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The Quest for the Legends, now with its ILCOETH revision!

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Dragonfree, Apr 26, 2004.

  1. Razor Shiftry

    Razor Shiftry Cynthia = Porn Star

    i wonder what will become of Quilava now...will she be important in the chapters ahead? dun dun dun...

    anyways, nice chapter. i must admit, you had me worried when the computer came up with Mark being dead n all. and i don't know why but i rather liked May's pep talk to Mark about his moping. sorta...needed i think. anyways, can't wait for the next chapter! :)
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2008
  2. This is a really good fic. The pokemon and fakemon are all really well described. As are the human charicters. I like all of the fake legendaries. I think my Favarite pokemon is charizard.

    EDIT: can you please put me on the PM list?
     
  3. Razor Shiftry

    Razor Shiftry Cynthia = Porn Star

    oh, can i be on the PM list as well please? just to save a bit of time from clicking through loads of pages making sure i haven't missed an update xD

    thanks x
     
  4. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    Thanks for the reviews, you guys. I appreciate it. (Though generally, Razor Shiftry, you should not post just to ask to be added to the PM list - it would have been better to just PM me.)

    Okay, so. This is not chapter 46. Rather, I realized that chapter 46 was getting way too long, mostly thanks to stuff that was completely irrelevant to what was supposed to be the main point of that chapter, so since it fits much better into chapter 45 anyway, I am retconning roughly another eight pages into that chapter. Doesn't really make any difference to you, of course, since here it's posted as a separate installment, but that's the reason for the numbering and the... odd title.

    EDIT: Because I am indecisive, it turns out this is chapter 46 after all.


    The Ouen League - Chapter 46: Day One

    Dear Participant MARK GREENLET,

    Your GYARADOS has been measured at highly abnormal power levels for its species and experience.

    As the standard examination of your Pokémon did not reveal any direct evidence of the use of illegal devices, substances or methods, you will not be disqualified from participation; however, to ensure the fairness of the League, you will regrettably have to be barred from using this Pokémon in League battles.

    Best wishes,
    The Elite Four


    “You got one too, huh?” May asked as she laid a bowl of cornflakes down on the table opposite Mark, her other hand waving a sloppily reclosed envelope. He put the letter down on the table beside his bacon and scrambled eggs while she sat down. He’d read the thing at least five times over since he had found it lying on the floor below the door to his room in a decorative envelope in the morning, and he still couldn’t really get his brain to make proper sense of it.

    “Why just disqualify Gyarados?” he muttered. “I mean, if I’d trained him with illegal drugs, shouldn’t I be disqualified altogether?”

    May shrugged. “They wouldn’t be able to prove it was you, per se. You could have gotten him off another trainer who did it, or somebody could have laced his food with something to get you disqualified, or something like that. If you don’t admit to it and the Pokémon doesn’t admit to it, they can’t show that you deserve the blame.”

    “And if nobody did anything illegal? How is it fair to disqualify him?”

    “Well, presumably they wouldn’t call it ‘highly abnormal’ and start sending out letters if it could be achieved through legal methods.”

    “We didn’t do anything illegal.”

    “What, do you think we should go and try to explain to them that they were touched by the legendary beasts and granted special powers? They wouldn’t exactly have that registered as a legal way of strengthening a Pokémon.”

    Mark shrugged. In a way, he was glad he’d gotten that letter; now he had the perfect excuse to refrain from using Gyarados in the League while he got over the Suicune incident. He was really only arguing on principle.

    “I wonder if they tried to remove Spirit’s necklace to see if it was some sort of an illegal power-up,” May mused to herself. “I’d pay to see her reaction to that.”

    “They also sent me a notice about Charizard,” Mark said. “How he was formally registered to another trainer and how while he had confirmed he wasn’t stolen, unofficial trades were frowned upon by the League and the trading machines available in every Pokémon Center should always be used to prevent misunderstandings, yada yada.”

    “Huh,” May responded in bemusement. “Then what did Quilava tell them when they asked her, if Taylor still had her?”

    Mark shrugged and looked up, catching a glimpse of the TV screen on the wall above the buffet, behind May. The morning news was on; he wouldn’t have been interested except for the fact that the all-too-familiar eerie pupilless eyes of Mewtwo² were staring at him from the picture on the anchorwoman’s right. May was beginning to say something, but he silenced her with a wave of his hand and pointed at the television.

    “…meanwhile, public outcry continues as Ouen League officials persist in ignoring fierce protests to the unprecedented decision to permit the entrance of illegal superpowered clone Pokémon forcibly controlled by modified Pokéballs into the League. Many groups have expressed their confusion, pointing out the generally rigorous efforts of the League to ensure that participating Pokémon have not been subjected to questionable training methods or power-ups, and several individuals and organizations have accused the League of taking bribes, while a petition against the decision has already gathered over three hundred thousand signatures from all over the world. Allen Brown of the Pokémon Rights Advocacy Group, who started the petition, had this to say.”

    Mark stared at the screen as they cut to an interview with a man who looked every bit as baffled as he was.

    “This is ridiculous,” the man said. “Ridiculous. There are at least three things about this that are plainly illegal, and it spits on virtually every policy the League has. I cannot believe what they are doing. If this is allowed to pass, we must seriously think about whether our government has become corrupt.”

    The picture switched to a slideshow of photos of Rick’s legendary clones that made Mark feel even sicker than he already did while the anchorwoman droned on: “Cleanwater City Gym Leader Richard Lancaster has long attracted controversy for his use of low-levelled clones of legendary Pokémon in his Gym, controlled through the power of a Pokéball of his own invention which is said to repress the free will of the contained Pokémon. He was also granted a special license to keep one low-levelled genetically modified clone in his Gym. His younger brother, Taylor Lancaster, was reportedly named in numerous reports to the League during the course of his journey in the past few months for carrying abnormal Pokémon, all of which were ignored. Only during his registration to the League a few days ago did it fully surface that all but one of his Pokémon were genetically modified clones, created without the knowledge and approval of the League, and that one of them was ‘Mewtwo²’, the devastatingly powerful Mewtwo clone that Rick had previously been permitted to keep only at a low level. Despite this, the League has not objected to his participation, and this morning a formal statement was issued, proclaiming their decision to be ‘final’ but that Taylor would be restricted to four Pokémon in the League rather than the standard six. This compromise has done little to calm the loud voices from every corner of Ouen calling for Taylor to be disqualified and stripped of his trainer license and Richard to be charged as a criminal.”

    That was the end of the story and the anchorwoman moved on to some other subject as if nothing were more natural while Mark was still staring at the screen in disbelief.

    “That bribing, thieving, disgusting cheater,” May whispered, her voice shaking with anger. “How could he possibly get away with this?”

    Mark felt no need to reply; she’d taken the words right out of his mouth. How could they allow Taylor to enter the League using clones, even as they sent out letters disqualifying Spirit and Gyarados for being too powerful? That was too blatant a double standard for even the stupidest of politicians not to notice. In fact, the entire process was so ridiculously obvious in its wrongness that Mark couldn’t really believe it: Taylor had been walking around all this time, cheerfully using his clones; the Clone Balls were recognized to function in very morally questionable ways; there was a particular clause in the exception that permitted Rick to keep Mewtwo², rendering it void if it was ever trained past level ten. How could the brothers have been so ridiculously careless while relying only on Rick’s influence to avoid being stopped in their tracks and charged with all sorts of crimes?

    A memory snuck into his mind: their previous encounter with Taylor in Scorpio City and Officer Jenny’s distant, staring eyes as she suddenly ushered them out and closed the door without a further word. It blended in with all the details of the news report, and all of a sudden everything clicked.

    “Hypnosis,” he said quietly. “They haven’t been bribing the League – they’ve been using Mewtwo² or something to force them to do their bidding. It explains everything – all the leeway Rick has gotten, Officer Jenny in Scorpio City, Taylor being allowed into the League, the ignored reports… everything.”

    May looked at him for a long moment, not looking entirely surprised. “It has that kind of power?” she asked, but of course it did. Mewtwo² had slammed Gyarados into a wall with a careless wave of its hand while it was still low-leveled; of course it would make short work of hypnotizing a few government officials if it ever came into contact with them, now that it was no doubt far more powerful.

    “We have to tell someone,” Mark said, still in shock, glancing around; nobody else was there for the moment after a girl had left the room a few minutes earlier. “Somebody has to tell someone.”

    May shook her head. “It won’t do any good,” she said. “I mean, Taylor still has Mewtwo², and clearly the Destroyer hasn’t drained it too much yet. Is there really anything we could do to him now that he couldn’t prevent or undo?” She paused and glared fiercely out the window. “Damn it! I hope I get to battle him and show that talentless little git that you need more than a mind-controlling legendary clone and a power-hungry psycho brother to be any good!”

    Mark nodded and hoped it too; it felt right for May to be the one to knock Taylor out of the League, more than somebody Taylor had never directly wronged, and he would have to be knocked out if there was any semblance of justice in the world. For as long as he was a participant, he was vulnerable: while he’d slanted the rules in his favour, it did appear he had some genuine sense of wanting to participate in a real competition, what with letting them restrict him to four Pokémon, and that meant he could truly be beaten. There was no guarantee that he would ever let that happen once the League was over.

    Then again, there was no knowing what he might do to get his way if he did lose. Mark shuddered.

    “Huh,” May said, mostly to herself. “Come to think of it, the four-Pokémon restriction can’t have been already agreed upon if he was desperate to get a sixth clone last night. I wonder if Rick got the League to put the restriction in place when Taylor came whining to him about getting a new clone afterwards.” She smirked at the thought before turning to Mark and standing up. “Well, let’s go get our Pokémon back, then. We’ve got training to do.”

    -------

    At the League office building, they retrieved their Pokémon and were given booklets with a detailed rundown of the rules of the League, which May immediately began to read as they headed towards the gate.

    “Interesting,” she said. “We’ll have to leave our Pokémon for inspection the night before a match, too.”

    Mark glanced at her as the gatekeeper woman waved them through. “Makes sense, I guess.”

    “And – oh, here’s the section about the preliminaries,” she said as she turned the page. “I was wondering how those worked.”

    Mark moved to read over her shoulder, but she started reading it aloud anyway. “‘The preliminary matches are conducted over a period of seven days, starting on the first of August. Multiple matches may be conducted simultaneously on the League’s three arenas. The preliminary match-ups are published on July twenty-sixth, but the themes of each arena not until the day before each battle. In preliminary battles, trainers use three Pokémon each’ – I’m guessing that means Taylor gets to use two – ‘with switching allowed and the four-move restriction in place. Every trainer has two preliminary battles, after which they are graded on their overall performance, taking into account how many Pokémon fainted on each side, the health of the remaining Pokémon on each side, and overall battle performance as evaluated by the judges and the presiding member of the Elite Four. The top sixteen trainers then proceed to the knockout phase, which begins on the fifteenth of August.’” She turned the page. “Sounds fairly straightforward. Oh, hey, it also says you can see every participant’s registered Pokémon in the computers at the library. Nice.”

    Mark looked at her. “Why is that?”

    “I suppose otherwise you’d be at an unfair advantage if you happened to have been able to watch your competitor’s previous battles or know them otherwise. Makes sense to just make what you have public and let you keep the ones you bring to the battle secret.”

    Mark nodded and realized that they were now walking in the direction of the mountain. “Wait, where are we going?”

    “I was thinking we’d find some nice place to train by the mountainside somewhere.” May shrugged and looked at him.

    “Well, are we going to train together or separately?” Mark asked unsurely. “I mean…”

    “I think it might as well be together for now, before we start specializing for the individual battles. It’s a lot easier to focus one’s efforts that way.”

    Mark felt no need to protest; he liked the idea of having May around to give him tips for as long as possible. They found a spot by the mountain, spacious and flat ground hidden from view from the League camp but not too far off, and looked around without saying anything.

    The memory of the previous day suddenly bubbled to the top of Mark’s mind. “So did you talk to Quilava?” he asked, looking abruptly at her. Come to think of it, it was rather strange that she had not mentioned it yet.

    She looked distractedly at him. “Oh, her,” she said in a voice that attempted unsuccessfully to be casual. “She… She doesn’t want to evolve.”

    Mark looked at her, dumbfounded. “What? Really?”

    “Yeah,” May said, looking at the rock wall straight in front of her. “She said she’s had enough of it, and that she wouldn’t mind getting to battle a bit, but she’s spent too long as a Quilava to want to…”

    She trailed off, not needing to finish. There was something all too ironic in all of this, that May had spent so long obsessing over the thought of reclaiming Quilava only to have her first given back voluntarily and then turn out to not want to evolve, which surely had to make May very doubtful about wanting to use her.

    “So… what are you going to do?” he asked cautiously.

    “Do?” May paused for a long moment, fiddling with the minimized Pokéballs on her necklace, before her expression hardened to some sort of repressed distaste. “I’m not allowed to use Spirit, so I don’t have a Fire-type. The starters given out by Professor Elm are bred, so they’re genetically stronger than anything I might find in the wild here. Who says she won’t change her mind?”

    Mark gave her a sceptical look.

    “And if she doesn’t,” May went on without looking at him, her voice turning almost angry, “I can just release her, catch a few wild Cyndaquil, or some better Fire Pokémon – I can’t stand bloody Cyndaquil anyway – and keep the best one. And even if she’s got better genes, the evolved form is still stronger.”

    She clenched her fist around her Pokéballs; Mark wished he could have said something to calm her down – he would never be able to convince her that using an unevolved Pokémon was not the end of the world, after all – but couldn’t really think of anything to that effect that wouldn’t at the same time encourage her in her rather dubious intentions. He also wanted to tell her that capturing many Pokémon just to pick out the strongest one and release the others was wrong, but he knew that would only get her more riled up, so he said nothing at all.

    She took a few deep breaths and then looked sharply towards him. “Shouldn’t you talk to Dragonite or something?”

    It was an obvious hint that she didn’t want to talk about it; in any case, Mark had almost forgotten that Dragonair had evolved, and now that he’d been reminded of it, he really did want to see how he was doing in his new form. “Oh, yeah, right,” he muttered and grabbed the dragon’s ball. “Go!”

    He threw the ball, and it opened to release a formless shape of light that quickly began to shape itself into Dragonite. His first instinctual reaction was that Dragonite was a bit anticlimactically small; he hadn’t gotten a good idea of his size in the Polaryu battle, and now that he could evaluate it properly, he was definitely smaller than Mark’s mental idea of a Dragonite. But when the light had faded away completely, he felt pride well up in his chest: he actually did have a Dragonite, one of the strongest non-legendary Pokémon in the world.

    Dragonite turned around to look at him.

    “So…” Mark began, not sure how to start a conversation. “How’s being a Dragonite?”

    “Feels very weird,” the dragon muttered in a voice very oddly unlike his own as he raised a chubby arm and moved his claws slowly. “It will take some time to get used to having limbs.”

    Mark tried to imagine what sort of an experience it would be to grow limbs all of a sudden if you’d never had them and could only conclude it had to be very alien. He said nothing; it was beginning to creep upon him that, particularly in the light of the discussion he had just had with May, maybe it had been inappropriately selfish of him to be so excited about Dragonair’s evolution – had he ever properly made it clear that it was his choice?

    “And I feel kind of… ungraceful,” Dragonite went on without really waiting for an answer. “Like a balloon. I’d gotten used to controlling my flight the way I was before.” He concentrated and flapped his tiny wings rapidly, but didn’t budge from the ground; he growled in irritation and leapt off the ground with his hind legs, which made him bound surprisingly high into the air, where he got caught in the wind and was thrown sideways. He regained his balance awkwardly, still floating slowly towards the ground in a very balloonlike manner, and began to flap his wings again, which this time managed to stop his descent and propel him forward.

    “Oh, I get it,” he said brightly, flying forward and gathering speed as he went; he accelerated more quickly than Mark would have expected, though he was still not especially fast. “I could get used to this.”

    “So you’ll be okay, I mean, having evolved?” Mark asked cautiously.

    Dragonite looked at him, his expression puzzled. “What? Of course. Why wouldn’t I?”

    “So,” May said suddenly, reaching for a Pokéball before Mark could think up an answer, “how about a battle to see what you can do now?”

    Dragonite looked towards her and made a careful landing. “I suppose,” he said and looked at Mark; he hurried over to his Pokémon’s side to stand opposite May as she threw the ball she had plucked from her necklace.

    “Go, Tyranitar!”

    Mark was a bit doubtful as he watched May’s dinosaur materializing; sand was already beginning to twirl up on the ground around it in obedient response to Tyranitar’s presence. The two Pokémon were about the same size, but Tyranitar obviously had more experience with his evolved form and had had more training since his evolution, not to mention that Dragonite would be weak to Rock attacks; he couldn’t help thinking it wasn’t a fair match-up at all. But he couldn’t deny that Dragonite and Tyranitar were Pokémon viewed as counterparts in a way that made it seem very fitting.

    “Okay, Dragonite,” Mark began, “use Dragon Rush.”

    “Tyranitar, Stone Edge!” May yelled.

    Dragonite was faster and took off in a leap that, again, seemed far too high and slow for the weight he ought to be; intense blue flames cloaked his body, far brighter than when he’d been a Dragonair, while Tyranitar roared and raised chunks of rock out of the ground below him. Dragonite dodged them in his dive downwards, closed his eyes as he entered the cloud of sand around Tyranitar and then smashed his body into the dinosaur, causing Tyranitar to stumble a little backwards as Dragonite retreated back out of the sandstorm.

    “Aqua Tail!” Mark shouted quickly.

    “Rock Slide!”

    Tyranitar was still recovering as Dragonite’s tail lengthened and dissolved into water in mid-air; he dove back towards his opponent, drawing his tail back, and then whipped it powerfully into May’s Pokémon, who growled in pain, thrust a paw into the air and with it caused an array of rocks to tear themselves out of the mountain and smack into Dragonite’s back, sending him flying right over May’s head. He crashed into the ground a few feet away.

    “Another Stone Edge,” May ordered; Mark saw the danger immediately, his Pokémon being vulnerable on the ground. “Dragonite, quick!” he shouted. “Get back up!”

    But Dragonite was only beginning to push himself to his feet when the ground underneath him cracked apart, sharp rocks exploding upwards and cutting him as they sent him flying. Here it benefited him how light he was in practice, however: instead of his weight helping the edges of the rocks pierce into his hide, the attack served more to throw him upwards where he flapped his wings frantically and managed to shake the stones off himself. Instantly his tail turned into water again and he dived down to smack it into Tyranitar.

    “Crunch!” May yelled as the dinosaur was hit and roared in pain; he countered by seizing one of Dragonite’s feet in his jaws as he began to ascend again. The dragon cried in pain, tugging on the leg, but Tyranitar held him – for a second, Mark was comically reminded of a child trying to hold on to a particularly large helium balloon, except for the sandstorm beating on Dragonite’s hide.

    “Tyranitar, use Stone Edge while he’s stuck!”

    The ground underneath Dragonite began to crack, and he tried in seeming desperation to fly up without success; then suddenly he pulled straight sideways, just as the sharp rocks began to tear themselves out of the ground below, and thus pulled Tyranitar straight into the way of his own attack. He roared in pain as the sharp stones drilled into his thick hide, and Dragonite wriggled himself loose from his open jaws and was quick to get out of the way.

    Tyranitar fell onto the ground on his side, beaten and battered and clearly unable to stand up. He looked at May with a desperate gaze as the last wisps of the sandstorm died down; she looked from Dragonite to Mark, her lips thin.

    Mark let out a short burst of repressed, disbelieving laughter. He wasn’t the type to gloat, but he couldn’t help himself: he’d just beaten May, with her at a type advantage. It seemed ridiculous.

    “Look,” May said, “that does not count. It was a practice battle so that Dragonite could get used to fighting in his new – shut up, Mark.” She gave him a glare, but he couldn’t have stopped giggling if he had tried.

    “I know you think this is just sore loser talk,” May said heatedly, her face already reddening, “but I was not making any effort. I thought Tyranitar could beat Dragonite with brute force and no strategy, and you got lucky.”

    “Yeah, suuure,” Mark replied with a grin that prompted another murderous glare. But even though winning this was priceless, and a definite moment of awesomeness on Dragonite’s part, he knew better than to seriously think himself the better trainer for it, and it would have been rather hypocritical to tease her too much about it. With the general mood she was in, he didn’t really want to. She just gave him a resentful look and reached for a Pokéball.

    After hastily recalling Tyranitar, May quickly got to discussing moves with Dragonite to change the subject, and they spent the rest of the day guiding their Pokémon in picking up various useful moves similarly to how Letal had learned Iron Head. By the time they returned to the trainer lodges for dinner, Mark already felt like they had made enormous progress, and despite everything, he was more grateful than ever that he was there with May.
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2009
  5. Until I read the section about public outcry against Rick and Taylor, it didn't actually occur to me that Taylor's activities with superclones were actually illegal. Then, I read this long paragraph stating everything immoral and illegal about carrying superclones and using Clone Balls and whatnot, and feel like an idiot.

    Well, this actually explains a lot. Though I have to wonder how any self-respecting human being would go to those lengths to, well, cheat and lie. Mewtwo squared (sorry, can't find the superscript button) has far too much power if it's capable of completely hypnotizing someone. Still, I would (uselessly) call Taylor a cheater, exactly like the public in your story is.

    This depiction of Aqua Tail is very good, if thought-provoking. How does something dissolve part of itself into water, then transmute it back to a tail? The world may never know.
     
  6. Razor Shiftry

    Razor Shiftry Cynthia = Porn Star

    sorry >.< won't do it again :D promise lol

    DAMN. :/ i would have loved to see Gyarados kick some league ***
    So would i xD it would be pretty...hawt :p
    when i read this i just had this image of Mark as a lil kid worried about going to school on his own for the first time...awww >.<
    :O
    May...will you ever learn? i'm really looking forward to see if her opinion changes over the following chapters in the league battles...
    NO MARK! NO! say what you think! don't be bullied by her and her superior battling skillz...oh wait, you need her ¬¬
    i really liked this bit. a nice lil tidbit of character from Mark coupled with the interesting thought of what WOULD it be like to suddenly grow limbs and lil diddly wings? xD
    LOL! awwww, Dragonite sounds Adorable *huggles*

    YAY BATTLE. unfair but oh well d:
    nice description :)
    i want a dragonite ballon XD
    PWNED. WOOP, go dragonite :p
    i honestly couldn't stop laughing at this point. haha this really WAS priceless xD

    can't wait for the next one :)
     
  7. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    Thanks for the reviews, you two.

    So, at half past four in the morning, fresh from a long writing spree of chapter 46... I was struck with sudden inspiration and just had to write this. I really like how it came out, personally, but it may just be that I love writing May.



    Extra VI: Letting Go

    May took a deep breath and exhaled slowly; wispy clouds of vapor formed in front of her face and disappeared. The night was cold for the summer, possibly partly because she was fairly near Champion Cave, and she hadn’t thought to put her coat on. Stupid.

    She dropped the Pokéball she was holding on the ground and watched the bright, white light take the shape of her starter by her feet. Quilava shook herself, the spiky flames on her head and rear flaring up with a soft sound; when May said nothing, she looked up at her trainer.

    “Right,” May said. She took another deep breath and hated herself for needing it. “So. I’ve decided that…”

    She looked at the Pokémon, who watched her in silence; her flames burned peacefully and she could feel their warmth surrounding her legs.

    May cleared her throat. “I need a different Fire-type. One who is willing to put everything into this, and who has something more to offer than just fire. I’m getting a Torchic. I know where they are on the island.”

    Quilava stood there, silent, unmoving. Only her fire flickered and burned. It wasn’t as if May had expected her to be surprised, but she had hoped – well, expected, at any rate – that the Pokémon would have some sort of a reaction to this. Maybe she just didn’t get it. May knew she was not that dumb, but she clarified it anyway: “So I don’t need you.”

    It stung her to say it, after she’d spent so damned long looking for her; heck, Quilava was the only reason she was still in this region. Everything seemed stupid and pointless – like she’d wasted the past months of her life. She’d always expected she would at least get the satisfaction of wrenching her out of Taylor’s grip, and there he had handed her to her on a silver platter, leaving the entire build-up just a dull throb of disappointment in the back of her mind.

    And now this. Her first Pokémon looked down at the ground and then back up at her, waiting.

    Her very first Pokémon. The Cyndaquil she had pointed at when Professor Elm had given her the choice, just because she knew female starters were rare. Worst mistake of her life.

    “Damn it,” she hissed under her breath. Her starter. Starters were supposed to end up as your most powerful Pokémon, the heart and soul of your team, the last Pokémon sent out at the end of the final battle to decide the winner of the League Championships. And here she was, with her level fifteen Quilava who didn’t want to evolve – useless. Wasted.

    It hadn’t been too late. May could have brought her to glory, made her that powerful starter, the eventual Champion’s top Pokémon. If only that – that stupid little Quilava hadn’t foolishly turned her back on it. That was her own fault. She didn’t know what she was missing.

    But it was for the best anyway. Her team needed a Fighting-type. It had always needed a Fighting-type.

    “There are wild Cyndaquil around here,” she said. “You’ll be happy with them. Maybe you’ll find a mate and have eggs and…”

    She took a few more breaths to steady herself; she was starting to tremble with cold. More misty vapor formed and dissolved in front of her.

    “…and, well, you’ll be much better off.”

    Handing Quilava off for the prospect of a Charmander – something that could become a Charizard, a much cooler Pokémon. Why had she thrown the stupid ball away, anyway? It was a dumb thing to do, even if it was a lower-leveled Charmander.

    “So goodbye, and have a nice life.”

    Switching the Pokéballs in Scorpio City so that Taylor would get Quilava and Mark would have Charmeleon back – stupid Mark, who never should have gotten that Charmander in the first place, if she hadn’t thrown the stupid ball away. If she had gotten Quilava back then, perhaps things would have been different.

    The Pokémon still said nothing. She stood still by May’s side and nudged her leg gently with the side of her head. The flames only tickled, warm and soft and comforting.

    “Just… go away already,” she said, and her voice was breaking. “It’s cold.”

    “It’s okay,” Quilava said softly, wrapped herself around her legs one more time and then extinguished her flames and scuttled off into the dark.

    May looked after her until she had completely vanished.

    Stupid Quilava. She hated those things.

    She shivered, the cold biting at her legs with renewed vigor now that the flames were gone, and walked hastily back towards the lights of the trainer lodges, fondling her nametag with freezing fingers.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2012
  8. Stabberz

    Stabberz The RPG Godfather

    I Am Not The Best at Reviews But here go's

    I Loved It. It Was a Very Good Extra I Love how you described everything. ie:
    May's Feelings
    How Quilava Felt
    and also You Described her Surroundings very well

    I Didn't hate anything about it
     
  9. Kaizer

    Kaizer A Shadow of Darkness

    The only part about this chapter that I hated was how May felt she couldn't keep her pokemon simply because it wouldn't evolve, completely looking past the idea of just keeping such a loyal pokemon as a pet. Maybe she'll come back some day...

    In other words, you did a great job on this. It didn't even feel like a short chapter, despite its length.
     
  10. Razor Shiftry

    Razor Shiftry Cynthia = Porn Star

    i was actually moved by this. Quilava's silence i almost found heartbreaking. and that last bit of affection from quilava before she left...

    do i detect a hint of symbolism at the end? or is that me and my strange views? like, Quilava was giving May some form of emotional warmth and comfort, but May let it go and sent her away, leaving her cold and alone? hmm...damn may and her cold-hearted ness...altough! Blaziken is awesome :p although so is Quilava >.<

    anyways. touching. very touching. :)
     
  11. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    Quilava not wanting to evolve was a very interesting development indeed, and May's releasing her made for an excellent scene, I thought. Much love for that extra. ^^

    Another thing I wanted to mention, something else that I liked, was the outcome of the battle between Mark and May in Chapter 45, Part 2. That was quite the neat surprise there. ^^

    Other highlights:

    I'd pay to see that, too. XD

    Cool depiction of Sand Stream there. ^^

    XD I liked that comparison.

    And I liked both Mark's reaction to winning and May's reaction to Mark's reaction, especially with regards to May telling Mark to shut up. XD

    D'aww! ;-; So adorable...
     
  12. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    Since I have lately become a master of retconning chapter structure, I have now turned chapter 45 part II into chapter 46. Now I am posting the first twenty-one pages of what was intended to be chapter 46, now chapter 47. The second half of it will be chapter 48, and will probably come fairly soon since I had written most of it by the time I decided to split it into two chapters.

    The reason I went and also split chapter 45 properly again is that I realized that what I had originally planned as chapter 48 would actually be an even better chapter 50 than what my OCD had previously been clinging to as being chapter 50. So yeah. Hopefully this is the last chapter structure shift I'll make.

    Well, that's how she is.

    Hee, you picked up on it. ;)

    Thanks for reviewing, all; I'm glad you guys liked the developments. And sorry for the long wait. I hope you enjoy chapter 47.


    The Ouen League – Chapter 47: The First Preliminary

    The days passed surprisingly rapidly from there: May seemed to think of something new to suggest in the way of practicing or training every day, and for all of Mark’s worries that those weeks before the formal beginning of the League would be very tiring for both him and the Pokémon, there was never a dull moment in all of it. His Pokémon seemed only more energized than usual with all the exercise they were getting, and Mark himself had never enjoyed being a trainer as much as now, when he was focused on training, felt like he was making actual progress, and was talking with his Pokémon every day.

    So when one morning May reminded him that this was the day that the preliminary match-ups would be published, the sudden panic he experienced was an all-too-uncomfortable slap back to reality.

    “Wait, we’re starting to train separately now?”

    “Wasn’t that the idea?” May replied with a shrug between chewing the last few spoonfuls of her cornflakes. “The big screens outside will show us the names of the people we have to battle in the preliminaries, and then we can go to the library to see what they have. After that, we’ll probably have to focus on different things anyway, and we should be getting to specializing and refining our strategies.”

    They finished their breakfast and walked outside, where all the trainers who had arrived since they’d gotten there had already gathered in a crowd, craning their necks up towards the enormous screen. It flipped all too slowly through a slideshow, with the photos and names of the competing trainers shown below the date and arena of their match for at least twenty seconds before the next pair was shown. After what seemed like ages, Mark’s name finally came up: first matched with a red-headed, serious-looking boy named Aaron White on arena two on the third of August, and then with Megan Hayfield, the dark brown-haired girl he had recognized from the Cleanwater City Pokémon Center at the beginning of his journey, in the main stadium on the fifth. Aaron White also looked irritatingly familiar, although Mark couldn’t for the life of him put his finger on where he had seen him before. May apparently had a battle on the third as well, and then one on the seventh, the last day of the preliminaries.

    They squeezed themselves out of the crowd and headed towards the library, where May showed Mark how to log in to the League database and look up participants (she had gone there on one of the first days to find out exactly what Taylor had), and Mark found himself oddly amused by the grayed-out picture of Gyarados on his own profile, which May had loaded as a sample. After that he checked Aaron White and Megan Hayfield (the former had exactly six, seemingly carefully-chosen Pokémon, while the latter had several pages of what looked like nearly every Pokémon she had ever come across but had still, bizarrely, all been trained to respectable levels), wrote down some notes on them into his sketchbook, and then told May, who was still staring intently at the Pokémon owned by her first opponent, that he would go out to train.

    It felt oddly lonely to be going out of the League HQ without her company again, after having gotten so used to her almost-constant presence. In a way it was nice; part of him had missed solitude, and it was somehow relieving to finally find himself nearing the mountain with the chatter of the now quite crowded League area gradually fading into background noise while, closer by, the grunts and growls of battling Pokémon blended in with their trainers’ voices. The relative silence was kind of soothing. At the same time, it felt decidedly like something was just missing when she wasn’t babbling on about battle strategies by his side; it had become such an integral part of being there that the lack of it made him stop there and look dully around, half-expecting her to come after him.

    He plucked Charizard’s Pokéball from his belt and released the dragon. Over their stay at the League, his tail flame had grown and brightened and his body turned leaner and more muscular, which had made him look considerably more like the champion Charizard he had seen on TV; the dragon had also confessed that he generally felt far better now, physically, and it had shown in their training. As he yawned and stretched his wings out, Mark could see the powerful muscles flexing under the thick orange hide and felt a twinge of pride on his behalf.

    “Morning,” the dragon said. “Where’s May?”

    “We’re going to be specializing now,” Mark said. “They published the preliminary match-ups this morning. We have about a week to figure out how to beat the first guy.” He lifted his sketchpad and flipped back to the page where he had written down the information on Aaron White. “Uh, he has a Ditto, a Smeargle, a Ninjask, a Lanturn, a Flygon and a Glalie.”

    Charizard tilted his head. “That will be… interesting.”

    Two girls had approached, chatting very loudly together, and now began to battle very close by with the accompanying shouts and screams; Mark looked at Charizard.

    “Let’s get out of here,” the Pokémon agreed, and Mark climbed onto his back before he took off. After the Volcaryu battle, Mark hadn’t really expected to ever ride on Charizard’s back again; however, as more people had arrived at the League and the general area had become more crowded, they had eventually resorted to flying over to find good spots to train, and although he had been hesitant to do it at first, remembering the general discomfort of his previous flying experience, he had quickly gotten used to it and figured out how to keep himself reasonably balanced during flight.

    Generally it was May who picked out locations, and Mark wasn’t quite sure what he was looking for now that he was left alone for the task; they flew wide circles over the mountainous landscape – Mark could only truly appreciate the sheer size of the base of Champ Mountain when he saw it from above – and eventually he recognized a place where he had gone with May at one point, a low, rocky area near a pond, surrounded by higher peaks and roughly the size of a standard Pokémon battle arena. He pointed it out to Charizard and they descended quickly to land by the pond, where Mark got off and sent out his other Pokémon.

    The entire group, not just Charizard, was in better shape now. Mark could have sworn Sandslash had physically grown, and the training had seen his speed and reflexes improve considerably. Jolteon had also become even speedier, and he had become quite masterful at dodging attacks, a skill that had emerged in a training session where May was trying to gauge the best talents of each Pokémon. Scyther could hit harder and had learned a few new attacks from TMs that May had recommended and they had bought from the League Pokémart – Aerial Ace, U-turn and, at her insistence that it was a good idea, Brick Break; he had also become quite adept at using Night Slash and Double Hit. Dragonite had become more practised at flying and otherwise managing his movements with every passing day; he had also learned to use attacks such as Fire Punch and Thunderpunch, Outrage and Hyper Beam. Charizard himself could now use Dragon Claw, Shadow Claw and Air Slash as well as having learned Flare Blitz; May had recommended a Swords Dance TM. Letal…

    Well, Letal had not evolved.

    That, of course, had only made her more quiet and moody; Mark had tried to talk to her a few times, but she generally didn’t answer with anything more than spat monosyllables, although he hoped at least some of his reassurances had gotten across to her. She had become very attached to May since their arrival at the League and naturally been very enthusiastic about training the whole while: she’d become faster, stronger, bigger; her stamina had improved; she’d learned Aerial Ace and Giga Impact from TMs; she’d even picked up Night Slash from Scyther on her own just by watching him perform the move. But none of this had made her evolve, and while Mark and May had never actually mentioned it beyond exchanging occasional glances, he could tell that Letal was slowly realizing that her evolution, if it were ever to happen, was long overdue. And eventually even her determination for battle had faded, replaced with a perpetual resentful bitterness and dull, mindless obedience when they trained that was somehow considerably worse to bear than her frequently brutal original strategies had been.

    So now, as Letal lay on the ground a short distance away from his other Pokémon and looked at him with an empty expression, he felt a twinge of guilt and wished he only knew how to help her. He decided he would talk to her that evening, not that he was sure anything would come out of it; for now, all his Pokémon were waiting for him to say something.

    “Um,” he said. “The preliminary match-ups were published this morning. On the third of August, I’m battling this guy who has a Ditto, a Smeargle, a Ninjask, a Lanturn, a Flygon and a Glalie. May isn’t going to be with us anymore, so you guys are going to have to help me figure out which three of you would do best against him and how to prepare.” After a moment of thought, he sat down on a rock to face the Pokémon, who looked at one another.

    “What types are they again?” Charizard asked.

    Mark looked down at his notes. “Well, Ditto transforms, so it’d be whatever is facing it,” he said. “Smeargle’s Normal, but it can learn any attack so it doesn’t count for much. Ninjask is Bug and Flying. Lanturn is Water and Electric. Flygon is… Ground and Dragon. But it flies. And Glalie’s Ice.”

    He looked questioningly up at his Pokémon; finally, Sandslash said, “Well, I think Scyther would do well. He can use Aerial Ace against Ninjask or a Ditto transformed into Scyther, he can use Brick Break against Smeargle and Glalie, and he can fly, so Ground attacks from Flygon wouldn’t affect him.”

    Mark nodded slowly and looked at Scyther.

    “Well, the Ditto could get me just as well with Aerial Ace, and Ninjask could know it,” the mantis said. “Glalie and Lanturn would both be trouble, and as for Smeargle, it probably packs a Rock attack or two. I wouldn’t be so sure.”

    “I could beat Ninjask, Flygon and Glalie,” Charizard said. “As long as you have someone for Lanturn…”

    “You need someone without a crippling weakness, for Smeargle,” Letal interrupted all of a sudden; Mark jerked his head towards her, but she was still lying disinterestedly where she’d been before, her eyes closed so that if she weren’t talking, he’d almost have thought she was asleep. “Use Sandslash.”

    Sandslash looked at her in surprise. “But I… Ninjask and Flygon can both fly, and Lanturn is a Water-type. It can’t be a good…”

    “If he is using a Smeargle,” Letal interrupted again, opening one eye in annoyance, “he will have taught it powerful moves of all types, just to exploit people like you whose Pokémon will all fall in one or two hits from the right attack. Use Sandslash. He can maybe take a couple of hits while he brings it down.”

    Mark looked at Sandslash and then back at Letal, who had closed her eyes again. “Well,” he said finally, “I guess it would be nice, just to be safe.”

    “Then you definitely need something that can handle Ninjask, Flygon and Glalie,” Sandslash said, still a bit unsurely. “So you should use Charizard.”

    “And then Lanturn is the biggest problem,” Mark replied, nodding. “Jolteon can maybe…”

    “It’ll have Volt Absorb,” Letal put in. “Don’t.”

    Mark stared at her again. “Where did you learn all this stuff?”

    “I have paid attention to what May has said,” Letal replied, her eyes still closed. “It might do you some good.”

    Mark ignored the snide comment. “Uh, so… Dragonite?”

    “It’s common for Water Pokémon to know Ice attacks,” Letal pointed out.

    “Okay, so…” He looked briefly over his Pokémon, counting them off in his head. “That leaves… you.”

    “Apparently.”

    “But why are you thinking of this as if he is going to use all six?” Dragonite protested. “Shouldn’t we consider how he will put together his team of three?”

    “If we can beat all six, why bother reducing the problem?” Letal said coolly, looking at him. “You will not be any good when three of his Pokémon probably know Ice attacks; he would have to be insane to not use any of them against a trainer with a Dragonite. Jolteon will only be of use against Ninjask, and he has two Earthquake-users and two Electric immunities. Everything Scyther can do, Charizard can do better. He will most likely use Smeargle, and therefore you will need Sandslash. And it is no use considering Ditto, since which fighter wins will then depend on the strategies used. It is plain who should be in this battle. And send me out first.”

    She closed her eyes again, laying her head back on her paws as if to sleep, and said nothing more.

    Mark looked uselessly around at his Pokémon. “Eh… let’s try to think of some specific strategies to use?”

    -------

    “Letal has turned into you,” Mark told May at dinner. She just raised an eyebrow, unable to answer verbally while her mouth was stuffed with spaghetti.

    “She went all strategic on me, deciding for us who I should use in the first preliminary battle and stuff,” he explained. “Even though she doesn’t act that enthusiastic about actually battling.”

    May shrugged, swallowing. “She could just be distracting herself from the evolution thing.”

    Mark nodded. “Yeah, that’s what I was thinking,” he said. “Or trying to find another way to prove herself or something.”

    “Blaziken learned Flare Blitz today,” May said. “Almost on level with the rest now. Mutark is still a bit behind. She can be damned hard to train.”

    Mark was silent. May had released her Quilava a few days after their arrival and caught an energetic, light-hearted Torchic instead; she’d gone on tirades about how much she needed a Fighting-type and how important it was to have finally gotten one. Quilava had more or less not been mentioned since, while she seemed to grab every opportunity to use her new Blaziken, talk about his progress and what a great addition to her team he was, almost as if to convince Mark what a good idea it had been to release her, but he hated hearing about it and didn’t want to encourage it by answering. He sighed.

    “I guess it’s a good thing, if it helps Letal deal with it,” he said to change the subject back, and May just shrugged, ending that discussion.

    -------

    After dinner, he went to his room, sent Letal out and sat down on the bed. She emerged from the ball in a lying position and showed no sign of being awake until Mark cleared his throat and she opened one eye.

    “So um… how are you feeling?”

    “Feeling?” she asked disdainfully. “Like usual, I suppose.”

    At least she seemed a little more talkative than she had been the last time he had tried to talk to her, which could only be considered encouraging. “Well, thanks for the strategic pointers today.”

    “I couldn’t let you make idiotic decisions in front of me without commenting.”

    “It would be nice to get some peace from people telling me what to do, now that May is off my back,” Mark said, getting a little annoyed. “Especially if you’re going to sit here calling me an idiot. It might make me less inclined to want to help you evolve, you know.”

    Letal chuckled. “It’s pointless to threaten me. We both know I’m not going to evolve like this.”

    She was right, and this was really not the time to be angry at her. Mark sighed. “I’m sorry. Is it still bothering you, the evolution thing?”

    Letal looked at him in a way he took as a yes.

    “Is there anything I could do to help that?”

    Silence.

    “I’ll take that as a no.” He sighed again and rubbed his eyes. “So, well…”

    He hesitated. He knew that they would have to come to that subject sooner or later, but he didn’t know how she would react and it was painful to bring back to the front of his mind.

    “About your father,” he said finally, stopped and looked at her, waiting for a reaction of some sort. There was none.

    “What about him?” Letal said after a few seconds of silence.

    “You… still want to…”

    “What makes you think I would have changed my mind?”

    Mark opened his mouth and closed it again, not sure what to say; an empty feeling of dread was washing over him, and he already regretted having brought it up. “Well, I was just sort of hoping…”

    Letal snorted. “It is none of your business. Why are you concerning yourself with it?”

    He took a deep breath. “Well, I don’t always see eye to eye with my parents either, but I still love them and wouldn’t want anything… I mean… and I wouldn’t want to kill anyone, even if I hated them,” he finished hopelessly.

    Letal looked at him out of the corner of her eye. “Good for you.”

    “But I mean, couldn’t you just… talk about it or something?” Mark asked lamely; Letal only chuckled at the suggestion.

    He couldn’t just try to tell her it was wrong. She obviously didn’t see it that way, and he really didn’t trust himself to be able to explain a concept like that from the ground up, least of all in a way that would make her at all inclined to change her position. All he could really offer was a weak, “Well, could you please try to… think about it before it comes to that?” And when that was met with only a tired glance before Letal closed her eyes again and laid her head back down, he took it as a signal to end the conversation, for which he was, in a way, grateful.

    -------

    The next days passed quickly; he practiced moves with Letal, Sandslash and Charizard while they collectively considered strategies that could be employed against each individual one of Aaron’s Pokémon and some more general ones that emerged from the discussion. While Letal tended to make many of the largest contributions, Mark felt that he was slowly getting the hang of it as well, and the other Pokémon quickly started to make more comments, particularly on ideas concerning their own abilities.

    On the first of August, May dragged him with her to watch one of the first preliminary matches, on a desert-themed arena: the main stadium had been filled with sand and the battlefield had been heated even past the above-average outside temperature. This put its mark very visibly on the battlers during the match: towards the end, all the Pokémon but a Charizard and a Cacturne, both owned by the same trainer, were very visibly exhausted, thanks to the switching that had prolonged the battle considerably and the smouldering heat that lessened their endurance. The trainer with the Charizard and Cacturne naturally won, and by the time it was over, Mark had gotten all too nervous about his own battle, having realized just how much of an effect the environment could have; they had never really considered the arena themes in their plans.

    “Whether you win isn’t the most important thing, you know,” May said as they were leaving the stadium. “They know that the themed arenas might give one trainer’s Pokémon more of an advantage by sheer luck. It’s about how well you use the arena anyway. The kid who lost – it’s the guy I’m up against in my second preliminary match. I’ve checked his profile. He has Pokémon that would be better suited to a desert arena, but he just went with what seemed like it had the most immediate offensive advantages against the other guy. You just don’t use a Glaceon on an arena like this. And the other kid did some clever stuff – remember that Flamethrower turning the sand into glass?”

    Mark, who had not much thought about the possibility of having to reconsider the three Pokémon he would bring (though it did satisfy him, in an odd way, that neither had Letal), did not feel much better to hear this, but regardless, he spent the rest of the day frantically thinking of possible arena themes and how they might affect their outcome with his Pokémon. Letal grudgingly agreed that depending on the arena it might be necessary to reconsider their strategy, though she made sure to mention that on a desert arena the current team they had been planning would still be the best. The eventual conclusion of the day was mostly that there were too many possibilities and that there was no sense in trying to plan for every possibility when they could find out for sure what their theme was the next day and prepare for it then.

    Mark went to bed praying it was something convenient.

    -------

    “Water?”

    Mark’s heart sank as he stared at the giant screen; he really hoped he had misread it somehow, but it definitely said that the theme of arena two on the third of August would be water.

    “Why must it be water of all things?” he moaned. “I don’t even have a Water Pokémon anymore! And two of the ones I was going to use are weak to Water!”

    May smirked. “You shouldn’t have decided what you wanted to use before learning the theme. You’re supposed to figure out what each of your Pokémon could do against what he has, and then you choose which combination would work best on the arena after you learn what the theme will be.”

    “You could have mentioned that before,” Mark muttered, said goodbye and squeezed himself out of the crowd so he could send Charizard out. They went back to their usual training spot by the pond, and Mark sent out the others and explained the situation.

    “What is a water arena like, anyway?” Letal asked, irritated, as she paced around; it amused Mark how in the past two days she had completely stopped her habit of lying on the ground and being half-asleep while they discussed strategies. “A bigger pool?”

    “Usually the entire arena is filled with water, minus where the trainers stand,” Mark replied, remembering seeing water-themed arenas on television. “Then they have platforms that non-Water Pokémon can stand on, but it’s a lot about knocking the opponent into the water. I think our whole plan is screwed.”

    He looked at Sandslash, who took a step backwards. “I’m not coming anywhere near that,” he said, shivering as he shook his head. “I couldn’t even use Earthquake effectively, anyway.”

    Letal pawed the ground in agitation, but said nothing. Mark knew that she had really wanted to be in this battle, even if she had tried to act indifferent about it, and though he couldn’t say he knew it for sure, he strongly suspected that Letal couldn’t swim; the armor both weighted her down and somewhat inhibited her movement. Her silence only confirmed this.

    “So,” Mark said. “We’ll have to rethink this completely. Jolteon, you’re definitely in – when they’re wet they’ll be hurt more by Electric attacks. Charizard, what do you say?”

    The dragon looked at Mark with scepticism, but finally he said, “If I’m needed, I’m in.”

    “I’ll participate,” Letal said suddenly, looking back at Mark. “I don’t care if it’s a water arena.”

    “Can you swim?”

    “No,” she replied, “but I want to take part anyway.”

    “Letal,” Sandslash said gently, “if they knock you into the water, you need to be able to get out of it again.”

    Letal gave him a glare, but did not respond; at last she laid herself down on the ground again, closed her eyes and muttered, “Fine. Do what you like.”

    Mark couldn’t say he particularly wanted to please Letal in this; he’d done enough of doing what she told him already. With a sigh, he decided to ignore her and turned back to his other Pokémon. “Okay, let’s figure this out properly. On a water arena, wouldn’t the guy almost definitely use Lanturn? I mean, especially since two of my Pokémon are weak to electricity and a third is weak to Water attacks. It’s also likely to know an Ice attack, which would be good against Dragonite as well. That’s… Jolteon and Letal left as possibilities to deal with it, pretty much, and…” He gave Letal a glance; she was either asleep or, more likely, pretending to be. “Well, if she can’t swim, she’s pretty much out of the picture. So Jolteon, what could you do against it, if it has Volt Absorb?”

    “Not much,” Jolteon muttered. “Just… Pin Missile, I think.”

    Mark scratched his forehead, thinking. “Right. Well, we’ll have to do something about that. Now… Smeargle?”

    “If I’m on the team,” Scyther said, “I could go for knocking it out before it ever gets to attack me.” He shrugged and looked at Mark.

    “Right. Maybe. Or Dragonite. Ditto is just Ditto. Um… how likely is he to use Glalie?”

    “I think it’s likely,” Dragonite answered. “He has to figure you won’t use Sandslash, but he might also realize you can’t use Letal, and maybe think you wouldn’t use Charizard either.”

    “Well,” Scyther put in, “If I were a trainer and I knew my opponent had a Dragonite, I’d assume he would use it. He’ll bring Glalie.”

    Mark nodded. “Right. Well, then it’s best to keep Charizard in, to deal with it.”

    “And he can take Ninjask,” Scyther said. “And Flygon.”

    “He’s not likely to use Flygon, is he?” Sandslash asked. “It will have the same problems with Earthquake as I would.”

    Dragonite shrugged. “It might just use Dragon attacks, or something else.”

    Mark rubbed his forehead. “So okay, Jolteon and Charizard are in… and Scyther or Dragonite? Right?”

    The Pokémon looked at each other and murmured in agreement.

    “Okay, then. I guess we need to figure out what Jolteon can do against Lanturn.”
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2012
  13. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    -------

    Mark realized all of a sudden that his eyes were open. His dream, just a muddled haze of vague thoughts floating around in his head, had slipped out of his grasp before he could pinpoint what it was about. It took him a second to remember where he was – and, more importantly, what day it was.

    He bolted upright and felt blindly around for his watch on the small bedside table. He grabbed it and pressed the light button, only to find that it was four in the morning – he could have told himself that, he thought dully, too tired to be annoyed, just from how dark it was outside. He replaced the watch and sank back into his bed, and after that he woke up so often during the night that by the time his watch finally said it was seven o’clock, he felt more like he had been waiting awake since four than like he had been half-asleep. He sat groggily up, rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and got dressed, too tired to think of much but just that this was not the best way to start the day.

    It first occurred to him at breakfast that being so sleep-deprived could adversely affect his battling abilities, but he pushed the thought out of his mind. May had not yet arrived at the breakfast table, but then again not many people had; the first battles wouldn’t start until ten, and he guessed most people would rather let themselves and their Pokémon have some sleep.

    After eating, he returned to his room and passed the time with a bit of drawing; he half-intended to try to sleep a little more, but as it ended up he had too much fun sketching up battles and before he knew it, it was already half past nine.

    He headed over to the League offices to retrieve his Pokémon from the standard examination and drug trials, but a woman at the counter informed him that he would only be allowed to get his chosen three Pokémon for the battle now. After he had nervously picked out Jolteon, Scyther and Charizard, she accompanied him to the arena and led him through a locked door, up a staircase and to the trainer box, where she left him with a thin smile and a “Good luck.”

    The arena was flooded with water up to only a few meters below the level of the floor that he was standing on. The trainer boxes were small and surrounded by a metal railing; he knew there would also be a force field to secure the trainers from the battling Pokémon. Two seemingly solid platforms stuck out of the water fairly near the trainer boxes on either side of the arena, with a third larger one in the very middle; between and behind them, in various patterns snaking around the entire arena, were far more fragile-looking, floating squares of various bright colors that bobbed up and down with the waves. Aaron White had already arrived on the other side and now stood there, leaning against the railing as he eyed Mark across what was to be their battlefield.

    Mark thought over his strategies again with a sudden paranoid fear that he might forget them; that at least occupied him until he noticed that the audience stands appeared to have been closed, the big status screens on either side of the arena had lit up with their names and live images from cameras focusing on their faces – his stomach fluttered for a moment as he watched the all-too pale and nervous close-up of himself – and then, finally, a voice on the speakers said, “Trainers, ready Pokéballs.”

    He grabbed Jolteon’s ball, made sure that it was Jolteon’s ball, and made sure again for good measure.

    “Ready, set…”

    His hand gripped the ball tightly as he stared at the large platform ahead of him and blocked out the uncomfortable thought that he might not throw the ball far enough.

    “Throw!”

    His arm tensed; the air in front of him shimmered vaguely, a sign that the force field had just been turned off. “Go!” he shouted and hurled the ball forward at the same time as a second ball came flying from Aaron’s side. They popped open simultaneously and released the Pokémon in bursts of white light, Jolteon forming on the large platform and Lanturn in the water near it. The force field shimmered back into place just as the ball returned to Mark’s hand.

    For a brief moment, he felt oddly impressed that they had correctly predicted Aaron’s first Pokémon, despite that of course they wouldn’t have predicted it if it hadn’t been the likeliest possibility; he didn’t have much time to be impressed, however, and blurted out, “Jolteon, Thunder Wave!”

    “Lanturn, Confuse Ray,” Aaron called, and Mark could see him smirk on the status screen: that would have been evidence enough, but he still looked down and watched the wave of electricity surround Lanturn and very evidently fail to harm it. It had Volt Absorb, then – of course that had been likeliest, but it was better to make sure.

    Lanturn surfaced and focused, the glowing bait on its forehead bobbing up and down as the light inside it brightened; then a concentrated sphere of light tore itself away from the bait and hovered towards Jolteon.

    “Jolteon, use Agility to avoid it!” Mark said quickly, remembering having seen somebody use the move in this way on television.

    “Hydro Pump!” Aaron ordered. Jolteon was hesitating, staring at the mesmerizing ghost light that was now floating around him in slow circles; Mark called desperately out to him, but he only looked up just as the Lanturn had surfaced again and fired a high-pressure jet of water from its mouth that hit him head-on. Jolteon was thrown backwards into the water behind him and yelped as he tried to swim while the Confuse Ray still labored to distract him; then he finally closed his eyes in concentration and rocketed out of the water, onto the platform and across the floating path to the middle platform. There he stopped, panted and shook the water out of his fur.

    “Swift!” Mark shouted, and Jolteon shot a flurry of sharp, glowing star shapes from his spiked body that sought out and bombarded Lanturn even as it attempted to dive out of the way. It had been a last-minute TM, but it did play on Jolteon’s strengths, and Mark could see Aaron frown on the screen as his Lanturn tried unsuccessfully to evade the merciless stars.

    “Lanturn, Stockpile!”

    Mark watched the anglerfish take giant gulps of water; his heart pounded in his chest. With this, Lanturn practically had all of its moves used now: first Confuse Ray, then Hydro Pump and now Stockpile, which would almost inevitably lead to Spit Up or Swallow being the last move. If he just got it to use that final attack, it would not be able to use an Electric or Ice attack, meaning Scyther would be free to deal with it with his harder-hitting moves.

    Meanwhile, Jolteon had already used three different attacks, and Mark wanted to save the fourth for Thunderbolt for use later in the battle, so he had little choice now. “Swift!” he ordered again.

    Now that Lanturn’s sides were bloated out with water, the glowing stars seemed to hurt it less as they smashed into it, and Mark briefly considered switching Jolteon out right away, but figured that then Aaron would change his strategy and use another attack, letting Stockpile just serve its defensive purpose instead.

    “Use Hydro Pump, Lanturn!” Aaron called. Lanturn surfaced and blasted a stream of water towards Jolteon, but Jolteon leapt to the side and it only hit the wall of the arena. Mark could see his Pokémon briefly stick his tongue out at Lanturn before he darted across to the platform on Mark’s side of the arena; he smiled.

    “Another Swift!” he called. Jolteon wheeled around and shot another flurry of stars towards the fish Pokémon as it swam towards him; it cringed in pain.

    “Lanturn, Swallow!” ordered Aaron White.

    As Lanturn motioned to swallow the water that it had been storing in its mouth, Mark raised the Pokéball that was still lying in his sweaty palm. “Great job, Jolteon!” he shouted. “Come back!”

    Jolteon looked up just as the Pokéball’s beam absorbed him; the force field in front of Mark disappeared as he replaced the ball on his belt.

    “Scyther, go!”

    The mantis formed on the platform, hissing and flashing his scythes to intimidate the Lanturn. Some of the scratches on its hide had closed, but it was still hurt; Aaron frowned as he looked at Scyther and hesitated.

    “Scyther, Swords Dance!”

    “Hydro Pump,” Aaron countered quickly.

    Scyther spun around in a rhythmical series of movements while sharpening his scythes as the Lanturn surfaced yet again to spray a high-pressure stream of water towards him. Scyther was blasted backwards, which interrupted his concentration, but he had kept it up for long enough, and his wings quickly picked him up again to hover in the air just above the arena.

    Aaron paused momentarily; then he took out a Pokéball.

    “Lanturn, retu…”

    “Pursuit!” Mark yelled as the Pokéball beam zoomed towards Lanturn: May had made very sure that he would not forget how useful two of Scyther’s attacks would be in the preliminaries, and it had been one of the reasons he had decided to go with Scyther rather than Dragonite. Scyther zoomed towards Lanturn, his scythe enveloped in dark energy, and struck the fish Pokémon just as it was absorbed by the Pokéball beam: there was only a garbled cry of pain before Lanturn disappeared entirely into the Pokéball.

    Mark saw Aaron bite his lip on the screen as he returned the ball to his belt, and he felt crazily happy about having caught him off guard. The other boy picked another ball without much hesitation and threw it into the field; Mark was not surprised to see Glalie emerge.

    “Glalie, Ice Beam!” Aaron shouted.

    “U-turn!” Mark yelled: the other useful attack for the preliminaries. Scyther darted towards Glalie as ice crystals began to form in front of its static mouth, tackled it in mid-air and then immediately transformed into a vague form of translucent red that was absorbed into Mark’s Pokéball before Glalie had the chance to execute its counterattack.

    “Charizard, go!” Mark called as he threw out the next Pokéball. His first Pokémon emerged in a burst of white light, roaring as he flapped his wings to keep in mid-air. The Glalie fired the Ice Beam, blasting it into Charizard’s face; he was knocked over in the air and his flight wavered, but he pulled himself up again with relative ease.

    Aaron was already reaching for Glalie’s Pokéball; it dissolved into red light.

    “Lanturn, go!”

    As the fish Pokémon began to emerge from the ball that Aaron threw, Mark also recalled Charizard and instead hurled Scyther’s ball back into the arena. Mark looked down at Lanturn; after the Pursuit, it was visibly battered, and its swimming seemed a lot more strained than it had been before, but it glared at Scyther with determination in its eyes anyway as he formed on the platform.

    The image of Aaron on the status screen seemed to sigh before he said, “Lanturn, use Hydro Pump.”

    “Scyther, Double Hit!”

    Scyther zoomed towards the fish Pokémon, readying his scythes, as it began to surface. He hit Lanturn with the blunt edge of his right scythe, but it pushed him back with a blast of high-pressure water before he had managed to strike with his left: perhaps Double Hit hadn’t been the best idea in the situation. Scyther spat out some water as he regained his balance in the air.

    “Lanturn, Confuse Ray!” ordered Aaron.

    Mark looked at Lanturn as the fish Pokémon came to the surface yet again to let loose a wispy light to distract Scyther with. Its movements were becoming forced and sluggish; it would surely go down with just one more strike.

    “Scyther, Pursuit!” he shouted, anticipating that Aaron might switch, but the boy just watched silently as Scyther managed to concentrate and zoom down at Lanturn with dark energy circling his scythe. The fish Pokémon tried to dive deeper into the pool, but was too slow to avoid the attack and was struck by the blunt edge of the blade before it had really managed to turn; it moaned, flopped upside-down and floated lazily to the surface.

    Cheering exploded from the audience, startling Mark; he had almost forgotten that the spectators were really watching, and he felt oddly self-conscious to realize that they were actually cheering for him, for the first KO in the battle. He snapped his gaze quickly back towards the status screen, where Aaron White was replacing Lanturn’s Pokéball on his belt, frowning but not hesitating before he picked the next ball.

    “Glalie, go!” he shouted as he threw it. “Use an Ice Beam!”

    “Scyther, U-turn!” Mark called as the floating form of the Ice Pokémon emerged, already reaching for Scyther’s Pokéball, his heart pounding in his chest. He really was ahead – he was winning.

    Scyther darted towards Glalie with a roar and was halfway there when he suddenly stopped. Mark was jolted out of his wild, momentary fantasies of victory and looked sharply down at the arena. Scyther was reaching out with his scythe in an almost childlike manner – towards the bright little ghost light that was still bouncing around his head, whose existence Mark had completely forgotten about. He had no time in this brief moment of panic to recall him: Scyther plunged into the water, having forgotten to flap his wings, and a beam of freezing cold followed him there, turning all the water around him into a huge, solid block of ice within moments.

    The iceberg floated up to balance itself on the surface and then bobbed peacefully up and down, the mantis Pokémon’s form dimly visible within it. The audience watched in stunned silence. Mark stared at it in horror – the iceberg might be too opaque for him to even be able to recall Scyther like this – and then, just as he was reaching for the Pokéball anyway, he realized that he wouldn’t have to.

    He grinned triumphantly. Aaron White frowned on the status screen, his eyes flicking towards Mark’s screen and then back to the arena. Mark’s mind raced. There was no way Glalie could possibly harm Scyther more like this using Ice attacks, so perhaps he could fish for it to waste another attack to take him down.

    “Glalie, Gyro Ball,” Aaron ordered.

    The ice demon concentrated, having plenty of time to do so now, and started to spin around at great speed until its rounded, mask-like form became a spherical blur and seemed to attain a metallic sheen; then it shot towards the iceberg like a bullet, cracking it on impact, though it did not break fully and Glalie rebounded backwards from it.

    “Try again,” Aaron said patiently, and his Pokémon repeated the endeavour while Mark waited, fondling Scyther’s Pokéball nervously with rapidly sweating fingers. The iceberg’s surface was now covered in a web of fine cracks, though Scyther’s vague form did not seem to stir within it and the mantis wouldn’t have been able to hear a command; he was probably already unconscious, but while he was frozen inside the ice where that couldn’t be confirmed, Mark could not be forced to recall him for the benefit of his opponent, and tiring Glalie was in his best interests for now.

    Glalie spun for yet another Gyro Ball, and this time the iceberg shattered as it smashed into it, sending clumps of ice flying all around. Scyther’s body was thrown back into the water, limp as a ragdoll, and started to sink while the audience began to cheer loudly again.

    “Return,” Mark said quickly and pointed the Pokéball at the mantis to let the beam absorb him. He placed the ball back on his belt and was already reaching for Charizard’s when he realized that he had yet to see Aaron’s third Pokémon. He paused to think, closing his eyes while his heavy heartbeat drummed in his ears.

    Ninjask, Flygon, Ditto or Smeargle.

    He had Jolteon and Charizard.

    They could both handle Ninjask easily; that wouldn’t be a problem. Flygon, on the other hand, would wipe the floor (or water as it were) with Jolteon, and he didn’t much like the idea of Jolteon, already tired, trying to face a copy of himself in a match that would inevitably come down to Swift – his main strength was his dodging, which wouldn’t help him then. If he sent Charizard out now, Aaron would just switch, and he would end up having to deal with a healthy Glalie with Charizard hurt or possibly fainted. He’d looked Glalie up; he remembered it could learn some Water attack. Did he really want to risk it?

    His hand moved to Jolteon’s ball.

    “Go!” he yelled, throwing it into the arena. The Electric Pokémon landed on the platform, slightly weary but still well up to a fight, and bristled his fur towards Glalie.

    “Thunder Wave it and then be careful!”

    “Glalie, Ice Beam!”

    Jolteon was faster, and a wave of crackling electricity was thrust towards Glalie while it was still charging its attack. The paralyzing sparks settled into its icy body, causing it to shudder briefly before it fired the countering Ice Beam. Jolteon was ready for it and narrowly darted out of the way; the freezing beam instead hit the edge of the platform Jolteon was on, freezing a large patch of water over and around it.

    There was a slow creak as the buoyancy of the ice began to tilt that end of the platform upwards. Jolteon looked back at it, startled, and Aaron grabbed the opportunity to issue another order:

    “Water Pulse on the platform, Glalie!”

    “Jolteon, get it with a Thunderbolt!” Mark blurted out as a hurried counter without being sure what Aaron was thinking.

    Being paralyzed, Glalie was of course no match for Jolteon’s speed even when it got the order first, and so Jolteon managed to fire a bolt of electricity towards it before it had really begun to react. It winced and recoiled in the air as the Thunderbolt struck it and had to blink a couple of times before it could manage the concentration to spit pulses of water towards the large platform on Mark’s side; by that time, Jolteon was already safely situated on one of the small, floating platforms near the side of the arena, and he cocked his head in puzzlement at Glalie’s efforts.

    “Blizzard!” Aaron ordered sharply.

    “Thunderbolt,” Mark said after a moment of hesitation, and Jolteon fired another attack to strike Glalie before preparing to dodge.

    A freezing cold wind rushed across the arena with a flurry of snow. Jolteon ran back towards the larger platform to avoid the most concentrated part of it that was aimed at him, but Mark’s stomach lurched as he realized what Aaron had really been doing: the layer of water on top of the larger platform was now transformed into a deadly sheet of ice that sent Jolteon skidding helplessly across it with a cry of surprise and straight into the rapidly solidifying water on the other side.

    “Jolteon, use Agility to get out!” Mark shouted in panic, but it was too late: the merciless Blizzard was already freezing the water all around Jolteon even as he yelped and struggled, and when the wind subsided, he was stuck in a sheet of ice covering the entire arena but for where parts of the platforms stuck out.

    What Jolteon had over Scyther now, however, was that he was still conscious, still partly above the surface, and used mainly special attacks.

    “One more Thunderbolt!” Mark yelled.

    “Finish it with an Ice Beam,” Aaron called.

    Jolteon’s fur crackled as he closed his eyes in concentration for his final effort; meanwhile Glalie charged the move that would undoubtedly finish Jolteon off. It was still paralyzed, with sparks flying across its body every now and then, and the effort made it grunt: it was obviously tired.

    Jolteon’s Thunderbolt struck it, and it shuddered in pain before delivering a final blast of ice crystals that sent Jolteon slipping into unconsciousness while icicles formed on his fur.

    “Great job, Jolteon,” Mark said quietly as he recalled his second Pokémon to a burst of cheering from the audience. Just Charizard left, but Glalie would surely go down with one Flamethrower – they were still relatively even, at least.

    “Do it, Charizard!” he shouted as he threw the ball. Charizard formed in the air above the nearest platform, seemingly in good shape, though Mark remembered that he had taken an Ice Beam and would be disadvantaged in that way. “Flamethrower!” Mark ordered.

    “Glalie, return,” Aaron said, letting the beam of a Pokéball absorb the Ice Pokémon as Charizard was beginning to inhale. Mark looked at his opponent on the status screen in puzzlement; there was no way that Glalie could be of further use in the battle, being paralyzed, weakened and up against a Fire-type, and yet Aaron was making his next Pokémon take a Flamethrower?

    “Go, Ditto! Transform!”

    The ball that Aaron threw released a tiny shape on the frost-covered platform on his end, but it almost immediately began to glow white, grow and change as if evolving.

    “Quick, before it’s finished!” Mark called, and Charizard seemed to have had the same thought: white-hot flames billowed out of his mouth and caught the Ditto mid-transformation. The Charizardish shape recoiled, but remained standing, and when the flames cleared away, the light faded to reveal a completely identical copy of Charizard that grinned and roared into the sky before lifting off from the ground.

    Mark’s mind raced as he watched the two dragons begin to fly wide circles around one another. With the two Pokémon facing off being completely identical and Charizard the more hurt and tired of them if anything, they had nothing to rely on but their wits if they were to have any hope of winning this final duel. He wasn’t sure how much he trusted himself to be able to – but the memory of Charmeleon’s performance in the Pokémon Frenzy Tournament reassured him that Charizard would hopefully know what to do when he didn’t.

    “Swords Dance!” he blurted out.

    “Scary Face!” Aaron countered.

    One of the Charizard stopped and his mouth twisted into a wicked grin which then stretched to something far too disturbingly wide to be an ordinary grin while his eyes rolled backwards in his head. The other recoiled a little backwards, hesitantly, but then began to spin himself around in the air in a complex dance, somehow reminiscent of Scyther’s version of the move despite how different the two Pokémon were.

    “Now hit it with a Dragon Pulse!” the other boy ordered.

    Mark felt really certain that Charizard did not know that move, but the Ditto flung his neck forward with an ear-splitting roar, and a faintly bluish shockwave rippled through the air, knocking the real Charizard backwards. Mark realized in frantic panic that the Ditto must have practiced all sorts of TM moves that Charizard didn’t know: it wasn’t just an even match for whatever it had transformed into, but in fact had a distinct advantage.

    “Charizard, Smokescreen!” he shouted as the first thing he could think of, and then immediately regretted having wasted their third move as Charizard released a cloud of thick, black smoke from his mouth that quickly enveloped most of the arena.

    “Another Dragon Pulse, Ditto,” ordered Aaron, and another draconic shockwave found its way through the smoke, but it was aimed too high, and through the dissipated gap that it left in the shroud, Mark saw Charizard manage to dive below it.

    “Charizard, try a Dragon Claw!” Mark yelled.

    Blue flames flared up around Charizard’s claws as he darted through the smoke, straight towards the Ditto. It quickly turned upwards and shot out of the Smokescreen cover, Charizard following with a growl.

    “Ditto, Rock Slide!”

    “What?” Mark’s heart skipped a beat as panicked thoughts of all the TMs he had never bothered to remember floated around in his head. “No! Charizard, dodge it! Get back into the smoke! Quick!”

    The dragon flattened his wings against his body, plummeted downwards and disappeared into the thickest part of the Smokescreen.

    Wait a minute, Mark then thought as he saw the Ditto-Charizard hover in place and close his eyes in concentration. There are no rocks. This is a water arena.

    “Charizard, it’ll be ice! Just melt it with Flamethrower!” he shouted.

    As he made out the dim silhouette of large clumps of ice tearing out of the ice below and then throwing themselves around in the smoke, he also saw the flicker of bright flames where Charizard was engulfing them one after another in quick bursts of fire that made short work of evaporating them in the air. All this began to clear the smoke partway, and Mark caught a glimpse of Charizard swiftly dodging yet another boulder of ice that came towards him from the back. Aaron White bit his lip on the status screen.

    That was four moves, Mark suddenly realized – with Transform, Aaron’s Ditto had used four moves now and couldn’t use any more. Charizard had used four moves too, but at least the Ditto would not surprise him with any more TMs. The thought made his heart beat faster in a spark of hope: Aaron had made his greatest mistake by ordering that failed Rock Slide.

    “Ditto, try another Dragon Pulse,” the other trainer ordered at last.

    “Charizard, thicken the Smokescreen and then use another Swords Dance!”

    The Ditto, still flying above the already thickening cloud of smoke, roared to send another shockwave down towards where it thought Charizard was, but there was no sound to indicate that Charizard had been hurt until a few moments later when he burst out of the cloud of smoke directly below the Ditto, roaring as his claws flared with dragon fire.

    The Ditto recoiled, but was surprised enough that Charizard managed to chase after it and rake his claws across its belly while it tried to get away. It snarled and whipped its tail towards Charizard, but though it batted him away, it didn’t appear to hurt him much. Instead, he readied his flaring claws again and made another charge towards his doppelganger.

    “Dragon Pulse it now!” Aaron shouted.

    The Ditto opened its mouth wide and produced a shockwave that, at such close range, knocked Charizard considerably backwards. He fumbled for balance in the air, the dragon flames on his claws gone, and meanwhile Aaron grabbed the opportunity to issue another command:

    “Rock Slide!”

    Charizard looked down and was preparing to counter it with Flamethrower even before Mark could make the order. Chunks of ice, now mostly half-melted, flew upwards and were quickly vaporized by a wide cone of bright flames before coming anywhere close to Charizard, the attack pathetically ineffective – suspiciously ineffective.

    “Dragon Claw again!” Mark ordered even as he looked at the opposing trainer on the status screen, trying to read his expression; it was inscrutable, but at the same time he was sure there was something there that he was missing. Charizard slashed at the Ditto yet again, his claws shredding a portion of one of its wings, before he was knocked back by another Dragon Pulse. The Ditto faltered in its flight, not used enough to its wings to know instinctively how to balance it, and started fluttering irregularly to try to keep itself in the air; Charizard smirked and his claws flared up for the final blow…

    “Ditto, drag him down!”

    The Ditto all of a sudden stopped struggling to get away from Charizard’s advance and instead lunged towards him as he was charging. It managed to get on top of his back and dig its claws into him there at first, but Charizard wrestled himself loose even as they were falling and viciously attacked the other dragon from the front with his own claws. Now the Ditto refused to let go, however: it folded its wings back completely, and Charizard’s flailing attempt to support both of them did no visible good.

    Mark stared at the other trainer in puzzlement for that fraction of a second: Charizard was on top, so surely, it was Ditto who would hit the –

    His eyes widened and he fixed his gaze back on the shape of the two Pokémon as they were falling through the smoke – and then there was a splash.

    Mark stared through the smoke cover in horror as the two Pokémon’s forms wrestled desperately with one another even as they sank towards the bottom on the pool, flurries of bubbles rising from their tail flames.

    The Ditto hadn’t been trying to win: it was all a reckless suicide tactic.

    They both struggled desperately in pain as their tail flames fought to survive, but the Ditto held mercilessly on to Charizard and they sank ever deeper into the water. Aaron’s face on the status screen was pale but determined. Mark’s mind was too numb to be sure what to do.

    Then both Pokémon stopped struggling in the water; Ditto glowed white and transformed back into a blob of slime, but Charizard did not rise to the surface. They were both out.

    Mark snapped back to reality, fumbled with Charizard’s ball and finally managed to get the Pokéball beam to recall him. He’ll be okay, he reassured himself frantically. His tail flame wasn’t out yet, he’ll be fine…

    “The winner is Aaron White.”

    He looked up in confusion – he’d been so sure the Ditto had fainted too – only for his eyes to find the status screen, now displaying the results: pictures of the trainers and the six Pokémon that had been used in the battle, all with a red cross over them… except Glalie.

    Weakened and paralyzed and barely conscious Glalie had won Aaron White the battle.

    Mark stared up at it and felt his face heat up in a mixture of emotions: worry for Charizard; shame at his loss; the wild, insensitive, deafening cheering of the audience; anger at the other boy for pulling such a cheap victory, for having such a reckless and dangerous strategy; anger at himself for not having foreseen it until it was too late, for not having recalled Charizard earlier when he had lost anyway. He looked across the battlefield, where Aaron White stood raising his fist triumphantly into the air, and felt a powerful, bizarre longing to punch him in the face – a feeling so disturbing that it made him stop, look down, rest his hands on the railing, close his eyes and try his best to shut his ears to the audience. There was something wrong. He rubbed his forehead; it was cold and sweaty, veins throbbing in his temples. His head was beginning to ache.

    He recognized this feeling, vaguely, from somewhere.

    The other time had to do with Charizard too – Scyther – anger and worry –

    He saw flashes of strange memories – him screaming obscenities at two people who had just emerged from the walls, silently dumping Scyther and Charizard’s Pokéballs on the counter in the Pokémon Center, sitting down, May waving her hand in front of his face with a puzzled expression.

    His blackout after the final battle of the Pokémon Frenzy Tournament.

    His mind began to clear as his emotions faded to more familiar levels. Everything seemed a little bit jumbled up still, but he felt like himself again, at least aside from the strange little throbbing somewhere deep inside his head.

    There was something prodding at his mind.

    He looked sharply up in alarm. There was only one thing he could think of that was here and prone to prodding at people’s minds. His gaze swept across the audience stands, but he already knew it couldn’t really be there: Pokémon couldn’t be brought to the audience stands. Unless he’d hypnotized the guards and everybody sitting near him too, but why?

    People were leaving; Aaron White had already disappeared. And somehow, after a second, Mark could just tell that the mind-prod didn’t come from the audience. He turned around; it seemed stronger when he faced the door.

    He opened it carefully and walked down the stairs, slowly, focusing on keeping his mind clear. He exited the trainer box and wanted to take Charizard to the Pokémon Center immediately, but hesitated when he realized that the intensity of the throbbing in his brain had changed because he had moved – he could perhaps follow it to the source. Did Taylor know that they were on to him – was he targeting them? And if so, could they actually escape it?

    He had to at least try to do something.

    He closed his eyes and turned his head slowly, feeling where the throb was strongest, and then took hesitant steps in that direction. It continued to intensify as he walked nervously along the edge of the stadium, to the corner –

    He turned around it and stopped to stare.

    Taylor was standing there with his back turned, just by the far wall of the arena, with the tall, thin shape of Mewtwo² standing beside him. Short, rhythmical movements of the Pokémon’s bony hands were making several boulders swing obediently back and forth in mid-air over suspiciously similarly-shaped large holes in the ground.

    “Try up and down now,” Taylor said. “And then throw them over the fence.”

    The Pokémon obeyed unnaturally quickly, wiggling its fingers up and down with almost humorous lack of effort which nonetheless sent the boulders bouncing by several meters. Then it thrust its hand forward, Mark felt a stinging throb in his mind, and the boulders flew over the fence and landed in the distance with an earth-shaking thud.

    “Wh-what are you doing?” Mark stammered and Taylor turned around. Mewtwo² remained completely motionless as if it hadn’t noticed him, even the hanging, pendulum-like tip of its long, blue tail remaining completely still. It was very disquieting to look at.

    “Training,” Taylor said as if nothing were more natural. “What are you doing?”

    Mark wasn’t sure how to respond. “I – you – why has it been messing with my head?” he asked, pointing a finger at Mewtwo²’s back. He could still feel the throb in his brain.

    Taylor looked blankly at him before realization seemed to dawn upon him. “Oh, that,” he said. “It happens.”

    “Happens,” Mark repeated, his voice oddly squeaky. “What happens?”

    “You know, people’s feelings getting stronger. He does that when we train close to people.”

    Mark looked blankly at him, feeling almost too utterly confused to speak. “Well, train somewhere else, then!” he managed to say. “I was having a battle over there!”

    “Oh,” Taylor said. “Okay.”

    He recalled Mewtwo² into a Pokéball and the throbbing abruptly stopped. Mark stared at him as he walked nonchalantly off in the other direction, towards where the gate was.

    Mark took a deep breath and exhaled again as his mind slowly unjumbled itself. For a moment he was sure that Taylor was lying, that he was just trying not to be found out, but the more his mind cleared, the more convinced he became that Taylor just really was that careless and naïve and had not actually meant any harm. He shivered at the thought of Mewtwo²’s presence alone causing something like this and hoped that Taylor would train far away from now on.

    He turned around and broke into a run towards the Pokémon Center.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2012
  14. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    I thought that the battle was paced nicely, and I had fun reading it. ^^ And hell yes, did I ever squee at the presence of a glalie in said battle. X3

    Speaking of the battle, I also enjoyed reading the parts that involved Mark and members of his team planning for it. ^^

    I'm continuing to really like Letal as a character, and her interactions with Mark in this chapter made for interesting reading. ^^ I also found her role in the aforementioned pre-battle planning to be pretty interesting.

    Other highlights:

    Heh, cute. ^^

    Nice! :D

    XD Ah, the awesomeness of confusion...

    o.o That's quite an image.
     
  15. Evil_Lord

    Evil_Lord Active Member

    Wow......just wow.

    Finally, after all these hours reading and re-reading this fic.....I realized that it is on serebii. Well, I have read your fic a few times and I think that this is one of the best stories I have ever read, and by far the best fanfic I have ever read.
    No, I'm not going to correct any of your grammar mistakes(if there are any)I'm just here to say how much I like this fic, and why(in the least spammy way as possible).

    First of all, you have done a great job with your characters. Mark, just wanted to be a normal kid, and go on a normal pokemon journey but, first his parents and then his "quest" have stopped him. May, a trainer who is mostly concerned with winning and the strength of her pokemon, the perfect incarnation of the in game characters. Scyther though, is probably my favorite character. A murderous/suicidal Scyther with Scizor issues. Those backstories on Scyther were really great, Im starting to think he's your favorite character too. Hmmmmmm, I wonder if Onix have the same issue with Steelix. But, in the story He says that Scyther shudder at the mere word evolution, but they seem to mention it quite a few times when Descith(possibly because they are young).

    I love your fakemon<3. Mutarks concept is just great, and Fangcat is scary, horror films *shudders*


    First of all
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2009
  16. Treeconator11

    Treeconator11 Ultranumb

    I'm coming out of my closet. THE LIGHT BURNS!!!!!!!! Sorry, down to biz.

    Nice story, went on a reading marathon, a while ago, finally decied to get off my ***. The battle was incredible, best reading I've seen in a while. It's also kinda funny how it was the beaten to a plup Glalie that was the lone survivor. Also fun to see how Mark's character is, he's what I'd call a social reject. Anyway, it's pretty wierd the whole brain waves thing and how it affects Mark. Anyway, keep writing, you rock!
     
  17. FlameMaster4895

    FlameMaster4895 luvin teh monkey!!!!

    This is a relly good fic! Don't give up and keep writing!
     
  18. Razor Shiftry

    Razor Shiftry Cynthia = Porn Star

    wow, short review but not out of laziness but damn revision is evilll...and i should be doing some more...

    Anyways, great chapter, i REALLY enjoyed it. like really really. i loved the flow and the description of the attacks and i was very impressed at the way the opponent one because of a sneaky retreat and a suicidal ditto OF DOOM...rofl oh yeah! i actually felt like i was in marks shoes after reading it as i also forgot about the Glalie as well >.< kinda weird but cool =]
     
  19. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    Thanks a lot for the reviews, all! I hope you enjoy chapter 48, a bit of an early birthday present to the story; this Friday marks seven years since I started the very first version of this fic.

    It's twenty pages. I had some issues with parts of it, but I think I've fixed the portions I found the most problematic - if you think the wording is awkward somewhere, though, by all means suggest rewordings.


    The Ouen League - Chapter 48: The Second Preliminary

    “He will be fine,” Nurse Joy insisted. “Submersion in water does not fully extinguish the tail flame of a strong Charizard until around half a minute after unconsciousness is induced, and modern health care can easily bring it to full recovery as long as it’s brought back alive.”

    “But there has to be some sort of rule against that kind of…” Mark protested.

    “It is not considered a potentially lethal tactic by League rules unless there is a clear, demonstrable risk of death or permanent tissue damage within fifteen seconds of unconsciousness,” the nurse said patiently. “As I said, he will be fine. Odds are your opponent knew it was safe, or he would not have risked it. Please calm down and step away. There are other trainers with injured Pokémon here.”

    Mark sighed and sat down on one of the couches in the Pokémon Center, partly glad that Charizard would be all right and partly frustrated that the League would just brush it off. He looked towards the entrance, still busy with trainers walking in and out; as if just to rub salt in the wounds, Aaron White appeared in the door and stepped in. He looked around, saw Mark and, to his great dismay, walked towards him.

    “Hey,” the boy said. “Your Charizard okay?”

    Mark nodded numbly and wanted to add, “No thanks to you,” but resisted the temptation.

    “He’s your starter, isn’t he?” Aaron asked and sat down on the couch opposite Mark’s. He nodded again, vaguely surprised. “Ditto is my first, too,” Aaron went on. “I know I’d be worried sick if somebody did that to him. I’m sorry.”

    Mark looked at him, not sure what the other boy expected him to say.

    “We only use that tactic when we’re desperate. It’s nasty business, but tell your Charizard we only did it because he was kicking Ditto’s butt. No hard feelings.”

    Aaron stood up and extended his hand, and Mark stared at it for a moment before shaking it.

    “I’ll see you around,” Aaron said and turned to leave the Pokémon Center. Mark looked after him, feeling only dull frustration that he could no longer feel quite justified in hating him.

    Behind Aaron, May made her way into the building, looked around and then hurried towards Mark.

    “There you are,” she said. “Lunch? My battle’s not until three.”

    They went back to their lodge to eat while May lectured him about every mistake he had made in the battle.

    “You really shouldn’t have kept Jolteon out after the Blizzard,” she was saying when they sat down with their plates. “You could have pulled the same thing on him that he pulled on you, with keeping an injured Pokémon back in case of a close call. If you’d done that, you’d probably have won. Even with Ditto’s kamikaze tactic, Jolteon might have managed to beat Glalie when you sent him out again, when he would not be stuck in ice. And you really should have used the arena more. He was doing the standard tricks of water arenas – knocking you into the water, freezing parts of the arena and so on – while you were doing nothing. I mean, you didn’t make any particularly bad decisions for the arena you were on, save maybe using Charizard, but you’re not getting any extra points for use of the arena, that’s for sure.”

    Mark poked the meatballs on his plate with his fork. “Was it that bad?”

    May looked at him. “Well, he screwed up too,” she said with a shrug. “Before the suicide attack, Ditto’s strategy made no sense. Scary Face while you were Swords Dancing? Come on. The oversight with Rock Slide was bad. And Lanturn using up all its moves against Jolteon, before he even knew what Pokémon you’d brought, was just stupid. He wasn’t that much better than you. That’s why you could’ve beaten him if you’d just done a couple of things better.”

    “Him being almost as bad doesn’t help me qualify, does it?”

    “Well,” May replied with a shrug, “you were really not bad compared to some of the kids who come in here with an all-Fire team or wax poetic about how no true trainer wants their Pokémon to evolve and how they will conquer the League with their Rattata. Like that guy I’m up against later. His team reeks of trying to be Ash Ketchum; I almost feel sorry for him. If you need reassurance that you’re not the worst trainer here, just watch my battle.” She paused for a moment, and finally added, “And then there’s the part where you have a Dragonite that you didn’t use.”

    That, at least, was a fairly cheerful thought. He shrugged, finally finding the motivation to start eating, and after mulling it over for a minute while chewing, he was starting to dare hope that he had a chance of winning his second battle and possibly qualifying if it went well.

    At least he would try his best.

    -------

    May won her battle, and easily at that. Her opponent, the Ash Ketchum wannabe, was a small, mousey-haired boy who used a Pikachu, a Squirtle and a Pidgeot, and his battling abilities left so much to be desired that it was obvious even to Mark; he did not seem to have grasped the concept of switching, for instance, even when his Pikachu was about to be Earthquaked into oblivion. It really did made Mark feel slightly better about himself, if also kind of bad for the poor kid. Afterwards, May announced with satisfaction that she felt like taking the rest of the day off, while Mark, remembering that his second preliminary was in just two days, wandered uncertainly off to the library to take notes on Megan Hayfield’s team.

    After scrolling through the long list of Pokémon she had for the third time, he sighed and leaned back in the swivel chair in front of the computer. He unfocused his eyes, watching the small Pokémon images blur into the blue background on the screen, and then rubbed them, trying to think. There were just too darned many of them to prepare for in any sensible way. There had to be hundreds of ways she could make a team of three – maybe thousands? Math had never been his strong suit.

    There had to be some way to narrow down what she might use even before finding out about the arena theme. He briefly considered taking his Pokémon out to their training spot to work it out with them, but then remembered with an uncomfortable sting in his heart that Charizard was still at the Pokémon Center – it wouldn’t feel right without him. He’d mull it over tomorrow with all of them, but for now, he wanted to try to figure something out on his own to give them a jump start for tomorrow.

    What Pokémon would she choose?

    On what basis?

    Scyther and May’s voices spoke in his head to answer.

    If I were a trainer and I knew my opponent had a Dragonite, I’d assume he would use it.

    Then there’s the part where you have a Dragonite that you didn’t use.

    Mark leant back towards the computer to scroll through the list again. Did she have any decent Ice Pokémon? Yes, she had a Mamoswine. He could probably assume she’d most likely use that. Which of his Pokémon would be best against it? Charizard, definitely. That was one good team member to have, then.

    But what else would she use? What was the most powerful Pokémon she had? Mark scrolled through the list again, remembering – yes, she had a Letaligon. She would be likely to use that, then, unless the arena theme made it completely impossible – especially since Mark had no Fighting Pokémon that would pose a serious threat to it. He did have Sandslash – he should perhaps use him, then, to fight the Letaligon, if just so that he wouldn’t rely on Charizard for both it and Mamoswine.

    What might she pick as her third? He really wasn’t sure.

    He tried a different approach. If he were her, what would he do?

    He considered it. She might figure he would predict Mamoswine and try to counter it with Charizard – so she would probably make sure to have something to use against him. A Water or Rock-type, most likely – what did she have of that? A Lunatone, he found on the page he was already on – immune to Sandslash’s Earthquake, resistant to Charizard’s Flamethrower, and capable of pulling both Rock attacks on Charizard and Psychic attacks on Sandslash. Yes, if he were her, he would definitely use the Lunatone. That possibility needed to be taken care of, then.

    Lunatone were weak to what?

    He closed his eyes. It was classed as Rock and Psychic. It would be weak to Water, but Gyarados was of course not an option. Grass and Dark, but that was nothing helpful. Bug, but Scyther was really too weak to Rock attacks to risk it.

    Steel.

    He broke into a grin. Letal. Of course. And she’d be resistant to both its Rock and Psychic moves! Perfect. She really seemed to want to battle, anyway.

    He leaned back in the chair, thinking over his plan again. Charizard, Sandslash and Letal. Seemed pretty solid. Common weaknesses weren’t a problem – or wait. Water. He frowned. Water was a problem, wasn’t it? Only Letal to deal with it, and her Iron Head wouldn’t do much good. He looked over Megan’s Pokémon again; plenty of Water-types, though none of them were particularly powerful. There was no good reason to suppose she wouldn’t use one of them – in fact, she might easily use a Water-type rather than Lunatone as a Charizard counter.

    And then, as he was considering how he could combat that possibility, he realized that again, he had somehow managed to neglect his most powerful Pokémon by far. He chuckled lightly to himself at the thought. If there was anything that gave him a possible edge at the League, it was Dragonite – he pretty much had to be on the team, whether Megan was expecting it or not.

    Considering it, the only logical option seemed to be to leave Sandslash out and use Charizard, Dragonite and Letal. Dragonite could beat a Letaligon, couldn’t he? He knew Fire Punch, after all. And Thunderpunch – he could handle a Water-type too, even. So long as it didn’t know a powerful Ice attack that would beat him first… but then again Letal could back him up on that if the situation looked dire.

    It seemed like a plan, at least if the arena did not screw things up too much.

    Mark looked over Megan’s Pokémon again to satisfy himself that the combination of Charizard, Dragonite and Letal should be able to handle most of them. Finally, reasonably confident about his deductions, he logged off the computer and left the library to find May.

    -------

    Mark craned his neck over the heads of the crowd by the announcement screen, feeling a little disgruntled to note that May, being taller, was having a much easier time of it. “Can you see what it says about the main stadium?” he asked, half-shouting over the chatter.

    “It’s… Flying, I think it says. Yeah, flying.”

    Mark blinked. “Flying? What are flying arenas like?”

    “Small, hovering platforms at different heights,” she replied. “Any Pokémon that falls onto the ground is out. You’ve probably seen one.”

    “Right,” he muttered, vaguely recalling some match he had seen on TV once. “Hey, that’s not bad.”

    “Not bad at all,” she agreed. “You’ve always had too many Flying-types, anyway.”

    They separated soon after. May was apparently going to watch one of Taylor’s preliminary matches, which was to start at noon; Mark, however, had insisted on getting Charizard from the Pokémon Center first thing in the morning, and so they could go straight to their usual training spot from the trainer lodges, where Mark sent out the others.

    “Flying,” he said. “The arena theme’s flying. It’s an arena with hovering platforms where you’re considered fainted if you fall.”

    He briefly explained his thoughts on Megan’s Pokémon from the day before, but finished with, “But since we’re on a flying arena, it would probably be better to use Scyther than Letal so you can all fly.”

    “No, no, no,” Letal said in agitation just as he had said the last word. “That is stupid. Short-sighted. She could bring in any Rock-type and wipe them out.”

    “Well, they’d be able to do all sorts of things against a Rock-type on this arena,” Mark argued. “Knocking them down would make them helpless. Well, except Lunatone, but I guess Scyther could…”

    “Anything with a Rock attack.”

    “Fine. What about Jolteon? It’ll be hard for a Ground-type to do much up there, so he should be pretty well off. And he’s agile enough that he’d do well on the arena.”

    “There are more Ground moves than Earthquake.”

    Mark turned towards Letal in irritation. “You’re weak to Ground moves too, you know,” he said. “I know you want to battle, but we’re never going to qualify if we don’t try to pick a team that makes some sense on the arena. You don’t really have any ranged attacks besides Tri Attack, and your armor could make it kind of hard for you to manage any feats of acrobatics, couldn’t it?”

    Letal turned and then lay down on the ground a few paces away, her back turned towards Mark. “Fine,” she muttered, laying her head down on her forepaws and pretending to sleep.

    He sighed and waited a few moments. Part of him kind of wanted to just put her on the team to please her, but he shut that part firmly away; he didn’t want to let her boss him around. “Dragonite, Charizard and Jolteon, then? Any ideas?”

    They spent the rest of the day considering Megan’s Pokémon one by one, mulling over possible strategies to employ against them on a flying arena and the odds she would use each of them, save for sometime in the early afternoon when they took a break to eat (Mark met May in the trainer lodge dining hall and spent his lunch listening to her ranting about how cheap and talentless Taylor was). Finally in the evening, when it was about the time that he had agreed to meet May for dinner, they had just about worked out how they would handle the battle, and Mark was fairly confident when he recalled the Pokémon and climbed onto Charizard’s back to return to the lodge.

    Mark felt it only moments after they had taken off, having become sensitive enough to Charizard’s muscle movements to tell that his wingbeats were heavier than usual: something was wrong. His mind jumped to overworkedness, strain – why was he having him fly him around just after that battle with Aaron White? He felt a sting of pain in his gut at the thought.

    “Are you okay?” he asked, leaning carefully forward.

    “It’s probably nothing,” Charizard mumbled. “It’s not far, anyway.”

    The very fact Charizard acknowledged there was an ‘it’ only confirmed Mark’s suspicions. “What’s probably nothing?”

    “I’ve just been feeling a bit nauseous today. It’s gotten worse over the day, but I’ll probably sleep it off.”

    Mark’s heart skipped a beat – an overreaction to what was probably just a minor sickness, his rational mind tried to tell him, but having a second scare about Charizard’s wellbeing in just two days was making him paranoid. “No, really, we should land,” he said, and despite the Pokémon’s nonchalant attitude, something seemed to relax gratefully in Charizard’s muscles as he dived and landed clumsily on the ground not far outside the League HQ area. As Mark climbed from his back, the dragon sneezed violently, sending flames licking the ground a few meters in front of him.

    “I’ll get you to the Pokémon Center,” Mark murmured, fumbling for the right Pokéball with trembling fingers. In the ball, he won’t get worse. Nurse Joy will know what to do. “Don’t worry.” The beam absorbed him. Oh, God, what if it’s serious?

    He clutched the minimized ball in the palm of his hand and ran towards the gate.

    It probably isn’t. Why would it be?

    His mind made up some crazy conspiracy theory about Taylor trying to get them out of the way.

    That’s stupid. It’s what you thought yesterday too.

    But there was no telling.

    He was getting ready to fling open the doors of the Pokémon Center, half-throwing himself against the doorway before remembering that it was an automatic door. He stumbled inside while various trainers looked disinterestedly up. Standing behind the counter was the same nurse who had treated Charizard yesterday; he hurried towards her.

    “It’s… It’s my Charizard again,” he said, panting. “I think he’s sick or something…”

    “Sick how?”

    “Well, he’s… sort of weak and dizzy, I guess…”

    The nurse stepped around the counter. “Why don’t you come with me to the back and send him out so I can see him?”

    Mark complied, following her into the back room. Injured Pokémon lay sleeping or unconscious on variously sized beds along the walls, the steady pulses of heart monitors a background noise that barely registered in his mind. He maximized the ball that was still clutched in his hand and released Charizard onto a particular bed that the nurse indicated to him; she immediately picked his tail up and draped it over a stirrup to keep it off the floor and mattress and then scuttled into a storage room while the dragon lay shakily down and looked at Mark.

    “Feeling any different?” Mark asked quietly. Charizard shook his head.

    The nurse returned with a device that she pressed against Charizard’s side for a few seconds before reading something off it. “Just as I thought,” she muttered.

    “What?”

    “Pokérus. There’s been an epidemic of it here lately – it seems that Rick Lancaster’s brother, that Taylor kid, brought it with his Pokémon. No,” she added upon seeing the look on Mark’s face, “it is not dangerous in the least.”

    “No?”

    “Quite the opposite, actually. Normally they fight it off on their own by producing antibodies that in the long run make them end up stronger. The little dip in water yesterday must have weakened his immune system sufficiently to make the actual disease get the chance to rear its ugly head. I should have thought to test him then.”

    “So is he going to be okay?”

    “Sure. With an antibody injection and a good night’s sleep, he’ll be in perfect shape by tomorrow morning. But even without it, it is not severe and would have gone away in a couple of days, once the immune system got back on track.”

    Mark took a deep breath and let it out in a sigh.

    Charizard smiled weakly up at him. “You see? It was nothing to worry about.”

    “No, it wasn’t.” Though Taylor was behind it, in a sense, after all. He chuckled inwardly at the thought.

    “Just leave him here. You can come get him tomorrow.”

    “Thanks. Good night, Charizard.”

    “Good night, Mark.”

    He left, breathing another sigh of relief as he exited the building into the cool night.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2012
  20. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    -------

    Mark slept a lot better that night than he had before the previous match, and longer too, since this battle was to be at noon. After having breakfast with May and spending some idle time drawing until eleven thirty, he headed towards the League office building to retrieve his Pokémon from the drug trials.

    “Which three are you going to use for your battle?” asked the lady at the reception desk when he had given her his name tag.

    “Charizard, Dragonite and Jolteon.”

    She nodded and turned to her computer, but then peered at the screen. “I’m sorry, but it appears you did not turn your Charizard in for examination yesterday.”

    Mark was puzzled for a brief moment before realizing why. “Right. He’s still at the Pokémon Center. I’ll go get him.”

    “I’m afraid we can’t let you do that,” said the woman. “No Pokémon can participate in a League match unless it comes straight from the examination and drug trials. If your Charizard was not here last night, you cannot use him in your battle. I’m sorry.”

    Mark stared at her, dumbfounded. “What? Can’t I just get him and you test him before the battle begins?”

    “Getting the full results takes several hours,” she said, shaking her head. “The judges will be notified of the mistake and take it into account when judging your performance, but you will have to select some other Pokémon in his stead.”

    Of course. Something always had to go wrong.

    “Give me a minute,” he muttered and sat down on a nearby waiting chair to think it over.

    No Charizard. That meant he direly needed something that could take on Megan’s Mamoswine to support Dragonite and Jolteon, and his choices were limited – Sandslash and Scyther were both weak to Ice attacks and Letal to Ground ones. Sandslash was pretty much out of the picture; his attacking capabilities were limited on the arena and the best attack he could use on it was Gyro Ball, which was most effective if the opponent was particularly fast, and Mamoswine was not. Both Scyther and Letal could pull a super effective attack on it – Letal with Iron Head and Scyther with Brick Break – but Scyther was of course the one who could fly and had Pursuit and U-turn. The Mamoswine’s capacity for using Ground moves would be severely limited by the arena, on the other hand, and Letal’s Iron Head could take advantage of her natural type affiliations, which Scyther’s Brick Break could not. What he needed most of all was just something he could send out reasonably safely against Mamoswine – and that was probably Letal. However, Scyther was undeniably more generally useful, being both able to fly and having Pursuit and U-turn – he would probably be the better choice.

    But what if he used them both? Without Charizard, there was no longer any Water vulnerability on the team, lessening the need for Jolteon. Having Electric attacks handy was nice when seeing more Flying-types than usual was to be expected, but not exactly necessary, besides that Dragonite did know Thunderpunch if he came to need it. And having both would provide the most solid support for Dragonite, in case Mamoswine beat one of them.

    Well. It appeared Letal would get to battle after all.

    “Okay,” he said to the receptionist woman, “then I’m taking Dragonite, Scyther and Letal.”

    She disappeared into a back room and came back with the three Pokéballs. “Come on, then.”

    He walked with her to the main stadium, a lot bigger and more intimidating than the one he had had his first preliminary in. There she let him in through the door to the trainer stand, wished him luck and closed it behind him.

    Mark took a deep breath, feeling the three Pokéballs at his belt with his fingers, and walked up the stairs.

    He was stunned by the sight of the arena as he stepped through the final doorway out onto the trainer stand. The floor had been lowered, so below the metal railing around the trainer stand, there was a considerable fall down. Flat, circular platforms at various heights and sizes hovered unsupported in the air all around. Two platforms, one of them normal and the other consisting of a miniature pool for Water Pokémon, were nearest to him at around the same height as the trainer stand, while the rest looked just about accessible from there through a series of jumps for a reasonably agile Pokémon.

    Was Letal a reasonably agile Pokémon? He wasn’t sure. What good would Letal be in the battle if she couldn’t even get across to where Mamoswine was? He really should have thought this out better.

    Megan Hayfield emerged on the other side of the arena, so far away that he had to look at the status screen close-up to recognize her. She shook her head, her long, dark brown hair swishing behind her with deliberate grace, and winked at the camera before looking over towards Mark.

    They waited. The chattering of the spectators made him uncomfortably aware of their presence. May was there somewhere, but at this distance he couldn’t tell one blue-haired girl from another, and even if it wasn’t the most common of hair colors, there were quite a few bluettes in the audience. He wasn’t even really sure he wanted to find her. It would only make him more nervous to be aware of her sitting there, watching and probably shaking her head over everything he did wrong.

    “Trainers, ready Pokéballs,” came a voice on the speakers after what seemed like an eternity. Mark jumped, not quite certain which Pokémon he should send out first; his hand drifted over the three Pokéballs at his belt.

    He considered Letal, but what if she turned out to be unable to move around well on the arena and Megan happened to open with something that had long-ranged moves?

    “Ready…”

    Megan had to be expecting him to use Dragonite. If she started with an Ice-type, he’d rather have Scyther out.

    “Set…”

    But Dragonite was more powerful and had a wider variety of moves that could be employed against a wider variety of Pokémon. Scyther had more weaknesses, fewer resistances.

    His hand moved to Dragonite’s ball.

    “Throw!”

    What was he doing? Of course she’d be anticipating Dragonite. He clumsily jerked his hand back to Scyther’s ball and grabbed it in a panic, throwing it as fast as he could. He noted with relief that Megan’s ball did not pop open until a fraction of a second later: that meant he would not be disqualified for sending out his first Pokémon too late. Then he realized that the red light from Megan’s ball was materializing into Lunatone, and his heart sank again.

    “Scyther, U-turn!” he said quickly, jerking his head back to his own Pokémon as the mantis was emerging in mid-air.

    “Lunatone, Ancientpower!” ordered Megan.

    Scyther might have been faster, but Lunatone had the advantage of having already fully formed, and it did not need to move. While Scyther was zooming across the arena with his scythes raised, Lunatone closed its eyes and glowed with a bright blue aura. At first, nothing happened and Mark thought Scyther would make it to the other side before the attack hit; then a wave of large chunks of rock, bathed in the same blue aura, rose up through the platforms as if insubstantial and smashed very substantially into the mantis. Scyther was thrown sideways and narrowly avoided crashing into a platform, but quickly regained his directions, smacked his body into Lunatone’s and then dissolved into red energy that shot back across the arena and into his Pokéball.

    Mark placed the ball back on his belt and considered what to do – he had brought Letal largely for the purpose of taking on Lunatone, but he was beginning to regret that decision more with every passing moment. On the other hand, it would not be wise to subject Dragonite to unnecessary injuries, and he could always recall Letal if worse came to worst. If there was any member of Megan’s team she could beat, Lunatone was it.

    “Go, Letal!” he shouted, aiming for a moment before he threw the ball – having Letal emerge in mid-air would not be a good idea.

    The ball opened and released a white shape on the nearest platform. As the light faded from Letal’s form, she looked quickly around, throwing a vaguely surprised glance towards Mark before facing her opponent. Of course, she hadn’t expected to be used in this battle, but at least she did not seem about to complain.

    “Okay, Letal, hit it with Iron Head!” Mark called.

    “Lunatone, use Cosmic Power!” Megan ordered.

    Letal darted to the edge of the platform and leapt; Mark’s heart jumped for some reason. He held the ball ready to recall her if she began to fall.

    But she didn’t fall. She landed neatly on the next platform, a bit higher than the one she had been on, and immediately raced towards the other edge of that platform to jump up from there to the next. In the meantime, Lunatone had closed its eyes and begun to gather defensive energy from the air, silvery dust swirling around its crescent-shaped body.

    Mark watched in astonishment as Letal made her way from platform to platform without so much as hesitating before a leap. Surely she couldn’t have a lot of experience fighting in uneven landscape where jumping was an important skill – they’d trained precise jumping at one point in the mountains, but she had never really seemed that particularly good at it then. Then again, that was at the time when she was the most dull and expended the least effort in whatever they were doing.

    Letal made the final jump onto Lunatone’s platform, her entire body took on a metallic sheen, and she smashed her head into the Psychic Pokémon’s body. Lunatone rebounded backwards before bouncing to its former location; Mark thought it looked kind of cracked, but he could have been imagining it.

    “Lunatone, Earth Power!”

    Mark’s stomach fluttered in panic at the realization that he had overlooked a Ground move that Lunatone knew that might be possible to use on a flying arena. “Iron Head it again!” he blurted out.

    Letal’s body turned metallic again before she smashed her head into the Rock Pokémon a second time. Lunatone was thrown back by the impact, little pebbles of rock falling loose from its body, and closed its eyes to concentrate for its attack.

    Without really thinking, Mark took out Letal’s ball and pressed the recall button. “Come back!” he shouted as the red Pokéball beam zoomed across the arena and dissolved Letal just as the platform underneath her exploded with the raw power of the Earth itself. He knew it was frowned upon to time a recall so that the opponent’s attack hit thin air, but he hoped it wouldn’t hurt his score too much to do it once. It was only after he thought this that he actually realized that switching to begin with had been a terrible move – Lunatone could pull a super effective move on all of his Pokémon, but Letal was in the least danger from it, since it didn’t have a native Ground-type to boost Earth Power’s potency.

    But it was too late to change his mind now. He reattached Letal’s ball to his belt, taking out Dragonite’s instead.

    “Dragonite, use Aqua Tail!” he shouted as he threw it.

    “Lunatone, Ancientpower!” Megan countered.

    Dragonite materialized in the air and began to thrust himself forward while Lunatone took on a blue glow. Rocks rose through the platforms and smashed into Dragonite from below, sending him bouncing upwards, but he quickly turned down towards Lunatone again, disintegrated his tail into water and took a dive. The tail smacked into Lunatone, throwing it back, but it rebounded quickly to its former place.

    Mark suddenly realized that Lunatone was still glowing with a steady throb of blue light. The attack was powering it up. Darn it.

    “Dragonite, use a Dragon Dance!” he called.

    “Heal Block!” shouted Megan.

    Dragonite pulled back from Lunatone and began to spin around in the air, increasing his speed gradually as he powered his muscles. Meanwhile, Lunatone closed its eyes to focus and Dragonite was wrapped in a pink aura. Mark recalled that Heal Block prevented his body from healing itself: he would not be able to make him Roost now. He winced; he’d been hoping to use that to make Dragonite last as long as possible. But switching him out would hardly help; Lunatone had gotten its powers sufficiently boosted to make giving it the time to prepare an extra attack a potentially fatal mistake.

    “Ancientpower!” Megan ordered.

    “Aqua Tail!” Mark yelled quickly as Dragonite’s dance began to slow.

    The dragon Pokémon zoomed downwards, faster now after the Dragon Dance, his tail transforming immediately into water before hitting the Lunatone with a splash. The Rock Pokémon shuddered but sent an Ancientpower flying up at Dragonite anyway, and the dragon was knocked almost half of the way back across the arena, a rock crushing one of his wings as he went. He cried out in pain and wobbled disconcertingly in the air as he righted himself. Mark bit his lip: the blue glow was lingering on Lunatone’s body again, and now it had powered itself up sufficiently to make him doubt that Dragonite could reach it again, particularly now that he had injured himself. He wasn’t sure he could knock it out within one special attack.

    All he could do was make sure his next Pokémon would get the chance to beat it.

    “Thunder Wave!” he called just as Megan opened her mouth to order a final Ancientpower.

    Dragonite lifted his head with difficulty, focusing on the Lunatone even as it began to take on a blue glow. A shower of sparks erupted from his mouth and shot across the arena while ancient rocks ascended through the platforms below him, and he took a last strained look down before the rocks crashed into him. Dragonite slipped into unconsciousness and began to fall; Mark silently took out his Pokéball and recalled him. But he had succeeded: Lunatone’s body was sparkling with paralyzing electricity.

    He wasn’t sure if that slowed it down enough to let Letal reach it before it could strike, but Scyther definitely could.

    “Go!” he shouted, throwing the mantis’s ball into the arena. “X-Scissor!”

    Scyther emerged from the ball and immediately zoomed across towards Lunatone.

    “One more Ancientpower!” yelled Megan, but Scyther had reached Lunatone by the time she finished the command. He slashed both of his scythes powerfully across Lunatone’s body, the power of his Bug type allowing him to slice into the rock, and the Psychic Pokémon let out a peculiar groan before its levitation faltered and it fell onto the platform like a lump of stone.

    Megan frowned momentarily in disappointment, but called, “Come back, Lunatone! You did great!”

    The red Pokéball beam absorbed her Pokémon as Scyther retreated towards the center of the arena, watching the platform in front of Megan warily.

    The girl thought for a moment and then pulled out her next ball. “Delibird, go!” she shouted.

    Mark watched the small penguin materialize, surprised. Delibird? When he’d looked over her Pokémon, he’d skipped right over the Delibird – he hadn’t imagined it was the sort of Pokémon anyone would really use in the League, especially when she also had a Mamoswine. Perhaps she’d decided to use as many Ice-types as she could? In any case, Letal would be able to deal with it quicker.

    “Scyther, retu–”

    “Ice Shard!”

    Mark was still reaching for the Pokéball when the Delibird tossed a small shard of ice straight at Scyther. It hit him squarely in the torso, throwing him backwards by the impact. Scyther growled in pain and glared at the Delibird for a quick second but then faced Mark again. He raised the ball up, the force field already down, and let the beam absorb the bug Pokémon, silently irritated at Megan for attacking while he was recalling his Pokémon even though he reminded himself that it was no worse than recalling a Pokémon just before a hit. Technically, this had just made them even, and something in Megan’s smugly satisfied expression on the status screen told him that was precisely why she had done it.

    He placed Scyther’s ball back on his belt and took out Letal’s. “Go!” he shouted. “Use Iron Head!”

    “Delibird, Brick Break!”

    Oh, crap.

    Letal made her way across the arena, leaping nimbly from platform to platform as she had before; the Delibird took off in awkward flight on its flipperlike wings, let out a shrill battle cry and dived straight down towards her.

    Mark couldn’t really change his mind after giving a clear command, but watched desperately as the two Pokémon approached each other, Letal’s body completely metallic, the end of Delibird’s stubby wing drawn back into a fist around the bag of food it was holding.

    Letal smacked her head into the Delibird’s belly, causing it to let out a strangled squeak; the penguin’s food bag thwacked her upside the head, making her grunt in pain.

    “Letal, come back,” Mark said quickly, already holding the ball forward so as to recall Letal before the Delibird got the chance to pull another quick move. She was absorbed into the beam.

    He sighed. Scyther was weak to Ice attacks, which also put him at a disadvantage against the Delibird, but at least he was quicker and could attack it while it was flying, and he was not as vulnerable against its Ice moves as Letal was to Brick Break. However, he had also been worn down more in the battle, and he had no super effective moves to use. Mark wasn’t entirely sure if switching was the right choice here. But again, there was little he could do about it now.

    “Scyther, go!” he called. “Use Aerial Ace!”

    “Ice Punch!” ordered Megan.

    Scyther emerged from the ball and darted towards the Delibird. It took awkward flight again, curling the tip of its wing into a fist while icicles formed around it, and thrust it towards Scyther as the mantis reached it.

    It missed. Mark watched in puzzlement as its fist hit thin air without Scyther even having made any great effort to dodge; he passed above the penguin and delivered a precisely aimed slash to its back that made it caw in annoyance, its flight faltering. It landed on a platform below it and shook its fist towards the mantis Pokémon.

    It suddenly came to Mark: it had to be using that one ability, the one that let it focus its power to strengthen its attacks at the expense of its accuracy. And that meant he had to be able to exploit it somehow.

    “Scyther, use Agility!” he called. Scyther glanced at him with a nod and then built up speed with his wings, zooming across the arena and back within a few seconds.

    “Another Ice Punch, Delibird!” Megan shouted.

    “Dodge and use Aerial Ace!” Mark countered, his heart thumping in his chest. Normally just being fast could only marginally improve the ability to evade attacks, but if the Delibird’s accuracy was already compromised...

    Megan’s Delibird took flight again and thrust towards where Scyther was hovering in mid-air, ice crystals again circling its fist, but a split second before it threw the punch, Scyther had darted to the left and raised his scythe for another attack. He struck at its back again with a satisfied grin, and Mark grinned with him: he’d actually figured out a strategy that worked!

    “Keep that up, Scyther!”

    The mantis zoomed towards the Delibird again; it tried to strike back at him but yet again he dodged and managed to take a blow at it instead.

    “Aerial Ace, Delibird!” Megan ordered, and Mark saw his strategy crumble before his eyes as the Delibird darted towards Scyther with greater speed than before and slashed across his right arm and wing with its beak before he had the time to react. Scyther growled and gave it one more slash to the back with his left scythe, but Mark could tell he was getting weak – he held his other scythe awkwardly and his right wing had been torn a little, in addition to all the previous cuts and bruises he had suffered in the battle. The Delibird was not in top shape either, though, its feathers ruffled and its flight uneven and rickety.

    “Just get one more Aerial Ace in!” Mark called. He wasn’t sure it would do the trick, but he had to try.

    “Hit it first!” Megan shouted.

    But even though he was weakened, Scyther was still faster than Delibird, and Mark had been the first to speak. Before the penguin could respond to her order, Scyther spun around to its back and slashed at one of its flipper-wings. White feathers tore off the Delibird and it squawked as it began to lose its already limited flying ability.

    Scyther used the last of his strength to knock the falling Delibird aside so that it missed the platform below them and began to plunge down towards the ground. It screeched in panic, desperately flapping its uninjured wing to no avail. Mark saw one of the judges raise a red flag: Delibird was considered fainted according to the rules of the arena.

    Megan pursed her lips sourly as she recalled her Pokémon and prepared to take out her final ball.

    Scyther had landed on the platform and was hunched over, supporting his body with his left scythe as he panted; he slowly straightened himself, took a quick glance back at his trainer, and then turned back to watch Megan’s end of the arena.

    Mark understood the meaning of that exhausted glance: Scyther could still fight, but only barely, and he would likely not survive as much as a single attack on top of this. However, being still just barely able to fight meant that he was not yet considered fainted: Mark could keep him behind to secure himself against a draw, just like Aaron White had done in the previous battle.

    “Return!” he called just as Megan threw her own ball forward. While Scyther gratefully disintegrated into red energy, a large, white shape emerged on Megan’s platform: four long legs, a slender body, a long neck, a small head with three blades extending backwards from the metallic mask on its head…

    A Letaligon.

    The glow faded from the Pokémon and Mark looked at it with a strange feeling of detachment. Its red eyes were focused upon him, its powerful claws scratching impatiently at the floor of the platform as it shook its head, the sun flashing off its metallic blades. He’d almost forgotten Megan had a Letaligon and to see it now when his only real remaining Pokémon was Letal felt bizarre.

    He almost laughed.

    “Go!” he called as he hurled his final Pokéball into the arena. On the status screen, he saw Megan watch the Pokémon form with a confident smirk on her face.

    Mark could somehow see the tension in Letal the moment she set eyes upon her opponent: something in her stance changed, her neck tightened. For her, of course, she wasn’t just battling her evolved form while already at a disadvantage due to having taken a couple of hits in the battle before: she was about to battle her own evolved form that she would probably never become.

    He felt sorry for her for a moment, but then realized that she looked more satisfied than she had in weeks; excited, even. Mark remembered her plans about her father: perhaps she just wanted to see if she had the ability to defeat a Letaligon even as a Letal?

    “Letaligon, use Agility!” came Megan’s command, snapping him back to reality.

    He couldn’t remember Letal knowing any moves that would be any good against Letaligon. This would probably be a slow, lengthy battle where they’d do little damage in each hit until they’d worn themselves out, then: there was little point in going for an all-out offensive.

    “Iron Defense, Letal!” Mark yelled. She began to concentrate, turning even her non-armored parts into metal, while Megan’s Letaligon leapt from platform to platform on her side, building up speed as it went.

    “Letaligon, Swords Dance!”

    The Letaligon stopped and began to perform a series of complex moves, swishing its blades this way and that. Mark watched it hopelessly: no matter how much Letal boosted her defensive abilities, it could match it by boosting its own offensive abilities. There didn’t seem to be any way to get an advantage this way.

    Perhaps she could just put it to sleep with Hypnosis? He hesitated; it didn’t seem like the best way to waste her third move when she would never be able to hurt it very much in the time that it was asleep even if the move did succeed.

    He suddenly realized that Letal was giving him a meaningful look from where she was standing on the nearest platform. He turned toward her and she motioned oddly with her head, as if to bash it against an invisible wall.

    Everything suddenly clicked into place. Rock Smash. He’d taught her that move just to clear some boulders away from the place where they trained. He hadn’t thought it would ever actually be useful in battle – but it definitely was now.

    “Letaligon, use Iron Tail!” called Megan.

    “Letal, Rock Smash!” Mark countered with newfound confidence.

    The Letaligon growled and took a leap to a nearby platform, its metallic tail glowing. Letal lowered her head and leapt to the next platform and then to the next with a grace that at least in Mark’s biased opinion far surpassed that of her opponent.

    The two Pokémon met on one of the larger platforms closer to Mark’s side. The Letaligon turned around and smacked its tail into Letal’s side; she grunted and retaliated by smashing her head into the Letaligon’s vulnerable underbelly. It screeched in pain.

    “Letaligon, Tri Attack!” Megan shouted. Her Pokémon reacted immediately, its three blades glowing red, yellow and blue before it bowed its head quickly and sent three beams shooting into Letal’s body. She was thrown backwards, dangerously close to the edge of the platform, but turned quickly around and jumped to a smaller platform below on the right while she regained her balance. She looked back up towards the Letaligon with fierce determination in her eyes.

    “Another Rock Smash!” Mark called.

    Letal crouched to jump – and stopped. For a heartbeat, she was puzzlingly still, the Letaligon looking down at her with a glint of superiority; then a sparkle of electricity passed over her back.

    “No!” Mark blurted out in disbelief. One Tri Attack and she was paralyzed – one! It just wasn’t fair. He gritted his teeth in frustration as Letal tried to move. He could have sworn he saw the Letaligon grin even through the metal mask.

    “Letaligon, push it off the platform with another Iron Tail!”

    “Metal Burst!” Mark countered quickly, hoping Letal would regain her mobility in time.

    The Letaligon jumped down to Letal’s platform and swished its glowing tail at her still crouching form. It hit her forcefully and her body was thrown like a ragdoll towards the edge...

    She suddenly threw out her legs and extended her claws, grasping desperately at the floor of the platform. One of her hind legs was already off the edge; the other just barely managed to hold on by a toe or two. It was enough for her to throw herself back onto the platform, her entire body taking on a metallic sheen as she replicated the Letaligon’s movements with greater force: her entire hindquarters smashed into its body like an iron fist and threw it straight off the edge of the platform.

    The metal sheen of her body vanished as quickly as it had appeared; she ran towards that edge of the platform and saw the Letaligon managing to climb onto a lower platform off to the left.

    “Letaligon, get it with Iron Tail again!”

    “Letal, get to a bigger platform where it can’t throw you off!” Mark called desperately, worried her paralysis might cause that scenario to repeat itself with less happy consequences. “And then try to meet it with Rock Smash!”

    She leapt across a few platforms to get back to the larger one where they had been before while the Letaligon jumped across the lower platforms to get up there. It had to take a zigzag route of gradually rising ones that gave Letal a few seconds to examine where it would arrive from and prepare herself near the middle of the platform, ready to face it. She lowered her head, narrowing her eyes towards her ascending opponent.

    The Letaligon let out a piercing, metallic cry as it took the final leap onto the large platform, its tail raised and shining with a bright white light. Letal was ready to meet it, crouched low to the ground.

    The Letaligon smashed its tail down on her back, and Letal was immobile again: Mark groaned as a flurry of sparks scattered across her body and she was limply tossed aside. Megan looked at her Letaligon with a triumphant grin.

    “One more Iron Tail!”

    Mark saw Letal’s paw twitch as she strained to move it, still lying helpless on her side. The Pokémon status screen showed a close-up of her, the desperate rage in her eyes almost painful to watch as the Letaligon’s tail glowed and smashed down on her head. Mark thought he heard something crack, but he must have been imagining it; Letal raised it up with difficulty and began to try to rise to her feet.

    “Iron Tail it again, Letaligon.”

    It obediently smacked her down again with another strike of its tail. She tried to rise again, her legs shaking at the effort; Mark bit his lip. Was it over?

    The Letaligon’s tail began to glow again even without a command, and it swung it, only to narrowly miss as Letal suddenly jumped onto the small lower platform she had been at before. Without even stopping to rest, she leapt back up towards the larger platform, where the Letaligon was waiting; she dodged a strike with its tail to deliver another Rock Smash to its soft underbelly. It roared and fired a Tri Attack at her, which threw her back by a little but was countered by a metallic mirror image of the attack that hit it back. The Letaligon shook its head angrily, beginning to circle Letal like prey while she crouched low, ready to strike.

    “Letal...” Mark began, but she was a step ahead of him: as the Letaligon’s attention momentarily shifted to listen to Mark’s command, she bounded up to it, crashed her head into its armor and then bounded off towards another platform before it recovered sufficiently from the blow to strike back.

    “Catch up with it!” Megan shouted.

    The Letaligon jumped to follow Letal while she seemed to be racing as fast as she could between the platforms, taking a lot of daring leaps that Mark presumed to be intended to make the Letaligon’s pursuit more difficult. In that department she was fairly successful – more than once, the Letaligon resorted to an alternative route and had to waste time to get back on track, somewhat making up for its clear advantage in speed. Mark figured she must be trying to tire it somehow, but she had been under far more strain in the battle so far – wouldn’t she be worn out first? The Letaligon was still slowly catching up, now only a few platforms behind. What was she thinking? He looked at the close-up on the status screen, trying to read something from her. Her muscles were straining to run as fast as she could, her breathing rapid as she leapt more and more platforms in a rough circle around the arena. There was some sort of frantic glee in her eyes.

    It suddenly came to him with a creeping feeling of dread. She wasn’t trying to tire the Letaligon. She was trying to tire herself – it was the same trick from the Gym battle in Acaria City, a last desperate attempt to trigger evolution through an adrenaline rush.

    It was a stupid, dangerous thing to do. The Acaria City nurse’s angry words echoed in his head. This time he knew better. He had to recall her. His hand touched her Pokéball and stayed there.

    He had no other Pokémon left to use. The Letaligon would beat Scyther in a single strike if he sent him out. He’d have to send Letal out again and let her continue her crazy little plan – except the Letaligon would have time to catch up with her while she was rematerializing – or forfeit the battle.

    He couldn’t. He had looked forward to the League since he was little. He couldn’t just voluntarily throw away his last chance to qualify from the preliminaries in order to try to be smart for Letal.

    He looked hopelessly at his Pokémon, still jumping frantically between platforms with the Letaligon following closely behind her. “Letal, stop!” he shouted desperately. “It won’t work! Use Rock Smash! Please!”

    Except it did work.

    Mark stared as Letal’s body was enveloped in a white glow. She jumped onto the platform next to Mark and stopped there, legs shaking as her form disappeared into blinding white light and began to grow. The Letaligon came to an abrupt halt behind her while the crowd in the audience stand exploded into wild cheering.

    Letal’s whole body expanded, legs and neck lengthening and paws bulging out to make room for the oversized claws; the other Pokémon watched it as if mesmerized, unable to attack her while she was protected by the evolutionary glow. She lowered her head as new blades began to grow out of the sides of her mask to match the new length of the top blade.

    The white light faded, and she was a Letaligon just like Megan’s.

    Mark realized his mouth was open and closed it.

    “Letaligon,” Megan yelled over the still-deafening cheering of the audience, “use Iron Tail!”

    “Counter it with Metal Burst!” Mark called, his heart beating wildly. Megan’s Letaligon leapt towards the former Letal, its tail glowing as it smacked into her body, but with her renewed strength after evolution, she only staggered slightly before turning into pure metal to counter the attack –

    She froze, the metallic sheen fading. Sparks leapt across her armor as the other Letaligon swung its tail again with a gleam of victory in its eyes, and she was knocked back, now dangerously close to the edge. She still couldn’t move.

    “One more time!” Megan shouted, and her Pokémon smashed its glowing tail into her one last time, sending her hind legs skirting off the edge.

    Her front claws dug into the floor of the platform, forming three parallel scratches as she slipped further down –

    “You can do it!” Mark blurted out, almost subconsciously. “You could do it earlier!”

    Whether his words had anything to do with it or not (probably not), she regained her mobility a split second later and began to claw at the air with her hind legs, reaching forward with her right front paw. The other Letaligon walked towards her, the blades of its mask beginning to glow in bright colors now as it prepared a final attack to make her fall.

    “Come on,” Mark whispered as he watched, his knuckles tightening on the railing around the trainer stand. “You could do it earlier.”

    Letal – no, Letaligon – suddenly released her hold on the platform, the Tri Attack narrowly missing her as she fell. Mark’s heart took a lurch in his chest until he saw her claw her way onto a lower platform and begin to make her way back up. Megan’s Pokémon growled angrily and turned towards her.

    “Letaligon, stay there and use a Swords Dance, quick!” Megan ordered sharply, and it stopped to begin the same peculiar dance as when it had first been sent out, swinging its blades in a series of rhythmic movements.

    “Letaligon, use Rock Smash!” Mark called. It felt bizarre to say the new name, somehow.

    She jumped up to the platform where the other Letaligon, having finished its Swords Dance, turned toward her to growl threateningly. Its tail glowed, and without warning, it leapt at her, striking a blow to her side. She stumbled and seemed momentarily to be paralyzed again – then she rammed her head at full force into her opponent.

    Megan’s Letaligon didn’t anticipate the full power of the attack now that she had evolved, and it was knocked a few feet backwards, stumbling as it tried to regain its balance. That was when one hind paw stepped on air, and the creature let out a cry of surprise as it tumbled over itself, plunging over the left side of the leftmost platform on the arena.

    The audience erupted into thunderous applause as a red flag was waved in the judge panel and a Pokéball beam absorbed Megan’s falling Pokémon. “The winner is Mark Greenlet!” said the announcer’s voice as the status screen changed to cross out Megan’s Letaligon with a red X.

    Mark was stunned for a moment; it took a second for his brain to register his victory – a 2-0 victory, no less, thanks to Scyther – but once it had, he found himself grinning like an idiot. They were all cheering for him – him and Letal.

    She’d gotten him his first win at the League. And with a bit of luck, it might not have to be the last, either.

    He was still holding her Pokéball in his palm; he raised it numbly to recall her. The newly evolved Letaligon stood alone on the platform and slowly straightened herself, raising her head high and joining the crowd in a roar of victory before she was absorbed back into the ball.
     

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