"Hey, guys," Khoury called. "Just wanted to thank you again for helping so much with the Johto Festival. I hope it would have come out well anyway, but having so many Legendary Pokémon attending did give it a great feel to it."

"I am glad it worked out so well," Suicune told him.

She turned. "Well… it was a nice time, but I fear that we three Beasts must return to our duties."

"That is a good point, we have kept you busy for a while," Ash agreed.

Suicune nodded to him slightly, then set off south at a ground-eating lope.

"I should go as well," Entei mused. "Perhaps we could try to do something like this again in future?"

"I'm afraid there isn't going to be a Johto Festival for a while," Khoury said. "And… I guess it'd be kind of too much to hope for that the Festival would be going on while you're in the area again."

"I am a Beast of Johto, and I run very fast," Entei said. "Though keeping contact with my trainer would be harder. I believe his plan is to visit Unova once he is done with Sinnoh."

"Unova?" Lyra repeated, blinking. "That's… kind of a long way."

She glanced at Mewtwo. "But I guess long distance doesn't mean a huge amount to your team."

It is a lot further to Unova than it is to Space, Mewtwo told her. Depending on how you define it, it's further to Hoenn than it is to Space. The tricky bit is getting to anywhere important in space, which is much further.

"I just meant because you can teleport," she said.

There you are correct.

Entei poked Raikou to wake him. "Come on, we have to get back to our duties."

"Right, yes, of course," Raikou agreed. "Be a good volcano dog and lead the way, will you?"

Khoury watched them go until they were out of sight, which didn't take long.

"Legendary Pokémon are strange," he said.

"I think the term you're looking for there is 'Pokémon'," Lucario pointed out. "You're just seeing them closely enough to see the personality."

"I guess that is a good point," Khoury allowed.

He looked south in the direction the Beast Trio had gone, then back at the friends. "So… which way are you going from here?"

"Lilypad," Dawn answered him. "We've got a Contest to go to."

"A Contest for what?" Brock asked her.

"A Ribbon, of – oh, yeah, right," Dawn chuckled. "Sorry, I kind of forgot… yeah, I've got five already. So I guess I could still do it, to give one of my Pokémon some additional training, or I could see how one of you guys gets on with it?"

"You've already got five Ribbons?" Lyra asked. "That's pretty impressive."

"Well… not really," Dawn said. "With how long we've been travelling, I could have done a couple of dozen Contests by now."

"But you do appreciate how talented your team is, right?" Piplup asked. "...right?"

"Of course I do, silly," Dawn assured him. "I'm just teasing."

"We're not going anywhere in particular," Khoury volunteered. "So maybe we could tag along?"

"That sounds good," Brock agreed. "We'd be glad of the company."

He smiled. "Just make sure you check with your dad first."

"Now that I think about it, heading all the way back down to Twinleaf and then walking back north to Lilypad was kind of a bad move," Brock said out loud at lunch the next day.

"It is?" Ash asked. "Why's that?"

"Ash, look at a map for once..." Lucario sighed.

Dexter brought up a map, and Ash nodded. "Right, I get it now! It's because we're basically going all the way back to the start and then walking north all over again."

"Yep," Brock confirmed.

"So… he's not very good at directions?" Lyra asked Dawn quietly.

"Not really," Dawn replied. "He's been getting better, but… from what Brock has said, they used to have a nearly supernatural ability to get lost."

She checked on the egg in her bag, making sure it was alright, then turned her attention to the scenery. "At least this place looks impressive, though I guess the windworks causes a bit of trouble for Flying-type Pokémon."

There was a yip and a yowl as Luxio darted out of cover at Brock's Rockruff, who countered with a splash of manipulated earth and dove underground to swim out of trouble.

They watched as Luxio cleaned the dirt off his face with a paw, fastidiously making sure he was completely clean, then loped off after Brock's hidden Rock-type.

"It's always kind of cute when Pokémon play like that," Lyra said. "I wonder where Marill is?"

Dawn looked around for the little blue Water-type, seeing no sign. "One of Ash's friends has a Marill. Possibly two of them do, actually, I don't know if Misty's Azurill has evolved yet."

"They're cute, aren't they," Lyra smiled a little, then frowned. "I'm actually getting a little worried..."

"I can help!" Gabite volunteered.

"What was that?" Lyra asked, then scooted back a little as the Dragon-type came up to her. "Oh – hello, sorry, you startled me a bit. You know, Khoury wants to catch a Gible some time..."

"Well, Gible are good, but Gabite are… something beginning with G between good and great," Gabite said. "Because Garchomp are great. Anyway, you're missing a Marill?"

"What's he saying?" Lyra asked.

"He's checking that your Marill is what's missing," Dawn supplied, and Lyra nodded.

"Right!" Gabite said, and fired a little Draco Meteor into the air.

It rose, curved, stopped, then exploded and came zipping down again – before crashing into a nearby pile of grass.

"Aww..." Marill squeaked, as the grass was blown to fragments. "I was hiding there!"

"There you are!" Lyra smiled. "Don't run off, okay?"

"If he'd done that last month it would probably have hit my Piplup," Dawn chuckled. "You're improving nicely, Gabite, good work!"

"Thanks!" Gabite said, giving her a claws-up. "I'm going to go see if Brock needs any help finishing off lunch!"

"Well, here we are in Lilypad!" Dawn announced, spreading her arms.

"I think you might have a different definition of a short walk to us, Faun," Lyra sighed, sitting down.

"Lyra!" Khoury hissed.

"Huh?" Lyra asked, then replayed the last few seconds. "...oh, no… sorry, I was trying my best. I just sometimes forget names."

"That's okay," Dawn told her. "And my name's Dawn, just so you remember."

"I'll do my best," Lyra said, blushing. "So… okay, this is a Contest thing, right?"

Brock glanced back at her. "Yep, that's the plan. It's the main reason we've been practicing for the last week and a half."

"Yeah, I saw," Lyra agreed. "Though there was that break in the middle where Khoury caught Gible."

Khoury smiled at the reminder.

"Sorry I couldn't give you more tips on how to train a Gible, Khoury," Ash added. "I'm afraid my experiences with Gabite have been kind of unusual."

"Yeah, hopefully I won't need to learn how to not blow up the nearest Piplup," Khoury chuckled. "Still, just that conversation we had was really helpful."

He shook his head. "Anyway, the Contest thing. I saw you were training several Pokémon, both of you – who are you planning on using?"

Brock held up a Pokéball.

"I… don't actually know which Pokémon that is," Khoury admitted. "Is it your Stantler? I bet your Stantler could do amazing Appeals."

Dawn coughed. "Not… necessarily," she said. "There's a rule about it – 'The Appeal must substantially have happened'."

"That's odd," Lyra blinked.

"It was put in place after someone started using hypnosis to convince the crowd they'd done an amazing appeal," Dawn explained. "It means illusions aren't allowed to be the main focus, though they can add to the effect."

She shrugged. "It is kind of an important consideration."

"I'm sure," Khoury said, frowning. "It'd feel like cheating if I was just hypnotized to believe an appeal had happened, so I can agree with that."

He frowned. "So who are you using?"

"Actually, you should probably check that, Brock," Dawn noted. "Is the Contest Hall actually able to support him for a battle?"

"That's a good question," Brock admitted, frowning. "I… hmm…"

"That's quite an odd condition under which to perform an Appeal, Mr. Slate," Raoul Contesta said, thinking. "But it would be quite the spectacle, I suppose..."

"Is it actually feasible?" Nurse Joy asked. "The floor's made of wood, right? Wouldn't it catch fire?"

"That's the main problem," Contesta agreed. "I don't suppose… Mewtwo, correct? Do your talents extend to making sure something doesn't catch fire?"

I could do that, Mewtwo confirmed. Or I could remove the floor for safe-keeping, let the Appeal take place on the ground, and then remove the results and replace the floor.

"That sounds easier," Nurse Joy frowned. "Is it easier? I'm having trouble telling."

I can do a lot of things, Mewtwo replied. I will go with whatever option you prefer. I am not, however, able to explain Mr. Sukizo.

"Remarkable," Mr. Sukizo pronounced.

"I have to say, Mr. Contesta, I am very impressed in your work and that of Mr. Sukizo," Dawn added. "You must have amazing time management skills."

"A bit, perhaps," Contesta allowed. "Well… I suppose we'll think about it. We will have an answer for you, though, Mr. Two."

I'm afraid that's not how my name works.

"I'm suddenly kind of nervous," Heatran admitted. "Will they like me? Will it work?"

"That's not the right thing to worry about," Brock told him. "In fact, you shouldn't be all that worried at all. This is just to see how it works out. Whatever happens, you'll have learned something, and that's the goal here – to learn something. Right?"

"I suppose that does make sense," Heatran agreed.

He made ready to step out onto the arena, then paused. "You are sure the people visiting will remain safe?"

"Mewtwo's going to keep all the hot rock from hitting the audience," Brock assured him. "He's even better at the job than normal LinesPokémon, which… to be honest is quite helpful with Ash and the rest of us around."

"It is certainly a consideration that competitive battling has which I had not considered," Heatran admitted. "Perhaps that is a good lesson to take from this, even if it is not the only one."

Brock held out his Pokéball, and Heatran returned himself in a flash.

Thus ready, Brock strode out onto the arena floor.

"Okay, I kind of wonder how everyone is going to react to this one," Lucario admitted. "And the other one."

"We saw the routine when it was being practiced," Khoury noted. "Is that why you're focused on how everyone else is going to react?"

"Pretty much, yes," Lucario replied. "The fact they removed the floor narrows down who the appeal is going to involve, and that means..."

Brock sent out his Heatran, and for a moment there was a hush.

Then the Fire-type stamped his foot, and a block of rock erupted out of the ground – a spray of orange-hot lava accompanying it, along with a shriek of rock against rock.

Heatran crouched and jumped up onto the newly made pillar, using Stone Edge again, and a second pillar formed much like the first. This one was taller and a little broader, and the Legendary Pokémon drummed his feet against the first pillar to send up a whole circle of them around his first one.

With each eruption from the ground, there was a little hiss and spurt of orange magma, quickly cooling to basalt grey, and the new-formed rocks glowed with internal heat. Heatran paused after the first dozen or so to inspect his work, then ran down and along the ground at speed.

"There!" Brock told him, and Heatran's feet slammed into the ground again – this time two rather than just one. Then the other two, the first two, stamping in an alternating sequence which raised far more pillars than the first set – this time in two broad circles as opposed to one. About half of them were high and flat-topped, the rest were narrower and a little shorter and rose to a single point.

"I don't think I get it," someone said from behind where the friends were sitting. "It's interesting, but… I don't really get the grab factor of it."

"Okay, check the self test," Meowth called.

Self Test engaging, Wyvern stated.

The wings moved a little, up and then down, and flexed in various directions to check on the adaptive avionics before returning to their basic configuration. The tail moved as well, twitching from side to side, and a dozen back-mounted weapons hatches flipped open and then closed.

Minor movement self test complete, the Porygon declared. Engine self test in five.

"Okay, anyone who ain't fireproof an' really heavy get out now!" Meowth instructed.

Since that meant everyone, the bay was clear when Wyvern spooled up the engines – a dozen powerful lift fan cells in the wings, two repulsor systems in the chest, and a pair of deployable thrusters at the base of the tail for high speed travel.

Thrust vectoring controls good, Wyvern reported. Repulsor weight negation at ninety-plus percent. Boost thrusters indicating all is well.

"Good," Meowth said. "An' the clamps?"

The clamps are functioning fine.

"I think we can call this one done, then," Meowth decided. "It does act like the simulations do, right?"

As far as I am able to determine, Wyvern told him. And since I've eaten every aerospace engineering textbook I can find, that is quite reliable.

"Heh," the Normal-type chuckled. "Okay, I tink we can call this one done. How many does dat make now?"

Eight, Wyvern answered him. Six flight-capable and two without.

She paused. Interesting that they are all based off Legendary Pokémon.

"You kinda gotta go with the classics," Meowth waved. "So, how's da next one coming along?"

I admit I am having a little trouble with the variable-wing geometry, Wyvern replied. I should have it done within the next couple of weeks, but I can't tell you how soon apart from that.

"Eh, it's fine," Meowth judged. "However many we get finished is however many we get finished."

It will mean you don't have much time to train on it, the sapient computer program warned. But if I've worked out the program at all I suppose I can just run it.

"Okay, Heatran, now!" Brock called. "Lava Plume!"

Heatran reared up, and slammed both his forefeet into the ground with a rocky crash. Flame spiked up out of the ground underneath the first, smaller, circle he'd made, and launched them into the air – and towards him, rising into the air and passing directly over his position.

Heatran followed up with a Magma Storm, a wide cone of superheated rock that punched up at the rocks overhead. It looked solid, but Heatran had worked to be sure it wasn't – the outside edge was seething pyoclastic blast, and the internal part of the Magma Storm battered away at specific blocks and ignored others.

A second or so of intense heat, and it was over – and the blocks came crashing down, some of them by themselves and the rest landing squarely on top of two stones to form a semicircle of trilithons.

The whole structure fizzled and glowed, then cooled, and the ash blasted into the air by Heatran's Magma Storm drifted down like grey snow.

"Stone Henge!" Brock instructed, and Heatran raised the whole thing off the ground by a few inches on an igneous platform.

"Oh, so that's what they were doing," the same person said behind Lucario. "That's not bad, actually."

"I wonder what would qualify as impressive," Pikachu muttered to himself.

"Hey, be nice, some people have different tastes," Buneary reminded him. "I mean, someone who mainly relied on echolocation would have considered that pretty boring because of Mewtwo's shield."


The score came up – a good one, though not one which would automatically guarantee Brock went through.

"It's surprising how much of a Contest depends on how good the other Coordinators are," Khoury said. "Though… I guess battling is pretty similar, and there's even more of that which is up to chance. Someone who ran up against a trainer like Ash Ketchum in round one – or Lance or Cynthia in their pre-Grand-Champion days – would end up going out easily, even if they were one of the best trainers in the tournament."

"That actually pretty much happened, in our Johto challenge," Lucario volunteered. "The tournament picks were slightly skewed, and the hardest battle we had there was the semi-final."

"I… think I remember that one, actually," Lyra frowned, as Mewtwo purged the air inside Heatran's containment bubble – largely to get rid of the microscopic ash – and replaced the floor. "Wasn't that the one with the crazy guy from somewhere in the western hemisphere who left after fighting Ash?"

"Yep," Pikachu agreed. "Good battle. If very, very strange battle..."

He sat up a little. "Oh, looks like Ash is next."

"Surf!" Ash called, throwing the Pokéball up in the air.

It burst with a whoosh of water as Lapras used Surf the moment he emerged, filling the newly-refloored arena to a depth of about six inches.

Ash jumped as the water hit, and landed on the surface with a splash. "Okay, Lapras, let's go!"

The Ice-type used Blizzard, freezing the surface of the water, and Ash began sliding along – having a little trouble controlling himself, but using Aura to give himself a much better-controlled contact surface than most people would have been able to manage.

Lapras followed him, and as Ash pointed to his left and right Lapras used Ice Beam to raise up ridges of ice. The ones on the left formed little banks to help define the outer edge of a racecourse, and the ones on the right provided turns to make it clearer how far out Lapras would have to go to complete a lap.

Ash looked for a moment as they got back to their start point, then gave a thumbs-up and slid to a halt. "Great work – okay, ready?"

Lapras took a position next to him, and his horns fizzed for a moment as he used Shock Wave – drawing a line in the ice just in front of them.

"Is this what Contest Appeals are normally like?" Lyra asked. "I've not really been to enough to tell."

"Not really," Dawn replied with a chuckle. "Ash especially is putting his own unique twist onto it."

"Go!" Ash called, and pushed off – slipping a little, then getting more into the hang of moving fast on the ice.

Lapras moved a little faster, and his mouth glowed as he began to use Ice Beam – this time hitting the ice in front of both of them, making it flash blue and sprout obstacles like ice walls or signs.

It happened that Ash reached the first one, and he hit it with a Force Palm to smash it to bits and knock it out of the way. The impact slowed him, a little, but less than just running into the ice wall would have done, and he sped up a bit again to keep pace with Lapras.

When Lapras reached his own first obstacle, he put his head down and crashed right through it – sending ice shards everywhere. That slid him sideways a little, and he edged up onto the ramp at the side of the course to make sure he could turn fast enough.

Ash was taking an inside line, and bent down enough to touch his palm to the ice so he could use it as a brake and turn more tightly. By the time Lapras was back on course Ash was several feet ahead, so the Water-type quickly peppered the ice with obstacles in the way of both of them.

Ash charged up an Aura Sphere and threw it to blast an icy wall out of the way, then glanced around at Lapras – just in time to see an incoming Water Pulse attack, flash-frozen with Ice Beam to turn it into a kind of miniature water bomb.

The bomb exploded with a whoosh and sprayed cold water all over the area Ash was skating, making him slip over and land with a thump on the chilly floor before scrambling back to his feet and getting up to speed again. By the time he did, Lapras was past him and crashing through another icy wall, and the big Ice-type formed himself a ramp to use to jump over the next obstacle rather than crash through it.

That left Ash with two obstacles to clear to get back to where Lapras was, and he vaulted one with a jump before pushing off to build up more speed. As he closed in, Lapras craned his neck around a little and fired more Ice Beams – these ones aimed not at creating obstacles for both of them but at messing with Ash's ability to keep up, specifically.

Lapras created two false ramps and a speed hump, as well as a snowdrift, then turned back to focus on the track in front of him and made more obstructions to promptly smash through in clouds of ice shards and instant snow.

He glanced to check where he was – coming up to the final bend – and slowed down just slightly, letting Ash catch up for the sprint to the finish, before thumping his flippers against the ice and making cracks spread out through it.

Ash wobbled, hands out to either side to steady him, then stumbled as Lapras used Avalanche and a wave of splintering ice came rushing up behind them both. Lapras caught it, surfing on it towards the finish line, and Ash tumbled over and over before sliding across the line backwards about four seconds after Lapras.

Raoul Contesta glanced at his fellow judges. "...what do we even score that?"

"It's going to be a difficult one," Nurse Joy agreed.

"Hey, I wanted to ask something," Cinder said, tilting her head a little.

Corona looked up from her snack, a marshmallow she'd just melted using her tail. "Huh? Something up?"

"Well… not something important, but nothing important is going on right now so I thought I'd ask," Max's Mightyena explained. "See… what I was wondering is whether you're interested in evolving."

Corona thought, taking a bite of the marshmallow, and chewed while she wondered how to put her thoughts.

"Well… I've not been hugely looking forward to it, but that doesn't mean I'm against it either," Corona said. "I just haven't really been thinking about it much."

She waved a clawed forehand at herself. "I think… well, there are two main things that evolving would get me. One of them is that I'd be tougher, and the other is that I'd be able to carry Max around. And both of those are definitely better than the alternatives, but I'm not sure they're enough better."

Rising, the Charmander finished her marshmallow. "I know a lot of young Charmander are really interested in when they evolve, because they become cool Charizard," she explained. "And I do kind of get that, but I can fly already and when I really turn my Flare Blitz up then I kind of look like a Charizard as well. So… you know?"

"I kind of get that," Cinder agreed. "But… well, I always wanted to evolve, and I was glad of being able to do it. I guess it isn't as much of a big body change for me as it would be for you, but then again Guy was chill with evolving and he had to deal with new everything."

"It seems likely that the preference for evolution as opposed to remaining in the present state is influenced by the Pokémon and the change involved in the evolution," Joltik contributed. "But at the same time, the difference induced is one which is also related to the Pokémon who evolves, so it is hard to tell whether the problem would remain after evolution as a dysphoric episode or whether it would just be a cautionary tale about making judgements without talking to Pokémon who have gone through the same experience. Ultimately the only way to know for sure is to do it, but of course this is an experiment which has no reset and so should only be undertaken in full cognizance, which makes it more of a personal philosophical choice than a matter for science."

Corona and Cinder stared for a long moment.

"...not to be rude, or anything, but where did you come from?" Corona asked.

"I fell into the marshmallow bag," the Electric-type explained.

"I wonder if the reason why they were okay with you using Heatran in the Appeal is that this week it has to be different Pokémon for the Appeal section and the Battle section," Flygon suggested.

"That might be it," Brock mused, nodding. "Speaking of which, think you're going to be okay with this? I can still change my mind at this point."

"Nah, I volunteered, let's see how this goes," Flygon said a little flippantly.

He flicked his tail. "I'm looking forward to this. I like Contests, I think more than I like Pokémon battles, because the feel of them is different – they're both fun, but a Contest is more 'hey, look what I can do' while a battle is more 'take this'. Or that's what I think."

"Well, let's see how it goes, then," Brock said.

He returned Flygon to his Pokéball, and checked the bracket. "Okay, so we're going third, and if we win that one then it looks like we're facing off against Ash… well, let's focus on the first one first."

"So how does Contest battling differ from just fighting a battle to win?" Lyra asked. "I've wondered about that before, I wanted to see what you think."

"Well..." Dawn began, thinking. "The first thing is that a lot of it is about appearance. In a regular battle it's enough to keep moving and dodge attacks, or even just tank them while you look for an opening, but for a Contest battle you really have to be aware of how the fight is looking as well as how it's actually going."

She tapped her finger against her wrist, next to Rotom. "There's also that in a battle you're only going to waste energy on making a show instead of the main attack if you're trying to distract your opponent, but in a Contest that's a positive good."

"Of course, with a very good trainer at battling it's either the case that their style looks good enough that it'll do well regardless, or it'll win fast enough that the style issue doesn't matter," Lucario voiced.

"Well, yeah, obviously if you had a big skill gap in either direction the better trainer would generally win," Dawn said. "I mean, that's just normal. The tricky thing is telling when you have an equally skilled trainer, and… how can you define an equally skilled trainer except that they're able to beat the other one on average about half the time?"

She chuckled. "Anyway, I tend to think that someone who trains at Contests will naturally get good at battling, but that someone who trains at battling might not automatically get good at Contests."

"Well, we're about to see how Brock and Ash do," Pikachu said, pointing.

"Go!" Ash called, throwing his Pokéball, and Butterfree burst out into the space under the roof.

Flygon appeared opposite him, and Nurse Joy held up her hand. "Begin!"

Butterfree immediately used Sunny Day, throwing out a ball of light which sent out brilliant sunrays and made his scales light up. It was close enough behind him that it made him cast shadows across half of the arena, shadows with dark and light patterns to match his wings – at least for the few seconds before Flygon used Sandstorm, exhaling a great blast of sand which extinguished the artificial sun and replaced it with grains of buffeting sand swirling like a whirlwind.

"Okay, this is going to be weather tennis unless we agree on something," Butterfree decided, and used Rain Dance. "There."

The sand dissipated, replaced by little clouds which drizzled water onto the arena floor, then faded.

"Fair enough," Flygon replied, and his wings hummed as he gained height. Adjusting for a moment, he shout out a great gout of green flame – which split apart at the end, revealing a Heat Wave attack had been inside the dragonbreath, and which reached for Butterfree with eager fingers.

The Bug-type slipped sideways in the air, coils of wind curling around his wings, and slapped a burst of Gust at the attack headed for him. The burst of pressure made Flygon's attack curl back in on itself, orange flame shooting out of the green in all other directions, and both faded a moment later – whereupon Butterfree gusted out a Silver Wind, and accelerated rapidly to fly circles around Flygon with the benefit of his greater wing-to-body ratio.

Flygon didn't bother trying to chase up Butterfree, and instead twisted back to exhale flame along his wings – the leading edges glowing a little – before accelerating to fly towards Butterfree in a head-on intercept.

Butterfree swerved, blowing his Silver Wind attack at Flygon, and Flygon flew right into the cloud of Bug-type-infused dust. There was a fzzt of flame around the Dragon-type's wings, and the whole cloud caught fire at once – tracing a line of fire all around the stadium where Butterfree had gone, but not following Butterfree directly as he'd broken his connection with the trail.

"That didn't work..." Brock frowned. "Okay, Heat Wave – and Boomburst!"

Butterfree didn't wait for any instructions at that stage, and just did a roll – a swirl of powder raining out from his wings – then pulled up, his antennae and eyes glowing as he used Confusion to snag the powder in a bubble of force.

The flaming Boomburst slammed out towards him, and Butterfree pulled the powders up to form a shield – blowing them up in a dust explosion, but consuming the flame front and dissipating the impact of the Boomburst from a single slap to a series of buffets in quick succession.

Butterfree went spinning around a few times as he powered though the attack, then sent another cloud of powder floating outwards to glitter in the arena lighting. As he used Tailwind, the powder coiled and curled – forming the image of two giant butterfly wings, flapping in time with his own and with much more extravagant patterns.

"Now that," Dawn said, nodding. "That is going for showy over practical. There was no need to do the wing shape in battle."

"I think being cool is actually kind of an end in itself," Lucario demurred. "Not the only one, but..."

Butterfree lunged forwards towards Flygon, exerting a sudden pulse of psychic energy to move faster, and Flygon found himself flying through a blizzard of mixed powder moves before he could react.

Wings blurring, he used Boomburst – hitting himself in the tail, but using the tail strike to convert a directional pressure wave into an omnidirectional pulse which blew the powder apart – not out of Butterfree's control, but preventing him from being further slathered in the debilitating mixture of Stun Spore, Sleep Powder and Poisonpowder dust which Butterfree had launched at him.

Ash's Bug-type rallied and sent the cloud in again, dense enough to obscure vision and make it hard for Flygon to see what was happening outside. It wasn't completely opaque, though, and that was important because it meant Butterfree could keep track of what Flygon was doing… including where his head was pointing.

The first Heat Wave attack which Flygon used to try and set the powder alight missed entirely, Butterfree opening a gap big enough for the flames to pass through just in time so it wasted all the heat doing nothing useful, and then the powders were on him again and Flygon had to blow them away.

This time his wings were moving a little slower as the Stun Spore took effect, and he watched in confusion as Butterfree spread the shimmering waves of powder further out rather than coming in for a third attack.

Then they closed up around him, and Butterfree used Solarbeam.

A beam of bright green sunlight flashed out from behind Butterfree's wings into a gap in the encircling powder, and Flygon dodged to the side. The light was still going, though, and it bounced off the powder in all directions – but mostly back inside the ball of glittery spore moves and iridescent powder-scales, more diffuse but having lost little energy.

Butterfree continued to pour in Solarbeam, and the inside of the ball lit up more and more until the light leaking out through the dense cloud of powder was about half as bright as the Solarbeam pouring into it – resulting in a slowly circling disco ball which lit up the room in all colours of the rainbow.

The other half of the Solarbeam's light was being absorbed by Flygon, caught inside a ball of omnidirectional Solarbeam for several seconds before he finally managed to aim a Heat Wave correctly and reduce the whole thing to ash.

"Excellent combination move by Butterfree!" Nurse Joy announced. "And with that Flygon has dropped to zero points, making Butterfree the winner!"

"...hey, uh… Dawn?" Khoury asked, as they waited for the final to begin. "What's a positive good?"

"Oh, right," Dawn said. "It's like… the opposite of a necessary evil, except not? Wait, that doesn't help."

She waved a hand. "It's kind of – a necessary evil is something which is bad by itself but has good side effects. A positive good is something which is good by itself, so you don't need to justify it with good side effects. I think."

"It's one of those words you sort of pick up when there's a superintelligent computer in the group," Lucario volunteered.

"Well, an intelligent computer," Pikachu demurred.

"A computer?" Lucario suggested.

"Voice recording complete," Rotom buzzed. "Preparing for transmission to Dexter."

"Shutting up now," Lucario announced bravely.

Dawn chuckled, and Lyra looked at her questioningly.

"We didn't get half of that," the other trainer explained. "What was it we missed?"

"Pikachu and Lucario were making comments about Ash's Porygon, Dexter," Dawn explained. "And Rotom was recording them."

"You have a Rotom?" Khoury asked. "I didn't know that."

"I don't know if you could say I have Rotom," Dawn said, shaking her head. "Rotom's with us, but is kinda shy. We do that kind of thing… quite a lot, actually."

She waved her hand – not the one with Rotom on it. "More than most trainers, anyway. I think."

"Well, that was pretty fun, guys," Khoury announced. "I can see why travelling with someone is much more fun than doing it alone."

"So that means?" Lyra asked.

"Yeah, I think it sounds like a good idea," Khoury agreed. "When we get back to Johto, we'll be heading out together."

"Great!" Lyra beamed. "I'm sure we'll enjoy it!"

Ash chuckled. "I'm sure you will," he agreed. "Oh, and – if they're still in Johto, say hi to May and Max Maple from me."

"You could just call them, Ash," Brock pointed out. "In fact, you do. Often."

"Yeah, I know, but I think that's supposed to be the sort of thing people say when they're saying goodbye?" Ash asked.

"Ten out of ten for style, minus several points for actual context," Absol said.

She thumped a paw on the ground. "Hmm… I wonder if this means something's going to go badly wrong."

"I hope it doesn't," Lucario said.

"Hope what doesn't?" Khoury asked. "If an Absol is worried..."

"No, it's not about you," Absol told them, still thinking. "There's something..."

Priority alert, Dexter announced. Incoming message from Babbage. Galactic have found him; he's evading.

Ash, Brock, Dawn, Lucario and Pikachu all exchanged glances.

"Mewtwo?" Ash called. "We need a trip back to Pallet town. Now."

"Any idea if you're going to be fighting Iwalani again?" May asked. "That might be cute."

"May," Max groaned. "We were rivals in one League battle. That means it'd be cool to fight her again, not cute."

"Oh, silly me, I must have misunderstood Contest categories," May smirked. "Still… at least it would be cool to fight her again, huh?"

"Yeah," Max agreed. "Kind of a mix between how it'd be cool to fight Drew again and cool to beat Harley again."

"...okay, point," May admitted, wincing. "Surprised you didn't bring up June, though."

"I didn't feel like I needed to," Max shrugged.

"This is interesting to watch," Guy said. "Does that mean that Max is winning?"

"Only for now," May muttered.

Priority alert, Kris said, before the conversation could continue. Team Galactic have located the entrance to Spear Pillar.

"What?" Max demanded, then returned the confused Guy with a flash of light. "Oh, great – Kris, do we have any transport lined up?"

I am scheduling a slot with Mewtwo, you should be teleported shortly.

"Drew is getting scheduled in, right?" May checked. "He got reminded as well, but none of his Pokémon did."

Correct on both counts, Ethan contributed.

"Oh, great..." Gary sighed, dismissing Dee's alert with a swipe of his fingers. "Molly, I'm afraid we have to stop training now!"

"Aww..." Molly sighed. "Why?"

"Team Galactic," her mentor answered, already double-checking where his Pokémon were so he didn't leave any of them behind when Alakazam teleported them back to Kanto.

"Oh, them," Molly grumbled. "They always ruin things."

"...wait, what?" Gary asked, blinking.

"Yeah, they do!" Molly's starter nodded, currently in the form of a Flareon. "Ash really doesn't like them! And when Ash is upset-"

"That's not what I was surprised by," Gary clarified. "Neither of you is reminded, you shouldn't even know Team Galactic exists."

"Oh, sorry," Flareon said. "But we do, so is that good?"

"It might be," Gary replied. "I'm just not sure yet."

He sent out Alakazam. "Anyway, right now we need to get back to Pallet."

Alakazam raised his spoons.

"Wait," the elder trainer added. "Before you do… I don't suppose you know who Team Galactic is?"

Alakazam shook his head.

"Too much to hope for, I suppose," Gary shrugged. "Okay, go ahead."


"Wh-huh?" Iris said, jolting awake, then yawned. "Ahhh… it's… is it even early in the morning yet?"

It is some hours before you normally get up, I am afraid, Guanna said. However, Team Galactic has made their move. Mewtwo will be over to collect you soon.

"Then – I guess I'd better get dressed," Iris mumbled. "I… will be able to help, right?"

Of course. Anyone who can see what's going on will be useful, quite apart from your bringing Excadrill.

"Well, that didn't work," James sighed, looking at the wrecked particle cannon of the Yveltal Mech. "What happened?"

"I think it's the resonance between the repulsor units," Jessie replied. "They interfere with one another and – well, it slams the torso into the ground or shoots it up in the air."

She rummaged in the toolbox. "I think we can get those sorted out with another few hours, then-"

Sorry, too late, Wyvern reported, as Meowth clambered out of the cockpit of the faux Yveltal. I just caught an alert going out. We need to get to Spear Pillar right away.

"We gotta what?" Meowth asked. "Ah, great… here goes, den..."

He blurred over to his chosen mech with a Quick Attack. "Anyone what knows what Galactic is, get in the robots! Anyone else, uh… Pokéball?"

"Okay, I think all our equipment is set up right," Aaron said.

"You don't think we might be overdoing it a little?" Palkia inquired. "That's a lot of Reviver Seeds."

"Yeah, because we're going to be fighting me," Dialga pointed out. "Only, you know, evil me."

"I know I wouldn't want to do this without my Emit Ring," Aaron nodded, checking the item they'd managed to get hold of for him. "Everyone else is kitted out, right?"

"Time Shield, ready," Dialga reported.

"Air Blade, ready," Palkia confirmed. "You know this should be the water blade, right? I'm not a Flying-type."

"I don't make the rules," Aaron shrugged.

"Nether Veil, somewhere in the vague area of my back," Giratina concluded. "Also, Dialga, you know what to do if it looks like you're about to swap sides of the field?"

"Throw you the Time Shield," Dialga replied breezily. "I know."

"Okay, we're ready," Aaron declared. "Arceus, let's go!"

You four have done an entirely ridiculous and therefore appropriate amount of level grinding, Arceus chuckled. Okay, final boss area coming up.


Whoops, it looks like the myth arc has become a bit less mythical.

The next updates will take a while, for... obvious reasons.