Episode 18: The Dancing Dragon Beyond the Hills

"So, where are the bodyguard dragons of the queen?" Misty wondered as the group left the Hata Dojo the next morning.

"They are all across the island." Mitsuna replied. "That's why I'm coming with you."

She went on "The Temple of the Clear Lapis is some days' journey from here, so we will likely have a few adventures on the way."

"What's the name of our first target?" Brock wondered.

Mitsuna was about to answer before a white clump got her attention. "Hm...I have never seen a white flower this pure before..."

Ash watched as the "flower" wriggled up from the ground, surprising Mitsuna when she saw a Alolan Vulpix before her! "That's no flower, that's an Alolan Vulpix!"

"A friendly one, too..." Brock smiled as the Alolan Vulpix trotted up to him. Inspired, he knelt down to the Alolan Vulpix's level, allowing it to nuzzle his cheek. "Kaimana's waiting for you, little one."

Misty smiled as the Alolan Vulpix dashed down the road. "Scratch Alolan Vulpix #3 off the list..."

"I wonder how those exotic white Vulpixes got here..." Mitsuna wondered. "Alola is a long way from here."

"We met a lady who cares for them." Ash explained. "We're doing her a favor by trying to find them--preferably safely. So any white flowers you find may not actually be flowers at all."

Mitsuna nodded. "I hope to Arceus the dragons did not find them..."

"Probably not...dragons are weak to Ice types." Ash assured Mitsuna. "So they may know better than to eat something that would hurt them."

Mitsuna nodded. "This is true...the green dragons we seek especially fear the cold."

She turned business-like again. "The first of the bodyguard dragons is named Viron. His lair lies just over the hills."

"I've got a question about dance martial arts..." Misty wondered. "What do you use when you practice those? A ribbon, like what gymnasts use? Fans? Or do you even need an implement at all?"

[Every dance is as unique as its teacher.] Goukai replied. [Some dances work well with ribbons and fans, some work well with blades, and still others don't require anything but a strong body and courageous heart]

"So it is possible to use twinblades in a blade dance?" Misty asked. Goukai nodded. "Nice! I've always wanted to turn a few bad guys to shish kebabs thanks to a tornado of blades!"

Ash stifled a giggle at Misty's analogy as he brought up MyTube in his PokeNav. "All this talk about dancing made me think of Serena." he smiled as he typed something in the search box. "When we were little, she took rhythmic gymnastics lessons, specializing in the ribbon dance. Any one of her meets and competitions were big events!"

"Does she still ribbon dance now?" Brock wondered.

"She still ribbon dances in an artistic context, but not so much a competitive context any more." Ash replied.

He smiled when he found one particular video in the search results. "Here she is doing a ribbon dance for the Sakura Festival not long after returning to Kanto."

The group crowded around the PokeNav screen. They watched the image of Serena in a glittering gold costume spin, twirl, and jump with a matching yellow ribbon to the beat of the gypsy jazz standard "Minor Swing". [Wow! What a hot beat!] Goukai smiled as he swayed to the music.

"That's a specific style of jazz common in Kalos called gypsy jazz." Brock explained as he watched the image of Serena toss the yellow ribbon in the air. "Only instead of saxophones, trumpets, and clarinets playing the tune, you have guitars, fiddles, and the odd accordion. Very fun style to play on guitar, too." He let that hang as applause signaled the end of the video.

Ash just smiled as the video ended. "This isn't even the first time she's danced to that song--the first time Serena did that routine, it was for an individual ribbon dance competition. I wanted to be there to cheer her on, so on the big day, Mom, Dad, and me all went to the Pallet High School gym, where the competition was being held..."

In Ash's memory, Delia, Taran, and Young Ash applaud the previous performer. "Next to dance is #101213--Serena Lacroix." the announcer reports as the previous performer departs the floor.

"Come on!" Young Ash cheers as Young Serena, now in a sparkling gold leotard, arrives on the floor with a yellow ribbon in tow. "You can do it!"

After a few tense moments, "Minor Swing" blares over the PA system, spurring Young Ash and the audience to clap along as Young Serena twirls, spins, and jumps in time to the music, the yellow ribbon making beautiful patterns in the air all the while. "Do you remember how Serena did in that competition?" Brock asks via voiceover as the scene in Ash's memory fades to the awards ceremony.

"She got silver in the under 10 division--which was amazing considering she'd only been taking lessons for a short time." Ash explains via voiceover as the third place finisher receives the bronze medal.

"In second place in the Junior Division...#101213--Serena Lacroix!" the announcer proclaims. Young Ash's cheers are the loudest as Serena accepts a silver medal from the chief judge. More cheers fill the air as the scene swirls back to the present....

Misty smiles as Ash finishes the story. "Maybe I can study some gymnastics videos to learn how to dance with my blades..."

"I don't think that's quite the same thing..." Brock interjects, spurring everyone to laugh as they continue down the road...

To Be Continued...