Chapter 16: To Be a TrainerEdit
P.J. was humming a merry tune whilst walking with his Ursaring from Celadon to Saffron when all of a sudden he spotted a strange scene. A meter-and-a-half-tall, nearly round Cloyster, all alone in the middle of a forest! Shell pokemon almost never lived outside of the sea… “Well, Ursaring, this is strange indeed… I wonder if it’s a trap…”
“Me too,” said the bear pokemon, “but even if it is, we can try capturing it from here! And it’ll be easy if it happens to be asleep… You never know.”
P.J. took out an unassigned pokeball. “He goes nothing,” he muttered, looking at the prominent, unmoving pokemon. “Go and get it!” He tossed the pokeball straight at the Cloyster.
It suddenly opened its crease, revealing a trainer huddled inside and stifling a laugh. The pokeball touched his skin and flared out red, but the light did nothing on a human like this trainer. Immediately he caught the pokeball thrown his way, pocketed it, and jumped out into the sunlight, taking P.J. and his Ursaring completely by surprise.
It was Ash! And with a single glance at the Ursaring he remembered how Gary had defeated P.J. in the Saffron match about two years ago.
“Hey, you look familiar,” said P.J., startled. He didn’t have time to ponder who it was, though, because…
“Trainer! I challenge you to a fair match, now! Go Charmeleon!” Ash tossed out a pokeball, and the lizard-pokemon, now taller than the average adult, coalesced from the white light. “Fire Blast!” The next moment Ash had leapt backwards onto the waiting Cloyster (which had closed its shell) and the Charmeleon had jumped too. Only the latter blasted a torrent of fire directly downward, spreading out in every direction in an expanding circle.
“Ah! Ursaring, Hammer Arm!” The Ursaring leapt at the Charmeleon, forcefully and painfully bringing them both back to the ground just as the fire was spreading outward. The Ursaring’s fur instantly caught fire, and began the now-typical procedure of stop, drop, and roll, while the fires seemed to have no effect on the Charmeleon.
P.J. screamed, “Who do you think you are, calling for a match right here!? Do you even have the potions we’d need afterward?” he asked, tossing a second pokeball into the air that released a Poliwrath. This was a rather large, blue-skinned fighting pokemon with white whirl marks on its body.
“Cloyster, spike cannon!” Ash shouted to his Cloyster, which shot out a single, massive spike from its shell. It struck with pinpoint accuracy at the Ursaring, right on its nape, breaking its spinal cord. “Don’t worry, I have regeneration potions for you too! Now let’s finish this match! Charmeleon, fury swipes!”
“Charmeleon is weak to water! Poliwrath, water gun!” The center of the whirl suddenly shot out a powerful stream of water. The Charmeleon stopped to take its morning shower, letting the tail flame steam, before continuing its attack unperturbed. It sent the Poliwrath flying into a tree after it had inflicted numerous slashing marks all over the pokemon. It was out cold.
“That’s it, this is outrage! Go—um, never mind, you win,” said P.J., changing his mind at the last moment. “Now get out those potions, you challenge me, you supply the potions,” he stated the typical trainers’ proverb.
As Ash sprayed some potion (stored inside the Cloyster) on the Ursaring (causing the broken spinal cord to mend together), he knew something wasn’t right with how that last statement sounded, so he peered into the other trainer’s mind. I really want to win this match, but I know I can’t reveal my other two pokemon… I only have four, two are down, one’s a Wailord (a whale-pokemon) and it’s too bulky not to mention in the wrong environment for me to summon it, and the other is my secret weapon Dragonite…
Ash snickered. Obviously that secret weapon was not secret any more, and he was going to test P.J.’s resolve. “I know from what you just said that you have at least one more pokemon, P.J. Now, out with it!” The Kirlia that had been sitting on Ash’s shoulder jumped off and growled menacingly (more so than Ash would have otherwise expected from such a cute thing if he hadn’t had much experience with Kirlia before).
“No, I don’t want to continue this match, you’re too good,” P.J. stated, half-truth and half-lie. He knew that Ash had seen through his disguise. It was obviously not the real reason why he didn’t want to play his trump card… But for Ash, he needed to know what trump card pokemon anyone in the world could throw his way, which meant that he would have to challenge P.J.’s Dragonite as well.
“Yeah right, that may have tricked everyone else in the world, but I know you have a Dragonite, so let’s see it!”
P.J. could barely hold in his astonishment. How did this person know?! When have I ever let that leak out? He must just be saying something random and it happened to be on mark, because Dragonite is quite a semi-legendary pokemon anyway… But I’ll tell him about my Wailord. “I can’t put my third pokemon into the match because it’s a Wailord, so tell me how it’ll fit in the forest!” he shouted with mock indignation.
“I see four poke-balls on your belt.”
“Bad call, the fourth is empty.”
“It’s empty, eh?”
“Yeah, it is.”
“I too have an empty pokeball – the one you threw at me – as well as one of my own. I’ll trade them both for your fourth pokeball, the empty one. That’s clearly a rip-off deal in your favor. How does that sound?” Ash snickered, but didn’t let it show.
And predictably, P.J. was unwilling, and muttered something under his breath. There was no way he was just going to give away his Dragonite, and Ash knew how to pull his strings in ways that made him squirm inside.
Damn, he knows… he’s not joking with that… Or is he just trying to psych me into playing my fourth pokemon, and he doesn’t know what it is? I could of course just not answer him…
“Here, let’s do this trade of yours, you’re the one getting ripped off,” said P.J., but his worried expression belied his anxiety. The hope that Ash would back down before he had to was written on its face.
“All right then, here’s my two pokeballs,” said Ash, extending them out as P.J. did.
Just as Ash was about to put his other hand over the pokeball containing the Dragonite, however, P.J. backed off. “Oh, I almost forgot, I have to get to Saffron City right away, it’s urgent. I don’t have time for this trade.”
“BS,” said Ash. “Here, this’ll just take two seconds…” he stepped forward to reach for the coveted pokeball.
“No! I’ll NOT give this pokeball to you!”
“Why, are you scared? Because you’ll reveal your Dragonite, your secret weapon? Just how much of a secret is it, that I know this?” Ash taunted.
“If you value your life, you’ll keep your mouth shut and not talk about my pokemon ever again in public,” warned P.J., nearly shaking with worry as he recalled his treated pokemon.
“Oh? With what? Your pokemon are all unable to help you at this point!” the next moment Ash knew exactly what P.J. was going to use, and it wasn’t going to be just the Dragonite. He rushed back into Cloyster’s shell, recalling his Charmeleon and Kirlia at the same time.
A split second later a massive blue form materialized in the sky above them, some hundred feet long. The massive whale smashed into the forest, snapping trees underneath its several thousand pounds like it was nothing. Then it proceeded to flop about helplessly the way fish do on dry land.
P. J. only narrowly missed being squished under its enormity, taking flight over the opaque forest canopy on his Dragonite, brown-scaled, incredibly large flying pokemon. “All right Wailord, you did your stuff. Return!” A massive field of red light enveloped the entire pokemon and it disappeared into P.J.’s pokeball.
Unlike everything else in the flattened woods surrounding them, the Cloyster had taken the pressure very nicely, as had Ash, within its incredibly thick, protective shell. “So you reveal your true form at last,” Ash said exultantly, half to P.J. and half to the Dragonite. With his psychic abilities, and his exposure to the Snorlax Squash tactic, the Wailord-dropping never posed a threat to him. “Unfortunately for you—“
He ducked out of the way as Dragonite released its Hyper-Beam – an incredibly powerful and thick streak of reddish-gold light that rippled through the Cloyster, disintegrating the part of its shell it came in contact with, then burning through its black body.
Oh shit, thought Ash. His mind was flooded by the pain of his shell pokemon, which had defended him so faithfully. “Return, Cloyster! Go Kirlia, and get us out of here!” On orders from P.J, the Dragonite had fired a deadly sonic shockwave in their direction, but it only upturned the soil and shattered the bark from the already fallen trees.
Ash and his pokemon were nowhere in sight.
“Damn it!” shouted P.J. Now there was someone in the world who knew about the fact that he rode the world’s only Dragonite…
Ash had been teleported the short distance to Saffron City’s poke-Center. Nearby the Gym was almost completely empty, occupied only by idiots who believed that they could challenge an Alakazam and its psychic trainer. He ran into the poke-Center immediately, shouting, “Nurse Joy!”
The nurse, in her pink nurse’s outfit, turned around with a startled look. “This an emergency?”
“I need Cloyster treated ASAP!” he shouted, grabbing a treatment contract and scribbling his signature on it. Immediately Nurse Joy took the pokeball out of his hands and sank it into the potion tank, the tank filled with potion medicines of all sorts into which pokeballs were sunk to indirectly treat the pokemon inside. Beside the computer, a string of green lights began to light up.
A minute later, as Ash continued to stand worriedly beside the counter, Nurse Joy turned to him with a smile. “Thanks to the quick rescue by your Kirlia, your Cloyster is now back to normal. It’s now maturity level 55.”
That was nothing new; it had been on level 54 all the two previous weeks. Ash thanked her, then began his daily trek through Saffron City. As always, he struck out into an unexplored part of the neighborhood, screening the minds of everyone he passed by for any hints to either Kay’s or Delia’s whereabouts. He figured that somebody in town ought to know about what happened to her, since Team Rocket was a particularly large organization.
But instead of learning about the information he really wanted to know, he learned a lot of other things – things that may perhaps be useful, things that were trivial, such as gossiping, things that were disagreeable to him, things that may even be flat-out wrong…
He had located a few Team Rocket operatives in the city, but that was primarily because they didn’t do much pokemon-stealing, which, after all, is hard to do in public. Those that he had found didn’t know a whit about where headquarters or supply depots were, and the tiered structure of Team Rocket’s organization was proving to be a big bane for him. Sometimes he didn’t know if it would even be fruitful to continue probing peoples’ minds in this way. Persistence and patience would have a limit.
Yet he had kept it up, day after day, for nearly eight months now. September, October, November… He had stayed, alternating between days in the city and nights in the forest right outside (sleeping in along with the Cloyster so that he could save money that would otherwise need to be spent on lodging). He had stayed in the same general vicinity all this time. Winter was a long time ago, Spring had passed. Gym-leader-replacement tournaments had come and gone in six of the ten gyms whose charters called for such tournaments. And now it was April 15th.
Determination had proven to be far more an important driving factor than persistence, excitement, enthusiasm, or even a ‘personal calling’ could be. And Ash had kept the day very regimented, with the mornings set aside for combing through the streets of the city and buying pokemon food. He scanned roughly a thousand strange, individual minds every day, most of which were different from those he had scanned in previous days. He had walked through entire neighborhoods, and done so much walking that his feet and legs were entirely jaded to the task. He could spend all day walking and not find any reason to complain. Yet after eight months he had scanned only 240,000 individuals, and had covered only a twelfth of the city’s population of nearly four million. And none of them knew where he could find Kay or Delia.
Ordinarily, confronted with such bad luck Ash would have decided to move on. After all, if Kay and Delia weren’t being kept anywhere near Saffron City those hours he spent searching for information regarding them would be a total waste of time. But he also knew, as he did when he first set out to search for his sister, that this would be no easy task. He would have to confront the objective with a multi-pronged attack plan calling for learning as much as possible about Team Rocket, understanding as well as he could pokemon battle tactics, and applying what he learned to how he trained his pokemon. And he had done just that. Though it was painful progress, and perhaps not all that useful in any case, he decided to teach them anything he thought could potentially be useful, which meant going to the library with his pokemon out to have them all read about other pokemon and their trademark as well as unconventional moves. But there were just too many, far too many to learn them all and practice counters against them all, so Ash had to stick with the more basic counters. He had gone to Sabrina’s Gym during non-challenge hours to have them get into physical shape, whether it be endurance or agility or reflexes. He had planned out battle strategies involving his pokemon, and taught them what they should do as a part of each strategy. He had, when they were in the forest, set up simulations for possible commands given by other pokemon and other trainers, and proceeded to discuss the merits of each counter at their disposal. Though he only had three pokemon, he was sure that they were all ready to take on the more common opponents, especially those he had watched perform in the Saffron tournament almost two years earlier. Compared to when he first had obtained the allegiance of his Cloyster, his pokemon were now larger, stronger, tougher, more agile, more knowledgeable, and more mutually understanding than they had been.
And more mature.
He knew very well (as did perhaps every other trainer in the world) that pokemon only really gained maturity through real-life experience and not through academic practice routines. He knew that his pokemon were gaining their levels painstakingly slowly since they were effectively doing similar things every day now. He knew that they were practicing battle tactics against imaginary foes who couldn’t think and couldn’t come up with anything unexpected. And some abilities, like Charmeleon’s Rage, were simply impossible to conjure up against a nonexistent enemy. He knew that gaining maturity became exponentially harder, so that it took significantly more effort to get from level 40 to level 50 than it took to get through all the levels before. When he first started out on his journey Gary’s Eevee had gone up three levels in under a minute; his Charmander had advanced four levels in two days. But, though he was training just as hard now, none of his pokemon had been registered as having gone up a level in nearly two weeks. The further they rose on the maturity scale, the closer their levels were to each other, from an initial nine levels apart to only two. And of course, the further one went with training the more the desire to give up or lessen its intensity. Despite all his goading them and his own determination, the fact that they hadn’t had an actual battle against a real adversary in all that time seriously cut down on the team’s enthusiasm.
And yet, his pokemon still had gone up to, last he checked, Charmeleon, lvl. 57; Kirlia, lvl. 57; and now his Cloyster, lvl. 55. In a very short period of time his trio had become quite a bit more mature than the average trained pokemon was (lvl. 50).
Ash himself had gone up a few inches.
Oh, he had trained his pokemon to be more capable, taught them a lot of spells, too, perhaps at the expense of his own psychic preparedness…
“All right,” said Ash to the trio of pokemon assembled before him in a forest clearing, “Today we’re going to practice battling against a Raichu. I want to see how you each handle that challenge, without giving you time to think it through. In real battle you will probably only have a second or two to prep, and maybe not be able to help each other. Let’s start with you, Charmeleon; show me what you got!”
Charmeleon said to an imaginary Raichu, “hey, Rai buddy, look that way, it’s kind of interesting,” before quickly following up with a sucker punch and series of furious slashes that seemed almost as fast as a Raichu could possibly respond. Then it followed up with a body slam while simultaneously firing a yellow-hot flamethrower out its mouth. The combination meant that the jet of fire would move with a far greater velocity than would otherwise be achieved. Even if the Charmeleon had been struck with lightning (which Ash thought was definitely possible), this attack would have put out the Raichu in a hurry. It had taken all but two seconds.
“All right, that’s a well-executed feint attack, a swift fury swipes, and a neat slam-thrower combo move! Though I was expecting even faster if you want to beat that Raichu before it shocks you,” concluded Ash. “I would like to see you practice that move over and over again until you can get it under… 0.9 seconds,” said Ash with a smile. “Okay, Cloyster… you next!”
While Charmeleon began to repeat its short performance, Cloyster immediately spun rapidly around and around without leaving its spot until it was half-submerged in dirt, then fired a nonstop barrage of sharpened spikes at each of ten targets set up some fifty meters away. All hit bull’s-eye.
“Impeccable archery, Cloyster! And starting off with a stunning rapid-spin would put off that Raichu. And you were in effect drilling into the ground, using it as a ground (no pun intended) to sap any electric attacks that Raichu may be powering up! Though it may be even better if you distracted the Raichu by preceding your digging with a few spike shots off to each side… Practice that too now. And now let’s see what you have, Kirlia.”
Suddenly something mental struck him, leaving him a garbled, disorderly rambler whose only coherent statement was, “Return, Raichu! I forfeit this match!”