The Quest for the Legends (ILCOE)

This is an author's commentary intended for readers who have already read the entire ILCOE. My retrospective comments on the chapter are in bold below, with some remarks within the text and then some overall thoughts at the bottom. The commentary will contain significant spoilers! Do not read the commentary on your first read-through!

(The commentary is in progress; only the first chunk of the story has been commented. Check the Quest Blog for progress information!)

The Pokémon Festival – May 22nd: The Attack Approval

This chapter was the longest chapter yet at this point, at seventeen pages, and took considerably longer than any chapter had taken me for a while: it came out on March 11th, 2005, nearly two months after chapter 21. (Previously, though, chapter six had also taken me close to two months, and chapter five about a month - likely because I was still getting used to the more descriptive style I'd adopted in the HMMRCIG, and writing battles in it in particular was new territory for me.)

I'd turned fifteen in February, so now I have slightly less of an excuse for everything. Bring on the fifteen-year-old me.

A/N: I'm afraid that I decided how to start this chapter before realizing that not all of my readers had gotten the ending of chapter 21, so I'll have to clarify it here: Eevee evolved into a Jolteon. The "and covered with spikes" was supposed to make that clear, but I guess it didn't. I'm not going to change the beginning of the chapter to stuff that in, so you'll have to put up with this awkwardness...

This awkward author's note brought to you by the previously mentioned confusion over my Jolteon description.

“Mark! Wake up already if you want to train for the Attack Approval before it starts!”

He hadn’t been sleeping, actually. He had been lying in his bed, staring into the ceiling and thinking. He had dreamt about Chaletwo, with Eevee and May’s Pikachu mixed in, between waking up abruptly. Usually the last thing he remembered before waking up was a pair of glowing, yellow eyes – Chaletwo’s, presumably. If only he knew what it meant…

Still having those prophetic dreams. This scene feels a little too similar to the opening of the previous chapter, but look at Mark still not having his troubled mental state magically erased just because!

He sat up and rubbed his eyes. The Attack Approval. That was something May was very enthusiastic about; she had picked up a booklet on it on their first day in Green Town, and according to it, the contestants would battle judges and were supposed to basically show their ability to create techniques in battle. If they did it well enough, they would get a license for being allowed to use such moves in the Pokémon League. Mark was really just entering it in hopes of getting an official permission to use Gyarados’s powerful attack in the League; the sea monster’s color had now returned to normal and he seemed to be at full power, but it had taken him a while after having used the attack three times in a row.

Mark stood up and quietly dressed; then he opened the door to see that May had given up waiting for him. He sighed and decided just to go and train by himself.

I still love May.

As he exited the Pokémon Center and walked slowly out of the city, he looked around for some sort of a pool of water which Gyarados could be released into. It was very grassy around Green Town. A huge forest called Ruxido loomed in the west and Mark knew that the last Gym of Ouen was located in the south somewhere. He wandered off towards Ruxido, figuring that he could just as well go there as somewhere else.

After about ten minutes of walking aimlessly around in the woods – making carefully sure, of course, to know where the exit was – Mark still found himself in a completely dry forest. Sighing, he sat down on a rock to think.

A sound was heard. Mark jumped, his heart beating against his ribcage as he stared intensely at the spot where the sound came from.

“Leee…” came a small squeal. A small, curious white head poked out from behind a tree. The head looked kind of alien-like; it would have reminded Mark of an Eevee if it hadn’t been for the fact that it had absolutely no visible features except for two big, cute, ruby red eyes that were pointed at him in a hypnotizing stare.

It's Leta!

She was a new character altogether in this version; originally, Mark only caught six Pokémon. One way or another, I'd made up this fake Pokémon and got the sudden urge to have Mark catch one. I was pretty unsure about this development, though; I recall making a poll about it on the old Cave of Dragonflies forums, and I also asked in the Serebii thread how people would feel if Mark caught another Pokémon.

Mark sat still, and the Pokémon stepped out to observe him better. It was about the size and shape of an Espeon apart from having a bigger head; the limbs were slender and catlike. The whole body was pure white, covered in fine hairs, with absolutely no markings or special features at all. Behind it, the creature whipped an incredibly flexible, thin tail back and forth like a pendulum; left, right, left, right, left, right…

Ten seconds or so passed before Mark came back to his senses and realized that the Pokémon had just attacked him with Hypnosis. He blinked a few times; the creature, which still stood in the same spot, stared at him without blinking. There was something very creepy about it.

Mark slowly took out his Pokédex and pointed it at the Pokémon. A beep was heard.

I really liked this passive-voice "was heard" formation at this point, apparently.

“Leta, plain Pokémon,” said the Pokédex electronically. “Its tail has no bones in it and is very flexible. It is usually shy and tends to use its Hypnosis attack to lull its opponent to sleep instead of fighting.”

Mark nodded and closed his Pokédex. He stood slowly up and grabbed a Pokéball.

“Go, Jolteon! Paralyze it with a Thunder Wave!”

Mark had checked Jolteon in the Pokédex the day before, just after seeing what Eevee had evolved into. In addition to the evolution, he had gained the ability to use Thunder Wave and Bite.

You actually checked! Amazing!

The yellow Electric Pokémon sprang out of the Pokéball. The long spikes he had in place of fur crackled with electricity, and when he came down on the ground, he sent a flurry of sparks flying at the Leta. The terrified Pokémon attempted a run for it, but its muscles stiffened up before it could get away.

“Now, Jolteon, use a Bite!”

Jolteon nodded and sank his small but sharp fangs into the Leta’s tail. It cried out in pain and managed with difficulty to raise its paw and attempt to scratch Jolteon, but just hurt itself on the spikes. Mark felt a bit sorry for it, but he shook it off; he was going to catch it.

Slowly, he reached for an empty Pokéball.

“LEEE!” screamed the Leta. Mark understood it as some kind of a call for help.

“Leeee,” came a chorus of deeper but similar cries from deep inside the forest. The parents were answering. And the relatives. And the friends.

Mark stopped dead, but then threw the Pokéball quickly, his heart beating hard. The immobile Pokémon was sucked into it, it wobbled once, twice, thrice…

Really, Mark? Any thought at all for how maybe if she screams for help when she sees a Pokéball, it might mean she doesn't want to be caught?

As the ball stilled with a small ping, a deafening roar sounded. Mark quickly recalled the unnerved Jolteon and picked up the Pokéball containing Leta. Meanwhile, a whole herd of large, shining beasts emerged from behind the trees and surrounded him.

They were large, resembling horses in size, but had paws with very large, intimidating black claws. Like Leta, they had fine, white fur, but their backs and tails were covered in shiny, metallic armor. In comparison to the rather long neck, the rounded head seemed small; in each head, two red eyes like Leta’s glinted. But the most noticeable feature of these Pokémon was definitely the metal mask that covered the face. It consisted of three two-foot-long blades: one started between the eyes and continued upwards past the forehead, bending slightly backwards; the other two covered the cheeks, grew below the eyes and then continued on backwards, bending inwards. A kind of spike grew upwards out of each of those two blades slightly behind the eyes, its length varying between the individuals; on some of them it stood pretty straight up, but on others it started off growing backwards but then started bending forward. The three blades met in the muzzle, which was like a rounded chunk of metal.

The Pokémon stood perfectly still while Mark stared terrified at them. Some scratched the soil impatiently while shooting glances at each other. Mark just stood there, the Pokéball still clutched in his hand, staring at the monsters.

A way too detailed description where I try to get across what my fakemon looks like, excused by saying they really were standing still while Mark stared at them this whole time. Why would they just stand there, you ask? Why, to let Mark finish mentally describing them, of course.

“What is this?” asked one of the Pokémon’s voices from the back; it was noticeably one of the deeper ones. A few of the Pokémon stepped aside to make room for the asker.

Mark gasped at the sight of the Pokémon that stepped forward. It was a bit different from the rest – its armor was black like the claws and its fur had a bluish tint, appearing to sparkle slightly. It was a Shiny, and also appeared to be the leader.

“This human caught Hope,” said a voice that sounded female. “We must do something.”

The Shiny stared at Mark and the Pokéball in his hand for a while.

“Leave it,” he finally said, turning around. “She’s old enough to be caught, and if she was not strong enough to prevent this, she belongs to him now.”

“Vigor, she is your daughter!” the female protested.

The leader turned his head slowly. “She doesn’t have the Shine.”

“But she’s your daughter! She’s my daughter!” screamed the female as Vigor turned and started walking sadly away. He ignored her, and hesitating, the herd followed him. The mother turned desperately to glance at the Pokéball in Mark’s hand, but then followed the herd.

Mark, who had been frozen with fear since the Pokémon came, quickly whipped out his Pokédex.

“Letaligon, metallic Pokémon. They are an unusual species in that Shinies are unusually common. They live in groups of around thirty, each with one shiny leader. The armor on their bodies is very strong, but light as well.”

So, when I wrote this I genuinely thought Vigor just rejected her for being that rare non-shiny born to a shiny Letaligon.

Years later, I reread it, or possibly was just thinking about this scene, and realized that wait a minute, no, that's not it at all. A shiny Letaligon's children are supposed to be shiny - so he thinks she's literally not his daughter. Really, that's the obvious conclusion here - and heck, what if he's right? And really, it makes so much sense on a reread. This whole interaction reads like he's questioning her paternity - her mom even ends up giving up trying to convince him on the basis she's his daughter and just pleading that at the very least she's hers. But I had absolutely no idea at the time what I was implying.

He closed the device. He realized that the right thing to do would probably be to release the Leta and let her go back to her mother, but even though he didn’t want to admit it, the greedy part of him just wanted a new Pokémon. He made up some quick excuse about her father being mean, and decided to keep her.

Wow Mark, way to destroy all the goodwill you built up last chapter. Being a flawed character is one thing, but using her abusive father as an excuse to abduct this child who screamed for help because you want a Pokémon is in a league of its own.

“Leta, go.”

The Pokémon came out of the ball, looking around.

“Are they gone?” she asked. Mark nodded.

“Can I come back here when you’ve made me strong?” She was staring in the direction that the herd had gone off to, clearly upset about her father and determined to prove herself to him.

Very subtle of you, fifteen-year-old me. (Of course, it turns out later it's not so much that she wants to prove herself to him as that she wants to be strong enough to kill him, so we can perhaps chalk this up to Mark's interpretation.)

Mark nodded again. “Yes, you can.” He paused, but then added: “Can you do me a favor? Do you know a lake or something here?”

Leta smiled and disappeared behind some trees to the left. Mark followed, laughing.

I'm really annoyed with myself for making Mark an awful person for this. It would've been so easy to make this actually sensible and sympathetic: Leta is genuinely curious and not panicking at the sight of a Pokéball, he captures her, the Letaligon arrive having heard the scuffle incidentally, and after they leave Mark sends Leta out, asking if she wants to go home to her mom, and she just asks if she can come back when he's made her strong. Then Mark can figure she wants to come, and her dad seems like a douche, and although her mom's worried, maybe it's ultimately better for her if he takes her, plus a small part of him just wants a new Pokémon and biases him towards it's probably fine even as the mother's haunting cries echo in his ears. Please pretend that's what happened there.

That weirdness aside, this is a much stronger Pokémon capture scene than any of the ones I've done so far. Leta gets a family, a motivation, a story. She's an actual character right off the bat. No wonder she ends up as definitely one of the most interesting Pokémon characters.

I'm not quite sure, but I think I was planning from the start that by the time Leta returned Vigor would already be dead. If not from the start, it was at least the plan quite early - way earlier than the point where I figured out he wasn't actually her father.

-------

“Your mother called you Hope…” Mark said curiously to Leta as she bent down to drink. She had taken him to a clearing in which there was a largish pond; he had sent out his other Pokémon too and they were now drinking or just relaxing and stretching. “Is that your name?”

“Pokémon names don’t work like human names,” Scyther commented before Leta had the chance to answer. “In our language, any sound you make is strictly connected to a meaning, which isn’t the most comfortable way to have one special name that everybody is supposed to know you as. We introduce ourselves as members of our species, and then we give each other nicknames as we see fit.”

“Oh.” Mark paused as Scyther lapped up some more water. “It doesn’t really make any sense, but it still does. I mean, I’ve always known that you use the word Trainer as a name when referring to your own trainers, so I kinda should’ve figured that if you used names for each other you’d probably also use names for humans… but somehow I’ve never thought of it that way.”

Ah, yes, finally a belated explanation of QftL-verse Pokémon names. Between chapters 21 and 22, Sandslash answered a Q&A question on Serebii about whether it was weird to be suddenly referred to by a different name after evolution, and then I wrote this into the chapter, making it sound like this was one of those things made up on the spot for the Q&A - but actually, I'd established how Pokémon nicknames work in chapter 35 of the UMR, after the Stormblade and Shadowdart chapter, so this definitely wasn't that. I guess I'd planned to explain this in the same spot in the ILCOE, but after getting the question I figured I might as well go for establishing it here, especially with Leta getting called Hope by her mom.

Scyther chuckled. “We don’t mind just being referred to by the name of our species. Especially if we’re used to that. You can just keep up what you’re doing now; you’re not offending us.”

Mark smiled. “Well, that’s good.”

Seriously, I'm making this sound so pulled out hastily to handwave why the status quo is fine, when actually I absolutely knew how this worked by the time I even started this version. Why would I do this.

To boot, Mark's supposed to be good at Pokémon speech and have had animated discussions with a Vulpix in school; the idea he had no idea about this pretty fundamental aspect of Pokémon language and culture is a little ridiculous. I could easily have had Mark explain this in the narration as something he already knows, but as we've seen, I was allergic to having Mark already know anything.

“I wouldn’t want you to call me that anyway,” Leta said quietly. Mark nodded.

“Er, well, guys, anyway, what I originally came here with you for was training for the Attack Approval that’s going to be…” he looked at his watch, “in approximately forty-five minutes. Basically, we’re supposed to battle some judges and show off our creative skills. Gyarados, you were what I really had in mind…”

That really is an extremely belated time to be explaining this to them for the first time.

Gyarados just nodded.

“Does your special attack have a name?”

“I call it Dragon Beam,” the sea monster replied.

“How did you learn it?” Mark asked curiously.

“I don’t know,” Gyarados answered dully. “I just could do it after I evolved.”

Mark was still puzzled about it, but he was at least positive that Gyarados weren’t supposed to be able to use anything that resembled a red laser beam that could chase the target, freeze, burn, paralyze and defeat a Legendary in one hit.

“Oh – why do you stay gray when you’ve used it often?” Mark asked, remembering what he had been intending to ask.

“Don’t know that either,” Gyarados just said. “But my strength always comes back, even if it takes a while. I experimented a lot with it in the Lake of Purity.”

In this version, obviously, Gyarados has been using Dragon Beam this whole time, but in the previous versions, he used it for the first time as they were training for the Attack Approval here - though the scene strongly implied he'd known this move the whole time and just not used it with Mark. More on that in a bit. (I actually initially wrote earlier in the commentary that Dragon Beam was new in this version, but that was a silly mistake on my part - as I really should have remembered, it just didn't appear until this chapter. By this point in the original I may have begun to think up the whole Chosen thing, but I'm not quite sure - the original version of this chapter vaguely hints Gyarados may be unusual for being able to do something like Dragon Beam, but it's not obvious whether I meant for there to actually be something special about him or if he was just meant to be clever for figuring out how to do something like this.)

“Well, at least, then I’ll tell you to use Dragon Beam when I want you to use it,” Mark concluded. “Guys, any of you got anything special to show off?”

The Pokémon looked at each other and shook their heads.

“Well,” Mark said, shrugging, “if you think of something, you’ll use it. All right?”

His Pokémon nodded in agreement; Mark seemed to notice Dragonair giving him a look.

“Great.” Mark looked at his watch. “We’d better get going, I guess.”

-------

“Hi, Mark!”

Mark turned around. It was Alan, who was standing just outside his house.

“Oh, hi.”

“You going to the Attack Approval?” Alan questioned. “It’s not starting yet. Dad overslept, and he’s one of the judges, so he’s getting ready now.”

Ash still having a tendency to oversleep is cute.

“Oh.” Mark paused. “Er… are you leaving soon? You came out of the house…”

“Well…” Alan muttered. “I like to be a bit ahead of him. Entering with him is kinda embarrassing.”

Mark nodded. “Well, then we can go now.”

Alan shrugged and they started walking towards the Stadium.

“How does the Attack Approval function, anyway, if you get your technique-creating license?” Mark asked.

“Well, the judges add a thingy to your Trainer card…”

“Trainer card?” Mark stopped abruptly. “It’s added on your trainer card?”

Alan looked puzzled at him. “Yes, of course. What else?”

“But what if…” Mark twiddled his thumbs nervously. “What if you didn’t have one?”

Alan responded with a rush of laughter. “Wait, you’re serious?” he then added worriedly.

“Erm…” Mark replied, blushing. “Kind of.”

“But you have Pokémon!” Alan said in disbelief.

“Yeah… I found Charmander outside, bought a Pokédex and set off… didn’t remember I had to get a license…” Mark felt horribly awkward, but he couldn’t train illegally forever.

Still so, so silly.

Alan stopped to think for a moment. Then he said: “Come. Let’s speak to Dad.”

Mark followed him doubtfully back into the house, only to meet the famous Ash Ketchum in the doorway.

Mark was stunned for a second. He stared at the dark-haired man who looked like an adult version of Alan. What he found funny was that every time he had seen Ash on TV, he had looked very tidy and formal. Right now he was just wearing rather normal, boring clothes, looking tired and clearly having had absolutely no time to comb his hair, which all stood on end. The yellow mouse Pokémon stood just inside, seemingly saying goodbye.

In what universe would Pikachu not come with Ash what are you talking about fifteen-year-old me

Mark grabbed the man’s hand and shook it nervously. “Mr.… Mr. Ketchum… delighted to meet you… err… um… eh…”

“Nice to meet you. Are you a friend of Alan’s?” Ash asked, smiling slightly.

“Not a friend exactly… we met the other day…”

“Well,” Alan interrupted, “basically, he’s an illegal trainer and needs a license.”

Mark looked nervously at him, worried that this had been way too bluntly put, but Ash just peered thoughtfully at Mark.

“Send out your Pokémon, please.”

Mark doubtfully reached for his Pokéballs, sending out his non-aquatic Pokémon. Charmeleon glared at Scyther, but he ignored it. “I have a Gyarados too,” Mark said.

“My name is Ash Ketchum,” Ash addressed the Pokémon. “You might have heard of me.”

Mark’s Pokémon nodded in agreement; Charmeleon, however, looked him in the eyes.

“Heard of you?” he said with a small smile.

“Oh!” Ash’s expression brightened. “Nice to see you all evolved and grown-up! I gave you to Rick’s brother, though, didn’t I? Did he trade you?”

Charmeleon shrugged. “Long story.”

“Alan,” Ash turned to his son, “that’s Charlie’s younger brother! Did you know that?”

“No,” Alan replied, looking at Mark. “It’s a small world, eh?”

By which he means he's the son of Ash's Charizard. There was no particular reason for this. Originally, in chapter 30 (equivalent to chapter 27 in this version), all the Pokémon explained their backstories, so they all got backstories of some kind, and the bit of backstory I gave to Charizard was that he'd been raised from an egg as a starter Pokémon, but he'd heard Ash's Charizard was his father, which made him Charlie's little brother. This never had any relevance. It's cute that Ash'd remember all the Pokémon he's given out as starters, though.

“Well, anyway,” Ash continued before Mark had the chance to answer, directing his next question at Mark’s Pokémon, “what do you honestly think of your trainer?”

“He’s nice,” Charmeleon answered. “A little foolish, though…” He shot a glance at Scyther and then at Mark, who just blushed.

“He is very kind and cares about us,” said Sandslash. “Not the best battler, but a good person.”

“He saved my life,” said Jolteon quietly.

“Mine too,” Charmeleon added.

“He’s not bad,” Dragonair just said.

“I don’t know what he’s like, he just caught me earlier,” said Leta.

“And you?” Ash inquired, turning to Scyther.

The mantis took his time to answer. He looked into Ash’s eyes for a long while, and then at Mark.

“I came with him,” he then began slowly. “I needed him… something to give me a purpose after leaving behind all that I ever loved… something to make life worth living so I wouldn’t lose all sanity I had left and slit my own throat…”

He raised his scythe in front of his face, staring at his own reflection in the shiny surface.

“I guess,” he finished softly, “that he saved my life too.”

Ash looked at Mark in silence for a few seconds, but then said: “Your Pokémon have judged. You deserve to be a Pokémon trainer. May I have your Pokédex, please?”

I love that everyone's just like "Yeah, sure, he's cool" and meanwhile Scyther is dramatically examining his reflection and talking about slitting his throat and leaving behind everything he ever loved. So extra.

Even more hilarious, everyone just... ignores it. Ash is just like "...okay, well, whatever that was, I guess you do deserve to be a trainer!" Amazing.

Mark handed it to Ash, and he gestured to Pikachu, who darted into the house before returning, holding some kind of a small, box-like device that was around two thirds of his own size. He gave it to Ash, who scratched Pikachu in return before somehow attaching Mark’s Pokédex to the device and pressing a few buttons on both. A small card, not unlike a credit card, popped out from a slot on the box’s side.

“Done,” said Ash, handing the card to Mark. He looked at it; it had his name, that horrible photo, little icons of his badges, and a bit of other information. On the back were empty spaces for showing his placements in various competitions – such as the Attack Approval.

“Thank you,” Mark said gratefully.

“Thank your Pokémon,” said Ash and smiled.

“Um, Dad? Shouldn’t we get going?” Alan inserted. Ash quickly looked at his watch.

“Yes, we should,” he replied, immediately starting to walk quickly down the street. Mark and Alan ran after him.

So that's it, the end of the illegal training subplot. After all that preceding unnecessary ridiculousness, the whole thing is resolved by... Alan just getting his dad to give him a license, problem solved. Meanwhile, Mark's Pokémon sing his praises, because you must know how great he is and how awesomely he treats his Pokémon, despite all evidence to the contrary.

In the previous versions, Ash didn't have him send out his Pokémon to ask them if Mark was a good trainer; he just gave Mark the license because Alan asked. In principle I do think it's a nice idea for the sort of reasonable authority figure Ash is here to be willing to give an illegal trainer a license if their Pokémon vouch for them, and it does feel somewhat less cheap, so in itself that's a nice change, but the actual scene here is just so shallow - the Pokémon barely say a sentence each, Mark's barely interacted with half of them, and none of them have anything actually meaningful to say about his character, because Mark really hasn't done much of anything to deserve it. The end result is pretty cringeworthy and probably somewhere on my personal top ten most embarrassing scenes in this story list. I know some readers especially liked it, and I'm not judging if you did, but I'm not proud of it.

-------

Mark waited in a line. He had been very late, of course; therefore he got the honours of being at the very end of the line. There were three matches going on at a time, thankfully, so it wouldn’t be too long to wait.

May had, of course, arrived before him, and was currently battling fiercely with her female Lapras against a small, green fairy with two roses, one blue and one reddish pink, on what could be called its hands. The judge, who was a blond-haired woman, commanded her Pokémon to use a Leech Seed.

“Rooseeeelia,” the fairy chanted, swaying slightly to the sides before pointing its roses straight forward and firing two dark green, sharp seeds out of their middles. The seeds embedded themselves into Lapras’s skin; she let out a whimper as they sprouted roots which dug into her hide and started absorbing her energy. Two vines extended out of the seeds and crawled along the ground to the Roselia; it lowered its arms down and allowed the vines to twist and curl around them.

“Lapras, use an Ice Beam to get rid of it,” May commanded. The sea turtle swung her head back, forming an icy blue orb in her mouth before firing a blast of ice crystals at the long vines that now connected the two battlers.

“Roselia, Sunny Day!” said the judge quickly, and Roselia raised its roses into the air, looking at the sky while emitting a sweet note. Incredibly, the blanket of clouds high above ripped apart to reveal a gap through which intense sunlight shone, casting a golden aura on the battle between the turtle and the fairy.

“And now, Solarbeam!” the judge ordered, her Roselia raising both of its roses into the air again. Two golden orbs of light grew in the middle of each rose in a matter of seconds; then the fairy, with a shrill cry, pointed them down at the frost-covered vines from the Leech Seed. Burning hot sunlight blasted at the ice in a bright beam, melting it instantly but leaving the vines mostly unharmed. Lapras seemed to be getting weaker by now, while Roselia was still brimming with energy.

“Lapras, use Surf, and be ready.” May said these words with uttermost determination, staring at the cute, feminine fairy with disdain. Her Lapras obeyed the command, spewing out a rather weakish-looking wave of water which rushed at Roselia.

“Ice Beam!” May shouted as soon as the water reached the fairy, who didn’t appear to be very hurt by it. Lapras fired another beam of ice towards the Roselia; it braced itself, but its weak, plant-like structure wouldn’t last long against an Ice Pokémon. The Ice Beam, however, had another effect, which might have been what May had been aiming for: it froze the water flowing past the Roselia, resulting in her getting completely stuck in a sheet of ice. The fairy moaned; its trainer nodded, looking at May, before removing a Pokéball from her waist.

“Roselia, return,” she announced, recalling the fairy. “Go, Arcanine!”

She threw forth a new ball; out of it came a huge, orange, striped dog with a thick creamy mane and tail. Mark remembered it as one of the Pokémon the first junior trainer in Rick’s Gym had owned; this one, however, seemed nowhere near as aggressive and just stood gracefully still, looking its opponent in the eye, while the damaged vines of the Leech Seed found its feet and wrapped around them.

“Lapras, Surf!” May said quickly.

“Arcanine, Overheat,” the judge countered. May’s turtle was, unfortunately for her, not as fast as the great dog, and the Arcanine started glowing with a hellish red aura before opening its fanged mouth and releasing a big blast of flames. The fire was still intensified by the sun, which was still shining through the gap in the clouds that Roselia had created earlier, and Lapras screeched in a high-pitched voice before dropping weakly down.

“Come on!” May hissed. Her Pokémon rose with difficulty, spurting out a wave of water; the stream hissed as it came into contact with Arcanine’s blazing fur. The dog was panting; the attack it had used earlier had clearly used a lot of energy. Once the water attack dissolved, the dog shook itself violently with a small bark.

“Surf again!” May ordered, but as Lapras prepared to send another wave of water crashing at Arcanine, the judge issued another command:

“Extremespeed!”

Her Arcanine leant backwards with a growl, and then leapt at Lapras, turning into a blur of cream, black and orange in the air for a split second due to its lightning speed, but then ramming powerfully into Lapras and knocking her unconscious.

“Lapras! Lapras!” May gritted her teeth as she prodded her Pokémon’s body with her foot. The turtle was still limp, and May swore loudly before recalling her Pokémon.

Some May working Lapras to the bone and still not being satisfied here. I think this does a decent job of showing it. I even managed to not have Mark immediately spell out for us that May's not treating Lapras very well.

I never got as far as Lapras wanting to be released in the previous versions, or anything building up to or suggesting that directly - but Lapras was dissatisfied: in chapter 30, she described the circumstances of her capture:

“I lived in the Lake of Purity with the other Laprases there,” said Lapras. “But they mocked me all the time because I was weaker than the average Lapras... I was actually crying when she found me and caught me... I still remember how much that Thundershock hurt on top of all my woes...”

Lapras looked accusingly at May. She didn’t say anything; she was messing with her fingernails yet again.

I'm pretty sure I made that up on the spot there, but it's definitely what established Lapras not being happy with May, and that sparked the Lapras subplot in this version. I'm not quite sure how far ahead I was planning here, but I'm inclined to say the Lapras subplot was mostly pretty spontaneous, so I suspect here I was mainly going for showing May treating her Pokémon less than awesomely and used Lapras to do it because that established dissatisfaction made her the best Pokémon to do something with in that regard.

“You have passed,” said the judge shortly. “Give your Trainer Card to the guys over there.” She pointed at a desk near the entrance. “Next!”

May walked past Mark on the way out, still fussing.

“You weren’t supposed to win, you know,” Mark reminded her. “I mean, they’re professionals. I doubt they’re going to lose a single battle today.”

“Oh, shut up, Mark,” she snapped rudely. He shrugged and turned his attention back to the battles, discovering that there was only one boy before him in line. The judge on the right, an elderly man, was just finishing his battle with a girl, and the boy went to him. Mark felt odd being the next person to go; his stomach fluttered uncomfortably. Just a few meters away from him stood Ash’s opponent, a very nervous, small boy; the two of them appeared to be finishing their battle, and indeed, soon enough the boy recalled his Pokémon and walked, beaming, towards the desk. Mark took a deep breath and stepped forward.

May's such a sore loser and I love it. She knows she's not supposed to win, but she automatically sets herself impossible standards and then she hates herself for not meeting them (and takes it out on others), and any attempt to reassure her only serves to rub salt in the wounds. She really is trapped in a cage of her own making. Probably one of the most important aspects of her character development is just the fact that she eventually grows to trust Mark enough to let him help her, in some small ways.

“Hi, Mark,” said Ash brightly. “Have you decided which Pokémon you want to use?”

Mark hadn’t, but he still nodded, making a quick decision to leave Jolteon out. He took out his Pokédex and made the change.

“You said you had a Gyarados, didn’t you?” Ash questioned. “Are you going to use it?”

Mark nodded; Ash took a little remote out of his pocket and pressed a button. The floor on the right side between them started sinking down and then moved to the side under the rest of the floor, revealing a pool of water.

“Oh, yeah… I should most likely make it clear that your objective is not to win the battle,” Ash added. “Just battle with as much style and creative use of your Pokémon’s abilities as you can.”

“You won’t be using your strongest Pokémon, will you?” asked Mark nervously. Ash chuckled.

“Of course not. We don’t want your Pokémon to go down before you can display anything worth seeing. We’re using Pokémon around level 50 – it tests you better to have you battle against something stronger.”

“Oh… I see,” Mark just said.

“All right…” Ash began. “Six on six, recalled Pokémon is a defeated Pokémon.”

He smiled slightly and took out a Pokéball.

“Go, Breloom!”

The ball opened, releasing a sphere of red energy that formed into a very weird Pokémon resembling a kangaroo in shape. Its lower body was green, but the long tail, the neck, the petal-like collar and the rounded head were beige in color. On the top of its head was a growth, resembling a mushroom, and finally it had blood red claws on its oddly tucked-in arms and the more powerful, bouncy feet.

Here we go with the Pokémon descriptions.

Mark figured that this Pokémon had to be a Grass type, and reached for Charmeleon’s Pokéball.

“Go! Flamethrower!”

“Breloom, dodge it and then put it to sleep with a Spore attack!”

Charmeleon, as soon as he materialized from the ball, took a deep breath and blew out a blast of fire. Breloom, crying out in a high-pitched voice, jumped skillfully out of the way and one of the four round seeds at the end of its tail started glowing with a bright green aura. Swinging its tail powerfully forward, the kangaroo sent a cloud of sparkly green powder at Charmeleon.

“Don’t inhale it!” Mark shouted stupidly, but the lizard’s eyelids started to drop and he collapsed within five seconds.

“Great job, Breloom,” Ash cheered. “Use a Leech Seed while it can’t dodge, and then wait for it to wake up.”

“Charmeleon!” Mark screamed, but he couldn’t hear anything through the unnatural sleep. Meanwhile, the kangaroo fired two parasitic seeds like the ones Roselia had used against May’s Lapras, and they sprouted roots that in no time embedded themselves into Charmeleon’s skin. Two vines grew from the seeds and wrapped around Breloom’s legs. Mark knew that the seeds were sucking energy from Charmeleon to Breloom, but he couldn’t do anything about it…

The lizard stirred and heavily opened an eye. Ash immediately gave the next order:

“Mind Reader, now!”

The kangaroo’s eyes glowed red as it fixed its glare on Charmeleon while he rose up; it didn’t appear to do anything. He fired silky flames towards Breloom, but it again jumped out of the way.

“Use a Dynamicpunch!” Ash cried out.

“Dodge it!” Mark countered. Charmeleon growled as he jumped up, but the kangaroo, its eyes still glowing, jumped up too. In mid-air, its arm sprang out and struck Charmeleon in the face. He was thrown backwards and crashed dizzily into the ground; Breloom landed on its feet.

“Charmeleon, Flamethrower!” Mark commanded desperately. Charmeleon rose slowly up, but his gaze was unfocused and he dropped down again.

Mark bit his lip, but then remembered that he was supposed to be thinking up new techniques. He wondered for a second; then the part of him that paid attention in Battle Strategies took control of his mouth.

“Rage!”

That's not exactly a new technique, Mark.

Charmeleon stood up again and rushed towards Breloom. The Rage attack would turn pain into power, and was just about Charmeleon’s only chance. What was more was that this would give Mark time to think over his situation.

While Charmeleon madly slashed and bit the kangaroo while steadily having his energy drained by the parasitic seeds, Mark thought as quickly as he could. May had also gotten Leech Seed used against her; she had gotten rid of it with…

“Charmeleon,” Mark shouted, “attack the Leech Seed’s vines!”

Mark knew that once Rage was used, its power would be lost if another attack was ordered; therefore he didn’t want to tell him to use Flamethrower. The Rage attack had to be getting very powerful now, anyway.

Charmeleon started scratching and biting the vines that linked him to his opponent. Ash told Breloom to use a Stun Spore, realizing that it would not help to attack Charmeleon while any pain would just power up his attacks, but Charmeleon wasn’t affected a lot by the paralysis; the sheer power he had gained through the Rage attack was enough to move his limbs despite the stiffening powder that he had breathed in. Finally, he managed to hack through one of the vines, but having focused his attention on the Leech Seed for too long, Charmeleon wasn’t aware that Breloom was at full health by now and one more order from Ash, this time a Mach Punch, brought him down.

“Return,” Mark muttered. He thought for a bit; the Breloom seemed like a part-Fighting type since it could use all those punches. He vaguely remembered that kicks and punches did not harm Bug Pokémon a lot… or ones that could fly. Nor did Grass attacks.

He smiled. “Scyther, do it!”

“Breloom, Leech Seed!” Ash ordered.

Just as Breloom fired two more seeds, Scyther zoomed out of the way. Before Breloom was able to attack, the mantis’s scythes started glowing faintly green, and he dashed at the kangaroo to slash it across the chest. It cried out, blood leaking from the gash.

“Breloom, are you all right?” Ash asked concernedly. The Pokémon nodded determinedly.

AWKWARD ADVERBS, GO

“Great. Mind Reader!” he roared, his Pokémon’s eyes turning bright red as Scyther returned to slash it again. This time he cut a gash on its shoulder; the kangaroo winced slightly, but nothing more.

“Leech Seed!” Ash then shouted, and Breloom fired two seeds. They hit dead-on this time, despite that Scyther was still moving. Mark suddenly remembered that Mind Reader caused the next attack to hit no matter what.

The two seeds sprouted roots and grew into Scyther’s armor, but as the vines started growing out of them to connect with Breloom, Scyther simply cut them in two with a swipe of his scythe. He prepared to attack Breloom again; Ash meanwhile gave another command:

“Strength!”

Mark suddenly got an idea, and blurted out: “Scyther, wait! Stay there and defend yourself!”

The mantis looked at him, seeming somewhat puzzled, but still did has Mark said, leant backwards and held his scythes out in front of him as the kangaroo came rushing towards him. Just as Breloom was almost within Scyther’s reach, Mark made the next order.

“Fury Cutter! Slash, slash, slash! Quick!”

Scyther’s super-fast reflexes enabled him to attack immediately. His scythes glowed green again and he slashed Breloom three times: once with the left scythe, once with the right one and once with both. The kangaroo was thrown backwards, bleeding in a few places. Ash hurriedly recalled it and took out another ball as Mark smiled to Scyther.

This is directly based on "Triple Slash", the special move that Mark made up with Scyther in the old versions (more on that in a bit).

“Go, Graveler!”

Ash sent out a big, rugged rock-like Pokémon. Its hide was a dark brownish gray; the body was round with four small, bulgy hands and two stubby feet.

“Okay, Scyther…” Mark inhaled deeply. “Try a Fury Cutter.”

The mantis dashed immediately towards the rock Pokémon, his scythes glowing. Ash didn’t attempt to order his Pokémon to dodge it; it probably wasn’t made for trying. Scyther struck the Graveler with his scythe, barely scratching the rock-like hide at all.

“Rock Tomb!” Ash ordered, and his Pokémon slowly raised its arms. At the same time, the ground in a circle around Scyther seemed to explode upwards and the mantis was buried under rocks, ranging from large chunks to fine dust. He broke out of it in a few seconds despite being severely bruised; unfortunately he had lost his concentration and the glow on his scythes had faded away. Mark took out his Pokéball and recalled his Pokémon; Scyther didn’t stand a chance.

“That was the right thing to do,” Ash commented. “You know when your Pokémon would only get unnecessarily hurt.”

Mark just smiled slightly and blushed. After a short pause, he took out Gyarados’s Pokéball.

“Go!”

The sea monster emerged in the pool and apparently did not decide to roar as he usually did when entering battle. His little red eyes just fixed on Graveler and watched.

“Defense Curl,” Ash told his Graveler. The rock curled up into a tight ball, tucking its arms and legs into its body. Mark hesitated, wondering if Ash was about to try to surprise him.

“Graveler, Rollout!” Ash commanded, and his Pokémon started rolling slowly towards the pool, picking up speed as it went. When it came to the bank, it suddenly bounced upwards and rammed into Gyarados’s head before landing on the other side and rolling a bit on.

“Gyarados, Dive!” Mark shouted, thinking as quickly as he could. Rollout got more powerful each time it was used, he seemed to recall, so it would be best to try and dodge the attack. The sea monster dove into the pool, avoiding the rock Pokémon as it rolled back with more force than before. After missing Gyarados, the Graveler started rolling back again, but as it was in the air flying over the pool, Gyarados’s shape rose from the surface. He seemed like a figure made of water as he hit right into the Graveler’s body and threw it aside; then the water illusion faded and his real colors were revealed again. Graveler, hit hard by the blow, rose slowly up, but Gyarados breathed out a blast of crimson flames on his own accord and Graveler cried out before falling unconscious when the dragon flames enveloped its body.

“Return, Graveler,” Ash said, holding forward the Pokéball to recall the rock Pokémon. “Manectric, do it.”

Ash sent out a dog-like Pokémon. It was blue and yellow with spiky fur and a very odd, pointed mane on its head. Everything about it looked like an Electric Pokémon, so Mark didn’t get his hopes up for Gyarados; however, nothing said he couldn’t go out with a bang.

“Gyarados,” Mark shouted, “Dragon Beam!”

Ash seemed to be about to command Manectric to attack, but paused after hearing the command, most likely wanting to see what Mark was about to pull out of his sleeve. Gyarados closed his eyes with a low growl, and his colors started fading away. Manectric watched alertly, seemingly ready to attempt to dodge. Then, when Gyarados’s body had turned completely grayscale, his eyes opened and fired a red beam.

Manectric attempted to leap out of the way, but the beam followed easily. Ash looked at it with clear astonishment. As the beam hit the dog, it was sent flying backwards, landing harshly by its trainer’s side.

“Do you want to be recalled?” Ash asked concernedly. The Pokémon shook its head and growled, standing up again.

“Thunderbolt, then.”

Manectric jerked its head upwards and howled as its fur started sparkling with electricity. Then it fired a bolt of lightning that struck Gyarados as he was still recharging his energy. With a terrible roar, the sea monster collapsed and didn’t get up again.

“Gyarados, return,” Mark said softly. “Go, Sandslash!”

The pangolin emerged from the Pokéball and observed his opponent.

“Sandslash, Earthquake!”

“Manectric, Crunch!”

Manectric was faster than Sandslash, jumped at him and bared its fangs. Sandslash defensively slashed the dog across the face, but Manectric aggressively locked its jaws around Sandslash’s front paw. Sandslash sank his other claws into Manectric’s hind leg and as the dog yelped in pain, it released him and staggered backwards. Sandslash grabbed the opportunity and slammed his weight into the ground, causing the eerie Earthquake ripple to reach Manectric and take the Electric Pokémon down. The dog howled in pain and then dropped weakly to the ground.

“Return, Manectric,” Ash said, recalling his Pokémon. “You did a good job.”

Ash stopped to think for a second, but then sent out his next Pokémon.

“Go, Hitmontop!”

Hitmontop was an odd creature – it balanced upside-down on its cone-shaped head, with its clawed legs and spiked tail sticking out into the air and its arms held in a boxing position. Its head also had funny hair-like flaps on either side of it. Despite not looking very muscular, Mark knew it was a Fighting Pokémon like its relatives Hitmonlee and Hitmonchan, and that family of Pokémon was famous for having quite a bit more muscular strength than could be seen on the outside.

Mark nervously looked at Sandslash, whose injured front paw was still bleeding. He wouldn’t exactly last very long, and he wasn’t very fast either. Mark wondered if he should switch. The Pokémon he had left were Dragonair and Leta. Leta was a Normal type so that was out of the question, but Dragonair wouldn’t do so bad…

“All right, Sandslash, return.”

Mark tried to recall his Pokémon, but Sandslash moved out of the beam’s way and smashed his paws into the ground again. A second Earthquake attack formed, shaking the Hitmontop badly as the waves hit it.

Yeah, I was about to be baffled Mark'd want to recall a Pokémon who's not at any kind of disadvantage and has only taken a couple of hits. At least it was apparently intentional!

“Hitmontop, Triple Kick!” Ash commanded quickly, his Pokémon instantly starting to spin around like a top. Still spinning, it rushed at Sandslash and delivered three blows to his head – one with each foot and one with the tail. The pangolin looked unconscious, but while Hitmontop was slowing down, Sandslash suddenly extended his claws and delivered a powerful slash. Hitmontop cried out in pain and somehow managed to leap backwards while still balancing on its head.

“All right, Sandslash… I guess you want to go on?”

Sandslash nodded determinedly.

“Hitmontop, Revenge attack!”

From Hitmontop’s scratches, red started spreading out and taking over the Pokémon’s body. Mark thought it was blood at first, but it was too bright red and was more like a glow than a liquid. Once it was completely red, it rushed into Sandslash again. The pangolin was thrown backwards by the force of the attack, but still stood up again. Mark was amazed; he had greatly underestimated Sandslash when he had intended to recall him earlier.

“Now, use a Quick Attack!” Ash ordered, and the Fighting Pokémon darted in a blur towards Sandslash again. The blow knocked the pangolin out before he could do anything to protect himself.

Well, that was a bit anticlimactic just after Sandslash insists he wants to keep going.

“Return, Sandslash,” Mark said softly. “You did a great job.”

Slowly, he picked Dragonair’s Pokéball and threw it into the arena. The blue snake-like dragon formed on the ground.

“Give me another good Triple Kick now,” Ash said.

“Dragonair, try to dodge!” Mark quickly yelled.

Hitmontop spun towards Dragonair and prepared to perform the attack it had used on Sandslash earlier; Dragonair twisted his body to avoid the two kicks from the legs, but the tail hit him and knocked him down. The dragon recovered quickly as Hitmontop got out of the way of a possible counterattack, but all of a sudden, startling both Mark and Ash, Dragonair’s body burst out in flames. Mark panicked for a second, but the fire died down quickly and Dragonair looked normal.

“Dragonair,” Mark started hesitatingly, “try a…”

The dragon interrupted by breathing a cloud of flames into the air. Mark looked at him, puzzled, having no idea what just happened. He quickly glanced at Ash; he was nodding absent-mindedly to himself while examining Dragonair.

“Hitmontop… try a Rolling Kick,” Ash then ordered thoughtfully. His Pokémon curled itself into a knot of sorts and rolled towards Dragonair at high speed. The dragon blasted out fire, hitting Hitmontop dead-on; the fighter screamed in pain, but nonetheless performed the attack, delivering a sharp kick to Dragonair’s snout before dropping down, exhausted. Ash quietly recalled it.

“Mightyena, do it!”

Out of his next Pokéball came a big, wolf-like Pokémon. Its body had gray, fine fur; however, its back was additionally coated with thicker, pitch-black hairs, along with some black markings on its face and its legs. The canine Pokémon growled quietly at Dragonair.

“Crunch!” Ash commanded, his Pokémon leaping towards the snake-like dragon and baring its fangs. Dragonair countered with another fire attack – Mark was still very confused as to how he could use them – and Mightyena, yelping in pain, stumbled backwards without actually coming into contact with Dragonair.

“Try a Shadow Ball,” Ash suggested, his Pokémon leaning slightly backwards. A jet-black orb of shadow started forming in front of Mightyena, rapidly growing in size. Then the Pokémon barked sharply and the orb shot towards Dragonair. He was hit by it and thrown backwards; the dragon appeared to be shivering as he rose up again with difficulty.

“Use a Howl,” Ash ordered, and Mightyena raised its head into the air before letting out a long, eerie howl. Mark really had no idea what was up with Dragonair suddenly using Fire attacks and was a bit too confused to be able to give proper instructions to his Pokémon; he just watched Dragonair breathe a long silky tongue of fire which the wolf avoided without much effort.

“Another Shadow Ball, now, and make it count!” Ash shouted to his Mightyena. It leant backwards again, but this time it was much faster charging up a much bigger orb. It was fired straight at the dragon and he was sent flying back towards Mark. He finally got up again after straining for a few seconds, and then…

It took me a moment to remember that Shadow Ball was still physical when this was written.

He flew.

Dragonair just got a strange expression and floated elegantly into the air, his sleek, snake-like body moving as if he were swimming. He seemed astonished at his own accomplishment for a second; then he appeared to snap out of a trance and focused on Mightyena again.

Dragonair never flew in the old versions, and the first time somebody commented on this version pointing out that Dragonair could fly in the anime, I went "what no". But I guess I eventually changed my mind and decided sure, okay, he can fly, it just took him a bit.

“Shadow Ball!” Ash shouted. Mightyena reared up, forming a big orb of shadow in a matter of seconds, and sending it at the dragon. Dragonair retaliated with another Fire attack, but the Shadow Ball took in the flames somehow and the fiery orb hit the dragon in the face. Dragonair dropped limply to the ground, defeated.

“Return,” Mark said as the Pokéball absorbed the blue dragon. He suddenly realized that he had only Leta left, and she was very low-leveled compared to the rest of his team. He bit his lip, but nonetheless grabbed the metallic sphere.

“Go, Leta!” he yelled, throwing the ball. It bounced off the ground and popped open; the plain-looking shape of the Pokémon he had caught earlier emerged from it and looked timidly at Mightyena.

Ash hesitated. “Mightyena, Take Down, but be careful.”

The wolf leapt towards the much smaller Leta, growling. It smashed powerfully into her body; she let out a high-pitched squeal, but stood up and stared at Mightyena, waving her tail rhythmically. The wolf was quickly hypnotized, and moments later its muscles relaxed, causing it to drowsily drop down as its eyes closed completely.

“Great job, Leta!” Mark cheered. “Now, um…” He had no idea what kind of attacks Leta might be able to use; finally, he just decided to make his best available guess:

“Tackle!”

Mark still hasn't properly learned to maybe check out what moves his Pokémon know before significant battles.

He was relieved to see that Leta recognized the attack and rammed her small body into Mightyena’s; he’d have hated to make a fool of himself in front of Ash Ketchum by showing that he didn’t even know his Pokémon’s attacks. The disappointing part was that the wolf was way too big to be even affected by such a tiny Pokémon’s Tackle at all. Leta did her best a few times, but Mightyena didn’t even move and Mark saw Ash smiling slightly at Leta’s unsuccessful efforts. The white Pokémon seemed to give up, walked a few steps backwards and crouched down. Then she charged towards Mightyena.

“Yeah, Headbutt!” Mark quickly said in some kind of a subconscious attempt to make it look like he knew what he was doing. Leta slammed her head into Mightyena’s body, but unfortunately this woke the wolf up. Mightyena growled and bared its fangs.

“Recall her, Mark,” Ash sighed. “She doesn’t stand a chance.”

Mark had to admit that he was right. He reluctantly took out Leta’s Pokéball and it absorbed her inside. He looked nervously at Ash.

“You passed,” he said, smiling. “Tell me, though… what was that thing your Gyarados did?”

“Er…” Mark thought a bit. “I don’t know, to be honest. He just can do that.”

Ash looked puzzled, but like he was realizing something nonetheless. “Ah well,” he finally said, “it probably all has some natural explanation.”

“Do you know what Dragonair did?” Mark asked.

“Dragonair? Oh, that was just some clever usage of the Dragon type’s association with fire. Your Gyarados, however… he did something that shouldn’t even be possible.” He furrowed his brow, seemingly thinking hard.

“Well, thanks,” said Mark doubtfully before walking off to the judges’ table.

That battle was okay, I think, apart from those endless Pokémon descriptions and epithets. I clearly put everything I had into it, and I like how I made a point of showing Ash being particularly mindful of the Pokémon's wellbeing throughout (although on the whole I don't think my adult Ash actually properly feels like Ash).

However, the Attack Approval turns out to be a completely irrelevant narrative detour: by the time the League actually happened, I was just no longer that interested in making up cool new moves only my characters could use, and rather than let Mark fight with his broken legendary-powered Gyarados and his broken übermove, I had the League disqualify Gyarados altogether for his abnormal power level. All in all, nobody uses made-up moves at the League, and from a brief skim, I think the Fire move that Dragonair comes up with here gets used exactly once in the rest of the fic - in the completely inconsequential filler battle in chapter 31. There's no point to any of this, any more than there was any point to the illegal training subplot. In the next revision, there won't be an Attack Approval - there's just nothing in the rest of the story calling for officially sanctioned non-canon moves. Ultimately, aside from Leta's capture, this was an unfortunate waste of a chapter.

In the prior revisions, this chapter was very different, because the Attack Approval itself was very different. Rather than involving a full-on battle where they're just supposed to try to come up with new techniques on the fly in order to get a general license to use unapproved moves at the League, they'd get a license for particular individual moves they'd developed and named beforehand. To prepare, participants were given special Clefable dolls that'd automatically record statistics about any moves used on them; at the actual event, they'd just give the doll to the judges and then demonstrate each attack, with no opponent. While I think the battle I did here was okay in itself, today I honestly think the old Attack Approval was way more fun and interesting, not least because it meant Mark trained with each of his Pokémon individually to invent a unique move for them. Just look at Dragonair's scene:

Dragonair had no ideas of anything to use in the attack approval.

“You can... you can...” Mark paused. He couldn’t think of anything either.

“Maybe you shouldn’t enter me in this,” said Dragonair. “I’m not sure if I can do anything special at all.”

“Just do something,” Mark said.

“I can’t do anything,” said Dragonair dully.

“Of course you can do something, just try... uh... haven’t you ever experimented with your attacks?”

“No,” Dragonair replied.

“OK... what do you want to do? Just anything...”

“Rule the universe,” Dragonair said with a weak smile. Then suddenly he started talking in another tone. “You know, I’ve always been frustrated that we can’t use something like Fire blast properly when we can use our Dragonbreaths anytime. I mean, even if dragon fire is weird and isn’t affected by water and whatever – why shouldn’t we be able to attack with normal fire as well? You’d think that’s easier, that someone who can use Dragon rage and Dragonbreath will use Fire blast properly, but...”

“There we have something!” Mark said happily. “Try to do something to power up your fire attacks!”

“But how?” Dragonair said hopelessly. “It’s not like I can just engulf myself in dragon flames, it could kill me...”

“Anything is possible. Just try thinking about how unfair it is that you can’t use a simple Fire blast better than a mere Charmander... how extremely angry you are...”

“I’m not,” said Dragonair.

“Imagine that you are. Imagine that you’re so angry you could go on fire...”

“This is stupid, Mark,” said Dragonair and sighed.

“Yeah, maybe, but who cares? There’s no one watching us!”

“Mark, look, I’m not taking part in this.” Dragonair went into his pokéball.

(And then, of course, Dragonair changed his mind and popped out of his ball on his own at the Attack Approval to demonstrate his new technique to let him use Fire moves with STAB, having been practicing it in his Pokéball all day.)

This one scene has way more character in it than all the screentime Dragonair's gotten in the ILCOE put together, and it's just so much more fun than this version. Imagine if I'd actually done these sorts of one-on-one interactions between Mark and all his Pokémon here! Instead, I went with a really brief scene where Mark asks if anyone has any ideas and they all just shake their heads except Dragonair vaguely looks at him, and then a battle where he suddenly uses a Fire move. What a crying shame. Granted, the previous versions' moves were mostly pretty uninspired, and the others' scenes didn't all have much to them - I'm not saying it was an amazing chapter in the UMR - but in general, I threw out the actually fun stuff about the Attack Approval that had real potential and replaced it with just a battle. It may not be so bad as a battle, but it's pretty sterile in comparison to the old chapter about Mark and each of his Pokémon trying to come up with moves and figure out exactly how best to use them on a high-tech Clefable doll.

I think the reason I made this change was that I didn't think the moves I'd created were interesting enough and had some vague lofty intentions of having Mark/May/their Pokémon just make up awesome moves on the spot in the League, which required an Attack Approval that didn't involve just approving particular individual moves. But as we know, that never happened. Instead, we ended up with this lengthy chapter about an elaborate approval process for something that then just gets quietly stuffed into a drawer and never mentioned again. It probably seems less bad reading it blind when it appears this is establishing something for later, but with hindsight, this is one of those things that are glaringly just dangling remnants of ultimately abandoned plans. The only part here that would make it to the next revision is Mark catching Leta (and May mistreating Lapras would happen somewhere, obviously).


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