- Increased power and accuracy for biting attacks.
- Learning two bite-centric maneuvers: "Roll 'em," where Yan grabs a target and deliberately throws herself into a roll to tear at/drag down the target, and "Lock in," where Yan holds onto a target and is difficult to shake off.
Yan walked alongside Sarra as the pair trekked through the fields west of Marchton. No longer was the view broken up by the looming shapes of buildings; the land and sky stretched so far and completely that Yan could hardly recall the city she’d been in fifteen minutes prior. Yesterday she would have found the sight intimidating, but today she was fed and rested, and most importantly, with handler. It was a fine time to forge ahead into the big world, to put her nose to the dirt, and to explore.
Little mysteries abounded, and Yan attended to each with diligence: shards of broken egg that had been mashed into the dirt, the sweet of earth upturned by a pokemon’s recent passage, coarse sprawls of dale grass that rattled in the wind, and the dark-stemmed fletch-foot, whose fragrant, red-orange blossoms gave even Sarra pause.
In the brush along a slight rise, Yan caught a flicker of movement. It was so small that she couldn’t be sure of it at first, but then branches undeniably shook. Something was there. Feeling venturesome, Yan stole away from her handler to investigate. She hoped for trouble.
Being young, Yan craved any chance to divert her handler’s attention towards herself. She just had to be clever in how she obtained it; Sarra was impervious to Yan’s most pitiful whimpers, and to plant paws on Sarra’s leg invited a look so dark that Yan vowed better behavior for life. Reporting trouble was different. Sarra would want to know about a dangerous pokemon. She might even commend Yan for her vigilance. Yan relished the thought.
“Trouble” was a bird. It was a small bird, a pidgey. It hadn’t noticed Yan draw near, but it was safely cloistered within a shrub. Yan slowed as she considered her approach. The woody branches would thwart a bite, and her fire attacks might finish off the pidgey too soon.
Yan decided on barking to scare the pidgey out and loosed three good, ringing ones that carried well across the plains. She could not have anticipated the response. Out flushed not one, but two pidgeys, their wings beating explosively with the ascent. Yan saw only the frantic motion of the wings and bright bellies flashing past her head. She fell over herself, saw the sky at a bewildering angle, caught sight of the retreating birds, remembered herself and righted, and at last went barking back to Sarra, which had been the plan in the first place.
Happily, Sarra was on the alert. She cut her eyes from Yan to the pidgeys, which had climbed ever higher in their escape. Without fully understanding why, anticipation welled in Yan’s heart. Something good was going to happen now—a right and urgent something, something that would course from Sarra to Yan with immediacy, a spoken
something, and then Yan would—and the pidgeys would—
Yan watched the pidgeys get farther away. Frantic, her thoughts unspooled completely. She thrust herself between her handler and the birds with a formidable show of barking. It was vitally important that the pidgeys return to fight, so she threw out every insult she could think of. Neither bird turned back, however, and Yan’s throaty snarls thinned to puling as found herself ignored. She whirled around to Sarra, desperate.
Sarra just watched the pidgeys go. To Yan she seemed like stone.
” she said to Yan, and moved on.
It defied understanding. Yan paced about, unable to contain her bewilderment. It didn’t happen—the important something didn’t happen. She was reeling.
Ahead of her, Sarra spoke again. “There’s work to do first. Come on. We’re here.
Still dismayed, Yan lingered for a moment, but her curiosity won out in the end. She hurried after her handler to see what their destination was all about.
The training site was a stretch of grass in sight of, but not too near, the river, while the other side pressed up against a low and lonely hill. The place was unremarkable, but serviceable, which appealed to Sarra’s sensibilities.
She’d known perfectly well what Yan was after with the pidgeys. In her own way, Yan was trying to assert herself in the world and make sense of her own power. She’d felt safe in a handler’s care, and the confidence that came with that had her spoiling for a fight. Yan had even rightly intuited that Sarra could give fighting orders; however, Yan had been so busy barking for them, she’d never even heard Sarra say the pidgeys were too high to reach.
Sarra rubbed at her ears. They were still ringing from all the noise.
She had ordered Yan to run to the hill for a while to work off any lingering frustration before calling her back. When Yan approached, panting and clear-headed, Sarra had been waiting with the bite rag. It had once been a bedcover. Now it was cut down, doubled over, and sewn shut into a rectangular shape. The final product was the length of her forearm. Holding it by a loop of rope fixed to one end, she dangled this curiosity towards Yan.
Yan sniffed it over a few times—a mild reaction, but typical for a ‘mon’s first encounter with the rag. Sarra considered it herself. It really was unimpressive looking.
It was time to transform it into the most coveted thing in the world.
“Let’s play a game,
” said Sarra, generously. Yan lit up at once. “Ready? I win.
Confused silence followed this claim. Yan cocked her head.
Instead of clarifying, Sarra waved the rag in arcs and turns that made it seem alive. Very quickly Yan was fascinated. Her head followed every movement until at last her tail was wagging and she stepped nearer.
“I have this thing, so I win,
” said Sarra again. Puppy logic was in full effect now. “Look at my rag. Look! You don’t have one, so look at mine.
Yan whined breathily and punctuated it with a bark. Envy—that was progress. Going on the offensive, Sarra hit the rag against her leg with such a satisfying thump that Yan turned about herself in excitement. A lesser growlithe would have launched themselves at the rag by now to take it for themselves.
Not Yan. Just from the look of her, there were far too many ideas going around in her head. She decided on something, and then approached with wagging tail. She seemed every bit the innocent onlooker, curious about the rag but too principled to steal it; Sarra, playing the fool, flapped the rag more fervently in Yan’s face.
One flick too many and Yan lunged. She clamped down on the middle of the rag. Sarra held firmly against the pull, concerned about nothing but the bite.
It had been a weak one, a nip that only used the front of Yan’s teeth. Sloppy. Sarra easily yanked the rag back out of Yan’s mouth.
“I still win.
” Sarra flaunted her treasure before her astonished growlithe to bait out another try. “Maybe hold onto it?
Growling, Yan grabbed the rag with her whole mouth this time. Sarra hummed at the sight.
She had a good sense for what a ‘mon could do with training. Sometimes it only took half a day to realize it, and sometimes it took three. Sometimes it was only murky intuition, and sometimes the rush of understanding stole her breath away. For Yan, Sarra had a sudden vision: the dark-charged Bite, the elemental Fangs, and the ruinous Crunch, all executed with power and precision. Attack names didn’t matter—they were arts of the jaw, every one of them. The fundamentals were the same, so Yan would need to learn them well.
Sarra braced against Yan’s pull and welcomed its force. This she would reward.
” Sarra said, relinquishing the rag completely. Yan nearly fell head over haunches with her prize, but she recovered quickly and ran off with it. Only when Sarra was well out of range did Yan celebrate with furious headshakes.
When Yan at last tired, the rag flopped down nervelessly in her mouth. Another effort forced a fitful wiggle through the rag, but this was short lived. Sarra just took a knee and waited. Sure enough, Yan started whining, and the second her boredom caused her eyes to drift Sarra’s way, Sarra patted the ground for the rag’s return.
There was a standoff, but not for long. Yan brought the rag back and with great reluctance offered it.
“Good girl. You got it. You won,
” said Sarra in consolation. The growlithe merely puffed through her nose. “It’s not as much fun when you’re playing by yourself, huh?
Sullen silence followed. It earned a laugh out of Sarra, the first, and she grabbed the end of the rag Yan wasn’t holding. She moved it very slightly to test Yan’s grip. The rag moved easily, and Yan was none the wiser.
“Now I win!
” said Sarra, and with a simple twitch of her hand, she jumped the rag out of Yan’s relaxed jaws. The look on Yan’s face was something to cherish.
It was quickly back to business after that. The game was on. Sarra brought the rag alive with flops and turns, and Yan worked hard to pursue it.
Takeaways (Part 1)
It was only after thoroughly exhausting Yan did Sarra explain what they were doing. The game was called “tug,” and it would help Yan learn to bite. Tug quickly became Yan’s favorite thing to do. She did everything she could to seize the rag, and once she’d finally wrested it free, she couldn’t get it back in Sarra’s hands fast enough.
There were three play sessions in a day. A session consisted of numerous rounds of tug, each of which were deliberately short and intense. This kept Yan’s enthusiasm high and encouraged her to put everything she had into each bite.
” said Sarra, and decided the first few rounds would be bird take-offs this time. The rag—a stiffer, thicker one, made not for lively movement but to simulate weight—suddenly lifted high. Yan sat beside it, quivering with anticipation. At the word, she sprang up on her hind legs to get it, clamped down, and jerked her head once to drive her teeth in. Sarra was satisfied. “Out!
Yan released her bite and landed on all fours, already getting into position for the next round.
” The rag rose at a low angle as if taking a running start to fly. Yan mowed it down. “Out!
” A steeply angled ascent, very fast. The speed had surprised Yan—she followed the rag with her body closely enough, but her teeth shut a hair’s breadth from the imagined tail feathers. She landed well, eyes locked on the rag as it swooped back down in an ill-advised burst of aggression. She caught it then, displeasure in her eyes, both her and Sarra knowing Yan should have gotten it the first time. The real thing would have been out of reach by now. “Out!
” A desperate feint on the ground before take-off. Yan would not be fooled. “Out!
” The steep angle again, this time properly intercepted. “Out!
” A slithering ekans to throw Yan off. Yan reared up, seemingly jumping for a bird by mistake, but her eyes told a different story. They stayed on the retreating rag at all times, and Yan had only brought her body up to slam it back down in a pounce. Teeth followed. Sarra nodded, approving. “Out!
At some point or another, Sarra stopped calling it “tug” and started calling it “bite work.”
Priorities shifted. At first it was all about improving the bite itself. That had been a great success—Yan bit fuller, faster, and more confidently. Now the objective was for Yan to deliver that bite in different situations, whether the rag flitted off at a strange angle, scampered away on the ground, or feinted deviously. If Yan erred, a missed dive or a misjudged jump, Sarra would present the same situation a few rounds later to see if Yan could figure it out on her own. With increasing regularity she did, though the thorniest of issues required a talk at the end of a session. It didn’t take much, even then. Something as simple as “you’re taking your eyes off when it circles left” or “don’t be scared to throw your whole body into it” was enough to see improvements.
There were a lot of things to appreciate about Yan. She didn’t let mistakes bother her too much, or at least was easily consoled. She welcomed a challenge and threw everything she had into it. A good attitude and heart went a long way with Sarra. It made Yan easy to work with—even a little fun.
The thought made Sarra hesitate.
Training was rewarding, useful, and even fascinating, but fun didn’t come up anymore. It hadn’t in years. Certainly there were preferred pupils—any spearow, and a yungoos that would move mountains for jerky—but the grim truth of the pit had soured Sarra on fun
Yan barked, hypersensitive to the lull in the round. Sarra, shaken, jolted her arm up high.
” The rag was a taillow, mad with courage, arcing over Yan’s head to knife down upon her back. Yan threw herself back onto her haunches and met it on the dive. “Out!
” The rag became some leaping, long-legged thing that hoped to escape with one bound—maybe a deerling. Yan surged after it. “Out!
Yan pranced like a deerling sometimes.
When there was space for it, and the mood hit her, she’d frolic around in the sunlight and flop down right on the ground. It was a meaningless little thing to know, but Sarra’s mind had snagged on it.
Yan had a fascination with boots, and one time abducted one of Sarra’s to fit as much of herself inside as possible. She did well enough to need rescuing. It had been surprisingly difficult to free her.
After a session, when Yan’s energy had finally exhausted, she would lay down with a faraway look in her eyes that made her seem older and more composed. There was no telling what was on her mind. Sarra often wondered about it, but never asked; Yan couldn’t speak her thoughts even if she wanted to, and in any case, the contemplation gave her a handsome look that Sarra was reluctant to take away from her.
” The rag skittered about unpredictably, a strangely large joltik seeking to mystify with its movements. Yan struck for it and missed. She tried again, and it lurched right to escape her. On the third bite, Yan got it. “Out!
There was a glint in Yan’s eyes after that one. Sarra knew why. Three tries on the joltik was good. Last session it had been five. Pleased, Sarra wondered what would happen next time the joltik came up. It was only a matter of time before Yan got it in one.
” Joltik again, right away, for the hell for it. One miss, then a bite. Sarra smirked. “Out!
It stung to think about, but Sarra had to admit it. Yan was fun.
Takeaways (Part 2)
“In! Roll it!
” said Sarra, tossing a small pillow Yan’s way.
Yan snagged the pillow with a jump and threw her entire body into a dive. She took her latest victim down with her, and in one more or less smooth motion rolled back onto her feet. It still stung a little to go to the ground, but she was definitely improving. Yan mauled the pillow with particular glee and rolled herself again for good measure.
She blinked at the sight of down feathers raining all around her. The pillow had ruptured and now hung open.
Sarra just nodded and sat down. “Well,
” she said. “Out, I guess.
Yan gave the pillow another victorious shake before trotting it over to Sarra. Though her sides were heaving in and out with exhaustion, the growlithe released the pillow in favor of the bite rag and wagged her tail.
Sarra stared at her. “No, I’ll die. We’re done.
Yan dropped the rag at that, appeased. She flopped down too.
In the beginning, there were Growlithes and Not-Growlithes. But to that humble mythology came experience, and with experience came names.
Now there were Humans and there was Sarra, and there were Growlithes and there was Yan. On meeting, Sarra and Yan had merged into a singular, principal Us; all the rest, regardless of intention, became that vast and roiling Other that Yan would guard against forever.
Yan did not have to think about any of this—as a growlithe, the process was innate. Her instincts had inscribed this knowledge upon her being as the Truth. For a while, the Truth was enough. It had everything Yan needed to know about the world. Now, however, Yan wasn’t so sure.
She did not challenge the Truth—could barely, at her young age, even access it—but she had a sense there was more to having a handler than obedience and training. Little inklings like that were becoming common to Yan, who grew contemplative after the rigorous bite work sessions. As she had no particularly grand ambitions, she let her thoughts go where they pleased: a mushroom, the river, the agitating scent of vulpix. The desperate flight of the bite rag and the joy of catching it. Flowers, the river, a cart in the morning. Sarra. Always it would come back to Sarra and what Yan had learned about her.
Training readily revealed information. For instance, Sarra didn’t say everything about a new training exercise from the get-go. Often, she would give the bare minimum instruction, have Yan try the exercise out, and only afterwards provide the full explanation. Also, Sarra being quiet had nothing to do with anger or boredom. She just liked the quiet—her displeasure and approval were instead read from her eyes.
Other observations had nothing to do with training, like Sarra’s fascination with little pebbles. She would collect them daily. At the end of the day she laid them out, appraised them seriously, and put the finest ones in a pouch. Once Yan had brought her a dark speckled rock that earned little reaction at the time, but Yan later spied her tucking it away in the pouch and felt proud.
Also, Sarra was more observant than she seemed. She knew Yan didn’t like the spicy berries, and to massage Yan’s paws after a long walk, and that Yan’s neck was the very best spot for petting, although anywhere was fine.
It made Yan’s desire for attention seem silly, looking back on it. Sarra had always
been watching. Yan just hadn’t noticed it before.
The Rug (Part 1)
“Here we go,
” said Sarra. “Two braces today, Yan.
Yan just waited, tensed.
Sometimes, Sarra set aside the beloved bite rag for the “rug,” a tightly-bound bundle of rush mats with an old wool rug serving as the outermost layer. Where the rag had been for targeting practice and improving the bite’s form, the rug was meant to condition the jaw and serve as practice holding down a struggling ‘mon. It was roughly Yan’s weight, over twice as long, and bulky enough to stand up to her worst bites.
Sarra stood the rug up, backed off, and said “Lock in!
”, the call to bite and hold on.
Yan threw herself into the rug’s mass. The rug slapped against the grass and she rode it down, teeth buried firmly into the thick wool layer. She squeezed to ensure her bite was good and straddled the rug with her legs, for the instant it hit the ground, Sarra shouted “Brace!
”, took a running start, and kicked the unoccupied end. The force shot through the rug and drilled Yan in the gut, but Yan held on all the tighter. “Brace” was only halfway over; Sarra grabbed the end of the rug, and with a grunt of exertion, hurled it away from her with all her might. Now the whole world seemed to lurch around with dizzying speed, and Yan could do nothing but ride out the swing with her mouth and paws.
Yan thought very little of the rug at first encounter. It did not move like the rag and thus seemed much easier to deal with. Very quickly, however, she considered it the hardest part of bite work by far. She was tasked to maintain a single bite as Sarra put her through numerous rug exercises; gone were the frequent in/out rounds, replaced with a grueling endurance match.
More than any other rug exercise, Yan feared the brace. It demanded an excellent bite, as anything less sent her flying off. Even now the brace had jarred open Yan’s jaws, forcing her to rely on her straddle until she could regrip. The rug thumped back down, and Yan withstood both the big second jolt and smaller third from the rebound. Instantly she swung her hips off to the side so that her hind legs could touch the ground. Earth beneath her feet was a welcome feeling, for it reaffirmed her position and allowed her to re-stabilize. She did not celebrate. Sarra was already moving into the next part.
” said Sarra, picking up the end of the rug she’d thrown and swinging it from side to side. Sometimes the movements were shallow and quick, the frantic shakes of a smaller pokemon, and sometimes Sarra threw her whole weight into swaying motion as if Yan had latched onto a far bigger foe. Yan climbed on the rug again, enduring the small swings and leaning into the big ones with practiced ease.
” Hind legs swung off the rug and on the ground again just as Sarra tucked one end of the rug beneath her arm and started to drag it behind her. This was practice in case Yan needed to be mobile while biting. Yan relied entirely on her hind legs to match the rug’s movement, sometimes stepping, sometimes skipping, and, when Sarra changed direction, even hopping along.
” Bad news. Yan winced at the sound of it and jumped on the rug. Sarra lifted one end as high as possible and dropped it down over and over to simulate thrashing. Though each individual one lacked the sudden, severe shock of the brace, the drops grew more punishing as they went. Each one gnawed a little deeper into Yan than the last, until at last she felt them thudding in her bones. Her jaw burned from the exertion, even though Yan had learned to ease up very slightly during lifts to give herself a break.
The drops seemed to carry on for an age and despite her best efforts, Yan felt her grip slipping. She struggled in her regrip, trying for quick adjustments that minimized how widely she opened her mouth, but her purchase was getting away from her. The end of rug hiked up again. To Yan it seemed especially high this time, and the first shard of doubt began to dig into her. Her bite degraded into ineffective chewing.
” said Sarra. The rug dropped again, and Yan shuddered. “In, Yan. Steady. It’s brace next!
The second brace. Yan had been waiting for it. It had taken her two sessions to assure herself she could take one
, but she’d never managed two before. She searched for strength, trying to find another good, deep bite within herself, but her jaws were too tired and her grip beyond saving. She was finished.
Yan choked back a whimper and waited to be thrown. The kick never came.
” Sarra was saying. “Out, Yan.
Yan barely heard. It felt like her whole head had turned to mush. Finally, the command registered, and she gratefully withdrew her bite into order to slump into the grass.
Sarra was close to her now. “We’re done for the day, Yan. Get yourself together.
At this, Yan relaxed as best she could to begin healing.
She reached into the core of her being and stoked her inner flame. Slowly, she built its power up and up until it was radiating from her skin and able to ensnare the sunlight shining on her back. The captured sunlight pulled into Yan’s body and spread where it was needed. It suffused across her skin and deeply into muscle, easing away soreness in a wave of comforting heat, until at last Yan’s body brimmed with a gentle light.
Yan let out a long, slow breath. Morning Sun easily took care of pain, but it could nothing for her exhaustion or her disappointment.
“The drops got you. Ease up on your bite more when I’m lifting you. Your legs are strong enough to keep you gripped while you give your mouth a break,
” said Sarra. She went quiet after that, her fingers working through Yan’s radiant fur. “…I know how much you wanted to take two braces today. I wanted it for you, too.
Yan had no reply. Between tiredness, healing, and Sarra’s petting, she had fallen into something of a stupor. Her normally fluid thoughts ran mud-like, such that she could scarcely think of anything at all, until suddenly there was understanding.
She liked work.
It was not comfortable or at all easy, but she liked it. She liked that made her stronger. She liked that it challenged her. She liked thinking about work, and listening to Sarra talk about work, and listening to Sarra.
She liked Sarra.
The affection had been shallow at first; Yan was after Sarra’s attention more than the handler herself. But now that Yan had her fill of that attention, she could appreciate finer things still: Sarra’s patience, how she smiled with her eyes, and the way she said things.
Yan mustered up the energy to thump her tail against the ground and shifted to lick Sarra’s hand. Next time, it would be two braces. It would give Sarra something to talk about. Yan could take two braces for that.
The Rug (Part 2)
And she did.
Yan found the zigzagoon first. It was big one surrounded by scraps of bark as it rubbed its back against a tree. After a quick scan with the pokecard—male, lower level—Sarra nodded her approval.
Yesterday Sarra had suggested bites only—no fire attacks. Yan had readily agreed. She raced ahead now, brimming with confidence. The zigzagoon was too preoccupied with scratching to notice.
Yan desperately wanted to bark to get a reaction, or better yet Roar to see what that
would do, but Sarra had warned her off such grandstanding. Yan compromised by snarling only when she was too close to miss. The sound of it hit the zigzagoon’s ears like a shot. He had only just parted from his tree when he saw a rush of orange, and from that resolved a face twisted in a frightful display of fangs. Yan barreled into him teeth-first. She took him by the cheek and jaw, Bite’s dark energy pulsing into his skin. The two ‘mons crashed down with Yan on top.
The zigzagoon’s eyes rolled; the whites flashed in his terror. He convulsed, and from his body shot brilliant orbs of light that blackened and crackled with concentrated dark. Some flew off harmlessly, but with Yan so close, most of the Hidden Power seared into her side. Her fireproof coat warded off none of it and the skin beneath cooked. Startled by the strange new pain and the feel of real zigzagoon blood in her mouth, Yan released her bite and scrambled away.
The zigzagoon found his feet soon after, his ears pinned back and his mouth agape. His coat puffed outwards until he seemed to match Yan’s size. Alarmed, Yan stepped back. Her nerve weakened further when the zigzagoon crept closer and let out a rattling Growl.
“The rag, Yan,
” said Sarra over the noise. “It’s just the rag. Look at his tail!
Yan’s eyes drifted to the zigzagoon’s fat tail. The shape of it stirred something in her memory. When the zigzagoon slipped away to circle around her, making distinctive zigzag motions in his course, there was no longer any doubt—this was just bite work.
Confidence began to pour back into her.
” came the order, grounding Yan further. “Roll him!
Yan knew rolling from the pillow and the zigzag movement from the rag. She surged at the zigzagoon’s back, not at all disoriented by the ‘mon’s weaving path, and leaped to clear the last bit of distance. Her teeth caught a hunk of tail; the thick bristle scraped at her snout and nostrils, but she powered through the discomfort. Leading the movement with a sudden, violent jerk of her head, Yan threw herself into a roll. She came away with a large clump of fur in her mouth. The zigzagoon was yanked down with a shriek of surprise while Yan rolled back up to her feet.
“See if you can lock him in!
” Yan recognized the challenge in those words. Sarra trusted her to find an opening on her own.
The first attempt to re-grab was cut short when a bubble of protective energy shimmered around the zigzagoon. Yan slammed right into it. She snapped at the strange shield, hoping to breach it, but her teeth wouldn’t catch on anything. The Protect was short-lived, and faded just as suddenly at it appeared; however, it lasted just long enough for the zigzagoon to get back up and Tackle Yan. Yan landed flat on her back, winded, and that’s when the idea hit her.
She shoved up at the zigzagoon’s body to throw him off and jumped to her feet. Before the zigzagoon could also rise, Yan threw all her weight into her front paws and thrust down in a pounce. The zigzagoon took the blow full to the back. He crumpled, feet knocked right out from under him, and Yan’s teeth flashed down like lightning upon his neck.
The zigzagoon was smaller than Yan, but quite broad, and both muscle and his thick coat added layers of protective padding. It was enough that Yan had to make two small corrections, during which the zigzagoon loosed another Growl. Though the sound reverberated in Yan’s chest, she did not falter; the zigzagoon was just a noisy rug to her now, and Yan refused to be thrown from it. She found her position, clamped down, and shook her head to lock her bite in.
This had a profound effect upon the zigzagoon. He scrabbled fitfully in the earth, sweeping up great plumes of dust around him and Yan, but then his paws began to drag. Gradually, they stilled.
Yan held tight, her sides rising and falling rapidly as she breathed around the zigzagoon’s neck. She’d won, maybe—more than maybe. Her eyes searched for Sarra, but the handler was somewhere behind her. Yan’s bite loosened as she tried to look around.
” warned Sarra. Yan tensed back up, surprised. “Zigzagoons can fake it. It’s like tug—don’t let him win.
Yan recalled her first games of tug with Sarra clearly. It had been all too easy for Sarra to hold onto a still rag and steal it away from Yan’s mouth. Yan wouldn’t let herself be fooled like that again. She doubled down on her bite, the zigzagoon’s blood streaming from her mouth.
The zigzagoon quivered. His body had an odd tension to it now, with lifted hackles and more rigidity in his muscles, but he still hadn’t moved.
Sarra, who recognized the zigzagoon’s Work Up for what it was, shouted “Brace!
” with urgency. No sooner had she said it did the zigzagoon thrash all forty pounds of himself into Yan with a Tackle.
Yan grunted through it, aching but undeterred. The zigzagoon tried shaking her off next, but Yan straddled with her legs to stay on. (She recalled rug exercise and the call for “Sway!”.)
An unexpected buck jabbed the zigzagoon’s stiff ear bristles into Yan’s face, and Yan squeezed her eyes shut to protect them. She struggled to make sense of the sounds she was hearing. There was the scraping from the zigzagoon’s body against the dirt and his choked noises. Suddenly, the zigzagoon switched course. She felt him roll onto his back as much as her grip would allow, and then twist his feet up towards the softness of her stomach.
Yan planted her front legs into the zigzagoon’s back to stabilize her bite and danced away her hindquarters from the claws meant to disembowel. (“Slide!” Sarra would have said.) With an especially spirited series of twists, the zigzagoon thumped its body against Yan’s over and over. Every hit winded Yan, but it was nothing compared to the rug. (“Drops!”)
The zigzagoon was in a frenzy now, completely lost to fear. In a savage effort that inadvertently tore his wounds open wider, he managed to collect his feet under himself. He pushed against Yan’s weight, buckling slightly as she pushed back, and then rammed properly with Frustration.
(“Brace!”—the second one.)
Yan couldn’t help but blow air out her nose from the shock to her system, but her teeth held firm. She shook the zigzagoon by the neck and straddled him again to keep him still. By now the zigzagoon’s injuries were catching up. His struggles were no more than feeble kicks. Yan just waited, feeling him go.
When the zigzagoon had been still for long time, Yan chanced standing up. The zigzagoon hung from her mouth like a limp rag.
” Sarra said to Yan. Finally, it was done. “Good girl.
It felt like hours had passed, even though Sarra knew better. Battles always felt longer when one’s own pokemon were involved. Still, she looked up out of habit to figure out the time and saw the sun hanging brightly in the sky.
Grass shifted nearby. Sarra looked down to see Yan approaching and knelt to receive her. Yan pressed into her hands.
“The day’s not so far gone that we have to go back to town. We could walk for a bit,
” said Sarra, scooping Yan up. There was no protest. Yan's only input was to set herself aglow with Morning Sun as they went. While the healing ran its course, Sarra felt like she carrying a bundle of sunlight; she marveled at the gentle warmth soaking into her clothes and chest.
It wasn’t much longer before Sarra arrived at the training site. She held on to Yan in order to crest the site’s little hill before finally letting the growlithe down. Before long, Yan took on the distant, dignified look that Sarra enjoyed so much. Leaving Yan to her own affairs, Sarra did some thinking herself. She wondered long it had been since she’d bothered to name a pokemon. Very soon she tired of the question and found it much more satisfying to watch clouds.
More or less simultaneously, the pair lay down on the grass. High above, a pidgey flew past them.
Sarra let it flash past her eyes without comment; Yan, however, sat up followed the bird with her head. She gave a one-note bark, more a murmur in her throat than anything, and looked to Sarra.
“Yeah. You’ll fight some more. A lot more,
” said Sarra, and allowed herself a grin. “We’ll find some pidgeys next time.
Yan gave a little whuff of satisfaction at that. She lay down against Sarra, who relaxed at her touch, and the quiet stretched comfortably between them.