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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. Mawile XD

    Mawile XD ello thar

    ...Awesome. I'd guessed from the beginning that Mark would win, but I faltered for a second when Letal evolved, because I was wondering if it would be a bittersweet victory - a loss which ended up strengthening his team. Letal's - no, LETALIGON'S victory was somehow surprising, and I was very satisfied with the battle. Making Charizard get Pokerus was an interesting twist, and it'll only make him stronger. I liked how you explained the disease. Delibird are always awesome, and it makes sense why Megan would use it over Mamoswine. Overall, excellent job with the chapter, I'm very pleased after reading it.
     
  2. BynineB

    BynineB Wielding Übersaw.

    ...Wowzerz.

    That was incredibly epic. Like Mawile XD said, I could tell that Mark was going to win, but it was really on the line; you put all of the feeling in that Letaligon was struggling through the battle to win against the enemy Letaligon. But, boy, did that Lunatone take a lot of hits! I know it's a defensive Pokemon, but it seemed to be really sturdy on there.. it took, what, seven direct hits?

    Great chapter, I'm looking foward to more!
     
  3. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    Lunatone survived so long because it had both used Cosmic Power and gotten the Ancientpower boost twice; it was effectively an über by the time it was finally taken out. :p

    Thanks for reading and reviewing, you two.
     
  4. BynineB

    BynineB Wielding Übersaw.

    Heh, hax Lunatone. Man, are those things annoying in the Emerald Battle Frontier.. but that's a story for another day.

    By the way, I have your website under my favorites; 'tis great, yes it 'tis.
     
  5. Razor Shiftry

    Razor Shiftry Cynthia = Porn Star

    what a co-incidence, i just checked the thread yesterday evening...i had a mysterious feeling you might have updated. and hey what do you know! turns out just as i logged off, you put the next chapter up xD

    so..what to say about this chapter? WOOO!!!! Letal evolved! good on her! and it was damn good. i loved the pre-battle prep, Mark's thought patterns about what pokes to use, trying to foresee what his next opponent would use. it really was a great insight into his character. and i liked the last minute change, its nice to have the reader thrown off of what s/he is expecting =]

    As for the battle itself? well, who knew Lunatone was a beast? Mark's frantic pattern of attack and his fear for Letal was really well done through all that switching. In was interesting to note that Mark used his strongest pokemon, a Dragonite, as a sacrificial pokemon for scyther to beat it.

    Next - Delibird. i loled. well, once agaion i applaude you for that great twist in the story telling, keeping us on our toes =P i must admit, the idea of a Delibird attacking always made me chuckle - i mean, food filled tail as a weapon? AWESOME. ANYWAYS, nice tactical strategy, close battle, horrible ending for the penguin *cries over squished penguin* and enjoyable to read.

    And so last but not least, Letal vs Letaligon. straight away, the paint of tension within the battle - LOVE IT. and this as well:

    haha, i actually laughed out loud (although Delibird food fight still wins in my book xD). where would mark be without a little helping hand from his pokemon? but anyways, that desperate struggle against one another, jumping from platform to platform in a frantic race to try and gain the upper hand...and then *YAY!* =D the end of the battle was pretty much perfect, not too cheap or cheesy or TOO close. Just a lil bit of misfortune with the platforms, a misplaced step which sealed the fate of the other Letaligon - further highlighting the importance of the landscape in battles which was highlighted in the previous battle.

    one gripe though - Shiftry would have been a great pokemon to use on the platforms...i mean, all that wind power it can generate, it would be pretty damn agile and lethal leaping from platform to platform in a crazy wild fashion slashing with its leaves in the glittering sunlight...hahaha i'm so biased...

    but yeah. thanks dragonfree for that, it was great fun to read xD can't wait for the next chapter and i hope its soooon.
     
  6. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    As was the case with the previous chapter, I really enjoyed reading about the pre-battle planning. ^^ On a simliar note, I enjoyed the heck out of reading Mark's thoughts and decision-making during the battle. I find this kind of stuff really interesting and I thought it really helped to give a sense of what preparing for that battle and being in it were like for him.

    Charizard's illness definitely got some reactions out of me...

    Reading about him falling ill: Oh, ****... what's wrong with him? o.o

    Reading that it was just pokérus and he'd be just fine: Oh, phew... ^^

    Reading that Charizard wouldn't be able to participate in the battle after all: ...Damn. X3

    So yeah. My point is, I like it when what I'm reading succeeds in making me care enough about the characters to have reactions to what happens to them, such as was the case there. ^^

    Delibird was a nice surprise. ^^ I can't seem to recall the last time I saw one of those in a fic, let alone in a battle scene. And I thought the ways that its ability factored into things made for a neat touch--nice attention to detail there. ^^

    And Letal(igon) vs. Letaligon was awesome, I thought. ^^ It was a match that kept me guessing--even following the evolution, I wasn't quite certain of how the battle would end.

    Other highlights:

    No, it certainly wouldn't have been, but the thought of it did put a very amusing image in my mind. X3

    Heh. X3

    One of the things that I found particularly awesome about the use of a delibird in that battle was that it provided an opportunity to say "the penguin's food bag thwacked her upside the head"--I love that phrase. X3

    The thought of what that must have sounded like made me laugh. XD

    A particular favorite moment of the battle. ^^ It not only looked pretty darned cool in my mind's eye but also was one of the great close call moments that I think really helped make the battle's outcome not so easy for me to guess.
     
  7. freddo from sinnoh

    freddo from sinnoh Smexy....

    Wow, I was reading this ages ago, but stopped for some reason. I am glad I continues reading this, and urge you to keep up the good work. ;P
     
  8. Seiryu

    Seiryu Resident dragon

    Hello! You may remember me...or maybe not. It's been a...very long time since I've even been in the fanfiction section proper.

    Anyways, I've spent the past five or six days marathoning your work from the beginning; the last chapter I read before this was thirty-three, two and a half years ago, and since I've finally caught up, I thought I'd make a few comments.

    General thoughts:
    First, I feel like I must commend your efforts towards world-building (or, in this case, region-building). For one, I'm glad that you at least touched on the idea of schooling and professions beyond stuff that's directly related to pokemon. Your self-made pokemon are altogether pretty cool, if a little bit heavy on the Dragon type--not that I'm actually complaining about that or anything--and while (or perhaps because) they're few in number, they've never felt like simple rehashes of existing pokemon. In addition, you've gone into things like pokemon societies, political deals regarding pokemon rights and the existence of super-clones, the whole thing about the Agreement and how humans and pokemon tend to view each other (and how trainers like Mark, Alan, and Ash, who regularly take time to try and connect with their pokemon on an emotional level, seem to be in the minority)...I mean, as an original region, Ouen feels like it could fit right into the franchise, but at the same time, it feels like so much more. You've done some very nice work bringing your imagination to life here.

    On a semi-related note, I like a lot of the ideas and rules you've come up with for battling. It's...kind of like a hybridization of the anime and games. Like, trainers usually issue orders at about the same time, and the faster pokemon gets its move off first, but they don't necessarily stand around and just take attacks, and they (both trainers and pokemon) use the environment to try and gain the upper hand. Stuff like that. Also, while your battle-writing style doesn't quite match my current tastes--I prefer strategic battles akin to the best that Pokemon Special has to offer over anime-style battles--I do like the layer of strategic depth you've added to official battles with that nifty four-move rule--nice callback to the games there.

    Next, prose style. You know, to contrast with what some people have said, I've never had a problem with your level of description. I've never been one to really enjoy purple prose, and I find I appreciate it much more when authors get to the point. In addition, it tends to flow together quite nicely; in short, it's a nice, easy read. My only real criticism with your style is...well, something that pertains more to the older chapters than the new ones--that your narration can be...bland. Lacking personality. Both Psychic and elyvorg touched on this long before this review, though, and I do think it's gotten better with time. Besides, I'm sure you're going to eventually go back over those early chapters and change some of these things around in a future revision. Or maybe you already have, if you've put newer revisions up elsewhere. Either way, keep improving here!

    Finally, characters. I have a lot to say about your characters.

    Actually, your characters have pretty consistently been your strongest suit since I first read the fic back in the summer of 2004--I think you'd only gotten to around the chapter with the Mew Hunter and Scyther's introduction on fanfiction.net. I like how you managed to incorporate the three-human travel mechanic; it didn't feel at all forced, possibly because they didn't officially start traveling together until after Mark got his fifth badge (after all, he and May had only coincidentally been on the same road before then, right?). And while I'm iffy on how Mark had a couple of...maybe not necessarily rare, but certainly powerful pokemon pretty much dropped into his lap before even the second gym, I think you handled the situation fairly well; if nothing else, they helped serve as a testament to Mark's incompetence as a trainer, and you seemed to show this through the reactions the first couple of gym leaders and assorted trainers had to his battling style (or lack thereof). I have to wonder, though: was that--the deal with other trainers' reactions--was that intentional?

    And speaking of Mark...between his training journey and being drafted into trying to save the world, I'm getting a sort of "coming-of-age" vibe from his development. Put simply, he's grown. He's...more confident, really. Doesn't seem to have the same self-esteem issues that he did at the beginning, but he hasn't lost the core of his character. He's become a better battler, too; methinks that traveling and then constantly training with May did wonders for him, and that he wouldn't have had anywhere near as much trouble if he'd just paid attention in class, or even remembered to purchase Pokemon Training for Dummies. :p
    Come to think of it, most of his team have somehow matured throughout the story; the only ones who haven't so much, I think, are the ones who were already very much adults (though to be fair, I'm withholding judgment on Letaligon until we see how she thinks and acts in her final form). Again, I have to wonder: did you mean for themes like this to appear?

    Really, I could go on and on about how much I love so many of your characters, but this review is getting to be long enough as is, so I'm going to try and condense it into my favorites:

    -Floatzel. A spontaneous addition who's only been in two chapters, and she's pretty much my favorite of your pokemon characters for sheer personality. Thanks. Part of that, I think, is just the sharp contrast she has with most of the other developed pokemon. I mean, amusing as it can be to see lots of characters with heavy emotional baggage, it's nice to have a character who's just so upbeat and enthusiastic and...just damn crazy about everything. Besides, any character who can so effortlessly provide an exchange such as this one is worthy of my respect:

    Pure gold, that. Especially the last bit. XD

    -Fury. Now here's an interesting concept. A pokemon as his own trainer, going on his own journey? I do hope we see him again somewhere along the line (maybe in the League somewhere?); I just think it would be such a shame for such a potentially cool character to just disappear after handing Mark the beatdown that he did way back when.

    -Sparky. What can I say? Another upbeat character with a great sense of humor. You said something long ago about trying to squeeze him in somewhere in the future. Not to be a backseat writer, but...please do. >..>;;

    -Victor. I dunno...there's just something about him that I really like. I'll admit, when he first said he trained Dark-types, I figured he'd show up in a later gym. The last one, incidentally. Thanks for that. :p

    -Mitch. I had a good few ideas about him neatly sorted out while I was reading yesterday, but wouldn't you know it, my stupid mind had to go and get them all jumbled up between then and now. Regardless--Mitch has always been my favorite human character in this story. His little speeches about odds and the superiority of pokemon to humans really struck a chord with me. Besides that...hmm. His real appeal, to me, is that there's still so very much we don't know about him; I'd say that maybe other than the Destroyer, he's probably got more mysteries connected to him than any other character. Needless to say, my plot-sense is telling me that his role will continue, and I do so look forward to seeing what it could be.

    Thoughts on the future:
    Well, I'd be lying if I said I didn't hope for May to battle and defeat Taylor. You know, poetic justice and all that. In fact, I daresay I think it might be possible. Considering he's mostly been seen whining about wanting more and better super-clones, it seems likely that he's spoiled and/or unskilled as a trainer (well, of course he's spoiled, but you get my meaning), and that he simply powered his way through to the League. Plus, there's the balancing deal that limits how many of them he can use. May, on the other hand, is quite the clever trainer--one who has two Dark-types in her arsenal, so even if Taylor were to use Mewtwo^2--which I imagine he would--it shouldn't be able to directly manipulate their minds or bodies with its psychic powers. On the other hand, though...it seems just as likely that you'd move to avoid a scenario like that. :p
    (Incidentally, would I be correct in guessing that Megan is the girl who told Mark about the theme in Rick's gym, and that Aaron is the boy who chose the Ditto as his starter at the Green Town festival? If so--hooray for bringing back background characters!)

    Beyond the league, it wouldn't surprise me if you focused primarily on character development and legendary battles in place of more traditional trainer battles like we're getting now. And boy, that'll be interesting! I think the battle I'm most looking forward to is the one with the Waraider herd; Chaletwo said that they'd have to battle all eight at once, right? That'll be quite the fun little melee, especially if you decide not to adhere to the Law of Conservation of Ninjutsu. :eek:

    Other thoughts/highlights:
    Not many off the top of my head: thank Sike for consistently managing to point out my favorite moments. Here they are:

    Hooray for mid-battle jokeyness!

    Heh. Am I the only one who found it amusing that Mark has now, at different points in the story, used the same bit of evidence to prove completely opposite things?

    Effing love that bit of description. <3

    And finally--I hate to close with a request, but would you mind adding me to your PM list? I'd rather not get out of reading fanfic so soon after trying to get back into it, and I'd like to stay connected to your story regardless.

    Also, happy belated fic-birthday, and kudos to you for not losing interest even after seven years!
     
  9. Amras.MG

    Amras.MG tl;dr

    I very rarely venture outside of FB/PASBL, but I had to comment on reading this today.

    I've thoroughly enjoyed reading this fanfiction from start to finish, and I must say, your writing style has only improved with each chapter. I'm not usually a fan of Fakemon in fanfics, but the Pokemon that you've created are excellent, and I can see them in my mind as real and possible. The explanations you use for various attacks and circumstances (such as with Chaletwo and Mewtwo looking alike), are very well thought out and add a lot to the story. I have a few questions, though:

    Lela started out as a Normal type and evolved into a Steel type, and is now a Steel type again, correct? It seems to me like she is a fusion between Glameow/Purugly and the Aggron line (in terms of typing and ferocity), although I know she was created before the Glameow line. Do you have any pictures or anything of her to help with the mental image? Thanks!

    Also, what happened to May's Skarmory? We haven't seen it for quite some time, and I was just wondering why May hasn't used her favorite Pokemon in the League.

    If I think of anything else, I'll let you know! Great job with the fic, and I look forward to reading more of it!

    Also, could I be added to the PM list?
     
  10. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    I think it's time for some good old properly responding to reviews. I don't do that often enough. D: Sorry about that, all you guys! You are awesome and I need to appreciate you more.

    Razor Shiftry:

    Hehe. They say only an unspoken plan can succeed. :p

    I sort of meant to make Delibird more badass. I tried to make it slightly more so than your average Delibird anyway, but for this battle I felt like taking Pokémon nobody likes like Delibird and Lunatone and making them put up something of a fight.

    Next time. :p

    Sike Saner:

    I'm really glad people enjoy Mark's thought process around the battles. It's probably my favorite part of writing these chapters as well. :)

    Glad you liked the battle and Charizard's illness, as well.

    freddo from sinnoh: Thanks, but could you try to reply more constructively next time - pointing out which particular bits you liked and disliked and so on?

    Seiryu: Whoa, long review. Thanks for reading (again) and typing all that! It was very fun and enlightening to read your thoughts on the story.

    Heh, I've already started another revision, yes, although it's only six chapters in at the moment and I haven't written more of it in a while. But yes, the style of especially the earlier chapters direly needs it.

    Well, not quite coincidentally, but not very deliberately either. It was more of a 'Sure, I'll go with you if you're going the same way as I am at the same time' thing; they weren't formally traveling together, hence May leaving him behind in Scorpio City, but they still weren't entirely just happening to be in the same place at the same time.

    In any case, I'm glad the group dynamic seemed to work for you. I was kind of horrified when I realized that I'd managed to write myself into a guy-girl-older guy twerp trio setup. :p

    Well, they were not really meant to be reactions to that specifically - mostly it was thought more as the sore loser sort of thing. But I like your interpretation better. :p

    The attempts at character development are very intentional, particularly Mark's - it is a bit of a coming-of-age story for him. The Pokémon have also been maturing, especially through evolution, though I haven't given most of them as much focus as I'd have liked.

    *grins mysteriously*

    Hehe, yup. The Pichu kid May battled was also the one that picked the Pichu at the Pokémon festival. :p Just little easter eggs for attentive readers. And to make the starter giveaway scene not feel quite as pointless.

    Heh, I hadn't thought about it that way, but it is amusing. :p

    Whee, thanks. ^^

    Amras.MG: Thanks for reading and reviewing! I'm glad you've enjoyed it.

    Yes, Leta is a Normal-type, while both of its evolutions are Normal/Steel. I wasn't thinking of any existing Pokémon when I made them, but at least they don't look much like Glameow/Aggron hybrids. :p I've created sprites of them: Leta - Letal - Letaligon

    Well, you haven't actually seen May battle in the League yet. :p You will, and she will be using her Skarmory, though yes, he's been awfully neglected lately now that you mention it. Tyranitar, Spirit and Floatzel have been stealing the spotlight.
     
  11. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    Chapter 49 at last!

    This chapter was actually really fun and turned out better than I expected in my opinion. :D The battles of the previous chapters were probably better for a number of reasons, but eh, you can't have everything. Twenty-one pages in all.

    (Side note: holy crap, there are a lot of italics in this chapter. o_O)




    The Ouen League – Chapter 49: The Rage of a Scyther

    “You know,” May said as they walked from the Pokémon Center back to the trainer lodges, “you really weren’t that bad this time. A couple of odd switches and you could probably have used Dragonite better even against the über-Lunatone, but there was some actual strategy going on in parts of it and Letal utilized the arena well. And in-battle evolution always gets you coolness points.”

    “The woman at the office building said they’d also take into account the confusion with Charizard,” Mark said. “Think that will mean extra points too?”

    “Almost definitely,” May replied. “He’s a Flying-type which would have been good on the arena and a Fire-type which would have been good against both Delibird and Letaligon. You really just might qualify now. Especially since you officially won 2-0. Good call with Scyther.”

    Mark nodded. “I guess you can thank Aaron White for that.”

    “What, don’t I get any credit for pointing out you could do it too?”

    Mark looked quizzically at May; she was smiling in a way that indicated it was a joke. He could never really be sure with her.

    “Anyway,” she went on, “that means you’re done with the preliminaries and can just fool around for the next week and a half, but I recommend you start to work on reprogramming yourself in case you qualify. The knockout rounds are six-on-six with no switching. That means your Pokémon will be facing opponents they’re weak against and you can’t just recall them and send out something else instead. Practice moves that counter their weaknesses, evasive maneuvers, stuff like that.”

    “Your next preliminary match is the day after tomorrow, right?”

    May nodded. “Not that I have to worry much. It’s the guy we saw in that desert-themed match, remember? The one who lost, with the Glaceon.”

    “Oh, yeah.” Mark paused. “Was he really that bad?”

    “Well,” May replied with a shrug, “I guess it was more his choice of Pokémon than him, per se. Maybe he learned from his mistakes with that after his first match. Still nothing special, though. I don’t think I’ll have any trouble with him.”

    Mark just nodded, wishing he had her confidence. He was still trying to wrap his head around the fact he might actually qualify to the knockout phase; he’d been hoping for it, sure, but the prospect of actually having to start preparing for it and modifying his strategies for six-on-six switchless was oddly intimidating. In the preliminaries, he’d felt like he was just battling some kids like himself. If he qualified for the knockout rounds, he’d be facing some of the top sixteen first-time trainers in Ouen this year. How could he possibly be a match for them?

    It suddenly struck him for the first time now, as they were walking through the door into the trainer lodge, that if he qualified, that made him one of those top sixteen trainers. That couldn’t be right. There was no way he would actually qualify. He hadn’t even won both of his preliminary matches. May had to be mistaken somehow.

    He summoned the courage to articulate his concerns once they’d gotten lunch from the buffet and sat down at their usual table.

    “Well,” May said, “as I keep saying, winning isn’t the point in the preliminaries. It’s all about showing off your Pokémon and your strategic thinking for the judges. You have a Dragonite and a Letaligon. You can sometimes strategize when you put your mind to it. You got pretty lucky by getting decent opponents. Thus, points. It’s as simple as that.”

    “Lucky?” Mark repeated sceptically.

    “Yes, lucky,” she said with an emphatic nod. “You made yourself look better than you are. How impressed do you think the judges are that I beat Pipsqueak Ketchum the other day? You actually got to show off some of the best you can do, especially earlier. I mean, I can guarantee you that you got more points just now than I got for my first match. Some kids here probably think they’ll qualify just because they won two matches through brute force against people who were obviously worse than them, when in reality people who lose against somebody good while using some strategy are getting much more points.”

    “So you think I really will qualify?” Mark asked hesitantly.

    “Well, of course I don’t know if you’ll qualify, but stop thinking you’re out just because you lost a preliminary match. I’d think you have a chance, personally.”

    That was the end of that conversation; Mark still wasn’t sure if he should dare to get his hopes up, but decided to take May’s advice about preparing for the knockout rounds in case he did qualify – tomorrow, anyway. He didn’t feel like training today.

    Once they’d finished eating, May went off to train while Mark retreated to his room and took out Letaligon’s Pokéball. He sat down on his bed and took a deep breath before he dropped the ball onto the floor and it released Letaligon in a flash of light.

    “I did it,” she said, only moments after she had fully materialized. “I evolved.”

    Her tone was strange: she sounded part incredulous, part triumphant and part somehow expectant. She looked down at her strong, black claws for a moment, flexing them, and then turned towards Mark, waiting for some sort of an answer.

    “Congratulations,” he said, not sure quite what he wanted to say or how to say it. “I mean, wow. I really didn’t think you’d do it.”

    “But I did,” she replied insistently. “You all thought I couldn’t evolve and I still did.”

    Mark looked at her. “Yeah,” he said. “You did.”

    “You wanted me to stop,” she went on, still looking at him. “You told me it wouldn’t work, but it did.”

    “Yeah,” Mark replied again. “I guess I was wrong.” He wondered momentarily what Nurse Joy of Acaria City would think of where this conversation was going. At least Letaligon looked slightly more satisfied now, stopped staring at Mark and looked around the room for a moment; it occurred to Mark that it must feel a lot smaller to her now that she was a Letaligon.

    “When do we go back to Ruxido?” she asked at last.

    “Not until after the League, remember,” Mark said. “You were going to stay throughout the League and then we’d go there to release you.”

    “Oh,” Letaligon answered and did not say anything more, but by now Mark had realized what it was he had really wanted to talk to her about.

    “So Letaligon,” he began, “are you still... do you still want to kill your father?”

    “Yes,” she said with a hint of defensive stubbornness to her voice. “Of course I do. Why wouldn’t I?”

    Because Charmeleon had grown out of wanting to kill Scyther when he evolved. Because her evolution had been a sort of final chance for that entire situation to resolve itself before anybody had to be killed. But he didn’t say anything.

    “So… yeah, you were going to stay and continue to battle,” he said eventually. When he got no immediate answer, he added, “You kind of have to now, since without Gyarados I only have six Pokémon. I can’t make a full team without you.”

    “Yes,” she replied distractedly as she examined the armor on her back. “I will. I just forgot.” She looked up. “Can I go back in my Pokéball now?”

    Mark nodded and took out her ball to recall her.

    -------

    The next day, while May was off training for her second preliminary match, Mark lay in his bed with his sketchbook and began to put together a type vulnerability chart for his team. It was an idea that had popped into his head the day before: since he only had six Pokémon, it would be nice to get a good idea of what the major weaknesses of his team were and how to take measures against them.

    His team’s great weak spot was clearly the Rock weakness, with Charizard, Dragonite and Scyther all vulnerable, but on the upside, both Sandslash and Letaligon would be solid choices for dealing with Rock-types. Ice-types were also a threat to Sandslash, Dragonite and Scyther, but he had Charizard and Letaligon for them. Among the more minor weaknesses was Ground, for both Jolteon and Letaligon, though he of course had three Flying-types to take advantage of that…

    He stopped all of a sudden. This really wasn’t the right way to approach this, was it? In a battle with no switching, compounded weaknesses could hardly be as much of a problem as otherwise. Each Rock-type brought out into battle would only get to take down exactly one Pokémon that was weak to it, but he could then send out something that wasn’t weak to it to beat it, without the opponent ever getting to take advantage of the fact Mark might have other Pokémon that were also weak to Rock.

    He tore the page out of the sketchbook, crumpled it and threw it into the garbage before starting over by writing up a simple list of his Pokémon and their weaknesses.

    Charizard (Fire/Flying) – weak to Rock (x2), Water, Electric
    Jolteon (Electric) – weak to Ground
    Sandslash (Ground) – weak to Water, Grass, Ice
    Dragonite (Dragon/Flying) – weak to Ice (x2), Rock, Dragon
    Scyther (Bug/Flying) – weak to Rock (x2), Ice, Electric, Fire
    Letaligon (Normal/Steel) – weak to Fighting (x2), Ground, Fire


    Charizard. Rock, Water and Electric. What would he do against those types when unable to switch? He had no super-effective moves against any of them and probably couldn’t learn a lot. The only type that would give him a fighting chance against Electric-types was Ground – he was pretty sure Charizard could learn the Earthquake TM. He’d have to shell out some money for it, but if he qualified, it would probably be worth it.

    Earthquake would also help against Rock-types – which left Water. Water Pokémon were only weak to Grass and Electric attacks, and he was pretty sure Charizard couldn’t get any of those. Or could he? He seemed to remember looking at a list sometime and being surprised by how many Pokémon could learn attacks like Thunder Fang, Fire Fang and Thunderpunch. Perhaps Charizard was one of them. And what Grass attacks were there again? The drains, Razor Leaf, Vine Whip – no way – Grass Knot, Leaf Blade, Solarbeam...

    An image popped up in his head: a televised Old-Timers’ League match, himself gazing mesmerized at the Charizard on the screen as it gathered the sun’s energy into an orb in its mouth and fired a bright beam of light at the Swampert on the other side of the arena while the latter’s trainer stared in horror. Charizard could learn Solarbeam. Better still, he thought with a grin as he wrote it down, Solarbeam benefitted from Sunny Day just like his Fire moves, and it would beat Rock-types too. With it and Earthquake, Charizard should be reasonably well off no matter what was brought out against him.

    Jolteon was more problematic. He definitely couldn’t learn any Water, Grass or Ice moves to employ against the Ground-types that would inevitably be sent out against him. He did have Swift, but that wouldn’t be very effective against the many Ground-types that were also Rock or Steel, and it wasn’t an overly powerful attack anyhow. He had Pin Missile, but being a physical attack, that would probably be even worse. Mark frowned. Could Jolteon learn any other good special attacks that would help him against Ground-types? He couldn’t really remember. Perhaps he should keep Jolteon for later when he could go to the library and look it up.

    Sandslash. He’d always been a bit lacking in the moves department – usually, Mark had just stuck with Earthquake, but that wouldn’t work now. The problem was that he was pretty sure there was no way Sandslash could learn Grass or Electric attacks that might beat Water-type opponents, and while he did have Gyro Ball, a Steel attack, which he could employ against Ice-types, and Poison Sting, which Grass-types would be vulnerable to, neither was a very reliably powerful attack. Admittedly only Grass was actually resistant to Earthquake, so he could still use that, but the situation was still pretty poor. And what about Flying-types, who would be immune to Earthquake altogether? Could Sandslash learn any Rock attacks? He thought about it. Yeah, he had Rollout, didn’t he? Though that wasn’t the best choice. Perhaps he could learn Rock Slide? He was pretty sure there was a TM for that. He made a note to look it up. That would also come in handy against the Ice-types. What about Grass-types? Could he learn Aerial Ace? That would be a possibility too.

    Dragonite had a bigger movepool; he had Fire Punch against the Ice-types, Dragon Rush against other Dragon-types, and Aqua Tail against the Rock-types. He had a pretty solid way of defending himself against most anything, as far as Mark could tell. Nothing to worry about, then.

    Scyther was troublesome; he had four weaknesses and not the widest variety of moves in the world. Though he had Brick Break against Rock-types, it was still a physical attack, which didn’t mix well with the generally good physical defensive abilities of most Rock Pokémon; he’d have to be careful. Brick Break would also help against Ice-types. Electric and Fire Pokémon, on the other hand, he had nothing especially good against, and Mark doubted he could learn anything that would be – he just couldn’t picture Scyther learning Ground, Rock or Water attacks. Perhaps he’d look it up anyway just in case.

    And finally, Letaligon. She had Aerial Ace for any Fighting-types she might have to face, but Ground and Fire-types were harder to work around. Could she perhaps learn Earthquake too? That would handle the Fire-types. But Water, Grass or Ice moves for the Ground-types just weren’t likely. She’d have to stick with her Normal or Steel attacks. They wouldn’t be that bad, anyway.

    He looked over the notes he’d written down. That was several TMs he’d have to get to try to counter all his Pokémon’s weaknesses. He sighed. He couldn’t go buying them now – he probably wouldn’t qualify at all, and then there was no real reason to get them unless they were about to battle legendaries of particular types. But if he did qualify and bought all the TMs afterwards, they wouldn’t have as much time to practice the new attacks before the start of the knockout rounds, and he could imagine that it would take some practice for them to master moves of completely different elements well enough to hold their own against something with a type advantage. The extra days would probably count.

    He put the sketchbook down on the bedside table and thought about it. He wanted to be hopeful – even May was hopeful on his behalf, which was saying something – but he really could not reasonably believe he would qualify, and since he was still wasting his parents’ money, he really owed it to them to be reasonable about it.

    Especially since his parents thought he was dead.

    “They don’t,” said a voice in his head; Mark momentarily jumped. It had been a while since he’d spoken to Chaletwo and the sensation had become bizarrely unfamiliar.

    “Hm?” he asked aloud.

    “They don’t think you’re dead,” Chaletwo repeated.

    Mark furrowed his brow. “Really? Then what do they think?”

    “They don’t think anything,” Chaletwo answered. “Or rather, they don’t think about you. If they’re reminded that you exist, they’ll briefly remember you’re out on a Pokémon journey and then move on to thinking about something else. That’s what the memory modification does. It makes the memory of you feel like something unimportant and vague, and completely dissociates it from the death at the Pokémon Festival, if they remember that at all.”

    “Huh.” Mark somehow wasn’t sure if he liked the idea of that better or worse than the idea that they thought he was dead. It was a bit creepy to think that they were pretty much being mind-controlled, unable to think about certain things – it seemed like it couldn’t actually be them if they weren’t worrying about him all the time.

    On the other hand, though he hadn’t really thought about it before, he couldn’t even imagine what kind of grief his parents had gone through when they’d heard he had died. They loved him more than anything else in the world. They’d probably been mortified. They must have cried for days. It was probably a good thing they could no longer remember it.

    And then it struck him, strangely, almost absurdly: his parents loved him. They really, really loved him. Looking back, he’d been a really annoying, obnoxious kid, really, always whining that they were overprotective and that he wanted to go on a Pokémon journey – he still didn’t think it had been right of them to forbid him to go, but suddenly it didn’t seem quite so horribly wrong. “I promise I won’t get myself killed,” he had shouted as he waved goodbye, as a joke – and what had he then ended up doing? He’d gone and confirmed all their suspicions, gotten himself killed by Chaletwo just like they’d feared all along. They’d just been trying to keep him safe – their methods had been misguided, maybe, but they really didn’t exist just to make his life difficult. And, well, he’d always known that, nominally, but somehow this was the first time he truly realized it.

    It struck him then, too, that he didn’t have ‘parent problems’ like Letaligon. How could he even begin to think that? Her father had rejected her because she wasn’t shiny. His had always loved him. He was lucky. They weren’t the same at all.

    And somehow, strangely, that made him feel better about it. He still hated the idea of Letaligon killing anyone – but he knew his Pokémon had killed before, and suddenly it didn’t really matter anymore that it was her father. What made him being her father meaningful, anyway, if he’d never cared? He still wished she would get over it, but the thought was no longer as personally disturbing as it had used to be.

    He blinked and started to chuckle. Realizing how much his own parents loved him (it sounded so stupid and cheesy in retrospect) had made him feel better about patricide. That didn’t even make sense.

    He lay there for a moment, thinking, but then stood up, picked up his sketchbook and headed off to the library to look up those TMs.

    -------

    May’s second preliminary battle went swimmingly – it was a little harder than she’d expected, or so she said afterwards, but she nonetheless won with her Blaziken comfortably healthy, if tired, by the time he delivered the final blow, and overall, though Mark probably wasn’t the best judge of it, her strategies had at least looked impressive.

    After that, there were two tense days of waiting while the judging on all the battles was finalized, and the pair of them was briefly reunited as May helped him and the Pokémon get into the switchless mindset – she also voiced her approval of most of the TMs he had written down – though Mark could not shake off the thought of how stupid he would feel if it all turned out to be for nothing. He found himself swinging repeatedly between thinking he’d probably make the cut after all – usually after May talked him up some – and being convinced there was simply no way; by the evening of the ninth of August, he had simply decided to keep his expectations low, partly so he wouldn’t be disappointed and partly just to decide something.

    Finally, on the morning of the tenth, May dragged him out of bed at ten minutes to nine, hissing that everybody else was already waiting outside by the announcement screen.

    Still half-asleep, he gobbled up some breakfast while May drummed her fingers on the table and gave him a speech. Apparently, she’d been trying to wake him up since half past the hour and had already had her breakfast, though for all Mark remembered she could as well have been making that up. Then she had apparently somehow used her name tag in a creative way to break into his room to wake him, which was kind of creepy, but he had to consider it a possibility, since he was pretty sure he’d locked the door the previous night. After May had checked her watch conspicuously several times, she finally ordered him to leave his half-eaten bacon and ushered him outside to the crowd of trainers while what he had managed to eat turned into butterflies in his stomach.

    Mark couldn’t really see a thing; although the announcement screen was mounted on the top of a metal pole, there were too many people taller than him standing on tiptoe to see over one another’s heads all around. He could make out between a couple of heads that the screen was still blank, though. He looked unsurely up at May.

    “It should be coming,” she muttered without looking at him, and he tried to shift himself to the left in the hope that that would give him a convenient gap to look through; it didn’t. He briefly considered going farther away so his line of sight would go over the crowd, but then realized that then he probably wouldn’t be able to read what was on it from that far away anyway.

    The screen flickered to life, immediately eliciting gasps and shouts from the waiting trainers, and the butterflies in Mark’s stomach redoubled their fluttering efforts. He tried to push himself up using May’s shoulder as leverage, but she elbowed him away. The standard blue background came on the screen, and then he couldn’t see a thing as somebody quickly pushed past him to fill the only gap he had.

    There was an explosion of disappointed groans, punctuated by a few screams of joy. Mark’s heart skipped a beat as he made a final attempt to see something and then looked hopelessly up at May – she stood on tiptoe, craning her neck over the people in front of her, and then –

    “I’m in!” she said and looked at him with a grin. His gaze alone must have gotten the message that he couldn’t see anything across, because she almost immediately looked back at the screen. “And so are you – congratulations, Mark!”

    For a moment he looked at her quizzically, having somehow forgotten exactly what they were there for. Even after he’d blinked that off, it took a few more seconds for it to sink in. “Wait, really?” he asked over the noise of the squabbling trainers. “I qualified?”

    “Yup,” she said. “It’s right there.”

    The crowd was already thinning a little, so by shifting around some, Mark managed to finally get a good look at the screen for himself. It was a simple list of sixteen names – he noticed Aaron White’s there before he found his own, but once he’d found it, it was definitely there. He read it a few times over to make sure.

    He hadn’t meant to be this surprised if he managed to qualify. He’d thought he was reasonably used to the idea by now. The next thing to pop up in his head was that all the training and preparations wouldn’t be for nothing after all.

    After that, I’d like to see Mrs. Grodski’s face if she heard that I just qualified to the knockout rounds of the League! He grinned widely at the thought.

    “So,” May asked, “since we’re both moving on to the knockout rounds, how about some joint training?”

    “Not yet,” he replied, still grinning. “I’ve got some TMs to buy.”

    -------

    For the next few days, they continued to train, mostly practicing their Pokémon’s various weakness-countering moves. On the thirteenth, the first elimination round matchups were published; Mark’s opponent was another one of those vaguely familiar faces he couldn’t put his finger on, some guy named Michael Willows, while May was matched against none other than Aaron White. “Consider your defeat avenged,” she’d said with bemusement upon finding out. Afterwards, they went to the library together to look up their opponents’ teams and then separated to prepare for their battles.

    “Okay, guys,” Mark told his Pokémon at their usual training spot. “This guy has nine Pokémon of a variety of types. Let’s see...” He looked at his notebook. “Blastoise, Breloom, Donphan, Flareon, Gallade, Lucario, Manectric, Scizor...” Mark glanced at Scyther; the Pokémon winced and looked away. “...And Staraptor.”

    “Three Fighting-types,” Letaligon was quick to point out.

    Mark nodded. “Yeah. That’ll only really be a problem for you, though.” He paused. “Well, first things first. Who has the least of a disadvantage against all of them, who could open the battle?”

    “Dragonite,” Charizard said immediately.

    Mark looked over the list again. Yes, Michael Willows had no Ice, Rock or Dragon-types at all. “Okay, we’ll start with him, then, if it’s okay with you?”

    Dragonite nodded in agreement along with the others.

    They ran over a few hypothetical scenarios of how the battle might go from there; the first ended uncomfortably with Michael’s Flareon and one extra Pokémon against Letaligon, and the rest had a worrying tendency to end pessimistically, though Letaligon was quick to point out that they were not accounting for the fact Michael would have to pick out his team of six beforehand and that they could win even when at a disadvantage.

    “There’s another thing,” Mark said before they went to lunch. “This guy is thirteen. His profile says he’s participated in leagues in other regions. I mean, the Pokémon he’s using now have obviously not been in continuous training all that time, and if any of them were brought over from the other regions, they’ve regressed to around the levels of most of the trainers here, but he probably has a lot more experience as a trainer than most. I’m a bit worried about that.”

    Scyther shrugged. “If he’s still playing in the regional Newcomers’ Leagues and starting over his training every time, he can’t be very confident in his abilities.”

    “I guess,” Mark said reluctantly, still not convinced. “His team seems pretty good, though.”

    “We’ll do our best,” said Dragonite. “Even if we lose, it’s great to have gotten this far.”

    Mark nodded. He was right about that. Again, Mrs. Grodski’s imaginary scandalized expression popped up in his head and made him chuckle. At least he’d exceeded her expectations already. Anything more was just a bonus, right?
     
  12. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    -------

    Both of their battles were on the fifteenth, the first day of the knockout rounds; May’s was in the morning, but she convinced Mark the night before that he’d be better off getting some sleep and then preparing for his own battle than watching hers. She won anyhow, as she told him when they met at the trainer lodge for lunch, though her lack of enthusiasm to tell him the details of how it went made him wonder if she’d perhaps had a more difficult time with Aaron White than she’d expected. Then he had to go to retrieve his Pokémon, she wished him luck, and they parted again.

    He got his six Pokémon from the League offices and the receptionist lady took him to the trainer stand on the main battle arena, just like for the second preliminary match. He had a weird déjà vu feeling walking up those familiar stairs up to the metal railing on the trainer stand, but looking over the stadium was a decidedly different feeling: the arena was normal now, with no special type gimmicks; there was just rough, solid ground with white battle arena markings painted onto it and a large pool on the side, all in all making it look oddly solemn compared to the themed battlefields of the preliminaries.

    Michael Willows, a tall boy with large, brown eyes and spiky, dark red hair stood on the other trainer stand, the trainer close-up on the giant screens on the side showing him looking around the audience stands with a faint smile. He was fiddling with a minimized Pokéball in his right hand; it was probably what he was going to bring out first. Mark figured it might not be such a bad idea to have the ball ready, so he took out Dragonite’s. He looked around the audience stands as they filled and thought he saw May enter at one point, but couldn’t be sure.

    “Trainers, ready Pokéballs,” said a voice at last. Mark saw Michael look up and maximize the ball he was holding; he did the same.

    “Ready... set... throw!”

    They hurled the balls out at the same time and Mark squinted at the shape of light that was forming out of Michael’s ball. It became a slender, humanshape sort of thing – Lucario, he realized as the light began to fade away. Dragonite, fully formed, jumped into the air and began to fly.

    “Dragonite, use a Fire Punch!” Mark shouted.

    “Lucario, Dragon Pulse!” came the quick countercommand.

    Lucario was quicker. It closed its eyes, the aura sensors on the sides of its head thrust out sideways, and a pulse of blue energy rippled through the air, striking Dragonite in mid-dive. He was knocked backwards in the air and winced in pain, but continued down towards his opponent as flames circled his fist and delivered a punch that knocked Lucario back like a ragdoll, though as a Fighting-type, it handled the fall gracefully and was quickly back on its feet.

    “Now use an Ice Punch!” Michael ordered without missing a beat. Mark realized with dread that he hadn’t really assumed Lucario would know something like Ice Punch, but there was little to do about it now.

    “Dragonite, Dragon Dance!” he called, hoping Dragonite would survive long enough to benefit from it. Lucario was already leaping towards the dragon Pokémon and smashed its icy fist across his face; he cried out in pain and stumbled back before lifting farther up and beginning a quick dance in the air.

    “Lucario, Metal Sound!”

    Mark couldn’t for the life of him remember what that attack did, but was none too keen on waiting to find out, so he shouted, “Fire Punch again!” as Dragonite finished his dance.

    Lucario closed its eyes to focus again and then struck the metal spikes on the backs of its paws together, forming a loud, high-pitched sound that made Dragonite cringe and waver in his flight as he dived. Flames surrounded his paw again and he smacked it into Lucario’s body, sending it flying even farther than before.

    “And now Roost!” Mark said quickly.

    “Lucario, Dragon Pulse!”

    Dragonite landed on the ground some distance away and lay down curled up, closing his eyes as a mild blue glow surrounded his body to heal him. Meanwhile, Lucario concentrated and sent another pulse of draconic energy towards him. Strangely, this time it actually made him twist in pain, even though he was healing himself. Perhaps it was that Metal Sound’s fault somehow.

    “Use another Fire Punch!”

    Dragonite managed to leap up and glide towards Lucario, fire gathering around his chubby fist...

    “Another Dragon Pulse!”

    Dragonite drove his fiery paw into Lucario’s stomach and the aura Pokémon let itself roll backwards before sending another Dragon Pulse his way. The Roost had probably saved him; Dragonite was knocked harshly back, but he remained conscious.

    “Fire Punch!” Mark shouted, his heart thumping. He was sure that would do the trick –

    “Lucario, use Extremespeed!”

    Lucario took a leap and turned into a dark blue blur in the air as it smacked itself into Dragonite’s body. He bounced back in the air and then crashed into the ground, where he tried weakly to stand up.

    “Another Extremespeed,” called Michael, and his Lucario smashed down onto Dragonite’s back, knocking the wind out of him and ensuring his defeat, to an explosion of cheering from the audience.

    Mark bit his lip; seeing as Dragonite was his strongest Pokémon and they’d been mostly evenly matched type-wise, this didn’t bode very well. “Good work, Dragonite,” he said anyway, recalling the dragon’s limp body.

    Right. Lucario. His choices were pretty much Charizard and Sandslash, if he wanted the type advantage. However, Lucario had used up all of its four moves in the fight with Dragonite, and one of them was Ice Punch – he did not want Sandslash out there against something he knew had an Ice attack. So Charizard was...

    It suddenly struck him that, yes, Lucario had used up all of its four moves. Dragon Pulse, Ice Punch, Extremespeed and Metal Sound. Its Fighting advantages were null and void now. Which meant...

    “Go, Letaligon!” he called, throwing her ball out. “Use Earthquake!”

    “Lucario, use Metal Sound!”

    Letaligon emerged on the battlefield as Lucario struck its metal spikes together again to produce that high-pitched ringing sound again. She winced but then reared up on her hind legs and came down to smash her front paws into the ground, producing a powerful ripple that travelled across the ground and underneath Lucario. It shivered and crouched down in an attempt to survive it; Letaligon eyed it warily, but finally it submitted to unconsciousness and fell limply on its side.

    “You did great, Lucario,” said Michael as he recalled his Pokémon. He paused for a moment before taking out his next ball. “Scizor, I choose you!”

    Mark was momentarily puzzled; didn’t Michael have a Donphan, a Flareon and two more Fighting-types? He couldn’t possibly not have brought any of them for the battle.

    “Use Brick Break!” Michael ordered as the Bug Pokémon finished materializing. Of course.

    “Letaligon, um, use a Metal Burst!” Mark called while trying to think. Would Iron Defense be worth it? She had little chance of beating it when it had an attack she was so weak to and the most effective attack she could use against it was the only moderately effective Earthquake, which she wasn’t the best user of. Perhaps just Metal Bursting until she fainted was her best bet.

    The Scizor, surprisingly quick, darted across the arena, pulling its right pincer back before it swung it like a hammer into Letaligon’s side. She lost her balance momentarily and stumbled to regain it before her entire body turned metallic and swung a paw into the Scizor’s body in an exaggerated reflection of its move. It was knocked back and landed on the ground but quickly rose to its feet.

    “Swords Dance,” Michael ordered. His Scizor began to mime dueling an invisible, impossibly quick opponent, spinning around to seemingly block several attacks at once in between precise strikes at the air; it was a much more dramatic execution of Swords Dance than how for example Scyther and Charizard did it, though Mark wasn’t sure if that gave it any advantage or if it was just a personal quirk. He chuckled at it anyhow, half amused and half nervous: if he gave Scizor too much opportunity to power itself up, Charizard would have a more difficult time with it once it had finished Letaligon off.

    “Hypnosis!” Mark finally came up with.

    “Double Team, Scizor!”

    Letaligon tried to focus on the Scizor’s eyes, but it nonchalantly faced away from her and formed two illusory copies of itself before turning back around, something about its mouthless expression managing to seem smug.

    Mark gritted his teeth. Hypnosis was unreliable enough as it was. “Earthquake, then,” he ordered, and Letaligon reared up to smash her paws into the ground once again. The ground rippled; the three Scizor took a simultaneous leap to avoid it, but Letaligon, snarling in frustration, pounded the ground again to keep the quake going as they landed. The Earthquake ripples quickly dissolved the two copies, leaving the real Scizor alone.

    “Brick Break again,” Michael called. Scizor zoomed forward to smash a pincer into Letaligon’s side, exactly where she’d been hit before; Mark might have been imagining it, but he was sure the armor dented visibly. Letaligon stumbled back, severely weakened.

    “Metal Burst!” Mark shouted quickly.

    “Bullet Punch!” countered Michael.

    Before Letaligon could react, the Scizor smashed its pincer upwards into her jaw, and she let out a yelp of pain before she swayed and collapsed.

    “Come back, Letaligon,” Mark said, holding her ball forward to recall her. “Charizard, go!”

    As the dragon Pokémon began to form, he was about to order a Flamethrower when he realized that Michael would probably send out Blastoise next, and once it was out, wasting time on a Sunny Day to set up Solarbeam could be a fatal mistake. Scizor, on the other hand, had little ability to harm Charizard and so would be a better choice to waste time against.

    “Use Sunny Day and then Flamethrower, Charizard!” he called.

    “Scizor, Double Team,” ordered Michael.

    Charizard took off from the ground and roared towards the cloudy sky. Instantly, the wispy clouds parted and the warmth of the sun’s intensified rays spread over the stadium, heating it to almost uncomfortable levels. Scizor ignored it and split itself into three identical clones that simultaneously looked up at Charizard with mischievous tilts of their heads. The dragon growled, flames licking the corners of his mouth on the close-up screen before he threw his head forward and sent a bright cone of flame rushing towards the middle Scizor. The Scizor copies jumped into the air in an attempt to avoid it, but thanks to how much the Flamethrower had spread at that distance, it was impossible to avoid completely; flames licked the middle Scizor’s legs, and they simply melted away. Now that its cover had been blown, the illusory copy vanished, leaving only two Scizor left, but each of them split again to create six identical ones. Charizard growled in annoyance.

    Michael was probably trying to stall, Mark reasoned – trying to make Charizard exhaust himself as much as possible trying to dissolve the copies one by one, since Scizor could only hurt him minimally. There had to be a better way.

    “Charizard, use Heat Wave!” Mark shouted, slightly wary about using up his third attack, but it was probably better than if Charizard had to face a Blastoise while too tired.

    The dragon Pokémon took a deep breath and then opened his mouth. A mirage-like ripple of heat spread across the arena and the Scizor simultaneously jumped to avoid it; three of them could not get out of the way of the attack and dissolved, while the others remained, signifying the real one was one of them.

    “Scizor, Brick Break!” Michael ordered quickly and the three Scizor shot into the air in some mixture of almost-flight and a leap and smashed their pincers into Charizard’s body. The dragon turned quickly towards one of them – the one whose blow had actually struck – and released a bright Flamethrower from his mouth that caught the Scizor head-on. It crumpled towards the ground, charred and glowing with heat.

    Mark smiled as the dragon looked quickly towards him. “Nice one, Charizard.”

    Michael recalled his Scizor and paused before grabbing another ball and throwing it. “Go, Manectric! Use Rain Dance!”

    Of course. He wouldn’t send Blastoise out into a Sunny Day when he had another Pokémon with a type advantage. “Charizard, Earthquake!” Mark called.

    He had hoped Charizard would manage to be quicker, but no such luck. The Manectric howled at the sky, and sudden clouds began to form in a solid disk above the stadium even as Charizard took a dive and smashed his feet into the ground, sending ripples of pressure towards the doglike Pokémon; it cringed in pain, a few sparks flying loose from its fur.

    The first few raindrops produced by the Rain Dance turned into a heavy downpour, and Mark was thankful for the force field that kept him dry. Charizard was not as lucky; he winced as the rain hit his tail flame and tried to keep it under his body to shield it. “Another Earthquake, Charizard,” Mark ordered, figuring it would be worse in the end to try to use Sunny Day again and essentially give the Manectric a free move.

    “Thunder!” called Michael.

    The Manectric roared powerfully, sparks flying around its pyramid-shaped mane, and a bolt of lightning struck Charizard from the clouds above. He writhed and twisted in pain, faltering dangerously in his flight before he managed to regain control of his wings; then he managed to land to produce another tremor, though thanks to the shorter fall, it was weak compared to the first, and the Manectric shrugged it off with a worrying ease.

    “Try again!” Mark called desperately.

    “Another Thunder!”

    Charizard began to take off from the ground, but another bolt of lightning struck him, this time sending him crashing straight back into the ground so he landed awkwardly on his side. He managed to rise anyway and tried to fly up, but he was hurt and his flight was awkward and sluggish; without an order, the Manectric roared towards the sky again. Yet another jolt of electricity passed from the clouds into Charizard’s body, and he fell limply to the ground, unconscious.

    Mark bit his lip. “I’m sorry, Charizard,” he muttered as he took out his Pokéball to recall him. “Sandslash, do it! Earthquake!”

    “Manectric, Swift!”

    As Sandslash finished forming, Manectric fired a flurry of glowing stars from its mouth that converged on Sandslash, bombarding him before he’d had the chance to curl into a ball for defense. He tried to shield his head with his paws until it was over and was then quick to leap into the air and smash his paws into the ground to produce an Earthquake; being a Ground-type and considerably better at the attack than Charizard, the ripples in the ground this time looked considerably more powerful, and as they passed under Manectric’s feet, it shuddered violently, emitting a shower of sparks before it stumbled and collapsed.

    Michael looked unsurprised. “Manectric, return,” he said, recalling the fallen Pokémon. “Blastoise, go!”

    “Earthquake!” Mark ordered quickly.

    “Hydro Pump!”

    As the tortoise Pokémon emerged, Sandslash took another leap, but the Blastoise was quicker than Mark anticipated; it had already pointed its cannon straight towards Sandslash, and a torrent of water blasted out from it. The pangolin, however, managed somehow to react and get himself out of the way, or perhaps it was just poorly aimed in exchange for being so fast; in any case, the jet of water passed just by Sandslash’s side, and he smashed into the ground, producing another Earthquake. Blastoise grunted as the tremor passed underneath it, but didn’t seem to hurt it that much.

    “Try again! Hydro Pump!”

    “Another Earthquake!”

    Mark wasn’t very hopeful on Sandslash’s behalf; the Blastoise took aim at him, but then actually waited a moment for the pangolin to jump and fired its cannon the moment he landed. The blast of water sent Sandslash flying into the wall on Mark’s end of the arena before the Earthquake ripples reached Blastoise and threw off its aim. It roared in pain this time, but remained on its feet.

    Mark looked down at where Sandslash was lying in a heap below him in the mud and was about to take out his ball to recall him when he stirred and suddenly took one more strained leap to pull off a final Earthquake. It was clumsy and looked weakish, but the Blastoise was very nearly knocked off its feet simply because it wasn’t prepared for it. It growled and sent one more quick blast of water from one cannon straight at the prone form of Sandslash, who merely braced himself for the attack and let it knock him unconscious.

    With a guilty sigh, Mark recalled him, wishing he’d had the sense to do it before he was hit by the final attack. He took a moment to take a deep breath and think about the situation so far. He had two Pokémon left. Michael had three. Unless Jolteon or Scyther managed to take down two Pokémon and turn the tables, Michael was winning.

    And all things considered, really, how likely was that? Neither of them was the best at countering their weaknesses. He might really have lost the battle at the first round, when Lucario had managed to take Dragonite down, and that thought depressed him. At least he’d tried, he thought dully, but the thought felt hollow and fake.

    “Jolteon, go,” he said and threw Jolteon’s ball into the arena. “Thunderb...” he began before he remembered it was still raining. “No, Thunder! Quick!”

    “Blastoise, Earthquake!”

    More Earthquakes. Somehow he was getting really sick of that move by now.

    Jolteon readied himself, crouching down as he manipulated the electrons in his opponent, and a lightning bolt struck the tortoise where it stood. This time it roared in real pain, something about it oddly satisfying.

    He hoped it would go down immediately, but it didn’t (how could that thing survive a Thunder and two Earthquakes?), and it stomped its foot on the ground, producing yet another series of spreading ripples in the ground.

    Mark clenched his fists, praying that their training would pay off: they’d practiced Earthquake-dodging with May for a whole day at one point. Jolteon stood tense, waiting for the Earthquake waves to reach him, and then jumped at just the right moment – Mark’s heart thumped – he landed neatly between two ripples and managed to jump again before the next had reached him – he landed again –

    He was a split second too late for the next jump; he yelped as electric sparks scattered out from his body, lost his footing on the wet ground and took the full force of the rest of the attack. He stood up, trembling, and tried to shake the water and mud from his fur.

    “Blastoise, get a Hydro Pump in!”

    “One more Thunder! Please!” Mark pleaded. He couldn’t lose with a type advantage. Not here. Not now. Somehow his mind conjured up an image of Mrs. Grodski’s condescending I-told-you-so smile.

    The tortoise was already aiming its cannon, and while concentrating on the attack, Jolteon couldn’t hope to try to dodge at the same time. Mark was sure he saw a hint of fear shining in his eyes on the Pokémon close-up screen.

    The Blastoise fired its Hydro Pump (why was it so fast?) and Jolteon was blasted straight into the wall just as lightning struck the Blastoise. It bellowed in pain, collapsing onto all fours; its legs trembled, and then it surrendered to its own weight, knocked out.

    The audience cheered. Mark looked down at Jolteon; he was lying in a muddy pool of water, shivering, probably barely conscious. He watched Michael recall his Blastoise, seeming to eye Jolteon with concern as he took out his next Pokéball.

    “Donphan, go!”

    Mark saw Jolteon look weakly up and try to rise.

    He’d pretty much lost the battle already. There was no reason to make Jolteon suffer more for the small possibility of getting one weak attack in.

    “Jolteon, return,” he muttered as he watched the elephant Pokémon form on the other side. The rain was subsiding, leaving the arena covered with small, dirty puddles.

    He took out Scyther’s ball and looked at it, wondering for a moment if he should just surrender and save him the need of getting hurt too. But Scyther never shied away from battles; he’d probably want to fight to the last. He had to try to go out with something of a bang. Perhaps he’d manage to beat Donphan and even put something of a dent in Michael’s last Pokémon.

    “Go, Scyther!”

    “Donphan, Rollout!”

    “No!” Mark blurted out. “Scyther, Double Team!”

    Scyther split himself into three as the Donphan curled itself into a ball and rolled towards him; it somehow managed to jump and went straight through a copy, dissolving it before landing harshly on the ground on the other side and uncurling.

    “Scyther, use a Swords Da...”

    Mark trailed off as he realized Scyther didn’t look like he was listening to him; both of the remaining copies were in fact staring straight at Michael, and Michael was staring straight back, eyes wide, his knuckles white as they gripped the railing.

    Scyther wasn’t just staring, Mark realized as he glanced at the Pokémon close-up screen. He was staring murderously, the way Mark only remembered him staring at Scizor.

    And then it suddenly clicked in his head where he had seen Michael before – in Ruxido, unconscious and bleeding, for those few seconds before the paramedics had teleported away with him – Nightmare’s trainer, the boy Scyther had tried to kill. And then the Scizor earlier – that meant –

    Everything swirled around in Mark’s head. For a moment he felt dizzy and had to grab the railing too to keep his balance. He noticed somewhere in the back of his mind that the audience had gone dead silent. Donphan stood there, looking up at its trainer with concern. Michael was frozen, his lips pressed together, his face pale.

    Both Scyther roared and leapt up without warning, performing a quick series of spinning slashes on the air before charging into Donphan.

    “Aerial Ace!” Mark had the sense to shout to make the move legal before Scyther slashed at his opponent. Donphan cried out in pain, looked quickly up at its trainer and then curled up again to use its only available move. The two Scyther copies were already splitting themselves into a total of six and moving in for another Aerial Ace.

    Mark looked quickly up at the trainer close-up of Michael. He was no longer even watching; he stood a bit hunched over, looking down, still supporting himself against the railing. He heard Donphan whimper as it was struck again by an illusory army of roaring Scyther; all five of them (it must have managed to hit and dissolve one copy, he realized dimly) stepped back for another Swords Dance. The Donphan called worriedly out to its trainer. Mark knew he should be telling Scyther to stop, but something stopped him; a thousand different excuses swam around in his head.

    Michael looked up when he heard his Pokémon calling for him; the Scyther copies were Swords Dancing again. “Donphan,” he called, his voice weak, “use a... Rock Sl...”

    Scyther moved in to strike with his duplicates. In a flash of five raised scythes, he pulled off one more Aerial Ace before moving away. The Donphan lay bleeding in the middle, unconscious.

    Michael swallowed, looking down again. “I’m sorry,” he said and took out a Pokéball, recalling his Pokémon blindly. There were a few moments of dead silence as Michael took deep, steadying breaths. Mark was beginning to feel sick; his hand fiddled with Scyther’s Pokéball. He knew he should recall him and see if Michael was okay.

    But the referees hadn’t called for a suspension of the match – presumably they only did that if the trainer was clearly physically ill. Recalling him would mean surrendering.

    And he could win. Only minutes ago he’d been convinced the match was lost already, but now it was down to one on one, with Scyther healthy, Double Teamed and powered up; he had a real, good chance of winning this battle now, proceeding to the second knockout round.

    Wasn’t Michael the trainer who had caught Nightmare and evolved her without asking, sentencing her to a life as a creature her species despised? Didn’t he deserve it, really?

    Mark let go of the Pokéball, and it struck him for a moment that what was making him nauseous was his own feelings. Then that thought was gone.

    Michael looked up again, though not down at the arena. “All right,” he said, “Flareon, go!”

    He threw his final ball, releasing the Fire Pokémon. Yet again, Michael had the type advantage.

    Mark’s apparently five Scyther growled simultaneously at the Flareon and then, again, moved without a command.

    Michael shuddered on his trainer stand. “Flareon, um...” He hesitated, looking away as his Pokémon glanced up at him in confusion only to be struck down by an Aerial Ace; it screamed, the sound high-pitched and piercing. “Heat Wave.”

    The Flareon stood up, opened its mouth and breathed out an invisible wave of heat that managed to strike three Scyther; two melted away, but the last was the real one, who cried out in pain as the scorching heat charred the front of his exoskeleton and threw him back. He doubled over to catch his breath, the final two copies disappearing now that his concentration had faltered.

    “Aerial Ace!” Mark called, his voice sounding strange; it occurred dimly to him that he hadn’t given an order since Scyther’s first strike at Donphan. Scyther was already back up and rushing towards Flareon again, but the other Pokémon had its back turned, trying to make eye contact with its trainer; Michael was burying his face in his hands, shaking his head. “Endure,” he said, but he was too late. With a roar of fury, Scyther delivered a final blow to the unwary Flareon, who let out a miserable cry before it collapsed, blood staining its yellow neck collar.

    There was no cheering from the audience this time; there were just shouts and puzzled chatter. Scyther stood over the Flareon’s limp form and looked slowly towards Michael, who had now simply turned around, one hand still holding tightly on to the railing. Mark saw the referees raise a red flag on Michael’s side that the trainer couldn’t see; he wasn’t sure if the boy was even aware his Pokémon was down. The status screen updated to strike Flareon out and declare Mark the winner, and Mark considered that his cue to take out Scyther’s Pokéball and recall the mantis. He felt himself shiver as he looked over at Michael and somehow felt like he had just committed a great crime.

    He didn’t even hear the announcer call the win, though he knew it must have been done at some point. He exited the trainer stand, still shaken, walked over to the Pokémon Center, handed the Pokéballs to Nurse Joy and crumbled into a couch to wait. Only moments later, he saw Michael enter and froze momentarily, but the other trainer just walked up to the counter without noticing him. He looked okay, at the very least – still pale and trembling a bit, but he seemed to be getting better. That calmed Mark down a little. He didn’t take his eyes off Michael as the boy walked over to another couch to wait.

    It wasn’t long before Mark’s Pokémon were fully healed; he walked back over to the counter and picked up the Pokéballs, still keeping an eye on Michael to see if he was watching. He wasn’t; in fact, he had been staring blankly into space since getting there.

    Mark didn’t feel relatively normal again until he was back out of the Pokémon Center.

    “There you are,” said a voice behind him; he jumped before he turned around and realized it was just May. “Congratulations,” she said, not sounding like she really meant it. Oh, yeah, he thought absent-mindedly; he would get to proceed to the next knockout round. That fact had gotten lost somewhere.

    When Mark didn’t answer, May went on. “You didn’t really deserve to win that,” she said. “He’d have creamed you if he weren’t Scyther-phobic or whatever. God knows why he entered the League where there could be Scyther wherever, or why he has a Scizor himself, but he was better than you.”

    Mark nodded numbly.

    “The thing is that you got too caught up with your weakness counters,” she continued when he still said nothing. “You started off okay, but then you were just trying to use a bunch of super-effective attacks, with no regard for strategy, and since the others had super-effective moves too but were usually better equipped to pull them off, you were bound to lose. You’d have needed some real strategy to stand a chance to win square. Jolteon made a good try to dodge that Earthquake, though, by the way; tell him for me. Earthquake is really hard to avoid completely if you can’t fly.”

    She paused for a moment. “There’s also how you only have six Pokémon, so you were completely predictable. He probably figured you’d start with Dragonite, and from there it was just putting together a team with exactly one counter for each of your Pokémon. It would’ve been better if you had a bigger team.”

    “Yeah,” Mark said.

    She looked at him. “What’s with you?”

    He shook his head. “I just feel like I shouldn’t have won that, I guess.”

    May shrugged. “Well, if it makes you feel better, getting nervous is just another weakness, really. If you look at it that way, it’s just as legitimate a reason to lose a battle as having a poor type balance in your team or using too many offensive moves. And it’s not your fault if he has a problem with Scyther, so it’s not like you were cheating.”

    Mark didn’t really have an answer to that.

    “Oh, did you ever figure out where you thought you’d seen him before?”

    “No,” said Mark, and they walked into their trainer lodge in silence.

    -------

    Michael sighed and dropped his Pokéballs on the floor of his bedroom, and the six Pokémon emerged in blinding white light, already squabbling anxiously.

    “...is he okay? He was so strange...”

    “...we were ahead, weren’t we...?”

    “...how did it go? Did we win...?”

    “We didn’t,” Michael said, his quiet voice lost among the Pokémon’s cries at first; they quieted down one by one as they realized he had said something.

    “We lost,” he repeated in the newfound silence. “I’m sorry I let you down.”

    Their voices rose up again all at once.

    “...how could we lose? We were ahead, I saw it...”

    “...I think there was something wrong with Michael, he was all pale and didn’t order any attacks...”

    Michael shook his head. “Please,” he said, and they fell silent once more, now all looking at him with concern. “Please,” he said again. “I’m sorry. I... just got a little dizzy there at the end. A headache. I’m okay now.”

    He glanced at Scizor; she looked puzzled, just like the rest of them. Skeptical. It sounded like the excuse that it was.

    But how could he explain it to them without sounding like he was going off his rocker? He’d caught Scizor, and minutes later a murderous Scyther had struck the Pokémon Center he was in. He’d gone off to other regions for a couple of years, but only weeks after returning to take on the Ouen League, a Scyther had tried to kill Scizor at the Pokémon Frenzy Tournament. And then he’d been attacked by Sneasel – of course it was a band of Sneasel, the paramedics had seen them with their own eyes – and yet his mind kept conjuring up a hazy memory of being knocked down by something huge and green, a reptilian face, terrifying eyes with empty, slitlike pupils. And now those same eyes, many pairs of them staring up at him from a battle arena; that shrill battle cry, the shining blades ready to hurt and kill. It had been too much.

    Especially because somehow, no matter how hard he tried, he could not get rid of the paranoid, absurd notion that it was all the same Scyther.

    Ridiculous, he’d told himself repeatedly. All Scyther look the same. But they didn’t; he was sure Scizor had looked different when she was a Scyther, and he’d seen an occasional Scyther in the other regions, and he’d seen pictures of Scyther; they made him shudder, but never like that. He had tried to tell himself that he had never seen Scizor very well as a Scyther, since he’d evolved her immediately – the thought made him wince now – and maybe there were regional differences between Scyther, or he was responding to the expression of bloodlust that he’d only seen those three times before – no, two times, he insisted to himself; it had been Sneasel that had attacked him. His brain had made up the Scyther. There had never been a Scyther.

    Michael sighed and looked at his waiting Pokémon. He couldn’t tell them he thought he was being stalked by a murderous Scyther. It sounded stupid even to himself.

    “It was just nerves, I guess,” he said. “Having gotten that far and all.”

    “We’ll have better luck next time,” said Flareon, rubbing reassuringly against his leg, but as she said it, Michael realized he wasn’t sure he wanted there to be a next time.

    “Yeah,” he said anyway as the Pokémon mumbled in agreement. “I hope so.”

    Deep down, he had already decided to quit training for good.
     
  13. mattman324

    mattman324 aka Shiny_Feraligatr

    ...Oh jeez... I feel sorry for that kid. Scyther has attempted to kill him, what, three times now?

    Still, a good chapter. Not as funny as some of the others, but it wasn't BAD either.

    Notes:

    A good idea.

    He should have at least taught him Thunderpunch, it could be useful.

    Shadow Ball is the only move I can think of.

    Teach him Rock Slide, because Stone Edge is the worst attack in the world. :p

    TEACH IT EXTREAMSPEE- *is shot*

    I think you are correct. Scyther would rather commit suicide than evolve, anyway (or at least kill his trainer.)

    A steel type without EQ? Blasphemy! And it seems like the type to learn Aqua Tail as well.

    Second post:

    This would be the equivilant of "Oh, crap" in the last chapter.

    60% accuracy comes to bite the trainer in the butt sometimes.

    Most of which were fired by you. Oh, and at least you aren't competitively battling, where every pokemon and it's mother uses it. I mean, I saw a BLISSEY use it once!

    Love the bolded part.

    Oh... shoot...

    And from here:

    to here:

    Scyther the increadable shows it's deadly skilz.

    I really, REALLY feel sory for this guy. He has EVERY excuse to quit.

    Now you've got me down... what with this, the family issues, and Brown, why does everything attempt to get me?
     
  14. Amras.MG

    Amras.MG tl;dr

    I enjoyed the chapter, thank you for PMing me about it. I was wondering what had happened to Chaletwo as well, he's pretty much the coolest character ever.

    I don't have much to say about plot or grammar or other elements as I'm kinda under the gun right now to get this typed fast, but I would like to offer a suggestion for a seventh Pokemon for Mark.

    Tangrowth.

    It's a great Pokemon, plus I could totally see it just like slapping Mark silly or something when he goes all emo. Plus, I don't think he's had a Grass type, and it just seems so gosh darn useful.

    PLUS NO ONE EVER USES TANGROWTH

    =)
     
  15. mattman324

    mattman324 aka Shiny_Feraligatr

    He speaks truth!

    Besides, Mark needs more pokemon anyway. After Letaligon leaves, he will have 6, one of which needs water. Mark should have, like, 7 or so USEFUL teammates.

    Oh, and the other should be a friendship evo. Like, he gets into a contest with May, and HIS pokemon love him more.
     
  16. Treeconator11

    Treeconator11 Ultranumb

    Holy crap, that syther pwns so friggin much! It tried to kill that dude three times already, and, it got Micheal to quit the legues and all that. I feel he kinda deserved it, evoving Nightmare without her consent.

    Well nice story, and Sycther gives me the impression of a brooklyn accent, so I just think of him going "BROOKLYN RAGE, BROOKLYN RAGE!!" Lol. Also, I'm slightly bloodthristy, so it's awesome to see him be pwning people and stuff.

    Rest of the story is cool too, but Scyther's where it's at man! He pwns so much. Please, keep turning out chapters this pwnage.
     
  17. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    Um. Guys. I appreciate your enthusiasm and all, but it's a bit obnoxious to try to dictate what should happen in somebody else's story. Feel free to speculate about what you think will happen, but please don't expect me to actually change my plans to suit your whims. :/

    Besides, it's just not about whether Pokémon X would be useful for Mark or if it would be cool if his Pokémon evolved while May's didn't. Mark (and every other character in this fic) will catch new Pokémon only when and if it is in character for them to decide to do so and they have legitimately chanced upon that Pokémon.

    And even aside from all that, I absolutely hate to steal ideas from other people. If I ever did want to give him a Tangrowth that would slap him around when he got emo or a happiness-evolving Pokémon for any sort of a "contest" against May, I would no longer consider actually doing it because it would be blatantly ripping off readers. By making those suggestions, you have ensured that they will never happen. If you ever really want something to happen in this fic, your chances are better if you don't tell me and hope I share your sentiments. :/

    Rant over. Sorry. Thanks for reading and reviewing, in any case.

    Well, he did say he regretted that.
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2009
  18. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    A new chapter already?! Gasp! Dragonfree took less than a month to write something! Stop the presses!

    Chapter 50 is twenty pages and I had a lot of fun with it. I hope you enjoy it too.





    The Ouen League – Chapter 50: Friendly Competition

    August 20th, 10:00
    MAY VICTORIA WALLACE vs. MARK GREENLET

    “Huh,” May said. “That’s lame.”

    Mark nodded slowly. In storybooks, the two friends who had journeyed together always faced one another in the finals of the League. To be about to battle May already just felt off and anticlimactic, especially with the knowledge that one of them would then inevitably spend the rest of the duration of the League just sitting around and watching.

    He tried not to think too much about the fact that would in all likelihood be him. He had resolved to himself that in his next battle he would show that he really belonged there, as a way of making up for his poor performance and qualification by sheer luck in the battle against Michael Willows. Much of the past couple of days had been spent trying to gather all his confidence and determination for the next battle; he couldn’t now simply throw up his arms in defeat.

    “Well, I guess if we ever had to train separately, it’s now,” May said to break the silence. “So…”

    “Yeah,” Mark replied and nodded. He waved goodbye as she left and then made his way out of the small crowd to send out Charizard.

    -------

    “We’re battling May?” asked Letaligon when Mark had broken the news to the team.

    “Looks like it, yeah.”

    “We’ll never win,” she said bluntly.

    “Well,” Dragonite pointed out with a shrug, “I did beat Tyranitar that one time, so who knows?”

    “I think,” said Sandslash slowly, “that if we are to beat her, we need to take advantage of everything we have that she doesn’t.”

    “Such as what?” Letaligon looked almost offended by the suggestion; Mark found it momentarily amusing.

    “Your independence,” he suggested after a moment, catching on. “You guys have always done a lot of the battling without me calling the shots. May never does that. We could turn that to our advantage somehow.”

    Sandslash nodded. “What it boils down to is that you trust us to make good decisions in battle, while May would never trust her Pokémon to know better than she does. We could use the time that they use to wait for her order to attack on our own, and that could also speed up the battle to make it harder for her to keep up.”

    “Trust doesn’t win battles,” said Letaligon contemptuously. “Strategy does.”

    “Well, then we’ll put together a strategy that exploits it,” Mark responded, irritated that she seemed to insist on taking the pessimistic approach. “See if we can’t figure out a way to make it work. She’s not impossible to beat.”

    “It’s not as simple as that,” Scyther said. “You’d have to order all the moves first.”

    Mark jumped at hearing him speak. Scyther hadn’t really spoken at all since after the battle with Michael, when Mark had sent him out in his room without really knowing what he wanted to say. Scyther had curtly pointed out that he’d done absolutely nothing wrong and that he couldn’t help it if his presence had upset the other boy, and then he’d recalled himself before Mark had had the chance to answer. He wasn’t sure he would have had one.

    “Scyther is right,” Dragonite said, snapping him out of his thoughts. “We can only improvise within the boundaries you’ve already set.”

    “Well, what if I try to be quick to order four different moves, so you’ll have more choices?”

    “That’s a stupid idea,” said Letaligon. “If we waste four moves on something we have a type advantage against, there’ll be nothing left when she sends out something that’s good against us.”

    Mark nodded reluctantly, furrowing his brow. “What if I order one or two moves against the Pokémon you’re sent out against and save the others for soon after the next one is sent out?” He paused. “And if it looks bad against the first, I can add the third or even fourth move, since if you don’t beat the one you’re sent out against, you won’t need them later anyway.”

    “I think it would be better to start with who should open the battle than thinking up what we’re going to do when it’s begun,” Scyther said, but hesitantly, as if he wasn’t sure he wanted to say it. “If memory serves me, May has at least two fairly solid counters against every one of us. There is no way to ensure we will not open at a disadvantage.”

    Mark thought quickly over it in his head – Scyther was right. His heart sank for a moment, but he forcibly pulled it up again. “Well, who is she going to open with? We need to try to think like her.”

    Everyone looked at Letaligon. She straightened her neck in an almost flattered manner, pausing for a moment before she answered. “If I were her, I’d start with Tyranitar. He uses Rock and Ground attacks, and that gives him an advantage over all of us except Sandslash.”

    “Well, the obvious solution to that is to start with Sandslash,” Mark said, looking over at the pangolin.

    Sandslash glanced hesitantly around. “Doesn’t Tyranitar know quite a few elemental moves that could be strong against Ground Pokémon, though?”

    “She would make sure of that,” Letaligon asserted confidently.

    Mark shrugged. “Do you have any other ideas? You still have the best chance against Tyranitar out of all of you.”

    In the end Sandslash agreed to open the battle, they discussed some possible outcomes and strategies, and Mark returned to the trainer lodge for lunch. He was surprised to find that May wasn’t there yet; she was usually more punctual than he was, and it was already five minutes past the time they usually met. He waited for her for fifteen more minutes anyway, but was about to give up when she finally came through the door, not looking to be in a hurry; in fact, she seemed almost disappointed when she saw him.

    “What are you still doing here?” she asked as she came over to the table with her choice from the buffet. “I thought you’d be done eating by now.”

    “I was waiting for you,” he said blankly.

    May gave him a pained look. “Look, Mark, I want to think of you as an opponent when I battle you. Not the guy I hang out and eat lunch with. Okay? I’ll eat with you now, but just get dinner by yourself. And breakfast, too, tomorrow.”

    Mark just nodded. They ate in relative silence – he couldn’t exactly run his proposed strategies by her now, and without her starting any conversation or that to fall back on, he couldn’t think of much to talk about – and as May finished eating, she stood up immediately without waiting for him to finish. “See you day after tomorrow,” she said. “I won’t hold back just because I know you. Give it your best shot.” She flashed him a quick smile before she turned around, blue ponytails swishing behind her, and disappeared out the door. Mark was left to finish his own food, feeling oddly lonely.

    -------

    Time passed at a snail’s pace for what remained of that day and the next. For all Mark could tell, May had vanished off the face of the earth; he thought he maybe caught a glimpse of her outside once or twice, but at mealtimes he ate alone, and in the evenings she either came in before or after him. Despite May’s apparent opinion that this was helpful to battle strategies, Mark found it kind of distracting. Apparently, when his brain had difficulty thinking of May as the girl he hung out and ate lunch with, it began to think of her as a force of evil instead: the thought of losing somehow became unthinkable, even as at the same time he began to doubt every strategy they came up with on the crazy assumption that May simply had to have thought of it too and probably sat somewhere at that very moment with her own Pokémon figuring out a counter-strategy. Mark had a brief bout of being absolutely certain that May knew he was going to start with Sandslash and would probably open with Floatzel, and therefore he should start with Jolteon, except May would predict that too and start with Flygon, and then he probably ought to start with Charizard, who would be beaten by Floatzel again. The eventual conclusion was that he might as well stick with Sandslash.

    As Mark retreated to his room after their final training session on the evening of the nineteenth, he rubbed his eyes and spent a few minutes just sitting on his bed and staring blankly at the door until one of the Pokéballs on his belt shook and opened, releasing Scyther in a flash of white light. Mark looking at him, questioningly.

    “Mark,” Scyther said, “I don’t think you will win tomorrow.”

    Mark said nothing.

    “You were losing your last battle for a reason. We’re not strong enough, none of us. That you faced Nightmare’s trainer in the previous battle, and that he recognized me, was a fortunate accident.”

    “We have strategies,” Mark replied. “You’ll improvise quicker than she can respond.”

    Scyther sighed. “That’s not a solution to everything. Who says whatever we improvise will be any good? It worked for me against Nightmare’s trainer because he and his Pokémon were distracted in the meanwhile. Beating May? It’ll be slightly better than if we didn’t do it, but it will not win the battle.”

    “It could,” Mark just said. He didn’t want to give up, not here, not now, not at the urging of Scyther, who had gotten him this far in the first place. “Why are you telling me this? How do you think it’s going to help to convince me that I’ll lose?”

    Scyther looked at him for a moment with a dark expression. “I know you think you need to make up for the lucky win by winning for real this time. But that’s not how it works. Even if you did beat May, it would not change anything about the previous victory. Win or lose – probably lose – you still wouldn’t have gotten this far if he hadn’t been Nightmare’s trainer or if I hadn’t tried to kill him that time. You have already been defeated. The fact your opponent failed to seal his victory by a last-minute weakness does not mean you weren’t.”

    Mark tried to make sense of that cryptic stance, and it suddenly dawned on him why Scyther seemed to care so much. “This is about you, isn’t it?” he said. “Your defeat, when Nightmare failed to kill you. This is your Scyther ethics again – if you’re defeated you must die, and if your opponent doesn’t do it it’s up to you to correct it. You think you can redeem yourself somehow if you get it right this time – you think to make up for an unfair victory, we need to lose.”

    Scyther winced, but said nothing.

    “Well, I don’t believe in that,” Mark said, feeling anger begin to seep into his voice. “I think it’s stupid how you think one mistake is the end of the world and you somehow have to suffer for it. If you get a second chance at something, you should be grateful for it and use it to show you deserve it, not try to destroy it in order to make yourself miserable again. And if you’re part of my Pokémon team, you should go along with our plan to win the next battle instead of trying to ruin it for everyone. Deal with your own issues and stop pushing them on us.”

    Scyther looked at the floor and didn’t reply.

    “And, well, maybe we will lose, but it won’t be because we gave up and decided we didn’t deserve to win. If you’re not willing to do your best in this battle for the sake of the team, you don’t belong on it.”

    Mark took a breath and thought back over what he’d just said. He hadn’t meant to suggest he was somehow ‘firing’ Scyther from the team, but he couldn’t imagine trying to take it back would really help; it would retain all the potential for hurt but take away the actual edge. He looked at the Pokémon, waiting for an answer. Scyther didn’t say anything.

    “I mean, it’s not that we don’t all want you on the team,” he tried, “but if you’re hurting our chances at achieving our goals, and it’s just for the sake of punishing yourself, we’ll all suffer for your beliefs. That’s not fair, is it?” He paused. “And really, why do you want to punish yourself so much in accordance with your Scyther ethics? When was the last time the Scyther swarm did you any good? Are you really still obsessed with redeeming yourself? Doesn’t that rule demand you kill yourself if you want to be redeemed, anyway?”

    He immediately regretted saying the last bit and worried briefly that Scyther would attempt something right then and there, but the mantis didn’t move.

    “No,” Scyther finally said, “no, you’re right. Losing the battle won’t fix anything.” And he recalled himself into his ball without saying anything else.

    Mark didn’t know if that meant he had actually agreed to do his best in the battle or not, but he had a feeling it wouldn’t help to try to force him to continue the conversation, and he was already a bit late turning in his Pokémon for the pre-battle examination anyway. He stood up to walk over to the office building and decided he’d try to talk to him again in the morning.

    -------

    He woke up at around the right time, much to his relief. He’d been dreaming something about arriving at the battle arena only to find that May had turned into a blue Letaligon and that was why she hadn’t wanted to see him in the past couple of days.

    Mark blinked sleepily on his bed as he remembered it, yawned, and after a few seconds stood up to get dressed and brush his teeth. A sea of vague strategies floated around in his head, obscuring everything else. He headed off to the League offices after a quick breakfast (there was still no sign of May, even though he’d have thought she would have to get up at the same time as him now) and was being taken to the battle arena by one of the receptionists when he suddenly realized he had not yet talked to Scyther.

    He looked nervously at the lady walking by his side. He hadn’t seen her before; she was probably in her forties and had brown hair tied back in a bun, black, rectangular glasses, a large, pointed nose and a stern expression that reminded him uncomfortably of Mrs. Grodski now that he was debating if he’d dare to ask her if it was okay to stop and talk to his Pokémon. He told himself he really ought to, but his lips refused to move. What if she did say yes? She would insist on listening to the conversation, and what would she think if he spent it trying to convince his Scyther that they didn’t deserve to lose after the previous battle and he still shouldn’t kill himself? He insisted to himself that he should do it anyway, but then they were almost there, and he didn’t really have the time to ask, and then he was being ushered through the door to the trainer stand. It closed behind him with an ominous fate-sealing sort of click.

    Mark sighed, contemplating his options as he looked at the other door at the top of the staircase. He supposed he could try to send Scyther out in this cramped space and talk to him, but this opportunity for unseen pre-battle interaction with one’s Pokémon couldn’t simply have been overlooked by the League; they had to have cameras or Pokéball-suppressors or something. He looked nervously around and tried, very carefully, to maximize one of the Pokéballs at his belt in a careless manner; the button did nothing. The latter, then.

    Which meant he was forced to go into battle and simply hope that Scyther had gotten over it and decided not to try to sabotage it.

    He winced and walked up the stairs to step through the door onto the trainer stand. He looked over the stadium, out of habit, really; it looked just the same as it had before his previous battle. The opposite trainer stand was still empty, and he waited, leaning against the railing, looking over the audience – he had almost begun to look for May before he remembered she wouldn’t be watching him this time. His stomach fluttered: somehow, the fact of just who he was about to battle had never seemed fully real until now.

    He jerked his head back to the other trainer stand when the spectators began to cheer: May was stepping through the door. She took in the sight of the stadium with a confident, sweeping glance and then looked directly towards Mark; his stomach fluttered uncomfortably again. She grinned, grabbing a Pokéball off her necklace. Mark quickly took out Sandslash’s ball and fiddled nervously with the button. Was it really best to start with him? What if May didn’t start with Tyranitar at all? Did she recognize his Pokéballs, maybe? He looked over at her – he couldn’t tell her balls apart at all. Maybe he should have tried to notice that at some point.

    He peered at May on the status screen. She didn’t appear to be staring at what Pokéball he was holding – at the moment she was looking over the audience – and at the very least she seemed quite certain beforehand of what she was going to lead with even if she did know which ball he’d taken out. He was probably being paranoid, anyway – how would she tell his identical Pokéballs apart? And the status screen image didn’t show the waist – it would be hard to tell from the placement which ball was being picked, whether from there or by trying to see it directly.

    May looked so casual and confident. It struck him that even if she could tell what Pokéball he’d picked, she simply wouldn’t need to resort to something like that.

    I’m going to lose, some part of his brain thought frantically. I have no idea what I’m doing. She’s going to wipe the floor with me.

    A sinking feeling of hopelessness washed over him, but he’d had plenty of practice dealing with that feeling in the past two days; he pushed it firmly away, remembering his whole speech to Scyther the previous night. They had strategies. They had a chance. His Pokémon were independent and quick-thinking. They could do it.

    And really, they had to win. Scyther had managed to make the prospect of losing exponentially worse. It wasn’t just about justifying his presence at this stage of the League anymore; it seemed like a matter of principle, as if losing would mean Scyther was right.

    “Trainers, ready Pokéballs.”

    Mark jerked his head up. On the status screen, May gave a confident smirk and maximized the Pokéball in her hand. Mark hurriedly maximized his own.

    “Ready, set, throw!”

    The protective force field shimmered out of existence and Mark tossed Sandslash’s ball into the arena. He watched May’s ball carefully as it flew in an arc through the air and released a white shape – was it Tyranitar? – no, it was smaller – it was tiny?

    Mutark, Mark realized just before the light began to fade from the kitten Pokémon along with a weird object that had materialized beside her on the arena. He glanced at the status screen close-up for a better look: it looked like a spiky, metallic ball. He looked quizzically at May; surely that wasn’t supposed to be there?

    The girl, however, did not look surprised. She gave no immediate command, instead just looking down to watch her Pokémon. The black, catlike creature walked up to the ball and batted curiously at it, with predictable results: she let out a mewling cry of pain as drops of blood dripped from her paw. Mark looked at May in horror; she was smirking now, and it suddenly dawned on him just what she was doing.

    Mutark licked miserably at her wound and then stiffened and stretched, growing to a larger, more vicious form in a matter of moments. Mark looked quickly over at Sandslash, panicking: May had been complaining that it was hard to use Mutark effectively when she didn’t become powerful until after taking several hits, but it looked like she had figured out the solution to that problem since then.

    “Sandslash, Earthquake!” he blurted out.

    Sandslash leapt into the air just as Mutark pricked her tail on her Sticky Barb, with unnerving deliberation this time. As the pangolin landed and created ripples of Earthquake waves, she hissed and trembled, her tail lashing around in the air; the item was now stuck to the wound, and when she tried to lick the blood around it, it pricked her muzzle and forehead as well. Mutark mrowled in pain again while Sandslash took a leap for another Earthquake, and as the pressure waves reached her, she had already grown again: she was now around three times Sandslash’s size, with formidable four-inch fangs jutting from her upper jaw, and visibly less bothered by the Earthquake than she had been before.

    “Earthquake again!” Mark called.

    “Mutark, Sucker Punch!” May ordered.

    Sandslash was in mid-leap when Mutark bounded towards him at breakneck speed, red eyes glowing, and smacked a paw into him. He was thrown backwards in an arc, spinning, but managed to execute the attack as he came down anyway, if a bit clumsily; Earthquake ripples spread across the ground, passing under Mutark’s feet and making her shudder before she took a moment to lick the blood that was leaking off her muzzle, stiffened and grew yet again. By now she was the size of a small horse and Mark doubted she would grow a lot more even if Sandslash did inflict physical wounds.

    “Use Ice Fang,” May commanded.

    “X-Scissor!” Mark countered quickly.

    Icicles formed around Mutark’s grossly engorged fangs as she leapt towards Sandslash with a terrifying roar. He held his claws crossed in a defensive stance as they glowed faintly green. The giant cat Pokémon knocked him down and he managed to slash at her belly before she sank her long fangs into his body, frost forming around the entry wounds. Sandslash squeaked unnervingly, but slashed with still-glowing claws at her eyes, causing her to hiss and momentarily nearly release him. He struggled to get away, but she caught him in time and bit powerfully down again until his frost-covered body went limp, the audience shouting and cheering wildly as the referees waved the match’s first red flag.

    Mark held forward Sandslash’s Pokéball to recall him, his heart hammering in his chest. The battle wasn’t starting off well, and he strongly suspected that was his fault, really: he should have given his first command sooner and used a bit more variety or strategy. As much as they’d been planning to be clever, when it came to it he had just kept ordering the same old brute force offensive moves. He had to try to shake off that mental state.

    He looked down at the arena; Mutark was pacing restlessly around, growling. She hadn’t grown any more, even though there was still blood dripping from the slashes on her chest: he presumed that meant she was indeed in her strongest form right now. On the one hand, that meant she was very powerful already, not that that hadn’t been clear from how easily she’d taken Sandslash down; on the other hand, it meant there was no disadvantage to sending out Scyther. Disregarding, of course, that Scyther might refuse to fight, but if so, he would be no more likely to do so now than if he had to use him later in the battle.

    “Scyther, go! Double Team and then hit her with X-Scissor!”

    “Mutark, Taunt and then Thunder Fang!”

    Ironically, Mark thought, May might just have actually helped him by ordering that Taunt. The moment Scyther had finished materializing on the arena, Mutark growled something at him, and he responded with an angry hiss; he skipped the Double Team command entirely, instead zooming towards Mutark with his scythes raised and glowing. The mantis slashed twice across the Dark-type’s back before she grabbed him in her jaws, her fangs crackling with electricity as they pierced through his exoskeleton. He roared in pain, slashing madly at her side as his body convulsed.

    “Keep that up, Scyther!” Mark called, not sure there was anything else he could do; Scyther would ignore any command to stop directly attacking her, and X-Scissor was the best he could do in that department. The bug Pokémon was all too happy to oblige and managed with a well-aimed hit to cut so deep into Mutark’s leg that she lost her balance and collapsed, releasing him completely. Scyther was quick to take advantage of this, despite the bluish-black blood oozing from his deep wounds; he leapt on top of her and hacked madly into her body until she stopped struggling to get up.

    May recalled Mutark silently, pausing for a moment after reattaching the ball to her necklace. Finally, she picked one of her other balls, maximized it and threw it into the arena. “Skarmory, go!” she called. “Swords Dance!”

    The metallic vulture burst out of the Pokéball in a flash of white, announcing his presence with a metallic screech before he spread his wings wide and began to spin rapidly around in the air to power himself up. Scyther, with a mad roar of blind rage, darted straight towards him without waiting for an order.

    “Scyther, Brick Break!” Mark called. Under the spell of Taunt, there wasn’t a lot Scyther could do against a Skarmory, really: the best he could hope for was a type-neutral attack, not that Mark was sure he would be better off without the Taunt, with Scyther fully in control of his actions. He reached the bird, who was just finishing his Swords Dance, and gave him a punch with the edge of his scythe, but Skarmory merely recoiled slightly and screeched indignantly at the bug, seeming more irritated than hurt.

    “Brave Bird!” May ordered, and just as Scyther was pressing back towards Skarmory, the bird faced him head-on. Skarmory flung himself straight into Scyther’s body, ignoring the mantis’s frantic strikes at his wings, and then simply used his weight to send both of them crashing towards the ground at a great speed. Scyther landed crushed under May’s Pokémon and gave a piercing cry of pain before Skarmory rose dizzily back to his feet and fluttered unsteadily into the air.

    “Skarmory, Roost!”

    The metallic Pokémon landed gratefully on the ground a short distance away and settled down, folding his wings and closing his eyes to rest.

    “Come on, Scyther,” Mark muttered, but the mantis was still lying sprawled on his back, bleeding and unmoving. The referees waved a red flag: he was officially out, and the audience cheered once more.
     
  19. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    With a sigh, Mark took out Scyther’s ball and recalled him. Some part of him was glad in a twisted way that Scyther had fainted now, before the effects of the Taunt had worn off and made him possibly refuse to fight. On the other hand, if the battle kept going like this, May would completely cream him.

    His obvious choices now were Charizard and Jolteon; however, he’d figured the day before that May would probably have Floatzel and had intended to let Jolteon deal with her. He took a deep breath as he grabbed Charizard’s ball. Strategy. Let the Pokémon use their independence. Order moves quickly to let them make their own judgements later.

    “Skarmory, Swords Dance,” May ordered. Her Pokémon had finished resting and now began to spin around in another empowering dance, looking no worse for wear than at the very beginning of the battle.

    “Charizard, Flamethrower!” Mark yelled as he hurled the ball forward, feeling stupid for spending so much time thinking that he’d given her the chance to get an extra power-up move in. As Charizard began to form, Skarmory finished his dance, and May gave another command:

    “Skarmory, use a Rock Slide!”

    “What?” Mark blurted out in a panic. Skarmory weren’t supposed to know Rock attacks! How did everything have Rock attacks when he had Charizard out? “Charizard, quick! Try to dodge it!”

    The dragon finished materializing and apparently decided, probably wisely, that it would be difficult to try to both attack and dodge at the same time: he hovered in the air, watching Skarmory carefully as the Steel Pokémon screeched and raised several large boulders out of the ground that hurled themselves at Charizard. He managed to flick himself nimbly out of the way of the first couple, but then one struck him in the tail, throwing off his balance, and three or four others crashed into him while he was trying to regain it, throwing him towards the ground.

    “Just try to Flamethrower him!” Mark called desperately as Charizard flew weakly back up, growling, and opened his mouth to fire a bright cone of fire towards Skarmory, who let out a high-pitched cry as it enveloped him.

    “Another Rock Slide!”

    His flight had faltered as his feathers had melted together, but Skarmory sent another barrage of rocks flying at Charizard. Again, he managed to dodge a few of them, but others hit, one tearing his wing fabric and making him cringe with pain. He retaliated on his own accord with another Flamethrower, which scorched Skarmory and bent one of his wings slightly, but still did not bring him down.

    “Rock Slide again,” May ordered, and this time Charizard didn’t have the energy to dodge: stunned, Mark watched him crash to the ground, buried under several boulders, and fail to move.

    This couldn’t be happening. He was three Pokémon down after only beating one of May’s. He recalled Charizard, watched her calmly instruct her Skarmory to Roost again and hated himself for the tears beginning to form at the corners of his eyes; he blinked them away. He couldn’t get himself slaughtered this badly. Not by May. Not when it would make Scyther right.

    He tore a Pokéball from his belt and threw it. “Dragonite, Fire Punch until he’s down!” he shouted.

    The dragon materialized and dived towards the resting Skarmory, flames circling his first. On the status screen, May frowned and looked down.

    “Skarmory, Rock Slide!”

    Skarmory opened his eyes just as Dragonite came zooming towards him and smashed his fist into his body, the heat allowing him to put a dent in the metal. The bird screeched in pain, flapping his wings to ascend as he prepared to attack.

    “Dragonite, Thunder Wave!” Mark called, the only thought in his mind stopping May’s Pokémon from executing another attack. The rocks that had buried Charizard before obediently began to rise in response to Skarmory’s command, but Dragonite sent a wave of crackling electricity at the Steel Pokémon’s body, and as it set in, Skarmory’s muscles stiffened up and the boulders dropped back to the ground with a heavy rumble.

    Dragonite used the opportunity while Skarmory was fully paralyzed to deliver another well-aimed Fire Punch, and the vulture was sent bounding backwards, unable to use his wings to soften his fall. He crashed into the wall under May’s trainer stand and flopped from there to the ground, where he finally managed to regain control of his body and fluttered unsteadily up again.

    May gave Dragonite a glare. “Brave Bird!”

    Skarmory, straining against his paralysis, used all his remaining energy to throw himself at his opponent. Dragonite was ready to receive him with yet another Fire Punch, which nonetheless didn’t manage to counteract the bird’s speed: even as Skarmory screeched with pain and appeared to lose consciousness, he crashed into Dragonite’s body with full power and sent both of them bounding backwards thanks to the dragon’s minimal weight in practice. As they lost momentum, Dragonite managed to fly up and away from Skarmory, and the metal bird crashed into the ground, clearly fainted.

    As May recalled him, Mark smiled grimly, oddly cheered by Skarmory’s defeat. He looked at Dragonite, who looked quite battered after that last attack, and decided to use May’s own tricks against her. “Dragonite, Roost!”

    As Dragonite curled up on the ground to rest, May threw another Pokéball into the arena. “Go, Floatzel!” she shouted. “Bulk Up!”

    The sea otter materialized on the arena, cackling with excitement; on a string around her neck hung the large chunk of Nevermeltice that May had excavated in Champion Cave, ready to power up her Ice attacks. She crouched down to the ground, focusing to tense her muscles as her two tails swished impatiently behind her.

    Mark looked back at Dragonite, about to order an attack, but the dragon had already stood up, his bruises apparently fully healed, and fired a Thunder Wave towards his opponent. Floatzel opened her eyes too late to try to avoid it and cried out in annoyance as the paralyzing electricity set into her body. May frowned.

    “Ice Punch!”

    “Dragonite, Thunderpunch! Make it count!”

    Floatzel tried to jump up, but her body stiffened halfway through the movement and she remained awkwardly on all fours on the ground, letting out a whine of protest as Dragonite dived towards her with electricity crackling around his paw. He socked her in the jaw with it and she was thrown aside, finally regaining her ability to move in time to land the right way up. She snarled indignantly at Dragonite as she rose, laying her paw on the ice-encased crystal around her neck momentarily before leaping up with a vengeful shriek to punch him in the gut. He cried out as he bounded backwards from the impact, a coating of frost forming on his belly; he shivered for a moment but then zoomed back towards her, undaunted, and she ran towards him with a cry of glee.

    They met in the middle; Dragonite, being bigger and having longer arms, drove his electrified fist into Floatzel’s belly first, and as they were knocked away from one another again she managed to hit his side with her icy paw, though with less power than she might have otherwise. Dragonite nonetheless shivered at the layer of frost it created on his skin, panting.

    “Roost!” Mark called, and Dragonite curled up on the ground to heal himself.

    “Floatzel, Bulk Up!” May ordered.

    Floatzel let out a cackling laugh, crouching down to tense her muscles again, but then cried out in frustration as her paralysis kicked in for a second time. She growled angrily, struggling to move. Mark glanced at May on the status screen; she looked positively livid, gritting her teeth in disbelief with a fist clenched on top of the railing as she watched, and now the sight of it filled him with triumphant glee.

    “Thunderpunch!” Mark shouted as Dragonite stood up, took off and dived towards the rigid Floatzel, sparks flying around his fist.

    “Dodge it and get in the pool!” May hissed.

    Floatzel managed to stand up and evade him, darting towards the pool on the right side of the arena. She slipped gracefully into it, instantly deflating her floating tube to sink under the water. Naturally, Dragonite followed as Floatzel circled around on her back at the bottom of the pool, grinning up at him through the distorting water.

    The dragon pulled back his electrified fist and dived in after her, but he hesitated momentarily as he entered, probably shocked by the cold, and Floatzel was quicker in the water even despite being paralyzed. She whipped around behind him, touched her Nevermeltice and smashed her fist into his body, her cold paw forming a trail of ice behind it. Dragonite shivered as he floated up to the surface, a chunk of ice rapidly growing around one of his wings and tilting him awkwardly in the water.

    “Again!” May commanded.

    “Try to use a Fire Punch to melt it, Dragonite!” Mark called desperately, worried that Floatzel would attack him again before he could. But again, her paralysis saved him: before she could attack, her body went rigid and she sank like a rock to the bottom of the pool, her eyes widening in panic.

    Mark looked uncertainly at May as the water around Dragonite’s paw boiled and he brought it carefully around to his wing where it quickly began to melt the ice. Surely Floatzel, being a mammal, was in danger of drowning if she couldn’t come up to breathe? May’s hand moved to her necklace, fiddling with one of the Pokéballs, but she didn’t take it out to recall her. There were mutterings in the audience as Mark looked back at Floatzel’s image on the status screen; her eyes darted wildly from side to side as a flurry of bubbles rose from her nostrils.

    Dragonite, now fully rid of the ice, dived down and picked Floatzel up in his arms, carrying her up out of the water. May, who had now taken the ball off her necklace and maximized it, quickly minimized it again. As Dragonite surfaced, Floatzel gasped for breath and coughed violently: her paralysis was beginning to fade. Immediately, ice crystals began to gather around her still-stiff paw as her face twisted into horrified disdain for her savior.

    “Dragonite, look out!” Mark yelled, and the dragon looked down, electricity suddenly crackling around his paw before he used it to punch Floatzel down at the ground. She thrust her paw forward a moment too late, screeching in pain and rage as sparks flew around her falling body. She was silenced when she hit the ground, knocked out either by the impact or as a belated effect of the Thunderpunch.

    “Roost,” Mark called, his stomach fluttering: although he was still a bit shocked, his brain was now quite caught up with the fact that the Dragonite had now taken down two of May’s Pokémon much like Skarmory had and he was about to heal himself and render much of the damage he’d taken void. “You rock, Dragonite!”

    The dragon Pokémon smiled wearily as he curled up on the ground to heal himself once more. May, now pale and focused, recalled Floatzel and took out the next ball.

    “Tyranitar, I choose you! Ice Punch!”

    The great dinosaur roared as he emerged from the ball, to the great delight of the audience. Wisps of sand immediately began to swirl around him, stirred up by his presence on the battlefield. Mark noticed he had a yellow band with what seemed like red eyes on it tied around his head and wished he hadn’t always skirted over the hold item section of the League Pokémart; it seemed May had been to it quite a bit since the last battle of hers he’d watched.

    As Tyranitar made his way across the arena, Dragonite opened his eyes again, stood up and opened his mouth to release one more Thunder Wave. The paralyzing attack sparkled through the air despite the interruption of the building sandstorm and hit Tyranitar, who grunted as the electricity stiffened his muscles. He kept going nonetheless, if at a slower and jerkier pace, as Dragonite ascended into the air, his fist crackling with electricity.

    May watched the dragon with irritation. “Hell with it. Just hit him with a Stone Edge.”

    Dragonite dived, but he was just a bit too late: sharp rocks tore out of the ground below him and sent him flying up, but he quickly recovered despite the bleeding gash the sharp rocks had opened on his belly.

    “Ice Punch now!” May shouted as Dragonite descended and delivered his Thunderpunch. Tyranitar roared in pain and flung his own fist into Dragonite’s face, icicles forming as the dragon was thrown back and crashed into the ground, unconscious.

    “You did a fantastic job, Dragonite,” Mark muttered as he recalled him. Since Sandslash was gone, the best he had for dealing with Tyranitar was Letaligon. He picked her ball, threw it into the arena and called, “Letaligon, Iron Defense!”

    “Tyranitar, Focus Punch!”

    As Tyranitar closed his eyes to focus, Letaligon formed fully and seemed momentarily intimidated by her opponent, but that was quickly gone from her expression as she turned her body fully metallic. Mark couldn’t remember just what Focus Punch was, but it was probably a Fighting-type move and he figured Letaligon needed all the defense she could get.

    When he opened his eyes again, Tyranitar roared and ran towards Letaligon with suddenly a truly astounding speed; Mark watched it in puzzlement as Letaligon ran away with a screech and the huge dinosaur seemed to be somehow catching up with her as white energy gathered around his fist –

    Suddenly, he stopped with a grunt. Sparks leapt across his body as his paralysis blocked his muscles. A loud clang rang out above; Mark looked up to see May rubbing her fist, apparently having punched the metal railing of her trainer stand, while glaring straight at him with the same utter hatred she usually reserved for Taylor. For a moment, it kind of disturbed him; then he realized he ought to be taking advantage of the situation.

    “Letaligon, Iron Tail!” he called. Her tail glowed white as she swung it at Tyranitar’s immobile form, hitting the blue center of his stomach. He grunted in pain but could still not move. Letaligon, seeing her chance, smashed her tail into him again.

    “Earthquake!” May ordered.

    Tyranitar finally regained control of his muscles, and with a deep roar, he stomped a foot on the ground, sending ripples of pressure across it. Letaligon trembled violently as they passed under her.

    “Metal Burst!” Mark blurted out, not entirely sure if it was a good idea to waste her third move yet, but it was a generally useful move anyhow. Ripples of illusory steel spread across the ground in a mirror image of Tyranitar’s attack, and his great body shook as they hit him. Letaligon followed it up with yet another smash of her tail, this time producing a visible crack on his blue belly; he roared in pain, the flow of sand around him jerking as if in sympathy.

    “Another Earthquake!”

    “One more Iron Tail!”

    Tyranitar produced yet another Earthquake, almost knocking Letaligon off her feet. Her legs shook like jelly afterwards, but she still managed to strike him one more time in the belly with her tail. Tyranitar doubled over in pain, clutching his stomach, and Letaligon finished the job with a powerful strike to his head, after which he collapsed forward.

    As May recalled him wordlessly, Letaligon composed herself. She was better than Mark had thought she was; the trembling of her legs had suggested she was on the verge of fainting, but Mark guessed the Iron Defense had saved her, and now that she had gotten a moment’s rest, she didn’t look too bad, at least as far as Mark could see through the still-raging sandstorm. She tossed her head, looking at May, who was picking her next Pokéball. The girl paused for a moment after maximizing it, looking at Letaligon, and suddenly grinned.

    Mark didn’t think that was a good sign, but pushed it out of his mind for the moment.

    “Blaziken, go! Sky Uppercut!”

    “Letaligon, Earthquake!” Mark countered quickly.

    The giant humanoid chicken materialized on the arena, flames flaring up around his wrists as he cried towards the sky. The last remnants of the sandstorm were still whipping around him, making him scowl in irritation before he charged towards his opponent, clenching one talon-fist. Meanwhile, Letaligon reared up on her hind legs and smashed into the ground, sending a flurry of ripples across the ground towards Blaziken. The chicken Pokémon took a great leap while spreading the winglike feather crests on his head to extend it, avoiding most of the attack, but Letaligon quickly smashed her paws into the ground again to catch him as he landed. He grunted in surprise as he was thrown off balance, and Letaligon used the opportunity to thicken the steel coating of her body with another Iron Defense just in time before Blaziken regained his balance and reached her. He gave her a powerful punch in the jaw, and she stumbled back but remained conscious nonetheless and without warning reared up to create yet another Earthquake.

    May clenched her first on the status screen, annoyed. “Heat Wave, Blaziken!” she called as her Pokémon collapsed on all fours, disoriented by the Earthquake ripples. As he heard the command, he looked up and managed to take a leap; freed from the ground-based attack, he took a deep breath and expelled it as a wave of superheated air that rippled towards his opponent. Letaligon quickly smashed her paws into the ground once again before closing her eyes and bracing herself for being hit; her entire body glowed a dangerous orange, melting and distorting as she screamed in pain, and Mark watched in horror as she crumpled to the ground, already reaching for her Pokéball to recall her. As the red beam of the ball zoomed out to absorb her, however, Blaziken, who had landed on the ground and been caught in the middle of Letaligon’s Earthquake, collapsed on the ground, shivering even as the ripples died down.

    Mark’s heart was beating rapidly as he threw out his final Pokéball. “Jolteon, go! Thunderbolt!”

    “Blaziken, Mach Punch!”

    But even though Mach Punch was a fast attack, Blaziken was still recovering from Letaligon’s final move, and when Jolteon materialized, he was already beginning to crackle with sparks. With a cry of “Jooolt!”, he fired a bolt of lightning towards the rising Blaziken, and the bird screamed as electricity surged through his body, sending him collapsing onto the ground again as he twitched and convulsed, his red plumage scorching and smoking.

    The referees waved a red flag, and May reluctantly recalled Blaziken. Mark stared at her in disbelief: unless he had counted something incorrectly, the battle was down to a one on one, and Jolteon wasn’t hurt or tired at all!

    But there was that disconcerting smile of hers again. She tossed her last ball confidently into the arena and shouted, “Go, Flygon!”

    The crowd went wild.

    Mark was struck with that sinking feeling again as the dragonfly Pokémon emerged, but refused to give up now that they’d gotten this far.

    “Jolteon, Shadow Ball!” That was the TM he had finally found for Jolteon as a backup move against Ground-types. Jolteon wasn’t very skilled with it yet, but it was somewhat more powerful than Swift anyway.

    “Earthquake!” May ordered.

    The white glow faded from Flygon’s body; Mark noticed that he, too, had an item hanging around his neck, a strange, glowing, purple orb that throbbed rhythmically, almost like a beating heart. The Dragon-type let out a cry, beating his diamond-shaped wings powerfully towards the ground, and the pressure sent ripples spreading towards Jolteon.

    “Wait, try to dodge it!” Mark shouted quickly, though Jolteon appeared to have thought the same: he was still not charging the Shadow Ball, instead crouching low and focusing on the approaching Earthquake waves. He jumped, landed between two waves, leapt up again, narrowly avoided one that passed just as he landed, took one more leap straight towards Flygon – he’d dodged it completely! Mark’s heart took a leap; even May’s face on the status screen looked kind of impressed.

    Jolteon hissed at Flygon and crouched down, producing an orb of shadowy energy in front of him before sending it flying at May’s Pokémon. The dragonfly recoiled, shuddering.

    “Sand Tomb!” May called. Flygon spun circles around Jolteon in the air, and the ground underneath him crumbled to dust in his wake: Jolteon cried out in surprise as his paws began to sink and the fine sand whirled up all around him, battering him and obscuring his vision. Another Shadow Ball began to form inside the vortex and shot towards Flygon, knocking him back, but the Sand Tomb was already sustaining itself and was not affected even though Flygon’s concentration broke.

    “And now, Earthquake!”

    Mark’s mind raced – the Sand Tomb had obviously been intended to prevent Jolteon from dodging, but was there a way to try to counteract it somehow? “Agility!” he realized as Flygon flapped his wings to create another Earthquake. Jolteon took a blindingly fast leap and managed to break free from the vortex of sand and dart away towards more solid ground, where he nimbly skirted between the ripples again, though he was caught by the final wave and tripped. He stood quickly up again and began to charge another Shadow Ball.

    This time May only looked furious. “Flygon, Supersonic!”

    Mark noticed now, for the first time, that Flygon looked considerably more hurt and worn out than he ought to, but didn’t really dwell on the thought. The Pokémon halted in the air, stopping to breathe for a moment before his wings vibrated to produce a high-pitched noise only barely audible to human ears. Jolteon shivered in discomfort, but managed nonetheless to fire the Shadow Ball he’d been preparing.

    “Earthquake!” May shouted.

    “Try to avoid it with Agility again!” Mark called quickly.

    As the Earthquake ripples came speeding towards Jolteon, he once again leapt to try to avoid them, but the Supersonic had disoriented him; he only very clumsily dodged the first ripple but landed awkwardly and had to spend a moment regaining his balance, and in that moment the next ripple approached. As it passed under him, he trembled and shivered and any further dodging efforts were doomed. He stood there crouched low on the ground, shaking, for a second after the final ripple passed.

    “Try to get a Shadow Ball in!” Mark shouted, flicking his gaze towards Flygon, and realized then that May’s Pokémon was on all fours on the ground, exhausted and drawing in deep breaths. The orb still throbbed around his neck, and now that he thought about it, it had glowed every time Flygon had attacked...

    A Life Orb, dawned on him suddenly. He’d heard of that item – it powered up a Pokémon’s moves by imbuing them with some of the Pokémon’s own life force. Which meant Flygon really was as hurt and weak as he looked. One more Shadow Ball might...

    “Flygon, Roost!”

    ...but of course May wouldn’t use an item like that without insurance, would she?

    He looked quickly back at Jolteon. He had stood up, but was stumbling, clearly still confused. He began to form a Shadow Ball, but Flygon was already lying down, folding his wings, closing his eyes...

    “Quick Attack!” Mark shouted in a sudden burst of inspiration.

    Jolteon darted towards Flygon in a yellow blur and tackled him, but Flygon just looked up and cried indignantly before closing his eyes again and being wrapped in a faint blue glow. Jolteon, who seemed to have shaken off the confusion now, began to charge a Shadow Ball by Flygon’s side, but when it hit, the Dragon Pokémon had already healed himself.

    “Flygon, Earthquake!”

    May’s Pokémon took off the ground and flapped his wings for yet another Earthquake. Jolteon tried to dodge, but after all the dodging and darting around, he was too exhausted to keep up the necessary speed; he was knocked down by the third ripple to approach him and from there simply collapsed in exhaustion.

    “You were great, Jolteon,” Mark said quietly as he took out the ball to recall him, his voice drowned out by the explosion of cheering from the audience anyway. The battle had been lost when the Quick Attack had failed to bring Flygon down, and even that had been a faint hope. In a way he was just glad Jolteon hadn’t had to strain himself any longer.

    He looked across the arena at May as she was declared the winner, and she grinned and waved at him before turning around to exit the trainer stand.

    Somehow, he found himself not really minding that he’d lost now, despite everything. He was not sure why.

    -------

    He met May again in the Pokémon Center, where she had already settled comfortably on a couch to wait for her Pokémon to be healed, having arrived before him. Mark handed his own to the nurse and came over to her.

    “Congratulations,” he said as he sat down.

    May beamed at him, all traces of the annoyance during the battle gone. “Thanks, Mark. Disappointed?”

    He considered it. “No, not really,” he said, truthfully. “I think I knew I’d lose, deep down. You’re better than me. You’ve always been better than me. I just told myself we had a chance so I could do my best and encourage my Pokémon to do their best, and they did. It went great, all things considered. For a moment I even honestly thought I could win.”

    “They did do their best,” May agreed with a nod. “Jolteon was great. So was Dragonite. And Letaligon. Even if you got really lucky with the paralysis thing.”

    “I’ll tell them when they’re healed,” Mark replied and smiled. “I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.”

    “And speaking of paralysis, Floatzel is going to be furious that Dragonite saved her.”

    Mark chuckled. “Seriously, though, she had me worried for a moment.”

    May nodded distantly, looking away. “Me too.” She paused and looked at Mark. “Tell him...” She trailed off. “No, never mind.”

    He didn’t press it. He looked past her and saw the nurse at the counter waving to catch his attention, then pointing at May. “I think your Pokémon are healed.”

    “Okay,” she said, looking quickly around to confirm it before she stood up. “Thanks for the battle. It was fun.” She smiled and looked like she meant it, even if Mark suspected she’d think of it very differently if by some miracle he had actually won.

    He smiled back anyway. “You’re welcome.”

    -------

    After Mark had retrieved his Pokémon, the first thing he did was head off to his room and send out Scyther.

    “How did it go?” asked the mantis when he had materialized, his expression neutral.

    “We lost,” Mark said, giving his Pokémon a searching look.

    Scyther nodded slowly. “I suppose that was inevitable.”

    At least he isn’t chuckling with glee, Mark thought dully. “So... what? Feel like we’ve fixed it?”

    Scyther shook his head. “I think you were right. I’d rather fight to win than feel obligated to lose for the rest of my life.” He paused for a moment. “The truth is that fighting for you is the only thing that gives me joy and purpose anymore. If I must lose that to follow the Code, screw the Code.”

    He winced as he said it, but Mark knew he meant it. “I appreciate it,” he replied. “I hope it’s what will make you happiest.”

    Scyther looked uncertainly around as if debating whether to say something. “Did Nightmare... did she battle?” he muttered at last.

    “Yeah,” Mark said.

    The mantis looked up. “Did she seem content with it? Battling for a trainer, being an exile from the swarm, being a...?”

    Mark thought back to that battle, to the Scizor’s playful Swords Dance and smug avoidance of Hypnosis. “Yeah,” he replied. “She seemed to be enjoying herself.”

    Scyther nodded once. “If she can be happy like that, I can too.”

    Mark smiled at him. “I hope you will.”

    -------

    He sent out all his Pokémon later, outside at their familiar training spot, where there was comfortable room and privacy for all of them. He recounted the progression of the battle, with interjections from the one who had been fighting at each point, and relayed May’s compliments to Jolteon, Dragonite and Letaligon.

    “And honestly, you were all great,” he continued. “Sandslash, it was my fault I didn’t give you an attack sooner or more varied moves. I’m sorry. Scyther, you were forced to blindly attack a fully-grown Mutark and then a Skarmory, who has an overwhelming advantage against you even without you being Taunted. You did great for the circumstances. And Charizard, you may technically have had a type advantage, but Skarmory had gotten a couple of Swords Dances in and had an extremely effective attack against you; you couldn’t have been expected to win on brute force, and you did a fantastic job dodging what you could. We were never going to become Champions, but you more than showed you were worthy of being there in the top eight, and that’s what matters most. I’m really proud of you. You’ve all grown a lot stronger and learned new moves and skills – the legendaries won’t know what hit them.” He cracked a smile as some of the Pokémon chuckled at that. “And, well, while we’re still here, we won’t let that time go to waste. We’ll root for May to get as far as she can, and for Taylor to be beaten. We can maybe help her train, or train for the legendary battles ourselves. Maybe I could hang around at the library and see if I can find anything about sightings of the remaining legendaries. And then, when the tournament is over...” He eyed Letaligon. “Well, first we’ll take Letaligon to Ruxido, since that’s what she wants. And then we’ll head off and look for the legendaries. We’ll find them, we’ll capture them, we’ll prevent the War of the Legends.”

    The Pokémon all nodded or muttered in agreement.

    “And then...” He took a deep breath. “Then I’m going home.”

    They looked at him in surprise – more, Mark hoped, at the context of this revelation than its content.

    “I’ve been to the League now and done better than I ever dared to hope. Again, you’ve been fantastic all the way. But I’m done being a trainer. The only reason I wanted to in the first place was that everyone else was one. I’ve never been any good at it. Even though it’s been fun – sometimes –” He saw Charizard smile. “Well, it’s just not something I’d want to do for a living or for many years. I have a mission now, which I’m going to complete to the best of my ability, but when that’s done, my journey is over. It’ll probably be a while, but when that time comes, you’re going to have to choose what you want to do. You can stay with me in Sailance if you want, but I can also take you back where I caught you, or wherever you like.”

    They were silent, looking uncertainly at one another; all except Letaligon, who was pawing impatiently at the ground, clearly feeling she was no longer being addressed.

    “You don’t have to make that choice now. I just want you to know about it and have thought about it by that time. I’ll go along with whatever you choose. Again, it’ll probably be a while, and I’ll do my best as your trainer until then. This is just a... a forewarning.” He looked between his Pokémon. “Okay?”

    They nodded one by one. Mark saw Scyther look emptily straight ahead and thought back to his earlier words about how battling for Mark was the only thing he lived for; he felt a pang of guilt in his stomach and hoped that he would find something to live for before that.

    “Well, it was nothing else for now. I’m sorry if I’ve let you down.” He paused. “Want to get back in your balls, take a nap, what?”

    They all preferred to return to their Pokéballs now, though Jolteon, Letaligon and Sandslash wanted to sleep outside their balls. Mark walked alone back to his room, feeling sadness at what he couldn’t help somehow perceiving as a betrayal of his Pokémon, but also a tingly sort of excitement, like an era of his life had come to an end and a new one was about to begin.
     
  20. Mawile XD

    Mawile XD ello thar

    Amazing chapter. I would have been more paranoid than Mark, actually, since May's such a skilled trainer. I think he did a good job choosing his pokemon though. I think I knew in my heart Mark would lose, even with his rally at the end, because you're too skilled a writer to have him beat May as a fluke. I'm glad May didn't trash him either, though. It was cool how you found that happy medium in-between.

    Dragonite did an amazing job, and it was a nice touch how he saved Floatzel. May had reason to be angry for the paralysis kicking in way more than usual. It was cheap, but that didn't hurt the writing, as it wasn't like Mark was thrashing May at the time - he really needed that paralysis. I liked how Scyther's motivation was fighting for Mark, and in the end Mark took that away...ouch.
     

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