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The Quest for the Legends (ILCOE)

Chapter 6: The Mammal, the Monster and the Mental Change

Mark walked silently with his Pokémon towards the city. He was still afraid of what he held in his Pokéball, attached to his own belt.

This Gyarados was strange. Too strange. The more he thought about it, the more uncomfortable he felt. Yet, Gyarados was more likely to be dangerous to him if he attempted to release him. Mark was stuck in an odd situation – and perhaps a serious one at that, if the sea monster would wreck something. He found it absurd that a few minutes earlier, he had been thinking “It can barely hurt, can it?” Of course it could hurt. It was a Gyarados. What if he went berserk at the Pokémon center or something?

“Uh, Mark?” Charmander asked carefully.

“What?” Mark replied, snapping out of his thoughts.

“We’re here,” the lizard pointed out.

“Oh,” said Mark stupidly, looking around. They were in front of the Pokémon Center again; it looked somehow safer in the dark with the fluorescent lighting of the roof, made to help trainers find it.

Stepping inside to be greeted by the warmth, Mark noticed that there were still quite a few trainers sitting in the red sofas, tapping their feet or just staring into the air in a kind of a trance while their Pokémon got healed. Mark imagined how it must be to wait anxiously for the nurse to try to heal a severely injured Pokémon, not knowing if it would live or die… he would never, ever let Charmander get hurt so much again. He would rather give up.

He walked with Charmander on his heels across the room, and to the desk, where the red-haired nurse was currently standing, waiting for more patients.

“Good evening. You’re out late,” she said in her trademark soft voice.

“Hi, I’d like to have my three Pokémon treated overnight,” Mark said.

“I don’t think that’s necessary…” Charmander began, but Mark just picked him up and put him on the desk, looking him in the eyes.

“That Potion was just temporary,” he explained. “You’re still worn-out after the battle and the cuts haven’t fully healed; it would be better if you stayed here for the night. You’d have to be inside your Pokéball, anyway, since I doubt the hotel would allow a Pokémon with a flame on its tail to sleep in one of their rooms.”

Charmander shrugged. “Well, guess it’s best, then. See you tomorrow.”

Mark nodded, touched his lizard lightly with the Pokéball and he was dissolved into red energy and sucked into the ball. Plucking the two other occupied spheres from his Pokéball belt, he handed them to the nurse.

“Come back tomorrow for them,” she said, smiling. Mark felt alone as he walked out of the Pokémon Center.

-------

He came to the hotel. A few of its windows were still illuminated from the inside, but most were dark. All the Pokémon trainers the hotel was usually full of were either at the Pokémon center, out trying to catch nocturnal Pokémon or they had gone to bed already, hoping to start the next day early.

Mark entered quietly, going up the stairs to his room. Just like it had been odd when Charmander first went into his Pokéball, it was odd when he was being treated at the Pokémon Center.

Mark sighed, and couldn’t wait to retrieve his partners next day.

-------

“Here are your Pokémon. Eevee is still inside, sleeping. I have a concern about your Gyarados, though…”

Mark was in the Cleanwater city Pokémon Center after a breakfast at the hotel, getting his Pokémon back. It was rather early in the morning, and currently Mark was the only trainer there.

“What is it?” Mark asked, worried. Had Gyarados attacked somebody? Wrecked the healing machine?

“He suffers from severe lack of nutrition,” the nurse explained. “What have you been feeding him, anyway?”

“Nothing,” said Mark truthfully. “I just got him.”

“I figured that had to be it,” said Nurse Joy, nodding thoughtfully. “Your other Pokémon aren’t underfed at all, so it seemed sort of odd that you would starve him.”

“What can I do about it?” asked Mark concernedly. Maybe that was why Gyarados wanted to get out of the lake? Just to eat? No, he had talked about getting out of Suicune’s reach…

“I fed him very nicely,” said the nurse, smiling. “After eating, he even said – in English, mind you; that’s quite some Pokémon you got! – that I was the second-nicest human in the world, after you.” She giggled.

“Huh? After me?” Mark was puzzled; he hadn’t thought Gyarados liked him so much just because he brought him to a Pokémon Center.

“Yes. You must have earned his respect very well; most Gyarados are quite overwhelmed by their power when they evolve and are some of the most arrogant, impolite Pokémon you’ll ever see – he isn’t like that at all.”

“Well, that’s good,” Mark said, brightening up. To think of it… Gyarados would actually obey and be his strongest Pokémon…

“Anyway, shouldn’t we wake Eevee?” the nurse suggested, gesturing for him to follow her. They walked into the room at the back; it was all dark blue and seemed cold, very unlike the warm, fluffy pink and red of the waiting room. In a cardboard box with blankets in standing on a table, Mark saw the furred creature he had found the day before, fast asleep and content, with his thick tail wrapped around his body.

“Eevee,” Nurse Joy said sweetly, “time to wake up.”

She gently reached down and touched the Pokémon’s fur carefully. Eevee stirred, licked her hand friendly and then opened his gleaming brown eyes. He noticed Mark with an expression of curiosity and, unless Mark was very much mistaken, some level of gratefulness.

“Remember me?” asked Mark slowly, offering his hand. Eevee carefully reached up with his nose, sniffing his fingers, then stroked his head up to his hand. Mark started scratching him behind his ear; Eevee gave a soft “vee” and then started licking his hand too. Mark looked up at Nurse Joy; she was smiling.

“He’s really friendly and trusting; he will probably be a good Pokémon for you if he wants that. I haven’t mentioned it; perhaps you should explain the situation now.”

“OK…” Mark started nervously, withdrawing his hand as to keep Eevee unbiased. “Erm… Eevee, do you have a home?”

The Pokémon’s ears dropped as he shook his head sadly.

“Would you like me to… take you with me?”

Eevee instantly nodded excitedly.

“And… um… I’m a Pokémon trainer, you see…”

“Vii?” asked the small Pokémon, tilting his head.

“Don’t you know what a Pokémon trainer is?”

Eevee shook his head and looked up at Mark curiously.

“That’s a person who… er, keeps Pokémon inside little balls, like these.” Mark removed Charmander and Sandshrew’s Pokéballs from his belt and showed them to Eevee, minimized.

“See, then you can make them inflate, like this…”

Mark pressed the buttons and the spheres instantly maximized into battle-size. Eevee started, taking a small jump backwards inside the box. Mark laughed.

“There’s nothing to be afraid of. Come on, the balls won’t bite.”

Eevee carefully touched the cold, metallic surface of Charmander’s ball with the tip of his nose. He shivered, apparently still finding that thing a bit creepy, but with a small nod he confirmed his acceptance of the Pokéballs.

“Okay, now, don’t be scared…” Mark carefully dropped the balls into Eevee’s box; they both opened and the two Pokémon formed in red light beside Eevee before the balls bounced right back into Mark’s palms.

This was something Eevee clearly found a lot harder to accept, which was no more than Mark had expected; his eyes widened from the shock of seeing two Pokémon materialize from thin air right beside him. Eevee pressed himself against the wall of the box, moaning nervously as he covered his eyes with his long ears. Charmander and Sandshrew looked confusedly around; Charmander soon realized what was going on, carefully bent down to Eevee’s level and cautiously lifted one of his ears from his face. A terrified eye half-opened, then shut again as the Pokémon forced its ear back down. Sandshrew curiously poked Eevee’s thick, soft mane; Charmander started to pat Eevee’s back reassuringly.

“It’s all right,” Mark said quietly, now placing his hand carefully on the scared Pokémon’s head. “Look.” He brushed Eevee’s ears away, and pointed both Pokéballs at the Pokémon they belonged to; Charmander and Sandshrew both dissolved into red light as they shot back into the balls.

“Now,” Mark began explaining as Eevee started to calm down, “a Pokémon trainer carries Pokémon in balls like these, and when he sees a Pokémon or another trainer, he uses his Pokémon to battle.”

Eevee looked expectantly up at him, waiting to hear more.

“He sends out his Pokémon from the balls – only one at a time – and they battle the other Pokémon or trainer’s Pokémon. If his Pokémon are getting too hurt, he will recall them back into the ball. A Pokémon trainer will always heal his Pokémon as soon as possible when they are hurt, and make sure they get plenty of food and never suffer permanent injuries.”

Mark had never in his life thought about what Pokémon training actually was – yet now, he was telling it to an innocent, young Pokémon that hadn’t had a mother for long enough to learn about these things. It felt odd.

“Then…” Mark’s voice was trembling for some reason, “… the trainer… well, usually… becomes really close to the Pokémon – a type of friend who takes really good care of them and loves them like his own siblings... and usually, the Pokémon will feel like that too…”

Eevee’s shiny, big eyes still looked happily up at Mark’s deep green ones; he took a deep breath before asking the final question.

“So… will you… do you want me to train you? Don’t think about what I want, just what you want. Do you want to be released back into the wild where you can continue your life, or do you want to… come with me and I’ll be your trainer?”

Hot pulse throbbed in Mark’s neck with every beat of his heart; they sounded unnaturally loud now as the boy and the Pokémon stared deep into each other’s eyes; nothing could be read from either’s expression.

“Veee!” Eevee finally said happily, nodding and placing his forepaws in Mark’s hands. He picked the Pokémon carefully up, unable to believe he actually had an Eevee now. The fluffy Pokémon emitted some sort of a purr, digging his nose into Mark’s face.

“Eevee…” Mark started in a muffled voice because of the fur covering his mouth, “if you’re going to be my Pokémon, you need to go into a Pokéball.”

“Vee?” the Pokémon questioned. Not having very good control of Pokémon’s complicated language due to young age, he managed to get his meaning across, but not word for word.

“Yes, see, sometimes I can’t carry you with me otherwise. Pokéballs are nice, just like a luxury room with everything you need, you’ll even feel all dreamy and comfortable, and when you’re sent out, you’ll be refreshed, just like you were sleeping.” Mark knew this in fact because that time he had discussed Pokémon rights with a Vulpix in a Pokémonish test, one of the things they had talked about was whether it was right to capture Pokémon in Pokéballs, and Vulpix, who was pro-Pokéballs, had described to him what Pokéballs were like.

“Vui,” said Eevee skeptically, glancing at the Pokéballs Mark had replaced at his belt. Finally he looked up at Mark, seemingly still a bit scared of the balls. Mark took one of his empty balls and touched Eevee lightly with it; the Pokémon dissolved into red light and was drawn into the ball.

Mark waited a few seconds; the ball stood quite still in his hand, meaning that at least Eevee wasn’t trying to break out of it.

He dropped the ball into the box again; a beam of red energy burst out of it and took shape into Eevee. He looked quickly around, realized that he was back in the box and then accepted the Pokéball with a small nod.

“Great,” said Mark, still not believing what was happening. Him, with an Eevee!

“Will you come into the Pokéball now, then?” he asked upon realization that Eevee was waiting for him to say something else. The Pokémon thought a bit, but then nodded, smiling. Mark recalled Eevee into the Pokéball, convinced that he was the luckiest person alive.

“Erm… thanks, Nurse Joy,” Mark muttered, not sure what to say. She just smiled. “It’s Eevee who’s going to come with you, thank him.”

“Wow,” he just breathed.

“So, where are you headed now?” asked Nurse Joy kindly.

“The Gym,” Mark said, still staring at the Pokéball in his hand.

“Good luck, then. You’ll need it,” were Nurse Joy’s warning words before Mark left the building.

Absent-mindedly, he walked out of the Pokémon Center, noticing that he was getting used to having his Pokémon inside Pokéballs. The sun was shining now; the stormy clouds from the day before had drifted away overnight and now the sky was clear.

He wandered around a bit, looking for the Pokémon Gym, but once he found it, he was surprised he hadn’t figured that huge yellow building with the glass dome roof he could always see behind the other houses had to be the Gym.

The door was odd; it was round and shaped like a Pokéball lying on the side. The button that would normally maximize the ball said “PRESS”. When Mark nervously pushed it with his hand, the two halves of the door separated and moved to the sides with a rumbling noise. Mark carefully stepped inside; he heard the door slide back into place behind him.

Now there was no turning back. He took a deep breath and walked forward, through a second gateway; the entrance room was just empty for whatever reason.

He was on a Pokémon battle arena, that was certain, and an overwhelmingly huge one at that. The glass dome was three times as high as the ceiling in a regular house, and the room had all the features a standard battle arena had to have; a large pool on the right side that was obviously intended for Water Pokémon, and the way the floor was marked had a very clear meaning. Just ahead of him was the red-painted box he was supposed to stand in. He nervously took his place; a trainer stood up from a bench at the other end and stepped into the box at his end. Mark found his clothes very odd: a cap that seemed too big for his head, a jacket and shorts, all bright neon green.

“Hey, you have to battle me first, Rick will only take on the best of the best,” the boy called in an extremely monotone, boring, politician-like voice.

“I wasn’t going anywhere!” Mark shouted back. The trainer ignored it.

“Three on three, ready, go, Articuno.”

The boy hurled forward a black and red Pokéball with as much power as he could; it burst open in mid-air, releasing Mark’s second favorite Pokémon, and bounced back to the trainer.

A smooth, peaceful-sounding cry of “a-ar” emitted from the magnificent, parrot-like icy blue bird as it circled the middle of its own half of the arena, dragging a darker blue, wavy tail feather after its body. Swooping gracefully down every now and then but pulling up again, the Legendary Pokémon loyally awaited its trainer’s orders. It pained Mark to think that the Pokéball had brainwashed his second favorite Pokémon like that – thankfully just a clone.

Mark hesitated, but then decided that sending out Charmander would be worth the risk. He blindly reached for the Pokéball and threw it forward. The ball popped open upon impact with the floor and sent out the lizard.

“Mander!” he growled, assuming a battle stance and glaring at the Articuno, focusing. Mark could figure out what was going through his Pokémon’s head; the last time he had been put up against a Pokémon he was supposed to have an advantage over, he had lost. He wasn’t going to go down a second time.

“Charmander, be ready to dodge!”

The lizard nodded, still concentrating on his opponent.

“Articuno, Powder Snow,” said the junior trainer in his monotone voice.

The Legendary bird’s eyes closed as it glowed white; the room cooled gradually as every flap of its wings and every wave of the long tail feather started emitting flurries of snow which flew straight at Charmander. Mark shivered as the cold wind blew in his face. Even before he opened his mouth to issue a command, Charmander seemed to read his mind and breathed a tongue of flames at the snow, melting and boiling it instantly and leaving Charmander unharmed.

The junior trainer swore loudly, still in the monotone voice, and then ordered: “Articuno, Gust.”

Instantly, the magnificent bird started flapping its wings in Charmander’s direction instead of up and down, and also faster and faster. In a remarkably short time, a strong gust of wind powered up and sent both Mark and Charmander flying into the wall.

“Sorry,” said the junior trainer, not sounding it. “Peck!”

The Articuno clone immediately dived down with a cry of “Aaaarti!”, heading straight towards Charmander. Mark had no time to think, but luckily Charmander spat out a blast of flames by instinct just as the bird was about to hit him. For a second Articuno was on fire, and unfortunately that was the exact second when its beak smashed into Charmander’s belly so that he was thrown harshly backwards; but when the flames died, the Legendary bird crashed clumsily on the ground.

Stretching out both of its wings, Articuno’s icy feathers were clearly dripping with water as it withered in pain; Charmander stood heavily up and despite hating to do this to a Pokémon he loved so much, Mark made a final command:

“Finish it with another Ember!”

Articuno was helplessly trying to take off, but failing. Charmander fired another cloud of flames which enveloped the Legendary Pokémon; when it cleared, Articuno lay in a pool of water on the floor, defeated.

The junior trainer grumpily recalled the half-melted bird.

“Go, finish off that overgrown salamander.”

He threw forward another Pokéball, black with glowing red stripes like the previous one. Out of it came spiky-feathered Legendary bird that Mark recognized immediately as Zapdos.

It opened its long beak as the pitch-black and shocking yellow thunderbird ascended through the air, letting out an electrical cry of “Dooos!”

“Charmander, quick, uh…”

Mark didn’t have the time to make an order; Zapdos fiercely flapped its wings without a command and released a bolt of lightning which shot down and hit Charmander. He screamed in pain, then went stiff and fell down to the floor like a stone statue.

“Charmander! Are you all right?” asked Mark worriedly. Since there was no response, he was forced to recall his Pokémon and wait until he would be able to heal him.

“Go, Sandshrew!” Mark did this without much thought; Sandshrew seemed like the obvious one since he was a Ground Pokémon and therefore immune to Electric attacks, but immediately after the yellowish brown armadillo materialized on the floor, he realized how foolish a decision it had been; Sandshrew wouldn’t be able to harm Zapdos either unless it came near enough for him to scratch it.

“Drill peck,” said the junior trainer dully. Immediately, the thunderbird let out another cry towards Sandshrew as it prepared to dive.

“Sandshrew, Defense curl!” Mark ordered quickly, that being just about the only thing he could do. The armadillo Pokémon locked tightly up in a knot in an amazingly short time; Mark quickly looked up to watch Zapdos again. The spiky bird now started spinning like a drill in mid-air and then dove towards Sandshrew at high speed, jabbing him with its beak. The curled-up Sandshrew rolled like a soccer ball from the impact; Mark automatically blocked the path with his foot. Immediately, the armadillo uncurled, seemingly unharmed, and focused on Zapdos again, although, as Mark couldn’t help noticing, with a complete lack of determination.

Zapdos swooped down again without an order. Likewise, Sandshrew curled up without Mark having the time to say anything. This time, though, Sandshrew rolled himself powerfully out of the way. Zapdos barely avoided crashing, pulled up and was clearly getting ticked off by now. With yet another electrified “Do-o-os”, the thunderbird started zooming back and forth near the ceiling, gaining speed as it went and soon turning into a blurred streak of yellow and black before it lunged down at Sandshrew again. The armadillo Pokémon didn’t have time to curl up again, and being stabbed with Zapdos’ long, spear-like beak in his vulnerable white underbelly was too much. Letting out a piercing cry, Sandshrew was thrown a bit backwards, but then collapsed, his chest bleeding disturbingly much.

“Oh God,” Mark muttered, still unable to do anything about it but just recall the Pokémon and hope he would be all right. Now it was facing the next problem.

Mark automatically grabbed Eevee’s Pokéball, but hesitated. Eevee was so young, and had immediately started to trust him out of childish innocence. How could he let Eevee get as badly injured as Charmander and Sandshrew?

He couldn’t.

His hand moved to Gyarados’ ball, plucked it off his Pokéball belt, and threw it at the pool, biting his lip. Sending out a Gyarados against an Electric Pokémon? He had to be going crazy.

Gyarados took shape out of the red light as Mark’s Pokéball bounced back into his hand. An intimidating roar sounded from the sea monster, visibly unnerving even the Legendary Pokémon.

“Thunderbolt,” said the junior trainer, smirking. Zapdos prepared to do the same thing as on Charmander, but the most that happened were a few sparks that shot between its wing feathers.

“Dos!” growled the Legendary with a hint of annoyance, attempting to charge up electricity again. Mark’s mind raced. Zapdos was probably tired after the battle with Sandshrew; did Gyarados perhaps have a chance?

“Dragon rage!” Mark roared. Gyarados raised his head and, letting out another ear-splitting roar, he fired a jet of crimson red, dark flames from his mouth.

The blast hit Zapdos powerfully. The bird stayed in the air for a second, stiff; then with a weak “dos…” it fell to the floor. A smile broke out on Mark’s face; Dragon rage was a very, very powerful attack at this stage of his journey, because it always hurt exactly as much, completely independent on the user’s strength or any kind of weaknesses and resistances. That meant that the attack’s outcome depended purely on the victim’s ability to endure pain – a weak, inexperienced Pokémon, such as most of the ones he was facing now, would therefore fall unconscious from being subjected to it once. He was just remembering this now – some of Mrs. Grodski’s classes appeared to have sunk in after all.

He grinned. He would sweep this Gym’s floors with Legendaries, all on account of Gyarados’ Dragon rage attack.

“Zapdos, return,” said the junior trainer dully, holding the Pokéball forward and recalling the battered bird. “Go… Moltres…”

From the junior trainer’s expression and even duller tone in these words, he was also well aware of how powerful Dragon rage was against such low-leveled Pokémon. He threw the Pokéball with less enthusiasm than before; the golden phoenix that was the third and last of the Legendary birds of Kanto burst out of it in a flash of red light.

“Mooool!” the swan-like bird cried, smoothly ascending into the air and leaving a trail of flames behind from its fiery wings and tail. When it was just slightly below the ceiling, the bird shook its head powerfully, the fire that rested atop its head blazing up and adding to the powerful image of the Legendary. Moltres flapped its flaming wings slowly, focusing on Gyarados with keen eyes, ready to take an order.

“Another Dragon rage!” Mark called, slightly nervously; what if it wouldn’t work? Gyarados immediately released a blast of crimson fire from his mouth again, but with the grace of only a Legendary, the phoenix dived down, evading the attack with ease.

“Oh man,” Mark murmured, gritting his teeth. “That thing can dodge.”

“Glow,” said the junior trainer. Mark scanned through his head, not remembering any attack called that, as he watched Moltres start to glow bright white. Suddenly something clunked into place, and Mark realized that this was the preparation for a Sky attack.

“Gyarados – Dragon rage!” he commanded desperately, hoping that the sea monster would be quick enough to get the hit in. Unfortunately, just as Gyarados started forming the dragon flames in his throat, Moltres’ glowing swan shape shot towards the huge monster at amazing speed, its beak stabbing Gyarados right where two plates of his deep blue armor met; the exact place where he was vulnerable.

With a terrible roar, the sea monster screwed his eyes shut, flailing around in pain with the no longer glowing Moltres still stuck with its beak between two enormous plates of armor. Interestingly enough, Gyarados’ size was such that he managed to splash enough water at the phoenix to almost put out its fire. A high-pitched screech was heard from the Legendary bird as it tried to flutter away while Gyarados retained his balance.

“And now, quickly, another Dragon rage!” Mark blurted out.

Being wet clearly slowed Moltres down considerably, since as the bird tried to fly out of the way, Gyarados managed to fire yet another blast of crimson flames, hitting this time. Moltres fell unconscious in mid-air and dropped limply to the ground.

“Wow,” Mark muttered to himself as the junior trainer resentfully recalled his last Pokémon. “That’s got to be the only time in history a battle was won on account of Splash.”

The junior trainer took a small thing that looked like a car key out of his pocket, pressing a button on it. The Pokéball-shaped door on the other end of the arena slid open with a rumbling noise. The trainer pointed lousily over his shoulder with his thumb and then walked up to the bench again, sitting grumpily down with crossed arms. Mark nervously walked towards the door, but then stopped.

“Can I go back? I need to heal my Pokémon,” he asked the trainer, feeling a sting of guilt for having almost forgotten how injured Charmander and Sandshrew were.

“You don’t need to, there’s a nurse just beyond the door,” the junior trainer muttered, still sulking.

Mark walked through the round doorway; it immediately closed after him. As the junior trainer had said, a blond-haired woman in a white uniform waited just by the entrance, clutching a Pocket Healer in her hands.

“Good morning,” she said politely with a small bow. “Would you like me to heal your Pokémon?”

“Er, yeah… thank you,” Mark said, carefully handing her the Pokéballs. She gave a tiny nod, placing one ball at a time into the Pocket Healer and pressing the heal button.

“Done,” she said, smiling, as she handed the balls back to Mark. He thanked her and then went on to the battle arena, which was identical to the previous one. This time around, however, the trainer wore red clothes with white linings on them, had bushy, purple hair, and was already standing in his square, grinning broadly with a scary glare of enthusiasm.

“Three on three,” he said in a loud, clear voice with a British accent, holding one of those black and red Pokéballs. “Go, Raikou!”

The Pokéball released a huge tiger-like Pokémon, yellow in color. Its unnaturally long claws and fangs combined with the fact that its face was all hidden made it look scary; a black triangular plate covered the forehead and nose, four metallic-looking whiskers spread out from the front of its muzzle, and creamy white tufts of fur handled the sides of the head.

Mark had never been that much of a Raikou fan compared to the other Legendaries, but he found a certain grace in the way the tiger’s muscles tightened under the black-striped skin and the absolute determination in its red eyes, the only visible parts of the face. Unsurely, he grabbed hold of Sandshrew’s ball. Raikou was very well capable of using Crunch and other non-Electric attacks, and Sandshrew didn’t know any Ground attacks.

But it wasn’t like Charmander or Eevee would do much better, and letting Gyarados get beat at the first Pokémon that was sent out would be suicide. He made his decision.

“Sandshrew, go!” he shouted, throwing forward the Pokéball. As it bounced off the ground, it released the armadillo Pokémon in a flash of red. Sandshrew didn’t appear to be a fan of Raikou either; his eyes opened very wide at the sight of the tiger and then he curled tightly up into a ball, which appeared to be his ideal solution to whatever problems he was facing.

“Raikou, Calm mind!” shouted the junior trainer. The tiger closed its eyes and bowed its head in deep concentration, revealing the then started glowing with a faint lavender aura. After a few seconds of waiting, Raikou raised its head again, its eyes open.

“This won’t do, Sandshrew, Raikou will just use some stat boosters!” Mark said impatiently to the scaly sphere that was supposed to be his Pokémon, poking it with his toe. Sandshrew slowly uncurled, but this was the chance the junior trainer was waiting for; he quickly gave Raikou another order:

“Crunch, now!”

The tiger leapt at Sandshrew before he had the sense to curl up again, and with a roar, it locked its jaws around Sandshrew’s body. The armadillo Pokémon’s arms helplessly flailed around in mid-air; he gave a squeak when Raikou started squeezing its jaws together. A few drops of blood fell to the ground.

“No… Sandshrew, come back,” Mark said limply, holding up the Pokéball so that Sandshrew was absorbed into it. Perhaps Pokémon battling wasn’t the right sport for him…

“Go, er… Charmander.”

Mark still didn’t want to send out Eevee, although he wasn’t sure why he was more ready to let Charmander get hurt.

The little lizard came out of the ball in a red beam of light, and clearly didn’t like Raikou that much either.

“I’m supposed to battle that?” he whispered in disbelief, flicking his big eyes quickly back at Mark.

“Sorry, Charmander, we have to,” Mark answered with a pained expression. “Just do your best.”

Charmander nodded slowly and said in an odd voice: “Yes. I will.”

Immediately after Charmander finished that sentence, the junior trainer gave Raikou a new command:

“Raikou, Spark!”

The thunder tiger started sparkling with electricity and jumped towards the much smaller Fire Pokémon. Charmander leapt to the side with surprising agility and then grabbed hold of Raikou’s jagged, metallic tail. Snarling oddly in a way that wasn’t very much like him, Charmander spat a bit of fire at the tail end. The reactions were immediate; a painful howl came from the Legendary’s mouth at first as its body stiffened, then it started sprinting over the arena in an attempt to shake Charmander off. The lizard held on as well as he could, occasionally breathing flames on the tail end again in order to keep it hot. Mark could see that it was slowly melting.

Finally, Charmander fell off, bouncing once off the floor before landing on his side, seemingly unconscious. The junior trainer desperately tried to tell Raikou to stop running around in circles, but the Pokémon ignored it, putting higher priority on cooling down its tail than finishing the battle. For a few seconds, Mark was worried about Charmander as he didn’t move, but then the small Pokémon stood up with difficulty, looking dizzy and breathing very hard. He started walking towards Mark.

“I… have a headache…” he said weakly, then dropped back on four legs, panting uncontrollably as sweat sprouted on his skin.

Slowly, the little Pokémon started emitting a bright white glow. Mark and the junior trainer both watched, stunned; even Raikou stopped running and turned its head sharply to watch.

“You weren’t going to evolve until later, remember?” Mark said, remembering what they had discussed at the restaurant the previous day. On second thought, that was a stupid thing to say; obviously Charmander had to remember it, but he was in no state to resist the evolution.

Charmander’s now pure white shape was steadily growing larger and bulkier. A small horn grew out of the back of the Pokémon’s head. His muzzle lengthened. Then the growth came to a halt. For a second, the shape was just there emitting a bright aura; then the glow faded revealing a crimson red Charmeleon; bigger, more muscular and dragon-like, but otherwise somewhat similar to Charmander.

A more adult-shaped eye looked at Mark. A weak, deep “Char…” came from the evolved Pokémon, but then his legs collapsed under him and he lay limply on the ground, fainted.

Shaking, Mark held forward a Pokéball. “R-return,” he stammered, his freshly-evolved friend disappearing into a beam of red energy.


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