Practice Makes Perfect
Amber was in a good mood again. The journey to Aspertia was uneventful, thankfully, and Amber was excited to try her hand at a gym fight. They had stopped just before town and she had let Shadow and Fang out to stretch before the fight. Fang was looking around with his usual piercing glare, while Shadow was busy chasing his tail. She took a deep breath and steeled herself. It would be her first badge battle.
But was that a good idea?
It struck her that she didn't really know how to fight. She'd watched Leo fight a few times, and she saw how Gloria fought yesterday. Just watching wasn't enough, she decided.
“What?” said Leo, snapping Amber out of her thoughts.
“I'm not sure I'm ready anymore...” Amber said, looking at the Gym.
“Need a hand, Amber?” Gloria asked, putting a hand on her hip. “I'll cheer you on.”
“I just realized I'm going to a Gym when I don't even know how to fight very well yet. I'm such an idiot...”
“I could use some training too,” Leo agreed, scratching Flare's head, “Flare needs some practice.” The Pokémon flattened her ears a bit, but seemed to acknowledge the issue. “How about we find some wild Pokémon to fight? That'll be some good experience.”
Amber swallowed hard. Wild Pokémon?! She was suddenly reminded of the attack last week. The thought of becoming a Pokémon's lunch if she lost terrified her.
Gloria must have seen the look on Amber's face. “Relax, Amber. The Pokémon around Route 19 are fodder,” she tiled her head a little, “If Fang can already use Dragon Rage like he did last night, he must be somewhat more mature than the other Pokémon. The Pokémon around here rarely get as strong as that Houndoom. It'll be cake. This is a good chance to let Shadow try his stuff too.”
In response to his name, Shadow suddenly stopped chasing his tail and looked at Gloria, then back to Amber. “Shadow, fight?”
Amber nodded. “Gloria's right. You're a baby. It'll be good practice. If the wild Pokémon aren't strong, then I should train you first and keep Fang for backup.”
“M...mama...” Shadow's expression changed from surprise to fear and the Absol leaned on Amber's leg.
Amber bent over and comforted Shadow. “I won't let you faint. I promise. If things get ugly, I'll go back to Flocessy.”
Leo raised an eyebrow at Amber. “Why not just go to Aspertia? Its closer.”
Amber sighed and looked at the dirt. She didn't want to confront the truth. Running away was all she could do, since her father was hell-bent on her becoming a nurse
Doctors have big paychecks. You'll make us rich!
You're cute. They'll come and buy things from you all day long.
Trainers are nothing but hooligans! You're better than a trainer.
You'll do this job and like it!
Memories of the selfish things her father said taunted her like a middle-school bully. And her mother! She just didn't care. She was never around anyway. Nothing mattered to her but her stupid clerk's job in Sinnoh!
She didn't want to be a nurse! Nurses have to deal with sick and injured Pokémon all day long. Amber knew she couldn't take that kind of pressure day-in and day-out. She'd go crazy.
So she ran. She decided her future was hers, not her father's! That's why she just wanted to get that badge and leave. If he showed up...
Amber shook her head. “No. I wanna stay in Flocessy. I'm not going home.” Amber turned and walked back towards the path.
Gloria stepped in her way. “Why are you acting like that? This isn't like you.”
Amber just looked at her. “I don't wanna talk about it. I'd rather just train.”
Gloria shrugged. “Okay. Well, just wander around. Stay in the grass; that's where you'll find the Pokémon. Unless you can surf on a Pokémon or if you have a rod. You can look for Pokémon that way too.”
Amber headed for the nearest patch of tall grass. Leo came up behind Amber. “Mind if I join you?”
She shrugged. “I don't mind.”
Several minutes passed with Amber and Leo searching the grass together. Gloria was sitting under a tree, watching them. She'd said the Pokémon around here didn't provide good training for her team. Amber was still jumpy and flinched at every little rustle and snap. She couldn't get that surprise attack out of her mind and she was scared it would happen again. She was so nervous that she almost didn't see the two Pokémon that Leo found.
One was a rather big, pink Pokémon with small, blue eyes and large ears. There was a cream-colored patch on the lower half of its face and also down its belly and feet. It also had a fluffy, cotton-like tail, which twitched warily. The other was a small gray and white bird with big yellow eyes. It had a blue patch on the shoulders and the tips of its wings. Both Pokémon seemed surprised to find the two humans here.
Leo looked at Amber. “Check it out! An Audino and a Pidove! Which one do you wanna try and catch, Amber?”
“Huh? I thought we were training.”
“We are! I'm gonna catch one of these and expand my team a little. I'm thinking about that bird. How about you catch the Audino? They're friendly types and I think one would suit you.”
Amber looked between the two Pokémon. The Audino did seem kind of nice. Amber found herself smiling as it approached. The Pidove was definitely not friendly though. It glared at them and puffed up its feathers.
“AWK!” It shouted, flaring its wings and hopping up and down.
“Alright, let's do this. Amber, are you gonna fight with Shadow, or are you gonna use Fang?” Leo asked as Flare ran up in front of him. “Either way, I'd keep Shadow out so he can watch.”
“I have no idea what I'm doing,” Amber said, eying her opponents. She was nervous, especially since that Pidove was getting increasingly upset.
Leo shook his head. “I'd use Fang if I were you. Just let Shadow look on for now.”
Shadow nodded and looked up at Amber. “Mama? Why Shadow no fight?”
Amber just looked at Leo. How in the world was Shadow going to get better without fighting? That didn't make any sense.
“Fang's clearly more experienced. Audinos aren't vicious, but they can heal allies and themselves. We can do it if we work together. Right, Flare?” Leo ruffled the Growlithe's tuft. The dog barked and readied herself into a battle stance. “Let Pidove have it! Flamethrower! Amber! Try and keep Audino from healing Pidove! I need to wear it down so I can grab that bird.”
“Ah...okay.” Amber took a deep breath and looked at her opponent. The Audino was grinning, extending and rolling up the long feelers on its ears. Surely something that cute can't be much trouble.
Her eyes fell onto Fang's claws. “Um...Fang! Claw it!” Fang trilled and charged, swiping at Audino as Flare greeted Pidove with her flames. Audino yelped and jumped back, rolling up the feelers in a start. Its expression changed from smiling to annoyed. The Audino smacked Fang hard with its hand, sending the surprised lizard stumbling back a few steps. Pidove flapped its wings vigorously, hitting Flare with a well-aimed Gust.
“Okay, nice!” Leo encouraged, “Just keep it up! Don't forget to throw a Pokéball before Audino faints if you wanna catch it.”
Amber nodded. “Do it again, Fang!” Fang slashed at Audino a second time, earning another angry glare from the pink Pokémon.
“Alright, Flare! Fire Fang!” Flare leaped up and bit the Pidove, flames spurting from her mouth as she attacked. The bird squawked and fell over. It wasn't down yet; the angry pigeon stumbled to its feet and let loose a Peck on the dog. Audino countered with a strange purple beam that it shot at Fang. It didn't seem to do any damage, and the Audino seemed puzzled. In fact, Fang seemed relived and smirked at the Audino.
“What was that?” Amber asked.
“Heal Pulse,” Leo answered, “no wonder it didn't do anything. It restores the target's health!”
Amber suddenly remembered that fire-like attack Fang used at Argent last night. She figured it would do more damage than Fang's meager scratches seemed to be doing. “Fang! Do that blue-fire thing!”
“Blue fire?” Leo's question was answered as Fang leaned back and spat out a stream of blazing blue flames at Audino. It squeaked and stumbled back, nearly falling over. Flare, meanwhile, hit the Pidove with one more Fire Fang, causing the bird to wobble.
“Whoa. That's a cool move. Dragon Rage, I think?” Leo quickly grabbed a Pokéball from his pocket. “Okay. Here goes.” He threw the ball at the Pidove, just as an upset Audino tried to use Heal Pulse on it. The move missed as Pidove was sucked into the Pokéball, still woozy from Flare's bite. The ball wobbled once, twice, three times, then stood still.
Audino glanced back at Amber, those cute blue eyes wide. Amber wasn't sure if the Pokémon was weak enough yet. She decided to try anyway. She pulled a Pokéball of her own out of a pocket as Leo scooped up his catch.
“Go! Please work!”
The Pokéball hit the Audino right on the stomach and the squealing Pokémon disappeared into the ball with a flash of light. The ball wiggled and the Pokémon inside fought to escape.
Amber dug her nails into her palms. “C'mon...work...stay in...”
Amber's face fell when the Audino popped back out. The irritated Pokémon slammed Fang with its paw again, this time making Fang fall completely over.
“Ack! Fang! Get up!!” Amber's pleas were useless. Fang had passed out. Before Amber could react, Shadow leaped out and stood between the angry Audino and Fang, swinging his blade and hissing.
“Shadow! No! Get-” The Absol suddenly jabbed Audino in the chest with his huge horn. His brutal attack was a direct hit, and the Audino was knocked on its butt. It seemed dizzy and kept falling over when it tried to stand.
“What the hell?!” Leo blurted, “Was that Megahorn?!”
Amber stood wide-eyed at the scene. She had no idea a cute Pokémon like Shadow could be so ferocious! Amber decided to try again. She took out another ball and readied it.
“Pokéball, go!” She declared as she winged it at the Audino.
It was another direct hit and Audino was again sucked into the ball. This time it didn't even wiggle, it just clicked and held still.
“Nice shot! Amber, that was a perfect throw! You got it!” Leo cheered.
Amber stood stunned for a few moments. She actually did it. She won her first fight! She just stood there, stunned for several moments. She could barely believe it.
“Congratulations guys!” Gloria said, playfully smacking Amber on the back as she came over, “Not bad for a first time, Amber! Are you sure you've never fought before?”
“I'll say,” Leo chimed in, “That Absol, he's a beast! You'll kick some serious ass with him on your team!”
“Beast?” Shadow cocked his head and looked up. “Mama?”
“Amber smiled broadly. “He means you're strong, Shadow!” She stroked his head. “Thanks. That was amazing.”
“Amazing!” Shadow mimicked, rubbing Amber's hand.
Amber recalled Fang and Shadow and nodded. “I can't believe I just did that.” She walked over to where Audino's ball was laying and smiled. She picked up the ball.
A first catch, and it felt good.
“Hey, Leo, can you let out that Pidove for a minute?” Gloria asked. Leo shrugged and released the bird.
Gloria's eyes went wide and she blinked. “Hey, Leo, that Pidove's shiny! I knew it looked kind of off! You're so lucky!”
“No shit?!” Leo stared at his catch. He got a huge grin and elbowed Amber. “Check it out! Shinies are supposed to be ultra-rare! I actually have a shiny Pokémon! Woo! Holy shit, I'm da bomb!”
Amber smiled. “Good for you! I'm glad you're so amped-up. I better head back and heal my team. Poor Fang's out cold, Shadow looks tired, and I don't think Audino's in any shape to fight.”
“Here, catch!” Gloria suddenly threw a small bottle at Amber.
She looked it over, puzzled. It was a small, diamond-shaped bottle full of a sparkling yellow fluid. “What's this?”
“It's a Revive. Use that on Fang and he'll be A-OK,” Gloria said, “Can't let you get defeated before you face the Gym.”
“Let's go to Flocessy and heal up. I need to buy a few supplies anyway,” Leo said, recalling Pidove and Flare before going off ahead. Amber couldn't stop smiling. She was happier than she'd been in a long time. Using the medicine on Fang, she followed her friend to Flocessy Town. She was feeling more confident now.
Maybe she could even win against the Gym.