Leaning back against a hard rock, Mawile and Tyrunt watched as Dawn's Pachirisu struck a pose.

She was wearing a small, well-made tutu, and held herself up by the tip of one paw for a second before bringing her other foot back down and crouching.

Electrical energy sparked around her tail.

She jumped into the air, doing a forward roll, and sent pulses of electricity through her fur – producing a sequence of repeated flashes, each one brighter than the last, before landing on the tip of her tail and unrolling it to push herself upright.

A little flick just as she finished unrolling gave her a twirl, making the tutu fly outwards, but when she stopped the tutu remained out – held up by the static charge she was channelling into it.

Pachirisu held the pose for a second, then curled her tail in again. This time, she used it to launch herself into the air – and, instead of producing a flash effect, she sent her stored electricity out to form larger patterns, in time with her striking a pose to fit.

All four paws and her tail out at once – a star. Hind paws in line with her tail and front paws to the side – a palm tree, formed of branching miniature thunderbolts. Tail streaming out behind her, just before landing – an arrow.

On landing, Pachirisu stumbled a bit, but kept moving – this time drawing a line with a Shock Wave, and following it through a series of pirouettes before finally striking a pose at the end and unleashing her Discharge.

"That was really good!" Mawile said, clapping. "I like the ballerina look!"

"Thank you," Pachirisu replied, dropping out of her pose and panting slightly. "It's quite hard to keep it up, I feel like I'm going to fall over at the end."

"What's a Ballerina?" Tyrunt asked. "Is it another Pokémon?"

"Not really," Forretress told him. "A ballerina is a kind of human dancer. They wear outfits like Pachirisu's wearing – you see the bit which flares out when she spins?"

Tyrunt looked, then nodded a little uncertainly.

"Right. So humans wear outfits like that, and then they do special kinds of dances which are all about balancing on their toes or spinning around a lot."

"Now I think about it, I'm not surprised you know," said the rock Mawile was leaning on – Steelix.

"Oh, I'm not really into ballet very much," Forretress replied, wobbling back and forth in what served her for a shrug. "I looked it up once when I was trying to find out something else. You know what it's like using an encyclopedia, you just end up going off on tangents."

"Actually, no, not really," Steelix sighed. "I mostly have to rely on documentaries."

As he shifted a little, careful not to bump any of the other Pokémon resting against him, Dawn carefully unzipped Pachirisu's costume.

"There you go," she said, helping her Pokémon out of it. "How was that?"

Pachirisu nodded, her smile making her opinion clear – though the smile only got bigger when Dawn gave her a few hazelnuts as a treat.

"All right, Tyrunt," Dawn went on, making the Rock-type start in surprise. "You've seen all the routines my Pokémon are thinking of using – which one do you think I should enter?"

Tyrunt glanced at Mawile. "Is she asking me which one was the best?"

"Well, kind of," Mawile shrugged. "There's a bit more than that. She's asking you which one would impress you most if you saw it without seeing the others."

"But I did see the others," Tyrunt protested, then shook his head. "No – okay, now I get it. Uh..."

He shook his head. "They were all good… I didn't know there were so many things Pokémon could do without fighting."

"Well, there is some fighting in a contest too," Mawile warned him. "But the appeal round is all about showing off on your own, so there's no fighting in that one."

Tyrunt nodded, thinking back through all the routines he'd seen, then glanced at Mawile.

"Did you like the one with the bright ribbon thing?" he asked.

"Oh, you mean with the silk streamer?" Mawile checked. "Yep, that was a good one! Buneary did really well with it."

"That one, then," Tyrunt decided. "I think that was a good one."

There was a comfortable silence for a few seconds, before everyone realized there was no real way for Dawn to find out what the conclusion had been.

"I'll… go get Brock," Dawn suggested. "He should be done cooking by now."

"Iris?" Denae asked. "You've been very quiet."

"I'm holding on to a cliffside by my fingertips!" Iris replied, a little hotly. "Of course I'm quiet!"

Denae shook her head. "Iris, I know you," she said. "I've been working with you for a long time, now – if you were worried about this you'd be talking. Something's on your mind, isn't it?"

Iris looked up at her mentor, hesitated, then nodded confirmation.

"That's what I thought," Denae said knowingly. "Come on, we'll talk on the next ledge."

Iris hissed through her teeth, looking up at the ledge – still several feet above her – and wondered how long it would be before she met Dragonite, then twisted a little and hooked her foot over a bit of narrow but solid rock protrusion.

"So, what was it?" Denae asked, some minutes later, as they rested in an alcove in the cliffside.

"Well, I ran into a Pokémon on the way back from shopping," Iris explained. "A Legendary. And… and complicated stuff happened, and now… well, I'm wondering where to go now. I still want to be a Dragon Tamer, but I don't think I'm-"

She cut herself off.

"Denae?" she asked. "If I wanted to have one of my Pokémon learn a move they don't normally learn, how would I do it?"

"It's not usually a good idea to teach Dragon types moves like Draco Meteor when they might not be ready for it," Denae warned.

"Yeah, but I'm not thinking of Draco Meteor," Iris replied. "Or Fraxure."

She tapped her other Pokéball. "I think Excadrill needs some better moves, because if I'm going to become a really strong Dragon Tamer I need my best defence against Ice and Fairy types up to strength!"

Denae considered that.

"We'll certainly think about it," she decided, after a moment. "Put together a list of the moves you're interested in – and I mean both of you together – and then I'll see if there's any you can have Excadrill learn to good effect."

"I thought Smart Strike was a good one," Iris suggested. "But all right, we'll have a good look."

Denae gave her a small nod.

"All right," she said, a few seconds later. "That's enough rest. Back to it!"

"I forgot this was something the Indigo League did," Ash mused, looking down at the Ice Field. "Most Leagues just use a regular battlefield."

"I understand Lance likes it," Will supplied. "He says it helps a trainer who's better at dealing with unpredictable situations."

The psionicist waved his hand, summoning a drink from the mini-bar in the corner of the box, and took a sip. "We've been discussing whether to implement it for the Silver Conference as well, but Karen pointed out that the gyms in Johto are a lot more varied in general in the environment they put you through."

"That makes sense," Ash began, thinking about how the Ice field compared to Pryce's gym, then frowned. "But… hold on, doesn't the Cerulean Gym have a pool in the middle?"

"It didn't once we were done with it," Lucario shrugged.

"Don't say that too close to Misty," Will advised. "She still mentions it from time to time. And a bike, for some reason."

"Let's not even go into the bike," Ash chuckled nervously.

"It seems your friend is up next," Will added.

"How did you know?" Pikachu asked curiously. "Are you telling the future, or is it just a trick?"

Will glanced at the Reuniclus hovering next to him, who pulsed softly.

"Ah," he noted. "No, just a trick I'm afraid. I memorize the schedules, because it impresses people."

He pointed. "Speaking of your friend, however, there he is."

"Okay, I don't know what Pokémon this guy has..." Max said to himself. "But it's an ice field, I know that much."

His hand hovered over his belt for a moment, then he picked his first Pokémon – the first of three, for this match.

"You're a generalist, so you should be okay," he told her.

"Begin!" the referee called.

Cinder appeared on the field, claws coming out, and skidded slightly before getting a good grip on the icy surface. At the same time, however, her first opponent – a Pidgeotto – blew past her, too fast for an attack to catch him.

Turning, Max's Mightyena went on three paws and drove her fourth into the ground claws-first. That shattered the ice in that area, and she got enough of a grip to crouch down before launching herself up to the top of an ice chunk.

Pidgeotto banked around at the edge of the arena, and circled to await a command.

"Any tips?" Cinder called over to her trainer, feeling her selected piece of ice to see if it was stable enough to use as a jumping platform.

"Don't get too risky just yet," Max decided. "And remember, he's a Flying-type which means he's weak to Ice."

"Got it," Cinder agreed, feeling the ice again and tapping it with a claw.

"Whirlwind!" Max's opponent Pete called suddenly.

Cinder didn't even wait for it to arrive. She pushed herself forwards with her back paw, flipped around by using her right forepaw as a pivot, and slid down the side of the ice chunk closest to where Pidgeotto was coming from.

"Now!" Max shouted.

Trusting her trainer to have worked out what she was going for, Cinder pushed off with all four paws and twisted in mid-air. Her Slash attack missed, going a few inches wide of Pidgeotto's wing, but the trick badly startled the Flying-type and he nearly crashed into one of the ice chunks before recovering.

Landing with a scrape-and-slide, Cinder frowned for a moment before breaking the surface of the ice again. This time, she used Dig and vanished into the icy surface, appearing as a kind of shadow against the chill blue ice.

"Huh, that actually looks quite good," May said. "We might have to try that, Glaceon."

"I'm afraid I'm ice coloured," Glaceon apologized. "I can provide the ice, though."

Max looked up at where Pidgeotto was, then at the moving dark form of his Pokémon.

"Stay out of range," Pete informed his Flying-type. "She'll have to come up some time."

He raised his voice. "Hey, referee! What's the rules on deliberately avoiding combat?"

"There will be a warning when you're getting close to the limit on what's allowed," the referee told him. "In this case, it will be Mightyena who will be penalized."

"Okay, understood," Max said formally, and frowned.

"I hope you know what you're doing, Cinder..."

He watched as Cinder dug busily away – going up into one of the big chunks of free-standing ice, then going back down again when Pidgeotto steered well clear.

Max looked closer, and saw the occasional flicker of orange light… and was that a flash of pale blue?

Then he looked again at the ice chunk Cinder had dug up into, and blinked.

"Oh," he realized, then shook his head slightly.

Cinder stayed stationary under the ice for several seconds, then began moving again.

"Mightyena must come to the surface in ten seconds," the referee called.

Cinder shifted her angle, and came up for air a few seconds before the limit – emerging from the ice next to one of the more irregularly shaped lumps of ice, but looking much the worse for wear.

Her coat was slick with icy water before she began to shake herself dry, and she looked tired – both by all of her digging, and by the long period in freezing cold water. But she was up, and Pete pointed at her.

"Now!" he called. "Quickly, use U-turn!"

Pidgeotto swerved, coming around to the best angle to make his attack run against Cinder, and built up speed – passing over the iceberg Cinder had tried going up inside.

And, as he did, Cinder pounced.

She looked down to the hole she'd emerged from, brim-full of water from the ice she'd melted, and used Hyper Voice – sending a pressure wave through the tunnel, smashing through the ice wall she'd erected with Ice Fang, and sending the whole force of the attack up into the weakened pillar she'd been inside.

Which promptly exploded, sending cold water and chunks of ice erupting into the air. The water slapped Pidgeotto from underneath, lifting him several inches from sheer force, and one of the ice chunks hit Pidgeotto a glancing blow on one wing.

He wobbled in the air, forcing himself away from his previous flight path, and crashed some way away from Cinder – only for her to bite the ground and use Thunder Fang. Conducted along the wet surface, it shocked them both – and Pidgeotto was absolutely soaked.

The amplified surge of electricity made him caw in shock, then collapse back into a faint.

"Well, that was a thing," Karen noted. "That was… eminently Dark type. I approve."

"I didn't know Dark types were all about such big explosions," Misty said.

"That's just about delivery," Karen told her. "Dark types are actually about fighting in ways which aren't what others would call fair."

"But they're really fair, right?" Misty checked.

"Of course," Karen confirmed. "Why wouldn't they be?"

She looked a bit closer at Max's Mightyena, who wobbled a little on her feet as electricity sparked around them.

Then, very slowly, she fell over.

"That was great," Max told Cinder, recalling her, then took out his next Pokéball. "Go!"

Pete threw his Pokéball at the same time, and both Pokémon appeared on the battlefield – with Max's Charmander Corona wobbling a little, steadying herself with her tail before looking up at her opponent.

Said opponent, an Arcanine, growled threateningly at her.

"Okay, that's going to be interesting," Corona muttered to herself, then raised her voice. "Max?"

"Arcanine are really fast!" Max reminded her. "If in doubt, get in the air!"

Corona nodded slightly to show she'd heard, then noticed Arcanine flicker out of sight behind one of the icy pillars – one of the ones a little way away from the one Cinder had exploded.

The Charmander jumped, and used Flare Blitz – boosting herself up into the air and rising to about four or five feet above the highest of the pillars, then looked down to try and get a better view on Arcanine.

After a few seconds, she spotted him – running and jumping from pillar to pillar, starting at the edge of the battle area and quickly closing in on her.

Corona darted to one side, avoiding Arcanine's pounce, then twisted around and followed him – using Flamethrower, hitting him in the side, but only producing a pulse of greater heat as Arcanine's Flash Fire activated.

"Hah!" Pete chuckled. "Okay, Arcanine, there's no way a Charmander can take as much heat as you! Fire Blast!"

Arcanine landed, rolled, and counterattacked with a Fire Blast as ordered – producing an explosion of flame in midair, one Corona was knocked sideways by even though it didn't quite hit her.

She flew higher, out of the smoke, and thought for a moment before turning and coming back down again – boosting her speed with her Flare Blitz, flying behind a pillar, then cutting it out briefly and launching a Flamethrower along the same route she'd been taking. Arcanine took the bait, pouncing on the trail of fire just as it came out from behind the ice, and Corona slammed a Headbutt into his side with all the force of her speed.

The blow knocked Arcanine sideways, but his much greater mass let him roll with the blow, and Corona had to beat a hasty retreat with another Flare Blitz boost before the other Fire-type managed to grab onto her.

"Corona!" Max called. "He can't handle it if you keep using Fire attacks!"

Corona's path through the air corkscrewed, then twisted down, and she came to a running halt on top of an ice chunk. She took a deep breath, getting her wind back, then jumped back into fire boost.

"That's a very unusual Charmander," Lance commented. "Normally they wait until they've evolved before they start flying around."

"I think that's partly my Mawile's fault," Ash volunteered. "You remember, the one who scared all the Pokémon in the Dragon Holy Land?"

"Yes, I remember," Lance agreed.

"Well, she's kind of got a hobby of working out how Pokémon can fly, even if they're not normally supposed to. So I think she might have helped Corona out with that."

Ash nodded towards the battle. "It's actually really helping her out, because the faster she moves the hotter her flames get."

"I'm not sure that's much of an advantage here," Lance said delicately. "After all, the opposing Pokémon is immune to Fire type attacks."

"That's not what-" Ash began, but then there was a sharp pop from the arena – shortly followed by a gasp from the crowd.

Corona accelerated, flying in circles as she pushed more and more energy into her Flare Blitz.

She'd learned how Flame Charge worked a little while ago, and even managed to get a bit of help from Ash's Entei in how to use it. The assistance of the Legendary had let her make leaps and bounds of progress, and when she boosted it was with the speed-amplifying effect of the Flame Charge in full force – until, suddenly, a series of crackling sounds came from her fiery cloak.

A pair of wings unfolded, ephemeral things, as if they were being drawn in flame several times a second as they burned up and wafted away as smoke. Corona, now almost hidden inside a dragon-shaped aura of flame as it rapidly intensified, slowed in her headlong rush and began to hover.

"What the-" Pete whispered. "I didn't know that was a thing!"

Inside the dragon, Corona's expression was blank – all her concentration going to maintaining the construct. Already she could feel it starting to destabilize, but it would hold for another few seconds at least.

Long enough.

She turned, the flame-wings of the great dragon sweeping through the air and burning orange-yellow-white hot, and dove directly towards Arcanine. Flame surged, and she stopped herself in mid-air just ten feet above the ground – letting her construct continue, ramming into Pete's Arcanine at full speed.

Just as awestruck as his trainer, Arcanine was slow to dodge. He was hit by the attack, and the intense heat did nothing more to him than Corona's earlier Flamethrower.

However, what both Arcanine and his trainer had forgotten was that they were on an ice field. The sheer heat of the impact flash-melted all the ice within twenty feet of Arcanine, and the Fire-type was carried down by the momentum of the attack so that he was underwater when it ended.

Heat continued to roll outwards as Corona hovered, making the ice floor of the arena collapse into a series of small ice floes and causing the freestanding chunks to fall and smash into hundreds of pieces. It was several long seconds before Arcanine finally hauled himself out of the water onto one of the nearest pieces of floating ice, and Corona promptly doused him in a Flamethrower before he could get his footing.

That ice floe collapsed as well, falling apart and dumping Arcanine in the water again, and this time Pete returned him when his head broke the surface.

Max waited only another second or two before recalling Corona as well, seeing the Charmander was clearly exhausted.

"Is this a thing you teach trainers?" Will asked, indicating the battlefield. "How to have their Pokémon exhaust themselves in a single spectacular blow?"

"They have been very cool looking, though," Bruno contributed.

May chuckled. "Actually, that might have been my influence… I'm a Coordinator, and now I think about it he's been with me for basically the whole time he was training his Pokémon."

"That does make sense," Will agreed. "So, now it's a water and ice field. I wonder who both trainers will choose to close out the battle."

"Well, Max does have a Water type," Ash mused. "But he's a Flying type as well, so the cold water might not be the best."

He glanced over at Lance. "What are the rules for how long you can take to select a Pokémon?"

"Basically, if your opponent complains you get a fifteen second time limit," Lance told him. "Usually, though, both work it out at a pretty similar time, and people are mostly good sports."

"Right," Ash nodded his thanks. "I don't think that ever came up for me..."

"Are you both ready to resume?" the referee checked.

Max gave a thumbs-up, and Pete nodded. "Yes!" the other trainer added.

"All right, then," the referee decided. "Send out your Pokémon!"

Pete's Pokéball opened first, by a few seconds, and a Cloyster appeared several feet in the air. It promptly clammed up, and splashed into the water with a whoosh of spray.

Max's choice appeared just as the water began to fall back.

"Right!" Casper said, grinning. "Now, where's… wait, where is the other Pokémon?"

"In the water!" Max told him.

Casper looked down into the pool of water, which had an irregular coating of ice fragments, and tilted his head.

Then a shower of ice fragments hit him in the forehead.

"Ow!" the Ghost-type protested. "That's-"

He cut himself off, and threw a Shadow Ball down into the water. It vanished, forming a small ripple as it passed through the water, and a second or so later a beam of violet energy flashed back up and hit Casper in the side.

"I hate Payback!" Casper complained, as the hidden Cloyster followed up with a high-frequency stream of icicles, and threw down another Shadow Ball before dodging out of the way.

This time, there was a longer gap before Cloyster retaliated – but the Payback still came up, and got a direct hit on Casper again.

The Ghost-type began to produce a larger Shadow Ball, but his trainer interrupted. "Wait!"

Casper kept hold of his Shadow Ball, not feeding more energy into it but not dissipating it. "What?"

"You're just letting it use Payback, you need to try and actually attack it in a useful way," Max explained. "So don't use Shadow Ball, go into the water and pull it out!"

Casper let go of the Ghost-type attack, letting it dissolve, and dove into the water.

After a few seconds, a half-dozen spikes came flying up through the water and were bounced off the shield erected by the LinesPokémon. They were followed by more icicles, then a Shadow Ball, and the water bubbled up as another attack was used.

"That's not really very good for the spectators, is it..." May said critically. "I can sort of see what's going on from up here, but only when an attack is used that makes a flash. Most of the rest of the crowd must be unable to see anything..."

"It's not a Contest," Misty shrugged. "You're right, though, if this was happening on the actual water field it'd be better lit – there's proper arrangements for lighting in that one."

She put a finger to her lips. "I wonder if there should be a new rule about re-freezing the ice field if it gets melted?"

"Would that apply to the Grass field as well?" Karen asked.

"No, grass doesn't melt," Misty replied.

"You know what I mean..." the Dark-type trainer sighed.

"You're right, I do," Misty admitted. "And… I don't know, maybe? I know we resurface them between battles-"

The surface of the pool erupted as Cloyster was thrown bodily out of the water. Casper followed, swiping at his Ice-type opponent with a Sucker Punch, but that just meant Cloyster could hit Casper with Payback again – then use Withdraw again, slamming its shell shut and preventing Casper attacking the vulnerable core.

Cloyster's path took it to the edge of the pool – and a little over, skidding along the still-solid section of the ice before coming to a halt.

"Oh, hey, now we can see," May said.

Cloyster's shell opened for a moment, and it fired a stream of rocks at Casper. Max's Pokémon ducked, then dodged, trying to stay away from being attacked, but at least one of the rocks hit him in the face.

"Ow!" the Banette complained. "If I had actual flesh that would have hurt, I assume!"

"Casper, over here!" Max called.

Casper glanced back, then used Shadow Sneak quickly before flying over. Halfway to reaching Max, he took a Payback to the behind which flipped him over and made him wince.

"Do you have any good ideas?" he asked. "Because I'm getting really annoyed by this!"

"Yeah, I do," Max agreed. "Listen – you need to go down into the water, and then-"

"Got it!" Casper interrupted, and dove into the water.

"Wait-" Max tried, then shook his head. "I… hope that works out..."

Pete frowned, watching for any sign of the kid's Ghost.

It was probably going to do something tricky, like both the other Pokémon had done, but the problem was that knowing something tricky was on the way didn't necessarily help if you still didn't know what the trick was going to be.

"Stay Withdrawn," he told Cloyster. "We just need to last long enough, and we'll be through to the next round."

Cloyster didn't visibly respond, for obvious reasons, but Pete knew the Ice-type had heard him.

Shading his eyes, Pete looked for any sign of something moving that shouldn't be – perhaps there was going to be some trick with Shadow Sneak, or some kind of status move.

Was it carrying an item? No, he didn't see one…

Squinting, Pete checked again – and saw something small and shadowy emerge from the ice right next to Cloyster.

"Look out!" he called, but even as he did the Banette struck – launching a ghostly punch right through the surface of Cloyster's shell.

There was a bang and a crackle of thunder, and Cloyster's shell slammed open to reveal his core. Electrical energy fizzed around it, and the Banette followed his successful attack up by slamming a Will-o-Wisp straight into the exposed core spot.

"What-" Pete began, then realized. Ghost type!

If they could move through solid objects, then putting a Thunderbolt inside Cloyster's armoured shell was quite possible – and he'd forgotten to get Cloyster to put up a Barrier.

As the Banette got another Thunderbolt ready, Pete recalled Cloyster. "Okay, I know when I'm beaten," he said. "Good game, kid."

Spectators filed into the small contest hall of Bibai Village, politely not paying attention to the fact it was normally the village hall.

"It's good to see our little Contest has attracted attention from outside the village," the chief said, leaning back on his chair with a satisfied sigh. "I don't recognize half the people competing here."

He smiled up at the local Joy, who nodded her agreement.

"I wonder if we should do this again in future?" she asked. "It's sometimes a little quiet at the Pokémon Centre, it's nice to have something to do!"

"Well-" the chief began, then stopped.

"...is it me," he began, "or is that a Tyrunt in the crowd?"

"Where?" Joy asked.

"Next to the…" the chief trailed off, then tried again. "Next to the Mawile. With the Ninetales tail curled around it."

"Maybe we need to leave the village more often," Joy suggested lightly. "Or encourage more visitors, if this is what they're like!"

"Are you finding the chair all right?" Brock asked.

Tyrunt shifted himself a little, feeling how his tail was constrained by the chair back, and leaned forwards to curl his tail out of the way a bit.

"It's kind of uncomfortable," he admitted. "But it is better than standing."

"Some chairs have holes in the back," Mawile informed him. "I don't know why these ones don't, it's very rude to Pokémon with tails."

"I think they were mostly expecting humans to sit in the audience," Brock said. "If it's really a problem we can work something out, Tyrunt."

Tyrunt shook his head slightly. "I don't want to be a bother… I'll be fine."

He looked up at the stage. "So lots of Pokémon are going to perform on there?"

"That's how Contests work," Brock agreed. "See what you think they're like."

"And are they going to fight after that?" Tyrunt added, suddenly nervous.

"I'm afraid they are," Brock told him. "But they're going to try and show off as much as attack."

"I don't think I like that bit," the theropod said. "I know they do, but I don't really."

"All right, everyone!" the Nurse Joy announced, making them look up. "It's time for the first Bibai Village Contest! I'm very glad you could all turn up, and I hope we'll all have a great time!"

She smiled, then waved her hand towards the side of the stage. "First up is Charley and his Floatzel!"

"Okay, let's go," Molly said. "Ready?"

Her Girafarig nodded, a trifle nervously, and Molly patted him on the heads.

"You'll be fine," she assured him, then put a blindfold on him and a waste-paper basket on his tail head.

"All right, Eevee!" she called.

Eevee shifted to Espeon without a pause, and her green tail shimmered a little with witch-fire as she levitated a dozen berries into the air.

"Can you feel them, Girafarig?" Molly asked.

Girafarig concentrated, then nodded. "A bit."

"Let's give it a go, then," the young trainer decided. "Try and hit the one on the far left!"

Girafarig's horns glowed slightly, and he fired a flicker of psychic energy. It missed the target berry by several inches, and he blushed.

"That's okay," Molly assured him. "You're just learning."

"Interesting trick you're teaching him there," Gary said, looking up from drawing a sketch map of where they'd taken the day's samples. "What's the plan for it?"

"Well, I thought it would be good if he could make it really hard to see, and then hit other Pokémon without needing to see," Molly explained. "So if he made it foggy, or rain really hard."

"Nice idea," Gary agreed. "You might want to make sure there is a move Girafarig can learn that would make it hard to see, though."

"Good point," Molly agreed, thinking. "Hmmm… can you learn any Fire attacks? That could be turned into Smokescreen."

"Or I could use Smokescreen," Flareon volunteered, the berries dropping all around her.

"Silly, we're still doing the berry thing!" Molly chided gently. "Can you go back to being Espeon and we'll give it another go?"

"Whoops..." Flareon blushed.

"That was amazing," Tyrunt said, as the latest contestant left the stage. "Are all Pokémon contests like that?"

Mawile raised a finger, began to speak, then stopped.

"There's no really diplomatic way to say this," Ninetales commented. "Tyrunt… I know you've only seen these people so far, apart from the ones Dawn was trying out, but several of those weren't very good."

"The Stunky was good," Mawile pointed out.

"Yes, that one was impressive," Ninetales concurred. "I think the audience would have had a different opinion if he hadn't been trained to smell of strawberries, though."

She frowned. "Actually, did she even do that?"

"Look!" Mawile pointed. "There's Dawn!"

Dawn curtsied to the crowd, sweeping the streamer she was holding around in a flourish, then sent out her Buneary.

The Normal-type bounded up to her and took the streamer from her hand. Then she began to spin quickly and unevenly, the red ribbon forming a spiralling cylinder of colour which appeared to flicker from one place to another without going through the intervening space.

Brock looked up at the lights, and made an ah of understanding.

"Flourescent," he said. "There's a kind of strobe effect going on with the ribbon – that's why it looks different to when she was practicing."

The unusual effect didn't seem to stop Buneary from doing her routine, however. After doing her Teeter Dance for a few seconds she Bounced into the air, ribbon flicking out to appear like a spring for a moment, then hung in the air as the ribbon came back up and coiled around her arm.

She clenched her fist, which fizzed with a Thunderpunch, and flicked the ribbon down again. It contacted the ground with a loud crackle as the electricity discharged, and Buneary quickly used Ice Beam to freeze the lower section in place.

As the lapine Pokémon landed, she flicked the ribbon up again – pulling it off the ground, and producing a sparkle of ice crystals as she shattered the ice that had been created only a moment before. The crystals hung in the air, shimmering in the lights of the hall, and as Buneary switched back to Thunderpunch the ribbon began to glow a dull red – heated by the fine metal filament running along both edges.

Now, when Buneary swirled the slender ribbon, it sliced through the cloud of floating ice – and began to shape it, as well, with the static charge of the ribbon attracting the icy fragments and the heat driving them away, so in the space of a few seconds Buneary produced a sphere and a cube and even a floating Butterfree.

Each of them lasted only a moment before collapsing back into the spiral, but Buneary just used that as a reason to draw out the next pattern.

"And now, finish it!" Dawn instructed.

Buneary did another Teeter Dance, slowly bringing the handle of the streamer closer and closer to vertical so it produced a tightening pattern in cool blue ice and hot orange streamer.

When it was nearly straight up and down, she flicked it out to the side – pulling it away, but imparting enough of a spin to the vortex that it seemed to merge into a single column. Then it unravelled from the top down, forming a spiral of mist as the ice melted into suspended droplets of water, and Buneary sent the ribbon up one last time.

This time it was chilled again by Ice Beam, and when it touched the middle of the spiral the whole collection froze again and fell as a light powder-snow dusting over both herself and Dawn.

Buneary passed the handle of the streamer back to her trainer, and then they both took a bow.

"Okay..." Serena said, studying her book on equestrianism. "So it says here that after some heavy work, like hard riding, I'm supposed to check if you need to be walked for a bit to cool you down."

Blitzle looked closely at the book, which depicted a Ponyta, then whickered at her.

"I don't know why you'd need to cool down a Ponyta either," she admitted. "Maybe it's just that they list off everything any equine Pokémon might need, and then you have to work out for yourself which bits aren't needed depending on what your Pokémon is and how they handle."

The Electric-type nodded, giving the idea consideration and approving of it, and Serena was about to continue when her computer went ding.

Sliding the book to the side, she checked who the message was from, and a smile spread across her face. "Hey, Blitzle, it looks like Dawn sent us something!"

Blitzle skipped back a step or two, then came back again to look past her right hand side instead – getting a better view of the monitor, as Serena opened the file attached to the email.

"Hi," Dawn waved into the camera. "Okay, so, it's a bit quieter than normal, so I thought I'd send you a video so you can see my Pokémon actually moving."

Stepping back, she revealed her Pokémon standing in a rough line. "So, here they are," she went on. "Say hello, Piplup!"

Piplup waved, then gave Dawn a challenging look.

"Yeah, that's… probably about as much as I'm going to get out of him," Dawn admitted. "Still, he waved. I'll try and record some Contest stuff later, there's some cool moves we were working on. And here's Buneary, she did a Contest earlier today – it wasn't an official one, but it was a lot of fun because they were all full of enthusiasm."

As she was about to move on to Pachirisu, something stepped in front of the camera.

"Oops!" Dawn laughed. "Tyrunt, you're in the way of the camera..."

A Pokémon on the other end said something, then another one replied, and the foot moved out of the way.

"He's with us for a few days," Dawn explained. "It's kind of complicated – my friend's Mawile took a shine to him, but it was easier for him to stay up here with her while did something else."

Serena watched the video with a smile. Dawn introduced each of her Pokémon properly, giving them all a chance to demonstrate a basic trick or two, and when Piplup and Quilava launched into another of those arguments Dawn had said they had it was all Serena could do not to laugh out loud.

She also heard Dawn mention a friend called 'Brock', and she paused the video to look him up. It was a little surprising for her to find out that Dawn was apparently going around with a (former?) Gym Leader, but then she had said one of her friends was a strong trainer so that was probably him.

It was a nice little look into what it was like training a whole collection of Pokémon, seeing Dawn spending a little time with every Pokémon as well as having them work together on new tricks, and by the time it ended she was wondering about entirely new things.

"Say, Blitzle?" she asked, after some consideration. "Do you think you could charge up your hooves with a little bit of electricity?"

Blitzle tilted his head, giving her a confused look.

"Well, I was thinking that that way there'd be little sparks when you trotted..."


So, this was an interesting chapter to do. Complete with unusual terrain League battle, some Contest stuff, and another appearance from Serena.

The mention of the stuff about walking horses is actually inspired by a book I read a few days ago, the first Warhorse of Esdragon book. I like the concept of the series, which is basically

1: All horses need careful treatment, you can't treat them like motorcycles like most fantasy books do.

2: Except this one.

Anyway. I'm going to see about splitting attention between Max's league battle and things going on elsewhere in the world, for this arc.