This is the first of four chapters today.
"Okay, let's see..." Charmander said, sitting down and frowning at the sheet of paper. "So these are all the ideas?"
"That's right," Max agreed. "Well, all the ideas for now."
"Max, look out," May warned. "There's a big branch in the road."
"Thanks!" Max called forward, then turned back to Charmander. "And yeah, I know there aren't many choices, but it's just a first go – sometimes it's obvious what name is a good one for a Pokémon, but otherwise it can take ages."
"It took me months!" Arc said, head going to one side so he could look back at Charmander. "Are you okay up there?"
"I'm fine, thanks," Charmander assured him. "Okay, I guess I'll have to think about this… I mean, Corona sounds cool, but some of these others are..."
She shrugged. "I think it'll take a while to decide. What's Etna, by the way?"
"It's a name for a volcano thousands of miles away," Max told her. "I guess I think – a good nickname should be meaningful, but it should also sound like a name."
"That's sensible," Charmander nodded. "And it is an important decision, too, isn't it?"
"Pretty important," Max agreed. "Training's something that can be important too, but what really matters is to… well, enjoy it, really."
"Wise words," Lucario agreed. "It looks like we're approaching Rota, by the way."
He frowned, then moved to one side and jogged ahead. It took him only a few seconds to pass the others, and he kept going until he reached the apex of the gentle slope they were on.
"Lucario?" Ash asked. "What is it?"
"It looks like there is a welcoming committee," Lucario called back. "There is someone I think is Queen Ilene, and Lucario, and a few others."
"You mean the Lucario from Rota?" May checked. "The one who we met last time?"
"Aaron's friend," Ash said, trying out another way of describing the Fighting-type. "Well, last time we were here Lucario was still a Riolu… but I could see this getting a bit confusing."
"How do Pokémon describe different Pokémon with the same species?" Brock asked. "I mean, your whole language already is the same few syllables over and over..."
"It's complicated and hard to understand," Pikachu told him, ear twitching. "It's a magical power called context."
Brock's reply was drowned out by a sudden blast of trumpets.
"What the heck?" Ash said, blinking. "What's that?"
"I think these are heralds," Blaziken guessed.
"They're being pretty loud," May observed. "I wonder what the occasion is."
"What's going on?" Charmander asked. "Is this one of those things that happened last time? And if it is, why are you so confused?"
"That's the thing, it's not something which happened last time," Max explained. "Or – it's not quite the same, at least. We didn't get met on the way into Rota last time, and certainly not by the Queen."
He frowned. "But then, I guess we did save the world pretty publicly this time. So… I don't know. Maybe it's because of that."
"Hear ye!" came an extremely loud voice, making the friends jump. "By the order of Her Majesty, Queen Ilene of Rota, and on her behalf, Rota offers welcome to Sir Ketchum, Sir Slate, Dame Maple and Sir Maple!"
There was a ringing silence, as the herald rolled his scroll back up.
"Sir Maple?" Charmander repeated. "But – wait, is that you?"
She scratched her head. "I didn't know you were a knight."
"I forget half the time that we are as well," Ash said, overhearing. "It was in Hoenn, at the Togepi Kingdom."
He shook his head. "Anyway, uh… Lucario, help?"
"The correct protocol is, I believe, to accept the offer of welcome," Lucario supplied.
"Right," Ash said. "Thanks. Um – we accept your offer of welcome?"
"Offered freely, accepted with gratitude," Queen Ilene stated. "And welcome back to Our kingdom, Ash Ketchum and Brock Slate. We have not met your other companions before, but We have heard much about their quality from Our allies in Hoenn."
"Rota and the other small kingdoms stay in touch," Sir Aaron's Lucario told them.
"That does explain a lot," Sir Ketchum's Lucario nodded.
"Does this mean I'm going to be called Sir all the time in Rota?" Ash asked. "I'm not really used to the title..."
"We would treat it as a favour if you were to do your best to be comfortable with it," Ilene said. "But We appreciate your concerns."
She sighed. "Can We perhaps talk later? Royal protocol demands that We speak in this manner when making official appearances of this nature."
"I guess that would be fine," Ash agreed. "Any objections, guys?"
Max and May shook their heads.
Brock coughed. "Uh… sorry about what happened last time, your Majesty."
"It is of no import," Ilene told him. "Any problem has long since passed."
"That's good to know," Brock said with a sigh. "I've been worried about that for a while..."
"What happened last time?" May asked.
"I'll… tell you later," Brock answered.
"We should continue to Rota," Aaron's Lucario said. "It is not long before the tournament, and I believe Queen Ilene had a request to make of you in that light, Ash."
"She did?" Ash asked. "What was it?"
Queen Ilene looked slightly irritated, but went on. "We wished to ask, Sir Ketchum, that you would take part in the tourney – but not as a normal contestant; instead, Our intent was that you would participate in a spar against Our friend Lucario."
"That sounds interesting," Pikachu said. "Which one of us would be best?"
"I'm not sure," Lucario replied. "Perhaps you can go first and I'll finish the job?"
"We believe your Pokémon have not grasped the import of Our suggestion," Ilene frowned. "Our intent was that Sir Ketchum should take the field himself – as an Aura adept, and one of Sir Aaron's line, it would be a spectacle not seen at Rota for decades for a full knight of Aura to battle Sir Aaron's Lucario in the grand tournament hall."
Ash blinked. "Uh… okay, I guess? I mean, that would be pretty interesting..."
"And so much for the chance of winning any part of the Rota tournament," Pikachu grumped.
"To be fair, Pikachu, I'm pretty sure you'd win very quickly, so it's not even a contest," Brock said.
"That is true..." Pikachu agreed, with an ear flick. "Wait, is Ash going to enter the arena on Pidgeot? I wonder how many people that would trick."
"That's much better," Queen Ilene said, sitting down with a grateful sigh. "It can be tiring, sometimes, to have to speak like that."
The Rota Lucario put a paw on her shoulder. "At least in private you don't have to be so formal."
"You're right, of course," the Queen agreed. "Well – it's been a few years, Ash, but… welcome back to Rota."
"It's pretty good to be back," Ash nodded. "And it's great to see you so well, Lucario!"
"You see me every morning," his Lucario said.
"No, I meant-" Ash began, then sighed. "We're going to be doing that a lot, aren't we?"
"Probably," the other Lucario agreed. "I take it you are the Riolu who I saw last time?"
"Correct," Lucario said. "I evolved about a year after we met."
"And I see it suits you fine," Lucario complimented him.
He turned his attention back to Ash. "We here in Rota have heard of what you've been doing since your last visit, Ash. You've been busy."
"Yeah," Ash said, nodding. "Kind of?"
"There's no kind of about it," Ilene said. "Quite apart from a justly deserved knighting, you've won two Leagues-"
"Three," Brock corrected.
"Nobody thinks Orange Islands counts," Pikachu sighed. "And to think I was thrown at a Ditto for that trophy."
"Three," Queen Ilene corrected herself. "And another you would have won were it not for the intervention of a potential global catastrophe – a shame, we were enjoying that tournament."
"Which means we saw you as well, Max," the Rota Lucario added. "Not bad for a first League run. I assume."
"You assume?" Max repeated. "Why – oh, right, back in your time they didn't have a Pokémon League."
"Yes, for me it was more dealing with armies," Lucario confirmed. "Though I have come to learn a fair amount about the subject from the marvellous invention known as television."
He held out a paw flat and waved it back and forth. "And… well, I've also seen a fair amount of silly things on there as well."
"Yeah, TV's kind of variable," May said.
There was a knock at the door.
"Enter," Queen Ilene called, and the door swung open.
"My apologies for disturbing you, your Majesty," the seneschal said, with a bow. "But there is a Lucario here to see you."
"What, another one?" the Queen asked, blinking.
"Your Majesty?" the seneschal asked.
"Never mind," she said, waving her hand. "Show them in."
"Okay, that makes three Lucario who are going to be in here at once," May frowned. "Is there a word for that?"
"Lucario," Lucario stated.
"...all your words are Lucario, that doesn't help," May retorted. "I mean a collective noun – you know, like avian Flying-types are a flock, or how lots of Tauros together is called a herd."
"An Order of Lucario?" Brock suggested.
"I think it's a bit odd-sounding," the Rota Lucario said. "I mean, I understand what you mean – an order of knights – but it just doesn't feel right, somehow."
"Crusade?" Max offered.
The two Lucario glanced at one another, then shrugged.
"Doesn't fit either," Ash's Lucario judged. "That's just my opinion, of course, but..."
"What about other Pokémon's collective nouns?" Pikachu suggested. "Would that help? I think a group of Noctowl or Hoothoot is called a Parliament."
Ash blinked. "...why?"
"Beats me," Pikachu replied. "Absol? Is there a word for lots of you in one place?"
Absol emerged from her Pokéball, landing lithely on the stone floor. "A panic, usually," she said, tossing her head. "I mean, that's usually why we gather together in numbers, to work out what's going on and how to stop it."
"...should I be worried about your Absol being here?" Queen Ilene asked. "I'm afraid I'm not familiar with how they work."
"Lucario, if you would?" Absol requested. "My close friend, before you both try to translate. And no, you shouldn't be worried – the decks are essentially clear as far as chaos and catastrophe go. We sense disaster, not cause it, and this is much better than it normally is around Ash."
She frowned. "Or, of course, I could have been overexposed by the experience of standing directly underneath a meteorite capable of turning Hoenn into a seventy mile wide crater. One or the other."
"That's… good news, right?" Brock checked, once Lucario had finished translating. "Is there anything on the way for us in the next few days?"
"No, you're pretty much good for a while," Absol assured him.
"Greetings, Queen and Lucario of Rota," came a cool Aura-translated voice from the doorway. "And to you as well, scion of our kingdom – and your trainer, and your friends."
"You're that messenger, right?" Ash asked, as the female Lucario came in and the seneschal shut the door behind her. "Is there a problem?"
"No, quite the opposite," the messenger assured him. "I just wanted to talk to Lucario, but now I have a chance to talk to both Lucario and Lucario rather than looking for Lucario later."
"Okay, now there's three Lucario," Max said. "This is getting a little silly."
"Context," Pikachu advised him.
"My visit has several reasons behind it," the messenger went on. "In addition to seeing how the Chosen One is faring – and offering him assistance, if assistance he needs – my remit is also to see whether Aaron's Companion has finished adjusting to the modern world."
"I've been doing fine, thank you," the Lucario in question told her. "Though I must thank you for the teach-yourself-typing course, it has been very useful."
May snorted with laughter, then looked embarrassed. "Sorry! I just – that was a really funny image to me, somehow..."
"It is of no matter," Lucario told her.
As he spoke, Lucario reached into her drawstring bag. "Here we are..."
She withdrew a small crystal orb, with a fleck colouring the middle.
"That's a Lucarionite!" Ash said, recognizing it.
"Is that for Ash?" Brock asked.
"I hope it is," Ash's Lucario volunteered. "I've only used one once before, but it was quite invigorating."
"Yes, we're willing to lend it out," the messenger told him. "It came into our possession some months ago, but our main attempt to use it… was not successful."
"Why not?" May asked. "Is it that Pokémon can't Mega Evolve other Pokémon?"
"No, we didn't even try," the messenger informed her. "The Kingdom has an arms-master who is human, and who operated the Key Stone. No, the problem was what we used it for."
Queen Ilene frowned, then cleared her throat. "Ahem… was it Baccer?" she asked.
"It was, indeed, Baccer," the messenger said. "Specifically, we formed a team, and quickly discovered that our Mega Lucario striker would make the puck explode violently when she kicked it."
She coughed. "The Royal Blues did not win a lot of games."
"This feels kind of odd," Ash said, sitting back on the bed in his room.
"The mattress?" Pikachu asked.
"No, the whole… just being here, really," Ash clarified. "I mean, I know Sir Aaron was a really distant ancestor, but I've spent more time talking to him than I have to my dad… and now that I'm here again, it all seems kind of… well, I said."
"I think I understand," Pikachu nodded. "You know so much more about the reality of it now than the first time… and the last time, you were still fresh to being in the past. So was I."
"That's it exactly," Ash agreed. "So this time, the way it's all really meaningful is… right there. And I'm thinking about it, and..."
His hand punched the bed. "Well, I'm kind of imagining what it would be like to grow up here. If I'd been born in Rota, if our family had never left… and I know that this place is nowhere near as old fashioned as it looks, this is basically something they do because it looks cool, but I can't help but imagine it."
"Actually, that would be pretty cool," Pikachu said, nodding along. "I can imagine doing training up in the hills, or jumping across the battlements – but there's an important question that raises."
"I agree," Lucario said. "Would you wear armour?"
"Why would I wear armour?" Ash asked. "I mean, I'm pretty sure Aura's better than armour, and it doesn't slow you down so much."
"But Aura users can move fast anyway," Pikachu pointed out. "Even if they're carrying a heavy weight. So you could have armour that's tough enough to help and still move around fine in it."
"Besides, it would look in-theme," Lucario said. "Don't you think so, Glalie?"
"Yeah, it would be pretty in-theme," Glalie agreed. "It'd be something he could wear all knight."
"Ow!" Ash laughed. "That's just bad."
"Yeah, I think we should get all the knight puns out of the way to- this evening," Pikachu said.
"By the way," Lucario mused. "If Ash wore armour, would that mean you would too, Pikachu?"
"I value my speed too much," Pikachu shrugged, waving his tail. "Besides, I can use this for steel if I need it."
"You know, a Lucario in steel armour just seems redundant," Ash said, then blinked. "Wait, how did we get here again?"
"I'm… not sure," Pikachu admitted.
"How do you feel about this exhibition match tomorrow, Ash?" Lucario asked.
"Well… I don't feel bad about it," Ash replied. "It's the kind of thing I ask you all to do quite often, so it's something I should feel comfortable doing myself… that's how I think."
"That's a good attitude," Lucario nodded. "But, between us, if you do get a chance to do something really cool… do it, because you're literally at Cameron Castle dressed as Sir Aaron."
"Actually, that reminds me," Ash said. "I've got my staff, or my sword, or I could just go without either of them. Which do you think I should do?"
"I say take both of them in," Pikachu advised. "That way you have options, and they're not that heavy, right?"
"Besides, you won't be carrying Pikachu, so the weight balances out," Lucario joked.
"I'm not that fat..."
"The tournament's really a big thing here, isn't it?" May asked, looking down from the royal box. "Am I right in thinking it's the event of the year, pretty much?"
"It's a big part of our culture," the Queen agreed. "And I'm very glad the royal box isn't public, or I'd have to speak officially… how are you finding your outfits, by the way?"
"Actually, I quite like this," May said, raising her hand and looking at the dress she was wearing. "It's not much more formal than most of what I wear in a Contest."
"That's your opinion, and you're welcome to it," Blaziken muttered, pulling at the lapels of his suit. "But why do the rest of us have to dress up as well?"
"You wanted to watch," May pointed out.
"For my part, I quite enjoy the spectacle," the Lucario messenger volunteered. "It's a different form of pageantry to in my native land, but there's certain similarities… perhaps I'll have to take a few ideas home."
"Take it from me, the double-breasted suit isn't a good one," May's starter said. "I feel like I'm going to break this if I move too fast."
"To be fair, you can break most things by moving too fast," Wartortle pointed out, adjusting her Chinese dress slightly. "I'm still pretty amazed by that demonstration you gave me of Speed Boost – from my perspective, you've got much stronger in a very short space of time."
"Then we'll help you out in catching up!" Altaria said, then bobbed his head. "This headdress is a bit heavy..."
"It suits you," Glaceon said.
"I tried to make sure everyone's outfit suited them somehow," May told them. "Except for Wartortle, she picked hers before I got a chance to do anything."
"I like how it looks," Wartortle defended herself.
"Like, can you explain mine?" Skitty asked, eyes crossed as she looked at her wimple. "It's, like, really kind of odd-looking, you know?"
"It's simple," May said, stroking her. "You're quite a princess – and that includes being picky. No offence, your Majesty."
"I like to think I was an atypical princess," Ilene smiled. "It's a valid opinion."
"Still upset about the suit," Blaziken reported. "Grumpig got away with only a bow tie! And Glaceon's only wearing ear decorations."
"My ears are my most striking feature," Glaceon told him, sticking her tongue out. "Besides, if I wore a suit I might melt."
Venusaur rolled her eyes. "My teammates are bickering about fashion."
"Our trainer's a coordinator," Beautifly said, fluttering her wings. "Besides, don't you like your elaborate hat?"
"You're my elaborate hat."
"Yeah, I was kind of running out of ideas by that point," May admitted.
"Is that why Munchlax is wearing about sixty percent of a fruit hat?" Glaceon asked.
"Yeah, I made four of them… hopefully that way he'll have something to eat for the whole tournament."
"Is that your brother out there?" the messenger Lucario asked.
"Oh, yeah, that's Max," May agreed, leaning forwards to see. "Hope he does well."
"Good work, Cinder!" Max said, reaching down to stroke the Dark-type as she padded back over. "That was a pretty good finisher."
"Thanks," Cinder replied with a rumbling growl-purr. "I thought it went well."
By the way, you might want to hurry up, Kris advised. It looks like your third round is right after your second.
"That's… huh – okay," Max shook his head. "I wasn't expecting that – but let's give it a go anyway!"
"I might need a rest, sorry," Cinder requested.
"That's fine, Cinder," Max said. "You've already done some great work."
He looked over at Charmander. "How's your view, by the way?"
"I've got a good view, thank you," Charmander told him, waving her paw. "And I know it's a bit soon for me to be taking part."
Max looked disappointed for a moment, then read Kris' screen. "Man, I can't wait for when I start to get Aura translation working with you… anyway. Arc, think you can give it a go?"
"I sure can," Arc nodded, tail flicking. "Should I take my Mega Stone?"
"Yeah, you don't have to use it," Max agreed. "But I think we want it in case our opponent has a Mega Stone."
He looked up. "Okay, huh… apparently we're battling a Mariachi?"
Arc shrugged, then jumped out into the arena.
"Go!" said Max's opponent from under the sombrero. "Steelix!"
Max blinked. "Wait – Brock!?"
Brock raised his hat, smirking as Steelix crashed down onto the arena floor.
"Okay, Arc, let's stay calm and do this properly!" Max said. "Remember, he's weak to Fire-type attacks, so try to avoid his tail and attack when you get a good shot!"
"Right!" Arc barked back. "Should we Mega E-whoah!"
He ducked under the sweep of Steelix' tail, then sprang away from the second blow and fired a burst of electricity on reflex.
"Don't use electricity!" Max warned, as the lightning crackled around Steelix' skin without penetrating. "You can't do what Pikachu can!"
"Wait..." Cinder said, sniffing. "There's something wrong here."
"This is actually kind of an interesting battle," May observed, observing the battle. "Max and Brock have been travelling together with Ash and I for several months, so they're pretty familiar with the way the other fights."
She watched as Arc jumped around, never staying in one place long enough for Steelix to hit him with his tail.
"So it could go down to whoever comes up with a new trick, or it could be chance?" Queen Ilene asked. "That is, if neither has any major advantage over the other."
"Well, I don't know..." May hedged. "I mean, Brock wins more often than not, but that's usually because he is usually doing something exotic. Steelix is one of his pretty straightforward Pokémon, so…"
"I don't think this is a straightforward fight," Blaziken said suddenly. "There's something much trickier going on here."
"What do you mean?" May asked.
Blaziken pointed. "Watch."
"Flamethrower!" Max ordered.
"Dragonbreath!" Brock replied.
Arc began to summon flames to his mouth, but before he'd got them ready to fire Steelix preempted him. A blast of yellow-tinted purple fire came rushing out, washing over the last-minute tongue of Flamethrower that Arc produced and catching him as he turned to run. There was a bang as the excess energy knocked Arc sideways, and he rolled over several times before coming to his feet with smoke rising from his fur.
"Ow," he coughed, a puff of black smoke coming out for a moment. "That hurt."
"Max!" Cinder barked. "Think about this – Dragonbreath doesn't work like that!"
"You're right!" Max realized. "And that means that was an actual Fire-type attack! Arc, use Odor Sleuth!"
"Okay, got it!" Arc barked, sniffing deeply. He jumped aside from an attack, then fired a burst of electricity – which hit Steelix' tail and shattered it completely.
As the tail burst into fragments, Ninetales skidded a few paces backwards, then shook her fur out and flicked the last of the lingering electricity off her tails.
"Thought so," Cinder said smugly.
"Yeah, you're right," Max agreed. "Okay, Arc, new plan – keep hitting her with Electric attacks, and stay away from her Fire-type moves!"
"A trick like that?" Queen Ilene asked. "I must say, that's a very impressive Ninetales – I knew they could do illusions, but I had not heard of one so adept."
"Yeah, I think Brock's Ninetales took it up as a hobby a long time ago, and she got more in-depth with it after meeting Brock's Stantler in Johto," May agreed.
She frowned. "Wait a moment… excuse me, Lucario?"
"I assume you mean me?" the messenger checked. "Instead of meaning to speak to Lucario, or even Lucario."
"Yeah, let's not do that again, you're the only one in the box," May nodded. "Can you check to make sure that actually is Ninetales with your Aura Sight?"
"Of course," she agreed, and took a steadying breath.
Her eyes flickered blue as she closed them, and then she opened them again.
"Interesting," she said simply.
"Good work, Arc!" Max said, as the Electric-type kicked off the arena wall to avoid a roiling blast of flame. He landed paws-first, rolling once, and skidded around in a turn to hammer Ninetales with a blast of electrical energy – one which she mostly dodged, but some of the force hit her and knocked her back half a step.
Shaking it off, the Fire-type charged. Arc jinked, but she guessed his movements and hammered into him with a two-forepaws pounce which knocked Max's starter sprawling.
"Excuse me, trainer?" Charmander asked. "I think I have an insight."
"Go ahead," Max said, turning to her for a moment – then back to Arc as he nearly got knocked across the arena.
"Something's still not right," Charmander told him. "Those flames… they're not acting like the Fire attacks my parents used. I'm not sure why."
"Well, I think Ninetales have psychic powers," Max said, then paused – thinking about it more deeply. "Hold on a moment… Arc's managed to dodge successfully every time she uses a fire attack."
"Well, he is good at dodging," Cinder said.
"No, I mean every time," Max stressed. "It's like she's letting him avoid her fire-type attacks… maybe they're not real ones!"
"What would that even mean?" his Dark-type asked. "Why would she not bother using attacks that could work on Arc?"
"Could it be that – that's not Ninetales at all!" Max said firmly. "Arc, use Shockwave in all directions!"
"It won't help, you're already hitting her," Cinder dismissed – then stared, as the burst of electricity filled the arena, and Stantler fell off the arena wall.
Ninetales vanished like a dream.
"But – that was Ninetales!" Cinder protested. "I smelled her!"
Stantler shook his head, getting to his hooves with a quick motion to avoid being stuck in one place too long.
"I guess that didn't work," he said, then saw a Manectric rapidly approaching him in a corona of electricity.
He put up an illusion of his running one way and ducked the other way, but that didn't quite suffice to get him out of the way in time.
"Most impressive," Queen Ilene pronounced, as Brock returned Stantler and waved his hand – accepting the defeat. "How could you tell?"
"Well, it was lots of little things," May replied, counting on her fingers. "Firstly, I noticed that whenever Ninetales actually hit it was with a physical attack – that would make sense if she were fighting another Fire-type, but not with Arc as he's Electric type."
She went to a second finger. "Then I thought about that, and I realized the only time that the Steelix illusion had used that fire breath attack was after Arc had already started building up a Flamethrower – Stantler knows Me First, so that got me suspicious."
A third. "And finally – there was a little scorch mark on the wall, which I happened to catch appearing – it just appeared from nowhere, so there had to be an illusion up, and the only attack which was in-line to actually produce it was the one which supposedly decloaked Ninetales. It wasn't conclusive, but I asked Lucario to check for me because I felt it was a good enough hint."
"Impressive indeed," Queen Ilene nodded. "I take it this is a talent which Coordinators involve themelves in – spotting small inconsistencies?"
"Not so much all Coordinators," May shrugged. "But I've been trying to be observant."
"With Ash's Noctowl, Max's Shuppet, and half Brock's team, we all need to be..." Grumpig pointed out..
"Brock?" Max called.
"Oh, Max!" Brock called back, turning. "I'm surprised to see you – aren't you still in the tournament?"
"Yeah, but there's at least a few minutes until our next match," Max explained. "But I wanted to ask-"
"What happened?" Cinder interrupted. "How did you do that? I could smell Ninetales!"
Brock chuckled. "Oh, that – yeah, the whole point of that one was to try to trick you into thinking you'd got the secret, but there was another layer of deception."
He rested his hand on thin air, which turned out to be Ninetales. "We were actually planning this for a few days at least."
"Since we got close to Pewter," Ninetales agreed. "It was actually a bit icky, but Stantler seemed fine with it. Basically, I slept on a blanket for a few days, then we washed Stantler with my fur shampoo, and while his scent was still weak from that he wore the blanket for a few hours."
"Wait, so-" Cinder stopped, and took a step back. "I like it," she said. "You managed to disguise his scent with yours, so that the idea that 'oh, it must be Ninetales' would be what we'd all focus on."
"That's just right," Brock agreed. "And you did manage to get past it – eventually, anyway. I think your next match is too soon, but we should talk more after the tournament."
Brock is correct – your next slot is in a few minutes.
"I'd better go, yikes!" Max winced. "Okay – thanks for letting me know!"
Lucario and the Mystery of Mew.
Main plot short circuited a while ago, but hopefully it's still interesting.