Last time on our journey Trixie and Taylor's battle has now reached a fever pitch with their final battle mere seconds away from commencing.
As soon as Piplup gave her icy glare, something strange happened. I didn't know what to call it, but it felt like all of my Speleology curiosity was focused only on Trixie and Piplup. No Golett or Mr. Kopi spectating from the sidelines. There was no smell of kicked up dust, no shining light coming from the high windows, I couldn't even see the cracks in the concrete spread around the area. Yet even then, my senses still felt as heightened as ever.
Time itself seemed to slow down, turning everything into a SlowKing's pace. And it was only until Trixie finished her first command, that I finally snapped back to reality. In that instant, I reacted almost instinctively, matching Piplup's pound with a powerful double kick! The two moves reacted violently, creating a small shockwave that cracked concrete! This exchange was quickly followed up with a powerful up close bubble that sends Nadia back! In return, I gave a subtle tail whip that chipped Piplup's defense. That didn't stop her though from cloaking the battlefield in a bombardment of bubbles. But in this new state, the same trick wouldn't work twice. Using double kick, Nadia manages to weave through the bubbles and spring up high into the air, flipping into a poison sting! For the sake of being extra, Nadia corkscrewed down at even greater speed! In response, Trixie's aura became all the greater, developing a crazed, unrestrained grin of joy.
"Can you be any more predictable, Taylor?!"
In that instant, Piplup unexpectedly stood her ground instead of using Growl to lower Nadia's attack. In tandem, she followed the move up with a huge bubble that quickly sprouted to massive size! The two attacks then met in another incredible collision, popping all the bubbles in record speed, turning the battlefield damp. Using that minuscule opening, Trixie unleashed a devastating onslaught of pound attacks! At that moment, there was nothing I could do but damn myself in the wake of the barrage. The bubble was nothing more than a distraction, an easy way to see where I would end up next, with the growl leading up to a perfect bubble buffer that led us all the way here. But even with all that precision, I could tell that this was anything but some simple-minded strategy. It seems that Trixie shares this special state because, through that Piplup, I could tell that every blow poured frustration, rage, and emotion. The display was so impactful, it felt like the old days.
Like a grenade, my mind exploded with realization as without even saying a word, I finally understood Trixie for the first time in years. Upon the fifth pound attack, Nadia was sent flying into the nearby wall, embedding itself in a concrete tomb of Piplup's making. After her onslaught over the Piplup heaved, knowing that it had almost reached its limit. With the heat of the battle, finally starting to wind down, I lowered my guard and reached out.
"I see it now, Trixie, you've made your mark and made your message clear. But if you think I'm going to just lie over without a fight, you've got another coming!"
"Big talk from someone who can't even realize that the battle is already over," she said shakily.
At that moment, Nadia's concrete coffin exploded, with Nadia already right in Piplup's face. In those eyes, I could see a fire that could make even the distortion world freeze over. In that gaze, Piplup was forced to relent as Nadia's ability poison point took effect, enveloping her body in venomous toxins. Sharing Nadia's confidence, I gave a big smile and gave Trixie the sneer of a lifetime as I made my final stand.
"Can you be any more predictable, Trixie? Thinking that I was the same girl as before is a big mistake. Underestimating my Pokemon and especially me will leave you in a world of hurt."
"Tch, we'll see about that!"
For minutes on end, Piplup and Nadia gave it they're all in a battle for the ages. With both our wavelengths seemingly combined, every attack sharpened our next one like an aimed knife. But something even more amazing happened in the wake of this new perspective. In front of me was no longer my former friend or bully, that distinction was vanishing with each passing strike. We've now evolved into something far simpler than that, just two trainers that were willing to see how far we can go! It seemed, however, that Nadia had reached her limit. Her prior battle with Ralts already started to take its toll, which might lead to my defeat with the battle finally winding down to one last pivotal attack. From both ends of the battlefield, Piplup and Nadia, both summoned every last vestige of strength in a respective peck and poison sting attack.
A tense half a minute passed as we collected our last thoughts and never looked back. Like two massive swords, the Pokemon with tension that could cleave steel! At first, the two attacks were about even until I saw Nadia's stamina start to fade quickly. Noticing my weakness, Trixie then snuck in for the win.
"C'mon Piplup, keep going just a little more, crush her!"
"Keep pushing it, Nadia. You've never let anyone take the spotlight, so don't start now!"
At the sound of my voice, Nadia let out a primal roar of defiance to Piplup, pushing and pushing until both Pokemon were enveloped in an intense light! This light was so bright in fact that I was forced to look away. Next time I open my eyes, I see a sight that fills me with utter joy because I see that my female Nidoran finally evolved into a Nidorina! This joy lasted for about 5 seconds as Nadia soon fell to the ground in a crumpled heap. My heart stopped in its tracks at the simple thought of Piplup winning, but at the very last second, Nadia's poison took effect, leaving her a fainted mess on the ground. The matchup was so unexpected that all we could do was just stand here for seemingly forever until a single voice cut through the silence.
"Well, it looks like both of you have the skills to back it up. And it seems both of you are closer in more ways than one," Mr. Kopi said in an admirable tone.
It was then that I decided to take the first step and walked toward this new Trixie with a brand new perspective. I then reached out my hand to this new face.
"I'm not the same Taylor I was before, and you're not the same Trixie that I met all those years ago. And I can tell that you want to be free of the past just as much as I do, so let's end it here."
Trixie's eyes wavered for a slight moment and finally relented as she took my hand as well.
"Fine, consider the hatchet buried, but this isn't over yet. Next time we battle, I'm going to win it all you got that?"
"I wouldn't have it any other way, Trixie."
I walked into the battlefield, expecting to put an end to a bully, but it seems now that I was walking away with a rival instead. As I traveled out of the dusty old warehouse, I saw a ripe new world for the taking with so many discoveries waiting to be uncovered. And I know now that with Mr.Kopi by my side, we'll be able to see them all unfold.
Meanwhile, in a secret location, ten holographic silhouettes conversed while watching the Battle of Sandgem. As the video kept going, one of the lords of Apex spoke.
"Lord #7, are you sure that this is truly the thorn of our collective sides? Because if this is another one of your distractions when Project Tenebris recent hardships, you can happily join Leanorad's current position."
"Judging from Leonard's sporadic research/results, it isn't impossible to believe that a scenario like this would happen. Either way, this girl is a person of interest in my book. First, she survives an encounter with our altered Ursaring, and now not even a month later, she appears on Lord#10's rankings with an overleveled Ditto? I don't believe in coincidences #1, and neither should you."
"And you fail to realize that #7 that I do not trust the prattlings of cowardly thugs! I will not act out and throw away all that we've accomplished without at least some definitive proof! Project Tenderis effects on both trainer and Pokemon is pivotal if we are to ever move to Phase 2."
"And if you think that we should just let this mark slide then you are a fo-"
All of the shadowed figures turned their heads to Lord#5's hulking image, knowing full well she hated to repeat herself.
"While I do agree #1's bid for secrecy in this critical stage, I agree with #7 that this "coincidence" is far too big to ignore. On the subject of those "cowardly thugs," though, they have proven to indispensable soldiers, and I think that they are the key to finally perfecting the faulty first wave of Project Tenebris. They also have a personal vendetta against this girl; I honestly can't find a perfect testing ground not only to test this public second wave but also to see if Kopi truly has surfaced himself. The only way to win a war is to know thy enemy and strike first. I don't think I have to remind anyone in this room what happens if we let this thorn stay any longer. And I certainly don't have to remind anyone in this room why this should be a top priority. Because beyond even the Elite fours, and the Champions, beyond even Ash himself, that little Ditto might be the most dangerous our organization may ever face."
Taylor and Mr.Kopi might want to enjoy their peace for now because it seems their future might be clouded by the shadow of Apex very soon as the journey continues ever forward!