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It is another fine day in the region of Unova. On Route 1, Black gives a mini-lecture to Tep, and says now that it has officially become his third team member and companion, it needs to work hard with its teammates to continuously better and strengthen themselves. The little Tepig acknowledges Black's words by tapping its foreleg on its chest with a confident look, and Black proceeds to dig out his Challenge Proposal from his bagpack.

He tells Tep that there are three main ways to practice battling, the first being 'Self-practice' which involves combating among themselves to gain experience. The second method, 'Fighting the Wild', is through challenging wild Pokemon that reside in the tall grass. Last but not least, they will encounter people on their journey who have the same goal as theirs, seeking to improve the skills of their Pokemon through challenging others, and this method is called 'Trainer Battles'.

Black admits to Tep that there is one main problem though. The truth is, he has not had a single official trainer battle up to this point of his life, and the revelation causes Tep to tumble back in surprise. Black sighs that within a town, there are limited places that one could have Pokemon battles. To a lot of people, Pokemon battling is regarded as a savage act, and since neither of his childhood friends possessed any Pokemon, Bianca due to the strict ways of her father and Cheren because of his serious and compliant attitude, Brav and Musha have only been able to practice against each other and on wild Pokemon so far.

Black is optimistic that things will change with the beginning of his journey however, and looks forward to fighting the various powerful trainers like himself in this big wide world. Taking in a deep breath, he starts to raise his voice.

Black: COME HAVE A TRAINER BATTLE OR ANYTHING WITH ME!!! SHOW YOURSELVES!! POKEMON TRAINERRRS!!

Unfortunately, Black's call doesn't seem to get him any positive replies. As he ventures through the tall grasses and rocky paths of Route 1, he finds not a single trainer in sight, and soon, the route is coming to an end and he could see the outline of Accumula Town ahead.

Black looks around and feels genuinely surprised that there are no trainers to battle on Route 1. He carefully scans his surroundings once more and is just about to give up hope when something hard bumps into him and knocks him onto the floor. At first, he thinks that it must be a moving rock due to its hardness, but when he looks up, he discovers that it is actually a big and burly Hiker.

The man shoots a grin at Black, and states that he has heard his call. He remarks that he is there to respond to the request, and introduces himself as Andy the Hiker. Without another word, he sends out a Blitzle, Cottonee and Roggenrola, and Black jumps in realization that the man is a Pokemon Trainer. Andy recalls the desperation in Black's voice when he asked for a trainer battle, and wants to know what his goal is. Black replies that he wishes to conquer the Pokemon League, and Andy commends that it is a marvelous goal, making Black a worthy opponent to fight.

Recovering from his exhilaration, Black knows that he needs to treat this first trainer battle seriously, and gets his mind ready. Andy calls forward Blitzle, Cottonee and Roggenrola at the same time, and Black is shocked that he will be battling all three Pokemon at once. However, he quickly remembers that there is indeed such a mode of battle, and flips through his Challenge Proposal to read that it is the Triple Battle, a latest form of battling recently approved and made official by the Pokemon Association.

Black rationalizes that Andy must be a remarkable and skilled trainer to practice this kind of battling, and tells Tep, Brav and Musha to take their spots. Andy grins that Blacks seems to study a lot, and commences the fight by ordering a Rock Slide from Roggenrola, Tail Whip from Blitzle and Razor Leaf from Cottonee. Owing to Roggenrola's central position, the Rock Slide hits all three of Black's Pokemon, while Tail Whip lowers the defense of Musha and Brav alone and Razor Leaf slams into Brav and Tep but not Musha.

Black quickly retaliates with a Flame Charge from Tep, Psybeam from Musha, and Aerial Ace from Brav, which are all single-target moves that only hit the opponent directly in front. Black cheers for the successful assaults, and can see the marked difference between fighting a wild and trainer-owned Pokemon, as the latter are capable of using attacks appropriately and precisely according to the trainer's commands. He observes that Rock Slide and Razor Leaf are both attacks that could target more than one component, and diligently jots down the findings on his Challenge Proposal.

Turning his attention back to the battle, he sees that Cottonee, being a grass type, to already low in health points, and believes that Tep, being the advantageous fire type and positioned directly across it, should be able to take it out soon. He gets Tep to deliver another Flame Charge, and the fire piglet rams its burning body hard into the cotton puff Pokemon, taking another big chunk of health points away from it.

As Tep's flames sear across the field, the temperature in the area rises, and sweats start to form on Andy's forehead. The man lets out a low grunt, and suddenly bolts to his feet and cries that it is too hot for him to take. Without another word, he runs towards a patch of grass that is of considerable distance from the battle scene, and plumps himself down on the floor as he opens his bagpack to dig out the large number of water bottles inside. Black gasps in shock at the man's sudden behavior and hollers that they are still in the middle of a battle, but Andy pays no need and simply downs bottle after bottle of water to cool himself.

Finally, the Hiker feels the heat dissipate from his body, and lets out a sigh of relief. However, when he turns his attention back to the battle, his Blitzle, Cottonee and Roggenrola already lies defeated on the ground. He breaks into tears as he rushes back to hug his Pokemon, and feels dejected that they have lost once again. He sighs that it is probably time for him to retire after all, and the statement causes Black to jump in shock.

Black tries to calm Andy down and tells him not to make impulsive decisions, but the man relents that he has come to accept that he is a bad trainer, even though he started out strong and talented like everyone else. He reveals that he has actually been attempting to take part in the Pokemon League for 20 years, but still fails to do so after all this time. Black gets a little taken aback by the vast number of years Andy has spent on his journey, and wonders what he should say to comfort the man.

Andy says Black surely knows that in order to compete in the League, one needs to collect all 8 Badges, and the boy replies with a nod. Andy remarks that when he was younger, he also aspired to beat the League some day and thus travelled far to collect the Gym Badges. However, he was always met with failure and discouragement along his path, and with every Pokemon League, he could only stand from a distance to envy those who managed to collect all the Badges and gain the qualification to take part.

After his repeated failure, he has already resorted to a semi-retirement mode, and thus returned to this Route 1 where he would challenge rookie trainers who pass by, and take comfort if he manages to win. Yet, he has apparently failed to gain victory even over a fresh trainer like Black, and the disheartenment makes him feel that he would be better off retired.

Black tries to point out that Andy actually ran away from the battle, which is the main reason why he lost, but the Hiker hollers that he knows it well, and confesses that he actually has a big problem coping with heat. He shows Black the stack of water bottles stored inside his bagpack, and remarks that whenever his opponents uses a fire type attack, he would feel a burning sensation in his head and throat, making him unable to carry on with the battle any further. He sighs that he could at least take comfort in the fact that he has had much fun from battling all these years, and feels contented to retire.

Black, on the other hand, isn't ready to let the man give up just like that. He protests that Andy needs to think about the feelings of his Pokemon, and believes that they must still be hopeful of taking part in the Pokemon League. Yet, Andy isn't very convinced, and gestures to Cottonee, who is hovering among the tall grass on its own in a lonely manner. The Hiker points out that Cottonee has been staying away from him recently, which obviously indicates its disappointment in him as its trainer. He cannot really blame it though, for no Pokemon could stay attached to a trainer who has lost his dreams.

Black finds himself at a loss of words, and suddenly senses a surge in temperature around them. Andy notices that Black is starting to sweat like himself, and the boy gets curious as to where the heat came from as the battle is supposed to be over. However, as soon as they turn around, the two are shocked to see that the entire grassland is engulfed in a sea of flames. Andy exclaims in bewilderment at the scene, and is further astonished when Black without warning turns himself upside-down to perform a handstand.

Black calls upon Brav and Musha to help him out, and the Braviary quickly lifts the boy up into the air by grabbing his feet, while the Munna clamps its mouth around his head in an inverted position. Going airborne, Black starts analyzing the situation through his hexagonal vision, and tries to find out the cause of the fire. But then he realizes that the more important issue would be to seek ways to put out the flames, and begins to gather useful information by looking around. He could see that neither Andy nor himself possesses any water types, but the small river nearby, which he manages to spot, could perhaps serve as their savior.

Black somersaults back onto the ground, and gestures Brav towards a giant boulder to his right. He hopes that with its super power, which is strong enough to carry off a Bicycle, it could bring the boulder into the river, and voices his encouragement as the Braviary digs its claws into the giant piece of rock to lift it up into the air. Black tells Brav to fling the boulder into the river at the highest altitude possible, and rushes back to Andy, who is now paralyzed from the heat. The man mutters that he is unable to think straight in such a state, but Black insists that he will need his help, and tells him to be strong.

In that moment, Brav drops the giant boulder into the river, and causes a huge splash, essentially forming a water column in the air. Andy sees what Black is trying to do, but points out that the water is too far away to put out the flames. Black hollers that it is why he will need Andy's help, and tells him to get Cottonee to use Cotton Spore on the water column. Unsure of what Black is planning to do, Andy does as he is told, and Cottonee fires off a thick cloud of cotton towards the water pillar, which rapidly absorbs the water and becomes soaked. Black commands Brav to wing the wet cotton back towards the burning grassland, and as the soaked cotton spores block out the oxygen supply to the fire, the flames are soon put out.

Black and Andy stand next to each other as the smoke gradually clears on the grassland, and Black makes the startling revelation that Cottonee was actually who started the fire, which causes Andy to jump in shock. Black explains that the cotton puff Pokemon has been hovering over the ember left behind from Tep's attacks earlier, and the wind whipped up from its leafy wings probably made the fire spread accidentally.

Indeed, Cottonee wears a guilty look on its face, and Andy starts to yell at it for causing so much trouble, but Black quickly stops the man, and states that from what he saw, Cottonee was only trying to practice on its own to overcome its weakness to fire. Perhaps, by making itself stronger while facing a fire type opponent, it could change Andy's decision to retire due to his weakness to heat. The Hiker finds himself deeply moved upon realizing Cottonee's intention, and breaks into tears as he runs over to hug the Pokemon, finally understanding that his Pokemon is trying to help him and not abandon him.

A few moments later, after Andy and Cottonee have both settled their emotions, the man thanks Black for helping him see his fault, and wishes to know what exactly the boy was doing when his Munna clamped on his head. Black explains that Musha was actually eating his dreams because his head is constantly filled with desires to conquer the Pokemon League, and he is unable to focus on anything else unless they are cleared to make room for thought. Andy wonders if it is really alright that Black has his dreams eaten, and Black assures him that his dreams are endless, which is why no matter how many times Musha eats them, they will re-spawn again in his head.

Andy recalls that he used to have endless dreams as well before he gradually forgot his goal to conquer the Pokemon League, and Black grins that he can now repossess them. Trying to encourage the man, Black gets him to join him in his daily practice, and tells him to repeat what he says.

Black: I WILL CONQUER THE POKEMON LEAGUEEEEE!! Andy: I WILL CONQUER THE POKEMON LEAGUE TOOOO!! SURELY SURELY SURELY SURELY CONQUER ITTTT!!!

With that, Black and Andy share a deep-hearted laugh with each other, and the Hiker gives a friendly pat on Black's shoulder. Black muses to himself that trainer battles are really interesting, as he gets to meet different people who have different qualities. This particular Hiker, Andy, has trouble with heat and fire, which compromises his decision and ability as a trainer in a battle, and in turn affects the outcome of the battle. Black learns the important fact that a trainer's personal qualities also dictate the results of a battle, and is glad that he has such a realization so early on his journey.

Black is confident that he will meet Andy some day at the Pokemon League now that the man has regained the passion to fight, and waves goodbye as he disappears from sight. He remarks that it is time for him to resume his journey as well, and dashes towards the direction of Accumula Town with Tep, Brav and Musha, looking forward to his fist Gym challenge.

Up on a cliff nearby, a young man with long green hair watches as Black speeds by with his Pokemon, and turns to leave without a word…

Thanks To Coronis For Writing this for us



464: VS Cottonee


Volume 43