"Any sign of pursuit?"
"No, sir!" the lookout replied. "Looks like we caught them by surprise-"
His voice stopped suddenly. "Wait!"
"What?" the commander asked. "Is there a Pokémon after us?"
"No!" the lookout replied. "That's the problem!"
"How is that a problem?"
Steadying one hand on the helicopter's door rail, Commander Shade looked back. "If this is..."
His voice trailed off.
"That's what I was trying to say, commander!" the lookout said. "All we've got is a hat!"
They looked at the hat.
"Who was running the clamp?" Shade demanded, then sighed. "Okay. Right, we'll have to go back. The Captain will have our heads if we come back without Manaphy."
"Thanks, Mama..." Manaphy said, hugging her. "You saved me!"
"It wasn't very hard," May protested – though she was certainly smiling. "And I'm glad to help you."
She shaded her eyes, looking up at where the high-speed flying machine had gone. "What I'm more worried about is why they came after you so soon…"
Manaphy shrugged. "I don't know, Mama..." he said, sighing. "I don't know why they came after me the first time either."
"Hey, guys an' gals?" Meowth called, looking through a pair of binoculars. "It kinda looks like dey're comin' back!"
"Right!" Ash decided. "Pikachu, do you think you can stop them?"
"Of course I can," Pikachu answered.
"No!" Jessie replied. "This isn't about you twerps."
"...what?" Max blinked. "I'm pretty sure they were going after the Pokémon that's actually on May's shoulder right now."
"Yeah, but dat ain't important," Meowth clarified.
"They're trying to do criminal activities on Rocket territory," James supplied. "And this is our area!"
"So… it's kind of an honour thing?" Max checked.
"Actually, it makes perfect sense to me," Cinder volunteered. "Honestly, it's kind of obvious now they say it."
Pikachu shook his head. "Canines."
"Right, let's do this fast and low," Shade said. "This time, make sure you actually catch the Manaphy and keep it in the claws!"
"It wasn't my fault!" the claw operator protested. "I thought I had a good grip!"
"Well, you must have been mistaken." Shaking his head, Shade reached for a Pokéball. "Okay, they know we're coming, so we'll have to be ready for a fight. Venomoth, give us some Stun Spore!"
Venomoth materialized inside the helicopter, flared his wings, then dove out the door.
There was a loud whoosh, and a bright yellow-orange flash.
"What now?" Shade demanded.
Venomoth came back into view, now noticeably smouldering, and returned himself back into his Pokéball.
"Sir?" the lookout said. "I think I worked out what happened to that Manaphy!"
Then there was an explosion which sounded like the end of the world.
"Now that's a nostalgic sight," May sighed happily. "How many times have we seen that?"
"Hundreds, easily," Ash replied.
They watched as four or five pirates and what was left of a helicopter went flying off into the sky.
"Ya know, since it was kind'a us what went blastin' off most of dose other times..." Meowth pointed out.
"Actually, I don't mind," Jessie shrugged. "I mean, it's nice to be the ones doing it for once."
"True dat," Meowth admitted.
Moltres came down to land next to them. "They were idiots," she said firmly. "Not only did they let me into close quarters underneath them, they sent a Bug-type to get rid of me."
"Actually, I don't think they even saw you, Moltres," Brock mused. "I mean, that Venomoth wasn't looking around for you – it was focusing on us."
"Really?" Jessie said, thinking back. "I'm not sure how you can even tell that, given it didn't really have very long before Moltres blasted it."
Brock shrugged. "It's how it looked to me."
Pikachu jumped off Ash's shoulder, and hopped forwards.
When he was close enough to Moltres, he waved his tail to get her attention.
"Yes?" she said, politely – not being a complete idiot, she knew what Pikachu was capable of.
"Just wanted to say, nice work on the helicopter," he told her. "I know it's not easy to make sure the explosion gets that kind of lift to it."
"I've been practicing," Moltres informed him. "It's actually one of our emergency get-out-of-trouble tricks. I literally blast the others into the next valley."
"Left a whole lotta craters, dat one did," Meowth volunteered.
"Worthless," the Phantom snarled. "You had everything you needed – exactly where the Manaphy was, and how to catch it. What went wrong?"
Shade gulped, taking a step back as his captain leaned into the videophone's camera. "It… well… it had a Pokéball!" he managed.
"A Pokéball?" the Phantom repeated, in a slightly less enraged voice. "What had a Pokéball? Manaphy?"
"We didn't see it," Shade clarified. "But we had it in the clamps, then it vanished."
The Phantom seemed to be about to start shouting again, so Shade jumped ahead to the next part of his report. "And – there's powerful Pokémon protecting it too. We didn't see what, but it blew up our helicopter."
There was a long silence, which made Shade hope he was off the hook.
"Return to base," the Phantom said eventually. "Bring your crew. We'll see about this Manaphy's protection."
"It's kind of funny being back home, isn't it?" Dawn asked.
Buneary looked up, nodded cutely, and went back to nibbling at her lunch.
"Now, I was thinking..." Dawn began. "Maybe after this, we can give a go at doing double appeals?"
Piplup gave her a look that spoke eloquently of a preference to just laze in the sun.
"You're a Piplup," she pointed out. "They're not supposed to like the sun."
"Anyway," she went on. "Ash told me about a battle he had in Johto with an Empoleon that could fly by blasting water from his wings. I don't expect you to be able to do that – not straight away, anyway – but I did think maybe Buneary could do some hop-skip-and-jump around some water jets from your flippers?"
Piplup considered it, then nodded.
"What do you think, Buneary?" Dawn added.
Buneary put a paw to her mouth, swallowing some lettuce, then worked the fluff on her ears up into an approximation of a shower cap.
"Sounds good," Dawn decided. "And then, once we've got the basics working, we can add some Ice to it!"
Both of them looked a little less sanguine at that prospect.
Ash looked up at the giant doors of the battle arena.
"Anyone see the doorbell?" he asked, tapping them.
"Ash..." Lucario sighed.
"What?" Ash defended himself. "It's worth looking, right – I mean, why wouldn't there be a doorbell?"
Lucario made to reply, then stopped. "...actually, you're right and I apologize."
"Thanks," Ash replied absently.
He took a step back, examining the doors. "Well, I can't actually see one..."
Checking his bag was on tightly, he glanced to his shoulder to make sure Pikachu was well seated. "Okay, let's go!"
Brock, Max and May watched as he walked briskly up the wall. Lucario followed him after a few seconds, and then they reached the crest and disappeared inside.
"...I hope he opens the door," May said eventually.
"That was cool," Manaphy told everyone. "Can all humans do that?"
"No, they can't," May answered. "Ash is just strange."
The thump of impact made all the trainees look up.
"What was that?" Greta asked. "Who goes there?"
She squinted, then waved her hands. "Wait, is that Ash Ketchum? Never mind then."
Putting both forefingers in her mouth, she gave a piercing whistle. "Okay, guys – training's deferred for now! I've got a challenger, so everyone go and do laps of the building until we're done!"
"Yes, sensei!" her human pupils responded.
Her much more numerous Pokémon ones said what was presumably the same thing.
"But remember," she added, "I'll want a few of you to hang around for the challenge."
That sorted out, Greta jogged over to the gate.
"Ash Ketchum, right?" she asked, holding her hand out for him to shake.
"That's me," Ash confirmed, as Lucario walked down the wall behind him. "Sorry for coming in like that, but the gate was closed."
"Oh, right," Greta nodded, pumping Ash's hand up and down and then letting go. "Yeah, you have to shout to be heard – but it means I only get the challengers with properly enthusiastic voices!"
"Or, I presume, those with Flying-type Pokémon," Lucario suggested.
"That would work too," the Frontier Brain agreed. "Nice Aura trick, by the way – I don't meet as many Lucarios as I'd like."
She clapped her hands. "So! I heard you beat Noland and that Articuno who dotes on him, so I guessed I might be next!"
"How do the gates open?" Lucario asked, distracting her. "I'm afraid that our friends are on the other side."
"The loop turns the opposite way to what you'd expect," Greta told him, then nodded as he took one of the handles and twisted it. "That's right."
"Thanks," Max said, smiling, as the door opened. "We thought you might just be having the challenge without us."
"I'd have been quite happy to lift you over the wall one at a time," Latias said, destealthing. "And Brock and May have dragons that can lift them themselves."
"It's the principle of the thing," Max informed her.
"Oh, yeah, that reminds me," Greta said, snapping her fingers. "I know you've got Legendary Pokémon and Mega-evolved Pokémon and stuff, so – are you going to use one of them here?"
"I'm… not planning on it," Ash answered. "Unless it's a three-on-three and I can't think of anything else."
Brock snorted with barely restrained laughter.
"That's a pretty unusual reason," Greta noted. "Anyway. I've got one Mega Stone, so if it is a three-on-three I'll feel free to use it."
"Works for me," Ash confirmed. "What kind of Mega Stone is it?"
"Medicham," Greta answered. "Okay, let's go get that wheel going and find out how many Pokémon a side it's going to be."
"N?" Concordia asked. "Are you sure you understand how to use these?"
"I am not," N told his sister. "But I went into the library and printed some instructions off from the computer, so I think I am close. We are fortunate that the local library is open at all hours."
He consulted the guide.
"Right," he began. "So the first step is to weaken the Pokémon."
Reshiram's claw reached up to his chin. "Perhaps that is what we are missing."
"But how can he weaken you, Dragon of Truth?" Concordia asked.
Anthea laughed, then looked mortified. "Sorry!"
"What is it?" N asked her.
"I just… I imagined Reshiram repeatedly flying into a mountain to weaken himself," Anthea said in a small voice.
Reshiram laughed – his voice deep and booming. "Oh, dear… fear not, for that image is as amusing to me as it is to thee."
"I think that's a way of talking we don't use any more," Zorua frowned. "The thee, I mean."
"My apologies," Reshiram allowed, still smiling. "Now. What would the next step be, assuming I was weakened?"
"Well, I would throw this at you," N told him, still reading the instructions. "And then it would draw you in, and if you failed to struggle free it would have caught you."
"It sounds like what happened when those other balls failed to contain me," Reshiram frowned. "Perhaps there is some mistake?"
N checked to make sure nothing was written on the back page of the sheet. "Perhaps. But this seemed to be correct."
"Why not test on me?" Zorua asked.
He waved his tail. "I mean… I wouldn't mind being caught by you, N – you're a great friend! And if it helps Reshiram, then of course I want to!"
N knelt down, and gathered his vulpine friend in his arms.
"Are you sure?" he asked, looking into Zorua's muzzle in the predawn light.
"Sure I'm sure!" Zorua agreed. "Besides, if I don't like it there's a way of letting me out, right?"
"I believe there is," N assured him. "Very well."
He rolled one of the Nest Balls towards Zorua, who stood very still and let it hit him.
There was a flash of white light, and the Nest Ball drew Zorua in – then wiggled back and forth a few times, before flashing.
Picking the ball up, N let Zorua out again – then got tackled by the fox.
"That felt weird," Zorua informed him, licking his face. "But not that weird. I guess it was okay, actually!"
"You didn't mind?" Anthea asked. "Not at all?"
"Well, I'm kind of dizzy," Zorua admitted. "And I'd rather be a hat for N than stay in my Pokéball all the time… but it's not bad in short bursts."
Reshiram cleared his throat.
"Of course," N agreed, taking up the Dusk Ball.
He threw it towards Reshiram – just as the sun rose over the mountains.
Two seconds later, bits of black-green Pokéball landed all over the clearing.
"...my apologies," Reshiram mumbled.
"They really do only work at night, don't they..." Concordia said.
Greta flicked the light switch on.
"This is where we'll be having our battles," she told him.
"Wouldn't outside be better?" May asked. "Ash has broken quite a lot of gyms."
"This isn't a gym," Greta countered. "It should be fine."
"I'm not sure that's how it works..."
Spotting one of her assistants, Greta waved. "Hey – is it fixed yet?"
"No, sensei," the assistant replied. "We're still waiting to get the workmen out."
"What's broken?" Brock said.
"The randomizer," Greta answered him, nodding to something in the corner covered by a white sheet. "Bearing broke four days ago, and getting the technicians here is a nightmare."
"How are we going to do the battle, then?" Ash asked.
Greta pulled something out of her pocket.
"Pick a card," she told him, splaying out a dozen-odd playing cards with their backs uppermost.
Pikachu's jaw dropped. "That's… not as sophisticated as I was expecting..."
"Just – pick a card, right?" Ash checked. "Any card?"
Ash reached into the fan of cards, closed his eyes, and picked one.
Turning it over, he gave it a careful inspection.
"Take an extra turn after this one?"
Greta blushed. "Oh, sorry…"
She took it from him. "That's not one of the cards I meant, that's from my deck. I don't know how it got in there..."
Shrugging, Ash took another card and flipped it over.
"Two of clubs?"
"That means two Pokémon each," she clarified. "Right! Let's get this going – oh, and one of the rules is that you send out both your Pokémon before the battle starts. Don't do it until we've both picked them, though."
"Got it," Ash agreed.
"Okay, ready?" Dawn said. "Right… go!"
Piplup poised himself, one foot coiled, then pushed off – spinning onto tiptoe with his flippers held tight to his body.
The Water-type used Rapid Spin, further accelerating himself until he was moving like a top, then spread both flippers abruptly and gave a sharp command. "Pip!"
Buneary sprang from her rock as both of Piplup's flippers began to shoot out little jets of water, darting down to the ground between them – something only possible because the switch from flippers-closed to flippers-spread had slowed down Piplup's spin so much – then jumped between the jets again and directly over Piplup's head.
The Water-type fired a burst of water straight upwards, one which Buneary kicked off from with a splash of water – adding to the pattern – and flipped one and a half times before landing.
She turned to repeat herself, and got a faceful of water from one of Piplup's flippers.
"Buuun!" she yelped, forefeet going up to cover her face, and Piplup stopped spinning straightaway to make sure she was okay.
"I think that's a pretty good start," Dawn told them, taking a hazelnut snack from a bag. "Obviously we've still got to work on it, but that was going okay up until the turn. I think maybe you're going to want to land a bit closer to Piplup, Buneary – or maybe you can let your flippers rest while Buneary's doing the big jump and then raise them to keep the stream off the floor."
Buneary and Piplup exchanged a look.
"Bun," Buneary sighed.
"Don't worry," Dawn added, having another quick snack. "It's a nice day, we can take a long time to make sure we do it right."
She sat back against a nearby mound. "Though I guess doing practice would keep you cool… oh, hey!"
Her two little Pokémon asked her what she meant, mainly by way of expressions.
"Oh, I just thought – if you can do that Water Gun at the same time as you do Aqua Jet, then you could carry Buneary into the sky, and it would make for a great opener to a High Jump Kick as well."
Buneary looked a little uneasy.
"We'll give it a try sometime," Dawn decided.
There was a soft crunch from next to her.
"What's that?" she asked, looking down, and saw that her bag of hazelnuts was torn half-open – and that a white-and-blue tail was just disappearing into the nearest bush.
Piplup tilted his head. "Piiip?"
"I'm sure it's nothing," Dawn said, turning back to them with a little smile. "Now, let's try that basic dance again?"
The bush rustled slightly.
"So, you picked your Pokémon yet?" Greta asked.
"Already did," Ash replied. "And no, neither of them is a Legendary Pokémon and they can't Mega Evolve."
"Good," Greta replied. "In that case, send them out!"
She did the same with hers, and a Monferno and a Medicham appeared opposite Ash's Primeape and Snorlax.
Medicham reached up to its neck and unclipped a Mega Stone amulet, passing it to Greta's assistant, then tapped Monferno on the shoulder. "Remember," the half-Psychic type warned, "Snorlax are big, but they're not necessarily going to be slow."
Monferno nodded, accepting the caution.
Ash looked the Fire-type over, remembering his own Monferno – now a Chimchar, and once an Infernape.
It was always hard waiting to meet old friends.
"You've got kind of a focus on Fighting types," Brock observed.
"It's part of my speciality!" Greta replied. "Every Frontier Brain has one, and mine is to expand Pokémon moves by adapting human martial arts – a lot of them were invented with the help of Pokémon anyway, but this way a Pokémon learns techniques from several schools, inspired by different Pokémon."
"Sounds good," Ash mused. "So is that why you have all those pupils – so you're testing techniques for humans and then training your Pokémon?"
"That's part of it," the Arena Tycoon grinned. "The rest of it is that it's just a lot of fun!"
She punched a fist into her palm. "Okay, are you ready for this?"
Barely waiting for an answer, she waved her hand. "Begin!"
"Okay, I think I have a plan," Zorua said.
He padded over to Reshiram. "Um… Reshiram?"
The dragon bent down to him, inclining his head slightly. "Zorua."
He chuckled. "I assume you have some advice?"
"Well… yeah," Zorua agreed. "So… I think what you need to do is to hold really still. And probably to touch the Pokéball yourself, because that way you should be expecting it."
"That sounds sensible," Anthea said, thinking. "If Reshiram is doing it himself, then maybe it'll make sure he can't blow up the Pokéball."
The Dragon of Truth had the grace to look embarrassed over the Pokéball shrapnel scattered across the clearing floor.
"And it'd mean we can get some extra sleep, too," Concordia added, with a yawn. "I'm really looking forward to it… maybe we can get some better sleep tonight or something."
"I agree," said N, making it unanimous. "I will ask our local friends to keep an eye out for our father, but apart from that we should be able to get a rest."
"Which Pokéball are you going to use, though?" Concordia asked, then yawned again. "I mean," she went on, trying to explain, "I'm pretty sure that the Dusk Ball exploded, the Timer Balls clearly didn't have enough time to charge up, and the Heavy Ball broke in half."
"That is an improvement," Reshiram noted proudly. "I am improving."
"I still have a Nest Ball," N said, expanding it out. "This is the last one left."
Everyone looked at it.
"It captured Zorua," Reshiram declared. "I would not mind a try for myself as well."
"N?" Anthea checked.
"Well, it's your money," Anthea shrugged. "Okay, technically it was Father's money – actually, can he stop us from using the cards?"
"I am not aware of a way," N told her. "The account is in my name – I believe Father considered it a harmless gesture."
With his sisters satisfied, N put the Nest Ball down.
Reshiram took a step forwards, inspecting it, and gave it a quick sniff – then reached out a careful claw and touched the trigger.
There was a bright white flash.
The ball stood there for a moment, then started jolting around quite violently – rocking back and forth in the occasional spasmodic twitch.
After several long seconds, it flashed and went quiescent.
"I think that means it worked," Zorua said, padding over and patting the 'ball.
It promptly opened, releasing Reshiram in a bright flash of light.
"Did it work?" he asked, then looked down and saw he was nearly standing on Zorua. "Oh. My apologies. Are you well?"
"Don't worry," Zorua said, shaking his fur out. "You missed."
"This feels so strange," Concordia said, as N picked up the second Nest Ball. "One of the Dragons of Unova is not only caught in a Pokéball, but one built to capture Patrats and Pidoves."
Then she yawned again. "...okay, I think we need to go get some more sleep."
"I got enough earlier, sister," Anthea told her. "You and N can nap for a few hours. I'll be fine."
She patted the tuft of grass next to her. "Zorua? Do you mind a quick talk? I'd like to hear more about the Swords of Justice."
"Sure, I guess," Zorua replied. "I'll see what I can tell you."
Primeape landed with knees bent on the springy wooden floor, and put his gloved hands together. "Let us battle well."
Medicham copied his gesture, and both bowed to one another.
Then Medicham waved her hand, lifting Primeape into the air with an exertion of psychic power.
"Zen Headbutt!" Greta ordered.
Primeape's fist went back, and he gave Medicham a very flat look that spoke of imminent and well-planned pain.
Deciding to ignore it, Medicham stepped quickly forwards. Her first movement took her towards Primeape and to one side, then she lunged headfirst to try and catch him off guard.
Her attack did hit, but unfortunately the main thing it hit was Primeape's fist – the combined impact producing a crack sound and knocking both of them backwards, which had the useful side effect for Primeape of knocking him out of Medicham's Confusion levitation field.
Kicking off from the wall pillar with his legs like a pair of coiled springs, Primeape landed several feet short of Medicham and rolled to come to his feet. He dodged aside from a second Confusion pulse, then slammed a Low Kick into Medicham's knee.
"Remember, Medicham's Psychic as well!" Ash called. "She knows how to handle Fighting-type attacks!"
Primeape didn't even dignify that with a response, electing instead to try and disprove Ash's claim. He ducked under a Fire Punch, then saw a Thunderpunch coming and met it with the full force of his own Mega Punch – letting the resistant material of his glove drive back Medicham's electrical attack into her own body, and distracting her long enough for him to discard the boxing glove from his off hand.
Then he slammed forwards a punch that produced a visible ripple of air for at least two feet in front of where his limb actually went, hitting Medicham's shoulder with almost the same force that a full normal punch would have.
"Meditate, Medicham!" Greta instructed.
Medicham took the instruction as it was meant and sprang backwards, focusing on her psychic power to use it as an augmentation to her significant physical abilities.
Then Primeape punched her in the jaw.
Then he punched her in the wrist when she tried to block him.
After that, he took a break from punching her and kicked her instead, before reverting to punching and slamming his ungloved fist into her shin. With less surface area of impact and nearly the same force, that staggered her, pushing her off-balance enough that Primeape could lunge forwards and get inside her guard again.
"High Jump Kick!" Greta called.
Medicham kicked off from the arena floor as hard as she could, getting clear enough that Primeape was no longer quite such an immediate threat, and did a single forward flip before bringing her heel down hard towards Primeape – augmented by the force of her meditation.
Primeape didn't bother trying to dodge. Instead, he embraced the hit which came close to hammering him flat – blue Aura fizzing off his fur as he endured the hit, focusing the power from it into his own fist and responding with a Counter-boosted Master Blow.
The thundercrack impact of his left fist was followed a moment later by the smack of Medicham hitting the far wall, and bouncing off.
Snorlax scratched his chin.
"I agree," Primeape said, turning to the Normal-type and giving him a nod of respect – favouring his left arm and trying not to move it too much. "Meditation should be a form of rest as well as a form of focus."
Pikachu glanced aside at Snorlax, wondering when he'd actually said that.
"It's okay," Dawn said, addressing a nearby bush. "I don't mind."
To prove her point, she put some hazelnuts down on the grass next to her – then turned back to her Pokémon.
"Let's try that jump again," she said. "Without the set up, this time – I think it could be a good way of giving Buneary a higher High Jump Kick generally."
Piplup bowed to Buneary, before straightening and preparing for the launch.
"I'll tell you which way I want you to go when you're already in the air," Dawn added. "Ready?"
Buneary's ears bounced as she nodded to her trainer.
"Good. Now – go!"
The lapine Normal-type tensed, then sprang into the air – aiming for Piplup's beak.
As she came down, he fired several bursts of water – each one short enough to appear as a dash-shape rather than as a continuous beam, and each one producing a burst of water that reflected the afternoon sunlight like a shower of prisms.
The first blast slowed Buneary's downwards movement, and the second stopped her for a moment – making her hang in the air. Then the third and fourth came, knocking her upwards and sending water scattering in all directions.
"That way!" Dawn pointed, and Buneary tilted herself a little. The fifth burst of water came, and as it did she kicked off against it – producing a directional scatter this time, and sending her soaring through the air to come down with a wham on the grass.
"Not bad!" Dawn smiled. "Though I think the time it takes to do the attack is a bit of a problem..."
She thought about it, then snapped her fingers. "I know – we'll train so that when you land you can absorb the force, then spring off towards where your opponent is now."
Buneary shook some mud off her paws, and her ears curled up a little – then she waved a paw, and nodded.
Dawn looked down at her side, and saw the hazelnuts were gone.
She put a few more down, smiling, and went back to Buneary and Piplup. "Now, I guess you'd both like a break from that?"
The general idea was that that would be nice.
"Then we'll reverse it," she decided. "Let's see if we can make it so Buneary launches Piplup!"
Piplup looked like that wasn't the kind of break he was hoping for.
Monferno stepped forwards into the arena, and slid his hand-like foot forwards. Crooking both arms and legs, he held himself ready to react to any movement – with his tail flaring up and held ready to interfere with Primeape's movements.
Primeape lunged forwards, lashing out with a punch from his right hand. It connected, but only scored a glancing blow as Monferno twisted out of the way – then the Fire-type did a backflip, grabbing onto Primeape's lower arm with one arm and one leg and using that as a support to kick out at him.
"That's new," May observed.
Primeape shouted, whipping his right arm hard enough to throw Monferno off, and a red glow built up around him. "I am so angry right now!"
"That's Outrage!" Greta warned. "Stay back – switch to ranged attacks!"
Monferno complied, jumping backwards and moving his tail in a back-and-forth flick. Fire came curling off it, and shaped itself into a Flame Wheel which flashed towards Primeape – only to get promptly punched in half.
"GRAAAARGH!" Primeape roared, charging. He ran straight into a barrage of Embers, heedless of the ones which stuck in his fur and smouldered, and volleyed two punches towards Monferno in quick succession.
The agile monkey dodged the first – and caught the second, left-handed punch with his own right hand.
Primeape's eyes watered and his mouth opened slightly. "...ow..."
Keeping his grip firm, Monferno darted in and seized Primeape's left wrist with his left hand. His tail flicked at Primeape's eyes, distracting him for a moment, and then the Playful Pokémon twisted sharply and threw Primeape over his shoulder.
The impact wasn't very hard, but clearly painful – and the embers smouldering in Primeape's fur were getting brighter, burning more fiercely.
"Primeape!" Ash called. "Come back!"
Monferno spun, ready to continue the battle, and Primeape hesitated – then he tapped out, using his gloved hand to signal he was out of the fight.
At that, Monferno stepped back – giving Primeape the space to leave the ring.
"I can help!" Manaphy said, and used Water Pulse.
Primeape went skidding backwards across the arena, and came out of it looking utterly drenched – fur drooping flat enough that the outline of his body underneath was fully visible.
He was at least not on fire any longer, though.
"Manaphy," May chided gently. "Remember to ask before using attacks on people."
"He was on fire, Mama," Manaphy protested. "I thought it was an emergency."
May thought about that, and nodded. "I think you're right – it could have been an emergency. But if you do do something like that, remember to apologize afterwards in case it wasn't one."
"Okay!" Manaphy agreed. "Sorry for getting you wet, Primeape!"
"That's okay," Primeape muttered.
He looked pointedly at his left hand. "Can I get this looked at? It hurts to use a hand after a Master Blow."
"Sure," Ash agreed. "Just wait a bit, we'll head straight to the Pokémon Centre after Snorlax battles."
"I'll heal him," Latias volunteered instead. "Enough it won't hurt any more, at least."
"That sounds better," Ash acknowledged. "Okay?"
Primeape came walking over. As he did, Snorlax lumbered onto the arena to replace him.
"Okay, Snorlax, you know what to do," Ash said. "Ready?"
Snorlax indicated he was ready.
"Remember, Monferno," Greta cautioned. "Snorlax are slow and cumbersome, but they hit very hard indeed. Don't let him catch you out."
Monferno threw a thumbs-up, then dropped back into his Monkey-style rest stance and opened the proceedings with a Flame Wheel.
It hit Snorlax – and did very little.
Monferno twisted to look at his tail, and flicked it once with a finger to make it produce a spark. Spark produced, he turned back to Snorlax and scratched his head.
"That's Snorlax' ability, Thick Fat," Brock provided. "It means that he's extra resistant to Fire-type attacks."
"Hmmm..." Greta frowned, thinking. "So he's hard to hurt with Fire attacks… that's going to cause a problem for the distance strategy."
She made her decision. "Try and get around behind him!"
Monferno moved forwards at speed, ducking into a roll and kicking off to make sure he spent as little time as possible somewhere Snorlax could punch him.
Spinning on the heel of his hand-like foot, he lunged at Snorlax from behind – slamming a Mach Punch in with each fist in turn and then backflipping off into a Flame Wheel.
Snorlax sniffed, frowning at the smell of burning fur, and yawned.
"Keep it up!" Greta said. "Use Close Combat – Snorlax can't last indefinitely!"
"Rest," Ash told Snorlax.
Snorlax yawned again, and slumped backwards.
Monferno yelped, and his tail flicked out. It wrapped around Snorlax' arm at about the level of the wrist, then yanked the Fire-type out of the way just before Ash's Snorlax flattened him.
"Clever," Greta complimented. "But fortunately I know how to deal with sleeping Pokémon!"
She pointed. "Monferno, Fire Spin!"
Monferno flipped back, getting enough distance, and his tail flicked in a half-circle. That produced a curl of flame which he amplified and emphasized, sending it out in two directions to shape a circle around Snorlax before forcing it to intensify.
"Good!" Greta said, as the flames poured in. "Now, keep that up – and hit Snorlax with a Low Kick as well!"
Monferno darted through his flame wall and hit Snorlax with a powerful kick, hard enough that the ursine Normal-type twitched in his sleep.
"Sleep Talk!" Ash called.
Greta blinked. "Sleep what?"
Snorlax used Body Slam. As he was still prone on the floor, sleeping in the middle of a circle of flames, this took the form of half-rolling over so he was lying on his side – specifically, that he was now facing towards Monferno.
Then Snorlax opened his eyes.
It was clear from the snores that he was still asleep, but his eyes glittered with orange energy – energy which was rapidly becoming brighter and more intense.
"Protect!" Greta snapped.
Monferno used Protect.
The blast of Hyper Beam from Snorlax hammered into Monferno's protect, sending light splashing off, and the shield held.
Monferno did discover the downside of this, however, when he was launched straight through the wall and off into the distance.
"...huh," Greta said.
She waited until Snorlax had stopped using Hyper Beam (and rolled over onto his back again) and peered through the hole. "It looks like you launched Monferno through the outer wall too."
"Sorry about that..." Ash said, wincing.
"I did get warned," Greta shrugged. "Besides, I needed an excuse to replace that wall. You've definitely won my Frontier Symbol with that one – your Pokémon are in excellent physical condition, that much was obvious."
"Great!" Ash smiled, accepting the Guts Symbol. "I'll… probably withdraw Snorlax now."
"Could you?" Greta said. "That would be great, thanks."
She examined the battlefield. "Come to think of it, that circle of flame probably isn't too good for the floor, either..."
There was a crunch as part of the circle of weakened wood gave way, and Ash hurriedly called Snorlax back into his Pokéball before the rest of it collapsed.
"Just give it a go," Dawn suggested. "You'll like it."
She pushed the Poffin a little closer.
Pachirisu gave it a sniff, then moved forwards and took a nibble.
There was a sudden crackle of electricity, and a grin spread across her face. She picked up the pink-tinted sweet treat and began to eat it enthusiastically, and by the time she finished there was a distinct sparkle in her eyes.
Dawn frowned, pausing halfway through getting out a second Poffin from her bag. "I think maybe I shouldn't have made you nothing but Sweet Poffins… perhaps giving an Electric-type a perpetual sugar rush was a bad idea from the get-go."
Pachirisu pouted, then blinked a couple of times and gave Dawn a paws-together, dewey-eyes, begging look full of deep sadness and betrayal.
"Oh, fine then," Dawn decided, giving her the Poffin.
Piplup nudged Buneary. "Lup lip pip."
Buneary nodded, and let out a sigh of melancholia for the loss of their peace and quiet.
"You know," Dawn added, stroking Pachirisu and ignoring the little static shocks, "this is actually turning out pretty well… but I guess I'll need to ask Ash to remind her as well."
Pachirisu gave Dawn a slightly confused look, then shrugged it off.
Nut and Sweet Human couldn't possibly steer her wrong.
"Oh, hello Dawn!" Johanna said, raising her voice and muting the TV. "How was today's training?"
"It went pretty well!" Dawn replied. "I've already worked out a new joint routine for Piplup and Buneary, and I found Pachirisu too. It's kind of late, so I'll ask Ash tomorrow."
Glameow jumped up to the top of the sofa and looked out into the hallway, catching sight of Dawn with a Pachirisu crashed-out on her shoulder.
Hopping back down onto the sofa cushion, she gave her human an unconcerned look and started licking her paw.
"I think I have to agree," Johanna said, and unmuted the TV again.
"Excuse me, young man. Are you Ash Ketchum?"
"What?" Ritchie asked, looking up from his magazine. "No – I know him, but I'm Ritchie Getem."
"I see," Scott said, nodding to himself. "Do you know where Ash Ketchum is, then?"
"Not at the moment," Ritchie replied. "Sorry… I think he lives in Pallet Town?"
"I tried there already," Scott shrugged. "Well… I'll keep trying to track him down, then."
"Mr. Getem?" the Nurse Joy called. "Your Pokémon are ready."
As you can see, this is not the start of the Temple of the Sea Movie. Well, not quite.
In other news, things are happening in Unova and Sinnoh. And the Battle Arena!
It is not a gym.
And finally, some reminders – I cannot reply to an anonymous review, and I tend to write 1K words six days a week on this fic. If I've not updated in a while it's almost certainly because I'm writing some big thing that'll go up all at once.