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Chapter 2: Fire and WaterEdit

It was now afternoon. After having said a tearful final farewell with his family, Ash Ketchum turned his sights northward, to the city, roughly twenty leagues away, that everyone knew as Viridian City. Twenty leagues – that was exactly two day’s journey, if he managed to go three miles per hour for ten hours a day…

He took out a map. “Here’s our plan,” Ash told Charmander. “We go to Viridian, get the Earth Badge, go to Pewter, get the Rock Badge, go to Cerulean, get the Cascade Badge, go to Vermilion, get the Thunder Badge, go to Saffron, get the Soul Badge, go to Celadon, get the Rainbow Badge, go to Fuchsia, get the Marsh Badge, go to Cinnabar, get the Volcano Badge, return to Pallet to say hi, then on to the Indigo League!” he panted after he finished; that was a mouthful! He would soon come to realize that all was not as easy as he had made it out to be.

He had just come across a road sign an hour ago. It was large, and had a billboard section on it as well, where people could write non-commercial things. For example, all thirty-five other Novice trainers leaving Pallet Town today had taken the occasion to scribble “X was here!” on the sign. To further his dismay, Gary wasn’t the second last person to leave, even though he too had been delayed by the battle. His message had been, “Gary was here! – with his formerly lvl. 5 Eevee that gained three levels defeating a lvl. 20 Charmander!” Ash groaned in disgust at himself. At least he hadn’t added injury to insult by writing down the name of the keeper of that Charmander…

Remembering that just now, he told the reptile that had been following him all morning, “all right, no more hiding from it. We need to get you some real combat experience and training, Charmander, or else a level three grass-type pokemon will defeat you too.” He turned around as he heard a disturbance, and caught sight of a pokemon with a petite blue body for a face and a handful of wide leaves sprouting out the top. He recognized the pokemon for what it was with a mere glance. Having completed his pokemon studies in Pallet Town's elementary school, Ash could recognize all the pokemon native to Kanto, and knew a lot about each of them. “Like that Oddish right there.”

Charmander raised itself up to its full height and growled at the Oddish. In a hurry, its opponent - a plant pokemon - slapped its extremely green leaves about, ejecting the morning dewdrops toward Charmander’s tail. Remembering how badly it had been diseased by the water from the fire extinguisher, the orange fire-breather instinctively rushed away, hiding behind its keeper.

Ash would have none of this. “Aww come on, Charmander, you’re level twenty, you must be ten times that wild Oddish’s level, for crying out loud! At it!”

The Charmander refused.

“What do you mean, you’re going to keep away from grass types – against whom you have the greatest advantage – because of some dew? Look, I know you have an instinctive phobia against water, but you’ve got to overcome it somehow! And there’s no better opportunity than the present! Charmander, I’ll get you a little something for a reward if you take down that weakling right there, I know you can do it! Flaming Breath!”

Cheered on by Ash’s words, the Charmander grew more daring and took a step toward the Oddish, a big grin spreading on its face when it realized that the Oddish had already tossed all the dew off its leaves. “You’ve got nothing to defeat me with,” he told it, then opened his mouth.

A torrent of destructive firepower came pouring out, smothering the plant pokemon awash with its searing heat and quickly reducing its leaves to burnt ashes. The plant stopped, dropped, and rolled, trying ineffectually to put out the fire. Instead, it grew, spreading to the knee-high grasses that covered the plains stretching from Pallet to Viridian.

Sensing an opportunity to snare a pokemon, Ash extracted a spare pokeball and tossed it, with perfect aim, at the unconscious pokemon, sucking it into the ball effortlessly before it returned, with its prize, back in Ash’s hand. The Oddish was seriously injured, but it would survive. Yet that wasn’t what was capturing his attention. “Oh… no…” said Ash portentously, as the wildfire began to spread and heat up the surroundings. “We should have captured a water pokemon first,” he lamented, not noticing Charmander’s flinch at the word ‘water’. Then an idea came to him. “Charmander! You’re a fire type, I bet your scaly skin can absorb fire and take its heat without trouble! You can put out that fire?” he concluded hopefully.

“How?” asked Charmander.

“Do what the Oddish had been doing earlier – stop, drop, and roll!”

“You do it, then,” Charmander said arrogantly.

“What, you want me to get myself burnt into a crisp? I’m not food for a barbeque party! Go on...”

The Charmander approached the flame of its own making, and realized that it was not unbearably hot. It touched the flame and did not feel any pain. After that it took a while of rolling here and there like a baby basking in the meadow before the fire was put out. Several times Charmander's tail set more patches of grassland on fire. “Whew, that was close,” Ash said melodramatically. “I don’t know, while we’re in the grasslands I don’t think your fire is that good of an asset.”

Charmander growled piteously.

“But hey, here’s the reward,” Ash said, holding out the second filled pokeball. “Oddish will now be your little brother… or sister… or whichever it may turn out to be…” he sweatdropped at the ridiculousness of his own statement. “At least, once we get it healed, you get to be its teacher. Would you like that?” he asked with a smile. Charmander replied in kind. “Oh look up ahead, it’s a lake! Perfect timing,” he said to himself. “That’ll give me a chance to cool off from all the walking we did today.”

As they approached the water’s edge, Charmander became ever less confident of himself. When they got to the very edge, Charmander was refusing to get any closer, while Ash was pulling him toward it, closer, and closer… “Oh come on, Charmander, this is what you need a trainer for: to do things that you need to do in order to learn but you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself. I promise that it’ll be all right,” said Ash. Charmander growled softly in protest.

The next moment Ash, still with all his clothes on, jumped into the water without any warning, eagerly getting all messy with water and mud. Droplets splashed all over, sending frightened Charmander scurrying back. “Charmander, you’ll need to get better at withstanding water if you’re to stand any chance as my guardian. Just think about it: anyone out to harm me will certainly see you and decide to use a water-type. It’s unavoidable. Now get back over here, and prepare for another splashing,” said Ash as he got out and prepared to dive again.

This time the water from the splash smothered a bit of the flame on Charmander’s tail, and it started sneezing and wheezing. “We’re not done yet,” Ash said to preclude Charmander from leaving just yet. “Don’t you trust me, after these four years as your keeper? When have I ever done anything to intentionally harm you? We’re not done until you can withstand water.”

Charmander leered at him, causing Ash to instinctively scream in fear. “That’s like telling you to swallow poison willingly,” it replied. “I can drink water, but I can’t be near it in any other way.”

“Yes you can,” said Ash determinedly, before starting to float on the water. All of a sudden he started splashing his feet through the water surface, sending water meter-high and all over Charmander, who began quivering with fear. “I know it’s hard for you to take it and all that, but you’ve got to practice. Tell you what – we’re not leaving this place until you can show me that you can withstand getting hit by water.”

The next moment another wave of water had struck Charmander. It instinctively placed its tail behind its back so as to shield it from the water.

“Look, a fire doesn’t go out with a single light splash of water, Charmander. You really don’t have that much to be afraid of.”

“Stop it! This is torture!” said Charmander, shivering and making weird noises that Ash knew meant that it was crying – no, begging – to have it all stop.

“We can’t stop, don’t you know what it means to be so terrified of water? Seven tenths of the planet surface is water!” With that, he used his hands to launch another splash of water at Charmander. Realizing that Charmander wasn’t getting the practice it needed when it hid its tail, Ash began using both hands to splash water, and from different angles. Terrified, Charmander fled away from the water’s edge – that is, until a pokeball sucked it back in.

A short while later, Charmander found himself reappearing – on a stone island surrounded by water. It was still the same lake. It sank in dismay – but erected and yelped in surprise as another series of splashes struck against its scaly skin. “You’ve been doing great, Charmander, I won’t let you fail now!” And for the next several minutes Charmander kept dancing about, trying to prevent the water from putting out the fire on its tail. It kept getting closer and closer to doing just that every time, it realized with dismay. The waves of water that Ash was sending up kept getting larger and fiercer. And Charmander was stuck on the rock with nowhere to go, nowhere to escape…

The steam continued to form. Water and fire kept mixing. Charmander had attempted to use leer against its keeper several times, but Ash gradually became inured to it and knew that Charmander wouldn’t, and couldn’t, hurt him anyway. Then Charmander had progressed to using his fire breath to turn the water into steam before it could get on his tail, and of course moving the tail away when possible. It tried an assortment of tactics – alternating jumping with ducking, bashing the splashes of water with its limbs, placing the tail exactly behind its back. And then Ash submerged into the now muddy water, only to reappear behind the Charmander and splash more water. This trial of terror continued for much of the afternoon, and dragged on into evening… Charmander was absolutely terrified that it was about to die. Its instincts came to it for a reason.

But Ash could see that Charmander was making incredibly fast progress. Already the splashes of water were becoming ineffective against his guardian.

Suddenly, a splash of water entirely smothered the fire on the tail. Ash was the first to notice this nearly fatal occurrence. But he was utterly relieved a split second later when the fire reformed from all the steam, venting out of the pokemon’s tail. Ash found himself smiling at last – there was hope yet for Charmander! As he looked on, the regularly evenly burning tail fire began to shrink and grow at Charmander’s will – and shrank whenever it sensed another wave of water coming. The fire somehow retracted inside the tail when the water came over it…

“Charmander, stop hiding your tail now. You’ve developed enough water-avoidance techniques already. Put the tail in front of your body.” Charmander, slightly unnerved still, did as it was told – and this time when Ash splashed the water, the fire went out completely, only to flare back to life a split second later.

Suddenly a blinding bluish-white light enveloped Charmander. Ash knew exactly what it was at the onset, as the pokemon’s brilliant silhouette began to enlarge and morph. It was undergoing its first metamorphosis! Soon it had changed entirely, into a red-skinned reptile that was slightly larger than Ash was, and far more threatening than a Charmander. Its tail flame grew to many times its previous size and was now the size of Ash’s head.

“Charmeleon! You’ve done it! You’ve done it at last!” Ash said delightedly. That was, until Charmeleon and its notoriously bad temper decided to send a flaming breath his way. It would have seriously hurt Ash, if he had been as unfortunate as to not get underwater in time.

“I may have metamorphosed, but that’s nothing for you to be happy about,” remarked Charmeleon, half-leering at a terrified Ash. “How would you like it if you were stranded on an island in the middle of a lava lake and a Charizard played flamethrower games with you? HUH??”

Ash gulped, then held up both arms as if in surrender. “It’s your call, Charmeleon, you’re bigger than me. But seeing as you’re not Charizard, you’re still stranded on this island, and you’re going to keep being stuck on this rock until you’ve mastered water enough to swim safely to shore. And don’t forget, I may be tough, but I mean the best for you. Always remember that.” And with that, a panicky Ash swam toward shore, keeping his head under water until he was sure that Charmeleon wouldn’t be able to burn him.

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The next day, Ash continued this training routine – or at least until he suffered a major burn from a beyond-irritated Charmeleon. Then he decided to do some training with Oddish – after all, there was little else to do. Taking out the pokeball, he clicked the button one time to release the still-unconscious and half-shriveled pokemon. Despite the fact that it had been knocked out, it was still growing, and Ash was lucky to have chosen as his first grass-type opponent one that had plenty of nutrients in the blue tuber to draw upon while its photosynthesis was down. Now the new leaves were growing back.

Taking out the standard potions, he connected them to the spraying device and used it on his second pokemon. The first dose did little good, though parts of Oddish’s terribly maimed body began magically drawing back together and healing over. He mentally slapped himself for having not bought a burn cure despite knowing that he had a fire-type pokemon with him. And as for the potion… well, one seemed to have done nearly nothing, which meant that Oddish’s situation was terrible indeed. He recalled the Oddish and put his pokeball away. He didn’t want to waste expensive medications if they wouldn’t be of much use, since the Poke-Center in every city offered medical services for nigh-free…

Looking out at the water, he saw his Charmeleon attempt to go into the water. It was a lot angrier than it was before the transformation, but it was also much more sure of itself. Ash smiled warmly as he knew that every minute, his Charmeleon was making progress against its greatest foe.

Charmeleon stepped into the water, but after a few steps – during which it kept its tail high and dry – its feet couldn’t find the ground anymore. The water was too deep, and Charmeleon had no idea of how to swim. Retreating to the safety of the rock, it attempted to strengthen, via its own training, his own tail, and to overcome its own fear of water. The tail went down and touched the water’s surface, then it came back up.

Darn that horrid trainer of mine, it thought as shivers traversed his body from that latest attempt. This just may turn out to be the death of me. If I ever get off this rock I’m going to exact some vengeance. And vengeance for a Charmeleon was serious business..

Charmeleon then tried again. Although the chills sweeped through its body, it had by this time gotten partially inured to the cold sensation. He kept his tail going down and decreased the burning at the tip, so that it wouldn’t lapse into hypothermia. The flame went out the moment it entered the water, but then Charmeleon brought it back out. Somehow the strength it had gained from its metamorphosis meant that it wasn’t quite as stricken by the plague of water. It tried again. And again. And, of course, again… Until it could keep the tail in water for a full ten seconds, and still light it up. It was akin to a human holding one’s breath – but for a long time.

Driven by its desire to punish its negligent trainer, Charmeleon continued to practice and practice…

Until it actually went into the water, lost its footing, and slipped… and the tail stayed in the water for much too long. With its last energy reserves, Charmeleon managed to crawl back to the rock, utterly defeated, before passing out.

It awoke mere moments later, all warm and cozy inside, the fire burning strong and steady. How did I get into this situation? It asked itself. Then it spotted three used potion containers abandoned by its side, and then it spotted Ash swimming away, evidently too afraid of Charmeleon’s fiery – pun intended – temper.

Maybe I have to re-evaluate my view of that human over there… He does seem to care about me. If he didn’t, like I had thought earlier, why would he have come to rescue me? Earlier he had only used a single potion on the Oddish before giving up, but he used three on me, and it paid off…

And thereafter, Charmeleon was confused, too confused to get its anger aroused, but it continued striving to break through the water barrier. Learning how to swim was hard business, and Charmeleon had never bothered to learn, so it improvised, using its limbs to dogpaddle and stay afloat so that every once in a while it could submerge its face and allow its tail out of the water and re-ignite.

And gradually, it built up the confidence to break out of its watery prison. Step by step, attempt by attempt, failure by failure, it struck out toward the other shore, alternating every few seconds between dogpaddling with the tail submerged and floating with the tail raised up high and burning bright.

And finally, when the sun was beginning to set yet again, it managed to get to shore! It was immensely pleased with itself for having concocted up such a fabulous scheme to get ashore. And now if only it could get to Ash, it would tear him apart-

Instead, a brilliant light enveloped it, it was trapped inside the ball yet again, before reappearing on that same rock. “You were magnificent right there, you did what you thought couldn’t be done,” said Ash in congratulations. Not that Charmeleon seemed to have heard; instead, it was riled up with anger, and immediately took to the water, chasing Ash, who quickly noticed and swam away as fast as he could, knowing he had just gotten himself into a lot of trouble.

Ash climbed ashore at last, and turned around – only to duck right before a column of fire struck out right over him. The Charmeleon was right behind him, having mastered its own form of swimming and life preservation, and even mastered its fear of water… Oh, this was terrific, it had mastered this in just two days… except that Charmeleon was now frightfully angry. A single leer from that reptile, and Ash was frozen in place, too terrified to even move…

Four years of living together flashed through his mind. This was no time to flee from one’s own guardian! Recovering his courage, he began thinking rapidly, as Charmeleon approached rapidly, ready to strike down its trainer.

Finally, Ash decided on something to say. “You were terrific, Charmeleon! In just two days you managed to master your fear of water! You’re absolutely wonderful, you know that? I’m very proud of you. Proud that you were able to continue against all that water, proud that you kept going on despite knowing that your very life was at risk, proud that you had devised your own way of swimming, proud that you had taken to heart my lesson on not giving up, proud that you had metamorphosed, and above all, proud of who you are! And I am equally proud to be the one who showed you just what it meant to be trained to do something great! Do you recognize that?”

Charmeleon, though quite in a rage, had become quite a bit mellower during the course of that speech. After all, successful, powerful pokemon had a weak spot for praise. It still had a bit of anger left, so it blew out a torrent of greatly heated air straight at Ash, who responded by diving head-first into the water and getting mud all over his face.

But at least Charmeleon had been reconciled, and that to Ash was worth it.

Knowing that Charmeleon had been able to overcome the water, Ash led the way northward, to Viridian City.

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A totally wearied out Ash and a still very irritated (as always) Charmeleon toppled into the sofa in the Viridian City Poke-Center two days later. Another Nurse Joy (one worked in every Poke-Center in Kanto) came up to them worriedly. “Are you all right?” she asked, before recalling Charmeleon into its pokeball and taking both occupied ones to the treatment machine.

“Huh? Yeah,” said Ash as he bolted upright. “I think we just need a nap. We’ve got a lot of resting to do, considering we’ll have to take on the Viridian City Gym today.”

“Oh, sleep tight then,” Nurse Joy replied caringly. “Your pokemon will be ready when you wake up.” Before she had finished, Ash had crumpled back onto the sofa and made himself comfortable. That is, until he saw out the corner of his eye a poster on the wall. It seemed to be a list of signatures… a petition?

That got his attention… though he wished the next moment that he hadn’t, since it was a list of “new Novices from Pallet that have reached Viridian City.” This time Gary was closing to the top of the list – and on top of that, he already had six pokemon! He scanned the number of names – darn, we came in last, he thought to himself. Oh well, it was time well spent. I bet none of the others have a Charmander that can withstand water. Then his conscience retorted: I bet none of the others even had a need to teach a Charmander how to withstand water. They probably are so good trainers their Charmanders never faced any water in a battle. He looked at the time of the last person’s signature… to add injury to insult, the thirty-fifth Novice from Pallet this year had not only arrived before Ash, but had arrived two days earlier. He was three standard deviations behind the mean…

I’ll show them! He thought to himself. Time to take on the first gym leader!

“Here are your pokemon, all in top-perfect condition!” Nurse Joy exclaimed sweetly. “Your Oddish is level 2,”

Ash interrupted this with an “Awwh!” and a sweatdrop. So Charmander did concede to a grass-type one tenth its level…

“…And your Charmeleon is level 29,” Nurse Joy finished.

“WHAT!?” Ash exclaimed in surprise. “But… just four days ago it was level 20! How could it improve that fast?”

Nurse Joy smiled. “I’ll bet that it metamorphosed during that time, didn’t it?”

“Err… yes,” Ash conceded, recalling how Charmander had suddenly began improving.

“Well, that’ll be able to explain five levels. For most pokemon, metamorphosis greatly strengthens their constitution, so that they gain an immediate five levels. Remember, the machine measures levels via a combination of a pokemon’s physical resilience, maturity, and gland secretions. The first and third categories shoot up when a pokemon metamorphoses.”

“What about the other four levels?”

“Four levels in four days is pretty good for a trainer, especially since it was in the level twenties. It’s not all that common nor rare for trainers to improve their pokemon at that rate if they kept training them hard. At lower levels, it’s not unheard of for pokemon to gain two levels in one day, three with intensive training. At even higher levels it will take considerably more effort to train them. Either you were a pretty good trainer or your pokemon had been missing out on a pretty important concept for a long time that you only recently got around to teaching.” Ash thought back to his Charmeleon getting experience against the water and agreed.

“Gee, thanks, that’ll get me ready for my gym battle—“

"Though I don’t think taking on Giovanni is such a good idea. Most Pallet Novices decide to take on Brock, of the Pewter City gym, first, because all that’s working for rock-types is a rock-solid defense.”

“Hey, if I’m going to become a top trainer I’ve got to take on someone, someday, so why not now?” Ash asked with a smile. Charmeleon assented, breathing fire out its nostrils.

“Well in that case, good luck!” said Nurse Joy, before rushing to attend to an emergency case. “Oh, what has Giovanni done to this poor Rattata!” she exclaimed to herself in heartfelt sadness, but by then Ash had already left the pokemon center, fresh with excitement with his next upcoming match.

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