Belle blinked and reached up to rub her eyes. Charmy lay curled in a ball on her stomach, his tail positioned carefully so it wouldn’t burn her. He was still asleep. Trying not to wake him, Belle shifted until she was in a sitting position and Charmy was slumbering peacefully in her lap.
On her way to Viridian City, Belle had caught a Pidgey, which she had nicknamed Swifter for no good reason. She just liked the sound of the name. Now she sat inside her sleeping bag on a plastic couch in the Viridian City Pokémon Center.
By the looks of the light streaming through the window, it was morning. Belle yawned. She needed to get moving. She had heard that Mankey could be found on the way to Indigo Plateau, and she really needed a type of Pokémon that was strong against Rock Type. But first, she needed a shower.
“Charmy? Charmy…good morning!”
The Charmander sat up and yawned, stretching his tiny little arms. Belle giggled and stroked his head. “I need to go take a shower, okay? I’m putting you in the Poké Ball.”
Charmy nodded, so Belle returned him to the Poké Ball and packed up her sleeping bag, stuffing it into her messenger bag. She pulled out the things she needed for a shower and walked over to the counter.
“Hey, Nurse Joy! Can you watch my stuff for me? I need to use the shower.”
“No problem, Belle.” Nurse Joy took Belle’s bag and put it safely behind the counter. “Are you leaving this morning?”
“Yeah, I suppose so.” Belle had spent two days in Viridian, trying to figure out how she would be getting to Almia. She had it figured out; she would head to Saffron City, take the train to Goldenrod City in Johto, and then borrow her mother’s Skarmory. She had two weeks to get to Almia, so she figured she had time to defeat the Gym Leaders in Pewter City and Cerulean City on her way through.
After her shower, Belle packed everything up, said good-bye to Nurse Joy, stopped in at the PokéMart to buy a few things, and headed off to catch a Mankey, her ball cap tucked over her wet hair. It was a short trek to the area where Mankey had been seen. She found one almost immediately and sent Swifter out to take care of it.
It wasn’t long before Belle tossed a Poké Ball and caught the Mankey, much to its displeasure. She had to try three times before it finally succumbed. With her new Mankey in tow, she made her way to the Viridian Forest.
“Half a day!” Belle said, throwing her free hand into the air. “Half a day I spend wandering in that godforsaken forest, and what do I get? A freakin’ bump on the head, that’s what!”
“I’m so sorry!” the boy next to her cried. He kept trying to support her, but she kept waving him away. “I didn’t mean to!”
The boy in question had come bursting unexpectedly out of the bushes near Belle just as she had gotten out of the forest, making her jump back in surprise and trip over Mankey. She had tumbled backwards, but she managed to grab a low-hanging branch and keep herself from falling all the way. Mankey, who had grown attached to her over the trip, had scrambled to help her, but she had just ended up tripping over him again and banging her forehead onto a rock on the ground. Now she had a cut and it was bleeding profusely. The boy had offered her a wad of tissues, which she was now pressing against the cut.
“I really am sorry,” he told her.
“It’s fine, really. Just...go. I’ll be okay.”
“No, I’m going to go with you to the Pokémon Center,” he said, reaching for her elbow. She jerked it out of his grasp. “Let me help you a little!”
“You’ve helped enough. Thanks for the tissues.” Belle increased her speed, walking past him up the path toward Pewter City.
“I won’t accept that.” The boy was beside her again. “I need to make it up to you! Let me get my Squirtle to help you wash your face.”
“No,” she said exasperatedly. “I will wash my face when I get to the Pokémon Center. Just let me go alone!”
“We’re both going to the Pokémon Center,” he pointed out. “I’ll just go with you there. And anyway, it’s getting dark. You shouldn’t be alone.”
“What’s going to happen to me? Is somebody gonna jump out of the bushes and scare me and make me trip and hit my head—oh, but wait! That’s already happened!”
They carried on in a similar manner until they reached the Pokémon Center, where they entered, still bickering. Nurse Joy looked up from the counter as they entered, but none of the other Trainers paid them any heed. There was a low buzz of conversation around them.
“What happened to you?” Joy asked kindly as they approached the counter, eyeing Belle.
“This idiot jumped out of the bushes and made me fall and hit my head on a rock!”
“I told you, I’m sorry.”
“Why did you jump out of the bushes?”
The boy sighed. “I thought I heard a weird noise and I got spooked, okay?” He looked slightly ashamed.
Joy nodded, but Belle snickered. “Okay, then. You must be Belle,” she added to Belle. “My sister in Viridian called and told me to watch out for you. She was worried about you going through the forest.”
“Well, you can call and tell her that I’ve hit my head.”
“Well, come to the back and wash your face,” Joy told her, ignoring the boy, “and I’ll take a look at that cut. Chansey! Watch the lobby for me, please.”
Belle followed Joy, pressing the tissues against her forehead. Joy took her to a private bathroom first and allowed her to enter. She actually looked quite gory; a line of dried, caked blood ran from the cut toward the side of her eye and down her cheek, and dried blood surrounded the cut itself as well. It was still bleeding, too. Now that she examined the cut, it wasn’t a cut at all—it was more like a gash, extending diagonally from the center of her left eyebrow to her hairline. At least her bangs could hide it, since it leaned toward her left ear.
When Belle came out, Joy directed her to a seat and the boy drifted after her, holding a tray full of medical supplies. “What are you doing back here?” she snapped at him.
“I need to make this up to you,” he told her.
“That’s going to need stitches,” Joy said. “And he’s quite useful. I have to make Chansey watch the front, after all.”
Belle sighed. “Fine.” As Joy prepped her for stitching, she eyed the boy. He was about her age. He had untidy blonde hair and a slightly pale complexion. Although he had a slight build, Belle could see wiry muscles tracing his upper arm before his short-sleeved shirt blocked her view. “I’m Belle, by the way,” she told him as Joy picked up the needle and special surgical thread.
“Derrick,” he replied.
“How do you spell that? Ow!”
“Uh, D-E-R-R-I-C-K. Why? How do you spell your name?”
Belle rolled her eyes. “B-E-L-L-E, but I was asking because I have a little brother named Derek. He spells it D-E-R-E-K.”
“Oh. I just thought it was your weird way of committing people’s names to memory or something.”
Belle rolled her eyes again. “So how old are you?”
“Sixteen,” Derrick replied. “Just started out. You?”
“I’m sixteen too. I just started.” A few years after her father had started, a law had been passed increasing the age limit to sixteen— this was due to several ten-year-olds lying dead or severely battered by wild Pokémon.
“What Pokémon do you have with you? All I saw was a Mankey.”
“I started out with Charmander, nicknamed Charmy. Other than him, I have Mankey and a Pidgey named Swifter. What about you?”
“I started out with Squirtle, and I have a male Nidoran and a Pikachu.”
“Pikachu? How’d you get one of those?”
“You can find them in the forest.” Derrick looked slightly proud of himself.
“Did you nickname them?”
“No. I’m not so good at nicknames.”
Belle laughed appreciatively. “Hey, it’s really okay about this whole thing.”
“Really? You forgive me?”
“Well, maybe I don’t forgive you, but it’s okay for right now.”
Derrick laughed. “That’s good enough, I guess.”
Belle smiled. Joy finished up the stitches expertly. “Okay, you’re done!”
“Thanks, Nurse Joy.” Belle slid off her seat and stretched. “It’s been a long day. I’m ready for some sleep.”
“You want to get some coffee or something first?” Derrick asked.
“Coffee? Before I sleep?”
“Ice cream, then?”
“Sure, why not. You’re paying.”
To: [email protected]
From: [email protected]
Subject: I’M COMING I’M COMING I’M COMING!!!
First off, congrats about graduating! w00t!! And second off, congrats about meeting the HOTTIE!! I just met a boy today, but he’s more like a pest than a potential boyfriend. He jumped out of the bushes and scared the crap out of me, so I tripped and fell and cut my head on a rock and had to get stitches. My Pokémon Journey is going GREAT!!! Oh yeah, I forgot—I started out with Charmander, nicknamed Charmy, I caught a Pidgey, nicknamed Swifter, and I caught a Mankey. Noooo idea what to nickname the Mankey, so I’m just calling him Mankey. But don’t tell Cassandra yet. I want to tell her myself!
Okay, now down to business—am I going to have a place to stay when I get to Almia? It’s gonna suck REALLY BAD if I get there and I’m all homeless. I know how I’m getting there, so that’s no big deal, but…y’know. I’ll need a place to sleep. Sleep is important. Yosh.
Well, I really need to get to sleep now…I have a big day tomorrow, because I am CHALLENGING MY FIRST GYM!!! That’s right! I’ll send both you and Cassandra an email later telling you how it goes!!!