After a good few weeks in the making... and editing... here's Chapter 24!
By the time Michael and Henry left the Gym, the sun had emerged from the clouds and was making its way to the center point in the sky. The town was bathed in light, and the streets that had been nearly empty before were now abuzz with morning activity. Michael was startled by the change; it seemed that he had been so caught up in the battle that he hadn’t even noticed the time go by.
Neither of them had forgotten about their arrangement with Leroy. Immediately upon leaving the building, Michael turned onto the path they had followed the previous day, rounding the corner of the Gym to find the tree they had agreed to meet by. But no one was there. Turning back towards the sidewalk, Michael saw lots of trainers passing by the building, but none of them had curly red hair, or wore the staff uniform.
Refusing to believe Leroy hadn’t showed, Michael continued down the side of the building, till he reached the back corner, well out of view from the front. It was a dead end, however, a shady thicket of trees and tall bushes. Henry ran to catch up with him, scanning the area.
“Do you see anyone?” the boy asked.
Michael shook his head. He was about to turn back, when a faint plip sound issued from somewhere nearby. Michael stopped for a moment, thinking he had imagined it. The sound came again, this time louder. He looked up at Henry.
“Did you hear that?”
Henry nodded slowly. They turned back towards the bushes, and Michael stepped closer to them, cupping a hand around his ear. Henry did he same. Plip-plip. Then came a sharp metallic clang of someone dropping a metal bucket, followed by a low, angered murmur. Michael pulled apart the wall of bushes like a curtain and peered inside. What he saw surprised him—there was a sunny, untouched clearing hidden away behind the Gym, almost like a remnant of small forest that might have stood there before the structure was built. The grass was thin and soft, and there was a small pond located in the middle, its banks receding from years of erosion.
Leroy sat with his sneakers in the dirt, his back turned, a fishing pole dipped into the water. A metal bucket stood beside him, empty save for a few Magikarp. The boy had not noticed their arrival. He continued to sit still as Michael and Henry approached, his gaze fixed on the water’s surface. Then, at the sound of their advancing footsteps, Leroy’s head twitched to the side in alarm. When his eyes alighted upon the boys, Leroy smacked his forehead and let out a laugh.
“Oh, hey!” he said. “Sorry, you guys scared me for a minute there. I didn’t know exactly when you’d be out, so I was going to come by the tree after I made one more catch.” Just then, Leroy felt a tug on the edge of his line, and turned back to the water. He twisted the crank, and a wriggling Magikarp was yanked out of the water, its red scales glistening as it flopped about like a yo-yo. Leroy pulled it over into the grass and removed the hook from its mouth. Then, with a sigh, he tossed it back into the pond.
“There’s nothing good in the water here,” he said. “I’ve gotten five of these already.” Leroy gathered up the rest of the line and placed the fishing pole into the grass. Then, leaning back on his hands, he looked at Michael and Henry. “So how did the battles go?”
“I won mine,” said Henry brightly. “It was close, though. My partner almost got my Starly, but we pulled through.”
Michael gave a half-hearted nod. “I lost. But with freaking Lona as your referee, it’s hard not to.”
Leroy’s eyebrows climbed. “Whoa, you had Lona? Then it’s no wonder. She doesn’t take it easy on anyone, especially if you’re a newcomer.” He rose to his feet, brushing dirt and grass from his pants. “Well, I suppose we should get started. Just send out your pokémon so I can take a look at them, okay? No one ever comes around here, so we won’t get caught.”
Nodding, Michael dropped his backpack onto the ground, and one by one, released the members of his team. Henry did the same, and a sequence of heavy, exhausted pokémon plopped into a disorganized mess on the grass. All of Michael’s pokémon were fainted, and barely moved. Most of Henry’s were as well, save for Starly, who managed to shift around every so often, chirping weakly.
Leroy carefully stepped around the group and took a look at each of their teams in turn. “Yeah… hmm… okay.” He rubbed his chin. “Both of you are on even ground when it comes to counters. Michael, your Turtwig is obviously weak to Poison, because he’s Grass, and your Caterpie is resistant to Fighting. Henry, your Burmy is good against Fighting. I’m not sure about Clefable, though… since when did you have one?”
“Clefairy evolved,” said Henry, smiling. “And she’s gotten a lot tougher since then.”
Leroy nodded. “That’s pretty cool. I never knew Clefairies evolved. Do you know what type she is now?”
Henry shrugged. “Well, Clefairies are Normal type, so… would that mean that Clefables are too?” He looked at Leroy first, then at Michael.
“Well, I guess so,” Michael replied. “How did she do in battle? Did your opponent use any Fighting moves?”
“A little bit… She didn’t take them that well, though. She sort of stumbled a bit after a few Focus Punches.” Henry fell silent.
“Then she must have some sort of weakness to Fighting,” Michael said.
“But how? She did really well when we battled Jerry’s Gallade.”
“But that was only one pokémon,” said Leroy. “And Gallade isn’t even pure Fighting. If Clefable’s going to be bombarded with physical hits over and over again, she might faint faster. I don’t know much about your pokémon, Henry, but when you’re dealing with Lona’s Gym, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Both of you need to catch at least two good counters. That, or catch one counter and teach the rest of your pokémon Psychic or Flying moves.”
“Okay, but how would you actually do that?” Michael said. “We were talking about that yesterday. How do you get a pokémon to learn a move it wouldn’t normally learn by growing?”
Leroy’s face froze for a moment, and he laughed nervously. “Uh… it’s pretty hard, actually. I don’t know how to do it, but I’ve heard about it from people, and they say it’s pretty complicated. It’s sort of like physical therapy. You guide the pokémon’s motions, and somehow or other you get it to realize in its brain what that particular move is supposed to be. None of the trainers I’ve talked with can do it, because… well, you know. What ten- or eleven-year-old would want to study that instead of battling?”
Michael was about to let out a sigh, but then Leroy held up his finger. “But! I’ll tell you what you can do. If you want to teach one of your pokémon a move, you should go see the Move Tutor. He lives right here in town, and I’m telling you, that guy is amazing. I met him by accident when I was taking a walk one day. He teaches moves to trainers’ pokémon for a really low price. You guys should pay him a visit.”
“Where does he live?” Michael asked.
“Not too far from here, actually. Go past the marketplace and take a left turn on Lester Road, and you’ll reach a small section of houses. He doesn’t have a sign or anything, but his mailbox number is 4112. Easy to remember.”
Michael nodded. “All right. It’s worth a shot. You dig, Henry?”
Henry smiled. “Sure.”
Leroy clapped his hands together. “Great. So, that’s all you need to do, I guess. Just be sure to catch a Flying or Psychic pokémon. There are a few that live around Route 209, so you should take a look there.”
“Could you show us, though?” Henry said. “Around the route and stuff. We’re not that familiar with the town yet, so we could use some help.”
“Sure thing,” said Leroy. “Just let me get all this put away. I have a room at the Trainer Hotel, so if you’ll give me a minute, I’ll drop it off there.” Leroy lifted the bucket and swung the fishing pole over his shoulder.
The three of them left the thicket and went back to the hotel, where Leroy ran over to the elevators to reach his room. In the meantime, Michael and Henry visited the hotel’s convenience store to replenish their supply of pokéballs. After experiencing a brief mental debate while looking at the racks, Michael decided not to squander this time, and bought four new capsules. The money pocket in his backpack thinned significantly, but he knew he would have to spend it all sooner or later.
Henry bought four new pokéballs as well, plus a spare, for which he bought a purple sticker and stuck it right above the red knob on the center. “We’ll use this for Stunky,” he said, looking at Michael. “You don’t mind, do you?”
Michael shrugged. “I guess not. It beats carrying that cage around everywhere.”
Henry nodded. “Right.”
They packed away their purchases and left for the lobby, where they found Leroy in the sitting area. He was dressed for a full day outdoors; he wore a visor and shorts, and carried a messenger bag over his shoulder. When they walked in, he stood up. “Ready, guys?” he said. “I brought sunblock in case either of you need it. It’s a big route, and we’ll be out there for a while.”
“We’re set,” Michael said.
Leroy smiled. “All right, let’s go!”
He led them out the door, turning onto the footpath that ran alongside the street. The boys followed a network of small roads until they reached the central avenue, which was six lanes wide, and bisected the town in a perfectly straight path, north to south. Traffic flowed into it from smaller roads on either side, which branched into the main road like veins, and coalesced into a plethora of shops, signs, and people that moved like one big river in both directions.
Looking over the dusty cars and wooden wagons that trailed along his side, Michael could see all the way to Route 209, a miniscule spot of dark green trees and hills to the south. The boys made their way down the main road, crossing block after block, until the traffic suddenly branched off into a separate direction, and the town gradually yielded to the dominance of nature. The paved roadway faded, the buildings disappeared, and the crowds trickled away, leaving only a dirt path, which continued to wind its way through a landscape of hills and ankle-length grass. The route was thicker with plant life than the rest of the neighboring countryside had been. It consisted of mostly underbrush and small trees, though occasionally a tall one would crop up to cast a generous amount of shade over the boys’ heads.
It was nature on a level second only to Eterna. The only sign of human presence was the path that was smoothed out from the soil, and the occasional directional sign propped up by a wooden pole. Looking out from his position, Michael saw the path continue on for some time, then vanish completely in the throes of the underbrush.
“Wow…” came a sigh from Henry. “This place is beautiful!”
“Yeah, it’s not bad,” said Leroy, placing his hands on his hips and looking up. “I’ve been here a couple times, and it’s got a lot of pokémon. Trainers love it. But wait till you see Route 210. That is twice the fun.” He smiled. “It’s got grass that’s almost up to your knees, and lots of hills and mud and stuff. I’ll have to show you sometime.”
“Definitely,” Henry said.
The boys went farther in, taking a moment to look around. Michael quickly saw that they weren’t alone—presently, a group of thirty or so trainers was gathered a little bit ahead of them, following a tour guide with a sunhat and glasses. He beckoned to the trainers as he led them around, pointing out various things in the landscape and spending a good minute talking about each of them. His voice, and the chatter of the trainers, were a steady hum in the background.
“So what kinds of Bird pokémon are supposed to live here?” asked Michael.
Leroy pursed his lips. “Well… of course there are Starlies here. There are always Starlies… I saw some Staravias at one point too. I heard that there were Zubats, but I never got a chance to check. You have to get here at night to see them.”
“What about Psychics?”
“Mime Jr. and Ralts,” said Leroy, and winced slightly. “I tried catching a Ralts for my Dex, but they keep on teleporting. And it sucks, because I really want one. So, unless you want to spend the next two hours chasing a tiny pokémon around the whole countryside, I’d stick to whatever comes first.”
Having never seen a Ralts in the wild before, Michael decided to take Leroy’s word for it. “What about the Mime Jr.s?” he said. “I could raise it and have a badass Mr. Mime like Jerry.”
Leroy chuckled. “They’re not as bad as the Ralts are, but they’re good at hiding. We’ll have to keep an eye out.”
As the three boys continued through the route, the tour group progressed alongside them. The guide was leading his trainers without any regards to the main path, breaking off at various points to point out an intriguing plant or pokémon that had come into view. Presently, the tour guide came to a stop beside a clump of odd-looking trees. Their leaves were pale green, but their crowns blossomed with such a multitude of yellow flowers that the color overwhelmed everything else. The trainers oooohed in wonder.
The tour guide looked up at the trees, gesturing at the flowers. “And now, if you look right up ‘ere, you’ll see perhaps the most notorious little tree in all of Solaceon. They’re called Honey Trees, so named because of the famil'yr coloring of the blooms, and from the fact that they’re visited daily by Combees who pollinate them to make their honey. But what’s int’rsting about them is that the scent they give off makes pokémon come runnin’. Especially rare ones, pokémon that you might only find ‘round here.”
“Excuse me?” One of the trainers raised his hand. “What kinds of pokémon do you mean?”
The tour guide smiled. “Good question. We’ve seen Munchlaxes here, Bonslies, oh, even a few Cherrim at one point, and Starlies…”
Michael was only half paying attention to the tour guide’s distant words. He was more preoccupied with the route, scanning his vicinity for any sign of bird pokémon. He occasionally saw a Starly, but the birds were too high up for an accurate throw to be possible. In contrast, there seemed to be an endless abundance of pokémon down below: Caterpies crawling up trees, Bidoofs peeking out from holes in the ground, and Aipoms scampering across branches. But for now, they served only as distractions.
Leroy seemed to know where he was going for the most part, but as he too became caught up in the search, Michael noticed that they began to get sidetracked, straying from the path whenever they caught a glimpse of a promising pokémon, following a scent that often led them in circles.
They managed to stay out of the tour group’s way for a good while, but when it became clear that neither Michael nor his friends were making any sort of progress, and were instead leading themselves further and further into unknown territory, they had no choice but to tag along behind the trainers.
Michael kept his gaze fixed overhead, relentlessly scanning the treetops, only looking down periodically to make sure he hadn’t lagged too far behind. Henry and Leroy were silent beside him, being occupied with their own searching. Though neither boy seemed to notice, Michael was beginning to grow aware of a faint, musical chirping rising out from the silence, growing progressively louder as they walked.
The tour group came to a stop again, this time for a break. The trainers gathered around a row of tall trees, while the tour guide began a lecture on burrowing pokémon. Michael, Henry, and Leroy stopped just a few yards away, squatting down by a clump of bushes. Michael took the time to sweep the treetops again, and nudged Henry on the shoulder.
“Do you see anything up there?” he asked, for the umpteenth time that day, squinting against the sunlight.
Seconds later came the reply: “Shut up!”
Michael turned around, his eyes finding Henry in a flash. “What?”
But the boy looked back at him quizzically. “Huh? I didn’t say anything.”
Michael paused. After a brief silence, he continued with the only logical reply. “Yes you did.”
“No I didn’t,” Henry insisted, confusion plain on his face. “Honest. What did you hear?”
Henry frowned. “Well, it wasn’t me. Maybe it was the trainers?”
Michael shook his head. “No. The voice was close. It was—” But before he could finish, he was cut off by a loud snapping sound.
“I stole George’s wallet!” someone sang.
Michael and Henry whirled around to face Leroy, the only other body in the vicinity. At the same time, Leroy turned to face them, wearing a mild expression of annoyance.
“Okay, who keeps saying that?” he asked. “Seriously, stop.”
“It’s not me!” Michael said.
“Or me,” Henry cut in.
“Shut up, shut up!” said the voice, this time more forcefully than before. All three boys jumped. Henry stood up and began to spin around in circles, eyes searching for the source of the sound. “It sounds like it’s coming from somewhere up there.” He pointed to a thin tree that stood nearby, at a middle point between them and the tour group. It had huge, fan-like leaves that blocked most of its inner structure from view.
“I stole George’s wallet, now he has to wear a bonnet!”
Michael looked over to the tree and frowned. Slowly, he stepped away from Henry and Leroy and advanced towards it. To his right, the tour group had also stilled, and appeared to be listening in. As he stepped into the tree’s shadow, Michael ducked his head in an attempt to see behind the cover of the leaves.
Suddenly, something small and brown flew out from behind the leaves and hit Michael on the head. He stumbled back, slamming his hand onto the spot and caught the object by reflex. It was a large nut.
“A penny for your troubles, sir, now go on and kick some dirt!”
Clenching his fist around the projectile, Michael chucked it back at the tree, watching it part the leaves as it whooshed by. Immediately, a chorus of loud, angry voices erupted from behind the branches, along with the rush of flapping wings that sounded like a waterfall.
“Ow!” one of the voices exclaimed.
“Owwwwww!” the others echoed.
“Help!” began another. “Help us, help!”
The resulting cries sounded similarly panicked. “Help! Help!”
Michael stared dumbly up at the talking tree, frozen in place. Henry and Leroy came to his side moments later, mouths agape. One by one, the voices lost their harmony, and broke off into several different tempos, like blinking Christmas lights. The first voice, the one Michael already recognized, kept repeating the same two lines about George. The others responded with their unfinished cries of ‘Help!’, or began to chirp other lines of their own invention. After a few seconds, almost like an automated recording, the squawking faded, leaving behind a peaceful, humming silence.
Suddenly, Michael heard a hark-hark behind him. He turned, and saw that the tour guide was laughing. “Ah, ‘ere we are!” the man said, and with a snap of his fingers, hurried over to the tree. Like a crowd at a zoo, the trainers shuffled after him, and grouped around the three boys. The tour guide stepped in front of them all and spread his arms out wide. “What you have just heard is a flock of Chatots, trainers. They’re sneaky little birds, and they have a very good ear for human speech. They dwell mostly in the tropics, 'specially further down by Pastoria, but occasionally can be found making their homes here. The females have slightly duller coloring, and larger beaks. You’ll definitely be able to tell them apart.”
“Chatot Chatot! Chatalot!”
In response to his words, a tiny body sprang out from somewhere behind the crown of the tree, and hopped down onto a branch in full view. It was a large bird. Its round belly was colored a bright yellow, its wings a deep blue. A ring of white feathers formed a funny-looking ruff around its neck, contrasting sharply with its black head. The bird peered down at the crowd of people, cocking its head to the side.
“Trainers! Trainers no-brainers!” it croaked.
The kids around Michael gasped in awe at the sight of the bird, clapping their hands over their mouths. “They’re so cute! Can I catch one, sir?” asked a young girl.
“I want one too!” said another trainer.
The tour guide chuckled. “If the Chatots don’t get the upper hand first, that is! They’re clever creatures. Mighty clev'r.” Nonetheless, he beckoned, and stepped aside to invite the trainers to move forward. A few of them separated themselves from the group, pulling out pokéballs from various pockets.
At the sounds of stirring commotion from down below, several more Chatots hopped into view beside the first. Their plumage displayed various patterns of pink, blue, black, and yellow. Some even had wings of opposite colors, and others had a mix of many on each. Michael made his decision in a heartbeat. Dropping his backpack into the grass, he pulled out a spare pokéball and approached the tree with the other trainers. The birds did not stir at the humans’ proximity; rather, for the time being, it seemed to entertain them. They looked down at the trainers, craning their necks and chirping, while Michael looked up, unsure how to best proceed.
The kids around him tried various methods, none of them successful. One girl took out a pouch of treats and proffered them from her palm. “Here, birdy-birds. Come and get a snack!” The Chatots blinked at the sight of food, but none of them were dimwitted enough to fly down.
Another boy began to throw pebbles up at the tree, following Michael’s example in an attempt to startle them. The Chatots responded by beating their wings and squawking angrily, but none of them stirred from their spots. Evidently, they had been bothered this way many times before, and had mastered the art of negotiation. The boy tried throwing other, larger objects, but by the time he realized that his efforts were futile, he had gotten one of his pokéballs caught in a tangle of branches, along with a clear plastic case. Michael had a strong suspicion that this was how George had lost his wallet.
The teasing game continued for another whole minute. During that time, Michael stood with his arms crossed, the pokéball clutched loosely in his right hand, maintaining eye contact with the birds for as long as he could manage before they turned away from him. (He had never seen anyone stare a pokémon down before, but you never knew.)
Then, without warning, one of the trainers finally lost his patience. Slapping his knees in frustration, a short boy whipped out a pokéball from his backpack. “That’s it, I’m sick of this! Go, Marill!” A jet of white rushed out of the capsule, fading to expose a round, blue pokémon. The Marill landed in the grass, its tail bouncing, and the boy pointed up to the branches. “Use Water Gun!”
“No, you idiot!” a girl cried out. Several others echoed her, but they were too late.
The Marill pressed both arms to its fat belly and blasted a jet of water from its mouth, engulfing a whole section of the tree behind a rushing blur. One of the Chatots was knocked off its feet from the force of the impact, and was left gripping the branch with its feet for dear life. Its companions, likewise, were sent into a panic, and began to gab and screech incoherently. The tree began to shake as if from a chain reaction, and the flapping of wings rose to a roar.
The tour guide’s face blanched into a mask of horror. He stumbled back, eyes bulging. “Run!” he called to the trainers. “Get away from the tree, now!”
Before Michael could react, a swarm of Chatots flew out from the tree, like so many leaves stirred up by a storm. They tore into the crowd with vicious speed, their screeches blended in with screams as they pecked and whacked at the children’s heads. Michael found himself caught in a stampede of fleeing trainers, who bumped and pushed, tripping over themselves and each other. Michael held his ground as best as he could, elbowing away trainers who pushed past him, and at the same time trying to locate a bird he could catch. But from the start, it was clear that it would be a vain effort: the Chatots formed a raging cloud that nearly blotted out the rest of the route; flying with such speed that it was impossible to distinguish one bird’s feathers from another’s. Ignoring the tour guide’s warning, a few of the trainers held their own against the attacks, throwing pokéballs at the air in defense. The capsules activated with the sound of a hundred explosions, sucking out one airborne body after another in bursts of brilliant light. Michael narrowed his eyes into slits against the glare, gripping his pokéball tighter and tighter until it seemed like the casing would crack. He couldn’t discern anything in the mess of voices around him, nor in the blizzard of color that flashed with dizzying frequency in his eyes.
In the midst of his attempted concentration, two sharp talons landed in his hair, tangling and pulling it. “George is wallet! George is wallet!”
Without thinking, Michael grabbed the bird by its legs. Ignoring the angered beat of wings against his face, he twisted the pokéball open with his other hand and threw it upward. Hot, white light exploded around him, and for a brilliant, painful moment, Michael could hear the faint whirr of the capsule as it sucked in the tiny mass above him. His arms fell by reflex, hands slamming themselves over his eyes. He stumbled around, dazed by the darkness of his own eyelids and the noises that pelted him from all aides. Without knowing quite how it happened, Michael felt himself collapse into the grass.
The chaos continued around him for a few moments. Then, the noise seemed to die down in waves. The beat of footsteps faded, and the thrum of flapping wings overhead dissipated. Michael slowly opened his eyes. The Chatots were flying back to safety, scattering themselves around the neighboring trees and retreating into the shade. What was left of the tour group had fled the scene as well; many of them were running back in the direction of the town, some with pokéballs and others empty-handed.
Just then, a pair of hands grabbed his shoulders and pulled him to his feet. “Michael! Are you okay?” came Henry’s voice. The boy had appeared beside him, his hat askew, shirt matted with dirt and blades of grass.
Michael nodded, brushing the debris from his clothes and arms. “Yeah, I’m fine,” he said. He was still slightly dizzy, however, and after the boy let go, he had a hard time standing straight. A moment later, Leroy approached from the side, looking similarly disheveled, but otherwise unharmed.
“That was insane,” Leroy breathed, his hand pressed to his stomach. “The kid who sent out his Marill was an idiot. I seriously hope that one of those birds got his hat or something.” He swallowed, shaking his head.
Michael scanned the grass around them. “Did either of you see what happened to my pokéball?” he said. “Did I catch anything?”
“I think you did,” Henry replied. “But it was really hard to tell. People were throwing them around like crazy, and in the end they started grabbing capsules that didn’t belong to them. At any rate, this was yours.” He handed Michael a silver ball. It was still warm, and throbbed slightly, as if the pokémon inside was still trying to peck its way out.
Biting his lip, Michael knelt into the grass. “Okay, get ready. It might try to fly away.” Henry and Leroy gathered around him, giving just enough room for the pokémon to emerge. Michael twisted open the capsule, and with a rush of light, a Chatot was thrown out. Its body was positioned as if it was still flying, and its eyes were partly closed as if to protect themselves from the wind. As the white light faded, the pokémon hung over the ground for a few seconds, then plopped face-first into the grass with a human-like oomph! The bird let out a squeal, its feathers ruffling, its wings beating in an attempt to regain awareness of its location. Slowly, it lifted itself to an upright position, its eyes blinking separately at first, then adjusting to their proper rhythm. Up close, the Chatot's colors were even more striking, sharp and even like those of a hand-painted toy. Henry and Leroy immediately knelt into the grass, linking their arms with Michael’s to form a triangular cage around the pokémon. The Chatot looked around at the them, its large eyes blinking.
“Trainers no-brainers?” it said, clicking its pink beak. “Fly?”
“No, stay!” Michael growled.
“No, we’re your friends!” said Henry. “You don’t have to fly away from us!”
“Fly!” the Chatot retorted. “Fly! Friends! Fly!” It began to flap its wings, lifting a foot in preparation to take off. In response, the boys leaned closer together to trap it, till their heads were almost touching. The bird continued to fidget, poking its head at them, trying to find a big enough opening in their stances to wedge itself through. When it finally realized that there were none, the bird settled down, and almost sulkily began to pace around in circles, making hm-hm noises to itself, as if sorely disappointed by its situation.
“Fly! Ends!” it began again. “Ly! Elp! My… elp!”
“Yeah, that’s right. Stay,” Michael said. “You’ve just been made an honorary member of Team Michael Rowan. And I’m Michael Rowan.” He gave the bird a glare, trying to telepathically tell it to behave. But it continued to jabber, repeating the same string of fragmented words.
“Fly! Ends! Elp my!”
“Hang on, I think it’s trying to talk,” said Leroy. Carefully, he lowered his arms and placed them on his knees. “Can you talk?”
The bird turned to Leroy, its tail flicking. “Know!” it repeated. “No-no!”
“Aww, will you try?” Henry said. “Please? Say ‘Hello. My name is Chatot!’”
“Please!” chirped the bird. “Ello aym atot!”
“No no no, you gotta give him a little help,” Michael said. He cleared his throat and pointed his finger at the bird, saying his words slowly and precisely. “We — are — your — friends... You — will— not—fly —away…”
“Help! Help!” the Chatot interrupted. “Little help! Friends!”
Michael stopped. “Huh?”
Right then, the scatterbrained bird seemed to finally find its groove. It began to sway, tapping its feet in an attempted dance. “Get by with a little elp from my friends! Elp from my friends!”
Suddenly, Michael’s face broke out into a smile. “Ha! Someone’s been teaching this thing Beatles lyrics. That’s boss.” He leaned closer to the bird, his grin spreading. “Hey, what else do you know?”
“Know it’s mine! When it turn out the light!”
Michael laughed. “This bird is far-out.” He held out his finger, and the Chatot nibbled it. “I bet he can sing the whole Sgt. Pepper’s album. Hey, do you know ‘Getting Better’?”
The Chatot shook its head, continuing its crackly melody. “Elp from my friends! Turn out the light! Know it’s mine!”
Leroy joined in. “How about ‘Fixing a Hole’?”
“Lucy in the sky?” Henry tried.
But the Chatot continued to sing the same melody, replacing the song’s lyrics with the words the boys kept feeding it, till its composition made no sense whatsoever. Sitting back on his legs, Michael sighed. “I guess that’s the only song this guy knows. Hey bird, why do you like that song so much? Are you Ringo Starr or something?”
The Chatot cocked its head at Michael. “Ring-go! Elp from my friends!” It ruffled its wings and tucked them neatly against its sides. It seemed to have lost all interest in flying away, being more entertained with giving its mini-production. Or maybe it had grown to like them already. Whatever the reason, Michael had the feeling that he had made a very good catch.
Still laughing a bit to himself, Michael shook his head in response to the Chatot’s curious silence. “Well, then I guess you are,” he said.
“How’s it hanging, Ringo?” Leroy reached out with his hand, and the bird allowed him to stroke its head.
“Try to make him sit on your arm!” Henry suggested to Michael.
Michael shrugged. “Sure.” He held out his arm, lowering it into the grass in front of the bird. Slowly, the Chatot lifted a foot and placed it on his hand. Then the other. The skin on the bird’s feet was rough and bumpy, and its claws prickled his arm, though not altogether in a painful way. As the three boys stood up, the Chatot shuffled around to find its balance, settling midway to Michael's elbow. Its weight felt foreign at first to him, but gradually, he became used to its presence.
Michael walked around for a bit, keeping his arm extended in front of him, while the bird shuffled around, peering first at the trees, then back at the two boys who followed behind.
“Well, that was a good day,” Henry said, he and Leroy falling into step beside Michael. “Now you finally have a Flying type for the Gym.”
Michael nodded. “Yup. Now all I’ve gotta do is see what moves he knows, train him up a bit, and then I’ll be set.” He looked over to Ringo, giving his arm a light shake. “Ready to show Lona Walker who’s boss?”
“Ringo! Alker! Boss!”
Michael grinned. Though the bird could speak only a few words at a time, he had no doubt that they saw eye-to-eye on the matter.
“Hooo-boy...” Leroy exhaled, a gesture mixed with humor and disbelief as he watched the bird. “Wait till everyone sees you have a Chatot. He’ll be a hit at the Gym. I’ve heard that they can be really… rambunctious.” He smiled. “Mind if I add him to my Dex?”
“Sure,” Michael said, holding out his arm. Ringo shifted around, his eyes finding Leroy as the boy brought out the metallic device.
"Oh, and by the way," said Leroy, as he switched on the screen, "it's official. The lab is drawing up plans for a new model of the Data Exploiter, and they decided to shorten its name. I mentioned 'PokéDex' to them and they liked it. They had a vote, and they decided it was better than the other names that were in the running."
Michael laughed. "Like what?"
"Most of them were similar to yours. I guess there's really not much you can do with the name 'Pokémon Data Exploiter'. There was 'Data-X', 'PDE', 'XPloiter'... I can't remember them all. But 'PokéDex' seemed like the best. Not too short, not too long." When the interface finally finished loading, Leroy snapped his fingers, and opened up a new entry for Chatot. He began to work, fingers strumming on the keypad, and a minute later, held up the finished entry. “Done! Tell me what you think.” He passed the PokéDex to Michael.
No. 130 CHATOT [Flying]
These pokémon are distinguished by their voices, which can imitate a person’s speech almost perfectly. Apart from that, they’re really cunning, and if you’re not careful then they can pull tricks on you like stealing your wallet. They dwell mostly in the tropics, living in large trees with their families. Their feathers are really bright and colorful, but they’re also good at hiding themselves, so you’ll have to look hard in order to find one. They may have a preference for Beatles lyrics, but more study is needed to confirm.
Michael lowered the PokéDex and chuckled. “Nice.”
“Thanks,” said Leroy. “The last line was genius, I think.”
Michael passed the Dex to Henry, who laughed as well when he reached the end. “This is great!” he said. “Yours must be the best entries, Leroy.”
“Nah, they’re not that good. If you could read some of the other kids’ Dexes, you’d be laughing your pants off. The professor’s staff are holding little contests at the end of the session to see who had the funniest entries, the most detailed ones, and all that. But… yeah.” Leroy waved his hand dismissively. “I’m just worried about finishing the whole thing.” Nevertheless, a smile was tugging at the corners of his lips.
After gathering their stuff from the now-empty field, the three boys set out towards Solaceon. With the addition of a Flying type to his team, Michael felt that his odds had significantly improved, though he would need to see what Ringo could do in order to assess his strength. He and Henry agreed to see the Move Tutor before doing any more catching, to see what they could do with the teams they had.
Apart from being Michael’s main hope for the Gym, Ringo turned out to provide lively company along the way. Besides the fact that he could imitate most of what the boys said to him, he had a knack of making up phrases of his own in return, some of which Michael vowed to remember. (Trainers no-brainers and Lona groan-a were among his favorites.) The boys played a sort of game with the bird, having Ringo hop from one arm to the next, occasionally piping his made-up phrases. But the bird seemed to prefer Michael’s shoulder, from where he could turn around freely to glare at anything he liked. The boys laughed and talked to their new companion as they left the route, content to take whatever path they happened upon.
It was past noon when they reached the Trainer’s Hotel. Leroy stopped Michael and Henry by the front doors, saying that his shift would be starting soon. The boys agreed to meet again later that day, if not to catch pokémon then to simply wander about the town. It was something that, for once, Michael could look forward to.
Before the trio parted ways, Leroy showed them the Dex entries for Lona’s entire team, as a token of good luck for the battles to come.
No. 125 HITMONCHAN [Fighting]
A pokémon that likes to punch things. Its two hands grow in the shape of boxer’s gloves, and many trainers like to cover them with rough fabric to make them extra hard and powerful. Hitmonchans can punch at a rate of three times per second, with a force that can knock even Gravelers off their feet. On top of that, they’re nimble, and can dance circles around an enemy to confuse them before clobbering them over the head. However, Hitmonchans tire easily, which makes them unfit for long-term battle.
No. 126 CROAGUNK [Fighting/Poison]
Croagunk’s cheeks are filled with poison, as are its claws. You’ll commonly see them trying to jab at their opponents. The venom quickly makes the victim confused and uncoordinated, a state that can last for many hours afterward. Village lore says that it can also be used as a remedy for back pain, but I would advise against it. Getting your hands on a Croagunk is pretty hard, and you might find your pokémon (or yourself!) twisted in circles by its speed and trickery. This is definitely the last pokémon you should expect to play it nice.
No. 127 HITMONLEE [Fighting]
The cousin of Hitmonchan, though this guy’s specialty is kicking. It has pretty good balance, which enables it to kick a foe from pretty much any position, whether it be on its feet, or standing on its hands. On the upside, if its feet are bound or immobilized, it can’t do much about it. Hitmonlees are native to the mountains of Kanto, where they live in large tribes in which rank is determined by strength. So you should expect any Hitmonlee you meet in battle to be a tough one.
No. 128 MACHOKE [Fighting]
This guy is an all-out powerhouse. He’s fast, he’s strong, and he makes his little brother Machop seem like a chew toy. They are often used by move crews to lift heavy furniture, and also by Gym leaders to lift enemy pokémon before splatting them against the ground. It used to be legal to fight against them in wrestling tournaments, but after many complaints and injuries, the practice was outlawed. Machokes are allowed in battle only if they wear a belt to suppress their power. In summary, if you walk into a bar one day looking for a fight, and see that a Machoke is in the room, cut it as fast as you can. They don’t play around.