This is the first of four chapters today.
"Hmm..." Ash said, examining the projection Dexter had floating in front of him – replaying the running battle from Gracidea to Crown City, showing Zero's fighter in red and everyone else in shades of blue and green. "Let's see that bit in the valley again?"
Dexter's holoprojection rewound, and Ash examined it before nodding. "Right, okay, that's interesting… we already decided speed and agility were important, but it looks like situational awareness might need improving as well. And he really needs a wider range of attacks, maybe some of Lucario's Aura tricks..."
A burst of green light drew Ash's attention away from Dexter's hologram, and he looked up to see a Shaymin flying in a circle around an area of verdant green growth.
"That's the one who helped us out, right?" he asked.
Most likely, Dexter told him.
"How is this so well realized?" Pikachu asked. "You weren't there, I had both your nodes because we didn't know if they'd stay linked through a portal."
I managed to obtain some of the data from Infi's data bank, Dexter replied. The one which went with Zero, that is. That's why it goes a lot fuzzier when he's elsewhere.
As they spoke, the virtual Mecha Giratina dropped back into the Reverse World, and the projections got a bit more indistinct – still showing where Dexter predicted the Pokémon had most likely been, but with their exact movements surrounded by a faint blue uncertainty halo.
"That doesn't really seem a lot fuzzier," Pikachu said, frowning. "Maybe you just have high standards?"
The Shaymin landed, accepted a bite to eat from Brock, then put on the panniers she'd had help with last night and took off to head south.
"I hope things go more smoothly for her," Ash said.
"Yeah, I agree," Pikachu muttered. "I might say something flippant about how it's hard for newcomers, but the last few months have been a bit much. And it really feels like it's going to get worse before it gets better."
Ash stood, offering his arm for Pikachu to run up, and Dexter dismissed his projection. "You did eat earlier, right, Pikachu?"
"Yep," Pikachu agreed. "Let's see if everyone else is ready to leave. I guess we're probably teleporting again?"
"Yeah, that sounds likely," Ash nodded, taking his hat off. "It'd be a bad idea to rely on Mewtwo all the time, but it's probably quicker than walking out of Gracidea."
I'd like to advise everyone to keep their hands inside the ride at all times, Mewtwo told them.
"Why?" Infernape asked.
Because that's what you're supposed to say.
"What about those of us who don't have hands?" Staraptor pressed. "This seems like wingist discrimination to me."
"Is that even a word?" Dawn asked.
"Wingist. Discriminatory against those who have wings. You know, like ageist is discriminatory against those who have ages, or flautist is discriminatory against those who flaut."
Sudowoodo raised a branch. "I'm pretty sure that last one's actually the term for a musical instrument performer."
"Doesn't mean they have to be discriminated against, does it?" Staraptor asked. "I mean, if they want to be bigots, I'm willing to be the bigger mon than the bigot mon."
That led to a few seconds of confused silence.
Moving on, Mewtwo said. Does everyone have all their baggage? Ash, did the cooking equipment go back in your bag?
Ash opened his bag to check. "Looks like everything's in here… including Rotom, good."
He looked up, and blinked at the sight of tree trunks. "...weren't we in a valley before?"
I've been working on smooth teleportation. Mewtwo crossed his arms, quite pleased. It's useful for all sorts of reasons.
"Where did we end up?" Dawn asked.
This is Route 210, en route to Celestic, Mewtwo told her. It seemed an appropriate place to drop us.
He pointed. And before you ask, Ash, we're headed that way.
"Thanks," Ash replied. "Okay, let's see, can we use the woods for good training en route… ah, I have an idea."
He sent out Giratina in a flash of brilliant light, and the Ghost-type examined the immediate surroundings before tilting his head in confusion.
"I admit, I don't see where you're going with this."
"Well, I was thinking about your phasing ability," Ash replied. "And how one of the important things about it is being able to fight with most of your attacks, without compromising the ability to ignore terrain. So I was thinking that the area of forest to the right of the path would be good for a game of tag – you need to try and hit one of the others with an attack, but they're also trying to hit you."
Pikachu raised a paw. "Does the power of the attack count?"
"No, just whether or not it hit," Ash told him, nodding. "This is about being able to either target something that keeps phasing through the trees, or being able to unphase, attack and phase again quickly."
"It seems like a useful bit of training," Giratina allowed. "If a little outside what I was expecting, I confess."
Staraptor flew a little higher. "I assume this means that I can start ghost punching?"
"How exactly are you planning on punching things?" Pikachu asked. "Don't you not have hands?"
"What, are you a drum-bass as well? I can punch just fine with my wings."
"I… think that's the wrong kinds of instrument," Brock said, after a few seconds of thinking about it. "Weren't you talking about flutes earlier?"
"I'm not a musicologist," Staraptor said blithely. "Come on, make with the ghost punching!"
"I am… fairly certain that you cannot actually punch me," Giratina mused. "There are some moves and abilities which would allow that, for sure, but – no, I've already heard some of the stories. Not going to say a Pokémon can't do something around your allies."
"That's probably a pretty good move," Ash agreed. "Oh, yeah, there was something else."
He dodged to the side as Brock's Croagunk engaged in ambush training, then continued without missing a beat. "I want one of you to be running protection for Giratina at any given time. You don't count for score, but obviously you'll be the one making sure Giratina doesn't get hit."
Engaging tracking protocols, Dexter stated. When it is my turn I will review the camera footage for the score only afterwards.
Lucario drew back his arm, and used Vacuum Wave. A long-ranged swipe of air pushed through the trees and branches overhead, breaking them off and sending them fluttering down, and he moved while the sound was still in the air – masking his actual movements from detection.
Landing atop the branch of a completely different tree, Lucario closed one eye and looked around. He could see Staraptor circling over the area he'd disturbed with his Vacuum Wave, Dexter and Pikachu working together off to the right – about where Giratina was headed – and Infernape moving around ahead of him to flank.
Focusing, Lucario threw an Aura Sphere to his left, then pelted off towards where Dexter and Pikachu were. Behind him there was a crash as the Aura Sphere curved up through the tree line – focused enough that going through a few branches wasn't going to burst it, the homing orb of Aura looped around to catch Staraptor by surprise.
The Flying-type took a glancing blow, shouting imprecations about cheating, but by the time he'd recovered Lucario was elsewhere. Specifically, he was launching a low-intensity Flamethrower attack at Pikachu, then blocking as his teammate retaliated with a barrage of electrical attacks.
Giratina phased in behind them and flicked a Will-O-Wisp across them, but failed to pay attention to his side and got hit by a kick from Infernape before phasing out again and moving on. By that point Staraptor was back, and Lucario was the target of focused attacks from all four Pokémon – none of them especially strong attacks, but enough put together to more than keep him busy avoiding hits.
Then a wide-focus Dragonbreath flashed down from overhead, hitting all of them at once.
"That was an interesting move," Ash said, as Giratina swam back to the path. "I guess it might need a bit more thought if you were going to use it in a serious fight, though."
"I was thinking that if it was Lucario drawing them together, it would be appropriate to use Toxic or some other Poison typed move," Giratina said.
"Good," Ash agreed. "But not all Pokémon have an immunity like that, and some of the ones that do would just ruin the attack – a Pokémon with Lightningrod can't be harmed by an Electric attack, but there's at least two reasons why you can't just blast Pikachu's general area with Thunder if he's in trouble."
"Since he has Lightningrod I would assume that the first problem is that the attack would all hit him," Giratina said, thinking about it, as the other Pokémon emerged from the trees. "But what about the second problem?"
"If I'm surrounded by enemy Pokémon then they probably aren't vulnerable to electricity either," Pikachu explained. "Okay, everyone's had a go on defence... how did we do?"
Compiling and analyzing data, Dexter stated. There is a definite trend of improvement by Giratina, that much is clear.
"That or those of us who were on defence later were better at it," Lucario suggested.
I can tell the difference quite nicely, thank you, Dexter said primly. Now, as I was saying, I'm obviously the best-
"That seems a little biased," Infernape noted.
I am an expert at modelling things like Giratina's powers, Dexter pointed out. It's sort of why I exist in this form… but yes, you are correct. There's no particular one of us who did better consistently, though I would note that analysis suggests Lucario was superior in situations where he or someone else was trying to hide.
"Aura sight again," Ash said. "Actually, it'd be helpful for Giratina to learn to see through walls, he can already pass through them but knowing what's on the other side can only help. And it kind of seemed to me like everyone got too fixated on the defending Pokémon a few times, especially at the end there. But I do think-"
Croagunk punched him into the top of a tree.
"Expect the unexpected," he said. "And be prepared for what is not there."
"I think that's the training that everyone else was just doing," Giratina said. "I may have missed something – why did the Croagunk just punch Ash?"
"It's training," Ash explained, branches and twigs crunching as he got out of the hole he'd made in the tree. "I kind of need to work on being able to notice unexpected problems – I caught it last time, but this time was a surprise. Good work."
Giratina looked like he was about to ask another question, then decided not to bother.
"It looks like we might need to call off round three," Staraptor reported, flying down to Ash. "There's some building in the way or something. Really inconsiderate of them."
"That sounds familiar," Dawn said. "Don't you guys think so?"
"It's a building," Staraptor reiterated. "You're humans. If you're not familiar with buildings then there must be this whole life story I didn't hear about, instead of the one I… you know, saw."
"I think that might be Professor Rowan's summer camp," Dawn elaborated.
"Oh, yeah, I remember that," Ash realized. "I guess it is on the route we're taking, isn't it… well, last time we spent some time here, and I don't think we're behind."
"Do they let people with your ridiculous collection of Pokémon into summer camp?" Brock asked. "I mean, I know I wouldn't normally say ridiculous, but Giratina has been training over to the side of the path for the last two hours."
"That is a good point," Ash admitted. "I can't really remember what the events are, but if they have an obstacle course Giratina's going to do pretty well."
"I'm surprised you don't think he's going to win," Staraptor said, then thought about it. "I suppose you do have Mewtwo with you right now, though. Actually, how come he's not helping with Giratina?"
Rubik's cube, Mewtwo answered.
"Aren't those something that smart people solve really quickly?"
Mewtwo responded by holding it up, showing that it had five squares a side. These are a little harder, and I'm trying to put together my complete answer before I start moving it at all.
As they crossed into the cleared area in front of the summer camp itself, they caught sight of Professor Rowan sat with a Staraptor by his side.
"Professor!" Dawn called.
Rowan looked up, and frowned slightly. "Do I know you?"
Dawn hesitated, remembering that for one reason and another she and Rowan had never actually met in this timeline, and shook her head. "No, I just recognize you..."
"Well, come on over here so I can meet you all!" Rowan requested, waving them towards his seat. "Goodness me, is that Ash Ketchum? And Mewtwo?"
"Yeah, that's me," Ash replied. Mewtwo nodded, confirming his own identity in case simply being present was insufficient.
"It's quite a surprise to meet you here," Professor Rowan added. "And an honour in your case, Mewtwo – your book was a fine first work. I do hope you produce another some time soon, perhaps on the intricacies of certain other Pokémon powers and abilities."
I may do so, though only if I feel the topic merits a book, Mewtwo replied. I am afraid there are many demands on my time.
"Of course, take it as a suggestion only," Rowan said agreeably, then turned to Ash. "And – well, I have to say, I'd be delighted to study the effect you have on Pokémon!"
"You mean the thing where Pokémon evolve around him?" Lucario asked. "It's not foolproof."
"No, but it would make an excellent case study for how evolution can take place," Rowan replied. "There's always more to learn, and I hope there always will be."
He stood, and shook Ash's hand, then Mewtwo's, before moving on to Brock.
After a moment's thought, Rowan pointed at him. "You're… Brock Slate, right? Kanto gym leader?"
"That's me," Brock confirmed. "Though I spend much more time these days going around with Ash – I've been studying to become a Pokémon doctor, though."
"Good for you," Rowan told him. "And as for you..."
He examined Dawn for a few seconds, then bowed. "Your Highness, I didn't realize you were in the area."
"Er… no, that's Princess Salvia," Dawn replied. "I'm Dawn Berlitz, from Twinleaf."
"Oh," Rowan said, blinking. "Well… sorry, but you really do look a lot like her. Has anyone ever told you that?"
"It's come up once or twice," Dawn replied.
"Sorry for bringing it up, then," Rowan told her. "Are you all just passing through?"
"Actually, we've had a stressful couple of weeks," Ash said. "You have a summer camp, right – I think that's where we are?"
"Well, it's the Pokémon Summer Academy, but yes," Rowan confirmed. "It's starting today. There's a few hours until everyone arrives, but I'm waiting out the front to make sure people don't walk past and miss it. It's still open for sign ups if you're interested."
"What does a Summer Academy entail?" Giratina asked.
Rowan looked around to see what Pokémon had made the deep, rumbling noise, and found himself face-to-nose with Giratina.
He fell over.
"Did I do something wrong?" Giratina asked.
"Yeah, I think he's kind of freaked out," Brock answered. "You're pretty surprising when people first see you… Professor? Giratina was asking what actually happens here, pretty much."
"That's… well, I suppose it's good to know," Rowan replied, picking himself up. "Hmph. Could have been a bit more polite, though!"
"Sorry about that," Giratina said, more quietly, and walked back a bit.
Rowan nodded, guessing what Giratina meant based on body language, then returned his focus to the question. "Well, it's a little different each year, but they're all intended to improve understanding of Pokémon."
"That did not answer my question," the Legendary said.
"Does this involve writing?" Lucario asked. "And if so, do the Pokémon get a pass?"
"To the best of my knowledge most Pokémon don't learn to write," Rowan replied. "So they don't have to, no. But yes, I can tell you now there's a report task as part of the Academy, though I won't tell you what the subject is yet as otherwise you might have an unfair advantage."
He examined Ash. "Though possibly you have an unfair advantage already..."
"Perhaps I will be able to use some of the time to train," Giratina suggested. "How long would we be here?"
"It's about a week, I think," Pikachu replied.
"Well, if you are interested, I'll get you signed up," Rowan suggested, deciding that if the Pokémon had anything more to directly contribute it would get translated. "Though… actually, it does occur to me to ask. You and your friends here are into solving mysteries and problems like that?"
"Well, we do tend to do that a lot, so yeah," Ash agreed. "It's not so much that we're into it as that it happens anyway, but it's good to help people out."
"Right!" Rowan said. "Well, what I was hoping was that you might know if someone's going around stealing Pokémon eggs."
"Stealing – what happened?" Ash asked.
"It happened… well, it must be about a year ago now," Rowan said. "Something like that, at any rate. One of the Piplup eggs I got vanished from the lab, without any sign who might have done it."
"That sounds like it might have been Team Galactic," Giratina rumbled. "With what you have told me of them."
"...yeah, I don't think it was Team Galactic," Dawn winced. "Was this during the Hoenn Grand Festival last year?"
"Oh, yeah, I almost forgot about that," Ash agreed.
Professor Rowan looked between them. "What is it?"
"Well… I met Ash when his friend May Maple was doing her Grand Festival run in Hoenn," Dawn explained. "And I wished that I had a starter Pokémon that was as good a fit for me as Pikachu was for him."
"And… well, May's brother has a Jirachi," Ash explained. "So that's probably what happened."
"Is that true?" Rowan asked, looking down at Dawn's Piplup. "That would be you, then?"
"Yeah, that sounds about right," Piplup said, puffing his chest out. "All the Pokémon in the world to choose from and it got me! I must be great."
"That's.. not the explanation I expected," Professor Rowan admitted, then shook his head and visibly recovered his aplomb. "Well! Now that that's sorted out, let's get you all signed up for the Academy!"
"Let's see, now..." one of Rowan's helpers said, noting down the names. "Ash Ketchum… Brock Slate… Dawn…?"
"Berlitz," Dawn supplied, and spelled it.
"Thank you… right, now we'll just assign each of you to one of the three colours, that'll be your group for the week."
Mawile raised her hand.
"Excuse me?" she asked.
The assistant looked up. "Huh? Is something wrong?"
"I wanted to ask if it was okay for me to take part as well," Mawile explained. "It sounds pretty fun!"
The assistant and Mawile exchanged a long look.
"Fine, if nobody else wants to I'll do it," Lucario sighed. "All right… Mawile would like to take part in the academy as well."
Rowan's assistant blinked. "Is… is that a thing?"
"I don't know, you're the guy handling the sign ups."
"Well, um… hang on."
As the assistant stood up, Mewtwo floated a copy of the summer academy guidelines over to him.
Let's see… person, student, student, camper, participant, competitor… no, it doesn't mention human on here.
Mawile smiled. "That's good! I think some of this is a bit fighty, but most of it isn't – that's right, right?"
Pikachu jumped down off Ash's shoulder. "Last time we did help train a Raichu, and that included Pokémon battling. But the rest of the week didn't, except for the ghost thing one night, and that's more about knowing how to meet new Pokémon."
Tyrantrum nodded. "That sounds okay, then."
"Sorry, guys," the assistant reported back. "The rules say you have to be a trainer or have applied for a provisional license."
"That's okay!" Mawile said. "I'm a trainer!"
"She is," Ash agreed. "Tyrantrum's her Pokémon, not mine."
The assistant looked completely poleaxed, then sat down and wordlessly wrote the name Mawile on the sign-up sheet.
"Thank you!" Mawile cheered.
"So, what's this one?" Giratina asked. "I don't think I met that Torterra before."
"Souma Yergon," Torterra said, shaking his tree.
"...what?" Lucario blinked. "I think that one was a bit too obscure."
Not a Prog Rock fan, then, Dexter observed.
"Guys, stop trying to out-obscure one another," Ash asked.
"Sorry," Torterra said. "And you did meet me, I was just a lot smaller."
"Oh, the Turtwig, right," Giratina realized. "Yeah, I know you now. How are you handling being big?"
"It took a while, but I'm starting to get the hang of it," Torterra told him. "I've got this whole new style of fighting that Ash and I worked out a while ago… kind of based on the idea that I might not be very agile, but my attacks can do that for me."
"I was hoping that you two could practice with that," Ash explained. "As something to do while we're waiting for everyone else to show up, anyway – if you keep coming out of portals and attacking, Giratina, then Torterra has to react to you appearing from all over the place. And it's also good training for you in appearing and attacking more quickly than an enemy can react."
"That sounds like a good plan," Giratina agreed, and opened a portal with an effort of will.
"We might want to move over to the woods first, a bit of a way away from where people are going to be," Ash advised.
At the sound, Ash looked around – seeing someone hurrying up with a smile.
"You're Ash Ketchum, right?" the boy asked.
"That's me," Ash confirmed. "What's up?"
"Oh – I just wanted to thank you," the boy told him, shaking Ash's hand. "My uncle's family live in Crown City, and I saw the news – it's pretty clear you're the reason why anyone's still around at all there."
"Well, thanks," Ash said, touched. "I was just helping out like any trainer would."
Even Lucario joined in the odd look Ash got at that point.
"I am fairly sure most trainers would not ride me to get into battle," Giratina rumbled. "Quite aside from your standout team..."
"No, really, it's just… it wouldn't be right to not help if I could," Ash elaborated. "And I could, so I did."
"Most people would be too scared to do anything," the boy said. "Well, maybe not to do anything – not if they had a team as cool as yours. But you were right there in the middle of it, and nobody even got badly hurt because of you keeping Crown City safe!"
Ash winced a little. "Yeah, I guess I did get into danger a bit… well, Giratina has shields, so it's probably okay."
At the boy's look, Lucario explained. "His mom wants him to be a bit more careful."
"Hey!" Ash protested.
"I knew it!"
Dawn looked around from brushing Mamoswine. "Was that – Barry? Hey, I didn't realize you'd be here!"
"Oh, Dawn!" Barry called, hurrying over. "Nice to see you! Did you see that Ash has a Giratina now?"
"Yeah, I was kind of there when Giratina said he wanted to come with Ash," Dawn replied. "It was pretty-"
"Pretty amazing!" Barry spoke over her. "But that's not all – someone online said it showed how Ash really works! He befriends all these Pokémon because they're secretly in love with him!"
Dawn could swear she heard a faint thump as Latias hit the ground, her levitation shorted out by what was either exasperation or embarrassment.
"I'm pretty sure that doesn't work," Dawn said. "For all sorts of reasons."
"But I read it on the internet," Barry protested, then shrugged. "Well, maybe that means the other ideas are true instead! Like the theory that Ash is actually a Mew, which is why he can speak Pokémon and enlist so many Legendaries to help him out!"
"How would that work?" Dawn asked. "I've met his mother."
"Adopted, obviously," Barry replied. "Or if this theory's true he is. Also possibly if he's actually a Ditto."
"There's no way you can actually believe all of these, is there?" Dawn said. "They can't all be true."
"No, but the more theories I think about, the more likely it is that at least one of them is right!" Barry replied. "By the way, does Ash have a reflection?"
"You know that whole vampires-have-no-reflection thing is actually based on silver, right?" Dawn's Quilava asked. "And cameras used to use silver nitrate for the light sensitive chemicals, that's why vampires don't show up on cameras either. They're both obsolete now, which is because people decided that cheapness was better than-"
"The changes in both those technologies were an improvement and you know it!" Piplup replied, popping out of his Pokéball.
"Hey, what are they arguing about?" Barry asked.
"Nothing important," Dawn replied.
Behind Barry, his Pokémon – Prinplup and Smeargle – exchanged a glance, then nodded their approval of Dawn's answer.
Giratina counted to himself, hanging in the odd space of the Reverse World, then judged he'd spent enough time and opened a portal.
Swimming through and letting the portal snap closed behind him, he looked around to locate Torterra – unfortunately the Grass-type was quite willing to move around during their training, so he wasn't where he'd been.
There should be a sign of him… ah!
Giratina spun off a pair of low-powered Shadow Balls and launched them both at Torterra, who lumbered behind a tree to avoid being hit. Still moving, the Grass-type turned his head to face towards Giratina and fired out an Energy Ball – the attack moving fast enough to catch Giratina a glancing blow, though the Ghost-type twisted away from any more effect of the attack itself.
Levitating through the air, Giratina phased through a tree and adjusted his angle – then opened another Reverse World portal and closed it as soon as he was through.
Coiling in on himself, he opened another gateway in the air a little higher and at a different angle. This time he did see Torterra as soon as he emerged, and flicked two attacks down at the Grass-type.
Torterra reacted quickly, his tree shaking back and forth, and leaves barraged out – bursting the incoming attacks on the tornado of leaves instead of letting them through to hit Torterra himself. The burly Grass-type twisted enough to catch a glimpse of Giratina's position out of the corner of his eye, and switched the leafy Counter Shield into a tightly focused attack aimed directly at Giratina with dozens of leaves per second shooting through the trees.
The ghostly Legendary wove through the trees, Razor Leaves punching through the less-razor leaves around him, then dropped back into the Reverse World to think.
So clearly Torterra had solutions for when he was attacked from the side or rear – it was an obvious weakness for the Pokémon to cover – but equally clearly they weren't as good as being able to face the enemy and attack frontally, or he'd try to point his side at Giratina rather than his front. So…
Tail lashing, Giratina realized there was probably a solution involving somehow blasting the leaf shield out of the way before attacking. Or perhaps he should try dodging back and forth across the line directly behind Torterra, so the Ground-type had to keep turning his head to see where to send his leaves…
"All right!" Professor Rowan called. "So, first of all, I'd like to advise everyone that – yes, Giratina is training over in the trees to the other side of the path. Normally we like to encourage people at the Summer Academy to go out and explore, but in this case… don't interrupt him, please, it's only polite."
That caused a few of the people who hadn't seen the news yet to mutter.
"Now, you should all have your colours," Rowan added. "Each of my assistants is holding up a sign with their colour, so please head over to the right assistant and they'll get you started."
Ash double-checked his own sign-in card – green – and headed over to the left with the other 'green' campers, after waving to his friends who all had red or blue cards.
"Isn't part of what happens here about helping a Pokémon you've not met before?" Pikachu asked. "It looks like there's at least one Pokémon translator in each of the three groups."
"I… think you're right, actually," Ash agreed. "That'll hopefully mean things get sorted out more quickly."
"Isn't it kind of a bit like cheating, though?" Pikachu asked. "I'm not saying it's a bad thing, I just think it might make it easier than last time."
"Well, maybe," Ash replied, thinking. "But isn't it better if people realize their Pokémon can understand them even if they can't understand their Pokémon? I think that was a lot of how we worked so well together from pretty much the beginning."
"After a few teething problems," Pikachu agreed.
He looked around. "Lucario's over umpiring that practice battle, right? Where's Mewtwo?"
Ash pointed. "Over there… huh, I recognize the guy he's talking to."
I must say, I do appreciate your interest, Mewtwo said. I have to admit that for the most part I've learned to prefer having a wide range of options over making a single intricate plan, but that may be partly because I'm able to put the options into a plan on the fly.
"But if you do that then you're in danger of being in a situation later in the battle where you should have done something earlier," Conway replied. "If you find yourself unable to get through an enemy defence because you've not been building up your attack power during the match, for example."
That's rarely a concern as such for me, the Psychic-type told him. But I fully appreciate the argument.
"That's good to know, at least," Conway said. "It's good to know what other people think."
He paused, then reached into his bag. "Actually, can I ask – I have a copy of your book, and I was wondering if you'd be able to autograph it..."
How would you like it autographed? Mewtwo asked, taking the book from Conway and opening it to the inside cover. I can do psychic powers, some minor attacks, or just ink.
"Sure, a pen sounds good," Conway suggested, then blinked as Mewtwo vanished.
He appeared a moment later with an old-style inkwell, and waved his hand. Some ink rose into the air with a little flicker of psionic power, and formed into the shape of a Mewtwo before being pressed gently against the paper.
I hope that works for you, Mewtwo said, and the rest of the ink collapsed back into the inkwell. Another quick double-teleport, and Mewtwo was inkwellless.
Conway blinked, looked down at the page, then shrugged. "Thank you."
"Hey, I think I remember hearing about you," Angie said, looking up at Dawn. "You're in the same group as me, right?"
"Yeah, but we could still talk even if we weren't," Dawn replied. "You heard about me?"
"That's right," Angie agreed. "You won that special Contest run by Wallace, right? I really liked the rose thing!"
She frowned. "But would it really work in a fight if they hadn't tricked their opponents?"
"That's why they did it," Dawn replied simply. "They argue about everything, but they do work together… if they have to."
Seeing Dawn's smile, Angie smiled back. Then she frowned. "So… do you know what they talk about?"
"Yes, I can understand them," Dawn answered. "I got taught by one of Ash's Pokémon. It's actually really nice to be able to do that, people don't realize how much they're missing."
"Wow, now I kind of wish I could do the same," Angie admitted. "How long would it take to learn?"
"...a while," Dawn told her. "I guess hopefully it'll eventually be possible for everyone to translate everything a Pokémon says, but for now it's more 'hard to learn' than secret or anything."
"Huh, cool," Angie said. "And… hey, hold on, I just noticed."
She pointed. "Is that a Pokémon in the red group?"
"Yeah, that's Mawile," Dawn told her. "She's one of Ash's Pokémon, but she's a trainer in her own right as well."
"That explains the Tyrantrum," Angie nodded. "Think I can say hello?"
Dawn shrugged, not really sure why she might not be able to, and watched as Angie went over to greet Mawile.
"So, you're Mawile," Angie began. "Obviously. I'm Angie."
She held out her hand, and Mawile shook it with a smile.
"I hadn't realized a Pokémon could be a Pokémon Trainer," Angie went on. "Is that a thing?"
Mawile frowned, thinking about it. "I… think it should be," she said. "I can't see a reason why not. Mewtwo over there spent some time as a trainer, I heard, and there's all those transforming Pokémon who pretend to be humans?"
Angie blinked, then groaned. "Oh, yeah… Pokémon..."
"Hold on please," Mawile asked, holding up a hand, then walked over to Brock. "Excuse me – is it okay if you translate for a bit?"
"Oh?" Brock asked, looking up. "Oh, you made a friend?"
One of Brock's Pokéballs burst open, and a small girl came out of it.
After a moment's shock, Brock sighed. "How long have you been working on that?"
"Long enough," the girl replied with a smirk. "Hey – I don't mind translating, and my trainer here has some stuff to handle."
"Now I'm really confused," Angie admitted. "So he has a girl instead of a Pokémon and you're a Pokémon instead of a human?"
"She's a Zorua," Brock explained. "I think that means trying to trick people is genetic or something."
"Probably," Zorua agreed, sitting down cross-legged. She focused for a moment, and two little black fox-ears appeared through her hair. "There, that should make it so Brock doesn't get too upset. All right, what did you say Mawile?"
"I was talking about how some Pokémon pretend to be human, actually," Mawile said, giggling. "Thanks for being an example!"
Professor Rowan looked out over the talking trainers attending the Summer Academy, then nodded.
"All right, everyone!" he said, and the hum of conversation dropped considerably. "It looks like you're all getting on well with your fellow attendees – and, since it's come up a couple of times, it's perfectly all right to talk to and even help people in other groups. It's just a good idea to make sure you handle your own projects first, because that's what will affect the score at the end of the week."
He waited a moment to see if there were any questions, then went on. "Secondly, it's now time for the first part of the Academy. Each of you will be loaned a Pokémon, which you'll be taking care of and helping for the next two days."
Professor Rowan let the reactions to that die down before continuing. "This is a project which is supposed to let you learn how to interact with a Pokémon you haven't met before, and possibly with a type of Pokémon you're not an expert in. It's all about adaptability, and being able to treat Pokémon as beings with their own minds – they're new to you, after all, so it's only natural for them to be uncertain. Any questions?"
None came up at first, until someone raised a hand in the Green section. "Professor?"
"Go ahead," Rowan told him.
"Are we going to need to get these Pokémon ready for a battle?"
"Yes, though that's not the whole task," Rowan said. "You will be graded based on the relationship you develop with your Pokémon, not on how well they do in battle."
There were no more questions, so Rowan had his assistant, Yuzo, come forward with a box of Pokéballs.
"Each of you take one," he instructed. "And good luck, all of you!"
Having been one of the first to pick up his rental Pokémon, Ash went over to an area a bit out of the way – partly to make sure he had some privacy, because of how many times he'd been thanked over the last half hour or so.
"All right, let's see who it is," he decided, and opened the Pokéball. He watched, along with Pikachu and Lucario, as the familiar flash of white light focused together into… an Abra.
"Hello," the Abra said, then blinked a few times. "Sorry, I'm a bit distracted."
"That's okay," Ash replied, crouching down. "It's nice to meet you."
Abra blinked, tilting her head. "Huh, that's new. You can understand me?"
"Ash understands a lot of things," Lucario said. "Though there are exceptions… like directions."
"You know what's going on, right?" Ash checked. "I don't know how much you rental Pokémon guys got told."
"I overheard some of it, at least," Abra replied. "You're supposed to be helping out, right?"
"That's about right," Ash agreed. "Is there anything you need help with in particular?"
"Well-" Abra began, then stopped. "Not really, no."
"Are you sure?" Pikachu asked. "It sounded like there was something."
"I said it was nothing," Abra replied, a bit more forcefully.
"That's fine," Ash said. "Just let us know if there is anything we can help with – but if there isn't, then do you mind trying something with training?"
As the last trainer – Conway – took his Pokéball, Mewtwo walked over to have a look.
This is an interesting task, he complimented Rowan. It means that trainers who are adaptable and empathetic are the ones who do better, which I like – it has an emphasis on partnership.
"That was the idea," Rowan agreed with a quick nod. "It helps to give people a reminder that Pokémon training is supposed to be a partnership, and it also tends to help the Pokémon as well."
I can see why that would be the case, Mewtwo agreed.
"By the way, why are you speaking with your mind?" Rowan asked. "I was under the impression you spoke out loud."
It depends, Mewtwo told him with a shrug. Partly on how I feel, but I tend to adjust according to those around me – if a Dark type is around, in particular, it's less effort to both speak out loud and psychically rather than to either use Miracle Eye or produce spoken words like I would for a sound interview.
"That is a good point…" Rowan said, thinking. "I suppose it'll have to wait until there's a lot more Porygon doing simultaneous translation before it's really possible to fully interview Pokémon. I know it's been used in a few interviews and films..."
He shook his head. "Sorry, this isn't really my bailiwick – I don't think you can even evolve, so under normal circumstances I might never normally touch on you – but it is something I find interesting when it comes up. The ways we've developed to communicate with Pokémon… some of them have been possible for centuries, but it's only really recently that they've become so much a part of discussion. And I think you really deserve a lot of credit for that."
Has my book really had that much impact? Mewtwo asked. I admit it was on the topic, but… it still seems strange.
"It's definitely had a lot of impact," Rowan agreed. "But I think what had just as much effect was your interviews."
Mewtwo nodded in sudden understanding. It was one thing to know Pokémon were intelligent, but Mewtwo was one of the few Pokémon who could actually have a fully recorded television interview where the viewers could understand the whole conversation – entirely through a psychic technique he'd worked out partly as an experiment.
Looking into the box of Pokéballs, he frowned. Hmm… perhaps I should see if this last Pokémon has any issues that might need resolving.
"Another Pokémon?" Rowan asked, looking up. "I thought we made sure there was one Pokéball per trainer?"
Mewtwo lifted the 'ball out of the box, and turned it over. Where's the-
It promptly exploded.
Rowan dove for cover with the reflexes of a Pokémon Professor versed in field work, already wincing in anticipation of the bang.
Then he frowned.
There hadn't been a bang… but there'd definitely been a flash?
Looking up again, he saw Mewtwo holding a ball of purple smoke between his hands. The ball was about three feet wide, surrounded by a faint blue bubble, and after looking for a bit longer Rowan realized it was probably red smoke inside the blue bubble.
Mewtwo gestured, and a jet of smoke and force escaped through the top of the bubble. It vented for several seconds, then finally faded – leaving a dazed-looking Voltorb.
I believe I have solved the problem, Mewtwo noted.
Rowan looked the Voltorb over, then raised his voice. "Yuzo, your Voltorb got into the Pokéball box! We're lucky it was at the bottom..."
So yeah, the Pokémon Summer Camp arc just would not stop happening.