"Uh… hey, I had a question," Ralts said, looking up from a breadstick.

Cinder raised her head, snapping up the last of her own meal. "What is it?"

"Well – how come you're called Cinder, when you're a Mightyena?" Ralts asked. "And how come Arc is called Arc when he's a Manectric, and… so on."

Max chuckled. "Oh, yeah, that – that kind of just happened. I nicknamed all my Pokémon."

"You did?" Ralts said, looking around the camp and picking out all the Pokémon he'd heard a nickname for.

They did all seem to be Max's Pokémon, actually – there was Guy, the Breloom, ignoring Casper the Shuppet who was trying to work out how to tie his tail to a tree.

A little way to the side, there was Delta – sitting on his fins, and bouncing a ball back and forth with Altaria.

Looking in the other direction, Ralts saw that his mom was holding a conversation with Jirachi – which prompted a frown.

"How come Jirachi doesn't have a nickname?"

Max and Cinder glanced at one another, dumbfounded.

"I don't think that's ever occurred to us… has it?"

"I think we must have talked about it," Max replied, frowning. "I can't remember when, though..."

Ralts giggled. "Maybe it's because he's already special?"

"I was already special too," Cinder said, tongue lolling out. "Can't you tell?"

As Ralts tried to stop giggling, Max picked Kris up. "I did take some notes on ideas for Ralts' name, right?"

You did, Kris agreed. Unfortunately, they are a bit disjointed.

"It can't be that bad, right?" Max asked.

Arthur is in here eight times, Kris informed him. You developed a bad habit of not checking if you'd already put the idea down.

"Does that mean my name's now Arthur Arthur Arthur-"

"No way," Max replied, shaking his head. "That'd take too long… Lancelot?"

"Even I know what that's a reference to," Cinder said, shaking her head. "Too obvious. And Lancelot wasn't very well behaved."

"Yeah, I guess," Max nodded. "Right, so much for that one… what about Kusanagi?"

"Nah," Ralts shook his head. "I was thinking… Aladdin!"

Dark-type and human gave him a confused look.

"Why?" Cinder asked.

"Yeah, I agree with Cinder," Max said. "If you want it, fine, but it's not really a Ralts name to me."

"What? Ralts name?" Ralts replied, tilting his head. "I was trying to think of one for Jirachi."

"If you don't want a nickname, you don't have to have one," Max assured Ralts, picking him up and hugging him. "I mean, like we've said, Jirachi doesn't."

As he spoke, Cinder padded over to Kris and started pressing buttons.

"I know, but… I think I do want one," Ralts replied. "It'd be something about me that stays me – I have something that's like that, but it's kind of… impossible to say out loud."

"It is?" Max asked. "Does that mean it's something telepathic?"

Yeah, Ralts confirmed, sending it at Max.

The trainer went momentarily cross-eyed. "Why can I taste caramel and chocolate? And… it sounds kind of like a wind chime, and I think I can see purple?"

"Told you it wasn't possible to say out loud," Ralts nodded sagely. "My sister's more of a melony-ice-cream kind of person."

"I think I've got an idea," Cinder said, looking up from Kris. "It's from a story about two knights from Kalos, a human and a Gallade… how do you pronounce this one?"

Roland, Kris vocalized.

Ralts frowned, thinking. "The story sounds cool, but the name… not sure? I can't think of anything better, though."

"Shall we give it a go?" Max asked. "Arc took weeks to settle on something."

Ralts nodded. "Yeah, I think that's a good idea – I'll see what mom thinks!"

He jumped down, and there was a flash – and he appeared again about fifteen feet away.

"Kind of wish I could teleport," Cinder said, getting up to follow the newly-named Roland.

Max nodded. "It'd be kind of cool… I think some humans can do it if they've got strong enough psychic powers."

...it's really helpful! Jirachi explained. I mean, I don't think I really had the time to train before going with Max, but I've seen lots of other Pokémon being helped by training with humans. It's because… your trainer knows you really well, but he can come up with new ideas and keep you focused on training.

Jirachi waved his arms, to emphasize the point. I've got a lot better at using Future Sight, and that's nothing compared to how I saw Casper and Cinder working together!

Gardevoir smiled. "You certainly seem to be enthusiastic… well, that's good. I think you're probably right about how much training helps, as well."

She sighed. "I've just been worried by all those stories about trainers who really don't do the right thing for their Pokémon."

Jirachi shook his head. Max isn't like that! And he'd never-

"Calm down, please, Wish Maker," Gardevoir requested, holding up a hand. "I meant no offence. And it's wonderful that you have such trust in your trainer… I just want to explain why we never strayed close to humans before."

Oh, right, Jirachi sent, contrite. I guess I kind of overreacted, huh?

"I think your reaction is understandable," Gardevoir said, after a little thought. "I imagine that my daughter would react in far worse ways if it was suggested that I mistreated her."

What about your son? Jirachi asked.

"He's a little calmer," Gardevoir replied.

Mom! Mom!

"Usually," the Fairy-type added, in some puzzlement. "What is it, dear?"

I'm called Roland now! Ralts told her, clearly very excited. I've got a nickname – Cinder came up with it, after looking at a story from Kalos about a human with a Gallade!

"Roland," Gardevoir repeated, saying it a few times – both out loud and mentally – to be sure she remembered it. "That's nice – and that sounds like an interesting story."

Yeah, I really want to read it! Roland agreed. "Oh – I was going to ask, how do you think the name sounds?"

"It sounds… nameish?" Gardevoir said hesitantly, not sure what kind of reply she was expected to give.

Jirachi sniggered. "Nameish?"

"Corphish, I think," Ash said, looking over at Pikachu. "How does that sound?"

"Well, I suppose he does deserve a battle," Pikachu admitted. "And he'd be a Water-type in a Water gym, so he'd be okay with most of the possible fights."

"Right," Ash agreed. "And… well, I don't know how many it'll be this time, but what about Glalie for the third? Would you be okay with that, Glalie?"

"Going straight back into the gym challenge?" Glalie asked, bobbing gently up and down. "Sure! I can show off just fine!"

His grin broadened. "And that means I can put the whole gym-"

"Don't," Pikachu interrupted, tail flat out to one side to emphasize the point. "Just… stop there."

"But I was going to-"


"It'd be-"

"No! No, no, no, you are not going to say you'd put the Gym on ice!"

Pikachu stopped, and his ears went down. "I said it, didn't I?"

Glalie cackled.

"Then… huh, perhaps Swellow?" Ash asked, thinking out loud. "Or maybe Goodra would be willing to have another battle."

"Why not me?" Raikou asked. "I've only done eight!"

His paw reached up to touch a small bundle of signs lashed to his side. "And I've not even broken in the new signs, either..."

"I think the gym leader might complain," Ash said, rubbing the back of his neck. "And so might everyone else. But then again… actually, maybe I should work out a Contest routine with you instead."

"Well… it'll have to do," Raikou grumbled.

"Eight?" Glalie asked. "Why eight? I didn't do eight."

"Neither did I," Pikachu said. "Well, not all in one league challenge."

"I wanted to show I was giving my attempt to not be caught by Ash my all, so he'd have to damn well catch me!" Raikou replied.

Glalie went cross-eyed trying to follow the logic.

"Uh… hey, Mawile?" Kirlia asked, jogging alongside Mawile and Goodra. "I've got a question."

"Sure, go ahead!" Mawile agreed. "What is it?"

"Well, I wanted to ask, because I heard your trainer and Max both talking about gyms?" She spread her arms, flipping a strand of hair back into place. "So… what's a gym?"

"Oh, right – it's actually really fun," Mawile assured her. "Basically, Ash – you know, my trainer – wants to show he's a good trainer and we're strong Pokémon, so he battles eight Gym Leaders spread all over Hoenn to get the right to fight at the Pokémon League!"

Kirlia frowned. "Why would he want to do that?"

"I said it was fun!" Mawile reiterated. "And it is – Gym Leaders have all kinds of tricks, so it's a great way to test your skill and see if you're good at battling."

She put a finger to her chin. "I guess… it's kind of something you have to do a bit to find out if you like it. And I do!"

"Is that because you managed to invent a way to fly?" Goodra asked, craning his neck around to see them.

"Well, that was cool too..." Mawile smiled. "But – Pikachu really likes battling, and so do… well, most of Ash's Pokémon!"

Goodra nodded. "I have to admit, I'm enjoying it more than I did at first." His expression went a little distant. "But there's also… it means I'm confident. I know that Ash is a good trainer, I know that I have friends, and I know that I don't really need to be afraid."

The Dragon-type shook his head. "I remember being afraid, and I don't like it."

Mawile hugged him. "I think you're really brave!"

Goodra smiled.

After a few seconds, Kirlia coughed. "Uh… sorry, I still had a couple of questions..."

Mawile let go again, and looked down at Kirlia – then slid down Goodra's flank to reach the ground. "Sure! What did you want to ask?"

"Well… I don't know if I'd like battling at all, but… is that all there is to having a trainer?"

"No!" Mawile and Goodra said at the same time.

"There's lots of things!" Mawile went on. "Ash is a trainer who travels around a lot, so we see all kinds of places and meet loads of new Pokémon! They're not always nice," she admitted, looking down for a moment, "but – it's really great to talk to Pokémon like Suicune and Stantler!"

"And Mawile met me because the trainer who caught me in Kalos traded me to Ash," Goodra supplied. "She helped me a lot, so I'm glad for that too."

"And – well, Brock's a trainer, he's even a Gym Leader, but most of his Pokémon are just friends!" Mawile took up the thread. "He's a doctor too – and a chef!"

Kirlia nodded to herself. "What about the girl? May?"

"Oh, May's a Coordinator,"Mawile told her. "Coordinators do do some battle training, but they focus on making attacks look really pretty – Contests are all that sort of thing, there was one I saw where her Skitty made an ice sculpture!"

"Ever thought of doing a Contest yourself?" Goodra asked, interested.

"Huh, actually… I might ask!" Mawile decided.

"Okay, thanks," Kirlia said, pondering. "That's handy to know."

"Well, there's Sootopolis," Brock said, shading his eyes. "It's a pretty impressive sight."

"Yeah, the island's a bizarre shape, but you do kind of get used to it," May agreed. "How come it's that shape, anyway?"

Brock lowered his hand. "Well, it's a caldera – that's when there's a really big volcanic eruption, and the volcano collapses into the hole the magma chamber left. Or sometimes calderas are made by a really big explosion – usually a volcano having seawater dumped on it – which means that all the rock gets blasted dozens of miles in every direction."

"...right," May winced. "Thanks, now I'm going to be thinking about how we're about to walk around on top of a volcano."

"It's not the first time," Brock said, cheerfully. "I mean, where do you think all those islands we were on came from?"

May did a double-take. "What?"

The ship rocked slightly as it came about, heading for the Great Gate – the largest break in the Sootopolis ringwall.

"Well… Hoenn's got a lot of volcanoes," Brock explained. "Mt. Chimney and Mt. Pyre are the two most famous, but most of it's actually made of volcanoes… usually old ones. You remember the one which we saw Groudon and Kyogre fight on, right?"

May sat down on one of the deck chairs. "I don't think this is making me feel better."

Brock shrugged. "Remember, we've got Dragon-types able to get us out of trouble if something does go wrong. I actually feel more comfortable about it than last time."

"And what about the chances that Ash somehow awakens a dozen Heatran?" May asked.

"...I feel as comfortable as last time," Brock amended.

Ash knocked on the door of Sootopolis gym.

"Let us hope that this battle goes well," Lucario said. "Or, rather, that this gym is still standing at the end of the battle."

"Yeah, that's the big question," Brock agreed. "Seven down, just one to go."

He nodded to Ash. "But seriously, you've been doing a good job at not wrecking things."

"Thanks," Ash smiled. "But the last time I did a Water gym, I did completely ruin it."

"Then that's just a reason to be more careful, right?" Max said.

"Sorry, what's this about?" Gardevoir asked. "You ruined a gym?"

"Actually, I think we may have broken the majority of gyms before we got to Hoenn," Pikachu told her. "I might need a piece of paper to work it out."

Any further conversation on the topic was interrupted when the door opened.

"Welcome!" Juan announced, sketching a bow. "I am Juan, the Water-type Gym Leader of Sootopolis!"

He focused on the trainers waiting outside, and blinked. "Oh, ah… I see that Ash Ketchum has visited my gym."

"That's me!" Ash confirmed. "And this is Max-"

"Maple, of course," Juan completed. "Yes, I remember talking to your father, quite a fine fellow. And May Maple as well, I see."

Brock waited.

"Well, come in," Juan told them, ushering them through the door. "And how many badges do you have?"

"You're our last visit in Hoenn," Max said. "And May's only got one Ribbon to collect."

Brock wilted.

"You look upset," Gardevoir noted.

"I think that's because he was hoping Juan would recognize him as well," Ninetales explained. "Poor Brock..."

"I'm the actual Gym Leader here..." Brock muttered to himself. "And a knight, too… no-one remembers that..."

"What kind of gym leader?" Kirlia asked. "He said he was a Water-type."

"Well, he's a Rock-type gym leader," said Brock's Fire-type.

Kirlia nodded, then frowned. "Uh… hold on… Geodude..."

She paused. "Do you have any other Rock types?"

"Don't rub it in," Brock mumbled.

"He's got more Steel-types, Ground-types and Water-types than Rock-types," Ninetales supplied. "Funny thing, they're all especially effective against Rock..."

"So, what kind of battle is it here?" Max asked. "It was two-on-two at Mossdeep, because of the whole twins thing."

"Ah, of course, Mossdeep," Juan agreed. "That shining jewel in a limpid sea! No, here at Sootopolis we have a different style – or styles."

They came out of a corridor into the main room of the gym, a giant swimming pool with bleachers at both sides and several floating platforms.

"The battle area is the pool, you see?" Juan asked, waving them through. "It's also used for water shows, but at the moment we are done with those for the day."

"I guess that's a thing Water gyms tend to do, then?" Ash asked. "I mean, the Cerulean gym does it too."

Juan nodded to himself. "I see, I see. Well – who should we do first?"

"You handle Max Maple, Juan," someone said.

May looked around, startled. "Is that Wallace?"

"Ah, you've heard of me," Wallace said, nodding. "Yes, that's me. I was in town to visit my teacher, Juan, and – well, I thought I'd do Ash Ketchum's gym challenge for you, Juan."

"That sounds kind of cool," Ash admitted. "It's not going to be a Contest, is it?"

"No, no Contest," Wallace assured him. "I have something else in mind… but anyway, Juan, it's your gym now. You first."

"It has been my gym for many years, Wallace," Juan replied easily. "Since you gave it back, anyway… I have almost worked out how to work the lighting system you installed. Would that be okay, Max?"

"Sure!" Max agreed. "Oh – are there any restrictions on what Pokémon to use?"

"For an eighth gym challenge?" Juan asked. "Of course not! Anything is allowed!"

Great! Jirachi 'pathed, sticking his head out of Max's bag. This is going to be so cool!

"...you warned me about them, did you not," Juan said, glancing at Wallace. "I see that you are correct."

He shrugged. "Anyway! This will be four one-on-one battles, and if there is a tie at the end of the sequence then the winners will battle one another in a double battle."

"That's kind of a cool format," Ash noted.

"Yes, I was coming up with it last week," Juan said. "Now, take your places!"

"We'd better go up into the stands," May advised. "I think this could get wet."

"Out of curiosity, Max Maple," Juan said, taking his first Pokéball – a Dive Ball. "Which of the gyms you've done so far has been the hardest?"

"Well, I think that Winona's gym was the most difficult," Max told him. "Even Arc got beaten then – I lost, you see."

"And got the badge anyway, so you are good at adapting," Juan followed along. "Well, then – send out your first Pokémon!"

"Right!" Max agreed, throwing the Pokéball. "Delta, go!"

"Wailord!" Juan replied.

"Did he say-" May began.

There was a flash as Delta appeared, high over the battlefield, and then Wailord materialized and landed with an enormous Splash in the arena.

"Well, that was not as effective as we were hoping," Juan admitted, brushing water off his clothes. "Oh – sorry, do you need a break?"

Max retrieved his glasses. "No, I'm okay – I'll just dry them on, uh..."

After a few seconds searching for an item of clothing that wasn't soaked, he resorted to just shaking the worst of the drops off and putting them back on. "Okay, there we go!"

"If you are fine continuing, then… Wailord, use Water Spout!" Juan ordered.

Delta dove gracefully away, splashing down into the water and then launching himself out at high speed on the other side of Wailord's enormous form.

"...why did we have to sit this far down?" May asked.

Blaziken's expression was bland as he wiped water off his forearms, feathers bristling. "Good question."

"Yes, I'm afraid this is a bit of a splash zone," Wallace said, wringing his hat out. "But it's what you have to expect from a Water gym."

May picked up her stuff. "Okay, come on," she said, including Altaria, Skitty and Blaziken. "We're moving out of splash range."

"Like, that's totally not a moment too soon," Skitty agreed, shaking her fur out. "I feel like, like, a wet dog… ugh..."

Altaria trilled, spreading his wings, and totally failed to drift into the air. Water dribbled out of his cottonlike clouds, and he sighed before getting to his feet and following his trainer.

"You're quick with that shield," Brock said, complimenting Ash.

"Yeah, after what happened with Kyogre and Groudon I thought I'd practice it a bit," Ash agreed, lowering his Protect. "Is Ninetales okay?"

"Just a few drops got on me," Ninetales said, with a smile. "Gardevoir was kind enough to shield us all with her own telekinesis."

"Delta, use Air Slash!" Max called, drawing their attention back to the battle.

Max's Water-type dove in a slashing attack, forming a blade of wind which split off from his own air envelope to strike down at Wailord.

"That was a good hit, but it looks like Wailord's going to last a while," Brock said, shading his eyes. "And the downside for Max is that that means Juan has a long time to think of a counter-tactic – that's how Wailord are really useful, they're just so big."

"I could take him," Pikachu said casually.

Delta flipped, pulling up short of a blast of water from Wailord, and dove cleanly into the water with a splish.

"Hold fire for now," Juan ordered. "Wait until he comes up again – and if he doesn't, use Splash and try and knock him out of the pool!"

Wailord nodded slowly, deactivating his Waterspout, and waited.

A few seconds later, Delta came blasting up into the air again in a wash of spray.

"Now!" Juan called.

"Ice beam at the blowhole!" Max countered.

Juan blinked, the order taking a moment to parse. "What?"

Delta rolled, wings rippling, and fired a burst of blue light at the blowhole just as Wailord used Waterspout. The attacks met one another, and the blowhole froze over – making Wailord cough and sputter, all the pressure having nowhere to go except to blast out through his mouth.

"All right, great work!" Max cheered. "Now, just keep hitting him!"

"Wailord, take a deep breath!" Juan said, frowning. "Now, Waterspout as hard as you can!"

"Why would he-" Max began, then his eyes widened. "Delta, look out!"

"What?" Delta asked, slowing so he could hear Max.

Wailord used Waterspout. The icy covering of his blowhole trembled, developing cracks, and then fired out into the air like a cannon.

Delta dodged frantically to the side, managing to pass between the icy fragments themselves, but the unusually high-pressure Waterspout caught him and slammed him into the gym roof before diminishing back to normal.

"Ow," the Mantine managed, gliding slowly downwards again. "I think that was a bad plan..."

"Delta! Are you okay?" Max called, shading his eyes.

"I'm fine, thank you, Maximilian," Delta said, then discovered to his surprise that the water was a lot closer than he'd thought. There was an almighty spa-looosh of water as Delta crashed, and water splattered down on the poolside before running back into the pool.

"Delta?" Max asked again, then sighed. "I think he's been knocked out."

"I concur," Juan nodded. "Well, that was a good battle – a pity your trick backfired, I thought it was clever."

"Yeah, I kind of outsmarted myself..." Max agreed, returning Delta. "Okay, who next..."

Juan called back Wailord as well. "Take your time."

"You know, that roof looks a lot more durable than the one Misty had," Ash said, looking up at the Mantine-shaped wet mark on the ceiling. "I'm pretty sure that battle we had in Cerulean gym didn't hit it as hard as those chunks of ice and… well, and Delta… hit this gym roof."

"Don't tell Misty that, she might take it as criticism," Brock advised. "And – how do you think you'd have done that battle differently, Ash?"

Ash frowned, tapping his foot.

"I think maybe the big mistake was to go back to the old attack pattern after using Ice Beam," he said. "That meant Wailord could aim for him. I'm not sure exactly what I'd do, but maybe Supersonic would have been a good idea."

He shrugged. "The ice was a good idea, though."

"Yes, I've heard about your unconventional strategies," Wallace agreed. "Fortunately, I've got a few tricks of my own..."

"Okay, I'm ready!" Max announced, second Pokéball in hand.

"Very good," Juan said. He took his own – another Dive Ball – and threw it. "Go!"

The Dive Ball bounced once on a platform, and opened -with an enormous blast of white smoke and a shower of sparks.

"Whoops," Juan said. "I seem to have forgotten to remove the seals."

Guy landed, balanced with legs apart and tail raised on one of the other platforms, and waited to see what he would face.

When the smoke cleared, a Sealeo was revealed there.

"See?" Juan asked, catching the Pokéball. "I forgot to remove the seals."

Sealeo waved a flipper at him.

As groans came from the stands, the Water-type Gym Leader gestured. "Begin! Make an ice road!"

Guy fired a burst of Bullet Seed towards his opponent, and Sealeo slapped the water with his fins – throwing up a curtain which blocked the Grass-type barrage – before pushing off and using Ice Beam to produce a road out of the ice.

He skated it from side to side, avoiding further Bullet Seed attacks by Guy, and then made a path that curved in a crescent around the Breloom before switching to Ice Beaming at Guy directly.

"Mach Punch!" Guy announced, fist lashing out, and the high-speed punch knocked some of the energy of the Ice Beam aside.

The rest of the attack got through, visibly damaging him, but his Toxic Orb quickly got to work and began healing him.

"Try and close in!" Max said. "Use Fighting-type moves, that's an Ice-type!"

"Right!" Guy agreed, legs bending, and kicked off – hard enough to send his floating platform backwards by at least a foot.

He flew through the air, twisting to bring his foot into contact, and slammed a Low Kick into Sealeo's side. The blow knocked his opponent into the water, and Guy landed on the icy road.

Which broke under the impact, sending Guy into the water too.

"I think I get it!" Mawile said, watching. "So the ice was tough enough for Sealeo to skate on, but not tough enough for Guy to land on, so it broke!"

"Looks like it," Ash agreed. "It must have taken a long time to work out how thick the ice had to be for that, though."

A white flash was visible through the water, then a shimmering blaze of multicoloured energy. The water trembled with some subaquatic impact, and then Guy came scrambling out of the water onto the nearest platform – looking somewhat the worse for wear.

"This is really going to test Max's ability to plan," Brock said, as Guy shook the water off his tail and took a ready stance. "He can't see Sealeo, and he needs a way to attack – despite the Water-type being underwater."

"Yeah," Ash agreed, thinking. "I know what I'd do now, but I wonder if Max will think of it..."

Guy shifted back and forth on his clawed feet, looking around for any kind of movement which might indicate his opponent.

There was a plip from behind him, and he spun – then turned back, not seeing Sealeo.

"I can't see him," he said, glancing at Max.

"Yeah, I… uh-" Max began, then gasped. "Wait – kick down on the float!"

Guy did so, pulling his legs back up to his belly and then kicking down as harshly as he could. There was a whack and a circular splash outwards from the edge of the floating platform, which scudded to one side, and Max pointed.


Whirling, Guy jumped clear of the float and lashed out with a Jump Kick at the stunned Sealeo.

"Blizzard!" Juan called. "Form a shield!"

"Keep it up!" Max ordered. "Don't let him recover!"

"What just happened?" May asked, squinting. "There was a big splash..."

"I think I know," Blaziken volunteered. "I think Max worked out that Sealeo was hiding under the floating platform."

"...right, that does make sense," May agreed. "Don't Walrein sometimes tip over ice floes? Or is that Dewgong?"

You could just ask me, Ethan suggested.

Ice formed around Sealeo as he regained his wits, forming a frozen shield which stymied Guy's attacks.

"Okay, back to safe ground!" Max called. "Don't let him retaliate!"

Legs tensing, Guy kicked off – just as Sealeo broke his icy shield and fired out an Aurora Beam. The attack narrowly missed hitting Max's Fighting-type, who twisted in mid-air to land neatly on one of the other floating platforms.

Sealeo gave him a glare, then vanished back into the water.

"Okay, what now..." Max asked himself. "I can't really just drain the pool out..."

He thought about what options he had. The problem was getting Sealeo somewhere he could be attacked…

"Vacuum Wave?" he asked himself, thinking out loud. "No, that won't… and… uh, am I allowed to switch?"

"No, you are not!" Juan told him. "Sorry!"

He shrugged. "I am not allowed either, so – it is fair."

"Great..." Max sighed. "Uh… can you try Stun Spore?"

"Sure..." Guy agreed, somewhat dubious, and sprinkled some into the water. "I think the pool's too big, though."

"Yeah, you're right," Max agreed. "And you can't use your Toxic Orb because you'd stop healing… wait, I know! Guy, use Giga Drain!"

"Out of the water!" Juan called quickly.

Green light built up on Guy's frill for a moment, then pulsed outwards – reaching down into the water, turning it all a faint green. Energy flowed up out of it into Guy, reinvigorating him and then a moment later there was a sploosh and Sealeo emerged from the water onto a platform.

"Hit him with a Dynamic Punch!" Max called.

Guy crouched, kicking off from his platform, and this time the recoil sent it skipping across the water to bump off the side of the pool. He arced through the air, fist cocked back, and then lashed out as he came in to land.

Sealeo met him with an Aurora Beam, the Ice-type energy crashing into the unstable power of the Dynamic Punch, and Guy grimaced as he tried to keep it under control.

"Add Blizzard!" Juan instructed.

"Sky Uppercut!" Max countered.

Guy grabbed onto Sealeo's whiskers with his free hand, then used both feet to slam-kick the Water-type into the air. The force of the kick drove him into the water and Sealeo high into the air, and then the Dynamic Punch detonated beneath the water and produced a cloud of bubbles.

"Sometimes I hate my job," Sealeo muttered, flipping lazily end-over-end at the top of his arc before coming crashing back down towards the water.

The impact sent a plume of spray rising into the air which took several seconds to fall back to the pool.

"Guy?" Max called. "Are you okay?"

There was a long pause. Then a domed head broke the surface, and Guy dragged the unconscious Sealeo out of the water by his tail.

"Are you okay?" Max repeated, jogging around to the stairs. "That looked pretty nasty..."

"I think so," Guy said, sitting down heavily. "It's all a bit of a blur after the explosion next to my face."

"I think this means you win," Juan said, returning Sealeo. "But it does also mean that if we have a double battle, your Breloom will have problems."

"Yeah, I know…" Max winced. "Okay, Guy, have a rest."

Guy vanished in a flicker of red light, and Max went back to his stand.

"So, what happened?" Ninetales asked. "You were using Aura, right?"

"Right," Ash agreed. "I didn't see all the moves that Guy did, but I'm pretty sure there was a Force Palm in there – or maybe it was a Focus Punch."

"It must be nice to see through solid materials as you do," Wallace noted. "Almost like everything is clear as water."

"Yeah, it's kind of a pain telling what I'm looking at sometimes," Ash said. "I mean, I've had a lot of experience, but still… Sealeo's kind of a blue-white glow, and Guy's more green and brown."

"Still, something we can't experience," Wallace summarized. "I hope it won't be the only thing that defines our battle, though."

"It's one of Ash's skills," Brock pointed out. "And his Lucario can do it too, so it should be allowed – right?"

"Oh, it's allowed," Wallace began.

"Wait, look!" Ash said, pointing. "This should be cool!"

Max sent out his Pokémon.

Juan sighed. "I was somehow expecting this."

He looked over at Wallace. "I didn't want to try for the Elite Four because I didn't want to fight Legendaries, and now – I have to fight Jirachi!"

Hi! Jirachi transmitted, smiling and waving. It's nice to finally have a gym battle!

"Well, then," Juan said, nodding. "I suppose I will have to give you a good one."

He threw the Dive Ball he'd been holding, and his own Pokémon appeared with another flash.

Max groaned. "Oh, come on!"

"Crawdaunt," the Water-type said, clacking an oversized pincer.

...that doesn't seem very fair, Jirachi pouted. And we spent all that time practising!

"I guess we'll just have to improvise," Max decided. "Okay, ready?"

Yeah! Jirachi agreed, perking up again.

"Begin," Juan said. "Bubblebeam."

Whooaaah! Jirachi yelped, diving out of the way of the stream of glowing bubbles. What do I do, Max?

"Give me a moment?" Max asked. "I'll think of something..."

"Jirachi!" Max called. "I thought of something!"

Good! Jirachi replied, covering his face against a barrage of bubbles. Ow, ow, ow!

"Psychic!" Max ordered. "On the water – lift up a big bubble of water and use it as a shield!"

Wow! Jirachi spread his arms, a glow surrounding his form, and a large chunk of swimming pool took on a similar glow before rising into the air – leaving a hole which the remaining water slopped down into. I didn't think of that!

Crawdaunt clung onto his platform with his pincers as well as his legs, holding fire for a few seconds until the float stopped rocking, then squinted up at the big translucent globe of water.

"Just keep it there!" Max told Jirachi. From the side, he could see both Jirachi and Crawdaunt, and knew the Psychic-type had it in about the right place. "Now, uh… how can we counter-attack.."

"Dark Pulse," Juan stated.

Uh oh, Jirachi 'pathed, just before the pulse of crackling purple energy slammed into his watery shield.

He scrambled to hold onto it, managing to keep it mostly in one piece, but great gobs of water smacked into the pool below.

"Again," Juan instructed. "Try to get through to Jirachi, Crawdaunt."

Maaax? Jirachi pleaded. What do I do now?

"Use some of the water to hit him!" Max said. "Pick it up and throw it!"

Uh… Water Bomb? Jirachi said, choosing a name more or less ad-hoc, and throwing several gallons at Crawdaunt.

The Dark-type hit it with a claw, smashing it to pieces and sending droplets raining in all directions.

"Perhaps – no, I know!" Max said suddenly. "Future Sight, Jirachi! Lots of it!"

Pardon? Jirachi asked, completely lost. But… he's a Dark type! Why should I do Future Sight?

"Aim down a bit!" Max told him, then flinched away from a burst of water as Crawdaunt hit the shield with another Dark Pulse.

Aim down? But… ohhh, right! Jirachi sent, realizing. Got it!

His tags pulsed, rippling like they were in a high wind, and his water bombs dropped to the pool now he was no longer supporting them.

A moment later, the pool erupted like depth charges were going off. Fountains of spray shot skywards, blasting outwards and losing definition before raining back as individual droplets, and one of them carried a startled-looking Crawdaunt skywards.

"All right!" Max cheered, as the explosions continued to throw water out of the pool as fast as it refilled. "You got him!"

Yeah! Jirachi said, beaming, then ducked as Crawdaunt fired two dark Pulses as he fell. Uh oh...

"That was a pretty good trick," Juan admitted, wincing at the crunch as Crawdaunt landed before rolling himself upright. "But now Crawdaunt is not in the water any more, so think again."

"Ergh..." Max said, frowning. "We really should have worked on some other moves for you..."

I know, Jirachi agreed, nodding, and winced as a Dark Pulse came close to punching through his shield. But I think… uh…

He noticed that the water was becoming slightly pink. What's going on?

"Your hands!" Max said, pointing.

Jirachi looked down.

His hands were glowing a faint pink, which got stronger as he watched. Little flickers of blue joined the pink, and he looked from one hand to another in confusion.

Max, what's happening? Jirachi asked. I don't understand…

"Put your hands together!" Max said quickly. "And point them at Crawdaunt!"

Jirachi did so, and the light took on a golden tinge. What now?

Gardevoir leaned forwards.

"What is it, mom?" Kirlia asked.

"That looks almost like-"

Jirachi, much to his surprise, used Dazzling Gleam.

The Fairy-typed wave of energy flashed out, smacking into Crawdaunt, and sent the Dark-type skidding backwards.

He shook his head, stood up, took a step forwards, and fell into the pool.

Jirachi had just enough time to set up a Future Sight, and Crawdaunt was launched into the air again before bouncing off the ceiling.

"Okay, okay!" Juan said, recalling the Dark-type. "I can see how this is going to be going. Well done – I can see that Jirachi was not experienced, but you managed to deal with a Pokémon it is difficult for Psychics to deal with."

He gave Jirachi a closer look. "But you should really make sure that he practices that move."

"Yeah, we will!" Max agreed fervently. "I didn't know what that move was, just that it looked kind of… Fairy-y."

That was fun! Jirachi said, eyes bright. It was kind of scary during the battle, but it was really exciting too!

Max smiled, reaching up to snag Jirachi as the Psychic-type came down and giving him a hug. "I bet it was!"

Jirach giggled.

After another few seconds, Max let him go and reached for a final Pokéball. "Right, I'm ready!"

"Good," Juan replied. "So am I."

"Arc, your turn!" Max said, throwing the Pokéball.

The Manectric materialized on the nearest platform, still bobbing about as the water level rose back to normal in the pool, and shook his fur out. "Okay, let's go!"

"Ah," Juan said. "It seems you are in for another test of your ability to adapt."

With that, he sent out a big Whiscash.

Max did a double take. "...oh, no..."

"Should I still Mega Evolve?" Arc asked, glancing back at his trainer.

"Yeah, you should," Max agreed. "It can't hurt – okay, here we go!"

Juan spotted the Mega Stone as it began to glow, and nodded to himself. "That is a good sign," he told them. "It tells me you and your Pokémon work well together."

Arc glowed orange as the transformation took, expanding out in all directions as his hair spiked up and fizzled with static, and he let out a howl which rattled the windows.

"Ow!" Max winced. "That was louder than I thought!"

"Cinder showed me how!" Arc yipped, sounding pleased with himself as the glow died down and revealed his Mega form.

Then Whiscash sprayed mud at him.

"Okay, Arc!" Max said, as his Electric-type washed mud off his muzzle. "Let's use our Ground type tactics!"

"How would you deal with this one, Ash?" Brock asked.

Pikachu raised a paw. "I know!"

"...apart from using Pikachu's ability to electrocute Ground-types," he amended.

As Pikachu sulked, Ash frowned. "Well, I guess it depends on the moves – the important bit is that it's not got any kind of resistance to Normal attacks, if you can hit it."

Brock nodded. "Right..."

He watched as Arc paced back and forth on the poolside, fur crackling. "Does it look like he's doing that?"

"Well, I did help them work this one out..." Ash admitted. "So I can't really guess without basically cheating."

Arc's fur frizzed and snapped with little electrical discharges as he paced along the poolside.

"Okay, that looks like enough for now!" Max said. "Get ready!"

"I do not know what you are trying," Juan admitted. "But I think that it will not work. Whiscash, Mud Bomb!"

Arc tensed as soon as the order was given, curling the toes of his forepaws over the lip of the pool rim. Then, the moment that Whiscash emerged, he kicked off – with an almighty BANG as his fur discharged, sending him cannoning forwards in what looked more like Extremespeed than a Quick Attack.

Whiscash had enough time to fire the Mud Bomb before Arc arrived, but not enough time to re-aim it – the attack went much higher than Arc, and passed clean over him.

"What-!?" Juan asked, hands starting to go up to his ears.

Arc hit Whiscash hard, striking a little to one side of the W marking atop his forehead, and the impact drove Juan's Water-type back at least a foot. As Arc brought his hindpaws up, the Whiscash recovered a little from the stunning hit – then was pushed back underwater as Arc used all four paws to push off to land back on the far side of the pool.

The waves produced by so much Mega Manectric hitting Whiscash slopped against the side of the pool, washing away much of the Mud Bomb and making the pool water turn murkier.

"That was a good trick," Juan admitted, watching as Arc skidded a little on his landing before turning to pace along the opposite poolside. "But perhaps it is a little limited?"

"Maybe," Max replied. "Okay, Arc… he's going to have to come up again some time!"

"Right!" Arc replied, fur fizzing with stored electricity, and peered into the murky water.

"Knock him into the water!" Juan called.

"Get back, Arc!" Max instructed.

Arc did so, paws slipping slightly as he backed away several steps. Then there was a blur as a ball of psychic energy formed – behind Arc – and cannoned into him, sending him skidding across the poolside and into the water.


Future Sight? Jirachi asked. Oh, sure, the Ground-type gets to use it…

"Quickly, Bulldoze!" Juan said. "While he's underwater!"

Several splashes and smacks came from the pool, water turning muddier and muddier as they did so, and once Arc breached the surface to yelp and draw in air before going back down.

"Now!" Max called suddenly.

Juan frowned.

Then there was an almighty flash from within the pool. The water fizzed and sparked, the metal stair rails took on an unhealthy red glow, and then Arc and Whiscash came rocketing out of the pool.

Both landed with a smack on the poolside, well away from the water, and Arc gulped in a great lungful of air before turning and hitting Whiscash with a final Ice Fang.

Juan stared. "What… just happened?"

"Simple," Max said, smiling as broadly as he could manage. "Arc's electricity doesn't just go away because he's in the water. Especially muddy water – it's insulating, and the charge can't get far from his fur like that. He just used it all at once to swim – so fast he knocked Whiscash out of the pool!"

There was a moment of silence, then Wallace stood up and clapped.

"Bravo!" he said, with a smile. "An excellent demonstration of how to overcome a weakness – turn it into a strength!"

Juan looked a bit put out. "And I was so hoping for a final doubles match, as well..."

He shook his head, then reached into a pocket. "Well, Max Maple – you have defeated me. Allow me to congratulate you on your eighth and final badge… and your official qualification for the Ever Grande tournament."

"That was so cool!" Arc said, tail wagging, as he transitioned back down from Mega. Then his eyes crossed, and he whimpered.

"...I think I got mud on my tongue..."


Max's eighth gym battle.