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.
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.
Well, that's how she is.
Razor Shiftry said:
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?
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.”
“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?”
“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.
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.”