Episode 15: The Seed of Promise
[BGM: Remember When?]
Ash laid awake in his small bed and admired the scene of a sunny day that was painted on the ceiling in the hokage's guest room. His companions were still sleeping, so he closed his eyes to doze. So far, this has been an amazing journey...but I miss Milina and how we used to stroll in the market of Masuliro... He imagined the roar of the surf in the distance, the chatter of the crowds jostling to approach the merchant's stalls and see what they had to sell. Milina would always tell me to wait for the crowds to die down... he thought as he pictured the merchant's stalls neatly lined in a row--either overlooking the wharf or lining the streets. Then he imagined the merchants calling for the crowds to see this blade, buy this pendant, or haggle for that tunic. And then there was the bewildering array of items availiable to buy--the glittering jewelry, clothing of every color, shape, and size, the aroma of fish in the air--Wait, how did fish get in my daydream?
"Kissa...did you have to bring that Goldeen in here?" he heard Dawn mumble in disgust as she began to stir.
[BGM: Safe at Home]
"Let me guess--Kissa went fishing while we were all asleep and has now brought her catch in here in hopes I will cook it for breakfast?" Brock sleepily asked as he too smelled the pungent aroma of a dead fish.
"Where did you find a place to fish, anyway?" Ash wondered as he climbed from the bed and stretched.
"There's a river not far from the village...sometimes the ninjas train there or go fishing themselves." Kissa replied as she watched her master take the lifeless Goldeen to the kitchen to be prepared. "But why bother with rods and nets when I can just catch them mid jump?"
"Goodness, why does it smell so awful in here?" a maid asked as she brought Ash's now clean clothing to him.
"Kissa-chan decided to go on a midnight fishing trip while we all slept last night." Brock deadpanned as he returned. "Feline creatures do have excellent fishing skills, so at times I don't wish to hunt myself, I can always count on Kissa to catch a fish." Some soft crackling and a more pleasent aroma drifted in the room to punctuate Brock's point.
"Next time, if we're staying in someone's house, leave your catch in the kitchen." Ash sighed before stepping behind a screen to change.
[BGM: Shadow of the Earth]
Once everyone had dressed and eaten breakfast, the group met Keiji in the receiving hall again. "Shall I call out the chunin for you now?"
"Not yet--we are not sure what kind of test we wish to use to find the one chosen by Anima." Brock replied.
"Have them all battle to find the one?" Ash suggested--he had heard that a ninja's fighting skill was legendary.
"We would need thousands of matches if the village has as many candidates as I think they do." Dawn interjected. "So it would be too time consuming...I propose that we test their wits rather than strength."
"And how do you suppose we do that?" Ash muttered.
"Have Brock tell a riddle tale, and the one to figure out the riddle goes with us." Dawn suggested.
"That is a reasonable idea, but the Queen of Heaven has only chosen one, when there are many who could answer a riddle." Keiji cautioned.
"Great Hokage, what do you suggest we do to find the one Anima has chosen?" Brock asked. "I don't have any suitable ideas myself..."
"You do know a spell that inflicts bothersome conditions?" Keiji asked.
"Yes--some that inflict more than one ailment." Brock replied.
"What is the strongest one you know?"
"The strongest condition inducing spell I know at the moment is Dark Water--a shadowy wave that is guaranteed to inflict at least one malady on the traget."
"That's perfect!" Keiji smiled.
"We accept your proposal." Ash replied. "In return, may we use your training arenas to prepare ourselves for the next leg of our journey?"
"Of course, Kokenin-san--anyone with a desire to become stronger may train in our arenas." Keiji replied. "Meet in the plaza at sundown, when the chunin will assemble."
"Hear that? Don't get too involved in training." Dawn cautioned as the group turned to leave.
Yes, Mom... Ash sighed as the group departed the house. He could hear the various chimes on the shop's entryways jingling as the three of them walked towards the central plaza, signaling that they were open for business.
Miyakawa, Guardian of the Earth
"Mm..." Dawn sighed happily as she smelled the aroma of cooked meats and fruits coming from a food shop. "I love strolling through a town's market district in the morning..."
"Yeah...the food's freshest then!" Ash agreed, his mouth watering at the sight of several rows of buns and berries in another food shop.
Just as the group arrived in the plaza, Brock felt a light tug on his cloak. "Yes?" he asked when he spotted a young girl clad in the dull green training tunic of a young ninja behind him.
"Please, Karakashu-san, tell me about one of Dokusentoki's adventures." the girl begged.
"I want to hear a story about a great quest!" a boy called as he ran to join the girl. Before long, many more children in similar attire were all crowded around Brock, their pleas shattering the morning calm:
"What about the episode where Dokusentoki battles Rayquaza?"
"Tell a Pokemon tale!"
"Maybe you've heard of the father of our mistress?"
"It's said her father's descended from Dokusentoki himself!"
"I wouldn't be surprised, considering his love for poison and condition inducing jutsu!"
"All right..." a black haired girl in a chunin's tunic interjected as she caught up with the children. "We must let Karakashu-san continue on his way..."
"He's leaving?" a girl gasped.
Brock's heart sank at the chorus of "Aw"s that went up from the children. "Lady Chunin, I will gladly weave them a tale if you too are willing to listen." Hopeful whispers wafted through the crowd. "My companions and I were traveling to the training grounds..."
"As were we." the girl replied.
"But it appears I need the training the most--to train my skill at waving tales." Brock replied as he retrieved his harp and played Marista's Song to focus his thoughts. The girl, meanwhile, quieted the joyful chatter and listened as the song ended.
[BGM: A Tale of Wonder]
"Karakashu-san, why does Moltres have a burning tail?" a boy asked.
Brock contemplated the boy's question for a few seconds, then began. "Once all the birds of the world came to Megami Anima and asked her to teach them. Anima agreed to teach one of them, but gave the birds this challenge--the apprentice she chose would stand out from all of them. She bade them to return at midnight, when she would choose the lucky apprentice. While the other birds went their seperate ways, there was one little firebird who was not very confident in herself--I will call her Doitan."
"Why was she not very confident?" a girl asked.
"Her feathers did not burn like other firebirds--but Doitan did not despair about it; she figured there was no chance the Queen of Heaven would choose her, so she would just go about her day and not worry about it." Brock replied before playing a brief interlude. "As she went down the road, she found a traveler faint with sweat and exhaustion--for it was the heat of the day. Doitan pitied the poor boy and gave him some of her tail feathers to make a fan. Then, she met a girl despairing over not having anything suitable to wear to a dance. Doitan decided to give some of her own tail feathers to the girl to make a beautiful gown that glittered with the light of a red flame. This continued all day--Doitan would find people in need and help them by giving them a tail feather or two." Giggles go up from the crowd when they picture a firebird with no tail feathers at all.
"But what did the great megami say when she saw Doitan?" a boy asks.
"Was she angry?" Even the chunin is interested in the tale.
"When Anima inspected the birds that night, she found that Doitan stood out from the crowd, and wondered why she had no tail feathers at all." Brock replied over a quiet melody. "Doitan explained that she wanted to help others, and so gave her tail feathers away. Anima was touched at Doitan's generosity, and announced to the other birds and the other gods that Doitan would be her apprentice. As a gift for her generosity, the Fire Maiden Deami took some flames and crafted Doitan a new set of tail feathers, a set that rivaled even Ho'oh's feathers!" Some "oh"s drift through the crowd at this. "Then, Deami called...." He switches to a scarily accurate imitation of Deami. "Hi Magiiro no jutsu! Jet of Dragon Flame!" Cheers drown out the upward glissando Brock performs to represent flames flaring up. "No sooner had Deami cast the jutsu, did Doitan's new feathers ignite in a bright red flame that could be seen all across the sky!"
"I bet that looked beautiful!" Dawn smiles.
"Doitan thanked both goddesses and soared off into the night to the cheers of the other birds, her flaming feathers bringing happiness and joy wherever she went--and that explains why Moltres has a flaming tail." he concludes to some applause.
Hours went by as Brock wove one tale after another, but by the time he finally finished his show that evening, he noticed that a large crowd had appeared around a large platform, and motioned for Ash and Dawn to follow him.
[BGM: A Test for the Chosen]
"Chunin of Miyakawa, Karakashu-san comes before you on a great quest." Keiji began as The group joined him on the platform. "Furthermore, Megami Anima has decreed one of you is to join him and his companions--the one that can successfully resist or deflect his strongest condition inducing spellsong."
"Any volunteers?" Brock asked as he looked out over the sea of green tunics.
"I will!" a deep brown haired boy declared as he charged up to the platform and faced Brock. "Sing your worst spell, and I will resist it!"
[BGM: Resisting the Dark Water]
"Okay...Black sea of evil, cover this light! Dark Water!" Brock commanded before playing a hypnotic melody that conjured a large wave of navy blue water. The boy focused for a moment, but his chakra focus wasn't enough to keep him from being drenched as well as blinded and confused.
"Heavenly wind, carry us to the fountain of power! Esuna!" Dawn commanded, healing the boy of the Dark Water's effects.
"So Akira isn't the one..." Keiji sighed.
"Try me!" a teal haired girl asked as she joined Brock and the others on the platform.
"You really want to do this, Suzume?" Keiji asked.
"Yes! I have mastered a water jutsu from a friend in Mizutoshi--I'm sure it can contain the spellsong!" Suzume replied.
"Very well then..." Brock replied before preparing to play again. "Black sea of evil, cover this light! Dark Water!"
"Mizu Magiiro no jutsu! Water Prison!" Suzume commanded, conjuring a large ball of water that for a moment appeared to contain the Dark Water, but after a few tense seconds, the ball burst open, splattering Suzume and confusing her.
"Suzume isn't the one either..." Keiji sighed as Dawn healed Suzume of her confusion.
Ash looked on as one by one, the chunin faced Brock and the Dark Water spell. But no matter what they did, be this a counter jutsu or flat out resisting, they all succumbed to various conditions brought on by the inky water.
After several more hours, Dawn sighed as she healed another chunin. "I'm beginning to think we should try another plan..."
[BGM: Miyakawa's Pride (Janine's theme)]
"Wait!" a familiar voice called from the crowd.
"Janine? You truly want to try?" Keiji gasped as the black haired chunin from earlier approached the platform. "Are you sure?"
"Great Hokage, if she wants to try, let her." Ash assured Keiji.
"Sing your strongest magic, Karakashu-san, and I will overcome it!" Janine challenged as she faced Brock.
Brock sighed--that was what most of the other chunin had said. He lifted his hands to the harp strings again, but before he could call the incantation to Dark Water, another voice screamed. "Hokage Keiji! An oshidotane is approaching!"
"Huh?" Ash whirled around and gasped with the crowd at the lumbering vaguely human shaped mass of roots and grass headed for the village...
To Be Continued...