B4 — 10. The Marsh Badge

PoV:

1:  Rhea Everhart (Our Blonde Bombshell Future Supervillain!)

2:  Nova (Our Star and Fluffy Fashion Queen!)

3:  Rhea Everhart

Pokemon Map: 

I loosely follow this map as a visual guide; the creator made it in paint?!?!  It’s insane!  Some errors here and there, but I follow its design for the most part.  Areas can be further apart, some cities are in the wrong places or not listed, and the regions aren’t nearly so close.  The best map I’ve found, though!

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2:05 p.m. October 19th, Monday, 106 PH (Post Hoopa Event).  Day 132.

Events:  Rhea and the girls are on a Badge Hunt, trying to get all the Kanto Encrusted Badges before time runs out!  Our girl started her journey on the 9th of June, and the end of registration for the Winter Indigo Cup is December 5th (46 days away).

The roar of the announcers didn’t seem to mesh with the crowd as the Master aides finished up their show; the last blows of the match made the saliva in Rhea’s throat thicken as her fingers left the knob of the door to look down the long corridor.  Blood pounded in her ears, skin tingling as she took her first step toward the bright lights welcoming her to the battle finale.

Lulu growled from atop her head, trying to act fierce and cute to help her smile, and it certainly did help.  She reached up to pat the puff ball’s head, hearing the more sophisticated sounds of string instruments begin to play while Greg dismissed the Masters and started hyping up their resuming match.

We’re going to give it our all, she repeated to her Pokemon, left hand tightening around Nova’s Poke Ball.  We’re going to celebrate at a fancy place after this… because we’re going to win!

Pressure wrapped around her chest as the Master emerged out of the bright light, leaving the stadium and showing her a strained smile.  “Good luck!  The crowd couldn’t wait for us to get off the field.  I think our match ratings doubled during the break, too.”

“Thanks for the gut check,” Rhea weakly laughed, sounding somewhat breathless and making him wince in passing.

“My bad!  I didn’t mean it like that.  You’ll kill it!”

“Mhm…”

Rhea reached up to check the security of her ponytail and shifted her hair clip to better hold back her bangs before taking a deep breath and stepping into the light.  A lump formed in her throat as the noisy throng went silent, the atmosphere becoming tense as the last scene from their postponed match replayed for all to see.

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The screen split, showing her slow walk onto the platform while the other showed her crimson, wispy aura that had embraced her in the build-up to Nova’s blooming inferno.

A close-up shot showed her coral-blue eyes, only, they weren’t blue.  Instead, a bright, sparkling ruby met her, and flecks of maroon streaks ran through her golden hair.  She hadn’t realized the intense physical change that had come over her at the time, but it had quickly receded as she’d shut the floodgates; now she had to deal with the mass of excess energy V had given them.

Ted chuckled, causing needles to cascade down Rhea’s spine as she rose to the challenger’s position.  “I’ve seen a lot of things in my day commentating, Greg, especially in a Psychic-themed Gym, but this is a first!  What is that power our little firecracker just put out?”

“I don’t know, Ted,” the man mumbled.  “That wasn’t your typical kind of Psychic or Aura-based explosion, was it?”

“I don’t think so… and at the age of seventeen?  Something is up, which is why Gym Leader Sabrina pulled her aside.  I know I’m interested to see how this will go down because that last attack—wooh, that was deadly!  I don’t think we’ve seen an out-of-pocket Move like that since before the Tier System was implemented; am I wrong?”

“Not any Gym history I know of,” Ted mumbled in return as Rhea tried to ignore the talk.  “I’m just glad Istar was the one chosen to go against that Supernova.  From a Silver to a Platinum Move in a split second is wild!  That has to be a fluke, right?  What was that aura around her?  Is she secretly Platinum?”

“Uh… no!  It has to be that fire she radiated; she’s registered Silver, and Gym Leader Sabrina hasn’t made any changes to her card or marked her as using anything illegal…  Well, we’re about to see where this is going, folks!”

Oh, Arceus, she internally cried, half-laughing inside when the theatrics began as if this were a pay-per-view match.  What is she planning?!

Both men hushed when the floating devices overhead took the spotlight off her, and the gut-tightening drum, ominous hums, and strings introduced the Gym’s matriarch.  It would have set Rhea’s hair on edge, but she knew that the Psychic was pulling eyes and minds away from her while setting the haunting and intimidating atmosphere her reputation brought.

Instead of going to the Gym Leader box, the lights lifted into the air, where the strobe-like effect illuminated the stunning, dark-haired woman, hovering in the air; somehow, she’d managed to find the time to change into a black dress.

Her bright pink eyes cast a hypnotic spell throughout the stands, and the sudden clicking of clocks set every viewer on edge as drums pounded in the background and pulses of Psychic energy changed her location with every flash.  Rainbow lights embraced Sabrina, multiple teleports bringing the Psychic to a floating throne, where she lightly sat cross-legged, hands held in her lap as the crescendo abruptly faded to a cello’s somber strum.

A small smile played at the corner of Sabrina’s lips as she leered down from her lofty position, showing off the lower half of her long legs and black lace heels.  “Today, you showed me something unique, Rhea, so I must act in kind.  I must amend the rules that I placed on Istar…”

She let the statement hang as she summoned a black fan from seemingly nowhere, spreading it out to the weeping hum of the instruments, the sound dying in between her words.

“Istar is typically strictly held back from many of her Moves…  Now, I only forbid one—Psychic Terrain.  Nova will be subjected to Imprison and all other restrictions will be lifted for a special Armageddon, five-minute match.  Do you accept or forfeit this challenge?”

Rhea gulped.  If this had been how Sabrina came out from the go, her knees would have given out, but all of this was to match the energy of her last explosive display; it was making the battle something to be remembered, and not just from the weird show of power.

The woman was making it clear to onlookers that she hadn’t done anything wrong and giving them something to talk about for years to come.  Gaining strength from the secret side of Sabrina she’d just chatted with, Rhea flashed her teeth and fed into the play; it was like she was in a movie!

She held up Nova’s dazzling, custom-sleeved Master Ball toward the Psychic, the bright spotlight on her as she strengthened her voice.  “Nova and I accept your challenge, Gym Leader Sabrina; we will show you the power we’ve cultivated in the borderlands of the Sinjoh Desolation!”

“Ho-ho-ho.  How bold,” she softly mused, vision narrowing as floating Poke Balls spun around her in sweeping streaks of Psychic energy, and she held her open fan near her face, projecting final boss vibes.  “So, you’ve been training hard these last two months in that frozen wasteland to face me?  It seems you have come prepared…  Will it be enough?”

Nova’s nerves steeled, readying herself as Lulu and Alice cheered her on, and the cosmic cloud jumped onto the console to point a defiant, poofy hand up at the Grandmaster.

“Nee!  Ne-ne.  Ne.  Ne-ne…  Neeee!”

The crowd was dead silent as Sabrina’s lips curled, leaning her cheek into the back of her hand as the red-trimmed fan moved to cover her mouth, illuminated vision narrowing.  “Is that right?  We shall see if your big sister has what it takes to be called the Daughter of Champions.”

Clicking clocks plucked at the tension, intense violins replacing joining the cellos as the overhead light turned red and fingers coiled around Rhea’s pounding heart.  This was it; Sabrina had put on this entire show for them to spark a mystery that would follow them throughout their whole career.  This was not a time to hold back.

Feeling the swell of V’s lingering power still coursing through her veins, Rhea breathed out a long stream of air as the light flipped yellow, and she drew back her left arm, Sabrina’s imperial gaze upon her, commanding to be impressed.

Nova… we’re all in…  We owe her that.  Unlimited energy!  Go!

* — * — *

Fur bristling within her Poke Ball, Nova calmed her racing heart as she focused on the fight to come.  Rhea threw her into the center of the stadium to come face-to-face with the elegant Espeon, who looked totally renewed by her sleek lilac coat; the golden light, indicating the match was about to begin, had yet to change green.

Pressure built in her breast as the motherly Pokemon gracefully pranced forward to circle her in the spotlight, the five-minute clock waiting to be activated with her slow, methodical steps.  The waxy seal materialized at the end of her split tail, the Ghostly aura surrounding Istar and putting Nova’s fluff into disarray.

Her soft tone held a cunning undercurrent that made Nova’s claws flex out.  “Careful, Nova, if I’m able to unleash all I have but Psychic Terrain, then it might get troublesome for you without Protect or Detect.  Use that overwhelming power you’ve tapped into… or it might be over too quickly.”

“We’ll see,” she countered, throat a bit sticky as the Espeon stopped in front of her, tail sliding between her front legs, below her mane, to press the seal against her chest, locking almost all of her Moves.  It was so restrictive; they only had fourteen Moves at their disposal.  “Please, don’t get hurt…  I’m going to try my best.”

“Hehehe.  I expect nothing less…”

Walking a few meters away, she tilted her body to sit at an angle, amethyst eyes fixated on her, waiting for the clicking clocks, violins, and cellos to stop; the Gym Leader’s activating words would start their match.  

Mane ruffling, Nova’s pink eyes narrowed, ready to move.  Istar held a completely lax posture, looking entirely unbothered as the sounds of the music hit its conclusion, and Sabrina’s low, feminine voice broke the stillness.

“Begin.”

A cloak of flames erupted from Nova as she shot forward, the inferno spreading out a meter from her body.  Time moved slower with every step, Speed increasing and feeling the surge of lingering Legendary force that was mixed into Rhea’s Fortitude seep into every fiber of her being; it wasn’t as strong as it had been when the floodgate was open, but more than twice her typical power.

“Increased Speed, and using Flame Charge as a form of Protect?  Not bad, Nova,” Istar said with a slight smile, violet eyes illuminating pink, “but try not to get Confused…”

Sharp teeth locking together, Nova tried to jump to the side to prevent the sphere of Psychic force from hitting her, yet a slight swish of Istar’s hand sent it right back into her path; she couldn’t get around it at this Speed.

She winced at the weight that slammed against her mind, making her see triple of the Sun Pokemon as she wobbled in her trajectory; her energy matrix went down to 85%.  However, a smile narrowed her eyes as she came to the Espeon, and a flash of brilliant light interrupted her Flame Charge.

“Hmm?!  Tricky,” she chuckled.

Double-vision fading, Nova grinned, fur now pulled tightly against her body; frost streaming out of her mouth as she took a deep breath and released a focused gale of Icy Wind at the graceful Espeon, her opponent’s eye twinkling.

Speed increased, Nova darted after the cat.  She danced away, and both of their paws slid across the broad, icy surface she was creating.  Istar was too slippery, though, using the ice herself at times to show off her graceful moves.

Greg shouted with excitement, the instruments still swaying in the background.  Ted followed, now standing on his feet with many of the onlookers, staring up at the display or watching them run around the stage.

“Imprison locked out of most of Nova’s Moves.  Flame Charge increases her Speed to match the quick Espeon, but Confusion hits Nova’s mind hard!”

“Will she be able to hit—Evolution!  Flareon becomes Glaceon—Nova’s going for the -1 Speed on her elusive opponent.  Adaptability-enhanced Icy Wind!  Detect and Instinct keeps Istar dancing around the blast, but for how long?!”

“Nova uses Skater to glide across the ice, picking up pace; Istar’s running out of room—here comes the barrier?!”

Using her flat tail to maneuver on the frigid sheets she created, Nova used it as a platform to leap over the spray of sand that Istar flicked up with her own tail to blind and make her trip.  The Psychic Pokemon used the momentum to jump onto the side of the barrier and make it to the floating teleportation tiles.

Nova landed on the ice as the dust passed, spinning in a circle before her paws left it to follow the cat, her forehead glowing a light blue.  The gut-churning sensation of teleportation hit her as she appeared two dozen meters above the arena, with Istar flipped around on another platform.

A flare of white light launched her forward in the blink of an eye, yet Ice Shards were already spraying out of Nova’s mouth to intercept, peppering the speedy cat, and an explosion of icy force exploded mid-air.  Nova cheered inside as Istar exited the misty cloud, one eye closed and showing a small smile as she fell.

“Not bad…”

Another gale of Icy Wind erupted from her mouth, only for Perception to make her aware of a spinning teleportation tile heading right for her side; the crafty Espeon must have smacked it with her tail just after exiting—her tail was longer, though.

Batting it away, she let loose the whirlwind of frigid air to sweep over the falling lilac-furred cat; a blue shell encompassed Istar, and the gale carried her to the ground, where the bubble broke her fall.

Nova huffed an impressed stream of misty air through her nose as Istar giggled and sat down to look up at her; a green light increased her Special Attack by one.  The Espeon really was so much more experienced than her.

An effulgence overtook her, tail extending to flare out into a fin as Istar winked and waved, creating hearts that flew toward her, attempting to lower her Attack.

Jumping to a nearby square to escape, being careful not to touch the teleport activator, a cyan hue shrouded Nova in a gray film, casting a misty fog over the field from above.  A silent chuckle shook her frame at the hype the announcers were spreading from her continued evolutions and Moves.

Her Speed fell back to zero with Istar’s Special Attack, but that was fine because now she was invisible.  She smiled down upon the narrow-eyed Espeon, scanning the fog for her shadow in the ever-shifting, hovering teleportation platforms.

Taking a deep breath, she let it out in a low Yawn and released the cloud to mix into the haze; Istar didn’t have that particular Eevee Breeding Move.  Expectedly, Istar wasn’t going to let her do as she pleased; twinkling light brought golden stars rocketing into the void to search for her, the Espeon running after them—not before her subtle cloud struck the Psychic Pokemon.

Finally, she’d managed to get something past Instinct.  The stars rose into the sky to strike, and Nova angled the platform to the side to act as a wall, an eruption of light changing her tail to a puffy mass of fur.

“You’re doing really well…  Oh, Rattata!  When did you…  Yawwwhhh.”  Istar smacked her lips, becoming a little sluggish.

Touching the tile trigger at the last second, Nova swapped to a hovering square far higher than she’d anticipated; the stars exploded against the one she’d been on, destroying it and deactivating the tile she’d changed to.

“Hehe!  I totally got—eek!”

A ray of Psychic Energy cut a line through the clearing haze; Psybeam hit the underside of her square, breaking it apart and colliding with her belly just before the swaying cat fell to her side, entering her dreams.

“Ah-ahhh!”

Nova’s legs flailed as her energy matrix took a 35% hit, taking her to 50%; thankfully, she fell near another platform to latch onto.  The problem?  It started to tilt down the second her claws latched into it, making her legs flail to find another landing pad.

“C’mon!  C’mon!”  she hissed, wild eyes spotting the ground far below her and Istar peacefully snoozing on her side.  “Eesh…  Just… a little more…”

Trying to time one of the floating squares as it lined up while listening to her Trainer and teammates’ advice, Nova took a drop of faith.  She landed on the trigger, sending her to a much more reasonable distance to the ground and allowing her to hop off.

Heart pounding, she held her hand against her breast and studied the seal as things started to calm down; it was starting to crack, and the time above had fallen to two minutes and thirty seconds.  She had to make this one count; Wish was the safe play to keep in the match, but it wouldn’t win her this battle.  No, she had one big Move that was her only shot against the incredibly graceful Espeon.

Taking a deep breath in the tense silence, she released a giant cloud of purple smoke to fill the stadium, enhancing it as much as possible with the practically unlimited energy Rhea opened up to her.

Istar inhaled the dark smog, doing little damage but filling her body with the toxic force; the woman could easily deal with it if she woke up, which was why she had to force herself into a position where she couldn’t cure it.  One of the silver linings of Imprison was that it gave Nova a perfect understanding of what Moves her opponent had.

A brilliant shimmer flattened out her poofy tail into a frigid blade, sideburns extending and forehead fur tightening into a crown.  Ears twitching with the limited time she had left for her plan, Nova darted forward, breathing in deeply and skating across the icy sheet she created to get into point-blank range of her rousing opponent.

This was her last shot; she knew she couldn’t catch Istar off-guard again, and Rhea had given her the perfect combination to put the graceful woman in a perfect storm of panic.  Naturally, Istar’s first priority would be to reapply Imprison; of course, their plan didn’t even rely on that falling off.  Unlucky for the awesome Espeon, a fully genetically unlocked Glaceon had some rather nasty Abilities.

Ominous shadows embraced Nova, dropping her Speed and increasing her Attack and Defense as the Curse took effect.  She tackled the groggy Espeon, taking the bewildered and alarmed woman to her back to press her paw down on her chest, reversing their earlier position of power.

“No Synchronize, huh?”

“Huh?!  I…  Mmmgm!  Am I… Poisoned?  Nova?!”

“Do you have Eject+, like me?  No?  Shame!”  Nova chirped, cyan light embracing her as Istar’s wide, lilac eyes centered on her illuminated mouth; her close proximity radiating a biting chill that put a quake through the Espeon frosting fur.  “You don’t look very warm!”

A whirlwind of mist and cold air bathed the confused and shivering woman as she woke from her pleasant dream; she tried to fight her off, but her movements were sluggish, and her limbs locked up under the harsh arctic stream.

Blue light tried to form to encase her in a defensive shell—her first mistake—it shattered due to her close proximity, and the Quick Attack tried next was interrupted by the ice creeping over her figure, Speed dropping to -2 from her continual barrage; the second gale increased in power, projecting the ice and mist in a spray of fog that encompassed them.

“Nova was once defenseless and under Istar’s paw, but now tables have turned and the older woman is against the spikes!”  Greg shouted.  “Is that Frostbite, Ted?!  How rare is that in Glaceon?!  Radial Freeze if she can keep opponents in close proximity!”

Ted punched his arm into the air.  “STAB!  Adaptability!  Hammering Streak building with every Icy Wind, Istar is Frozen in place!  Our spunky, unique Eevee has fought back tooth and nail to get this advantage!”

“Yeah, that’s Frostbite; I’m sure of it!  I can see why the League put a forced restriction on this Legendary Eevee because she’s swapping forms like her dad, Ted!  Incredible!  What’s this?”

Mist exiting Nova’s parted mouth, chest heaving with the amount of pressure she’d put into her last Move, she lifted her paw off Istar’s chest, leaving an icy imprint.  Already cracks were appearing in the thin shell around the Espeon, and she jumped into a low front flip, tail lashing out while tapping into one of her Abilities.

Eject+ sends Istar flying across the stadium!  What is our Legend’s next Move?!”

Nova landed on her feet, but her legs were shaking; her body was starting to become too unstable.  She’d never channeled so much of Rhea’s energy in such a short time, not to mention the Platinum, Legendary-enhanced Flame Charge she’d used before.

Her Trainer’s worry filtered through their connection as she looked up to see Istar slowly shaking off the ice; it hadn’t been enough to totally Freeze the stronger woman.  She was starting to see double, and pain bloomed as Rhea’s voice filtered through her mind.

“Nova!  I think…  I don’t think we can do the rest of what we planned.  You can’t change into Flareon, or there might be a big energy backlash that could really hurt you.  It’s now or never!”

Closing her eyes, Nova released the air in her lungs in a long stream and released her form.

“What next, Greg?!”

“Nova transforms into her… Base Form?”

Memories flooded Nova’s mind, passing between Rhea and her in a rebounding loop: the first time she’d broken out of her egg to snuggle next to Rhea’s leg, the battle for their lives against Plasma’s assassin, their defeats and victories, leading up to their time in the Sinjoh Mountains.

A golden radiance illuminated Nova’s vision as it opened, the world moving in slow motion with an aurelian glow erupting around her.  Stars twinkled around her in a dazzling display, and she caught the Istar attempting to shake off the ice.  Greg and Ted’s noises faded into empty space, and all she saw was the slowly recovering Espeon in front of her, Rhea’s voice lifting her into outer space.

“I love you.”

I love you, too, Rhea…

“Now, show them what it means to be a supernova!”

Taking all the emotion and energy she could, she turned into a comet, the world moving at a snail’s pace as she flew right for the Espeon; a twinkle sparked in Istar’s violet eye, muscles tensing to dodge, but she was moving so slow, and she only continued to gain momentum.

Istar’s face showed a proud smile that melted her heart.  Launching forward, Nova embraced the most wonderful foe she’d ever faced dead in the chest, and her vision washed into oblivion.  I’m sorry, Rhea…

“Well done…”

* — * — *

“Nova!”

An explosion of gold blinded Rhea, forcing her arm up to shield her eyes; shards of rock peppered the barrier where they’d collided, and when it cleared, she saw a trail of torn-up stone from where Nova had charged.

She hadn’t expected this level of damage from the attack; it was at least a high Gold-tier attack, which could have severely hurt the Espeon.  This wasn’t their normal power output.  It was all because of her stupid Legendary Energy currently infused into her Fortitude that was causing such a weird imbalance within Nova and her.  Had her fear hurt Nova or ruined their chance at the Marsh Badge?

Istar and Nova were motionless on top of each other, leaving a small crater near Sabrina’s side of the stage that bounced around in what must have been their tumbles.  Greg was stunned, leaving Ted to shout out the results.

“Veevee Volley…  Nova launches an intense Veevee Volley—Champion Ambrosia’s signature Move—both Pokemon are down!  Start the count!”

Rhea felt numb as the cameras spun around the unmoving Eevee and Espeon, Istar on her back, arms wrapped around her teary-eyed opponent.

“One!  Two!  Three!  Four…  We have movement!”

Her shoulders slumped as Istar shivered and blinked open her eyes.  Silence filled the stands, and the Espeon glanced around before centering on the Eevee in her arms.  She took a long sigh before smiling and licking Nova’s cheek.

“Esp.”

“Istar is the—”

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Clapping came from the floating final boss above the stage, hushing the announcers, and a flash of rainbow colors brought Sabrina’s throne to the floor.  Unfolding her legs and rising from her seated position, Istar tilted her head back from her lying position to sheepishly look up at the Gym Leader.

Sabrina’s hand lifted, bringing both of the girls into the air and dislodging them from their stuck position inside the stone floor.  “Rhea, you’ve certainly shone brightly during this battle…  You’ve raised a partner to be proud of.”

Heat crawled up Rhea’s throat at the Psychic’s broken character, a smile on her black lips.  “The things you’ve gone through as a team must have strengthened both of you for this power to be magnified between your emotional connection…  Nova has shown great restraint.  You are the victor.”

Cheers erupted in the anxious crowd as Rhea felt her legs about to give way; luckily, Sabrina floated her unconscious Eevee into her for Lulu to smother because she felt like a total wreck; she didn’t even know if she could remain conscious—let alone upright—if she let go of the console.

We won…  We actually won.


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