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After his defeat by Olivine’s Jasmine, Brock returns to the Kanto gymleaders’ sitting area, and prepares to apologize to Erika, but Erika gives him a reassuring look and tells him not to worry about it. Misty then gets up for her turn to face Whitney of Goldenrod, and Erika wishes her good luck.

Up in the audience stand, Gold gets slightly impatient and asks if Crys has spotted the peculiar one among the gymleaders. Crys sighs that she hasn’t, and says she still has trouble believing that one of the sixteen gymleaders is the mastermind behind the regrouping of Team Rocket, which was disintegrated three years ago, and all of the team’s evil acts across the land. Gold snickers that the truth isn’t always convincing, and reminds Crys that their information came from Prof. Oak and there’s no reason to doubt it.

Earlier, after Crys and Gold made contact with Prof. Oak following their battle with Lugia, the professor has requested that the two of them head towards the Indigo Plateau immediately to investigate on the real identity of the new TR’s mastermind. Oak remarked that the trace metal particles Gold’s Aipom scraped off from the masked man’s robe were proven to have the same composition of the gym badges, and that it is safe to assume that the masked man is in fact one of the Pokémon Association’s appointed gymleaders.

This piece of information has been kept from everyone except the Chairman of the Pokémon Association, Prof. Elm, his assistant Joey, and Oak himself. While the association was in the process of probing on the matter, they have decided make things easier by calling together all sixteen gymleaders of Kanto and Johto at the Pokémon League Tournament. Therefore, while the apparent reason to congregate all gymleaders was to hold an exhibition match as part of the tournament’s opening ceremony, they were gathered for easier identification of the evil culprit. Oak commented that as Gold has fought the masked man himself, he should observe the fighting traits of the gymleaders closely, and spot the one resembling the enemy the most. Crys wondered what her purpose would be since she has not met the masked man, and Oak secretly revealed that she was there to watch over Gold and made sure that he wouldn’t mess things up by his impulsive manners.

Standing among the audience and watching the gymleaders battle it out now, Gold suddenly decides that he should get a closer look, and throws himself into the people in front while trying to ease his way through. Crys attempts to stop him but the boy disappears among the crowd before she could say anything, and she gets bothered that Gold can’t be left unattended for even a single moment.

Down on the stage, Whitney gets prepared to fight Misty, and calls her Miltank forward for a rollout. Misty’s Starmie quickly spins itself out of the way, and retaliates with a rapid spin by ramming into the dairy cow Pokémon'ss body. Miltank then grabs Starmie by its appendages, and Misty orders Starmie to use flash. The blinding light stuns Miltank momentarily, causing it to let go, and Misty grabs the chance to have Starmie fire a powerful hyperbeam, striking Miltank square-chested and knocking it out instantly. Whitney screams over her fainted Pokémon, and breaks into tears as Mary declares Misty the winner of the second round exhibition match.

Back in the audience stand, Crys appears to have located Gold and the two continue to monitor the matches from above. Gold comments that while it is his first time at the tournament league, the event itself, and even the gymleaders, seem to be quite flamboyant in style to him. Crys tells him not to make fun of things at times like that, and Gold says he is just feeling uneasy how someone who uses Pokémon to commit evil doings like the masked man would also attend occasions like that which are held for Pokémon lovers across the land. He swears that he will not forgive those who exploit Pokémon'ss powers for criminal acts, and Crys sees for the first time just how deep a connection Gold feels for Pokémon.

Mary resumes her narration after a short break, and briefs the audience on the first two matches once again. With one victory on each side, Kanto and Johto both get 5 points, and the third round is about to begin. Among the sixteen gymleaders, three of them are newly appointed, and two of these three rookies, Falkner from Violet, and Janine from Fuchsia, will be facing each other next. Deciding to play aggressive, Falkner orders his Noctowl to dive forward once the battle commences, but Janine calls out her Grimer and the sludge Pokémon takes the physical assault without damage. Climbing onto Noctowl, Falkner reiterates his name, and declares himself the flying type expert. Janine then makes a ninja hand sign to murmur something, and Grimer suddenly begins to shrink.

In the Johto gymleaders’ sitting area, Bugsy and Morty watch in amazement as the poison Pokémon vanishes, and exclaim that it is the minimize technique which increases a Pokémon'ss evasiveness by decreasing its body size. Falkner and Noctowl start to get nervous as they fail to see Grimer’s location. Just then, a sludge bomb is fired at them, and Noctwol barely dodges the attack. Falkner realizes that his opponent’s expertise is poison, and from the look of the attack knows that his Noctowl cannot afford to take such powerful assaults directly. Thinking hard to come up with a strategy, the Violet gymleader remembers a special skill of Noctowl, and quickly orders it to use foresight. Two beams of lights shoot out from the owl Pokémon'ss eyes, and instantly locates the position of Grimer.

Falkner then has Noctowl swoop down for a peck, but Janine retrieves Grimer just in time, and sends out Ariados to continue the fight instead. Falkner remarks that a change of Pokémon wouldn’t make a difference to his strategy, and has Noctowl lift Ariados off the ground by holding one of the spider Pokémon'ss multiple legs with its beak. Noctowl begins spinning Ariados round and round in the air, and throws it hard back onto the stage. The nocturnal bird attempts to repeat the same assault again, but Falkner suddenly notices a giant spider web in front of him, and hurriedly calls Noctowl to a halt. Janine grins that Falkner is certainly observant, and Falkner realizes with a start that Ariados has created the web by shooting out threads from its hind while being twirled around by Noctowl in midair.

Janine compliments Falkner for his quickness, but grins that there is more to it. Without warning, Ariados fires off another silk thread from its mouth and pierces through the left wing of Noctowl, knocking the bird off its balance and onto the ground. Janine explains that while the sticky ‘threads of defense’ from Ariados’s hind are for weaving spider webs, it mouth creates ‘threads of attack’ which are sharp and fine.

Knowing that Noctowl is incapable of battling any further, Falkner retreives it and sends out Skarmony instead. However, Janine remarks that it is too late and has Ariados constrict it with its ‘threads of attack’. She comments that switching between Pokémon must be made swiftly or it will give the opponents the perfect time to plan ahead and attack. Falkner grits his teeth in frustration as he gets overpowered by Janine’s strategies, and bangs his fist on the ground. He declares that he will not give in, however, as he has promised himself to follow his father’s steps in taking charge of the gym, and live up to his father’s name. Falkner’s words seem to affect Janine a little, and the ninja girl suddenly spots a familiar silhouette among the audience.

Just then, something twirls back from the ceiling to cut off Ariados’s threads, and frees Skarmony of its constaints. Falkner catches the object and reveals it to be a greatball equipped with a transparent pair of gliders. He explains that the shredded wings of his Skarmony which lose their colour after detachment have been grafted onto every one of his greatballs, and that when he sent out Skarmony earlier, the greatball containing it has been twirling around like an invisible boomerang in the stadium before making its return.

Falkner requests Janine to resume their battle, but to everyone’s surprise, Janine retrieves Ariados into its ball, and apologizes for not being able to experience his real strength. She then jumps off the stage, and begins dashing up the staircases along the audience stand as the crowd and Mary exclaim that Janine will be considered forfeiting if she backouts from the match. With no other choice, Mary declares Falkner the winner, and the baffled Violet gymleader quickly gives chase to the ninja girl. At the top of the stairs near the exit, Janine fervently looks around, and is certain that she has seen her father somewhere in the crowd.

Falkner soon catches up with her, and is surprised to see tears dripping down from her face. With a shaky voice, Janine apologizes again for not completing the battle, and reveals that like Falkner, she also took up the path of a gymleader to follow her father’s steps. She finds it interesting how the two of them are assigned to fight each other while having similar backgrounds, and says it must be fate. Falkner remarks that he has no idea nor does he have the right to know whom or what Janine saw in the audience stand, but he feels that someone is there at the league tournament to cause trouble. He then reveals to Janine that he is a police officer, and says he will make sure that the troublemaker is brought to justice.

Down at the Kanto gymleaders’ sitting area, Sabrina observes the dramatic scene silently and seems to recognize Janine. She wonders if the girl is the daughter of Koga, and Lt. Surge believes that she must be. Next to them, Erika steals a glance at the two, and still has trouble believing that these two former TR executives are now nothing but ordinary gymleaders guarding their cities. While the Pokémon Association has decided not to investigate and take action on the apparent ties of Lt. Surge and Sabrina to the evil Team Rocket in the past, Erika is actually surprised that the two agreed to participate in the tournament exhibition match right away without much hassle.

Lt. Surge then straightens himself up and heads to the stage for the upcoming round, while Erika hesitates for another moment before finally deciding to ask Sabrina something that’s been bothering her for a while. Acknowledging that Sabrina spent quite some time healing herself at the medicinal springs on Mt. Silver, Erika remarks that Red, the former champion of the Pokémon League Tournement and also a good friend of theirs, has headed to that region seeking for ailment as well, and wonders if she has met him there. Sabrina keeps her usual cold behaviour, however, and Erika resolves to using her post as the captain of Kanto to press an answer out of the Saffron gymleader. With a slightly annoyed look on her face, Sabrina reveals that she did meet Red, but sees no relevance in bringing that up at all…

Thanks To Coronis For Writing this for us

156: VS. Noctowl!

Volume 13