Chapter 89: The Eve of Battle
The stadium was abuzz with excitement. For a week, the competition had been raging outside in the Poni Wilds. But all of the Kahunas had confirmed that the sixteen finalists had been selected. The crowd quieted down as the announcer approached the podium.
"Alright folks, here are your finalists:
The Masked Royal
Ash's friends breathed a sigh of relief as the name's of their friends were listed off. Gary soon joined them, a little dejected but no worse for wear.
"Hey guys, what's up?"
"Not much. Sorry you didn't make it to the finals."
Gary shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly.
"Ah well, it happens. Guess that's what happens when you don't train competitively for so long. At least Ash and Max made it."
"Alright folks, we'll take a short break while we determine the brackets for the final rounds. Stay tuned!"
Ash and Max made their way back to their friends, tired but excited. Ash didn't get a chance to take a seat, though, as Lillie immediately flung herself into him, tackling him in the biggest hug she could manage.
"You did it! You made it to the finals."
"Heh, yeah, I sure did. But we've still got a long way to go..."
Lillie kissed Ash on the cheek, making him blush.
"Don't worry, I know you can do it."
"I don't know. If he wants the trophy, he'll have to go through me!"
Everyone enjoyed a great laugh just as the announcer came back on with the matches.
"Thanks for waiting, folks! If you'll please turn your attention to the board above you, you'll find the bracket for the first round!"
The group of friends turned to the board with eager anticipation. The bracket read:
Ash vs Guzma
Sun vs Hau
Sina vs Dexio
Max vs Plumeria
And so forth. Ash glared at the name of his opponent.
"He's gonna pay for what he did to Pikachu. Mark my words..."
Lillie rubbed his arm gently, calming him down a little as the announcer spoke up again.
"The final rounds will begin the day after tomorrow. To all our competitors, good luck and sleep well!"
Later that evening, Ash was training his Pokemon. At the moment, Lycanroc and Pikachu were having a sparring match.
"Alright Pikachu, hit him Iron Tail! Lycanroc, return the blow with Counter!"
Pikachu ran up and slapped Lycanroc with its hardened tail, causing it to reel in pain. Regaining his footing, Lycanroc countered with a hard swipe, sending Pikachu flying before he landed on his feet. Ash nodded in approval.
"Alright guys, good work. Lycanroc, you can take a rest. Pikachu, after a quick break I'm gonna have you work with Incineroar."
His two Pokemon nodded, Lycanroc curling up at the foot of a nearby tree while Pikachu sat down to have a quick nap.
"I thought I might find you here."
Ash turned to see Lillie coming over, shivering a little from the cold. Smiling, he walked over and draped his jacket over her.
"Hey Lillie. I couldn't sleep, so..."
"Its Guzma, isn't it?"
Ash nodded, staring intently ahead of him.
"I mean...he's not the worse team leader I've ever had to face, and his teammates seem to respect him and all. But every time I see him, I keep thinking about what he did to Pikachu. What he ALMOST did to Pikachu, and...my blood boils."
Pikachu nodded sadly, the memories of their last battle against Team Skull's leader fresh in his mind.
"You want to get revenge? Is that what this is all about?"
"No! Well...kind of. I don't want to hurt him or anything, but...I want to put him in his place. Let him know to never mess with us again. I know I shouldn't think like that, but..."
Lillie pulled Ash into a deep kiss, cutting off his rambling as he gladly returned it. Once they broke apart, he felt much better.
"Ash, don't worry about that. I know you, and I know you would never let yourself go too far. What you're feeling is natural. He hurt someone close to you, and you want justice. Just remember that there's a fine line between justice and revenge."
Ash smiled and nodded.
"Come on, lets get back inside. Its getting late..."
But as she stood up to leave, Ash pulled her back gently.
"Actually...would you stay out here with me a little bit longer? It's a nice night out, and I could use some company."
Lillie smiled and took a seat next to him on his long, and they watched as the stars twinkled in the night sky.