The Quest for the Legends (ILCOE)

Chapter 7: Charmeleon’s Trainer

Mark was stunned by Charmander’s evolution itself, but no less the fact that even though they had decided to postpone the evolution to a better time, neither of them had been able to do anything to stop it. It also wouldn’t stop bothering him what Charmander was like just before the evolution; he had looked so sickly, sweating like that, and had a headache. And how he acted when he battled Raikou – it wasn’t normal. Not like him.

Nevertheless, as he reminded himself, he was still in a battle, and two out of the three Pokémon he could use for the battle had fainted, one of the possibilities left being really young, and the other one extremely vulnerable to the opponent’s attacks. He tried to think, but felt he was absolutely unable to concentrate while still worrying about whether Charmeleon was still the same person as before or not.

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, then opened them again.

“I forfeit.”

“What?” the junior trainer questioned, apparently finding this absolutely unheard of.

“I give up,” said Mark a bit louder. “I’m going to lose the battle anyway.”

“You’ll have to battle both of us again,” the junior trainer pointed out.

“Can I just have a quick one-on-one with the guy before you or something?” Mark called back. The junior trainer, not really disliking the idea, shrugged and picked up a car key thing like the other junior trainer had possessed, pointing it at the door Mark came through so that it opened.

“Thanks,” he said, before jerking around and running through the door.

The junior trainer in the first room noticed him and apparently had had cases of people rushing through his arena in the wrong direction before, because without words he picked up a key and opened the front door for Mark. He threw a yell of “thanks” over his shoulder before exiting. He was in such a hurry that he didn’t notice the girl he crashed into in the doorway.

Both of them fell over, landing harshly on the ground.

“Ow,” Mark groaned, standing heavily up. So did the girl. He was about to say sorry for running into her, but then recognized her as the blue-haired girl whose Skarmory had given Charmander a beating at the Lake of Purity.

She was still wearing the same clothes, but three other things were different about her. Firstly, her hair was done differently; now two locks fell down on either side of her face outside the ponytails, which also no longer stuck into the air like that, but rather just a little to the sides. Secondly, she had a necklace. Thirdly, her Pokéballs were missing.

Mark stared at her waist for a few seconds, seeing no trace of the battered Pokéball belt that used to be there. He saw her right eyebrow rise higher on her forehead, before she realized what he was staring at, or rather what he was not staring at. She gave a faint smile.

“My Pokéball belt was getting old, and in the mart this morning I saw these Pokéball necklaces and couldn’t resist buying one,” she explained, pointing at what Mark had taken for red orbs on the necklace when they were actually real, minimized Pokéballs. “It’s more convenient against thieves, anyway,” the girl added.

“New hairdo?” Mark asked. The girl blushed.

“Look, whatever first impression might be forming in your head, I swear, I don’t usually change random things in my appearance like that. Normally people have a hard time convincing me to change my clothes.” She sighed. “My name’s May, by the way. Yours?”

“Mark,” he said. Apologetically, he added: “Sorry for bumping into you like that.”

“Nah, it’s okay, I have plenty of time. How is your Charmander doing, anyway?”

“He… just evolved,” said Mark faintly.

“Oh. I see.” May looked at him for a second, then asked in a different tone: “How did you get him, anyway? You from Kanto?”

“No, Sailance,” Mark answered.

“Sailance? Sorry, I’m not into Ouen place names – I’m from Johto, you see. Originally came here to get myself a low-leveled Skarmory, my favorite Pokémon.”

Mark nodded; the next city to the south, Alumine, was famous for having the biggest Skarmory nesting ground in the world just outside it. Then his brain told him there was something wrong with this statement combined with what he already knew.

“Wait – did you get a Caterpie as your first Pokémon?”

May sighed deeply. “No,” she said. “Professor Elm gave me a Cyndaquil. I actually picked her just because she was female, and females are so valuable – I seriously have no idea what I was thinking, because I hate Cyndaquil. She didn’t exactly like me that much either. Then, while I was training just north of Cleanwater, I found this guy and battled him. He had a funny-looking Pikachu, and I used Cyndaquil against him. Basically, she was losing, but then suddenly she evolved in the middle of the battle and beat his weird Pikachu. Well, I like Quilava – don’t ask me why I like Quilava but hate Cyndaquil – but as a person, I don’t think she will ever like me. Then, completely unexpectedly, the boy wanted to trade his Charmander for my Quilava, said it was level 15. So I thought, yeah, why not? And I actually gave that stupid little git my Quilava,” she spat the words ‘stupid little git’ very pronouncedly, “for a Charmander I had never seen that then turned out to be level five. And I got so angry (and stupid, mind you) that I actually tossed Charmander’s ball away and went to try and find that boy, who had of course just gone away with my Quilava. That’s actually the reason why I’m still here in Ouen, I’m trying to find that guy and get my Quilava back but I think I’m taking part in the league too since I’m here anyway. But I’m a bit worried about the Charmander, because either he’s there somewhere in his Pokéball, or he got out of it and…” Her eyes darted around as if she was wondering how to word what she was going to say, but finally just finished it with three words: “Well, it rained.”

She suddenly looked at Mark. “What’s wrong? You’re so pale.”

“Wha… er, no, it’s nothing,” said Mark quickly. “Sorry.”

May’s right eyebrow ascended again, indicating that she didn’t really believe him, but she said nothing. There was an awkward silence

“Well, I sorta need to challenge Rick, so… see you around,” she finally said, turning back to the Gym. Mark’s eyes flicked to the Pokémon center further down the street, and he nodded. “Yeah, I have to go too.”

May shot a quick look at him. “Well, bye then, Mark.”

“Bye,” he replied. As May stepped into the gym, Mark broke into a run again, hurrying even more to the Pokémon Center.

Charmander belonged to May. There was no question about that; she had received him in a trade. But then again, she had thrown him away like a piece of garbage, just because he wasn’t high-leveled enough for her almightiness, and she had agreed to a trade which opposed the Agreement – trades were never supposed to happen without consulting the Pokémon first.

Although she did seem to regret having thrown Charmander away.

All the same, thought Mark, calming a bit down, I’m his trainer now. Now that part of the Agreement protects me, not her.

He slowed down as he reached the automatic door to the Pokémon Center. It opened, and he walked hastily inside.

“Nurse Joy…” he panted, ringing the bell and experiencing a déjà vu flashback from last night. A few seconds passed, Mark’s heart pounding against his chest; then the nurse came out of the back room.

“What can I do for you this time?” she asked warmly.

“It’s… it’s my Charmander… I mean Charmeleon…”

“What about him?” she questioned.

“He evolved, and he seems so different, he couldn’t stop it because he was so weak when it happened, I’m worried, oh please…” Mark took a deep breath while Nurse Joy’s face turned grave; he just handed her Charmeleon’s Pokéball.

“Come with me,” said Nurse Joy, taking the ball and gesturing for him to follow her into the blue back room.

“Before I start treating him, I’d like to talk to you,” said the nurse, looking deep into his eyes. “No matter how different he might seem after the evolution, he’s still the same Pokémon. Pokémon evolution is like growing up; when you’re a kid you have certain ideas about the world, but when you become a teenager they might change a bit – or a lot. For Pokémon who just evolved, it’s the exact same thing except that it happened all of a sudden rather than gradually as it would in a human’s case. If he had enough respect for you as a Charmander, he will still be ready to battle for you no matter what happens. He could be very different, or he could be pretty much the same – but there will definitely be a change. Your Pokémon is no longer a child, and you need to realize that. Treat him with care, and don’t give him a reason to dislike you. A reason for him to dislike you is not necessarily what would be a reason for you to dislike him; he’s basically a moody teenager whose limits should not be pushed. Do you understand?”

Mark felt sick, but nodded.

“Good. This might take some time, so please wait in the waiting room.”

Mark walked into the fluffy waiting room with a knot in his stomach. He wondered who had the stupid idea of making the waiting room pink and red; these colors were absolutely inappropriate and way too happy. The gloom of the back room would’ve been much better.

He was also not too fond of this Nurse Joy. Mark didn’t want a moody teenager whose limits should not be pushed; he wanted his friend back. The last thing he’d ever care about would be whether he would still obey.

He flung himself into one of the sofas and for half an hour or so, he sat there with a blank expression, staring at an ad for Kantonian Airways. A red-haired boy who seemed to fit very well with all the fluffy pinkness decided to try to be funny by waving his hand in front of Mark’s face. He hated himself for smiling at it; it wasn’t funny at all.

Finally, Nurse Joy came out of the back room, holding Charmeleon’s Pokéball. Mark immediately sprang up, running towards the desk.

“He seems fine physically,” said the red-headed nurse. “You judge the mental part.”

With a small bow, she handed Mark the Pokéball. He accepted it and walked out of the Pokémon Center.

He stopped beside the building, hesitated, but then dropped the Pokéball to the ground. Charmeleon materialized from red energy as Mark caught the ball again.

For a few seconds, they just looked into each other’s eyes. Mark had never noticed how awkwardly small Charmeleon had been as a Charmander; even now, evolved, he was smaller than an average Charmeleon.

“Hi,” said Charmeleon finally in a low voice. Mark suddenly felt a lot better.

“Hi.” Mark paused, leaning against the wall and staring into the air. “Sorry we didn’t get to postpone your evolution as we intended.”

“It’s okay,” said Charmeleon, leaning up to the wall too and likewise not looking at Mark. “It felt quite amazing, actually.”

“What was it like?” Mark asked, this being one of the things he had often wondered about although his voice wasn’t up to showing interest of any kind at the moment.

“Everything just disappeared in a bright white light, first I thought I was dying… then I felt the power that was always hidden somewhere in my body burst out, I felt like… like I was melting. I had a kind of a vision of a Charmeleon walking towards me, pulling me away and taking my place… a twinge of pain at this point for some reason, I think... but immediately afterwards, I felt so much wiser and older. Then the white light faded, I saw you, but I was very weak after the evolution and lost consciousness…”

He hesitated.

“You know, it’s weird – when I think back at my Charmanderhood, it feels so… childish.”

Suddenly he looked straight at Mark, meeting his eyes.

“It’s strange… why did I just want you to train me back there? Why wasn’t I suspicious of you for a single moment? Not that I am now,” he added quickly, “but… I mean, what if you had been a bad trainer and abused me or something? It was a stupid thing to do, just accepting you as my trainer immediately because you told me you saved my life. Don’t take me wrong, I mean… of course you are trustworthy, but what did I know then? You could’ve been somebody… bad.”

Mark had no answer to that. Charmeleon didn’t appear to be expecting one, either; it was more like he was thinking out loud.

“Well, I was lucky. Really lucky.” Charmeleon smiled faintly at Mark and then turned away again.

“Do you feel like doing some more junior trainer wiping?”

They grinned at each other; both knew the answer.

“Come on,” Mark said, holding Charmeleon’s Pokéball forward. The red beam shot out of it, dissolving the Pokémon.

Mark hesitated for a moment. He had been in a rather hopeless situation earlier, mainly because his Pokémon’s attacks were kind of weak compared to the ones the Legendaries knew. The only one with a halfway decent attack was Gyarados.

He remembered when he had seen the TMs and HMs at the Pokémart. He thought for a bit. Flamethrower was a TM. Earthquake was a TM. Return was a TM.

One good TM for each of his Pokémon except Gyarados would probably give him the edge.

Mark walked decisively towards the market. He went back to the shelf he remembered as containing the Technical and Hidden Machines. Ten years ago, Hidden Machines were really rare items. Now, you could buy them at Pokémon markets for around the same price as a TM – admittedly one-use only versions.

He browsed through the selection of CD covers. Each of them had a photo of a Pokémon performing the attack it contained, the TM or HM number, and the attack’s name. He found TM35 for Flamethrower, TM26 for Earthquake and TM27 for Return; they were more expensive than the Potions and Pokéballs, but still relatively cheap. He made carefully sure to himself that these attacks would definitely work well; then he went to the counter to pay the punk dude.

After he got outside again, he let Charmeleon out.

“Charmeleon,” he said in a formal tone, “are you willing to accept this Flamethrower as your first Technical Machine move?”

The Pokémon grinned. “I do,” he then said seriously.

“Good,” said Mark. He opened the CD cover carefully; even though he thought he knew how to use a TM, he checked the instructions with the disc carefully just to make sure. He then took it, and touched Charmeleon’s head gently with it.

The CD’s vibrant red slowly drained away from it, leaving it dull gray and useless and enveloping the Pokémon with a fiery glow. Charmeleon closed his eyes; the glow slowly sank into his skin.

It was done.

“Do you feel any wiser?” Mark questioned, not sure how exactly it was supposed to work.

“Sure do,” said the Pokémon with a smile.

“Great. You can go back into your ball, then.”

Mark held forward the Pokéball; Charmeleon was drained into it as a beam of red light from the button hit him. He took out the second ball.

“Sandshrew, go!”

Mark’s Ground Pokémon appeared, curling into a scaly ball before even seeing whether he was in battle or not. Mark laughed.

“Oh, come on, you aren’t going to get hurt, I’m just going to teach you a TM.”

Sandshrew uncurled in an instant, looking unsurely up at his trainer. Mark felt a twinge of guilt; Sandshrew didn’t trust him. Of course he didn’t. Mark wouldn’t trust somebody who kept letting him get injured, either.

“I’m… sorry about it all, you know,” he said in a low voice. “I didn’t mean to get you hurt so much.”

“Shrew,” the Pokémon said unhappily.

“Well… would you forgive me if I made sure you never lost a battle again?”

Sandshrew didn’t answer.

“At least, I’ve got a TM for you. You know what that is, right?”

The armadillo Pokémon nodded faintly.

“Yeah, and it’s Earthquake. That’s a very, very powerful attack. You’re going to do great with it.”

Sandshrew had apparently heard of this devastating attack sometime among the Sandshrew he grew up with; he just nodded, quite a bit more confidently than he had ever looked before.

“So…” Mark took out the second CD cover, opened it and picked up the disc, “stand still and concentrate.”

Sandshrew closed his eyes; Mark touched him with the CD, orangeish brown this time, and like before, the color faded from the disc and instead started circling Sandshrew in the form of energy. It then seeped through his hide. The armadillo shook himself powerfully, then looked back up at Mark with his beady black eyes, perhaps a bit less hopelessly than before.

“We’ll beat those junior trainers now, right?” Mark said meaningfully.

“Sand,” said the Pokémon, nodding.

“Good,” said Mark, smiling, as he recalled the armadillo Pokémon.

Next off, it was Eevee. Mark took a deep breath.

“Go.” The small brown furball emerged, looking curiously around and eying Mark intensely.

“Eevee, you don’t know what a TM is, do you?”

Eevee shook his head.

“Well…” Mark found it so awkward to be explaining so many things to Eevee; why did he have to go through all this but not anybody else?

“See,” he finally began, “Pokémon know moves. You know that, right?”

The Pokémon nodded.

“Yeah… and TMs… or Technical Machines… can be used to teach a Pokémon a move that it couldn’t learn otherwise.”

“Vi?” the small Pokémon questioned.

“Well, see – I take this disc,” he removed the Return TM from the cover, “and when I touch you with it, your cells will react to it and then a complicated process starts, and basically, after it you’ll be able to focus your power in a – er – new way.”

Eevee nodded nervously.

“OK, then…” Mark took the disc and lightly made it touch Eevee’s head. The Pokémon let out a small sound, but didn’t move. His eyes closed; white orbs of energy drained from the disc and started circling Eevee slowly. They went faster and faster, and finally faded into Eevee’s fur. He shivered, opened his eyes and moaned a little.

“Are you okay?” asked Mark concernedly. Eevee nodded a bit, shook himself vigorously and appeared to feel better afterwards.

“Now, uh… do you trust me?”

Eevee nodded.

“Then focus on it very carefully,” Mark said, not sure how to explain the attack. Eevee screwed his eyes carefully shut, concentrating.

Slowly, a pinkish aura started emitting from Eevee. He let out a soft squeal of curiosity, probably feeling energy building up in his body.

“Great!” Mark cheered. “This attack is called Return. You basically do that, and then tackle the opponent. Okay?”

Eevee nodded nervously, the pink glow fading.

“Ready to go to the Gym?” Mark asked carefully.

“Vee,” said Eevee decisively, nodding.

Mark was still not sure whether it would be right to use Eevee in battle.

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