"Okay, the first question is… who first," May said, looking over her team. "I don't know much about this Gina coordinator, but… well..."

She shrugged. "I guess even if I did it wouldn't help much. So… who wants to go first?"

"Like… not me," Skitty said, shaking her head. "I need, like… another day of beauty sleep, at least."

Beautifly chuckled.

"It seems wrong of me to go first," Blaziken said, frowning. "But then again – it's not as if we're ever given a guarantee that the early battles are the easy ones."

"I wouldn't mind using my Mega Evolution," Altaria suggested. "But I've already had a go this time… shouldn't I let someone else go first?"

"I'll do it," Venusaur said. "Everyone's being so glad to let one another go first, so..."

"Is that really polite?" May asked.

"Did you hear anyone else call dibs?" Venusaur replied. "Anyway, anyone want the slot instead?"

Spoink looked interested, then shook his head. "I'd rather my first go here was a double battle… I don't want to let May down by losing a battle like that, not when it matters so much."

"That's sweet," May smiled. "And thanks for being so considerate – but really, don't let it stop you."

"I think I'll not bother for now," Spoink confirmed.

"Okay, so I guess that means it's Venusaur," May said. "So… obviously what you do depends on the opponent, but you're ready with those tricks we worked out?"

"Sure am," Venusaur nodded.

"Then let's go!"


"Hey – is this seat taken?"

Max looked up. "Drew? Oh, yeah, I guess you had to be here – and no, it's not taken."

Taking the seat, Drew looked out over the arena. "This should be interesting – it's been a while since I saw what May looks like battling when not on the receiving end."

"I'm pretty sure it's only a month or two," Brock pointed out.

"Really?" Drew asked. "...feels longer. Anyway, I thought I'd come and watch – my match isn't until the afternoon."

"You know, I bet it's a lot easier to schedule these matches..." Brock mused. "I mean, they do have a time limit. They know how long each match is, so they can just schedule them in blocks."

"True," Drew agreed. "Any idea what May's going to be using?"

"Actually, isn't it kind of a problem for fairness, that people who are in time blocks a long way apart can see each other in the arena?"

Drew shrugged. "I don't think it is – and it's not like it lets me know anything I couldn't have learned from talking to people."

He frowned. "Wait, where's Ash?"


Some way outside the stadium, Ash held his presentation sword in ready position.

Absol faced him, blade ready, and both breathed in and out steadily and evenly.

Then Ash moved, and his blade skirled off Absol's horn with a loud crash.

"Much better," the Dark-type said. "Your probabilities didn't firm up until the last half second or so – you're getting a lot better at not committing."

"Yeah, that's the hard part," Ash admitted. "I almost feel like I need to get my sword ready ahead of time – because I'm trying to think it through, so I have to avoid that just to get to the point that I am with moves like Force Palm."

He withdrew the metal blade, then struck again – low, this time, though Absol still blocked it with ease.

"Not quite so good that time," she told him, and Ash groaned.

"This looks so easy when it's done by Lucario or… or by knights or samurai in movies," he said, shaking his head.

"That's because, for Lucario, it's a Pokémon move – an extension of his self, in a way," Absol told him. "For you, it isn't. And for the knights and samurai in movies… well, they have a script!"

Ash chuckled. "Yeah, I guess they do."

He raised the sword again, then feinted left-right.

Absol wasn't fooled, of course, and blocked this one too – but smiled. "Better. Now, if you can make it so you haven't decided whether to use it as a feint or for it to be the real move, then we're almost there."


Under the stands, Celebi snapped her fingers. "Not again! I had it all worked out, and then they had to completely lose track of time… how does an Absol lose track of time?"


"Let's make this a battle to remember!" Gina said, flicking her Pokéball up onto her middle finger and spinning it. "Ready? Go, Pancham!"

The Pokéball bounced once, then opened – producing a series of black and white lines out, like a starburst, and Pancham appeared in the middle of them.

The Playful Pokémon did a twirl, landing on the arena floor with arms spread, then took a defensive stance.

Venusaur materialized a moment later, petals from her own Seals falling around her, and gave a bow.

"Begin!" called Raoul Contesta. "Let's see some spectacular Contest performances!"


"Venusaur first?" Drew said, interested. "I wonder how that's going to work out..."

"You think there might be a problem with it?" Max asked.

"Not sure," Drew replied.

There was a flash as Venusaur opened matters with a Sunny Day – a shower of steady white lights which rose into the air one after another, producing a warm and summery light throughout the arena.

Her petals spread, little lines of golden light visible on them, and Brock leaned forwards slightly. "That's interesting," he said. "It looks like that's part of the Sunny Day move as well, but it's subtle enough the judges might not have even spotted it."

Gina said something none of the friends caught, and Pancham began advancing – hopping left and right, making himself hard to hit.

The golden light flowing along Venusaur's leaves and petals intensified, and her vines lashed out – gathering up a pile of the petals from her contest seal, and throwing them into the air just before firing a bright yellow Solarbeam at Pancham. The petals caught the light, absorbing and recolouring parts of it, and a kaleidoscope of yellows and oranges and pinks went flashing out towards the ursine Fighting-type advancing on her.

"And that's a great use of Seals!" Joy said, approvingly, as Pancham – unable to tell exactly where to dodge – took part of the Solarbeam to the side. "That's going to score some points!"

"I'm almost certain she got that from watching me..." Drew mused.


Venusaur backed, vines raised to ward off attack, and ducked aside from a flaming Fire Punch which nearly hit her in the leg.

"And it looks like Pancham's really taking back the initiative!" Contesta told everyone, as Pancham did a twirl and used the spin to gain momentum – then threw an Ice Punch, which did hit.

Wincing, Venusaur kicked out – not very elegant, but it got the job done, sending Pancham skidding backwards across the floor.

"Torpedo!" May called.

Gina blinked. "Torpedo? What move is Torpedo?"

Venusaur chuckled, firing a pair of Seed Bombs and taking them – one in each vine – before rounding on Pancham and launching out a barrage of petals. Rather than a simple storm, she added in variety – the actual attack as it hit Pancham was a series of alternating vortices which hit him from left-right-left-right-left and threw him off guard.

As he recovered, Venusaur's vines moved in – and she placed the pair of seeds either side of Pancham.

"Wait – run!" Gina shouted, and Pancham dove for cover just before the bombs exploded.

"And May's Venusaur does a great combination attack," Joy said. "It's-"

"Remarkable!" Mr. Sukizo pronounced.

"You said it!"

"Now, Nature Power!" May called. "And move into that crater!"

Venusaur did so, lumbering forward a few steps and firing off a Nature Power attack.

As she crossed the boundary, the developing attack changed – going from a shimmering ball of green energy to a flowing arc of lightning-at-ground-level. It crashed home, knocking Pancham backwards, and Venusaur followed up with a Grass Pledge which whirled Pancham into the air in a storm of leaves and petals.

Pancham spun, then his face set. He shouted downwards with an earsplitting Hyper Voice that compressed all the leaves and petals into a single solid layer, and used it to kick off as he came right back towards Venusaur. Running along the vines she used to try to stop him, he landed a Fire Punch right on her flower which flashed a brilliant white and left Venusaur smouldering.

"And this might be the end for Venusaur," Joy said. "Let's see if-"

"Rain Dance!" May said, thinking fast. "Then Spiral Petal Blizzard!"

Venusaur slammed her forelegs into the ground, vines lashing out to fend off Pancham, and the sunlight that she'd been creating winked out. It left only sparks, which rose into the air and became fainter.

A moment later, the clouds formed, and rain started to patter down on the stadium. Venusaur's flower hissed a little as the rain quenched it, and she shook herself – sending droplets everywhere.

Pancham skipped through the rain, dodging the puddles that were starting to form, and swiped at Venusaur's side again. The Ice Punch hit, making Venusaur grunt with pain, and then she fired her Petal Blizzard.

As May had instructed, this one had an even stronger spiral component than the earlier Petal Dance. It contained petals, leaves, grass and plenty of the rain that was falling all over the stadium, and hit Pancham hard enough to send him skidding backwards.

"Now, Grass Pledge!" May finished.

Venusaur's whole body shone green as she used the move. It rose up, merging with the watery tornado that Venusaur had already put together, and the swirl of water and grass engulfed the whole stadium.

Pancham ended up stuck in the mud, unable to get his paws out, and his points dropped rapidly as he struggled – until, finally, they hit zero.

"And May Maple wins!" Contesta said. "Give her a hand, folks!"


"That was pretty cool!" Dawn said. "I guess Pancham was more of the kind of Pokémon you expect to see in a contest – all cute and fluffy… but then Venusaur was just good at doing good things with moves."

"That's what a Contest is really about," her mother agreed. "A cute Pokémon helps, don't get me wrong – but, as you've seen, a cute Pokémon can lose to a Pokémon that's better at doing the appeal side of a Contest."

She smiled. "What did you think the best move was?"

Dawn had to think. "I… think it was that Petal Dance," she said. "A lot of the other moves were inventive, but that one… that one looked really good, especially from up here, and I bet it was hard too."

"And what do you think Pancham's best move was?" Johanna added.

Dawn blinked. "But… Pancham lost..."

"That's right," her mother agreed. "But that doesn't mean there's nothing to learn from it."

"Then… I think it was probably that bit where he got out of being in mid air," Dawn decided. "That was taking Venusaur's moves, and making it work for him."

"That's what I thought too," Johanna agreed. "Good work."


"Can't you just do the whole Festival?" Moltres asked, tilting her head.

"Well, I probably could, but that's not what I should be doing," Pikachu replied, waving her tail and raising a paw. "You deserve a go as well – even if it's just one – doing a major Contest."

She shrugged. "Besides, your whole Everything Is On Fire Ever thing is pretty neat – though, yeah, might want to have one of the others go between my Appeal and your battle. Otherwise it might be a bit… fire-centric."

As she spoke, though, Cosplaychu was already thinking. "Actually, I wonder if I could do something designed to be the opposite of fire? I could do a mountaineer outfit…"

"An' what would dat give you?" Meowth inquired.

"...not sure. Rock Climb?" Pikachu asked, then shrugged. "I'll never be sure if I don't try!"

She gasped. "Or, wait, I could be a polar explorer! Then I'd have Frost Breath or Ice Beam or something, and Moltres and I could be Fire And Ice – Superheroes!"

Moltres looked deeply skeptical.

"And I suppose I'd also be the team transport?" she asked.

"...maybe?"

"Hey, here's an idea for a double battle," Arbok said. "If you two are fighting together, have Pikachu be a desert warrior and Moltres her spirit guardian."

There was muttering, then shrugs – by both Moltres and Pikachu.

"Could work."

A bright flash interrupted them.

"Hey!" Meowth said, waving irritably at the trainer with a camera. "We're trainin' here!"

"But – that's a Moltres!"

"Wow, he's certainly a Pokémon expert," Moltres deadpanned.


"What do you think?" May asked, looking over at Glaceon.

Her Ice-type smiled. "Mom's pretty good at this."

Below them, Leafeon fenced back and forth with a quick-moving Raichu. Their tails hit one another, bounced off, and then Leafeon rolled to her side to avoid the follow-up and made an elegant passing attack with a Leaf Blade.

"Yeah," May agreed. "That is pretty good."

"Do you think we'll fight one another?" Glaceon asked. "I don't think I'd be very comfortable doing that..."

"If you don't want to, that's fine," May told her, ruffling her fur. "I won't make you."

"Thank you," Glaceon said, giving a chirping purr.

There was a crack of thunder as Raichu fired off a Thunderbolt, bouncing it off her tail and making it reach for Leafeon's flank. The Grass-type dodged (unsurprisingly) then began a counterattack – only to abort as Raichu channelled electrical energy into her tail and made it rise up like an Arbok ready to strike.

"Nice trick, that," Glaceon added. "I wonder what Mom's going to do to beat-"

She stopped, leaning forwards, as Leafeon crouched low. Her paws flickered green, and little traceries of green light swept out across the stadium in a kind of spiders-web pattern.

They glowed brightly, then reached up – snagging Raichu's paws and the base of her tail, and making her gasp with surprise.

"Grass Knot," May said, recognizing it. "That's a pretty good start..."

Raichu pulled her paws free, then yanked on her tail. Leafeon lifted her paw again, and with a twannnnng the pent up tension of the Grass Knot sent Raichu flying into the air.

"And that's a pretty good finish," Glaceon added, watching as Raichu rose and then fell – and as the scoreboard flashed. "So I guess that means she's won."

"Yeah, it does," May agreed. "Now, come on – we need to work out who to use for the next Contest."

"Which one's that?"

"It's the first double round, tomorrow," May reminded her. "Hmmm… should I send you and Skitty out? You both have good ice."

"Yeah, that could be good," Glaceon agreed.

She looked out into the arena as Leafeon and Drew took their bow, and her tail flirted. "Actually… isn't Jessie in this Festival? Or are we still calling her Jesselina?"

"I think it doesn't matter," May shrugged. "And yeah, she is – that Pikachu of hers who loves cosplay did that fire show."

"Oh, yeah, I remember hearing about that," Glaceon agreed.

She licked her paw. "I wonder what your parents think about this Festival so far?"


"That was lovely," Norman said, smiling. "Thank you very much, Gardevoir."

Gardevoir smiled, levitating the plates and trays out of their laps.

That's no problem, she said, psionically stripping the dirt from the plates. I'm glad that you enjoyed it – though I wouldn't want to do it all the time.

"Yes, everyone deserves a break from cooking," Norman chuckled.

Caroline nodded. "Which means it's back to my cooking tomorrow," she said. "I think I'll try something like… a risotto, perhaps, that would be nice."

How come Roland's not been on TV yet? Kirlia asked.

"That's because this is the Contest side of things," Norman reminded her. "Your brother's a battle Pokémon – but you're likely to see a lot of May's Pokémon."

I remember seeing Venusaur and Altaria, Kirlia agreed. So, what's the next time?

"Tomorrow… morning, I think," Norman said. He picked up the TV guide, where May's brackets were highlighted. "Yes, that's right, she's doing a double battle tomorrow. About… half past eight? That's early."

That means you'll have to remember to go to bed early, Gardevoir hinted.

"King," Slaking rumbled from behind the couch.

Gardevoir giggled.

"What was that?" Norman asked, looking up.

He says he certainly agrees with that sentiment, the Psychic-type explained. Now… um… sorry, I'm still not sure how human drinks are made…

"I'll sort it out," Caroline volunteered, getting up and coming around the couch. "You've been very kind this evening, so I'll sort out some cocoa for all of us."

Cocoa sounds nice, Kirlia agreed whole-heartedly. Is that the drink with the little marshmallows in it?

"That's right!" Caroline agreed. "Do you want some, dear?"

"That sounds great," Norman said, getting up as well. "I'll get the snacks."

Oh, that looks neat, Kirlia 'pathed, drawing their attention to the TV.

As they watched, a Cacturne fired out barrages of spikes. They weren't individually very well aimed, but came in a great series of patterns – like intricate geometry – which kept trapping the opponent (a Honchkrow) without anywhere to go that wasn't into at least one layer of spikes.

Cacturne's trainer called out an order, and the spike-shower intensified.

"That's certainly one way to have a very visual display without moving around at all," Caroline noted, approving.

She looked closer. "Is that trainer… dressed like a Cacturne?"

"I think he must be the one that May told us about," Norman realized. "You know. The odd one."

"...which odd one?" Caroline asked. "Our daughter is close friends with a time travelling chosen warrior saving the world at direct request of Arceus himself."

"...you're right," Norman admitted. "The unpleasant odd one."

Gardevoir shook her head. You say it so casually.

"Actually, humans do tend to get used to odd things," Norman said. He wobbled slightly, dropped the biscuits, and then caught them as they levitated back to his hand. "Like that."

A fair point, Gardevoir chuckled.


Munchlax woke up with a start.

On seeing it was actually late at night, he shrugged and went back to bed. "Well, if nobody else is up, I'm not going to be up..."

After thinking about that, though, he pulled the blanket off again. "Or I could have a midnight snack."

He got up, and promptly found himself unable to walk forwards any further.

You should not have a midnight snack, Ethan stated baldly, Gravity active. I recommend you return to sleep.

"What are you doing?" Munchlax asked.

Bed gravity.


"It's kind of hard to keep track of how many people there are at this Festival," Ash said, trying to unfold the tournament bracket poster – then gave up. "Dexter, who's next up?"

May.

"I knew that," Ash protested. "I mean apart from May."

Ah. In that case, it is a Coordinator by the name of James.

"Is-"

Not that James, Dexter added, interrupting Brock.

"Okay… and this is the double round," Max said, taking the tournament bracket chart and unfolding it.

He stared at it for a moment. "Ash? You actually have to fill these out."

"Somehow I should have expected that," Pikachu sighed.

"It's obvious now you say it," Ash protested weakly. "Uh… okay, I guess I'll have to sit down and fill it out some time… anyway, what's this James guy like?"

He has used three Pokémon so far, but that doesn't necessarily tell us anything about what he'll use here, Dexter told him.

"There's May," Brock said, pointing. "Let's just watch the match."

"Sounds like a plan," Lucario agreed.


May threw her Pokéballs, sending them skipping across the floor, and Glaceon emerged first in a flash of smoke.

Her paws glowed blue, producing an icy slick that let her keep sliding, and as she braked to a halt Skitty emerged – materializing in mid-air, so she jumped over Glaceon before landing on all four paws.

Both Pokéballs had been thrown with a reverse spin, and May caught them on the way back before turning her attention to her opponent. To her surprise, he was only just sending his own out, and there were twin white flashes which resolved into an Espeon and a Vaporeon.

"Oh, this is, like, original..." Skitty said, flirting her tail. "I feel totally underdressed. I'm, like, the only one who didn't used to be… like… an Eevee."

May chuckled.

Then the judges signalled that it was time for the battle to begin, and the Vaporeon dove forwards – transitioning smoothly from solid to liquid as she did so.

"Blizzard!" May called, and Glaceon fired a jet of chilly, frosty snow which hit the liquified Vaporeon head-on. The power of the attack sent her skidding backwards slightly on the icy road she'd made for herself, and Skitty reached back with her tail to hook onto Glaceon's foreleg to come along for the ride – adding her own Blizzard to the mix.

The two Pokémon had quite different versions of the same move, and where they met one another the result was a plume of diamond-dust which rained down around both feline and vulpine. The attacks also seemed to amplify together, and before two seconds had passed Vaporeon was frozen solid as a kind of ice-sculpture.

Espeon's eyes glowed.

"Like… we just won, right?" Skitty asked.

"I don't think so," Glaceon replied, as Espeon padded forwards. "There's still one left."

Skitty shrugged. "I don't get why that's-"

Vaporeon unfroze.

Lit an eerie pink-purple, Vaporeon came flowing towards them.

"Okay, new plan!" Glaceon announced. "Give me a Blizzard boost!"

Skitty ducked under a Water Pulse, and ran after her teammate. "Guh, I just know this is going to ruin my fur!"


"Okay, that's pretty cool," Ash said. "I – whoa!"

Vaporeon rose up into a watery wall, shimmering pink light on the edge of her form, and the Shadow Ball and Blizzard combo hit with a crash. Water droplets came splashing outwards, towards Espeon, but didn't make it – and a moment later Vaporeon reconstituted back to her original form, running forwards at a lope to get close to Skitty and Glaceon.

"That's an unusual application of Acid Armor," Lucario noted. "I wonder if Vaporeon minds."

"It has to be something they worked out together," Brock said, as Glaceon ducked under an Iron Tail and exhaled a blast of Frost Breath – giving Skitty a wide area to skate on, which the feline Pokémon used to close rapidly in on Espeon.

"Shield!" James ordered, and Vaporeon dissolved back into water which formed a tight bubble around Espeon – making Skitty's attempt at a Bite only result in her getting soaked – then flung her away so Glaceon had to construct a snowpile for her to fall on.

"Yeah, looks like..." Ash agreed.


May glanced at the scoreboard, wincing. The combination moves by Espeon and Vaporeon were going down well with the crowd, so it looked like she'd have to try something new.

"Glaceon, freeze the floor!" she ordered. "Skitty, get ready to use Assist!"

Glaceon dove forwards, avoiding a Psybeam and flash-freezing a Water Pulse before shattering it with her tail, and spun on the icy patches that she'd already made while firing out a great wave of ice that touched the entire arena.

Skitty was already preparing an Assist ball, and timed her firing of it so it went off just as the ice reached Espeon.

It burst into a shower of petals, which swirled for a moment before cascading towards both the Eeveelutions on the far side of the arena. Vaporeon glowed as Espeon got ready to shield with her again, but then his paw slipped on the wet ice and he lost his concentration for a moment.

The Petal Blizzard hit both of them, sending Espeon skating backwards and damaging Vaporeon as she reformed, and May grinned. "All right! Now, Glaceon, keep them apart! Ice Wall!"

Glaceon acted quickly, her Ice Beam flashing out and constructing an icy wall between the two Eons as they got back to their paws (with a few slips on Espeon's part).

"Like… I guess they're, you know, on ice," Skitty commented.

"That's not the end of it!" James said. "Let's take this into the air!"

Espeon's gem pulsed, and the wall shattered – then Vaporeon, back to liquid, surged through the hole and Espeon jumped onto her fluid form as she approached. They both began to glow more brightly, and Espeon ran along a translucent ribbon of water which formed in front of him and vanished behind.

"...that is a new one," May admitted.


"Okay, how do we handle that?" Skitty asked, looking up. "Whoa!"

She skidded aside as a Psybeam flashed down at her, coming close enough to make her yelp.

"We can't fight from down here," Glaceon decided. "We're going to have to go up and fight them. Follow me!"

The Ice-type inhaled, and her claws dug little points into the ice. She began to lope, exhaling a great cloud of ice, and a ramp built up.

Skitty hurried after her, paws sliding on the ice, and grabbed onto Glaceon's tail just as the Fresh Snow Pokémon reached the ramp. And didn't stop.

Glaceon skated into the air, her paws glowing an icy blue as she formed and strengthened ice in front of her, and began rhythmic pulses of Ice Beam to keep her icy ribbon buttressed against any possibility of an accidental collapse.

"Whoooaaa-" Skitty yowled, as they went down a particularly sharp dip to avoid an attack from Espeon. "Can't you steer this better?"

"Maybe if you weren't hanging onto my tail," Glaceon shot back, then fired down a trio of Ice Beams. Espeon shattered one of the supports, and their frosty path shook but stayed up. "Now, get attacking!"

"Got it," Skitty replied, wobbling a bit and pulling herself up Glaceon's tail. Her own tail curled around Glaceon's torso, keeping her secure, and she closed her eyes. "Okay, like... get me a good angle in two, one, now!"

Glaceon made their path pull upwards rapidly, rising in a high speed loop over Espeon and Vaporeon, and Skitty's Assist ball burst with a little thwick.

"Whooah-" Skitty yelped, as a ball of electricity formed on her nose. She sniffed, throwing it off, and then batted it with her tail and sent it towards the other two Eeveelutions just before Glaceon's icepath took them back down again.

Espeon's reaction was surprising. He turned the path around him into a hundred separate bubbles of water, letting the Zap Cannon zip through and hit the arena floor, then reformed Vaporeon and 'caught' himself with her liquid shape before they hit the ground.

"Spinarak!" May called.

"What's that one again?" Skitty asked, clinging onto Glaceon's fur as they dove past Espeon and Vaporeon. As the Psychic-type shot a Psybeam at them, Glaceon's ears pulsed, and she formed an icewall to deflect the attack.

"Forget that Assist, just give me Blizzards!" Glaceon replied.

"Like, if you say so," Skitty agreed readily, glad to have a plan. "Where?"

"Left!" Glaceon said, passing a few inches over one of the previous ice paths and binding their current one to it. "Now down to the right! Behind!"

Skitty fired Blizzard after Blizzard, forming little beams of ice which hung in the air and then started to solidify. As she did, and as Glaceon wove her complex path through the air, it began to get so that they were inside a gigantic ice sculpture – a complex birds-nest of slender blue threads, joined together by frostier white strands made by Skitty's Blizzards.

"Ten seconds!" May called.

"Now… Helping Hand me!" Glaceon said, skating around the outside of the birds-nest and making a ramp. She cut off her cryokinesis, sending them both flying into the air and apart from one another, and for a moment both she and Skitty hung in the air over the nest.

Below, inside the frozen labyrinth, Espeon slowed – looking for a way out of the strands of ice which didn't involve breaking them open. Finding none, he began to use blasts of telekinesis to smash through them one at a time.

"Hi-yah!" Skitty yowled, light flashing on her paw-tail, and she flicked it towards Glaceon in a trio of pink-yellow strands.

Glaceon absorbed them with her ears and tail, inhaled for a moment, then let out a shout. A great flash of blue light erupted from her maw, spreading out and covering the whole arena, and the icy strands of her birds-nest thickened and joined up in an instant – cutting off the escape Espeon and Vaporeon had been trying to make, and then forcing Vaporeon to revert to her normal form to avoid being frozen solid.

The ice intensified and thickened, crawling inwards until only the space Espeon and Vaporeon were in was open to the sky – then Glaceon switched attacks, and fired down a single Shadow Ball.

Shining purple and black through the frosted ice, it covered the space in a second and detonated with a great shadowy explosion – shattering all the ice and throwing it into the air, to drift gently back down all over the arena.

Glaceon finished up with a last pulse of Blizzard, so both she and Skitty landed softly in piles of snow.

"...obvious!" Mr. Contesta said, as Glaceon shook the snow out of her ears. "With just seconds left on the clock, an astonishing display of teamwork as May's Pokémon knock out both their opponents at once!"

"So, like… we won?" Skitty checked.

"We did," Glaceon agreed, flicking the last of her snow coat away as the crowd applauded.

"And… like… Espeon's a cat, and I'm a cat, and you and Vaporeon are, like female… does that make this, like, a cat fight?"

Glaceon seriously considered hitting her teammate with a snowball.


Impressive, Abra stated. I especially liked the way you kept switching places.

"Thank you," Arbok replied. "I thought it was an excellent example of dichotomy."

"What about the bit where the Fearow picked you up?" Seviper asked.

"That was an excellent example of he's got-ta me!"

Arbok's tail flicked out and hit Wobbuffet with a ba-donnnng. "That was a bit harder, yes."

"Abra?" Cubone asked. "How did you know what happened? You were asleep, I saw you."

"And that's nothing to snooze at!"

Doiioiioiing.

Oh, I simply read minds to find out what happened, Abra explained airily. Specifically, Chimecho's mind.

"I'm helping!" Chimecho stated happily.

"Wait," Cubone added. "Doesn't this mean that Jessie's up against May next?"

"That'll be an interesting one..." Dustox mused. "Wonder which of us is going to be used?"


Flygon's wings buzzed.

"Yeah," Drew agreed, looking down into the arena. "This is a good view."

"Excuse me?"

Drew looked over. "What is it?"

"Do you have your reservation?"

Reaching into a pocket, the Coordinator waved it. "Here."

The marshal inspected the pass, and nodded. "Thanks – so many people come up here, we have to avoid overcrowding."

"I get it," Drew nodded.

He looked to both sides, and then across at the other side of the arena roof – spotting various Coordinators and their Pokémon, and some pure spectators as well. It was quite crowded, even with the rules.

"Who's next..." he said, checking. "Huh, someone called Kathy – and is that Harley she's facing?"

Flygon's wings flipped, as the Dragon-type shrugged.

Drew chuckled.


"Excuse me? Are you Ash Ketchum?"

Ash stopped, one foot on the step. "Yeah, that's me – why?"

"Well, uh..." the boy looked terribly upset. "It's my first Grand Festival, but – and – and I don't know where he's gone!"

Ash stepped back down. "Hey, calm down, okay – we'll help find whoever it is. Is it a Pokémon?"

"Yeah," the boy agreed. "I'm Greg, and… well, I just got eliminated yesterday. And Blitz took it badly..."

"Fear not, we will help you," Lucario assured him. "What kind of Pokémon is Blitz?"

"He's a Pachirisu," Greg said. "Dad got him for me as my first Pokémon, and – well, I guess this is the first time we've lost badly since starting our journey, so-"

"Don't worry," Ash told him. "And no, it's not something you did that made you lose. It's not something he did either."

"Then..." Greg looked up at the older boy. "What was it?"

"Usually, the opponent has something to do with it," Lucario said, so blandly that Greg chuckled.

"I know how to help out," Ash added. "Pikachu, can you try and sense any nearby Electric-types?"

"Only if he went out towards the forest," Pikachu replied. "But if he did..."

He closed his eyes, cheeks sparking for a moment, then raised his paws.

"What's he doing?" Greg asked.

"He's sensing electricity," Lucario told him. "It should let us help you find your Electric-type."

"Thanks," Greg smiled. "Really, thanks – this is so helpful."

"We'll make sure you and Blitz are back together as soon as we can!" Ash declared.

"Okay, I've got something," Pikachu said. "It might be just an Elekid or something, though… this way."


Celebi felt like banging her head into a wall.

"Not again..."

Overhead, Dawn and her mother hurried up the stairs to their seats.


"No Ash?" Brock asked.

Max shrugged. "He'll turn up… hey, look, it's Harley!"

Both of them watched as Harley sent out his Banette, which mugged for the crowd and stuck his tongue out. The Ghost-type smirked, conjuring flames into his palm, and then did a double-take at the sight of the little Natu at the other end of the battlefield.

Said Natu landed on the grass as the sparkling stars from her Seals went away, and spread her wings – then, quite firmly, closed them again.

"Will-o-wisp!" Harley called.

Banette chuckled darkly, and spread both clawed hands – producing a flash of purple flame, one which spiralled out and then came in on Natu.

Natu's response was to rise slowly into the air, wings flapping far too infrequently to explain her flight, and then Banette abruptly caught fire.

"What?" Harley asked, baffled. "How did-"

The Psychic bird continued to flap into the air, and her eyes glowed. As Banette tried to extinguish himself, she rose to about ten feet above the arena floor.

Light streamed off her wings, forming a pattern in the air much higher than she was. It looked, in fact, like it was just a little higher than the stadium roof hole.


"That's new," Drew said, pulling in his legs and getting ready to stand up. "Think it's dangerous?"

Flygon indicated that she didn't really know one way or the other.

"I mean, I guess it's coming from down there," Drew added. "But it's a big swirly thing in mid-air. This seems like an 'Ash' situation, and I don't like Ash situations."

Then something came out of the swirly thing, moving downwards at speed.

"Whoa!"


Banette brushed the last of the flames off his arms.

"Hah!" he said, grinning at Natu. "What do you think of that?"

Light trailing behind it like a comet, the Future Sight screamed down and hit him hard enough that – when the dust settled – there was a sizeable crater.

Natu slowly dropped back towards the ground, finally landing gently.

She sniffed. "I knew that would happen."


"That was… fast?" Brock asked, uncertainly. "I thought most of these lasted the full three minutes."

Max shrugged. "Maybe Harley just got overconfident?"

He turned. "And where is Ash?"


"Okay, I think he's up there," Pikachu pointed.

"Go away!" a Pachirisu called. "I'm hopeless..."

"Of course you're not," Lucario said, putting one foot-paw on the tree trunk and using it to take his weight. "You're a Pokémon. All Pokémon can lose battles, it doesn't make them worthless at all."

"Yeah?" Blitz asked.

"I can only hear half the conversation," Greg said, sounding frustrated. "This almost seems worse than having no idea at all!"

"Blitz thinks he's hopeless," Ash supplied. "And Lucario's trying to convince him he's not."

"What?" Greg said, blinking. "Of course he's not! I'm the one who made the mistake!"

"And you're allowed to make mistakes," Ash reminded him. "Remember, not everyone wins every Contest on their way to the Festival, and only one person can win the Festival."

He pointed. "Pikachu lost his most recent Gym battle, and that doesn't mean he's any weaker than if he'd won – it doesn't mean the times he beat Mega Evolved Pokémon or even Legendaries didn't happen. It means he had a strong opponent, or an opponent who had tricks he wasn't ready for."

"Wait… is that the Pikachu? Are you Ash Ketchum?" Blitz asked. "And Pikachu lost?"

He blinked. "Wow."

"See?" Lucario asked. "I'm almost certain that at some point in the past even I lost a battle. But I can't think of one."

Pikachu stuck his tongue out.


"Spoink?" May said, softly. "Are you sure about this?"

"No," Spoink admitted, gulping. "But that doesn't matter – I should do this. If you don't mind me doing it, then I'll do it."

He bounced softly in place. "If I do win this, then I'll know that I can. And if I don't… I won't mind."

"Nor will I," May assured him. "Just do what we practiced, and you should be fine."

"Right," Spoink nodded.

May returned him, clicked the capsule into place around his ball, then walked out into the arena.


"What took you so long, Ash?" Max asked, as the other trainer sat down next to him. "You missed the first match!"

"I was helping someone find a Pachirisu," Ash explained. "Well, Pikachu was doing most of the helping – I was mostly just along to translate."

"Come to think of it, I could have done that," Lucario said, then frowned. "Actually, Pikachu – I know how much skill you've developed with Aura. Are you really not able to learn to speak in such a way that your words are translated for humans?"

"I probably could learn," Pikachu admitted. "But, for whatever reason, the idea isn't really very interesting to me."

He waved a paw at Ash. "I've got someone for that."

"Thanks..." Ash said, wincing. "Or, I guess, if you meant it in a good way then thanks."

"Could you tell the difference between those?" Max asked. "Brock?"

"I couldn't," Brock advised.

"Hey, there's May!" Ash pointed. "Wonder who she's using..."

There was a flash of smoke, which spread out and began to slowly drop towards the ground.

A pearl bounced up out of it. Then the pearl dropped back in, flashed, and the smoke blasted outwards in all directions to reveal Spoink gently bouncing in place.

Opposite him, Jessie threw a Pokéball of her own. There was a flash and a large R symbol present for a moment, then Cubone threw her club into the ground – it got four inches into the stadium floor – and landed on it, before stepping down and drawing it from the hole.


"Okay, here goes..." Spoink said, as Cubone took her stance.

The Ground-type started moving the moment the begin command came, saying something Spoink couldn't make out at this distance and producing half a dozen bone clubs in little flashes of blue light. Picking them up two at a time, she did three complete twirls and threw them across the arena at Spoink.

Concentrating, Spoink exerted as little telekinetic force as possible. Half the clubs were aimed somewhere he didn't have to adjust them, but the others were going to hit him – and if he dodged, those first clubs would go from being misses to being hits.

So Spoink tweaked the trajectory of the lower club from the first pair, and adjusted his bounce slightly. The club hit the ground about eight feet in front of him, skipped into the air, and his next bounce landed directly on top of it.

The force of his bounce combined with the energy of the spinning club, and he went high into the air – high enough that the whole rest of the attack went underneath him, producing a pile of six bone clubs behind him before they began to fall apart.

Blue-purple light formed on the tip of his nose, and fired down at Cubone – a Psyshock, which split into two as she jumped to the side to dodge.

The Ground-type had to form another bone out of thin air to use as a defensive weapon, making the Psyshock explode on that instead of on her, and she turned the force of the impact into a twirl which she used to form and throw a trio of sharp ribs.

Spoink nudged those ones out of the way as well, slipping between them so it looked like the gap was always there, and began a series of small quick bounces on the ground – forwards, back, left, right.

The sky clouded and it began to rain.


"...oh, great," Drew sighed. "I knew there was a downside to this..."

Flygon shifted her wing, covering him with the slender material, and he scratched the back of her neck in thanks.

"Aren't you a Ground-type, though?" he asked.

She snorted at him.

"...oh, yeah," Drew went on. "Flygon live outside."


Cubone snatched at the air, her bones forming out of Aura as fast as she could reach for them, and threw them in increasingly elaborate patterns at Spoink.

Her opponent should have been an easy target, bouncing up and down gently and not really making any effort to dodge – but every time she threw a pattern she thought was guaranteed to work, the Psychic-type just bounced away through a mistake she hadn't known was there and retaliated with a glob of water.

That was fine, of course. She'd just make it so there couldn't be a mistake.

"I have honoured the past of thousands," she said, tail thumping on the ground, and for a fleeting instant there was bone-dry grass beneath her. It vanished in less than a second, but it left behind a gift – nearly thirty slim bones, which she snatched up in a single movement and threw at Spoink all at once.

This time there was no finesse. No careful coordination of interlocking vectors – just a single mass attack.


"Tennis!" May said urgently.

Spoink barely spared the time to nod. He reached out with the full force of his psionic power, pearl flaring into a brilliant pink light, and snatched up the first four bones aimed at him – and spun them around behind his back, then used them to knock the other twenty or so away in all directions.

"And it looks like Spoink's played his, uh, spring," Contesta announced. "I think we know why those attacks Cubone launched have been missing, now – very subtle!"

The bones Spoink was using burst as their construction dissolved, and he gathered up a great glob of water to throw right back at Cubone – then, as it headed into the air, he added a Psybeam which flashed around inside, sending out a haze of rainbow light as parts of it hit at an angle which let them refract out again.

Cubone vanished under the shimmering bubble, and then burst out of it in a shower of droplets more intense than the drizzling rain.


"Right. Psychic," Cubone muttered to herself, flipping backwards to get away from the sodden ground the watery attack had created. "That's annoying."

She focused. "Knowing death. Respecting life."

The cold fire of her Marble touched the ground for a sliver of a second, and two pairs of short, curved bones appeared. They hissed faintly as the water from the rainstorm hit them, and Cubone spun once as she worked up momentum.

She threw the first brace of Bonemerangs in a single fluid motion, skidded with her foot extended to brake her spin, and lashed out with the other pair a moment later. They followed long, looping paths, and the first two missed by wide margins… and then started to come back, as the altered shape Cubone had used bit the air and acted like a true boomerang.

"Power Gem!" May called, and Cubone frowned, wondering what that could mean.

In case it was something that would prevent her defeating her opponent straight off, Cubone took three steps back and summoned a bone with a sharp point. Driving it into the ground with a flicker of Aura, she hopped onto it and got to work.

"And on the beaten path between the two," she incanted, swirls of Aura forming around her as she deliberately relaxed the materialization process. Slowing it down from her usual blazing speed, since she had the time to do it properly.

It looked good, too.


Spoink's pearl flared an incandescent pink, coated in layers of psionic energy, and left a bright trail of energy behind it.

The Psychic-type closed his eyes for a moment, reaching out behind him, and identified the places he couldn't feel – the Dark-type attacks Ash and Brock had said Jessie's Cubone could use.

Then, as they closed in, his pearl blurred around in a circle. All four bones shattered into tiny fragments at once, the little bits of faux-Houndour smashing into hundreds of glowing pieces which dissolved into motes of blue light.

Dropping back to the ground, Spoink bounced once and spun to look at May.

"Great work!" his trainer said, giving a thumbs-up. "Now, Comet!"

Spoink spun back towards Cubone, his pearl glowing brighter and brighter as it orbited him. It got painful to look at, a tiny pink star drawing a circle in the air – then, slowly, got dimmer.

And larger.

After a moment, it started to become clear what was going on. Spoink's pearl was picking up layers of water from the rain, held on by strong telekinesis, and his Icy Wind was freezing the layers into ice. The pearl was glowing as brightly as before, but it was spread by the layered liquids and solids into a diffuse illumination.

Now having to work much harder to keep it moving, Spoink raised the huge implement into the air. It dropped slightly, letting him head it higher into the air, and then it shot down towards Cubone.

"My life has grown from the bones of the hills," Cubone finished.

The weapon that formed in her paws was a great big club, larger than her, and shone bright blue for the fraction of a second before she swung it into the incoming comet.

On contact, both burst – Cubone's Bone Club into a bright flash of blue Aura, and Spoink's icy comet into a splash of freezing water which turned to ice on contact.

The combined explosions sent out a spherical pulse which turned the rain to snow, and it began to drift down around the arena.


Spoink bounced slowly, barely above the ground, and panted. "Ow… that was a lot harder than I thought..."

He did a double-take. "Wait – my pearl!"

Looking around for a moment, he felt for the concentration of power – now a lot weaker after all the stored energy he'd expended – and pulled on it.

The little precious stone rose into the air, then went flying off in a different direction as a club smacked into it.

Across the field, Marowak stood – twirling her club in one clawed paw, then gripping it with both.

There was a faint ding sound, but nobody noticed.

"My pearl!" Spoink said, sounding distraught. "Give it back!"

"Spoink!" May called. "Remember – the pearl's just a crutch! You can fight without it!"


Meowth closed his jaw with a snap. "Well… I guess she evolved, den."

"I'm quite surprised," Growlie admitted. "I thought she'd be a Cubone forever."

Yes, some Pokémon don't evolve for quite a long time, Abra agreed.

They looked at him.

What? There is no spoon.

Meowth threw something at him, on the principle that that was probably a bad pun.

"Wait..." Audino said, sounding concerned.

"What is it?" Growlie asked.

"She's favouring one leg – I think that comet attack did damage her, more than she's letting on." The Normal-type winced. "I hope she's able to stay up for-"

Marowak gestured, producing a shower of small knucklebones fast enough that they came out of her clawed grip as a continuous spray, and Spoink deflected them all with a hurried psychic burst.

"Don't look like Marowak's slowed down much," Meowth said.


"Uh, um – yikes!" Spoink yelped, twisting away from a Bonemerang and knocking another one of the non-Dark projectiles away with a psionic burst. He compressed some air and used it to hit the next one, which was Dark-type, and his spring glowed brightly as he charged it with energy.

The next bounce was a Bounce, taking him far higher into the air, and he pulled the snow dusting the arena floor upwards and formed it into a plane of hastily compacted ice. It shattered at the first impact, but he quickly reconstituted it and launched it straight down – then used it as a mirror, bouncing a Psybeam off it and striking Marowak in the side with a coruscating rainbow of light.

Spoink had to come down, and did so – landing back where he'd taken off, deliberately reducing this bounce so much that Marowak's attack went over his head.

As he put together a Reflect wall and pushed it forwards, part of his mind noticed – he didn't feel nervous any more. His pearl was missing, sure, but he was still doing okay. Great, even!

His bounces got smaller and smaller, and he sent a swirl of Icy Wind forwards in a spiralling pattern – one which threw off snow at the uppermost part of the loop, producing a miniature snowstorm which eddied and whirled.


Marowak brought out two long staves with a single gesture, flaring her arms out as if flinging them out from sleeves, and gripped them on their centres of mass.

Spinning them alternately in front of her, she produced a whirling barrier of bone which drove the ice of the Icy Wind away in a smooth curve. The snowy particles were smashed so small they simply floated away on the breeze, producing a shimmering wisp of smoke, and after a moment longer Spoink gave it up as a bad idea.

"Close in!" Jessie said.

Marowak nodded, and gestured again. Blue Aura formed from thin air into the shape of a whip – noticeably based on an Ekans skeleton – and she dug the fangs at one end into the ground before hauling on it to launch herself forwards.

The whip dematerialized behind her the moment she left it, and she materialized a Bone Rush staff ready to attack.

Spoink bounced again, far too high for her, and Marowak skidded to a halt underneath the Psychic-type.

"Come back down here!" she called.


"No thanks..." Spoink said, frowning.

He had to come up with something good… but what?

Water hadn't worked. Ice hadn't worked… but maybe something would.

Looking up and focusing, Spoink blew away the clouds with a pulse of energy.

He was having difficulty remembering why he'd ever needed the pearl – this felt so easy!

As the sun shone through, illuminating him and Marowak, the Psychic-type began to focus the energy – pulling it into him, charging up just like he'd seen Venusaur do.

It was awkward, difficult – as if something about how he was doing this was fundamentally wrong – but it wasn't impossible, and the glow quickly spread through his entire body.

For a moment, he let the energy fill him up. It fizzed, almost like a soft drink, and then he gathered it together into a ball of swirling green light – looking like a dark globe of stars, with a glowing green edge and an incandescent core.

"Yah!" Spoink announced, firing it downwards accompanied by a penumbra of blue and green sparks. The sparks accelerated down faster than the main attack, hitting first, and Marowak found the area around her peppered with little green-blue fragments of light.

She made to dive through, and the sparks pushed back hard enough to keep her in the shrinking circle. Then, at the last moment, she materialized a shield and blocked – producing a disc-shaped flare of light as the Energy Ball exploded on her latest summoned bone.

Then the ground underneath her reached up glowing green tendrils, wrapping around her legs and reaching for her arms as Spoink funnelled energy into a Grass Knot.


Marowak tugged at the imprisoning grass, moving in sharp jerks, and after a few seconds the one around her right arm parted.

She took a moment to focus, and formed a sharp blade based on a Seviper's tail. That made short work of the grass holding her other arm in place, letting her take a better grip on the long Aura construct.

Then she spotted something.

"I found my pearl!" Spoink announced, the pink object glowing like a miniature star, and then a mighty blast of energy surged across the battlefield towards her.

Marowak had enough time to shift her shield, but that just meant that the shield knocked her flying and out for the count.


"I… I did it," Spoink said, wondering, as the last sparks of the energy blast faded. "I mean… I won."

He turned to May. "I won!"

"And May Maple's Spoink wins!" Mr. Contesta confirmed. "After only… only..."

The applause that had been building began to subside in confusion.

"...ladies and gentlemen," Mr. Contesta went on, sounding very embarrassed. "It looks like that match was at least two minutes longer than it's supposed to be. None of us noticed the time running out."

"Remarkable," Sukizo sighed.

"It's certainly a demonstration of how gripping this battle was," Joy pointed out.

"Does this mean I might not have won?" Spoink asked, worried.

"I'm sure it'll be fine," May said, coming forwards and gathering him up. "You've got nothing to worry about."

Spoink smiled.

"But, uh… why are you still glowing?" May asked.

That made Spoink blink, and look down at himself.

"...I'm glowing," he said. "Why am I still glowing?"

His pearl rose of its own volition, and then there was a bright flash.

May put him down very quickly.


"So, how's the winner of the quarter finals doing?" Glaceon asked.

May pointed at the Psychic-type sitting in the other chair.

"Legs!" Grumpig said, feeling them. "I've got legs! Wow, that feels odd… wait, I'm feeling them? I've got arms! Hands! So this is what fingers are like..."

"Right," Glaceon nodded. "I think I get it. Is it really that odd to evolve like that, though?"

"Trust me, it is..." Beautifly told her. "I had to get used to wings, he's got to get used to the whole concept of limbs. And not bouncing."

"Pearls! Three! Huh, they feel different… I think… tail, wow, this is huge!"

"I think we'll give him a few hours," May decided.


"So..." Growlie said. "Evolution, huh?"

"Indeed," Marowak confirmed. "In many ways it hardly feels like a difference, though."

"Well, you're certainly bigger," Meowth said, looking her up and down. "What… nearly two an' a half times the size."

"Yes, that's going to be odd to get used to," Marowak allowed. "It's probably the most significant difference. But, still..."

She spun her club. "Yes, I think I've got a little faster and stronger, even allowing for my greater size."

"So, uh…." Meowth began, then stopped. "Um… mind if I ask a kinda personal question?"

"No promises," the Ground-type said ominously. "But go ahead, ask."

"Right. Well, uh… I was wonderin' whether dis meant you'd come ta some kind'a decision about… you know. Your family."

Marowak was silent for a long moment.

"It's a good question," she allowed, eventually. "You were there when I came to terms with it, of course. But… I think perhaps now is when I've really internalized that..."

She waved her hand. "It's going to sound very corny, but… you're all my family, now. And I think I've stopped feeling guilty about that."

"Guilty?" Growlie repeated.

"Yes," Marowak sighed. "In some way, I felt like simply being content was a kind of betrayal. This was some time ago, you realize – I don't think that way any more, but it still left me a little uncomfortable."

"Huh," Meowth said. "Well… I guess dat ain't the case any more?"

"No, it's not," Marowak confirmed. "I realized it would be foolish to think that my family would begrudge me a good life. And, of course, that you don't like me being miserable."

"Yeah, who'd a thunk," the scratch cat snarked.

"It did take me a while to work through," Marowak said in her defence. "There are a lot of things that you can work out weeks or months before you really feel them deep down."

"You know, something just occurred to me..." Growlie mused.

"What's that?" the Ground-type asked.

"All your equipment – and your sleeping bag and tent – are built for a Cubone."

Marowak winced under her skull. "Ah."

"Don't worry," Audino called, walking over with a bundle over one shoulder. "I got help from Abra. It should be the right size now."

"Now, ain't you a lifesaver," Meowth smirked, as Marowak accepted the bundle and opened it.

"How did you get Abra to help?" Growlie asked. "He's not precisely the most energetic of Pokémon."

"Simple," Audino told them. "I told him two things. Firstly, that he'd have to teleport me to the main base for exchanging the requisitions – and then back once I was done – and second, that there was an English Muffin in it for him."

"But dat wouldn't-"

"I think I see," Marowak interjected. "He decided it would be quicker to just do the switch himself."

"Correct." Audino looked pleased with himself, then set down a box and opened it. "Incidentally, would anyone else like a muffin?"

"What did we ever do without you?" Growlie asked, tail wagging.

"Fast food," Audino said bluntly.

"Da truth hurts..." Meowth winced. "Yeah, we kinda mostly did simple stuff..."


"It's not really very difficult," Goodra summarized. "I know it looks really odd at first – it's kind of like constantly falling forwards – but you get used to it very quickly."

Thank you, Grumpig replied, arms out slightly – wobbling a bit, and Mawile shifted her closed jaw so the Psychic-type could use her for support. I'm glad you're able to help.

He sighed. I wish May could as well, but – getting ready for the next battle is more important.

"It's kinda silly they're all at the same time," Mawile said, shaking her head. "Why can't they be more spread out, like battles are at the League?"

I think it's because Contest battles are supposed to be three minutes long, Grumpig replied. Even with the occasional Appeal from people who were knocked out in previous rounds, I don't think people would come to the arena for about twenty minutes total.

"Oh, yeah, I didn't think of it that way!" the Fairy-type smiled. "Thanks!"

"Do you think you're ready for some practice in battling in your new shape?" Goodra checked. "I can just stand there at first, so you get to know what you can do."

I think that would be a good idea, if you're willing, Grumpig agreed gratefully. But we shouldn't take too long – I'd like to see May's next battle.

"Got it!" Mawile said. "Um… where's there a clock? I think we should use one of those to keep track..."

She looked contemplative. "Maybe if Jirachi was here, we could wish to know the time?"

"That seems like a very silly wish." Goodra shrugged. "But it might work."

He stepped back. "Okay, so – try out an attack, we'll see what it's like!"

Sure, Grumpig agreed. His pearls flickered as he built energy, and he used Psychic.

Goodra went straight backwards at some speed, then thrashed his tail to adjust his angle and used both feet to skid to a halt just before hitting a nearby wall.

Oops! Grumpig winced. Sorry, I didn't expect that to be that strong!

"It's okay," Mawile informed him. "You didn't mean anything nasty, and no-one got hurt – so now you know a lot more about how strong you are!"

Thank you, Mawile, Grumpig said, glancing down at her. You're very supportive. Also literally supportive.

"Yep!"


AN:

So. Lots of Contest stuff.

Also, this fic now exceeds one million words.