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At the Battle Pike, Emerald enters the first small room he picks, and finds himself face to face with a Dusclops owned by a virtual male Pokefan, and a Kirlia owned by a virtual female Pokefan. In the theatre room where Lucy and the press follow Emerald's progress via a monitor screen, Todd gasps that the two Pokémon have high tendencies to inflict status effects, and hopes that luck will be on Emerald's side.

With a confident grin, Emerald pulls out two Pokeballs which have star symbols under their switches, and calls forward a Rapidash and Starmie. Unfortunately, Dusclops instantly fires off an Ice Beam to freeze Rapidash, and Kirlia simultaneously puts Starmie to sleep with hypnosis. Todd cries out in horror that both of Emerald's Pokémon are already rendered immobile so early in the battle, and fears that the boy is having really bad luck.

Emerald, on the other hand, is less than concerned. He grins that he has made adequate preparations to counter status conditions, and calmly orders a Flame Wheel from Rapidash. In a flash of light, the single-horned horse unfreezes itself with a swirl of flames, and the fire on its manes burn anew. Meanwhile, Starmie also awakes from its sleep with the help of its held item, the Lum Berry, and resumes mobility. Emerald then commands a combined Double-edge and Thunderbolt from Rapidash and Starmie, and the attacks swiftly knock out both Dusclops and Kirlia. Retrieving his Pokémon, the boy puts on a victorious grin, and proceeds to the next room.

Todd is glad that Emerald has thought up so many tricks to deal with status inflicting opponents, which is essential at the Battle Pike since health restoration devices cannot be accessed readily throughout the challenge. Aside from the Lum Berry and Rapidash's Flame Wheel which enables it to resolve the frozen condition on its own, Starmie's ability, Natural Cure, also negates all of the Pokémon's status conditions when it is withdrawn from a battle.

Lucy seems to be impressed by Emerald's thoughtful measures as well, and leans back onto her Seviper with an amused look, hoping to see more from the boy. Todd recalls how promptly Emerald was able to get hold of the Pokémon he is now using, and remembers what he said about being sent to the Battle Frontier by someone who owns all species of Pokémon, letting him borrow any Pokémon anytime he wishes. The reporter finds it hard to believe that there exists a person as such, and wonders who it could be.

Meanwhile, Emerald is about to pick one of three small rooms to enter again. He does an eenie-meenie-miney-mo with his magic hand extensor, and randomly selects the middle room. However, when he charges in with a Pokeball in hand, the businessman inside simply comments on the hot weather and the need to drink more water, and leaves the room himself after waving goodbye to the boy.

Todd sweatdrops at what he sees, and is astonished that there are actually small room events totally unrelated to battling at all. Lucy grins that it makes things more interesting, which is why luck is so stressed at the Battle Pike. Whenever a challenger enters a small room, the event that awaits could either be a tag battle, a single battle, someone who only converses with them, health restoration, a battle with Pokémon that inflict status conditions, or simply a battle with a wild Pokémon. She states that in extremely fortunate cases, the challenger may only stumble across rooms that restore their party's health or people who converse with them, and reach the final room without a single damage done to their Pokémon.

Yet, Todd knows the reverse could be true as well, where one may encounter tough battles in every single small room, and be drained of all strength by the time he or she reaches Lucy. The Pike Queen grins that Todd sure has a clear mind, and adds that challengers are also not allowed to bring in items or the PokeNavi into the Battle Pike, making it all the harder to clear all 140 rooms. Because of that, luck is absolutely necessary, and thus giving the Battle Pike its distinct challenge.

Todd complains that it is unfair to count on luck alone, and wonders if true skills don't matter at all. Lucy smirks that things aren't always as superficial as they appear, but doesn't blame Todd for thinking that. Yet, she wants him to keep watching how his little friend does, and make his conclusion later.

With that, Todd returns his focus to the monitor screen ahead, and sees that Emerald has just entered a small room where a wild Milotic awaits. He notices that the boy is already in his 42nd room, and since every 13 rooms constitutes one cycle, he will be clearing his third cycle after this room.

Todd voices his encouragement as Emerald keeps his stare on the Milotic, ready to make a move. However, to the reporter's surprise, the boy suddenly slinks past the wild Pokémon, and rushes out through the exit of the room. But the truly shocking moment comes when the Battle Pike's monitor acknowledges this act, and counts the room as cleared on the display screen.

Dumbfounded by what has just happened, Todd quickly runs out from the theatre and up a flight of stairs leading to the transit area between cycles, hoping to speak to Emerald before he starts his fourth set. He manages to catch the boy when he is still trotting along the transit corridor, and inquires why fleeing constitutes a room clear as well.

Emerald grins that the opponent was simply a wild Pokémon, and provided that a challenger moves quicker than the Pokémon, running away is absolutely normal and acceptable. He explains that maintaining the health points of his Pokémon is crucial at the Battle Pike because he may not always come by restoration events. Therefore, it is a smarter strategy to avoid battles and conserve their strength whenever possible instead of engaging in every fight.

Todd states that he understands the logic, but wonders how Emerald manages to do that since the small room events are all random. Emerald grins that he can actually get hints, and reveals that the female attendant in every big room will make a comment on one of the small rooms behind the curtains, and by figuring out the meaning behind their words, he can almost always guess correctly what events await.

Just then, Lucy appears behind Todd and snakes her finger up his back, literally sending shivers down his spine and causing him to jump in shock. The Pike Queen says time is running out, and advises Emerald to resume his challenge as soon as possible. She and Todd then return to the theatre room while Emerald starts on his fourth cycle.

As he enters the first big room of this cycle, which is his 43rd room cumulatively, the attendant welcomes him and instructs him to pick one out of the three small rooms. Emerald closes his eyes and puts on a contemplating look, and the maiden wonders if he finds it hard to make up his mind. Emerald admits that he is, and the maiden, after a moment of thought, remarks that she seems to have heard something, perhaps whispering, in the right room.

Back in the theatre room, Todd sees that the attendant does give hints, and is curious to know what she is implying this time. Emerald pauses to think for a second, and rationalizes that the whispering is probably between two trainers. He hollers that the event will be a 2 on 2 tag battle, and charges in to find that a pair of virtual male and female Pokémon-breeders are indeed waiting for him with their Fearow and Raichu. He quickly sends out his own team to take on the fight, and in no time clears the room.

With every big room, Emerald pretends to be indecisive, and waits for the female attendants to give him hints. At times, the maiden will say she senses the presence of people, possibly a trainer, or, she will comment on a distinct aroma of Pokémon wafting around the room. Others, she will say she feels a wave of nostalgia coming from it. Every time, Emerald will try to decode her clues, and picks his rooms accordingly.

In the theatre room, Lucy continues to watch Emerald's progress with amusement. She says the boy is truly making good use of the maidens' hints, and remarks that Todd should by now see what the Battle Pike challenge is really about. The event preset in each room will never change, and it is up to the challenger's own choice and decision to determine his path. Todd has queried if luck is the only thing in play, but the real question should be, does the challenger only possess the skills to draw good luck to himself.

Lucy then straightens up herself, and says she should probably get ready herself as well. Snapped out from his own thoughts, Todd quickly looks over at the monitor screen to check on Emerald's current status, and realizes with a start that the boy has already cleared 138 rooms, and is in his final big room.

Emerald stands in front of the three doors with a confused look, and the maiden soon starts giving her hints. However, a look of terror suddenly appears on her face, and she states that no matter which room he picks, a terrifying and horrible event is about to befall him. Emerald doesn't recall ever hearing that comment before, and knows that the final moment has come. Licking his lips, he charges into the middle room, and finds that waiting for him are no other than the Frontier Brain in charge of the Battle Pike, Pike Queen Lucy, and her Seviper, Milotic and Shuckle.

The boy puts on a confident look, and quickly calls out his Blissey while Lucy calls forward her Seviper. Wiggling its little arms about, the happiness Pokémon runs up to the giant snake fearlessly, and without warning pulls off a Seismic Toss to ram its opponent hard onto the ground.

Meanwhile, outside the Battle Factory, Scott, Greta, Tucker and Brandon have come to find Noland. Brandon yells out that the fight at the Battle Pike has begun, and asks the Factory Head to come join them watch the little imp squashed by Lucy's poison fangs. Noland shows up at his window to apologize that he is currently occupied, and says he has something urgent to tend to and tells the others to go without him.

The man then returns to his seat in front of the Factory's master computer inside the maintenance room, and resumes counting the Pokeballs of rental Pokémon with a probe. With his cap and coat hanging over his chair, he still couldn't understand why the total number of rentals, which were all raised at the Factory, fails to match with the previous data. Even more interestingly, the Sceptile which was used by the boy Emerald during their battle doesn't seem to be in the records of his computer. He worries that someone other than him has gained access to the maintenance room and tampered with the Pokémon or data, and wonders who could it be.

Behind him, a shadow quietly lurks up, and without warning, lashes out with a vicious strike…

Thanks To Coronis For Writing this for us




309: VS Milotic


Volume 27