. We are committed to bringing criminals to justice and issuing penalties that match the nature of their crimes.”

“Because of the severity of his crimes, ‘Bart Sy’ Junger, forty, will serve out his sentence at the Citadark Federal Penitentiary, off the coast of Orre. This is a maximum security facility from which there have been no successful escapes. In a final twist of irony, the facility on Citadark Isle was originally constructed as a stronghold for the former Cipher terrorist organization before it was seized by the government and converted into a prison. Many people we interviewed have said it’s a fitting location for ‘Bart Sy’ to serve out his sentence. Now, over to Becky for news of another high-profile arrest.”

“Thanks, Bruce. Woes continue for the region’s Pokémon Centers. With the parent company already facing bankruptcy in the wake of the JoyBot debacle, a prominent Center manager has been taken into police custody. Ramesh Desai, who owns and manages three different Centers in the region, now faces fraud, tax evasion and rape charges…”

Turning off the television, Lisa climbed out of bed and stumbled over to the bathroom. Pouring some cold medicine into a small plastic cup, the girl groaned.

“Why did this have to happen now? I feel like I’m letting everyone down by giving up, but there’s no way I can battle feeling like this…” She cringed as she drank the medicine. “And why does this stuff taste so awful? Ugh, I hate being sick!”

As she made her way back to her bed, Lisa pulled out Persian’s Luxury Ball from her bag. Sitting down on the foot of the bed, she ran her fingers across the ball’s smooth black surface.

“Persian, do you think this is a sign from above? Perhaps a way to tell me I’m not supposed to be a trainer? Maybe it’s been decided that I’m supposed to do something else with my life… I know, we’ve been through a lot together, and you’ll probably tell me I’m nuts for thinking this, but… I don’t know… I just don’t know…”

Carefully setting the Luxury Ball on the nightstand, Lisa climbed into bed, pulled the covers over her head, and was fast asleep before she knew it.

Chapter 54: A Palmetto State Homecoming

Despite her constant coughing and her fever, Lisa woke herself up in time to watch the final round of the tournament. She sat up in her bed and turned on the television in the room. Lindsay had gone with Elektra and Melissa to watch the battle at the stadium, leaving Lisa alone with her cold. But she’d rather have been alone than have her sister catch her illness.

“Well, this has been one good battle. Shame it’s coming to a close, it’s been exciting for sure,” Lisa murmured as she watched the finals of the big League tournament. She followed that comment up with a hacking cough. “Ohhh… I’m never gonna get over this thing…”

“Nidoking, Earthquake!” Kim pointed at the spinning blur of white and red approaching her large purple Pokémon.

“Dodge that!” yelled Lauren.

As Nidoking jumped into the air, the blur materialized into a spherical Pokémon, with both its eyes fixated on its airborne opponent. At a precise moment in Nidoking’s descent, Electrode fired an electrical bolt at the ground, propelling it into the air just as the foe landed and sent waves of tremors rippling throughout the arena.

“Nidoking! Horn Drill it just as it lands, before it can start spinning again!”

Running toward Electrode as the ball sailed through the air, Nidoking’s long purple horn began spinning rapidly. Just as the red and white Pokémon was about to make a safe landing, Nidoking was there to jab its horn directly between Electrode’s eyes. The force of impact sent the spherical Electric-type flying again, this time crashing hard against Lauren’s trainer box with a deafening slam.

“Electrode is unable to battle! This match goes to Nidoking and our new Fourtix League Champion is the trainer in the blue corner, Kimberly Harris!”

“Oh, no! Electrode, return! You were excellent out there…”

“All right! We did it! We’re the champions!” Kim began jumping up and down and pumping her fist in the air, with her Pokémon following suit.

“Hey, that was a great battle!” Lauren called out. “Congratulations on winning, champion!”

“Right back at’cha! You’re one tough cookie, and that was one great battle! I’m very impressed your Electrode lasted so long out there!”

“What can I say? We really focused on speed and evasion for this battle, trying to wear the other Pokémon out.”

“And it almost worked, too!”

“Wow!” Chester yelled. “And that’s how this year’s Pokémon League champion has been decided! The winner and new champion is Kimberly Harris!”

Kim, wearing a green hoodie, blue denim skirt, and black leggings, waved to the spectators who had witnessed the hard-fought battle. As the crowd burst into a frenzied applause, Lisa smiled and quietly turned off the television. “Congratulations, Kim… No, congratulations to both of you. You both put up an incredible fight.” Just then, Lisa’s cell phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Hey, Lisa, it’s Dad. Feeling better?”

“Hi! Yeah, I’m slowly getting over it, I think. At least my throat doesn’t hurt anymore. So, listen! I just watched the final battle of the big tournament! It was a great battle! My friend Kim ended up winning!”

“Hmmm,” Douglas murmured. “I don’t believe I’ve ever met her, but if you’re happy… Still wish you could’ve battled up to the end, though. You know we would’ve been in your corner.”

“Thanks. But I’m happy to have made it into the top four. I had a talk with my Pokémon, and I think they understand… or at least I hope they do…”

“Trust me, Lisa. They understand. Anyway, what’s the plan now?”

“Well, there’s a closing ceremony here in a few days. I’d like to stick around and see if my cold gets any better. If it does, I’d really like to go. There’s supposed to be ballroom dancing, a great meal, and lots of stuff going on!” Lisa answered before breaking out into another coughing fit.

“Easy there, Lisa! Well, I sure hope you get better, then! Wouldn’t want you to miss out on that!”

“Thanks. Afterward, I’m planning on coming back to South Carolina. I found out there’s a small international airport in Marquis City, and they do offer flights to Charlotte-Douglas Airport. But you’ll have to pick me up there.”

Her father replied, “Not a problem! We’re actually at our place in Fort Mill right now, so it wouldn’t be too long of a drive, either. We’ll be there for about another three weeks until we take care of things here, then we’ll be headed back to Anderson.”

“Awesome! Now, my car’s still safe, right?”

“Yes, of course. It’s parked in our garage and your grandmother is making sure to take it out and run the engine for a few minutes every week, just like you asked. Well, I think your mother would like to speak with you now.”

“Okay, bye, Dad!” Lisa said into her cell.

Brooke Northwood’s voice came on the phone. “Hey, sweetie? Feeling better?”

“Yeah, a little bit.”

“Well, we talked to your sister before calling you, and she seems to be doing okay with those Gym Leader friends of yours. In fact, she said they’re teaching her some things about Pokémon, too. She’s also really excited about coming back home next week!”

“Yeah, she told me that. So, I hear from Dad you’re in Fort Mill?”

“Yup, and we really like it here in this Baxter Village subdivision. It’s a really nice little community.”

“Wow, sounds nice! Is the business going well?”

“Yep! We’re ready to wrap things up at the Rock Hill branch and return home. But from what I hear, you’ll be back home before then!” the girl’s mother said.

“And I’m looking forward to it! Hey, when I get back, you’ll have to meet my Pokémon! They’ve really grown and they’ve pulled me through some pretty tight spots!”

“Oh, Lisa, I am definitely looking forward to that! Oops, wish we could talk longer, but we have our insurance claims adjuster on the other line! A teen backed into our car while trying to parallel park in front of us – during her driving test, no less! Did a number on the bumper and grill of the Mercury, too. I tell you, they don’t make cars like they used to! Sorry, gotta go! We’ll talk later!”

“Bye! I’ll see y’all in a few days!”

Clicking her phone shut, Lisa thought, “I turn sixteen and take my driving test in May… I hope I don’t mess up like that!

With her television still turned off, Lisa began to think to herself. On her mind particularly was her next move. She had battled through the Pokémon League as far as she could, but now she was at a crossroads in her life. Hoping to get some inspiration, Lisa called Persian out of her Pokéball before starting up her MP3 player. Finding the specific song she wanted to listen to, she began rubbing Persian’s head softly as she closed her eyes and began to immerse herself in the song and her own thoughts.
******

The wind is moving,
But I am standing still
A life of pages
Waiting to be filled

Even as I sit here in this room, the world outside never stops. I wonder… where do I go from here? What will the world have in store? I’m only fifteen. I have my whole life ahead of me. But what will I accomplish with this life? I mean, I’ve already made it pretty far as a Pokémon trainer, but is this my destined path? Right now I’m at a crossroads, and it seems like my Pokémon and school are pulling me in different directions. And at this point, pursuing either one could be a viable option for me…

I feel like as I sit here contemplating this, the world’s passing me by. Even right now, there are battles being waged, decisions being made, and changes happening. And all of it will affect the life that I’ll live in the future. How much longer must I stand idly by, unsure of the direction I will take in life? I think about all my friends who I went to school with, who already have their lives planned out. And then I think about everyone I’ve met these past few months, who are determined to be Pokémon trainers. I mean, am I wrong for not knowing where my life will lead me? Am I that pathetic, not having a clear direction for my life? Or is it perfectly fine for me to still be wondering? Maybe all my friends, who right now are so confident of their destined path, will someday be questioning it just like I am right now. It’s just… I don’t know what to do…

Persian, I’m not sure if you can understand the words your poor, confused trainer is bombarding you with, but… can you help me? Of all my Pokémon, you’ve been with me the longest, which is why I feel I can confide in you, but still… You know me. I would never abandon you or the rest of the team for anything, but do you think I’m really cut out for Pokémon battling? Or do you think I’d be better off pursuing another path in life? I know, I know… Ultimately, it’s a decision I’ll have to make for myself, but it’s too tough a decision for me to make alone. I know that the Lord already has my whole life planned out, but… I need help in setting off in the right direction. Please… can you help me out?


A heart that's hopeful,
A head that's full of dreams
But this becoming
Is harder than it seems
Feels like I'm

Just a few months ago, I didn’t have any of this doubt in my mind. I remember when I was younger… I had all these aspirations. All of these ideas of what I wanted to do with my life. And hey, I was doing great in school and even skipping grades, so I knew that I had a world of possibilities before me. Scientist, professor, engineer, business executive – for me, I felt that any one of them would be well within reach. I thought I had it made. I thought that I was on my way to living in the lap of luxury because of all of the potential paths in life that were open to me.

Then Mom and Dad made me train Pokémon.

And in doing so, they changed how I see the world. For once, I had been exposed to a situation where I wasn’t so sure of my success. And losing some of my first battles against Alexis, Shannon, and Roy certainly didn’t help. Those losses were a rude awakening. But… but they were also a great learning experience. I learned that sometimes, life isn’t so easy. Not everything comes wrapped up in a neat bow and served on a silver platter. There are some times when things got really hard, and I began to question whether training was the right path for me. I would sometimes start crying and crying after I hit a brick wall, and I would often wonder why I was being led down this difficult path when I could have been living on easy street doing something else.

Please… don’t get mad at me for saying that. You know that you and the rest of the team are my very precious friends, and I wouldn’t trade you for the world. It’s just that… well, you know how I am. I… I was just so used to everything being easy for me. School was a breeze for me, and I never had any doubt in my mind that I would succeed. So when I began losing battles, I began to doubt myself. I kept thinking, ‘I’m a complete failure at this! This is too hard! I… I can’t go on…’ I’m sorry. I really shouldn’t be having these thoughts of doubt in my mind, especially since we have come this far. But right now, I’m just confused. So many paths to choose, some easy, some hard. And I don’t know which one to follow.


Looking for a reason
Roaming through the night to find
My place in this world
My place in this world

Not a lot to lean on
I need Your light to help me find
My place in this world
My place in this world

If there are millions
Down on their knees
Among the many
How can you still hear me?

In this huge world of ours, what impact can I alone make? I’m just one person. Only one single life among billions. And it took some hard lessons from Pokémon training to really realize that. Before then, I never gave it another thought. Because I was at the top of my game. All through school, I stood out among everyone else because of my accomplishments. I was recognized. I was looked up to.

But in the world of Pokémon, I didn’t have that luxury. I wasn’t an expert at battling or training. In fact, when I started out, I wasn’t very good at all. And even now, I’m not really a standout among trainers. Nope, I’m just part of a crowd. I mean, I might have won my fair share of battles, but does it really matter in the big scheme of things? There are better, stronger, and more skilled trainers who are making a difference every day, and sometimes I feel like I’m lost in the shuffle. And I don’t like that feeling. I need to know that whatever I’m doing, I’m making a difference…

I’m sorry, Persian… you’re right. I… I need to stop thinking like this. I DO matter. I AM making a difference. A difference in the lives of everyone I’ve met. In the lives of all my friends. And in the lives of you and the rest of our team. Even though I’ve only been at this a short time, I’ve learned so much and done more than I could have imagined. I’ve shut down a terrorist organization. I was able to crack the top four in the League tournament in my first year. So it hasn’t been for naught.

All the friends I’ve made on my journey – from Alexis to Shannon, from Sadie to Lauren, from Kim to Professor Amy – every one of them would tell me that I made a difference in their lives. And if you and the rest of our team could speak, I’m sure you’d tell me the same thing. We’ve always been there for each other. You’ve helped make a positive difference in my life, and I hope… I really hope I’ve made a positive difference in yours… Wait, what am I saying? If I wasn’t helping you guys out, you wouldn’t be with me today. You wouldn’t have put yourselves on the line for me, time and time again. And that… I can’t thank you enough for that.


Hear me asking
Where do I belong?
Is there a vision
That I can call my own?
Show me... I'm

Still, I can’t help but wonder… This cold I caught that kept me from going on in the Pokémon League… Could it have been a blessing in disguise? Maybe it’s a sign that I’m going down the wrong path in life. Don’t get me wrong, Persian… It’s nothing against you or the rest of the team, but sometimes… sometimes I feel really guilty seeing you and the others putting yourself in harm’s way every time we have to battle. And that gets me thinking about whether it’s the right thing to do, forcing you to battle just on my behalf.

Maybe I’m wrong… Maybe you guys do enjoy the thrill of battle. The way you energetically charge into battle every time… I really can’t be sure whether you’re eager to fight on your own accord or whether it’s a sense of responsibility you have on my behalf. Just the same, I don’t know if you’d be more comfortable just relaxing along with me, or if battling’s something you enjoy. Remember when you were a Meowth before we went on this journey? You would be content with just lounging around in Dr. Sequoia’s lab. Do you long for those days again, or would you prefer the excitement of the training life? What about the rest of the team?

I can’t figure it out myself, so I need a sign of some sort. Please, Lord, let me know what path I should pursue from here… For both my sake and for the well-being of my Pokémon. I have faith that whatever path you lead me on will be for the best… for all of us. And Persian, don’t worry. I may be confused now, but I… I know that someday I’ll get an answer to all my questions from above. Then I’ll be able to understand your needs and desires a bit better, and start heading down the road in life that I’m destined to follow.


Looking for a reason
Roaming through the night to find
My place in this world
My place in this world

Not a lot to lean on
I need Your light to help me find
My place in this world
My place in this world

Once the song had ended, Lisa opened her eyes and sat up on the bed. “Well, Persian, I don’t think I know yet what I want to do from here, but that did help clear my mind. Maybe sometime down the road, I’ll have a better idea of ‘my place in this world.’ Persian let out a soft, comforting meow in response.

“Persian, thanks. a lot. And later, I’ll give y’all a nice good meal. Meanwhile, I think I’ll check and see what’s on television.”

Flipping through the channels, an anime show caught her attention. “Wow! I can’t believe it! They’re actually broadcasting the ‘To Heart’ anime series on TV! You never see shows like this on TV back home!”

Persian let out a sigh as she watched her trainer become fully engrossed in the show on television.
*******

Closing ceremonies took place a couple of days after the final League battle – and after the rest of the tournament’s top four had their chance to battle the Elite Four. It was time enough for Lisa’s fever to go down and her sneezing to subside. Renting a glittery red cocktail dress, and with her brown hair tied up in a bun, she made her way to the ballroom on the ground floor of the trainer’s lodge. Lindsay had chosen to stay behind in the room and watch some television.

Only a couple of dozen trainers had elected to stay the entire time – and Lisa sighed in relief when she noticed Terence was not among them. However, she did spot the two people she had wanted to talk with – Kim and Lauren.

“Hey, how’s it been?”

“Lisa! Are you feeling better?”

“Well, I’m not a hundred percent, but at least I can finally get out of bed! Let’s grab a table.”

“That one there looks okay,” Kim said, pointing to one by a window.

As the three girls sat down, a fourth joined them. This girl was wearing a red dress like Lisa’s, but without the glittery trim. She had bright red hair that was most likely dyed.

“Ashley! Glad you could make it!” Lauren told the young woman.

Lisa put a finger on her chin. “Are you, by any chance… Ashley who’s one of the Elite Four?”

“You got it!” she answered. “And you’re Lisa, correct? Since you made it into the top four, I was looking forward to having a battle with you, but I guess your cold had other plans.”

“Yeah, me too. But despite feeling miserable, I actually enjoyed the chance to rest from battle after battle. It’s really tough on trainer and Pokémon alike.”

“I understand,” Ashley replied. “Especially this tournament setup. I’ve told the organizers that they need to spread it out over an extra week at least.”

“Man, I know!” Kim said, wiping her brow. “Every night this week, I have been beat! Hey, I’m going to get us all drinks. Is fruit punch okay with everyone?” The others nodded in agreement.

Kim rose from her seat and headed to the beverage table. While waiting for her to return, Lisa asked Lauren, “So, how did you do against the Elite Four, now that we’re on that subject?”

“I got wiped out by the first one, Sterling. That old guy has some pretty serious Pokémon with him, let me tell you. Once his Metagross came out, it was all over for me. That thing was full of surprises. Ice Punch, Thunderpunch, Shadow Ball – it had moves I’d never expect to see!”

Lisa’s eyes grew wide. “Wow! His Metagross can pull off all those moves? Heh, I guess it just goes to show that I still have a lot of work to do with mine.”

“Hey, don’t worry about it. I’m sure if you had been feeling well enough, you would have given me a run for my money in the tournament.”

“Well…” Lisa’s cheeks turned red and she began rubbing the back of her head. Just then, Kim returned with the drinks.

“Oh, hey, I was just asking Lauren how she did against the Elite Four. What about you?”

“Well, let’s just say I was beaten by a lady in red,” Kim said, winking at Ashley.

“Yup, that’s right,” the redheaded Elite Four member said. “But let me tell you, she was no pushover! I had to resort to my very strongest Pokémon to win! It’s no wonder she’s our champion!”

“But still, it’s no wonder you’re one of the Elite Four! Your Typhlosion and Blaziken make for some very tough opposition!”

“Well,” Ashley said, “what can I say? I learned from the best – my mentor, Bernie Davis.”

“Yeah,” Lisa said while stabbing a piece of steak with her fork, “he did mention something about visiting you. How’d that go?”

“Well, he came to see me over Christmas, and we had the usual – talked about our families, our own lives, had a few training battles…”

“Wow, I bet those were pretty intense,” Lauren said.

“Oh, yeah. Good thing I convinced the higher-ups to let us use the League’s private training facility, or else stuff might have got burned. Considering we’re both Fire Pokémon trainers, you know.”

“Wait, ‘higher-ups’? Who might that be referring to?” Lisa asked.

“Oh, you’ll find out soon enough…”

A middle-aged woman wearing a sparkly white evening dress walked up to the table and interrupted Ashley by tapping her on her shoulder. She whispered, “It’s almost time,” before sauntering off.

The Elite Four member nodded. She explained, “That was Carol, another of the Elite Four. it’s almost time for us to give our closing remarks, so I’m going to excuse myself. Bye!”

The other three girls waved back as Ashley headed out of the dining room. Kim whispered, “Carol… when we battled, she told me she became an Ice-type trainer after she met Lorelei in Kanto and the two began training together. But according to her, Lorelei’s still the more powerful Ice Pokémon trainer, despite being younger. Kinda like it is with Ashley and Bernie.”

“Wow, that’s pretty interesting…” Lisa said. “Trainers from different regions getting to know each other and training alongside each other.”

“Remember, Lisa,” Lauren replied, “when we go to this big worldwide Pokémon tournament, we’ll be meeting expert trainers from all over. I imagine that this is how many of them end up meeting each other for the first time.”

“Yeah, either that or they finish up training in one region and then move on to another one. Some trainers are known to travel all over in search of new challenges.”

The lights began to dim as five people took the stage at the front of the room. A man’s voice boomed, “As the thirty-second Fourtix Pokémon League Championship festivities draw to a close, your Elite Four and Grand Chancellor would like to make some closing remarks! Please give them a round of applause!”

As the crowd erupted into applause, spotlights illuminated the five individuals standing on the stage. At the podium was a tall man dressed in a tuxedo and wearing a monocle and top hat. In a refined, stuffy tone, he began his speech.

“Greetings. My name is Lord Travis Charleston, and I am the Grand Chancellor of the Fourtix region. Tonight, the Pokémon League draws to a close, and I have been charged with closing out the ceremonies. Every single trainer who made it this far has proven themselves by beating our ten skilled Gym Leaders. Even among this esteemed group, however, there are a few who stood out above the rest. Now please, join the Elite Four as they introduce to you the top four trainers in this year’s tournament. Each of the Elite Four picked one of the top four that they were most impressed with, and they will be introducing that trainer. Let us begin!”

A middle-aged man with grayed hair and a silver suit approached the podium. “Hello. My name is Sterling, and I am the first of the Elite Four. I am a trainer of Steel-types. They are known to weather sometimes impossible odds in order to prevail. Such is the case with the trainer I have chosen to introduce. From a late start, to having to deal with a terrorist organization, and even battling the flu during this tournament, this trainer endured great odds to place in the top four. Please join me in congratulating… Lisa Northwood! Please, come up to the stage!”

As applause ripped through the banquet hall, a red-faced Lisa stood up and made her way to the stage, waving to the crowd. Once she made her way onstage and took a bow, the next Elite Four member prepared to present.

The blonde-haired Carol made her way up front and began, “I am Carol, the Ice-type specialist of the Elite Four. I have worked extensively with my Pokémon so that they remain cool under pressure. So it impresses me when a trainer is also able to remain cool and calm even when the odds are stacked up against them. Such a trainer is the one who was runner-up in this year’s tournament. She has made the transition from Contest Coordinator to Pokémon trainer. She has found herself against overwhelming odds numerous times during this tournament alone, and up until the final battle, she had remained calm and collected, prevailing over those challenges. Please applaud Lauren Prevost for her accomplishments!”

Once again, clapping filled the room as Lauren made her way onstage. As she did, Ashley began her speech.

“Hello! I’m Ashley, your friendly Fire-type Elite Four trainer! I bring to every battle a burning desire to perform at my very best. And while such a passion is evident in every trainer who makes it to the League tournament, one in particular stood out to me. This was his sixth League challenge, and he still brings a high level of excitement to his battles that he always has. This year, his red-hot passion really ignited, and it showed in each of his matches. This is the first time he has placed in the top four. Unfortunately, he could not stay for the festivities, but give a round of applause for Wesley Weaver!”

Once the clapping died down, a muscular man with striking blond hair stepped up to the podium. “Last, but not least, I am Victor, the leader of the Elite Four and the region’s foremost Electric-type trainer! As a veteran of the training scene, I have seen many types of trainers and many different battling styles. But every so often, I come across a trainer whose skills are so shocking, I find myself electrified every time I watch them battle. One young trainer especially stood out as having that spark that few possess. Despite this being her first year of training, she rose to the challenge, prevailed over all the others, and established herself as a truly electric trainer! Of course, I am talking about none other than your Pokémon League Champion, Kimberly Harris! Now, give her your attention and applause as she makes her way up here!”

Amid an uproar of cheering and clapping, Kim walked across the ballroom and onto the stage. Travis Charleston continued, “We will be presenting our championship trophy to Kim and our ‘Top Four’ trophies to the other three!”

As each of the girls received their trophy from the Elite Four member that had introduced them, the Grand Chancellor said, “Now, let’s give our top trainers one more round of applause as they return to their seats! And don’t forget that they’ll be representing our region in the worldwide Pokémon Championship Tournament in a little over a month! Be sure to cheer them on then as well!”

Once more, the sounds of the attendees filled the ballroom as the three girls returned to their seats.

“And now, it gives me great pleasure to officially close this year’s Pokémon League competition! Now, I urge everyone to enjoy the rest of the night, a night filled with great food and great dancing!”

Back in her seat, Lisa turned to her companions, a small gold trophy in hand. “Well, I’m sure glad I made it to this party! Seeing the crowd cheer us all on… It’s wonderful!”

“Well, Lisa,” Kim said as she put her huge trophy on the table, “the party’s not over yet. C’mon, girls, let’s see if the guys here are as good at dancing as they are at battling!”

“Hey, I’m up for it! I didn’t battle all the way to the top four and fight off a cold just to sit out this one!” Lisa called out as she and her two friends made their way to the dance floor. “I’m ready to enjoy myself tonight!”
*******

In the city of Anderson, South Carolina, about two and a half miles from Interstate 85 on Clemson Boulevard, are a four story Quality Inn and two restaurants – Tucker’s Restaurant and Applebee’s. Behind these businesses on West Beltline Boulevard sits a three story house with white siding.

In the driveway of this particular house, a brown-haired teenager wearing a red sweatshirt and pink ruffled skirt was finishing washing and waxing a car. The vehicle, a vintage Chevrolet Caprice Classic with its gleaming chrome bumpers and padded vinyl roof trim, now shone in the surprisingly warm sunlight of a late February day. The girl opened the driver’s door of the burgundy four-door and took one final look at the freshly cleaned velour-upholstered interior.

“There’s nothing like a freshly cleaned car,” she said as she settled into her soft velour-covered seat and fired up the huge sedan’s V-8 powerplant. Looking over her shoulder, she carefully and slowly backed the classic luxury car into the house’s attached garage before closing the door and shutting off the vehicle. The teen stepped out of her prized Caprice and made her way inside the house. “Bye, sweetie,” she said to her car before closing the door.

About an hour later, the girl emerged again in the garage, now wearing a blue dress with a purple and green floral print. Over this, she had put on an unbuttoned green cardigan. Her face was shielded from the sun by a brimmed white hat decorated with a purple ribbon and bow. White pantyhose covered her legs and black dress shoes were on her feet. As she slung a yellow handbag over her shoulder, she called back, “I’m headed to the hotel now! Bye!”

Her sister called back, “Honestly, Lisa, I don’t know why you’re even staying in this hotel when our house is just across the street! I mean, Mom, Dad, and Grandma are all here, too!”

Lisa answered, “The Pokémon League’s paying for this room, so why don’t I take advantage? Bye, now!”

The teen’s dad called out, “Have fun on your mini-vacation, Lisa! Remember, if you need us, we’re just across the street!”

“Wait, Dad, you don’t have a problem with it?”

“Why should I? Your sister’s a big girl, and I think she’d appreciate the time alone. Plus she can work on our taxes in peace and quiet!”

“Don’t worry, I’ll get ‘em done! Bye, everyone!” Closing the door behind her, Lisa made her way down the driveway, across the street, and into the parking lot of the four-story building on the other side. After finding another guest to photograph her and Persian in front of the hotel, she walked through the automatic sliding doors into the hotel’s lobby and approached the front desk to her right.

“Hello, and welcome to the Quality Inn of Anderson, South Carolina,” greeted the older brown-haired desk clerk.

“Hi. My name is Lisa Northwood, and I’m part of the Pokémon tournament.”

Checking her computer, the clerk soon handed Lisa a couple of electronic card keys. “You’re in room 440, on the fourth floor. The elevator’s on the right side at the end of the hallway. I’d like to remind you that we are a pet-free hotel, and that extends to Pokémon as well. Please refrain from having yours out while inside the building. Please enjoy your stay, and don’t hesitate to let us know if you need anything.”

“Okay, thank you!” The girl waved to the desk clerk before making her way to the elevator.

The woman at the desk looked at her computer screen. “Strange… these records show that young girl lives across the street…”

Lisa set her overnight bag on the chair and began to look around the room. The window didn’t face her house, but she could see a shopping plaza with a Lowe’s and Target. The room itself was outfitted with a large king bed topped with a fluffy white floral-print comforter. There was an upholstered easy chair in one corner of the room, with a micro-fridge unit across from it. A large wooden desk and office chair were located next to a dresser with a flat-screen television and coffeemaker on top of it. Noticing that everything was “exceptionally clean,” she spread herself out on the bed, fired up her new iPod, and began to doze off.

After her nap and a meal of fried shrimp and fries at the Tucker’s Restaurant directly in front of the hotel, it was time for Lisa to get down to business. Putting on a pair of reading glasses, she took a laptop and manila folder from her bag and set up at the desk. While waiting for her computer to boot up, she quickly pored over the documents in the folder – several federal and state tax forms including IRS Form 1040, as well as itemized expense reports and a W-2 from her parents.

“Honestly, I don’t know why they took so long to get their tax documents to me. I took care of all my tax forms over three weeks before and I’ve already received my refund check! Oh, well…” With her computer finally booted up, Lisa hunkered down and got to work on her parents’ taxes.

After a few hours of number-crunching, the teen decided to take a break. As she settled on her bed, her cell phone went off.

“Hello?”

“Hey, Lisa, it’s Dr. Sequoia. So, I hear the big worldwide tournament starts tomorrow. Are you getting excited for it?”

“A little, I guess. I don’t know, it just feels like I’m getting a bit bored of the whole battling thing. I mean, I’ll certainly do my best, but it’s really starting to get to be a pain. And I think my Pokémon feel the same way.”

“Well, don’t worry, Lisa, I’ll be rooting for you!”

“Thanks. Hey, any update on that Shadow Pokémon research?”

A male voice came on the phone. “Greetings, Lisa. This is Ein.”

“Hello, Ein.”

“Amy gave the phone to me since I’m the one compiling the data we’re collecting from the apparatus and research notes we collected from Thrash. Right now, we’re still analyzing the information. Once we do that, we plan on constructing a purification device that will counter even Thrash’s Shadow Pokémon. It will essentially be an updated version of the Krane purification system that was originally created from data collected after the first Cipher outbreak, the one I was regretfully involved in.”

“I see. Well, it’s good to hear that you’re making headway there at the lab. Anything else?”

“I just want to wish you good luck at the tournament. I have faith that you and your Pokémon have gotten stronger since our last meeting. Sometime in the future, I would like to be able to see you in battle firsthand again to gauge your progress. That is all. I’ll give the phone back to Amy.”

“Hey, Lisa? We’re about to head back home for the night, so we’ll talk later. Bye, and good luck in your battles!”

“Thanks, Dr. Sequoia! Good luck on your research, too! Bye!”

After clicking her phone shut, Lisa climbed out of bed. “Well, I’m gonna get a quick shower, then turn in for the night.”

The next morning, Lisa got dressed, putting on the same dress from the day before, and made her way to the hotel’s elevator and to the lobby. Picking up a cup of cranberry juice and a bagel at the continental breakfast area, she made her way out of the building and to the Quality Inn’s parking lot. There was a bus waiting for her and other trainers staying at the hotel.

The bus was painted orange and purple, with the letters ‘CAT’ and an orange tiger paw emblazoned on the side. As she boarded, the older gentleman driving the bus recognized her.

“Hey, if it isn’t little Lisa! Haven’t seen you in ages! You doing this thing with Pokémon now? I would’ve thought you would be a math professor by now!”

“Hey, Trevor! Still driving these, I see. I’m doing the Pokémon thing mainly as a break before I go back to school. Man, it’s been so long since I’ve last been on a CAT Bus…”

“Hey, sit down and let the rest of us get on!” came a disgruntled voice from one of the trainers waiting to board the bus.

“Sorry.” Lisa blushed. “Guess I better sit down. Good seeing you again, though.”
*******

The bowl-shaped football stadium at the nearby university was packed. But the markings of the field were replaced with three Pokémon battlefields, one of them resembling a pool. With thousands in attendance – the stadium could seat eighty thousand and at least half the bleachers were filled – excitement was definitely in the air. All of this should have been a familiar sight to Lisa; after all, she attended this school and her residence hall was a short walk uphill from the stadium. But the girl had never attended a single home game while she was enrolled, and it was a new experience for her.

“Wow! I really can’t believe how exciting this all is!” She looked down from the suite at the action down on the field, ignoring the chatter of the fellow trainers in the same room.

An official entered the suite. “Okay, everyone, they’re about ready to do introductions. Follow me outside. Soon it’ll be everyone’s big debut!” Turning around, Lisa followed her fellow competitors out of the room.

The stadium announcer’s booming voice began the festivities. “Welcome to beautiful upstate South Carolina! We are now in legendary Frank Howard Field on the campus of Clemson University. This stadium – also known as ‘Death Valley’ – has been the host to countless contests of strength, power, and strategy. But this week, a different kind of competition will be staged here. For this is the Worldwide Pokémon Championship Tournament!

“Every region with a sanctioned Pokémon League has sent their top four regional trainers to wage battle here for the title of ‘World Pokémon Master!’ This is truly a meeting of the best of the best – these trainers have proven their worth against other trainers in their respective regions, and now they will prove their prowess against each other! Soon we will introduce each of the sixty-four trainers who will be participating this year. As each of their names are called, they will be running down the hill underneath the scoreboard – the same hill that the home football team runs down to begin their games here!”

As the names of trainers were being called out, Lisa stood at the top of the grassy hill leading into the stadium, nervously fidgeting with her dress. “The regional League Tournament was big enough, but this is major!” She watched as the others – including her friends Kim and Lauren – were announced. The trainer would run down the hill, wave to the crowd, and make their way to the concession area to allow the next one in line to be introduced.

“Next up, a top four finisher in the Fourtix Region’s tournament, but she’s actually a local, from right down the road in the city of Anderson! Please welcome entrant number forty-nine: Lisa Northwood!”

Caught off guard for a second, Lisa had to straighten out her dress. Taking the time to place her hands on a ceremonial rock located at the top of the hill for good luck, she prepared for her own run down the hill – difficult as it would be with her heels on.

This is it… my time to take the spotlight!

Chapter 55: The Epilogue

“Okay, class, that’s it for today. Now remember that your homework on quadratic equations is due next time. And don’t forget my office hours tomorrow if you need any help.”

As her class filed out of the room, Lisa began erasing the board. With her brown hair tied into a neat ponytail and wearing a charcoal-colored business suit, she looked the part of a college instructor despite her age.

“Um… Doctor Northwood?” A young man with messy blond hair was standing next to his teacher, a sheet of paper in his hand.

“Nope, I’m not a doctor yet, Rudy. It’s still ‘Miss Northwood,’ okay?” she answered, smiling at the student. “So, what was it you need help with?”

“Number fifteen. I can’t quite seem to get the numbers to work out.”

“Let’s see… we have eight X squared plus thirty-eight X plus forty-two. Okay, and you’ve already tried to figure it out?”

“Yeah, but I keep getting stuck. Here’s what I’ve got so far.” Rudy handed Lisa his paper and she looked it over.

“Well, I’ve noticed you’ve put one and eight in front of X for all of these. You might need to use another pair of factors. Can you think of any others?”

“Well, there’s two and four.”

“Okay, let’s try it again, except let’s put a four in front of this X and a two in front of the other one. Now, we know that the other two numbers in the solution must multiply to forty-two, correct?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, let’s start off easy with the factors six and seven. Can you arrange six and seven into this equation so these two numbers will add up to thirty-eight X?”

“Let’s see… if we do it this way, six times four would be twenty-four and seven times two would be fourteen. And fourteen plus twenty-four is thirty-eight!”

“Excellent! So we have four X plus seven, and two X plus six. Now just set both equal to zero, solve, and you’re done!”

“Thanks, Miss Northwood! Oh, and one more question. Are you gonna be at the RSA meeting tomorrow night?”

“Of course I am! You know we have to get planning for our big Halloween party at this meeting! Oh, and there, you can just call me ‘Lisa,’ okay?”

“Okay, thanks!” Rudy waved as he ran out of the classroom.

I think he’s really starting to improve…” Lisa thought to herself with a smile as she collected her materials and left the classroom.

Lisa made her way across a university campus to her residence hall, taking in the fresh, cool air and light breeze of a sunny late October afternoon. The falling leaves gave the campus a show of bright colors as they were littering the entire landscape in a carpet of gold, orange, and red. The university was very much alive with students and professors milling about, chatting, and doing some last minute studying while running to class. Colorful flyers were placed indiscriminately on buildings, trees, and even the sidewalks, advertising various events going on.

“Now to get ready for this evening!”

The girl had passed the cluster of academic buildings and was headed toward the plaza where the residence halls stood. Entering Gibbons Hall, a four-story building of natural red brick, she quickly made her way up a flight of stairs and to her room.

Her room was decorated with photos taken during her Pokémon journey, including ones with the friends she had made during the adventure as well as ones of her Pokémon. Among the pictures were ones taken at Melissa’s house during the Christmas dinner, ones at the Pokémon League’s closing ceremonies with Kim and Lauren, and a few taken on-board the ship with Sadie. There was also a picture of Lisa and Lindsay with all six of the teen’s Pokémon, photographed in Melissa’s backyard after a hard day of training.

Lisa had also furnished the room with a mini-refrigerator, small recliner, and figurines of her favorite anime characters. Setting her belongings down on the freshly vacuumed carpet, she turned to her black-haired roommate, sophomore Nikki Vanders.

“Hey, Nikki, I’m back!”

“Oh, hey, Lisa. Have a good day?”

“Yeah, but I think I’m gonna hit the shower. I’m meeting with friends later.”

Checking her watch, Nikki yelled, “Oh, man! I’m gonna be late for class! Sorry, but I have to split! Tomorrow, you’ll have to help me with my calculus, okay?” The young lady grabbed her pink backpack and sprinted out of the room.

“Sure thing!” Lisa smiled. She hadn’t known what to expect being a graduate student roomed with an undergraduate, but she and Nikki had hit it off right away. “Well, I really hope she isn’t late again…”

After checking for emails on her laptop, the teen opened the door to their suite’s semi-private bathroom, shared only with the girls in the room next door.

The teen emerged from the bathroom wearing a pink nightgown. Before she even had a chance to pick out a change of clothes, her cell phone rang.

“Hey, Lisa, it’s Mom. Dad’s out at a meeting, but I wanted to check in on you.”

“Well, Mom, I’ve kinda just finished a shower and I want to change,” Lisa said, a bit annoyed.

“Sorry, I won’t keep you long, then. So, how’s everything going? How are classes?”

“The ones I attend or the ones I teach?” the girl asked, laughing.

“Both, honey.”

“Well, the classes I attend aren’t too hard, once you understand the professor’s accent. So far, nothing too tough.”

“Well, dear, knowing you, I don’t think you’d find any classes to be too terribly difficult.”

Giggling again, Lisa said, “Yeah, you’re right. Actually, the teaching’s a bit harder since some of the students really don’t want to learn, like they’re only in college to have fun. Can you imagine?”

“True, but you’ll always have those types of students. Now, Lisa, even though you’re their teacher, I don’t want you going to parties or bars with them,” Brooke warned her daughter. “Remember that you’re still underage.”

“Of course, Mom! What kind of girl do you think I am?”

“Well, Lisa, there’s someone else here who wants to talk. Well, I’ll say good-bye and hand the phone over to her. Bye, Lisa! Take care, honey!”

“Okay, you too, Mom! Bye!”

“Lisa! Lisa! How are you doing?” Lindsay shouted into the phone.

“Whoa, there! Calm down, Linds! I’m doing fine. Gonna meet up with friends here a bit later. Ow, I think your shouting gave me a headache!” Lisa moaned, placing her free hand on her forehead.

“I did not! Anyway, did Mom tell you?”

“Tell me what?”

“In two weeks I’m headed to Sinnoh to begin Pokémon training! I’m gonna be a trainer just like you, Lisa!”

“Yeah, your birthday was a few weeks ago, wasn’t it? Well, I hope you got that gift I sent you in the mail!”

“Yep, I did! Thanks, sis! It should really help me out with my training! Well, Mom told me you’re busy, so I’ll say bye to you now. Have fun!”

“Okay, Linds, bye! I’ll call this weekend!”

“You better not forget! Bye, Lisa!” Lindsay called out before she hung up.

Clicking her cell phone shut, Lisa returned to her room’s built-in closet to pick out an outfit. She finally decided on what to wear – her blue floral-print dress and green button-up blouse. The teenager now had multiple sets of her favorite outfit, the newer ones with a purple silk ribbon and bow around the waist of the dress. Grabbing a white hat with purple ribbon trim and a pair of white pantyhose, she quickly got dressed. Slipping on a pair of black strappy dress shoes, she grabbed a yellow handbag off her bed and left the room, being sure to lock the door. Waving to the young man at the front desk of the residence hall, Lisa once again headed outside.

With a couple hours before the meeting, she headed for Founder’s Park, a large grassy field on campus located on a hill overlooking Marquis City. Besides being a popular place for students to sunbathe and play Ultimate Frisbee, the park was also the only place on campus where Pokémon could be released from their Pokéballs. Lisa paid the area a visit daily to feed her Pokémon, and today was no different.

With all of her Pokémon out and on the grassy field, the girl began filling dishes with Pokémon food and laid them out in front of each team member. “There you go, guys. Enjoy!” Lisa took a seat on a nearby bench, took out her iPod and a newspaper, and watched her Pokémon begin their meal.

Walrein immediately made his way over to where Metagross was examining its food. “Hey, you gonna eat all that?”

“Food scan indicates food quality is below minimum standards… Relinquishing food…”

“Um… is that a yes or a no?”

Persian sighed. “Metagross said you may eat its food.”

“Yay! Yummy!” Walrein shoved his face into the food dish and took a huge bite. With a mouth full of food, he said, “Too bad Jolty’s been eating more of his food lately.”

The feline shook her head. “So rude. And unattractive as well.”

Munching on his food, Jolteon replied, “Sorry, but ever since the end of that big battling thing in that other country, Lisa hasn’t been sending us to battle as often. I think it’s helping me retain my energy so I actually feel like eating now.”

“How true,” Weezing said. “I like this new routine we’ve settled into after Lisa started going to this big school. Training two or three times a week keeps us in shape without wiping us out. And we only have to fight the occasional battle, too! It’s very relaxing.”

“I know,” Flygon added, flapping her wings. “But I think Lisa might be going a bit too easy on us. I mean, I kinda miss the excitement of battle. Some of the other trainers who go to school here have given us a challenge when Lisa’s battled them, but sometimes I wish we’d do it more often.”

“Current training and battling regimen is sufficient to retain battling strength and proficiency,” Metagross said in its monotone, mechanical voice.

“Sorry, Flygon, but I concur with the other three. I am perfectly fine with relaxing and only training enough to retain my battling prowess.”

“Fine, fine, gang up on me! At least I still have Walrein on my side!” Flygon shouted.

The hefty blue Pokémon looked up from his food dish. “Um, wha?”

“I think you misunderstand us,” Persian said. “It’s simply the fact that the rest of us are perfectly content with our current regimen. We likely wouldn’t object to more battling if the situation arose, but right now we are enjoying this opportunity to relax, just as we are doing now.”

“Yeah, I understand. And taking a break isn’t a bad thing, either… while we had all those battles one right after each other in that big stadium place, it was really hectic. I know Lisa wanted to get in as much practice as she could, but I could tell that even she was starting to get tired after all the training.”

After finishing the last of her food, the Poison-type added, “I don’t think Lisa wanted to push us as hard as she did. She kept telling us, ‘I’m sorry for training you so hard!’ just about every night during those big battle tournaments. She might have felt the need to since everyone else was doing the same, but in her heart, I don’t think she enjoyed pushing us that hard.”

Jolteon looked up from his dish. “I’m glad that’s over for awhile. Battling’s cool and all, but sometimes a Pokémon just wants to get a chance to chill out and relax.”

Persian, meanwhile, was looking at her trainer. “Is it just me, or does Lisa seem especially excited today? That girl can hardly stay still.”

“Maybe she’s gonna eat up a lotta food tonight!” suggested the bulky Ice-type.

“Oh, please…” the feline Pokémon sighed.

“Actually, he might have a point,” Weezing pointed out. “While she probably isn’t going to shove her face into her food, she might have a special dinner tonight.”

Jolteon perked up, his ears wiggling. “Really? Think she might have a date?”

“Perhaps,” Persian said. “But she might also be meeting with old friends. Remember all those trainers she met with throughout her journey? I haven’t seen any of them in awhile, and Lisa may be eager to see them once again. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was going on a ‘girl’s night out’ with some of those girls she really seemed to become good friends with.”

“Yeah, that could be a possibility, too,” replied Flygon. “Or it could be something related to school. Wow, we could be guessing what it is all night! She really hasn’t said anything at all about it to us.”

“Well, wherever it is, I hope she eats lotsa food! And maybe she’ll save some for me, too!”

“Please,” Persian scoffed. “You of all Pokémon don’t need to eat any more than you currently do.”

“Hey! I look good fat!” Walrein argued. “And you’re one to talk! You can’t even fly on the back of Flygon, you’re so fat!”

“Listen,” the feline hissed. “I am resisting the urge to use a Thunderbolt on you right now, if only because we’re teammates.”

“Jeez, sorry! Okay, okay, I’mma back off now, ‘kay?”

The winged dragon heaved a sigh. “I really wish you wouldn’t drag me into these arguments. I’m an innocent party!”

“I apologize,” said Persian. “Why he continues to make a mockery of my weight, I will likely never understand.”

Metagross droned, “My mass is the greatest out of all of us…”

“Yes,” Jolteon replied, “but you aren’t making fun of Persian’s weight.”

The cat stretched out her carefully groomed body. “Back to the subject at hand, I would like to meet up with some of Lisa’s old friends from her training days. Especially the girls that she would talk with – the black haired one that was on that huge boat, the other black-haired girl who was always with that blond-haired friend… For the life of me, I cannot remember their names at the present time.”

“Me neither,” Weezing said. “But I hope Lisa finds the time to let us meet with them again. I do like the friends she’s introduced us to since coming to this school, but I kinda miss her old friends, too.”

Jolteon said, “Then again, I think it’d be cool if Lisa met a nice guy and they started going out…”

“Hey, I’m a nice guy!” Walrein interrupted.

“I think he means a nice human guy.”

“Oh. Um, okay, I guess?”

“Anyway,” the Electric-type continued, “I’ve seen her eyeing some of the guys when we come here to eat our food. Her face turns all red and… I think she’s just a little shy about talking to them. I think if someone gave her a little more confidence, I’m sure she’d be able to find a nice one if she would just talk to them.”

“True,” Persian replied. “Maybe I could give her some training in that regard…”

“How ya gon’ do dat?” asked Walrein. “I don’t ‘member you pickin’ up a lotta guys, y’know?”

The cat Pokémon sighed and turned to Metagross as yellow sparks began to crackle on the surface of her fur. “Permission to zap him?”

“Permission granted,” replied the massive chrome Pokémon.

“That’s all I needed to hear,” she responded as she unleashed a vivid Thunderbolt at the massive Ice-type. His pained howls were enough to get Lisa to look up from her newspaper.

The girl smiled and called out, “Having fun training, you two?”

“Owowowowowow! It hurts! It hurts!”

“Have we learned our lesson? Will we stop making fun of me?”

“Yeah, I guess…” the singed Walrein muttered.

“No, not, ‘Yeah, I guess.’ Say, ‘Yes, ma’am.’ Or do you want another taste of electricity?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Thank you. That is all I needed to hear. Now, I trust you will not renege on that vow.”

Walrein turned toward Weezing. “I can’t understand the big words she’s usin’…”

The Poison-type answered, “She means don’t break your promise. Don’t make fun of her from now on.”

“Well, gee, dat’s no fun… But I guess it’s better than gettin’ zapped…”

Persian stretched out her lean body and yawned. “Honestly, some Pokémon are so rude. It will be a miracle if you ever get a nice girl. And for the record, I don’t need to be chasing after men. I am my own Pokémon. Strong and independent.” Changing her tone, she turned her attention toward Lisa. “But I can’t help but wonder if Lisa isn’t the same way. Maybe she isn’t looking for a partner right now.”

Jolteon lifted one paw to scratch his chin. “She is watching some of the men, though.”

“Interesting,” Persian replied as she licked her paws clean. “Well, I guess she’s getting to be that age.”

“Wow,” Flygon said, “you’re starting to sound like her mother. I’m almost expecting to hear something like, ‘It’ll be tough to let my little girl go!’ afterwards!”

“I realized that as well. I really can’t explain it, though. There’s something within me – perhaps motherly instinct – that makes me want to protect that girl. She used to get so depressed after losing a battle, and I always felt it was my duty to help comfort her in those situations. I know she’s gotten stronger and more confident, but I still do believe she depends on us as much as we depend on her.”

“Yeah, I understand that,” said Jolteon. “She’s always turned to us when she’s needed support.”

Weezing added, “Lisa’s got a good heart. She really does.” The other Pokémon nodded in agreement.

“Ya, she’s a real softie,” drawled Walrein.

“Analysis indicates that our trainer shows high levels of concern for our well-being,” droned Metagross as it took a few lumbering steps toward the rest of the group.

“Don’t worry, Lisa. As long as you’re there for us, we’ll always be there for you,” said Persian as she caught a glimpse of her trainer standing up. “Hold on, I think she’s getting ready to leave.”

“Okay guys, I think I’m ready to head out! Let’s go!” the teen called out.

The other Pokémon nodded as all of them headed over to where Lisa was standing. She was holding onto two of her Pokéballs, ready to recall them and head out.

“As much as I like it out here, I will be relieved to return to the clean confines of my chamber, where I may indulge in my softly padded bed,” said Persian as she followed her partners.
*******

Lisa began the hike to the student parking lot. “Man… maybe wearing these heels was a bad idea…” she muttered to no one in particular as her feet began aching. “I’ll be glad when I get to my car…”

Fourtix University’s Marquis City branch was perhaps the only section of the entire town not saturated with Mercury Grand Marquis automobiles. So, in a parking lot of mostly sporty compact cars and SUV’s, Lisa’s car, a beige 1989 Buick Electra Estate Wagon, stood out. She was afraid that her meticulously maintained Chevy Caprice Classic might be damaged in a parking lot mishap on campus, so she had left it in the care of her parents and purchased the wagon.

Settling into the car’s plush cloth seats, Lisa put on her seat belt and turned over the Buick’s V-8 engine. “Ugh… I swear these parking lots discriminate against owners of big cars…” the teen scoffed as she carefully backed her vintage wood-trimmed station wagon out of her parking spot. She craned her neck forward and used the stand-up Buick hood ornament at the end of the car’s long hood to gauge where the front end was as she carefully maneuvered the vehicle out of the parking lot.

Finally out of the maze of campus roads, Lisa was on the way to her meeting. She passed by the popular bar, TJ McTipsy’s, which was advertising “Disco Dancing Sensation Miror B. and the Miror-ettes.” She also drove past the Quality Inn that had served as the base of operations during the Thrash crackdown. Her destination was the Applebee’s restaurant next door to the hotel. Parking her station wagon among a row of large Mercury sedans, she excitedly stepped out of her Buick and sprinted into the restaurant, only to crash headlong into someone. Both of them fell down in a heap on the floor.

“Owww… Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry!” Lisa shrieked, covering her mouth with her hands as her eyes widened.

“Hah… We really have to stop meeting like this, Lisa.”

“Huh?” Lisa uttered, tilting her head in confusion. The other person she had run into was a black-haired girl a few years younger than she was. She was wearing a light green floral-print dress with a blue ribbon around the waist. And like Lisa, she was wearing white pantyhose. Next to her were two identical white hats.

“Sadie? Is that you?” Lisa asked.

“Yup, it’s me, all right! Come on, I’ll help you get off the floor.” Sadie extended her right hand.

“Thanks,” the older girl said as she grabbed her friend’s hand. “So, you were able to make it after all, I see.”

“Yep! I was able to use some of my Contest winnings to come out here for a few days. Anyway, this isn’t the best place to talk. You said some of your other friends were here waiting for us?” Sadie asked as she picked one of the hats off of the floor.

“Yeah, we just need to find their table,” Lisa answered as she grabbed the other hat.

After a minute of searching the restaurant, Lisa pointed to a table where two girls were seated. One of them had blond hair and a lavender dress, while the other had black hair and was wearing a red top, pink skirt, and black leggings.

As Lisa and Sadie approached the other two girls, the blond-haired one turned around in her seat and called out, “Lisa! There you are! Kim and I were wondering when you’d show up!”

“Oh, hey, Alexis! Hey, Kim! I’d like you both to meet Sadie Catherwood! Sadie, I’d like to introduce you to Alexis Howard and Kim Harris!”

“Nice to meet the two of you!” Sadie said as she sat down at the table.

“Same here. Lisa’s told us a lot about you,” said Kim. “How you met on a cruise ship, how you’re into Contests, and how you’re helping Lindsay get a start with her own training.”

“Well, not quite yet. She called me the other day and she said that it’ll be a couple weeks before she can make the trip to Sinnoh. But I’ve talked with my mom, and she agreed to let Lindsay stay at our place while she gets ready to begin her journey. My good friend Rena also agreed to help out.”

“Hey, that’s great!” Alexis said. “You know, I wish my friend Shannon could be here too, but she had some business to take care of. Her hair looks a lot like yours, Sadie!”

As Sadie’s face turned red, Lisa asked, “Really? What kind of business?”

“I don’t know. Lorelei was really hush-hush about it. Something about odd happenings in Orre, though. Hope it’s not anything related to Shadow Pokémon.”

“I hope not, either,” Lisa said as she let out a sigh. “Professor Amy and Ein are still working on their study of Thrash’s old Shadow Pokémon device. Progress kinda got halted for the wedding.”

“What wedding?” Alexis asked.

“Didn’t you hear?” exclaimed Kim. “This past July, Amy and Ein got married!”

“Well!” Alexis snapped as she stood up, hands on her hips, “Of course I didn’t know! I wasn’t invited!”

“Oops…” Lisa chuckled nervously, rubbing the back of her head. “That… may have been my fault. You see, I… kinda told them that you and Shannon would be on assignment, so they didn’t send you an invitation. Sorry about that…”

“Nah, it’s okay,” a calmer Alexis said as she took her seat again. “Anyway, what have you been up to lately?”

“Whew, it’s been busy!” Lisa started. “I thought juggling four classes, a teaching assistantship, and being a club advisor would keep me busy, but then I come to find out that Amy and Ein moved their research to the campus here. So they’ve been asking me to come in and help them out with the number-crunching aspect of their research. It’s almost on a daily basis now!”

“Well, hopefully they won’t call tonight…”

“Hello, my name is Howie, and I’ll be your server tonight. Are you ladies ready to order?” asked a young redheaded man now standing at the girls’ table.

“Yeah, I guess so…”

After taking the orders, Howie left the four friends to continue their conversation.

“So, Sadie,” Kim began, “Lisa’s told me that you’re a real hotshot when it comes to Contests. How’d you do over in Kanto?”

Sadie’s face turned red. “Well, I wouldn’t call myself a ‘hotshot’… But to answer your question, I was oh so close to winning the Grand Festival! If only my opponent hadn’t dodged that last attack, I would’ve had her!”

“Well, congratulations for making it that far! I sure wish we made it that far in the big worldwide tournament! Lisa was the only one from our region to make it past the first round!” Kim said.

“Yeah, and I didn’t do much better… my second round opponent creamed me good!” added Lisa. “On the other hand, the girl who beat me did end up finishing second, so I guess that might count for something…” Lisa let out a strained laugh.

“Don’t worry too much about that,” said Sadie. “You were great to even make it that far. So, Lisa, how are your Pokémon doing?”

“You know, I really think they’re enjoying the slower pace of college life – well, at least it’s slower for them! They seem to have more energy, especially Jolteon – he’s now gotten to the point where he can actually stay awake for an entire meal.”

“So, you’re holding off on training?” asked Alexis.

“Not really, just cutting back a little.” Lisa took a sip of the lemonade that had been delivered to the table. “We usually get to train about two or three times a week, and we battle with other students about once a week or so. I’ve even battled against my RA a couple times, but I’ve never been able to beat her! Turns out she was a pretty successful trainer before deciding on college.”

“Compared with my Pokémon, yours have it easy,” Kim said, letting out a sigh. “I don’t know if it’s because I’m a returning trainer, or because I’m the defending champion, but the Gym Leaders are definitely harder this time around. I just got creamed by Melissa’s power team, and I’m having to really train my team hard just to keep up with hers. I’m sure they’d like a little break, too! But I miss not having you participate in the League, Lisa!”

“I know, I know,” replied Lisa, waving one hand in front of her. “But I just didn’t feel that it was the right thing for me.”

“Anyways,” Sadie chimed in, “I’m kinda in the same boat as Lisa. I’m not really sure where I want to go next after Kanto, so I’m letting my Pokémon get some rest in the meantime. We’re still practicing Contest combinations, but things have really calmed down recently.”

Lisa winked. “But in a couple weeks, things might get a bit more exciting ‘round your neck of the woods…”

“Huh? Oh, that’s right! That’s when Lindsay comes out to get her start with training Pokémon! How could I forget that!” Sadie’s face began to turn red.

After a few moments of silence, Alexis spoke up. “As for me and my Pokémon, it’s actually bursts of really intense battles with calm stretches of light training in between. Sometimes weeks or even months will go by without being dispatched on missions. Before she was sent out on her latest mission, Shannon hadn’t been called into action since late August – nearly two months. And my last one was late last month, when Archie, Shelly and I were called in to stop some rogue Team Magma members from stirring up trouble.”

“Oh, hey, Lexy, that reminds me,” Lisa said. “I’ve been thinking about joining up with you guys in the League’s Enforcement Division. I’ve been talking it over with Lorelei and she says I can begin training after final exams this semester.” With this, Kim and Sadie looked up at Lisa, both with surprised looks on their faces. Alexis, however, simply cracked a smile.

“Wait, you’re not surprised, Lexy?”

“Not really. Lorelei’s been mentioning it to us for quite a while now. She’s tried to hide it, but Shan and I can both tell she’s really excited about having you on board. So, I guess it’s official now?”

“Yup!” answered Lisa. “Lorelei and I have talked with the school administration and the math department head, and just this week we’ve worked out a plan where I can participate in missions and training and make up any work I miss.”

Sadie giggled. “Don’t worry, Lisa. With your brains, making up missed classes should be no problem at all!”

“Yeah, you’re probably right,” Lisa replied, rubbing the back of her head. “The only problem is, it might affect my teaching. We’re still trying to hammer out those details, but they might have me supervise the tutoring center instead of teaching. I don’t really mind, but I do enjoy the teaching.”

“Well, remember,” Alexis said, “the League’s got a lot of agents and they’re pretty flexible. If you can’t go on an assignment, they’ll be happy to find someone to fill in for you.”

Kim began rubbing her chin. “Hmmm… I’ve always wondered what secret agent trainers do.”

“Well,” Alexis started, “without spilling our secrets, I’ll just say that they have a bunch of James Bond style gadgets. But on the missions Shan and I’ve been on, we’ve relied on our Pokémon more than the technology. But I guess it depends on the tactics that the foes use. Right now, since we’re new, we’re sent in along with a senior agent. Usually it’s Lorelei, but sometimes it’ll be with two of her close partners, Giovanni and Eldes.”

“Ah,” said Lisa. “So I see that those two are still involved in the program.”

“Yep, and their past involvement in crime is actually working for our benefit. They have insider knowledge about how many of these organizations work, so we can crack their defenses. And Lorelei says she’s got ‘em on a short leash so they don’t return to a life of crime.”

“Wow, all of this sounds very interesting!” exclaimed Kim. “You know, after this year in the Pokémon League, I might sign on with you guys!”

“Go ahead! We’re always looking for some new talent!” Alexis turned her eyes toward Sadie.

“Whoa, whoa, sorry, but count me out!” the young coordinator shouted, holding up her left hand. “My Pokémon are trained and conditioned for Contests, not this sort of hardcore battling against criminals!”

“Yeah, I guess you have a point there. Those battles can get pretty intense, and your Pokémon really need to be conditioned for that type of combat.”

Lisa added, “I was a bit hesitant myself about whether my team would be up to the task, but Lorelei told me she has a lot of faith in our abilities. And I’ve noticed that Flygon in particular seems to be restless, like she’s really looking for more action. Could be just me, but maybe my Pokémon are looking forward to getting back in the game. Oh, looks like our food’s here! There’s a juicy double burger with my name on it!”
*******

“Here we are, girls, the ‘Presidential Suite!’ Enjoy!” Inside the local Quality Inn, Lisa opened the door to the hotel’s best room – a spacious suite that caused Lisa’s friends to stare in stunned surprise. On either side of the room was a king bed facing a large-screen plasma TV and DVD player. Desks were placed next to each bed, and a table flanked by four black leather easy chairs was in the center of the room. A third television set was located directly in back of the table. Along the back wall was a mini-kitchen with refrigerator and microwave, along with another desk set up with a computer.

“Wow, Lisa! Are you sure you can afford this?” Sadie asked.

Smiling, the college student replied, “Relax. My parents’ company bought this hotel in February and completely renovated it. My dad was able to pull a few strings to get this room free for us! After all, it’s not every day that I can host three of my best friends! One problem, though – I will have to leave at seven in the morning for a class, and because of a late meeting, I won’t be back till the evening. Sorry I’m such a bad host!”

“Nah, don’t worry about it,” said Kim. “We understand that you still have college stuff to attend to. We’ll be fine.”

“Just in case, I asked Melissa to show you around town tomorrow. She’s supposed to call the room to arrange a meeting. But I promise, after tomorrow, I’ll be around more. Friday, I’m free after noon, and I’ve got nothing else planned for the weekend so I’ll be able to hang out with you then. Thanks for putting up with me!” Lisa’s face began to turn red. “Anyway, let’s see if there’s anything good on TV.”

The four girls headed over to the table and rearranged the seats so they could all see the television. Lisa grabbed the remote and fired up the TV.

“Gas prices in the Fourtix region have hit a three month high as a result of increased travel on the region’s newly completed freeway system. The average price of regular unleaded is now up to eighty-eight cents a gallon…”

“Ugh…” scoffed Kim. “Gas prices are ridiculous these days…”

“Heck, this is nothing!” said Lisa. “Back in South Carolina, they’re fast approaching three dollars a gallon! We have it good here!”

The other three girls didn’t reply but simply sat with wide eyes and stunned expressions. Meanwhile, the news continued.

“And now, we turn to Karen who’s outside the Vernon City courthouse right now. Karen?”

“Thanks, Dennis. Investment firm or Ponzi scheme? That’s the question that a judge and jury are asking regarding the practices of Jackson, Rogers, and Parrett as the company’s executives are being tried following the firm’s collapse…”

“Ugh… Nothing but news!” Lisa groaned as she flipped through the channels.

“Blaine! Blaine! Blaine! Blaine! Blaine! Blaine! Professor Blaine the Science King!”

After the theme song ended, Blaine himself appeared on screen. “Thanks for watching this episode of ‘Professor Blaine the Science King!’ Tomorrow’s episode will explore the technological breakthroughs achieved with the creation of Porygon and its evolutions. Good night!”

“Aww, man!” Alexis sulked. “We missed an episode of Blaine!”

“Say, I’ve got an idea.” Lisa turned off the television and cracked a smile. “Let’s say we have ourselves a little double battle out in the courtyard?”

“Excellent idea, Lisa!” Kim jumped up from her seat. “I’m in!”

Alexis smiled as well. “Sure. After all, we can’t have you going soft if you want to be a Pokémon League Special Agent, college girl! We’ve gotta keep you on your toes!”

“Just remember which one of us won the last time we battled,” teased Sadie.

“Okay, it’s settled, then!” With that, all four girls grabbed their handbags and left their room. They made their way down the elevator and out the hotel’s rear entrance, where a grassy lawn awaited them.

“We’ll split into two teams. Kim and I will take on Sadie and Alexis. Everyone uses three Pokémon each. The first side to have all their Pokémon faint loses the match. Okay?”

“Sounds fine to me!” Alexis called out.

“But first,” Lisa said as she took out her iPod and a pair of speakers, “we need some music to set the mood.”

“While you get that set up, I think I’ll call out Ninetales!” Alexis announced as she threw her Pokéball. Emerging from the brilliant flash of red light was a yellow fox-like creature with many long, flowing tails. Sadie, which Pokémon are you gonna use?”

“Um, let me think… Ah, I think Lopunny will do just fine!” The young coordinator pitched her sphere in a sweeping underhand motion, summoning her tall, lanky brown rabbit Pokémon.

“Interesting choices for battle,” mused Kim as she rubbed her chin. “But this Pokémon won me the Fourtix League last year and he’s not to be underestimated! Nidoking, go!”

As the defending champion’s purple monster emerged with a roar and began pointing his horn at his two opponents, Lisa had finally finished setting up her iPod.

“Lisa! We need a partner here! You ready?”

“You bet I am! Okay, Persian, time for a workout!” As the beige cat emerged, she began stretching out her lithe body, the red jewel on her forehead glistening in the setting sun. The four Pokémon eyed each other carefully as Lisa’s choice in music continued playing.

“You made me believe
that I can do almost anything
Stood right by me
through the tears, through everything

“I'll remember you,
and baby that's forever true
You're the one that I'll always miss
Never thought it would feel like this
I'll be there for you,
No matter what you're goin' through
In my heart you'll always be, forever baby
I'll remember you…”

“Interesting song choice,” said Kim. “So I guess this is your way of saying, ‘Friends Forever,’ Lisa?”

“Yup!” The teenage genius had a big smile on her face.

“Okay, ready to go all out?” asked Alexis.

“We’re all set over here!” Sadie called out.

“Okay, Lisa,” said Kim. “Let’s do our very best. Not only for this battle, but for whatever challenges we face in the future.”

Brushing some dirt off her dress, Lisa grinned. “Oh, don’t worry, I will! Count on it!”

**************************************
Return to Contents

Return to Main Site Home