Chapter 25: The attack approval

“Mark, I think we should start practising for the Attack approval now,” said May when they were back at the hotel. “And we mustn’t see each other’s attacks, so I’m going somewhere to practise mine and you go somewhere to practise yours. OK, bye.” And she was off with her Clefable doll.
Mark went in the other direction and ended up finding a large open area a short way out of the city. He sent out Charizard first.
“Hi Charizard. Is everything OK?”
“Yeah, fine,” said Charizard. “At least everything that has to do with Scyther, if that’s what you’re asking about.”
“Great. Well, the Attack approval is tomorrow, and we need to practise some attacks for it... any ideas?”
“Mmmm, I dunno,” said Charizard. “I’m still a bit stiff, so it’s fine if we just try something...” Charizard started flapping his wings slowly.
“Yeah... um, try flying up as fast as you can,” said Mark, sitting down in the grass to watch. Charizard took off and shot up into the air at high speed, then looked at Mark. “What next?” he asked.
An idea was forming inside Mark’s head. “Hey, try shooting a Flamethrower at that Clefable doll, and while it’s blinded...”
“How can it be blinded, it’s not alive,” said Charizard.
“That’s what it’s about when using it on an actual oppoment. At least, while it’s blinded, fly down as fast as you can, pick it up, fly up and then drop it. Is that too complicated?”
“I don’t think so,” said Charizard, shot flames at the doll, dived down, picked it up, and then dropped it.
“You’re supposed to do it again and again until you can’t do it anymore,” said Mark. “Sorry, but that’s how it is...”
Charizard grunted and did it again a few times, then lay down to rest while Mark picked up the Clefable doll.
“Two-turn attack. 95 Fire type damage on first turn, 80 Flying damage on second turn. 5 Power points, 95% accurate, 10% chance of burning on the first turn,” said a screen in the Clefable’s mouth.
“I’ll call that Inferno dive, just so it sounds cool. Okay, that’s enough, Charizard,” Mark said, recalled Charizard and sent out Jolteon.
“Jolteon, we need to train for the attack approval now. I actually have something in mind for you already. Try charging up electricity...”
Jolteon nodded and started sparkling.
“...yes, and then you – you just use Pin missile, basically.”
Jolteon raised his spikes and then fired them rapidly at the Clefable doll. Even after Jolteon stopped, the doll was still sparkling for a few seconds. When Mark checked it, the screen said:
“Hits 2-5 times. Electric. 20 Base damage. 25 power points, 95% accurate, 30% chance of paralyzing.”
“OK, great. I think I’m going to call this attack Thunder spikes. Jolteon, return!” Mark recalled Jolteon, who seemed very happy about the excercise. He took out Sandslash’s ball.
“Sandslash, I choose you!”
Sandslash emerged from the ball and stretched his claws out.
“Sandslash, we need to practise for the attack approval. Do you have any ideas for attacks?”
“Actually, I do,” Sandslash said. “But maybe you don’t like it...”
“I will,” said Mark. “Just show me.”
Sandslash put up a whatever-expression and turned around, then put his claws to the ground, aimed carefully at the Clefable doll and then, with a quick and powerful movement, shoved up a great deal of soil straight at the doll’s eyes. Then, as quickly, he continued digging, and in a second, he was underground. Then he came up behind the doll and slashed it.
“Surprise attack,” Sandslash said. “While the enemy can’t see, I dig underground and come up behind them, and when I slash them, it’s almost always a critical hit as they weren’t able to defend themselves at all. I practised that way back when I was a Sandshrew, but I never thought I’d be able to use it in a real battle...”
“That’s great! Do it until you’re too tired to do it again, then I can see how powerful it actually is!”
And Sandslash did it again and again, noteably needing less time to aim as he did it more often. Then Sandslash announced that he couldn’t do it again, and Mark checked the screen on the doll.
“Two-turn attack. Lowers accuracy on first turn, 70 Normal damage on second turn. 10 Power points, 100% accurate, 80% chance of a critical hit.”
“Looks very good,” said Mark. “I’ll call that... uh, Blinding slash, a wordplay on blinding flash, that sounds nice... OK, that’s enough, Sandslash. Return, go Gyarados!”
He sent out Gyarados on a small pond and explained about the Attack approval.
“Actually, I have an idea,” Gyarados said. “Watch this.” He started concentrating with his eyes closed as the color seemed to drain from his body. When Gyarados was turning a dull shade of gray, he opened his eyes, they glowed bright red and what looked very much like a laser beam shot from his eyes at the Clefable doll. He waited as the color slowly brightened again. After using the attack a few times, Mark noticed that Gyarados was grayer than usual, even after the color should be back. Gyarados paused.
“It’s very powerful, but it makes me weaker every time I use it,” Gyarados said. “And now I don’t have the energy left to use it again... don’t worry, you just have to take me to a pokémon center and I’ll be fine.”
Mark took the Clefable doll and read the attack description.
“A go-last attack. Type: Dragon. 150 Base Damage. Needs to recharge on second turn. 5 Power Points, 100% accurate, 50% chance of inflicting a random status affection. Decreases Special attack after use.”
“Good, now it’s time for Dragonair. I’m going to call this attack Dragon beam!” Mark said, recalling Gyarados. Dragonair had no ideas.
“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 like nothing else, but...”
“There we have something!” Mark said happily. “Try to do something to add a Fire type to you!”
“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.
“Oh well. It’s Scyther, then...” Mark took out his last pokéball. “Scyther, go!”
“The Attack approval, right?” Scyther asked as soon as he had emerged.
“How did you know?”
“Charizard told me,” Scyther answered. “Don’t look at me, I don’t know anything special to do in this Attack approval thing. Scythers specialize in slashing tricks and aren’t made for anything else.”
“Then just try doing some tricks while I try to think of something,” said Mark. Scyther started doing ninja tricks of all sorts on the air. Mark couldn’t help noticing how accurately Scyther managed to prevent all wrong movements that would result in cutting the other arm off even while moving faster than the eye could catch. Suddenly, an idea struck him.
Scyther stopped and looked at Mark.
“Can you hold your scythes crossed in front of you?”
Scyther did without words, although it looked awkward.
“Try to look a bit more defending... this is a surprise attack, you see...”
Scyther leaned back a bit and turned his head to the right, still watching Mark closely. It was amazing what a difference it made, it truly looked like Scyther was trying to defend from some kind of an attack.
“Then wait for the enemy to try to attack you with a physical attack, and when they come within reach and are just about to strike, you slash with your left scythe, then your right, and then both at once, very fast so the enemy won’t get the chance to attack in between.”
“Fine. Just one thing... how is the doll supposed to approach me?”
“Hmmmm...” In fact, Mark had no idea. He examined the doll closely and then noticed a button that said “Walk”. He pressed it and put the Clefable doll on the ground, and it walked slowly towards Scyther, who looked like he was dishonoured by wasting his scythes on a robot Clefable doll, although he didn’t complain. The doll approached, and Scyther went into the defending position. When it was right in front of Scyther, he slashed the doll at incredible speed three times. Then he flew a bit back, and the Clefable doll got up, and walked towards him again. This chase went on and on for what seemed like hours, until Scyther was too tired to go on. Mark went and checked the doll.
“A go-last attack. Fails if the enemy doesn’t use an attack that makes physical contact. If successful, avoids the attack. Type: Normal. Hits one to three times. 50 Base Damage, 100% accurate, no special effects.”
“Great! I’ll call that Triple slash!” Mark said, recalling Scyther.

On the way back to the hotel, Mark met Alan.
“Hi, Mark!”
“Hi, Alan!”
“Are you taking part in the Attack approval?” Alan asked.
“Yup. Do you know how they give you permission to use some attacks in the pokémon league, anyway?”
“They put it on your trainer card...”
“Trainer card?” Mark still didn’t have a trainer’s license, or a trainer card. “Um... you know... I... sorta.... don’t have one...”
“Huh?” Alan said blankly.
“Erm... I’m not an official pokémon trainer. I just found a Charmander on the road and... I was going to get a trainer’s license, but I forgot it...”
“Wow. You’re lucky. I mean, someone should have caught you by now... they sold you pokéballs, gave you gym badges... you’ve always landed on someone who doesn’t ask for any identity at all. Very lucky of you. The first person I bought pokéballs from needed to see my trainer license.”
“But what can I do, then?” Mark asked. “I mean, I can’t just walk in somewhere and admit I’ve been training pokémon without a license for ages...”
“No, you can’t,” Alan answered. “But Dad has permission to give out trainer licenses and starter pokémon... he’ll be the one handling the starter pokémon giveaway in the festival, you know. And he’s always ready to help my friends...”
“Yup. If I ask him to.”
“Wow! Thanks!”
They went to Alan’s house and Alan opened the door. Pamela greeted them by lying down in front of them and refusing to move until they had patted her for ten minutes. When she finally stood up, Alan laughed and then shouted: “Dad! My friend is here and needs a favour!”
Ash came down the stairs, Pikachu on his shoulder. “What? I’m kinda busy right now... you know, preparations...”
“He needs a trainer license,” Alan said.
“Can’t he wait like everyone else? Really, I never thought people couldn’t wait for two days to get a starter pokémon...”
“He has a pokémon. He’s been training for a while.”
Ash looked at Mark, raising his eyebrows. “The people you make friends with, Alan,” he then said seriously, nevertheless obivously finding it very funny. “Well, we’ll fix that, won’t we? Pikachu, if you’d be so kind...”
Pikachu jumped off his shoulder, went back up and came a few seconds later holding a camera in his mouth. Ash took the camera and said “Thanks, Pikachu” as Pikachu jumped back onto his shoulder.
“This is a special camera...” Ash said, taking a picture of Mark, “ make trainer cards in a few minutes.” While he talked, Pikachu went back up to get what was obivously a blank trainer card, and Ash took it, put it into a slot at the side of the camera.
“Your ID number?”
Ash pressed a few buttons and then handed the trainer card to Mark, now bearing his picture and ID number.
“Wow, thanks,” he said, putting it in his pocket.
“Don’t mention it,” Ash said.

The day after, when it was time for the Attack approval itself, Mark and May headed to the arena. They walked there in silence, like they were afraid they’d let something slip about their special techniques. When they got there, everyone was supposed to get in line with their Clefable dolls, show their attacks to the judges, and then get them engraved on their trainer cards if the judges accepted them.
When it was May’s turn, she looked nervously at Mark once, then went to the judges, handed over the Clefable doll, and then sent out her first pokémon – Raichu.
“Raichu, Thunderstorm!” she commanded, and Raichu started chanting “Rai... rai... rai... rai...” as black, stormy clouds started hovering over the arena. When a good amount of black clouds had gathered, a lightning struck Raichu, charging him with some more electricity. Then it started to rain and people booed because they weren’t dressed for a rain, but one of the judges sent out a Bellossom that used Sunny day and cleared the sky again.
The judges looked at May, expecting the next pokémon out, and she recalled Raichu and sent out Butterfree instead. Butterfree fluttered around happily before starting to pay attention to May.
“Butterfree, Powder spores,” May said, almost lazily, to her pokémon. Butterfree flapped her wings and released a cloud of dust into the air. Mark didn’t know what exactly it was supposed to do, but the judges knew as they had the Clefable doll. They nodded towards May, who sent out her next pokémon: Skarmory.
“Skarmory, Feather drop!”
Skarmory flew up into the air, then dived down like he was going to use Drill peck or something, but instead swooped back up about two meters from the ground, but dropping some metallic feathers down at great speed. They stuck into the soil like swords and one came dangerously close to nailing May’s foot to the ground. She didn’t wince.
Next up was Lapras. There was a special pool for Water pokémon to perform their attacks in. May sent her out there.
“Lapras, Freezing water...”
Lapras glowed a bright blue as the water in the pool froze all around her. Then she shot a blast of water on the ground, but it froze almost immediately, forming a thin layer of ice that got you the feeling that stepping on it was about as wise as stepping on banana peel in a comic.
The judges seemed impressed, looking at each other and nodding. Meanwhile, May recalled Lapras and sent out Pupitar. When the judges were ready, she turned to her pokémon and said:
“Pupitar, Disguise.”
Pupitar summoned a cloud of sand, surrounding him, and when the cloud disappeared, Pupitar did too. Although if you looked better, you saw that Pupitar had just buried himself a bit in the sand so he looked like any ordinary rock on the arena. Clever move, although useless where there was no sand, and actually it wouldn’t be of any use after he evolved, either.
The judges looked at each other, whispered and then looked at May, nodded all at once and she came over with her Trainer card, they took it and put it in some device on the table that was attached to a keyboard. They asked her about the names of all the attacks again, just to be sure to get them right, and then handed the trainer card back to her, smiling. Now it was Mark’s turn.
He walked nervously forward with the Clefable doll, gave it to the judges and then took a deep breath and pulled out Charizard’s pokéball.
“Charizard, GO!” he shouted as his faithful dragon emerged. “Use Inferno dive! Now!”
Charizard recalled the attack in his mind, then flew up, fired a jet of flames at an invisible oppoment and then dived down. Of course, it looked a bit weird with no oppoment there, but the judges didn’t care. Mark looked back and saw that this time, May had decided to wait for him.
Mark recalled Charizard and sent out Jolteon.
“Thunder spikes!” he shouted and Jolteon fired the electrified pins at the ground like before. The judges were whispering to each other, and a certain thought occured to Mark. Maybe he wasn’t being too original in his attacks, both of these had in fact just been a mix between two other attacks... and Sandslash’s was too...
It was too late to think about that now. He sent out Sandslash as the judges were already waiting, and commanded him to use Blinding slash. If anything looked stupid without an oppoment, it was that...
Next up was Gyarados. Mark sent him out on the pool, still remembering how Dragon beam made Gyarados grayish and weak-looking.
“Dragon beam! Now!”
Gyarados’ color started draining from his body again, his eyes glowed red and the familiar laser beam shot at the ice layer Lapras had made. It melted instantly.
The judges seemed very pleased with Gyarados; they were talking excitedly and kept shooting quick looks at Gyarados. Finally, it was time for Scyther.
“Triple slash!!!”
Scyther went into the defending position, but the judges didn’t exactly get this, especially as there was no enemy and no doll with a walk mode.
“Um, now the oppoment is supposed to come...” said Mark lamely, and then Scyther slashed the air. Finally, it was over... Mark felt like an idiot. He walked up to the judges’ table, but then Dragonair popped out of his ball.
“Mark,” he said. “I’ve changed my mind. I’m ready – I’ve been practising it in my pokéball all day...”
“But you haven’t used it on a Clefable doll!” Mark said.
“Can’t I just use it on a Clefable doll now, then?” Dragonair asked. Mark looked at the judges, who didn’t appear to mind. He took the Clefable doll and put it in front of Dragonair.
Dragonair started to shake violently; he glowed red and went all fiery, and then he blasted some fire (normal fire, not dragon fire) up in the air. It surely looked more powerful than normal.
“That’s Dragonflame,” Dragonair said. “Thanks, do I need to do anything more?” He disappeared into his pokéball again. Mark handed his new trainer card to the judges, and smiled as it got confirmed that all six of his pokémon now officially had a unique fifth attack.

Chapter 26

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