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Old 06-13-2015, 08:17 PM   #34
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- Are you sure about that Dartz?

The Croagunk grinned with absolute confidence. As Mazo had just relayed to him, the Poison-Type intended to challenge Baroque to a battle - something the Croagunk had never done before, and something the Rhyperior had never lost at since evolving.

- Baroque is the team's leader and one of my strongest partners, short of maybe Zion. I'm not underestimating you, but you're smart enough to realize the odds right?...

Mazo nodded. It was a fact, even with his and Haou's incredible powers, they still struggled to keep up with Baroque when he went all out. His combination of unparalleled strength and the wisdom passed down to him by Zion and Cygna made the Rhyperior, quite simply, the epitome of the perfect fighter. For Dartz to believe he could topple such a giant... it was uncharacteristic of such a brilliant mind to be so delusional.

But Dartz was adamant. He smirked at Levin and walked outside, ready to confront Baroque. The Saffron-native followed him, concerned about the outcome - the Rhyperior was a conqueror, and wouldn't hesitate to crush insurgents to teach them a lesson. An advocate of tough love, Baroque never held back and expected nothing less of those who challenged him.

Dartz wouldn't do this if he didn't have both a plan and a purpose. He needs to prove something to you and to himself; I share your concern, but we should place some faith on our young friend.

- Dartz fights in the shadows, outsmarting his foes and striking unseen. A head-on confrontation is something he's not trained to do... Mazo, please don't hesitate to step in if things get out of hand.

The Lucario said nothing, but the message was, of course, perfectly understood.


Sunlight filled the wide clearing of Marble Garden's entrance, where so many stories had already unfolded - the meeting with Vesper, Nylus's rampage, the death of Rojo and so much more.
This time however, everything was peaceful. Several of Levin's Pokemon wandered around, minding their own business. Not far from the Treetop Base's front door, Baroque trained Leon in the art of combat, something the Ralts openly despised; the Psychic-Type was a pacifist at heart, but Baroque's will was final. Truth be told, the Rhyperior was right - after the disaster that went down upon the evolution of Nylus, every member of the team had the obligation to become as strong as they could, so that such events would never happen again; according to Baroque, it was their collective duty, as Levin's Pokemon, to protect their home and their master.

Dartz kept moving, unflinching, and stepped right between Baroque and Leon with arms spread wide and just as wide a grin. Baroque looked on, visibly annoyed and puzzled by the Croagunk's interruption. When he realized the reason, the Ground-Type muttered something to himself and finally acquiesced with a silent nod; where many others of comparable strength would have laughed in Dartz's face, Baroque tempered his own emotions. If the Rhyperior felt either amused or insulted, none could tell, other than Mazo if he so wished.

- Dammit Dartz, what the hell are you doing?...

Baroque dismissed Leon, who hurried towards Levin with a relieved expression, although visibly fearful for Dartz at the same time. Baroque assumed his customary stance, intentionally dropping his guard to test his foe's mettle - he always allowed the challenger to strike first before riposting.

Dartz welcomed the opening and charged ahead; this was the first time Levin ever saw the Croagunk engage an opponent like that.
His glowing fist connected with Baroque's abdomen, barely leaving a mark on the foe's Solid Rock body, but Dartz himself seemed invigorated after the Power-Up Punch and immediately followed up the first hit with a lighting-fast Bullet Punch to round out the one-two combo.

If Baroque was in any way affected, it didn't seem to be the case. He simply raised one of his arm-cannons and unleashed a Rock Blast barrage at point-blank range, which sent Dartz flying back several feet and tumbling down hard!

He's not holding back at all...

It was just as he'd feared: Baroque had no problem going easy on Pokemon he personally trained, but if challenged to a battle, it was a whole different story. Then again, Dartz already knew this, so... why?

Fighting in the shadows is proof of intellect; Dartz needs to know the limits of his actual strength. At first, I believed he might have laid a trap beforehand... but there is nothing more to this match than meets the eye, for once. Dartz's plan was quite simply to see if he could measure up...

Levin cursed under his breath and watched as Baroque Bulldozed the still-downed Croagunk, steamrolling the poor frog without a hint of pity and kicking up a large amount of dust and grass as he went. He finally stopped, only to raise his arm again, this time mere inches away from the battered Poison-Type's face, and pausing.

This is the closest thing to mercy Dartz is going to get out of Baroque...

The Rhyperior and Croagunk's staredown was brief - the former's eyes revealing both respect and sadness, while the latter's glimmered with defiance and confidence, even in the current predicament. Baroque shook his head and unleashed a Zap Cannon right in front of his helpless foe, with the ensuing explosion ravaging about a third of the entire clearing!

Dartz... not you too! Please be alright!!

Levin had dealt with too much loss recently to face the unavoidable truth... but how could Dartz possibly have endured such a hit? What was Baroque thinking?!

... Suddenly, amidst the smoke, Dartz leapt up and grabbed hold of Baroque's horn! He was okay!! But how on earth could he still move like that?!

Double Team... he tricked Baroque into blasting a doppelganger! He must have multiplied after the Bulldoze kicked up all that dust and Baroque never realized it.

Grinning triumphantly, Dartz stared Baroque dead in the eye, drilling home the fact that he'd just outmaneuvered the conqueror and caused him to expend a massive amount of energy for nothing. Baroque, in turn, wouldn't give Dartz the satisfaction of falling for his mind games, and caused his horn to start spinning furiously!
Dartz hung on for dear life, spinning wildly but knowing full well that the second he let go, Baroque would crush him underfoot without a second thought! He had to hang on and somehow, some way, find a way to fight back! Because he was a fighter at heart, not just a venomous creature! He knew he could be just as strong as Mazo, Haou, Dux or Buster... now it was time everyone else realized it as well!!

Fueled by his resolve, Dartz's body took on a progressively brighter glow and his frame started to expand, until a hand could be seen still holding Baroque's horn but two feet now rested firmly on the ground - when the shine faded, Dartz was no longer at the mercy of Baroque's horn, but the newfound grip strength of his form had become powerful enough to stop its spinning altogether with one arm!

If any was needed, there is the proof.

Baroque looked genuinely shocked for the first time in the match, and for the first time in a very long time. Dartz channeled frost energy into his free hand and delivered a crushing Ice Punch to Baroque's jaw while still holding his horn, then another, then another, and finished by charging up his fighting spirit into a sphere and drilling the Focus Blast right into the Rock-Type's chest!

Master, did you notice?...

The shockwave triggered a huge explosion, but the impact still wasn't enough to knock Baroque down! Battered and gasping for air, the Rhyperior's gaze became wild, filled with nothing but pure warrior's instinct. Levin had failed to notice it before, but Mazo called it - Baroque's body had been glowing a faint red during Dartz's onslaught, and now it made sense!
The Rhyperior brought his cannons together and unleashed a massive Bide pulse, grinding the surrounding area to dust as the beam traveled towards the recovering Dartz. Unlike Levin, the sharp Toxicroak had indeed noticed Baroque's setup, and looked to Dig out of the way... but the blast was so intense that Dartz failed to burrow deep enough and was washed over by the energy wave!

When the beam subsided, Dartz was kneeling in a crater, gasping for air with his eyes glazed over. Baroque, equally exhausted, walked over to his opponent, towering over him. Dartz grinned one last time, which was met with Baroque's earnest smile, after which the Toxicroak passed out from his injuries. The Rhyperior picked his fallen comrade up and placed him at Levin's feet.

Dartz earned Baroque's respect today. And hopefully he will have earned yours as well; he proved his strength matches his brilliance. One can only wonder if the outcome would have been the same had Dartz played to his strengths; that was quite the display of bravery.

- Dartz had my admiration from the start. But today he showed everyone who thought he couldn't handle himself in a fight wrong. He went out of his comfort zone to test himself - and we can all learn something from his actions here today.

Baroque, Mazo and Leon nodded simultaneously. They all needed to surpass themselves just like Dartz had just done. When they all went beyond their limitations, nobody would be able to stop them as a team - not Kayl, not Vesper, not the Elite Four... and certainly not Nylus.

When will I find the guts to let you out again? And when I do... will we all be prepared?
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