Chapter Twenty-One: The Dojo

Ash furrowed his brow as he considered the TMs he'd gathered. He wanted all of them, but he'd have to set a few aside to purchase at a later day to ensure he didn't run too low on funds.

Celadon Department Store was as busy as ever, crammed full of trainers seeking to buff their teams in one way or another. Ash had arrived a few hours ago and after ensuring his team was healed up, he went out to get a few new toys for them.

He'd already stocked up on their food and the supplements he added to their meals, purchasing additional vitamins for Scizor. In addition to his own research, he'd sent a message to Professor Oak shortly after her capture for any advice.

Scizor typically ate much the same food as most bug-types, but they needed extra iron in their diet to keep their exoskeleton and steel-bonded muscle fibers strong. Ash took note of the Professor's suggestions and made the necessary purchases.

It wasn't like Pokemon food was particularly expensive, after all. Most of it was a blend of berries, fruits, and naturally-occurring vitamins they'd typically find in the wild. The supplements helped with the daily rigors of training and battle, bringing trained specimens to prime condition. Additional vitamins and minerals could be a bit expensive, but nothing bank-breaking.

Ash had had a fairly successful career as a trainer so far, anyway. He wasn't wanting for lack of cash, though he wasn't reckless in his spending. Hence his struggle to choose from the TMs he had at his fingertips.

He'd already decided to purchase two moves for Scizor. She needed to expand her ranged options outside of Hyper Beam and also desperately lacked a reliable way to cool her body in the thick of battle.

Flash Cannon would get her started on extra range. He'd teach her Bug Buzz before they challenged Sabrina, too (that would be an easy one).

In addition to Flash Cannon, he'd picked up Rain Dance. It was an odd choice for a Scizor, but Ash had heard about some interesting uses for the move outside of the norm.

Rain Dance and many of its counterparts—Sunny Day, Sandstorm, etc—were typically used to manipulate the weather on a small scale. It could be very energy-expensive if you tried to bring down a storm on a battlefield, as exhausting as something like Hyper Beam. Truly powerful Pokemon could pull them off with little effort, but they weren't usually practical for new trainers.

But he'd seen firsthand that manipulating weather wasn't all they were good for. Wes' Hitmontop had utilized a tiny Sandstorm to block Sobek's Incinerate during their battle. It wouldn't make an actual Sandstorm—Ash would bet the effort of doing so would exhaust the fighting-type—but that tiny variant was enough to serve as a buffer against certain attacks.

Rain Dance could be used in much the same way. Ash planned on Scizor learning how to form a sheen of dew over her armor. It would help keep her cool, sucking out some of the heat she produced in battle. If she could keep it up for a while, it would improve her stamina greatly.

It would be a project, he knew. Ash planned on getting her Sandstorm as well for additional defensive options, (and the sand could be used in much the same way to remove some of the excess heat) but decided that would be a purchase for another time. Best to work on Rain Dance and Flash Cannon for now—he didn't want to overwhelm her with too many new techniques to master.

He wanted to buy at least one or two more moves for his team. Ash decided against buying something for Espeon. In addition to whatever lessons Oak's Alakazam was putting her through, she'd only recently learned Zap Cannon and would need time to master it.

Jasmine he also decided against. He didn't want to commit to anything until she'd evolved and he could spend more time on her. He wasn't sure what all Dragonite was teaching her, either. No need to buy something she might already have available.

Ash debated getting something for Pikachu, but ultimately chose not to. He had the Light Screen TM from the St. Anne already. They'd work on mastering that.

Spectre was another temptation. Ash had recently taught him Dark Pulse with another TM he'd won on the St. Anne, but he looked at the Trick Room TM longingly. He had some ideas that could be outright disgusting if they mastered them.

But Trick Room was immensely complicated to master and energy-expensive. He didn't think Spectre would have the power necessary to pull it off until he was at least a Dusclops, maybe not even until he was a Dusknoir. Sighing, he put Trick Room aside.

At least Spectre would probably learn a number of equally nasty tricks from Agatha. Maybe he'd ask the Ghost Master for an opinion on his ideas…Sabrina would probably be able to provide some input, too. She would know about Trick Room's practicality better than just about anyone else.

Ash shelved his diabolical plans for the ghost's future opponents and focused on his remaining choices.

Sobek had also learned Dark Pulse in recent weeks via TM, in addition to Night Slash. Neither move was particularly difficult for him to master. Ash thought about buying Earth Power, but he was pretty sure he could teach it to Sobek (and Douse, actually) on his own. It wasn't a complicated technique, it simply required finer control to utilize than something like Earthquake.

He set Earth Power aside after another moment of internal debate. The only TM he'd chosen for sure beyond Flash Cannon and Rain Dance was Steel Wing; Pyro had mastered Wing Attack—not that that had taken him much effort in the first place—and could use a few more options. Metal Claw was useful, but Steel Wing would give him some more options. And when Jasmine eventually evolved into Dragonite, she could learn it, too.

One more TM, he decided. He wouldn't be crippling his funds if he got one more.

Ash was torn between Dragon Pulse and Poison Jab. On the one hand, Dragon Pulse could be used by several members of his team; Pyro, Sobek, and Jasmine once she evolved. Then again, he wasn't sure if he should buy it. Jasmine might very well be learning Dragon Pulse from Dragonite, and if she figured it out she could teach the others. The TM wouldn't be necessary in that case.

Poison Jab would be just another option for Douse, but beyond that Ash's team lacked any sort of poison-type moves. Well, Espeon was learning Toxic thanks to Wes, but he wasn't sure if she'd mastered it yet. Getting a better grasp for them could help when he had his rematch with Koga.

Douse had improved his move pool greatly since evolving. Drain Punch, Submission, Close Combat…his fighting-type repertoire was growing quickly. But variation was important, and admittedly he didn't have as many options typing-wise as Ash would like. Poison Jab would be a step in the right direction.

The same could be said for several members of his team, but if he could address them all at once, he would have.

In the end, he opted for a less-expensive, one-use copy of Poison Jab. No one else on the team could learn it, so he'd give it to Douse and focus on other techniques for Pyro and Sobek. Dragon Pulse could wait until Jasmine evolved.

His decision made, Ash took the TMs he wanted to the line at the counter. There was a little more than two weeks before he needed to be in Lavender Town to meet Agatha; plenty of time to get some work done with his team.

He let them have the night off before they started training the next morning. He'd be flying with Pyro during the day, but it would only be another day or two before he reached Lavender. Then they'd be training all the time on the outskirts of the town. While they traveled, they'd practice in the mornings and evenings.

Ash was tempted to have another go at Erika while he was in Celadon, but opted against it. He wanted his team to grow a bit more and if Scizor could master her new moves in the coming weeks, Erika's true team might be a decent challenge for her to test them.

He'd challenge her to a rematch before they went after Koga, Ash decided. By then, he'd have fought Sabrina (and defeated her, he hoped) and his team would enjoy an additional test of their strength.

He gave most of his team new TMs that morning. Pyro got Steel Wing, Douse Poison Jab, and Scizor Flash Cannon. He would give her Rain Dance after she'd mastered the steel-type move. Ash suspected it wouldn't take her very long. She had more than enough firepower to pull it off. After she figured it out to an acceptable degree, they'd work Rain Dance in—he didn't want to overwhelm her since she was so new at training with him.

Ash did give Pikachu Light Screen after some debate. The Alolan spices in his experimental diet probably wouldn't have much of an effect on his psychic capacity now, but it wouldn't hurt to stretch them a bit more beyond Agility. Maybe it would influence his evolution a little? If nothing else, Light Screen was a useful defense against energy-based attacks.

The rest of his team didn't get new TMs yet. Sobek would be working on Earth Power and Spectre would be improving Dark Pulse—he wasn't quite used to manipulating its energy effectively yet—and learning Night Shade on the side. A simple ghost-type move, but it would offer some extra options.

Once everything was ready, he explained his plans to the team and separated them into pairs. Sobek he pit against Pikachu, Pyro was with Spectre, and Douse was with Scizor.

Douse was the only one on good terms with the mantis at the moment. She seemed to have formed new respect for Sobek after their spar, but he wasn't sure the croc was feeling particularly friendly after she'd jumped him.

Well. He'd let go of his grudge with enough time. For now, best to ease their newest teammate in slowly.

He did catch Scizor eyeing Pyro speculatively. It seemed she wanted to test him next; he was the only one of Ash's major powerhouses (besides Espeon) she hadn't battled yet. Her pincers clicked as the fire-type swung his head around and caught her gaze.

Pyro snorted a plume of red-blue flame and the mantis paused briefly before turning away. Ash hid a smile. Maybe Scizor would avoid fighting Pyro for the foreseeable future. She hated fire.

He walked around the group of training Pokemon, slipping in commands, advice, and praise depending on what was needed. Most of his team knew the drill by now. Scizor would occasionally glance around to inspect the others, but much of her focus was on Douse.

The Poliwrath beat his spiral pattern with a hand and grunted something to the mantis, who listened intently before nodding. Ash watched as she lifted her pincer, charging silver energy within the gaping claw, and fired the Flash Cannon right into Douse's belly.

He took a step back, but reacted with little else. Douse grunted again and Scizor's eyes narrowed. She swung both pincers up this time and charged up a much larger Flash Cannon that almost knocked the water-type off his feet. Almost.

Douse was fairly resistant to steel-type moves thanks to his dense, but flexible body, so he shrugged them off without taking much damage. Ash wasn't too worried; the Poliwrath could take a beating before he was actually hurt. He'd proven that already to Scizor.

She seemed motivated given the lack of effect she was having on her sparring partner, especially when he fired a Hydro Pump at her to get her moving. Scizor dodged neatly before shooting another Flash Cannon at him. Ash's lips twitched upwards.

Trust Douse to work around Scizor's prickly personality.

The rest of his team was doing well. Sobek was working on Earth Power, generating the energy in a crack along the ground that Pikachu would block and endure with Light Screen. It was slower work; both moves required fine control to pull off successfully, but they'd get there.

Pyro was just using Steel Wing to block the Dark Pulses and Night Shades—well, that didn't take long for the Duskull to figure out—Spectre hurled at him. Steel Wing would be a useful defense as well as an offensive option in battle, he suspected. It could help Pyro shrug off weaker energy attacks. Anything that got close enough to physically strike him might be halted by it, but too much damage to his wings could cripple his mobility.

He passed the warning to his starter as he made his rounds and Pyro accepted his advice easily, opting to dodge more rather than just tank everything Spectre threw at him.

Satisfied, Ash checked his PokeNav. One hour, he'd decided, then they'd be flying again.

His eleventh birthday passed on the road. Ash blinked when he woke up one morning, checked the date, and realized exactly what day it was. He'd lost track of time in Silver-Viridian.

He received a mountain of messages that day and perused them while he was flying on Pyro, smiling at each one.

Happy Birthday, my little Pokemon Master! I can't believe you're eleven already! I feel so old! Espeon and Jasmine send you their love! Treat yourself to something nice if you're in a city and don't forget to change your—

Ash snorted and moved on, but he saved the message from his mother.

Happy Birthday or something, loser. Are you out of the forest yet? Or did you get eaten by a Caterpie? They're pretty dangerous, y'know. —Gary

He rolled his eyes and typed a reply to Gary. No doubt his rival would be crestfallen to hear he still lived.

Congrats on catching up with the rest of us. But don't get a big head about it. You're still the baby of the group! Stay out of trouble! —Leaf

That earned another fond eye roll. Despite his relief at being alone with his team again, Ash wouldn't deny that he missed his friends.

He checked the rest of his messages. Professor Oak had sent him well-wishes, too. There were a few more, but Ash paused when he realized there was one from Rui.

Wes and I are heading back to Orre.

He frowned deeply and kept reading.

I can't say too much because it's mostly just suspicions at the moment, but there's been some reports about shady figures being spotted in the dunes. Well, more so than normal. Do you remember that guy who was with the Rockets on the St. Anne? The trainer with the Hydreigon?

Ash scowled. He did, in fact, remember that guy. Remembered the strange way he'd dressed that separated him from the criminal organization he'd aligned with, and his nightmarishly powerful Pokemon.

We think he's been sighted in Orre before. Wes and the League want to investigate. The last thing we need is another group of criminals in Orre. We'll probably be back in time for the Indigo Conference, but I wanted to give you a heads up just in case we can't make it. Most places in Orre don't provide great cellular service and I'm not sure how long we'll be there.

Wes and I wish you good luck. I promise to tell you what the egg hatches into! —Rui Mirei.

Ash pondered the message for some time. It was understandable that Wes and the Indigo League—the whole of the National League, in fact—would want to keep another group of criminals from rising up in Orre. Everyone who remembered the Cipher Wars would immediately seek to destroy any chance of that bloodbath happening again.

Unfortunately, Orre was an ideal place for criminals; minimal law enforcement, barely any League presence to speak of, and inhospitable enough that most people wouldn't bother looking in the first place.

The Orreans working with the National League to bring some semblance of order to the wreck of a region were fighting a titanic uphill battle. Wes had brought some measure of control since the downfall of Cipher, but one man wasn't enough. He needed a League of his own to keep things from spiraling further.

He probably should've been relieved at the news that Wes might not make it back in time for the Indigo Conference, but a bigger part of him was disappointed. He really wanted a rematch against the Orrean.

Well, he'd see what happened. Ash typed a message back to Rui, wishing them well and telling them to be safe. Orre was a rough land, whether you grew up there or not.

He checked the rest of his messages. Nothing new, but he reread some others he'd received in recent weeks.

Heard about the St. Anne. I'm sure you're fine, but I'll ask anyway. What happened? —Paul Blackstone.

Ash had gotten that the day before he set off into Viridian Forest. He'd told Paul most of what had happened. The other boy had his own share of Rocket experiences, after all. The conversation had been fairly short, but Paul had been pleased to hear that Proton had been captured (again) and hopefully detained for good this time.

Pyro growled beneath him and Ash looked up. Saffron City was just ahead.

He'd debated just skipping the city entirely, but given what time it was, (just before midday, they'd started flying early in the morning) he figured his team could use a moment to eat. Pyro could get a break.

Ash patted Pyro's shoulder and pointed for the city. "Land just outside the boundary. We'll take a breather."

The Charizard rumbled and began his descent.

Ash quickly found his way to the Pokemon Center and got his team sorted out for lunch. All of them had quite the appetite; even Scizor tucked into her food with a little more gusto than before.

He was working on his second sandwich at the moment, watching the people come in and out of the Center. There were a lot of trainers today; he wasn't quite sure why. Sure, Saffron was huge, but most trainers passed it by fairly quickly. The only appeal was the Saffron Gym, and Sabrina was a terrifying opponent for most. They were just as likely to pop in and pop out, and skip her entirely in favor of a minor Gym.

But there were a lot more people than Ash was expecting. He wondered why.

Once he'd polished off his lunch, he took a detour to the front desk to see what the commotion was all about. When he queried to the flux of trainers, Nurse Joy beamed at him.

"Most of them have been at the Dojo in the northern part of the city. Elite Four Bruno is overseeing training exercises there for a week with the owner of the Dojo. There are still three days left for it. If you have a fighting-type, it would be worth checking out!"


That was certainly news to Ash. He'd had no idea Bruno was in the area, and if he was overseeing training classes…

Well, Ash would be an idiot to pass the opportunity up. He still had nearly two weeks left before he needed to be in Lavender to meet with Agatha.

Excited, he returned to his team and waited for them to finish eating before taking off for the Dojo.

Sabrina's Gym was closer to the center of Saffron City. The Dojo, once the major Gym of central Kanto, was on the outskirts. It had fallen from grace in the last decade following Sabrina's rise, though Ash was sure there was more to it than that. Gyms didn't just fall apart for no reason.

The building was smaller than Sabrina's Gym, but it seemed to be well-kept from the outside. Ash made his way inside and found the interior to be much the same. Plainly furnished with tatami floors and paper doors that slid to open and close. Very traditional.

He saw quite a few people approaching and then leaving the Dojo before going in, seemingly disappointed. Ash saw a sign and frowned; had it been cancelled?

Notice: Elite Four Bruno is NOT accepting challengers. Requests to battle him will result in an immediate expulsion from the Morimoto Dojo.

Was that really all these people were leaving for? What did it matter if you couldn't battle Bruno (it did disappoint him a little, admittedly) when you had the chance to train with a vaunted member of the Indigo Elite Four?

Ash went in anyway.

He was requested to remove his shoes by the entrance and then guided to the largest room. A man at the front desk addressed him once he was ready. "You may release two of your Pokemon while you attend our instruction. It is intended for fighting-types, but your instructors may have suggestions for other species."

Two, huh? Ash set Douse loose in an instant and debated on who else to release. Pikachu wouldn't get much from this, nor would Spectre. Sobek he suspected wouldn't take to it well.

In the end, he chose Scizor. Pyro was tempting, but he thought seeing one of the most powerful trainers in the world might be good for the bug-type. Besides, this could be a good chance to hone her Technician ability.

Technician was a boon, but it needed to be mastered to make the most of it. The ability gave a Pokemon a keen sense for targeting weak points in an enemy. But naturally, it could be improved on with time, training, and dedication.

Upon their release, Douse and Scizor observed their surroundings curiously before Ash regained their attention.

"We're taking a bit of a detour. Elite Four Bruno is here; he's holding training classes for a few days."

Douse's eyes gleamed with interest. Scizor cocked her head slightly, confused. Ash explained himself further to the perplexed mantis. "Bruno is a member of the Elite Four—the four most powerful trainers in Kanto and Johto. His Pokemon are some of the strongest in the world."

That cleared it up. Scizor's pincers clicked. Ash shrugged. "We won't be fighting him, but anything we can learn would be useful. He's not a Master for nothing."

She seemed intrigued, if disappointed that there wouldn't be a battle. But she nodded and followed Ash into the next room with Douse.

It was full, but not so packed that there wasn't room enough for everyone inside. The vast majority of the trainers seemed to be martial artists of varying skill, just by glancing at their belts and the Pokemon that joined them. There were a few typical trainers, but they were outnumbered by the fighting specialists.

Ash was quietly directed by an assistant to the back row and sat down. Douse and Scizor matched him with some shuffling, and he focused on the figures standing at the head of the room.

Bruno was there. A massive, mountain of a man well over six feet tall. He was shirtless at the moment, displaying an incredible physique honed from years of hard training. His black hair was long and bound behind his head. He wore classic martial-arts pants with a black-belt bound around his waist, and black bands were wrapped around his wrists and ankles. His eyes were sharp beneath thick, black eyebrows.

He did not scowl, but he had a strict expression that was classic for the man from what little Ash knew of him. Bruno was known for his discipline and mastery not just of the fighting-type, but also of himself. You didn't rise to the ranks of the Elite Four by being a dumb brute, after all.

Just behind Bruno stood a Machamp of nearly equal height to its master. Ash felt a thrill at the sight; there stood one of the most powerful Pokemon in Indigo, if not the entire world.

But Bruno stood somewhat off to the side. At the head of the instruction was a blonde girl in traditional martial-arts garb. Her hair was short and wrapped up in buns on either side of her head, and like Bruno, she too donned a black-belt. At her flanks stood a Medicham and a tall, feathered Pokemon Ash suspected to be a Blaziken.

He was curious of the girl; she looked vaguely familiar. One of Bruno's students, perhaps? Whatever the case, a few minutes passed before they actually began. A few more people made their way into the crowded room before the door was slid closed and the session truly started.

"Welcome to the Morimoto Dojo!" The girl announced. "I see most of you have stuck around throughout this week. And there seem to be some new faces, too. Good."

She was stern, a slant to her brows just shy of a frown as she regarded them. "My name is Greta Morimoto. Along with Elite Four Bruno, I shall be leading instruction today. If you wish to leave our instruction at any point, please do not make a fuss on your way out."

Greta cast her eyes over the group, a challenge in her gaze. Looking at her, Ash thought he remembered the girl now.

He was pretty sure she'd been a finalist in the Silver Conference a couple of years ago. She hadn't made any public appearances since then as far as he knew, but if he recalled correctly she had been a talented fighting-type specialist and received high praise for her performance. He frowned as he thought back to those finals. Who had she…

Ah, right. She'd battled Will in that Conference, which had led to him becoming an Elite Four Trainee. Despite being at a type disadvantage, she'd made him work for that victory.

She'd not competed in the year that followed and he'd not heard much of her since. He had to wonder what caused her to take up ownership (he assumed) of the Dojo.

"If you are new to our training, you will join me momentarily in one of the side rooms. If you have been present for at least three days, you will remain here and begin training with Master Bruno. Am I understood?"


The unexpectedly loud chorus almost made Ash jump. Scizor shifted beside him, clearly as fond of the sudden exclamation as he was.

Greta nodded, satisfied, and nodded her head to the right side of the room. "Newcomers, with me."

Ash stood up with his Pokemon and followed her, along with four others. Nearly every martial artist remained; they'd probably been chomping at the bit to train under Bruno well before he'd even heard of this event.

The side room was smaller than the main area, but more than large enough given how few people followed Greta and her Pokemon inside.

She waited by the door and guided them all to stand in different places throughout the room, such that each of them could see her with no issues. Ash was near the front farthest from the door.

Greta moved to the front of the room and crossed her arms behind her back. "We will begin with basic exercises for your Pokemon. Help them prepare; I will come by each of you to discuss what you will work on. New moves, techniques, or martial arts are all possible."

She started with the trainer closest to the door, (a young martial artist no older than Ash, he suspected) so Ash whipped out his Pokedex and turned to Douse and Scizor. "I have a few ideas, but we'll see what she says when she comes by. Douse, I'd like to see if they can help you learn Focus Blast; you could use some more ranged options. Scizor, I think we'll work on Technician, but maybe…maybe they can teach you Superpower."

Superpower was jumping the gun pretty excessively, way ahead of Ash's original plans for Scizor. But if the option was available he'd take it. It was available as a TM, however given how strenuous the technique could be, he suspected it would be better to learn it from a fighting-type specialist.

If they could get on top of it now, it might shortcut some other diabolical plans—ahem—ideas he'd had, though most would have to wait until Scizor had Rain Dance down to an acceptable degree.

For now, they treated it as they would any standard training session. No spars, but Ash had them doing simple exercises up until Greta came over with Blaziken behind her. He noticed Medicham had stayed with that first trainer, guiding them and their Machop through a series of punches.

Greta dipped her head as she approached him. "Welcome again. What's your name?"


"I am Greta. So, what were you hoping to learn from us? Or did you come for advice?"

"A bit of both," he admitted. Ash patted Douse's massive arm. "Douse evolved a few months ago. He's doing great—he's learned a lot of new fighting-type moves, but I think it would help to work on techniques with fighting specialists. I'd like to start teaching him Focus Blast, but any advice would be appreciated."

Greta studied the Poliwrath, circling him briefly. She seemed to approve, judging by the gleam in her eyes.

"He's in good physical condition. What fighting-type moves has he learned so far?"

"Wake-Up Slap, Brick Break, Drain Punch, Submission, Close Combat," Ash listed off. "We haven't quite mastered Submission or Close Combat, but he learned the basics from Professor Oak's Machamp."

Greta blinked in surprise. "Oak?"

"My home is in Pallet Town."

"Ah," she nodded in understanding. "Has he learned any specific martial art styles? Refined techniques?"

"No," he admitted. "I'm not a fighting specialist. Neither is Professor Oak. I don't know much about martial arts, and I haven't been able to look for a specialist to train him."

"Understandable. But since he recently evolved, I'd advise you work on that as soon as you can. Refinement of martial arts builds upon and enhances fighting-type moves. A Brick Break used with the proper technique is more penetrating. A Submission handled expertly will mitigate the damage to its user," Greta told him. Ash listened raptly. Every little bit of information he could pick up from a true fighting specialist was valuable.

"Poliwrath are best suited to punches and grappling. Kicks are usually wasted on them. We can work on a basic plan for your Poliwrath to study and practice while you train here; there are video lessons accessible on a Pokedex or other such device if you seek to continue these teachings on the road. I can advise you on which ones to show him later."

Greta reached for her belt and pulled out another Pokeball. From within emerged a stout, yellow Pokemon with small eyes he recognized as a Makuhita.

"Striker, assist Poliwrath with foundation basics."

The fighting-type nodded and turned to Douse, gesturing for him to follow it. Douse glanced at Ash and he sent an encouraging nod in return, which was all the Poliwrath needed.

"Thank you," Ash told Greta honestly.

"Training is good for all of us," she replied, and the stern slant of her eyes was a little softer before she focused on Scizor. "And what about this one?"

"Scizor is new to the team," Ash explained. "But I have some ideas. I want to work on her Technician ability. Help her learn to make pinpoint attacks as efficiently as she can."

Greta's brow twitched. She seemed interested. "It's a good idea. A Master of Technician can make the most of even the most glancing blows. Bruno has a Breloom who has honed its ability into an art form. I will inform him of your plans when the instructors switch classes. But in the meantime, let's see where your partner stands. Scizor, you will spar with Blaziken."

Scizor perked up, studying the fire-type with interest. It wasn't much shorter than her, but both Pokemon towered over their trainers.

Greta moved them away from the other students and to a large, open space clearly meant for martial art sparring. Ash stood beside her at her request.

"No true attacks," Greta ordered the two Pokemon. "Close-range only, and stay within the sparring space. Scizor, attack when you are ready."

Scizor eyed Blaziken for all of two seconds before she shot forward and started swinging those huge pincers.

She was aiming, to her credit; Ash could see her blows being aimed at Blaziken's thin, albeit powerful torso. It was an effective strategy, especially for a fighter who specialized in kicks. Weaken their core enough and it became difficult for even a skilled combatant to fight properly.

But her plan aside, Blaziken handled her expertly. Its sharp eyes seemed to catch every motion before Scizor even swung, predicting her target with uncanny accuracy. It slapped her pincers away with its claws, twisting its torso to avoid even glancing blows.

Scizor suddenly swung upwards for Blaziken's chin and the fighter quickly backpedaled, but she wasn't going to let him get away. She blurred after him and kept swinging, upping the pace of her strikes. Even so, Blaziken was unperturbed.

Ash couldn't help but admire the incredible skill of the fighting-type. Douse had struggled to dodge any of Scizor's attacks in their first major battle, inexperience aside. Blaziken was an expert of its typing and technique, dodging and diverting every strike with complete calm despite the pace.

Scizor's eyes narrowed. Ash watched as she feinted another blow at Blaziken's chin and then jammed her pincer into the fighter's belly—

—Nope, Blaziken caught her attack in its hand to soften the blow, then pushed back to recover some space.


Greta's snap had Blaziken immediately halt. Scizor hesitated, as if reluctant to stop, but her wings buzzed to cool her body after a moment.

Greta regarded Scizor for a minute in silence, eyes narrowed thoughtfully. Scizor stared back, unafraid of meeting her gaze in any way, shape, or form.

"You're predictable," she said at last. "Too much windup in your attacks. Your swings are too wide. Easy to read. But you have a good instinct for where you're aiming. Almost every shot Blaziken diverted was directed at a vital point."

"She beat Douse up pretty good when we fought her in Silver-Viridian," Ash added, smiling at Scizor encouragingly. She glanced at him briefly before returning her attention to Greta.

"I don't doubt it. We'll refine that," Greta decided. "Was there anything else you wanted to work on with her?"

"I have plans to teach her Superpower at some point, but I might be getting ahead of myself. There are a few techniques I want to figure out once she learns it."

"Run them by me, I can probably tell you if they're practical or not. In the meantime—Blaziken, clean up her attack patterns. Remove the wasted motion."

Blaziken nodded and made a strange, deep warble in its throat. Scizor cocked her head in response, but seemed to listen as the fighter assumed a combat stance. Its long arms were actually quite a similar match to her own, minus the pincers of course.

Ash wondered if she was starting to realize just how big the world was. Had she ever fought another Pokemon who could handle her so easily?

They hadn't even been fighting. Not really.

Greta crossed her arms and faced him. "Now, let's hear these ideas you have for teaching Scizor Superpower. If you're well-read on it, then I expect you're aware of the risk it runs if used improperly. What do you have in mind?"

Ash took a breath to gather his thoughts and told her.

A/N: This chapter got way longer than I thought it would, so I split it into two smaller halves to get one out on-schedule. It's not quite what I had in mind, but the meat of it will be in the next chapter.

As ever, please review and thanks for reading!